Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails

Update Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gives special address at WEFF 2022. (File/AFP))
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Updated 24 May 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails

Ukraine’s Zelensky tells Davos elite ‘no need for further meetings’ if brute force prevails
  • Virtual speech to business leaders and government officials delivered to World Economic Forum annual summit participants
  • Ukraine president accused Russia of blocking critical food supplies, such as wheat and sunflower oil, from leaving its ports

LONDON: In a powerful speech during the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the lesson to be learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the global community must act preventively, rather than reactively, if it is to deter future acts of international aggression.

Speaking via video link from Kyiv almost three months after the Russian invasion began, Zelensky said that the world was at a turning point, “a moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world.”

If brute force were to prevail, he said, there would be “no need for further meetings in Davos,” because “brute force is not interested in our thoughts. Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those it seeks to subdue.

“It does not discuss, but kills at once, and Russia is doing that in Ukraine, even as we speak.”

Moscow says its “special military operation” in Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24, is aimed at protecting Russia’s security and that of Russian-speaking people in the eastern Donbas region.

In Monday’s speech, bookended by standing ovations from Davos summit participants, Zelensky said that Russia had become “a state of war criminals,” whose acts, if allowed to go unpunished by the international community, were in danger of inspiring other potential aggressor states in future.

He spoke movingly of the chaos and destruction suffered by Ukraine: “Instead of successful, peaceful cities, there are only black ruins. Instead of normal trade, a sea full of mines and blocked ports. Instead of tourism, closed skies and thousands of Russian bombs and cruise missiles.”

This, he warned, “is what the world would look like if this turning moment does not have a proper response from humanity.”

Ukraine, he said, was grateful for the support that had been offered by so many of the world’s countries, and the “hundreds of millions of citizens in democratic countries who are putting pressure on governments and companies to make sure they limit or restrain their relations with the aggressor state of Russia.”

But, he said, “we need to change the approach, not to respond but to act preventively … Russia started its war against Ukraine back in 2014. We are grateful for this support. But if it had happened immediately — that unity, that pressure on governments and companies — would Russia have started this full-scale war, have brought all this upon Ukraine and upon the world? I’m sure that the answer is no.”

He added that the Russian war on Ukraine showed that “support to a country under attack is more valuable the sooner it is provided. Weapons, funding, political support and sanctions against Russia — if we would have received 100 percent of our needs at once, back in February, the result would have been tens of thousands of lives saved.”

On May 17, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, Mykhaylo Podolyak, said that talks with Russia were on hold. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, has accused Ukrainian authorities of not wanting to continue talks to end hostilities.

Russian news agencies say the last meeting happened on April 22.

On Monday, Zelensky renewed his call for sanctions of Russia to be stepped up to “maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor who wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor will clearly know the immediate consequences for their actions.”

There should “be a Russian oil embargo, all the Russian banks should be blocked, no exceptions, there should be an abandonment of the Russian IT sector, there shouldn’t be any trade with Russia,” he told the WEF event.

“This should be a precedent for sanctions pressure that will work convincingly in the decades to come.”

In a direct appeal to the many international business leaders present at Davos, he added: “It necessary for the complete withdrawal of all businesses from the Russian market so that your brands are not associated with war crimes. This matters … when global markets are becoming destabilized.”

Every company that left the Russian market, he said, could “continue operating in Ukraine and have access not only to our market of 40 million consumers, but also to the common market of Europe.

“Our representatives here in Davos can inform all of you on the details of the prospects that Ukraine opens for your businesses.”

Zelensky made clear that, even as the war continues, his government is focusing on the future and the rebuilding of Ukraine, and he invited the high-powered delegates in Davos “to take part in this rebuilding.”

He said: “The amount of work is enormous. We have more than half a trillion dollars in losses, tens of thousands of facilities were destroyed. We need to rebuild entire cities and industries.”

To achieve this, he said, Ukraine was offering “a special historically significant model of rebuilding, in which partner countries, partner cities or partner companies will have the opportunity to take patronage over a particular region, a city, or community or even an industry.”

Countries including the UK and Denmark, as well as the EU, “have already chosen a specific area for patronage and rebuilding,” and he urged other states to follow suit. If they did, “the post-war rebuilding of Ukraine — the largest project of its kind in Europe since the end of the Second World War — could be fast, could be efficient, and of high quality.”

Ukraine has established a fund called United 24, designed to collect donations for defense and demining, medical aid and rebuilding, “and we call upon everyone to join this platform,” Zelensky said.

“For each and every donor we will have a specific proposal of how to help and where to allocate funds.”

But Ukraine would not be the sole beneficiary of United 24, he added.

“Under this brand, we propose to establish a global structure that can, within 24 hours, provide sufficient support to any country that has suffered or faced a military attack, a natural disaster or a pandemic.

“We offer a new forum for security guarantees, based on what we have faced. There must be something that sets a precedent for timely assistance to everyone who needs it, to save lives, social stability, all the necessary elements for a normal economy — something like a 911 service to guarantee security on a global scale.”

 


Antony Blinken visits Rwanda in testing moment for old US ally Paul Kagame

Antony Blinken visits Rwanda in testing moment for old US ally Paul Kagame
Updated 30 min 5 sec ago

Antony Blinken visits Rwanda in testing moment for old US ally Paul Kagame

Antony Blinken visits Rwanda in testing moment for old US ally Paul Kagame
  • Regional analysts expect US Secretary of State to privately exert pressure to stop Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebel group

KIGALI: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a visit to Kigali less than a week after it emerged United Nations experts had found “solid evidence” Rwanda has been interfering militarily in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Regional analysts expect Blinken, who arrived on Wednesday evening, to privately exert pressure to stop Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebel group without immediately implementing sanctions or blocking military aid, as the United States did in similar circumstances in 2013.
A confidential report sent to the United Nations Security Council last week said Rwandan troops have been fighting alongside the M23 rebels in Congo, and that Kigali has been providing the group with weapons and support since November.
Rwanda’s government has said the UN findings, based on evidence including witness testimony and drone images, were false, and that the M23 was Congo’s responsibility.
The United States is a longstanding ally of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, but Blinken told reporters on Tuesday in Kinshasa he was very concerned about “credible reports” Rwanda has provided support to M23.
Last year the US administration gave Rwanda $147 million in bilateral assistance, and $500,000 for peace and security.
“Rwanda’s most important export is its reputation; that’s what attracts Starbucks, that’s what attracts Bill Gates and that reputation is being battered at the moment,” said Jason Stearns, director of New York University’s Congo Research Group.
Blinken’s visit “will lead to a re-evaluation of what’s happening on the ground,” Stearns told Reuters by telephone.
A statement from Rwanda’s foreign affairs ministry on Blinken’s visit said the country was committed to addressing security challenges in the Great Lakes Region.
Rwanda has earned recognition for its stability, ease of doing business and developmental gains since the 1994 genocide, but Kagame has also drawn criticism for cracking down on opponents at home and abroad.
The US top diplomat has said he would raise the fate of Paul Rusesabagina, a US resident who was sentenced by Kigali court to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.
Rusesabagina refused to take part in what he called a “sham” trial, saying he had been kidnapped and brought to Kigali against his will.
Rwanda’s foreign affairs ministry said Rusesabagina’s arrest and conviction were lawful under Rwandan and international law.


South Korea, China clash over US missile shield, complicating conciliation

South Korea, China clash over US missile shield, complicating conciliation
Updated 58 min 47 sec ago

South Korea, China clash over US missile shield, complicating conciliation

South Korea, China clash over US missile shield, complicating conciliation
  • Disagreement over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system emerged after South Korea’s foreign minister China visit this week

SEOUL: China and South Korea clashed on Thursday over a US missile defense shield, threatening to undermine efforts by the new government in Seoul to overcome longstanding security differences.
The disagreement over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system emerged after an apparently smooth first visit to China by South Korea’s foreign minister this week.
China, contending THAAD’s powerful radar could peer into its airspace, curbed trade and cultural imports after Seoul announced its deployment in 2016, dealing a major blow to relations.
South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday the system stationed in the country is a means of self-defense, according to a briefing transcript, after Beijing demanded Seoul not deploy additional batteries and limit the use of existing ones.
President Yoon Suk-yeol, seeing the system as key to countering North Korean missiles, has vowed to abandon the previous government’s promises not to increase THAAD deployments, participate in a US-led global missile shield or create a trilateral military alliance involving Japan.
On the campaign trail, the conservative Yoon pledged to buy another THAAD battery, but since taking office in May, his government has focussed on what officials call “normalizing” the operation of the existing, US-owned and operated system.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, meeting on Tuesday, explored ways to reopen denuclearization negotiations with North Korea and resume cultural exports, such as K-pop music and movies, to China.
A Wang spokesman said on Wednesday the two had “agreed to take each other’s legitimate concerns seriously and continue to prudently handle and properly manage this issue to make sure it does not become a stumbling block to the sound and steady growth of bilateral relations.”
The Chinese spokesman told a briefing the THAAD deployment in South Korea “undermines China’s strategic security interest.”
Park, however, told Wang that Seoul would not abide by the 2017 agreement, called the “Three Nos,” as it is not a formal pledge or agreement, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
China also insists that South Korea abide by “one restriction” — limiting the use of existing THAAD batteries. Seoul has never acknowledged that element, but on Wednesday, Wang’s spokesman emphasised that China attaches importance to the position of “three Nos and one restriction.”
During Park’s visit to the eastern port city of Qingdao, the Chinese Communist Party-owned Global Times praised Yoon for showing “independent diplomacy and rationality toward China” by not meeting face to face with visiting US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But the newspaper warned that the THAAD issue is “a major hidden danger that cannot be avoided in China-South Korea ties.”


Taiwan holds military drill after China repeats threats

Taiwan holds military drill after China repeats threats
Updated 11 August 2022

Taiwan holds military drill after China repeats threats

Taiwan holds military drill after China repeats threats
  • Taiwan accused China of using US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit as an excuse to kickstart drills
  • Military played down Taiwan's exercises’ significance, saying they were not in response to China’s war games

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s army held another live-fire drill Thursday after Beijing ended its largest-ever military exercises around the island and repeated threats to bring the self-ruled democracy under its control.
Beijing has raged at a trip to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the highest-ranking elected American official to visit in decades — staging days of air and sea drills around the island that raised tensions to their highest level in years.
Taiwan has accused China of using the Pelosi visit as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.
Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps, told AFP its forces fired howitzers and target flares as part of the defensive drill on Thursday morning.
The exercise in Taiwan’s southernmost county Pingtung began at 0830 am (0030 GMT) and lasted about an hour, he said.
Artillery tucked in from the coast was lined up side by side, with armed soldiers in units firing the howitzers out to sea one after the other, a live stream showed.
Taiwan held a similar drill on Tuesday in Pingtung. Both involved hundreds of troops, the military said.
The military has played down the exercises’ significance, saying they were already scheduled and were not in response to China’s war games.
“We have two goals for the drills, the first is to certify the proper condition of the artillery and their maintenance condition and the second is to confirm the results of last year,” Lou said, referring to annual drills.
The latest exercise came after China’s military indicated its own drills had come to an end Wednesday, saying its forces “successfully completed various tasks” in the Taiwan Strait while vowing to continue patrolling its waters.
But in the same announcement, China added that it would “continue to carry out military training and prepare for war.”
In a separate white paper published Wednesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing would “not renounce the use of force” against its neighbor and reserved “the option of taking all necessary measures.”
“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” it said in the paper.
China last issued a white paper on Taiwan in 2000.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Thursday joined its top policymaking body on China in rejecting the “one country, two systems” model that Beijing has proposed for the island.
“China’s whole statement absolutely goes against the cross-strait status quo and its reality,” ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told a press conference.
“China is using US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to destroy the status quo and taking the opportunity to make trouble, attempting to create a new normal to intimidate the Taiwanese people.”
“One country, two systems” refers to the model under which Hong Kong and Macau were promised a degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.
Taiwan routinely stages military drills simulating defense against a Chinese invasion, and last month practiced repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.
In response to the Chinese military revealing it was bringing drills to an end Wednesday, Taiwan’s army said it would “adjust how we deploy our forces... without letting our guard down.”
Since the late 1990s, the island has transformed from an autocracy into a vibrant democracy, and a more distinct Taiwanese identity has solidified.
Relations between the two sides have significantly worsened since Tsai Ing-wen became Taiwan’s president in 2016.
Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party do not consider Taiwan a part of China.
Their platform falls under China’s broad definition of Taiwanese separatism, which includes those who advocate for the island to have an identity separate from the mainland.


Alleged British Daesh ‘Beatle’ charged after arrest in UK: police

Alleged British Daesh ‘Beatle’ charged after arrest in UK: police
Updated 11 August 2022

Alleged British Daesh ‘Beatle’ charged after arrest in UK: police

Alleged British Daesh ‘Beatle’ charged after arrest in UK: police
  • The man was reported to have been arrested after landing at Luton airport on a flight from Turkey, where he had been serving a prison sentence for terrorism offenses

LONDON: A British man accused of being part of a Daesh kidnap-and-murder cell known as the “Beatles” has been charged with terrorism offenses after returning to the UK, police said Thursday.
“A 38-year-old man has been charged with various terrorism offenses following an investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command,” police said in a statement.
The Metropolitan Police, which leads anti-terror investigations in the UK, officially named the man as Aine Davis and said he has been remanded in police custody.
They said they arrested Davis after he landed at Luton airport on a flight from Turkey.
The suspect, who does not have a fixed address, was set to appear at a court in central London on Thursday morning.
He was allegedly a member of the Daesh cell, which held dozens of foreign hostages in Syria between 2012 and 2015 and was known to their captives as the “Beatles” because of their British accents.
The four members of the “Beatles” are accused of abducting at least 27 journalists and relief workers from the United States, Britain, Europe, New Zealand, Russia and Japan.
They were all allegedly involved in the murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.
The quartet allegedly tortured and killed the four American victims, including by beheading, and Daeshreleased videos of the murders for propaganda purposes.
Alexanda Kotey, a 38-year-old former British national extradited from the UK to the US in 2020 to face charges there, pleaded guilty to his role in the deaths last September and was sentenced to life in prison in April.
El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, another former British national also extradited to the US at the same time, was found guilty of all charges in April, and will be sentenced next week.
The other “Beatles” executioner, Mohamed Emwazi, was killed by a US drone in Syria in 2015.
Elsheikh and Kotey were captured in January 2018 by a Kurdish militia in Syria and turned over to US forces in Iraq before being sent to Britain.
They were eventually flown to Virginia in 2020 to face charges of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a foreign terrorist organization.
Davis served a seven-and-a-half-year sentence in Turkey for membership in the terrorist group, according to reports.
In 2014, his wife Amal El-Wahabi became the first person in Britain to be convicted of funding Daesh militants after trying to send 20,000 euros — worth $25,000 at the time — to him in Syria.
She was jailed for 28 months and seven days following a trial in which Davis was described as a drug dealer before he went to Syria to fight with Daesh.


Japan provides $3m aid for makeshift clinics in Yemen 

Japan provides $3m aid for makeshift clinics in Yemen 
Updated 11 August 2022

Japan provides $3m aid for makeshift clinics in Yemen 

Japan provides $3m aid for makeshift clinics in Yemen 
  • The clinics will operate in Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Dhale’, Marib, Shabwa, Hadhramout and Mahra, the Ministry of Public Health said

The Japanese government has provided $3m in aid to help set up eight temporary clinics in Yemen.

The cash was provided through the United Nations Office for Project services, the Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported. 

The clinics will operate in Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Dhale’, Marib, Shabwa, Hadhramout and Mahra, the Ministry of Public Health said. 

Every clinic will be equipped with a fully equipped laboratory, ultrasound and x-ray equipment, and an ECG and examination room. 

Meanwhile Yemen’s Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Muamar Al-Eryani has praised Japan’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen during a meeting with Charge D’Affairs of the Japanese Embassy in Yemen Kazohiro Higashe on Wednesday, according to SABA. 

The two discussed mutual relations between Japan and Yemen, as well as ways to enhance the countries’ bilateral ties. 

Al-Eryani also shared the latest developments in Yemen, including the Houthis’ violations of the UN Truce and the militia’s refusal to end the siege in Taiz, SABA reported. 

For his part, the Japanese diplomat confirmed his country’s support for Yemen’s legitimacy, security, and stability.