Ukraine says its troops have retaken ground from Russia in eastern city

Ukraine says its troops have retaken ground from Russia in eastern city
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Foreign volunteers fighting with the Ukrainian army take positions as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, on June 2, 2022. (REUTERS)
Ukraine says its troops have retaken ground from Russia in eastern city
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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky honors a wounded soldier at a hospital in Kyiv on the 100th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Handout via AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2022

Ukraine says its troops have retaken ground from Russia in eastern city

Ukraine says its troops have retaken ground from Russia in eastern city
  • UN, Russia discuss Ukraine grain exports
  • Putin blames West for grain price surge

SIEVIERODONETSK, Ukraine: Ukraine said it clawed back a chunk of the industrial center of Sievierodonetsk in combat that appeared on Saturday to be stymieing a Russian drive to capture the ruined city, the focus of Moscow’s offensive to take the eastern Donbas region.
Sergiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, told national television that Ukrainian troops had retaken 20 percent of the territory they had lost in Sievierodonetsk.
It was “not realistic” the city would fall in the next two weeks even though Russian reinforcements were being deployed, he said on Friday.
“As soon as we have enough Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions. And then, believe me, the Russian infantry, they will just run,” said Gaidai. Reuters could not immediately verify his claim of Ukrainian advances.
The war that Western governments believed Russian planned to win within a few hours of its February invasion entered its 100th day on Friday. Thousands have died, millions have been uprooted from their homes and the global economy disrupted since Moscow’s forces were driven back from Kyiv in the first months of the conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied on Friday that Moscow was preventing Ukrainian ports from exporting grains, blaming rising global food prices on the West.
“We are now seeing attempts to shift the responsibility for what is happening on the world food market, the emerging problems in this market onto Russia,” he said on national television.
He said the best solution would be for Western sanctions on Russia’s ally Belarus to be lifted and for Ukraine to export grain through that country.
Ukrainian officials are counting on advanced missile systems that the United States and Britain recently pledged to swing the war in their favor, and Ukrainian troops have already begun training on them.
While Ukraine’s resistance has forced Putin to narrow his immediate goal to conquering the entire Donbas region, Ukrainian officials said he remains intent on subduing the whole country. “Putin’s main goal is the destruction of Ukraine. He is not backing down from his goals, despite the fact that Ukraine won the first stage of this full-scale war,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told national television on Friday.
Moscow has poured troops and materiel into the battle for Sievierodonetsk, which Russia must overrun to take all of Luhansk, one of two provinces that comprise the eastern Donbas region that the Kremlin has stated it intends to capture.
Reuters reached Sievierodonetsk on Thursday and was able to verify that Ukrainians still held part of the city.
Separately, two Reuters journalists were injured and a driver killed on Friday after their vehicle came under fire as they tried to reach Sievierodonetsk from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russian soldiers attempted to advance toward Lysychansk, across the Siverskyi Donetsk River from Sievierodonetsk but were stopped, Ukraine’s military general staff said.
In neighboring Donetsk province, Russian troops were just 15 km (9 miles) outside the city of Sloviansk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Reuters.
Donetsk will not fall quickly, but needs more weapons to keep the attackers at bay, Kyrylenko said.

Moscow says undeterred by Western arms
Moscow says the Western weapons will pour “fuel on the fire,” but will not change the course of what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of dangerous nationalists.
Russia still controls around a fifth of the country, about half seized in 2014 and half captured since launching its invasion on Feb. 24.
For both sides, the massive Russian assault in the east in recent weeks has been one of the deadliest phases of the war, with Ukraine saying it is losing 60-100 soldiers every day.
Moscow has made slow but steady progress, squeezing Ukrainian forces inside a pocket in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, but failing to encircle them.
Kyiv, meanwhile, hopes the Russian advance will drain Moscow’s forces enough for Ukraine to recapture territory in months to come.
The war has had a devastating impact on the global economy, especially for poor food-importing countries. Ukraine is one of the world’s leading sources of grain and cooking oil, but those supplies were cut off by the closure of its Black Sea ports, with more than 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths on Friday ended two days of “frank and constructive discussions” with Russian officials in Moscow on facilitating exports of Ukraine grain from Black Sea ports, a UN spokesman said.
The talks came as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tries to broker what he calls a “package deal” to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Kyiv and its allies blame Moscow for blockading the ports, which Ukraine has mined to prevent a Russian amphibious assault. Putin blamed Western sanctions.
 


Polio detected in NYC’s sewage, suggesting virus circulating

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
Updated 13 sec ago

Polio detected in NYC’s sewage, suggesting virus circulating

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
  • New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines

The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the disease, which hadn’t been seen in the US in a decade, is quietly spreading among unvaccinated people, health officials said Friday.
The presence of the poliovirus in the city’s wastewater suggests likely local circulation of the virus, the city and New York state health departments said.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming but not surprising.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. “With polio circulating in our communities there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”

FASTFACT

New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines.

New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are dealing with a trifecta,” Mayor Eric Adams said Friday on CNN. “COVID is still very much here. Polio, we have identified polio in our sewage, and we’re still dealing with the monkeypox crisis. But the team is there. And we’re coordinating and we’re addressing the threats as they come before us, and we’re prepared to deal with them with the assistance of Washington, DC.”
The announcement about the discovery of the polio virus in New York City comes shortly after British health authorities reported finding evidence the virus has spread in London but found no cases in people. Children ages one through nine in London were made eligible for booster doses of a polio vaccine Wednesday.
In New York, one person suffered paralysis weeks ago because of a polio infection in Rockland County, north of the city. Wastewater samples collected in June in both Rockland and adjacent Orange County were found to contain the virus.


UN humanitarian agencies face record funding gap this year

In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
Updated 9 min 41 sec ago

UN humanitarian agencies face record funding gap this year

In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
  • Armed conflict, climate change emerge as key drivers of ‘mega crises’ that threaten livelihoods of communities

GENEVA: UN humanitarian projects face a record funding gap this year, with only a third of the required $48.7 billion secured so far as global needs outpace pledges, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The money is needed to help around 204 million people worldwide as armed conflict and climate change, such as the war in Ukraine and the drought in the Horn of Africa, emerge as key drivers of “mega crises” that threaten the livelihoods of whole communities.
“More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6 billion, our biggest funding gap ever,” said Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman.
“The needs in the world are rising much faster than the donor funding is coming in,” he added.

More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6 billion, our biggest funding gap ever.

Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman

So far $15.2 billion has been collected by the mid-year mark, also a record, Laerke said, in a year of soaring humanitarian needs.
According to OCHA’s website, the US is the top donor, contributing just over $8 billion, while the World Food Programme was the largest recipient.
The nearly $50 billion needed includes all the UN coordinated appeals worldwide, like the annual humanitarian response plans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, as well as flash appeals in Ukraine and regional appeals for refugees in Afghanistan.
The money is meant for all UN humanitarian agencies and some NGOs, but does not cover appeals from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC because they have independent appeal processes, Laerke said.
The UN’s humanitarian agency earlier said nearly 900,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been displaced since the start of the year amid rebel fighting in the country’s east.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report that more than 877,000 people had been displaced between January and June.
Over 446,000 people had also returned home during that period, OCHA said.
There are currently 4.86 million people displaced within the DRC, according to OCHA, with women representing 51 percent of that number.
“More than 80 per cent of the displacement is due to armed attacks and clashes,” the report said.
The majority of displaced people are located in Congo’s turbulent east, a mineral-rich region plagued by over 120 armed groups.
Late last year, the M23 rebel group resumed fighting in eastern Congo after lying mostly dormant for years. It has since captured swaths of territory, including the strategic border town of Bunagana.
The clashes have destabilized regional relations in central Africa, with DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.
Despite denials from the Rwandan government, an unpublished report for the UN seen by AFP also pointed to Rwandan involvement.


Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
Updated 12 August 2022

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
  • Police said that a male suspect stormed the stage and attacked Rushdie
  • He was rushed by helicopter to a local hospital, police said, adding that his condition was not known

NEW YORK: British author Salman Rushdie, whose writings have made him the target of Iranian death threats, was attacked and stabbed in the neck at a literary event on Friday in western New York state.
Police said that a male suspect stormed the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer, with the writer suffering “an apparent stab wound to the neck.”
He was rushed by helicopter to a local hospital, police said, adding that his condition was not known.
New York governor Kathy Hochul said Rushdie was alive, and hailed him as “an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power.”
“We condemn all violence, and we want people to be able to feel (the) freedom to speak and to write truth,” she said.
A state trooper assigned to the event at the Chautauqua Institution, where Rushdie was due to give a talk, immediately took the suspect into custody.
Police gave no details about the suspect’s identity or any probable motive.
Social media footage showed people rushing to Rushdie’s aid and administrating emergency medical care. The interviewer also suffered a head injury in the attack.
The Chautauqua Institution — which puts on arts and literary programming in a tranquil lakeside community seventy miles (110 kilometers) south of Buffalo — said in a statement that it was coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials.
Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which won international praise and Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.
But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” brought attention beyond his imagination when it sparked a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie, who was born in India to non-practicing Muslims and today identifies as an atheist, was forced to go underground as a bounty was put on his head — which remains today.
He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.
He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving houses repeatedly and being unable to tell his children where he lived.
Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran in 1998 said it would not support his assassination.
Now living in New York, he is an advocate of freedom of speech, notably launching a strong defense of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of Muhammad that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.
Threats and boycotts continue against literary events that Rushdie attends, and his knighthood in 2007 sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said the honor justified suicide bombings.
The fatwa failed to stifle Rushdie’s writing and inspired his memoir “Joseph Anton,” named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person.
“Midnight’s Children” — which runs to more than 600 pages — has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Suzanne Nossel, head of the PEN America organization, said the free speech advocacy group was “reeling from shock and horror.”
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face,” Nossel said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”


UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
Updated 12 August 2022

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
  • MP accuses service of having ‘woke culture’ in its approach to Jewish community
  • But workers’ union chief says comments are ‘inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent’

LONDON: The front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as UK prime minister has been criticized for voicing “inflammatory” comments about the British civil service’s approach to the Jewish community.

Liz Truss, the favorite to take over as Conservative Party leader and head of government, accused the civil service of having a “woke culture” that “strayed into antisemitism,” according to Sky News.

“Every organization has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed,” she said in a statement after speaking at a synagogue in Manchester.

“That’s what ministerial leadership is about. It’s about making sure that the policies we represent, the values we stand for, are reflected in what we do.

“I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become prime minister.”

The current foreign secretary has also been targeted after saying that setting up your own business was a “Jewish value.”

Following a show of support at the UN Human Rights Council for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who she called “a good friend,” Truss told the Jewish Chronicle that not enough was being done to educate children and teachers about antisemitism and that university campuses must be “ridded” of the issue.

“So many Jewish values are Conservative values and British values too. For example, seeing the importance of family and always taking steps to protect the family unit, and the value of hard work and self-starting and setting up your own business,” she said.

“The British Jewish community is incredibly proud of this country and so are Conservatives.”

Her comments have been described as “inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent” by the FDA Union, which represents British civil servants.

Truss provided “no evidence for her accusation,” according to FDA general secretary Dave Penman, who said Truss’ comments went “further than the usual dog-whistle politics” of the ongoing Conservative leadership election.

“The Conservatives have been in government for more than 12 years now and for most of that time Liz Truss has been a minister,” he said. “So accusations of ‘civil service wokeism’ are a little ironic, given it’s essentially a criticism of their own leadership.”

He continued: “A prime minister is also minister for the civil service, and throwing around such unfounded inflammatory accusations illustrates a lack of leadership, the very thing that she claims to be demonstrating.”

Her remarks have also been criticized by the British Jewish community, including a Jewish Labour Party member of parliament.

Charlotte Nichols, an MP in the north of England, accused Truss of “using the Jewish community as spurious pretext for another baseless attack on the civil service.”

Fellow Labour MP, Sarah Owen, said on Twitter: “Using the serious issue of antisemitism in schools and universities to peddle your anti ‘woke’ war against civil servants is not the solution you think it is.

“Either you’re woke — simply alert to social injustice and inequality (including antisemitism) — or you're not.”


Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount
Updated 12 August 2022

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount
  • Officials say language barrier, poor weather behind fear of life outside London

LONDON: Afghan refugees living in temporary accommodation in the UK are boycotting demands to relocate to Scotland and Wales due to their limited English language skills and concerns over poor weather, The Telegraph reported.

The UK is spending about $1.2 million a day on hotels to temporarily house almost 10,0000 Afghans who fled from their homeland in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Authorities have so far allocated permanent housing to about 7,000 refugees. 

However, officials are facing significant resistance from many Afghan families amid the relocation process. Common concerns include perceived language barriers and a belief that the climate outside southeast England is colder. Staff say that many of the refugees favor the capital, London, and believe stereotypes about life in the rest of the UK.  

Refugees Minister Lord Harrington called on local councils across the country to push harder in moving refugee families from temporary housing into permanent accommodation, warning in a letter that more than 2,000 properties were needed to house the remaining 10,000 Afghans, including more than 500 four-bedroom homes.

The UK Home Office said: “While hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation.”

One Afghan refugee, who previously worked alongside the British Army, told the BBC: “I want to settle and integrate but how can I when we are living in a hotel for months and months? I can’t start my life properly.”

The man has shared a single hotel room with his wife and two children for almost one year.

He added: “I don’t blame her (for struggling) because I know the situation. She is in that room for one year with two kids. These are kids, and she is depressed, so things are not good.”