Ukraine president expects Russia attacks to intensify with EU summit this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's President Emmanuel Macron prior to their meeting in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. (AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's President Emmanuel Macron prior to their meeting in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 20 June 2022

Ukraine president expects Russia attacks to intensify with EU summit this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's Macron. (AFP)
  • The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor outside of the West’s sphere of influence

KYIV: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted Russia will escalate its attacks this week as European Union leaders consider whether to back Kyiv’s bid to join the bloc and Moscow presses its campaign to win control of the country’s east. “Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities,” Zelensky said in his Sunday nightly video address. “We are preparing. We are ready.”
Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. The EU’s executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine receive candidate status.
Leaders of the 27-nation union will consider the question at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine’s application despite misgivings from some member states. The process could take many years to complete.
The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor outside of the West’s sphere of influence.
Putin on Friday said Moscow had “nothing against” Ukraine’s EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia was closely following Kyiv’s bid especially in light of increased defense cooperation among member countries.
On the battlefield, Russian forces are trying to take complete control of the eastern Donbas region, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the Feb. 24 invasion.
A prime target of Moscow’s eastern assault is the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Russia said on Sunday it had seized Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts, and Russian state news agency TASS reported that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there. Ukraine’s military said Russia had “partial success” in the area.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV that a Russian attack on Toshkivka, 35 km (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk, also “had a degree of success.”
In Sievierodonetsk itself, a city of 100,000 before the war, Gaidai said Russia controlled “the main part” but not the entire town after intense fighting. Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy bombardment around Sievierodonetsk “with little change to the front line,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday. In Sievierodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk, residential buildings and private houses had been destroyed by Russian shelling, Gaidai said. “People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters,” he added.
He later said 19 people had been evacuated on Sunday. “We are managing to bring in humanitarian aid and evacuate people as best we can,” Gaidai said.

’WAR COULD LAST YEARS’
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, wrote in a note that “Russian forces will likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukraine conflict could last for years and urged Western governments to continue sending state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.
“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.
Russia has said it launched what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and protect Russian speakers there from dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its allies dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.
The British military assessment said morale for Ukrainian and Russian combat units in the Donbas was likely “variable.”
“Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks, however, Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled. Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” the British Ministry of Defense said on Twitter.
In Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, northwest of Luhansk, Russia’s defense ministry said its Iskander missiles had destroyed weaponry recently supplied by Western countries.
Russian forces were trying to approach Kharkiv, which experienced intense shelling earlier in the war, and turn it into a “frontline city,” a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.
In southern Ukraine, Western weaponry had helped Ukrainian forces advance 10 km (6 miles) toward Russian-occupied Melitopol, its mayor said in a video posted on Telegram from outside the city.
An EU decision in favor of Kyiv’s ultimate membership would put Ukraine on track to realize an aspiration that would have been out of reach for the former Soviet republic before the Russian invasion.
“Whole generations fought for a chance to escape from the prison of the Soviet Union and, like a free bird, to fly to European civilization,” the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said in a statement.


Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says
Updated 8 sec ago

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says
ROME: Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni declared Wednesday in a video message aimed at international critics alarmed by her predicted victory in September 25 elections.
The 45-year-old, whose Brothers of Italy party is topping opinion polls, recorded a monologue in English, Spanish and French that rails at “the left” and defends her fight for “stability, freedom and prosperity for Italy.”
“I have been reading that the victory of Fratelli d’Italia in the September elections would mean a disaster, leading to an authoritarian turn, Italy’s departure from the euro and other nonsense of this sort. None of this is true,” she said in the video sent to international journalists.
She also condemned as “absurd” the notion she would put at risk far-reaching structural reforms agreed with the European Union in return for billions of euros in post-pandemic recovery funds.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni founded in 2012, is a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.
But she insisted in her video: “The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.”
Brothers of Italy was the only main party not to join the national unity government formed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021 — and has since seen its poll ratings soar.
Since the coalition collapsed and Draghi resigned last month, it has remained in pole position with around 23 percent of support.
Meloni has agreed an alliance to form a government with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League, but reiterated this week she plans to be prime minister if her party comes out on top.
Her rise has prompted a slew of negative headlines at home and abroad, to which her team is starting to respond, including with an interview to Fox News in English last month.
Meloni emphasises her Christian and family values, backs more defense spending, lower taxes and an end to mass immigration.
In her video, she says the “Italian conservatives” she leads are “a bastion of freedom and defense of Western values.”
While backing the EU’s tough response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she is highly critical of the bloc and has ties to Spain’s Vox and Poland’s Law and Justice parties.
In her video, she emphasised the “shared values” with Britain’s Conservatives, the US Republicans and Israel’s Likud.

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers
Updated 10 August 2022

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers
  • If passed into law, the amendments would reinstate democratic reforms made in 2015

COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan government minister on Wednesday submitted to Parliament a constitutional amendment bill that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country’s worst economic crisis.
Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe presented the bill, which would transfer some presidential powers — including those to appoint independent election commission members, police and public service officials, and bribery and corruption investigators — into the hands of a constitutional council comprising lawmakers and respected non-political persons. The council would then recommend candidates for these appointments that the president could choose from.
Under the proposed amendments, the president also would only be able to appoint a chief justice, other senior judges, an attorney general and a central bank governor on the recommendation of the council. The prime minister would recommend appointments to the Cabinet and the president would not be allowed to hold any ministry positions except defense.
The bill, which will undergo debate, must be approved by two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s 225-member Parliament to become law.
If passed into law, the amendments would reinstate democratic reforms made in 2015. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was ousted as president by angry protests last month, reversed those reforms and concentrated power in himself after being elected to office in 2019.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who succeeded Rajapaksa, has promised to limit the powers of the presidency and strengthen Parliament in response to the protesters’ demands.
Sri Lankans have staged massive street protests for the past four months demanding democratic reforms and solutions to the country’s economic collapse.
Protesters blame the Rajapaksa family’s alleged mismanagement and corruption for the economic crisis that has led to serious shortages of essentials like medicines, food and fuel.
The island nation is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program.
The protests have largely dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty that ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore last month after angry protesters stormed his official residence and occupied several key state buildings. His older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister in May and three other close family members resigned from their Cabinet positions before him.


Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat
Updated 10 August 2022

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

ATHENS: Dozens of migrants are reported missing from a sunken boat after Greece’s coast guard rescued 29 in the Aegean Sea on Wednesday.
The rescued migrants said their boat had set out from Antalya, Turkey, heading toward Italy with 60 to 80 people aboard, according to a coast guard spokesperson.
It had capsized and sunk off the island of Karpathos in the southern Aegean, spokesperson Nikos Kokkalas told state television. The search and rescue operation had begun in the early morning hours amid strong winds, he added.
The rescued migrants were Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis, another coast guard official said on condition of anonymity.
Greece was at the front line of a European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, when a million refugees fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in the country, mainly via Turkey.
The number of migrant arrivals has fallen sharply since then. But Greek authorities say they have recently seen a sharp increase in attempted entries through the country’s islands and land border with Turkey.


Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions
Updated 10 August 2022

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions
  • Manila, a longtime Washington ally, agreed in November to pay $228 million for the Mi-17 helicopters

MANILA: The Philippines has scrapped an order for 16 Russian military helicopters, an official confirmed Wednesday, following reports former president Rodrigo Duterte decided to cancel it due to US sanctions on Moscow.
Manila — a longtime Washington ally — agreed in November to pay $228 million (12.7 billion pesos) for the Mi-17 helicopters, as it seeks to modernize its military hardware.
The United States and its allies imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow in the wake of its assault on Ukraine in February.
They are aimed at cutting off Russia from the global financial system and choking off funds available to Moscow to finance the war.
The Philippine defense department was “formalizing the termination” of the contract, spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Wednesday.
Without mentioning US sanctions on Moscow, Andolong said “changes in priorities necessitated by global political developments resulted in the cancelation of the project by the previous administration.”
Delfin Lorenzana, who served as defense secretary under Duterte, said in March that the Philippines had paid a deposit for the transport helicopters before war erupted in Ukraine and the deal was “on track.”
But last week Lorenzana, who now heads a different government agency, told local media that Duterte himself decided to cancel the deal in the waning days of his administration over the sanctions threat.
“I don’t know if we can still get back the money since we were the ones who terminated the contract,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Russian embassy officials in Manila could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez recently told AFP the decision to cancel was triggered by “the Ukrainian war.”
Romualdez said Manila was also wary of falling foul of a US law passed in 2017 that sanctions anyone doing business with Russia’s intelligence or defense sectors.
The United States was offering “alternative helicopters to meet our needs,” he added.
Manila began a modest military modernization program in 2012. Until recently, its equipment featured Vietnam War-era helicopters and World War II naval vessels used by the United States.
After President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took power on June 30, the new government reviewed the Russian deal, arriving at the same decision as Duterte.


Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport
Updated 10 August 2022

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport
  • Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife

BOBIGNY, Fra.: Police officers shot and killed a man who brandished a knife at the Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris on Wednesday, police and airport sources said.
“Officers neutralized a threatening individual in possession of a knife at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport,” the Paris police department said on its Twitter account.
An airport source said the incident occurred at the busy Terminal 2F at around 8:20 am (0620 GMT), when “a homeless man started bothering security agents and border police were called in to remove him.”
Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife, when one of the officers fired his weapon.
An AFP photographer who witnessed the scene said “a large person of color brandished something that looked like a knife at the police.”
“He was ordered to stop but kept advancing toward them, and an officer fired a single shot.”
The man was quickly put on a stretcher and evacuated, the photographer said.
Security forces have been on high alert for terrorist attacks since a wave of jihadist killings that have killed more than 250 people since 2015, often by so-called “lone wolves” who often target police.