Kyiv accuses Moscow of illegal adoptions of Ukrainian children

Kyiv accuses Moscow of illegal adoptions of Ukrainian children
Kyiv accuses Moscow of having organised illegal mass adoptions of Ukrainian children after transferring them from occupied territories to Russia. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 23 August 2022

Kyiv accuses Moscow of illegal adoptions of Ukrainian children

Kyiv accuses Moscow of illegal adoptions of Ukrainian children
  • "The Russian Federation continues to abduct children from the territory of Ukraine and arrange their illegal adoption by Russian citizens," Ukraine's foreign ministry said
  • More than 300 Ukrainian children are "held in specialised institutions" in the Krasnodar region

KYIV: Kyiv accused Moscow on Tuesday of having organized illegal mass adoptions of Ukrainian children after transferring them from occupied territories to Russia.
Since the beginning of the war, Kyiv has been accusing Moscow of “deporting” Ukrainians, saying Ukrainians from occupied territories have been forced to go to Russia rather than other regions of Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation continues to abduct children from the territory of Ukraine and arrange their illegal adoption by Russian citizens,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Over 1,000 children from Mariupol,” a southern Ukrainian city occupied by Russian troops, “were illegally transferred to outsiders in Tyumen, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, and Altai Krai” (in Siberia), the statement read, referring to different areas of Russia.
The foreign ministry said it had based its findings on information from local authorities in Krasnodar, a southern Russian city near Ukraine.
More than 300 Ukrainian children are “held in specialized institutions” in the Krasnodar region, according to the statement.
The ministry accused Russia of actions that “grossly violate the 1949 Geneva Convention” that establishes rules for humanitarian treatments in wartime and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It called for “all Ukrainian children, who were illegally displaced to the territory of Russia, (to) be returned to their parents or legal guardians.”
Several families from Mariupol told AFP that they had been forced to go to Russia to flee the fighting.
Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, was surrounded in the early days of the invasion.
Russia fully seized the city after weeks of siege and intense shelling that left around 20,000 dead, according to Ukrainian estimates.


After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
Updated 11 sec ago

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday denounced the “headlong rush” of Iran’s nuclear program after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris to seek a stronger European stance against Tehran.
In a statement released after a dinner meeting in the Elysee Palace, Macron warned that Tehran continuing with the atomic project “would inevitably have consequences.”
Both leaders discussed ways to counter “the Iranian nuclear threat” and Netanyahu stressed the need for more “deterrence against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” the Israeli embassy said.
Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon but Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating energy.
Netanyahu hopes Iran’s role in supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine, as well as its crackdown on protests at home, will prompt Western allies to drop any bid to revive a 2015 atomic program deal.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of securing a more confrontational Western position toward Tehran.
By “playing the Ukraine card,” Netanyahu hopes to “consolidate an anti-Iranian front” with the West, said David Khalfa at the Fondation Jean Jaures, a Paris-based think tank.
He hopes for “increased sanctions against Iran and the full addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list” of sanctioned entities, a step France and Germany have so far resisted, Khalfa added.
During his meeting with Macron, Netanyahu urged “substantial sanctions to be imposed on the Iran regime and called for the Revolutionary Guards to be added to the European Union’s terror list,” the Israeli embassy said.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP earlier, saying the nuclear program had reached “a dangerous point” and highlighting Tehran’s role in the Ukraine war.
Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air defenses in neighboring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft during their occasional raids on Iranian interests there.
Iran also holds several foreign citizens who are considered political hostages by Western governments.
Netanyahu’s visit came after a weekend drone attack on a defense ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said the attack was carried out by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, though this has not been confirmed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s visit came as violence intensified between Israelis and Palestinians with Israeli war planes striking the Gaza Strip early Thursday, drawing Palestinian rocket fire in retaliation.
Last Friday, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem.
It was the deadliest attack targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade, and came one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
Macron on Thursday reiterated “the importance of avoiding any measure that could feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians, while offering “France’s complete solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism, the French presidency said.
Staying in France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.
Judicial reforms planned by the prime minister’s latest coalition of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties have raised the hackles of some business executives, notably in the financial sector, who have threatened to quit Israel.

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
Updated 03 February 2023

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
  • U assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros since the fighting started, according to EU officials
  • Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years

KYIV: Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the Ukrainian capital for what they described as a summit meeting.
The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started.
EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros ($55 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.
The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other things. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions again Russia in the coming weeks.
Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms. In the meantime, von der Leyen said Thursday that the European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some “key European programs” that will bring benefits similar to membership.
Those programs were due to be discussed in Friday’s meeting, which will also address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership: endemic corruption.
Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said Thursday she was “comforted” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.
The previous day, Zelensky had taken aim at corrupt officials for the second time in the space of a week. Several high-ranking officials were dismissed.
Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft.
The latest corruption allegations came as Western allies channel billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine’s government is keen to get more Western military aid, on top of the tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new offensives once winter ends. Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.
The USis expected to announce Friday it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.


8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
Updated 03 February 2023

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
  • Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa
  • Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa

ROME: At least eight migrants were found dead and around 40 were rescued by the Italian coast guard overnight on a ship off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, Italian media reported on Friday.
The rescuers took the survivors to the main port on Lampedusa, which lies to the south of Sicily, news agency ANSA said.
Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa, one of the main entry points for people trying to reach Europe.
Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa.
Some 105,140 migrants reached Italy by sea in 2022, interior ministry data showed, compared with 67,477 in 2021 and 34,154 in 2020.
The United Nations estimates that almost 1,400 migrants died while trying to cross the central Mediterranean in 2022.


Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban
Updated 03 February 2023

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban
  • Ismail Mashal caused a storm by tearing his degree certificates to shreds on TV
  • Domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around Kabul and offering them to passers-by

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have “beaten and detained” an academic who voiced outrage on live television against their ban on women’s university education, his aide said Friday.
Veteran journalism lecturer Ismail Mashal caused a storm by tearing his degree certificates to shreds on TV in December, protesting the edict ending women’s higher education.
In recent days, domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around Kabul and offering them to passers-by.
“Mashal was mercilessly beaten and taken away in a very disrespectful manner by members of the Islamic Emirate,” Mashal’s aide Farid Ahmad Fazli told AFP, referring to the Taliban government.
A Taliban official confirmed the detention.
“Teacher Mashal had indulged in provocative actions against the system for some time,” tweeted Abdul Haq Hammad, director at the Ministry of Information and Culture.
“The security agencies took him for investigation.”
Mashal — a lecturer for more than a decade at three Kabul universities — was detained on Thursday despite having “committed no crime,” Fazli said.
“He was giving free books to sisters (women) and men,” he added. “He is still in detention and we don’t know where he is being held.”
Footage of Mashal destroying his certificates on private channel TOLOnews went viral on social media.
In deeply conservative and patriarchal Afghanistan it is rare to see a man protest in support of women but Mashal, who ran a co-educational institute, said he would stand up for women’s rights.
“As a man and as a teacher, I was unable to do anything else for them, and I felt that my certificates had become useless. So, I tore them,” he told AFP at the time.
“I’m raising my voice. I’m standing with my sisters... My protest will continue even if it costs my life.”
A small group of male students also held a brief walkout protesting the ban.
The Taliban promised a softer regime when they returned to power in August 2021 but they have instead imposed harsh restrictions on women — effectively squeezing them out of public life.
In December, the authorities ordered all aid groups to stop their women employees coming to work. They have since granted an exemption to the health sector, allowing females to return to employment there.
Secondary schools for girls have also been closed for over a year, while many women have lost jobs in government sectors.
They have also been barred from going to parks, gyms and public baths.


Pentagon: Chinese spy balloon spotted over Western US

Pentagon: Chinese spy balloon spotted over Western US
Updated 03 February 2023

Pentagon: Chinese spy balloon spotted over Western US

Pentagon: Chinese spy balloon spotted over Western US
  • Discovery of balloon puts further strain on US-China relations
  • Official said US has “very high confidence” it is a Chinese high-altitude balloon flying over sensitive sites to collect information

WASHINGTON: The US is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over US airspace for a couple days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down over concerns of hurting people on the ground, officials said Thursday. The discovery of the balloon puts a further strain on US-China relations at a time of heightened tensions.
A senior defense official told Pentagon reporters that the US has “very high confidence” it is a Chinese high-altitude balloon and it was flying over sensitive sites to collect information. One of the places the balloon was spotted was Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, provided a brief statement on the issue, saying the government continues to track the balloon. He said it is “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”
He said similar balloon activity has been seen in the past several years. He added that the US took steps to ensure it did not collect sensitive information.
A senior administration official, who was also not authorized to publicly discuss sensitive information, said President Joe Biden was briefed and asked the military to present options. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised against taking “kinetic action” because of risks to the safety of people on the ground. Biden accepted that recommendation.
The defense official said the US has “engaged” Chinese officials through multiple channels and communicated the seriousness of the matter.
The incident comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to make his first trip to Beijing, expected this weekend, to try to find some common ground. Although the trip has not been formally announced, both Beijing and Washington have been talking about his imminent arrival.
It was not immediately clear if the discovery of the balloon would impact Blinken’s travel plans.

China said Friday it was looking into the claims the object was a Chinese spy satellite flying in U.S. airspace and urged calm.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning also said she had no information about US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's planned trip.

“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international laws, and China has no intention to violate the territory and airspace of any sovereign countries. As for the balloon, as I’ve mentioned just now, we are looking into and verifying the situation and hope that both sides can handle this together calmly and carefully,” Mao said at a daily briefing.

Mao said that politicians and the public should withhold judgment “before we have a clear understanding of the facts.”

Blinken would arrive amid a sharp downturn in relations between Beijing and Washington over trade, Taiwan, human rights and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“What I want to emphasize is that before we have a clear understanding of the facts, speculation and sensationalizing will be unhelpful to the proper handling of the issue. As for Blinken’s visit to China, I have no information,” Mao said.

The senior US defense official said the US did get fighter jets, including F-22s, ready to shoot down the balloon if ordered to by the White House. The Pentagon ultimately recommended against it, noting that even as the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough that it could have put people at risk.
It was not clear what the military was doing to prevent it from collecting sensitive information or what will happen with the balloon if it isn’t shot down.
In a letter sent Thursday to Austin, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, wrote: “The fact that this balloon was occupying Montana airspace creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission. ... It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised US national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the US that this spy balloon was utilizing.”
The defense official said the spy balloon was trying to fly over the Montana missile fields, but the US has assessed that it has “limited” value in terms of providing China intelligence it couldn’t already collect by other means, such through spy satellites.
The official would not specify the size of the balloon, but said it was large enough that despite its high altitude, commercial pilots could see it. All air traffic was halted at Montana’s Billings Logan International Airport from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, as the military provided options to the White House.
A photograph of a large white balloon lingering over the area was captured by The Billings Gazette, but the Pentagon would not confirm if that was the surveillance balloon. The balloon could be seen drifting in and out of clouds and had what appeared to be a solar array hanging from the bottom, said Gazette photographer Larry Mayer.
The defense official said what concerned them about this launch was the altitude the balloon was flying at and the length of time it lingered over a location, without providing specifics.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said he was briefed Wednesday about the situation after the Montana National Guard was notified of an ongoing military operation taking place in Montana airspace, according to a statement from the Republican governor and spokesperson Brooke Stroyke.
“From the spy balloon to the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans through TikTok to CCP-linked companies buying American farmland, I’m deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security,” Gianforte said in a statement.
The administration official said congressional leaders’ staffs were briefed on the matter Thursday afternoon. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted, “China’s brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed.”
Tensions with China are particularly high on numerous issues, ranging from Taiwan and the South China Sea to human rights in China’s western Xinjiang region and the clampdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong. Not least on that list of irritants are China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its refusal to rein in North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program and ongoing disputes over trade and technology.
On Tuesday, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.
Twenty of those aircraft crossed the central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.
Beijing has also increased preparations for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan, which has stirred increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in the US, Taiwan’s key ally.
The surveillance balloon was first reported by NBC News.
Some Montana residents reported seeing an unusual object in the sky around the time of the airport shutdown Wednesday, but it’s not clear that what they were seeing was the balloon.
From an office window in Billings, Chase Doak said he saw a “big white circle in the sky” that he said was too small to be the moon.
He took some photos, then ran home to get a camera with a stronger lens and took more photos and video. He could see it for about 45 minutes and it appeared stationary, but Doak said the video suggested it was slowly moving.
“I thought maybe it was a legitimate UFO,” he said. “So I wanted to make sure I documented it and took as many photos as I could.”

(With AP)