Ukraine says mass grave found in Izium where Russians were ousted days ago

Ukraine says mass grave found in Izium where Russians were ousted days ago
Oleg Kotenko, Ukrainian commissioner for Issues of Missing Persons under Special Circumstances (left) inspect a mass grave in Izium that was recently retaken from Russian forces. (AP)
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Updated 16 September 2022

Ukraine says mass grave found in Izium where Russians were ousted days ago

Ukraine says mass grave found in Izium where Russians were ousted days ago
  • More than 440 bodies in grave in northeastern town: police
  • Zelensky blames Russia and says it must be held responsible

KYIV: Ukrainian authorities found a mass grave of more than 440 bodies in the northeastern town of Izium that was recaptured from Russian forces days ago, a regional police official said, adding some of the people had been killed by shelling and air strikes.
Thousands of Russian troops fled Izium last weekend after occupying the city and using it as a logistics hub in the Kharkiv region. They left behind large amounts of ammunition and equipment.
“I can say it is one of the largest burial sites in a big town in liberated (areas)... 440 bodies were buried in one place,” Serhiy Bolvinov, the chief police investigator for Kharkiv region, told Sky News. “Some died because of artillery fire ... some died because of air strikes.”
Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian claim and there was no immediate public comment from Russia on the allegation.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had paid a surprise visit to Izium on Wednesday to greet Ukrainian troops, put the blame on Russia and likened the discovery to what happened in Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in the early stages of the late February invasion by Russian forces.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of perpetrating war crimes there. Tens of thousands of civilians were likely killed in a separate Russian assault on the southern port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said in April.
“Russia is leaving death behind it everywhere and must be held responsible,” Zelensky said in a video address late on Thursday.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.

Fortifying
After a week of rapid Ukrainian gains in the northeast, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were fortifying defenses and it would be hard to maintain the pace of the advance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment publicly on the setback suffered by his forces this month. Ukrainian officials say 9,000 sq km (3,400 sq miles) has been retaken, territory about the size of the island of Cyprus.
Footage shot by Reuters on Thursday in the eastern town of Kupiansk, which Ukrainian forces recaptured last week, showed many buildings had been damaged or burned out.
“No electricity, no communications ... if there were communications we could least talk to family. If only there hadn’t been all this bombing with everyone in their basements,” said one man.
The speed of the advance has lifted hopes of further gains before the winter sets in.
But Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, said it would still be a tough fight to wrest control of his region back from Russia, which recognizes it as an independent state controlled by separatists.
There was no let-up either in Russia’s daily missile strikes on Thursday, a day after it fired cruise missiles at a reservoir dam near Kryvyi Rih, Zelensky’s hometown in central Ukraine.
Authorities in Kryvyi Rih are working to repair the damage and as a result water levels are receding, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential administration.
Ukrainian forces repelled three Russian attacks north of the city of Donetsk, the armed forces’ general staff said in a Facebook post.
Russian forces had launched attacks on several settlements on the Kharkiv frontline in the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.
Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.

China's concern about Ukraine
Russia’s Putin said on Thursday he understood China’s leader Xi Jinping had concerns about the crisis in Ukraine, a surprise acknowledgement of friction with Beijing over the war.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, China has trod a careful line, criticizing Western sanctions against Moscow but stopping short of endorsing or assisting in the military campaign.
“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Xi in Uzbekistan at their first meeting since the war began.
“We understand your questions and concern about this. During today’s meeting, we will of course explain our position.”
Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese account of the meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later told reporters the talks with China had been excellent.
The last time Putin and Xi met they signed a “no limits” friendship agreement between their countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation” to “disarm” its smaller neighbor.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of an unprovoked war of aggression. Pope Francis said it was morally legitimate for nations to supply weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian aggression.
“This is a political decision which it can be moral, morally acceptable, if it is done under conditions of morality,” Francis said in an airborne news conference while traveling from a trip to Kazakhstan.
Francis also urged the Kyiv government to be open to eventual dialogue, even though it may “smell” because it would be difficult for the Ukrainian side.
In Washington, US officials said the United States will soon announce a new $600 million weapons package for Ukraine’s military.

 


Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
Updated 7 sec ago

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
  • Taliban earlier announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad and ordered nationwide attacks

QUETTA, Pakistan: Three people were killed and 23 injured Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted a police truck in western Pakistan, an official said, an attack claimed by the domestic chapter of the Taliban.
The Pakistan Taliban — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — are separate from the Taliban in Afghanistan but share a common hard-line Islamist ideology.
On Monday, the group announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad declared over the summer and ordered nationwide attacks to resume.
Senior police official Azhar Mehesar told AFP the blast targeted a police team preparing to escort polio vaccinators in the city of Quetta and that those killed “include a policeman, a woman and a child.”
In a statement to AFP, the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack and said it would soon share further details.
The group was founded in 2007 by Pakistani jihadists who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s before opposing Islamabad’s support for American intervention there after 9/11.
For a time they held vast tracts of Pakistan’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical interpretation of Islamic law and patrolling territory just 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the Pakistan capital.
The Pakistani military came down hard after 2014 when TTP militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed nearly 150 people, most of them pupils.
Its fighters were largely routed into neighboring Afghanistan, but Islamabad claims the Taliban in Kabul are now giving the TTP a foothold to stage assaults across the border.
In the year since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan has seen a 50 percent surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Most of these attacks have been focused in the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which neighbor Afghanistan.
The 2014 school assault deeply shocked Pakistan, and since then the TTP have vowed only to target state security forces.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only nations in the world where wild polio is still endemic.
Polio vaccination teams are routinely escorted by police in the western regions, and the TTP has made a habit of ambushing officers as they travel into those restive remote areas.
Pakistan officials on Monday launched a week-long immunization campaign aiming to inoculate over 13 million children living in “high-risk districts.”
In April, Pakistan reported its first case of polio in 15 months. Since then 20 cases have been reported, according to the government-funded End Polio Pakistan program.


Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
Updated 30 November 2022

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
  • It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature

SYDNEY: Australia’s parliament on Wednesday voted to censure former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison after an inquiry found his secret appointment to multiple ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic undermined trust in government.
Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the pandemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.
The historic motion, brought by the ruling Labor party, passed by 86 votes to 50 in the country’s lower house.
It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature.
“The fact is, that our democracy is precious,” Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the debate, speaking in favor of censuring Morrison.
“There’s no room for complacency.”
Morrison has said his decisions were lawful, and that the decision was necessary in case ministers became incapacitated during the pandemic.
“For those who wish to add their judgment today on my actions in supporting this censure motion, I simply suggest that they stop and consider the following: have you ever had to deal with a crisis where the outlook was completely unknown?,” Morrison said in parliament before the vote on Wednesday.
“In such circumstances, were you able to get all the decisions perfectly right?“
Morrison said he had only used the powers on one occasion, to block BPH Energy’s PEP-11 gas exploration project.
He accepted the recommendations of an inquiry into the appointment, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.


Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests
Updated 30 November 2022

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests

Trump ‘unlikely’ to be president after hosting Fuentes, top Republican McConnell suggests
  • 'There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the US,” McConnell told reporters

WASHINGTON: The top two Republicans in the US Congress broke their silence on Tuesday about former President Donald Trump’s dinner last week with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, saying the Republican Party has no place for antisemitism or white supremacy.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy, who may become speaker of the US House of Representatives when Republicans take control in January, had not commented previously on the Nov. 22 meeting.
Trump began his 2024 bid for the White House on Nov. 15, and is Republican voters’ top choice, according to opinion polls.
“There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States,” McConnell told reporters without mentioning Trump by name.
“That would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” McConnell added, when asked if he would support Trump should he become the party’s 2024 presidential nominee.
McCarthy was pressed for his thoughts on the Trump dinner by reporters at the White House, after talks with President Joe Biden.
“I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes,” said McCarthy, currently the House minority leader. “His views are nowhere within the Republican Party or within this country itself.”
Trump has said the encounter at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, was inadvertent, but the meeting has drawn rare criticism from fellow Republicans, some of whom accused Trump of empowering extremism.
Tuesday’s comments were the first by McCarthy and McConnell to address the Trump dinner.
Fuentes has been described as a white supremacist by the US Justice Department. The Anti-Defamation League said Fuentes once “’jokingly denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven.’“
While president, Trump was broadly criticized for not explicitly condemning white nationalists whose August 2017 rally on a college campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, was seen as having provoked violence with counter-protesters, one of whom was killed.
“You also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” Trump said at the time.
PENCE CALLS FOR APOLOGY
Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence on Monday called for an apology from Trump for the meeting with Fuentes.
“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize,” Pence said in a televised interview with NewsNation.
McCarthy mentioned that Trump said he didn’t know who Fuentes was.
“I condemn his ideology. It has no place in society,” he said of Fuentes.
Fuentes attended the dinner with Ye, the musician formerly known as Kanye West, who has also drawn widespread criticism for antisemitic comments.
“The president will have meetings with who he wants. I don’t think anybody, though, should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes, and his views should come nowhere within the Republican Party or the country itself,” McCarthy said.

 


NATO pledges more aid to Kyiv as air raid sirens blare again across Ukraine

NATO pledges more aid to Kyiv as air raid sirens blare again across Ukraine
Updated 30 November 2022

NATO pledges more aid to Kyiv as air raid sirens blare again across Ukraine

NATO pledges more aid to Kyiv as air raid sirens blare again across Ukraine
  • NATO against providing Ukraine with Patriots and denounced the Atlantic alliance as a “criminal entity” for delivering arms to what he called “Ukrainian fanatics”

KYIV: NATO allies promised on Tuesday more arms for Kyiv and equipment to help restore Ukrainian power and heat knocked out by Russian missile and drone strikes, as air raid sirens blared across Ukraine for the first time this week.
Ukrainians fled the streets for bomb shelters, although the all-clear later sounded across the country. In the eastern Donetsk region Russian forces pounded Ukrainian targets with artillery, mortar and tank fire.
Foreign ministers from the NATO alliance, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, began a two-day meeting in Bucharest, seeking ways both to keep Ukrainians safe and warm and to sustain Kyiv’s military through a coming winter campaign.
“We need air defense, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers (for our energy needs),” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on the sidelines of the NATO meeting, enumerating various Western air defense systems.
“In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers are what Ukraine needs the most.”
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO against providing Ukraine with Patriots and denounced the Atlantic alliance as a “criminal entity” for delivering arms to what he called “Ukrainian fanatics.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to use winter as a weapon of war” as Moscow’s forces lose ground on the battlefield.
In a statement, NATO ministers condemned Russia’s “persistent and unconscionable attacks on Ukrainian civilian and energy infrastructure” and confirmed a 2008 decision that Ukraine will eventually join the alliance. But it announced no concrete steps or timetable that would bring it closer to NATO.
US and European officials said ministers would focus in their talks on non-lethal aid such as fuel, medical supplies and winter equipment, as well as on military assistance. Washington said it would provide $53 million to buy power grid equipment.
The foreign minister of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, urged his NATO colleagues to take the political decision to send modern battle tanks to Ukraine to give them a military edge against Russian forces. Western powers have been reluctant to go down that road for fear of stoking direct conflict with Russia.
ACCUMULATING DAMAGE
Russia has been carrying out huge attacks on Ukraine’s electricity transmission and heating infrastructure roughly weekly since October, in what Kyiv and its allies say is a deliberate campaign to harm civilians, a war crime.
Moscow says hurting civilians is not its aim but that their suffering will end only if Kyiv accepts its demands, which it has not spelled out. Although Kyiv says it shoots down most of the incoming missiles, the damage has been accumulating and the impact growing more severe with each strike.
A senior US military official said on Tuesday Russia was firing unarmed cruise missiles that were designed to carry nuclear warheads at targets in Ukraine to try to deplete Kyiv’s stocks of air defenses.
The worst barrage so far was on Nov. 23, leaving millions of Ukrainians in cold and darkness. President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians at the start of this week to expect another soon that would be at least as damaging.
There are no political talks to end the war. Moscow has annexed Ukrainian territory which it says it will never relinquish; Ukraine says it will fight until it recovers all occupied land.
Kyiv said it wants weapons to help it end the war — by winning it.
“No eloquent speech will say more than concrete action. ‘Patriot’, ‘F-16’, or ‘Leopard’ for Ukraine,” tweeted presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, referring to US anti-aircraft missiles and fighter jets, and German tanks.
’RISKS ARE GROWING’
Russia called off nuclear talks with the United States this week at the last minute. Moscow said it had “no choice” but to cancel the talks, aimed at resuming inspections under an arms control treaty, because Washington refused to address its wider concerns about strategic stability.
Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as warning Washington of unspecified risks because of its support for Kyiv against what Russia calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor.
“We are sending signals to the Americans that their line of escalation and ever deeper involvement in this conflict is fraught with dire consequences. The risks are growing,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
In Kyiv, snow fell and temperatures were hovering around freezing as millions in and around the capital struggled to heat their homes. After a week of trying to restore electricity from the last attacks, national grid operator Ukrenergo said the system was still suffering a 30 percent shortfall of needed power.
Ukraine’s military General Staff said on Tuesday evening Russian forces in the Donetsk region were continuing to focus their efforts on taking the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. A Russian missile strike on Lyman killed one person and injured three others, it said.
Ukrainian aircraft carried out nine strikes targeting Russian servicemen and equipment, notably in the southern central Zaporizhzhia region, the General Staff said.
In the southern Kherson and Kriviy Rih regions, it added, Russian forces are consolidating their defenses and keeping up artillery attacks, including on the city of Kherson which Ukraine recently recaptured.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Kherson regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said electricity had been restored to 50 percent of Kherson city after heavy Russian bombardment.
Both sides will have to keep troops supplied and healthy in cold, wet trenches for the first long winter of the war, a bigger challenge for the Russians as an invading force with longer and more vulnerable supply lines.

 


Right-wing Oath Keepers founder convicted of sedition in US Capitol attack plot

Right-wing Oath Keepers founder convicted of sedition in US Capitol attack plot
Updated 30 November 2022

Right-wing Oath Keepers founder convicted of sedition in US Capitol attack plot

Right-wing Oath Keepers founder convicted of sedition in US Capitol attack plot

WASHINGTON: Stewart Rhodes, founder of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group, was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for last year’s attack on the US Capitol in a failed bid to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss — an important victory for the Justice Department.
Rhodes, a Yale Law School-educated former Army paratrooper and disbarred attorney, was accused by prosecutors during an eight-week trial of fomenting a plot to use force to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump.
He was the best-known of the five defendants in the most significant of the numerous trials arising from the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. One co-defendant, Kelly Meggs, was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy on Tuesday, while three others — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — were acquitted of that charge.
US District Judge Amit Mehta has presided over the trial. The jury deliberated for three days.
Rhodes, who wears an eye patch after accidentally shooting himself in the face with his own gun, is one of the most prominent defendants of the roughly 900 charged so far in connection with the attack.
Rhodes in 2009 founded the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members include current and retired US military personnel, law enforcement officers and first responders. Its members have showed up, often heavily armed, at protests and political events around the United States including the racial justice demonstrations following the murder of a Black man named George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Prosecutors during the trial said Rhodes and his co-defendants planned to use force to prevent Congress from formally certifying Biden’s election victory. Meggs, Watkins and Harrelson all entered the Capitol clad in tactical gear.
The defendants was were accused of creating a “quick reaction force” that prosecutors said positioned at a nearby Virginia hotel and was equipped with firearms that could be quickly transported into Washington if summoned.
Fifty witnesses testified during the trial. Rhodes and two of his co-defendants testified in their own defense. They denied plotting any attack or seeking to block Congress from certifying the election results, though Watkins admitted to impeding police officers protecting the Capitol.
Rhodes told the jury he had no plan to storm the Capitol and did not learn that some of his fellow Oath Keepers had breached the building until after the riot had ended.
Prosecutors during cross-examination sought to paint Rhodes as a liar, showing him page after page of his inflammatory text messages, videos, photos and audio recordings. These included Rhodes lamenting about not bringing rifles to Washington on Jan. 6 and saying he could have hanged US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat reviled by the right, from a lamppost.
Watkins, a transgender woman who fled the US Army after being confronted with homophobic slurs, and Caldwell, a disabled US Navy veteran, also chose to testify.
Watkins admitted to having “criminal liability” for impeding police officers inside the Capitol and apologized. At the same time, Watkins denied having any plan to storm the building, describing being “swept up” just as enthusiastic shoppers behave on “Black Friday” when they rush into stores to purchase discount-price holiday gifts like TVs.
Caldwell, who like Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building and never formally joined the Oath Keepers, tried to downplay some of the inflammatory texts he sent in connection with the attack. Caldwell said some of the lines were adapted from or inspired by movies such as “The Princess Bride” and cartoons such as Bugs Bunny.
Four other Oath Keepers members charged with seditious conspiracy are due to go to trial in December. Members of another right-wing group called the Proud Boys, including its former chairman Enrique Tarrio, also are due to head to trial on seditious conspiracy charges in December.