Seven killed in Ukrainian strike on Luhansk region — Russian-installed authorities

Update Seven killed in Ukrainian strike on Luhansk region — Russian-installed authorities
Ukrainian troops have begun to push into Luhansk, marching farther east into territory recently abandoned by Russia. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via Reuters)
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Updated 20 September 2022

Seven killed in Ukrainian strike on Luhansk region — Russian-installed authorities

Seven killed in Ukrainian strike on Luhansk region — Russian-installed authorities
  • Ukraine’s armed forces had regained complete control of the village of Bilohorivka
  • Ukraine is still assessing what took place in areas that were under Russian control for months

A Ukrainian strike on a Russian-controlled village in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine killed seven civilians, including three children, on Monday night, Russian-installed officials said on Tuesday.

The strike hit Krasnorichenske, in part of Luhansk region held Russian forces, Luhansk’s representative to the Joint Center of Control and Coordination (JCCC) said on Tuesday.

“As a result of artillery shelling by Ukraine’s armed forces on the village of Krasnorichenske, seven civilians were killed, including three children (twins, a girl and a boy born in 2021, and a girl born in 2015,” the representative said in a statement.

The JCCC was set up as part of the failed Minsk Agreement — a deal between Russia and Ukraine designed to mediate and deescalate the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine that started after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine earlier said its troops have marched farther east into territory recently abandoned by Russia, paving the way for a potential assault on Moscow’s occupation forces in the Donbas region as Kyiv seeks more Western arms.

“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding that he was now focused on “speed” in liberated areas.

“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian leader also hinted he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to accelerate weapons and aid deliveries.

“We are doing everything to ensure Ukraine’s needs are met at all levels — defense, financial, economic, diplomatic,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine’s armed forces had regained complete control of the village of Bilohorivka, and were preparing to retake all of Luhansk province from Russian occupiers, provincial Governor Serhiy Gaidai said. The village is only 10km west of Lysychansk city, which fell to the Russians after weeks of grinding battles in July.

“There will be fighting for every centimeter,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing their defense. So we will not simply march in.”

Luhansk and the neighboring province of Donetsk comprise the industrialized eastern region of Donbas, which Moscow says it intends to seize as a primary aim of what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have begun to push into Luhansk since driving Russian forces out of northeastern Kharkiv province in a lightning counter-offensive this month.

In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed administration in Donbas about the success of Ukraine’s recent offensive, its leader called for urgent referendums on the region becoming part of Russia.

Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-based separatist administration in Donetsk, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to combine efforts toward preparing a referendum on joining Russia.

The Ukraine general staff said fighting in the past 24 hours had been limited to the Donetsk region, and Russian attacks had been repelled near Mayorsk, Vesele, Kurdyumivka and Novomykhailivka settlements.

In the south, where another Ukrainian counter-offensive has been making slower progress, Ukraine’s armed forces said they had sunk a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across a river near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.

“Attempts to build a crossing failed to withstand fire from Ukrainian forces and were halted. The barge ... became an addition to the occupiers’ submarine force,” the military said in a statement on Facebook.

Reuters could not independently verify either side’s battlefield reports.

Increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability had likely forced Russia’s Black Sea fleet to relocate some of its submarines from the port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodor Krai in southern Russia, the British military said on Tuesday.

Ukraine is still assessing what took place in areas that were under Russian control for months before a rout of Russian troops dramatically changed the dynamic of the war earlier this month.


Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
Updated 28 November 2022

Pockets of shelling across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms

Elderly residents are evacuated from the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP)
  • Kherson city, which was liberated more than two weeks ago — a development that Zelensky called a turning point in the war — has faced intense shelling in recent days by Russian forces nearby

KHERSON, Ukraine: Russian forces struck eastern and southern Ukraine early Sunday as utility crews scrambled to restore power, water and heating with the onset of snow and frigid temperatures, while civilians continued to leave the southern city of Kherson because of the devastation wreaked by recent attacks and their fears of more ahead.
With persistent snowfall blanketing the capital, Kyiv, Sunday, analysts predicted that wintry weather — bringing with it frozen terrain and grueling fighting conditions — could have an increasing impact on the conflict that has raged since Russian forces invaded Ukraine more than nine months ago.
Both sides were already bogged down by heavy rain and muddy battlefield conditions, experts said.
After a blistering series of Russian artillery strikes on infrastructure that started last month, workers were fanning out in around-the-clock deployments to restore key basic services as many Ukrainians were forced to cope with only a few hours of electricity per day — if any.
Ukrenergo, the state power grid operator, said Sunday that electricity producers are now supplying about 80 percent of demand, compared to 75 percent the previous day.
The deprivations have revived jousting between Ukraine’s president and Kyiv’s mayor. Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Sunday defended himself against allegations levelled by President Volodymyr Zelensky that too many Kyiv residents were still without power and that insufficient centers had been set up for them to stock up on food, water, battery power and other essentials.
Kitschko wrote on Telegram that hundreds of such centers are in operation, as well as hundreds of emergency generators, adding that “I do not want, especially in the current situation, to enter into political battles. It’s ridiculous.”
The president and the mayor have sporadically sparred since Zelensky took office in 2019. Zelensky has accused Klitschko and officials around him of corruption, while Klitschko contends the president’s office has put him under political pressure.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that has been closely monitoring developments in Ukraine, said reporting from both sides indicated that heavy rain and mud have had an impact — along with wider freezing expected along the front lines in the coming days.
“It is unclear if either side is actively planning or preparing to resume major offensive or counter-offensive operations at that time, but the meteorological factors that have been hindering such operations will begin lifting,” it said in a note published Saturday.
ISW said Russian forces were digging in further east of the city of Kherson, from which Ukrainian forces expelled them more than two weeks ago, and continued “routine artillery fire” across the Dnieper River.
The think tank also cited reports that Russian forces were moving multiple launch rocket and ground-to-air missile systems into positions closer to the city as part of a possible plan to step up “the tempo of rocket and anti-air missile strikes against ground targets north of the Dnieper River in the coming days.”
Kherson city, which was liberated more than two weeks ago — a development that Zelensky called a turning point in the war — has faced intense shelling in recent days by Russian forces nearby.
The top UN official in Ukraine said civilians, many of whom lamented unlivable conditions and feared more strikes to come, continued to pour out of Kherson on Sunday.
“The level of destruction, the scope of the destruction, what’s required in the city and in the oblast — it’s massive,” said UN resident coordinator Denise Brown, referring to the region. UN teams were ferrying in supplies like food, water, shelter materials, medicines, and blankets and mattresses, she said.
“Time is of the essence, of course, before it becomes an absolute catastrophe,” Brown told The Associated Press in Kherson.
Galina Lugova, head of the city’s military administration, said in an interview that evacuation trains had been lined up and bomb shelters set up in all city districts with stoves, beds, first aid kits and fire extinguishers.
“We are preparing for a winter in difficult conditions, but we will do everything to make people safe,” Lugova said. Her biggest worry, she said, was “shelling that intensifies every day. Shelling, shelling and shelling again.”
On the roads out of the city, some residents felt they had no choice but to leave.
“The day before yesterday, artillery hit our house. Four flats burned down. Windows shattered,” said Vitaliy Nadochiy, driving out with a terrier on his lap and a Ukrainian flag dangling from a sun visor. “We can’t be there. There is no electricity, no water, heating. So we are leaving to go to my brother.”
In the eastern Donetsk region, five people were killed in shelling over the past day, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Overnight shelling was reported by regional leaders in the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk areas to the west. In addition, he said two people were killed in artillery firing on the town of Kurakhove.
Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and three wounded in the northeastern region.
Russian rockets hit unspecified railroad facilities in Kryvyi Rih, Zelensky’s hometown, on Sunday, according to a regional official. No injuries were immediately reported.
 

 


Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months
Updated 28 November 2022

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months

Russia court extends Kremlin critic Yashin’s detention by six months
  • Yashin insisted in court that he would not flee the country, but the judge extended his detention by six months

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Wednesday extended by six months the detention of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who risks being jailed 10 years for denouncing President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.
The 39-year-old Moscow city councillor is in the dock as part of an unprecedented crackdown on dissent in Russia, with most opposition activists either in jail or in exile.
He faces up to 10 years behind bars, if convicted.
Yashin refused to leave after Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 and regularly took to his YouTube channel, which has 1.3 million subscribers, to condemn the Kremlin’s offensive.
Standing in the defendant’s glass box at Moscow’s Meshchansky district court, Yashin smiled and flashed a peace sign at the end of the hearing as some of his supporters clapped.

Yashin insisted in court that he would not flee the country, but the judge extended his detention by six months.
“I love my country and in order to live here I am ready to pay with my freedom,” he said.
“I am a Russian patriot,” he said.
Prosecutors argued that Yashin should be kept in detention because he had “inflicted considerable damage to Russia” and “increased political tensions during the special military operation” — Moscow’s term for its Ukraine offensive.
One of the opposition activist’s lawyers, Vadim Prokhorov, said that extending Yashin’s detention until May 10 was against the law.
Yashin sought to put on a brave face during the hearing and looked relaxed.
Wearing a dark green hoodie and jeans, he smiled to his parents in the front row. At one point he asked his father if he had watched the World Cup match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night and they exchanged a laugh.
As the hearing ended and the audience was leaving the courtroom, a scuffle erupted between court employees and Yashin’s father, apparently after guards told his mother to stop talking to her son.
The men tussled in the corridor for several minutes, with Yashin’s father at one point held on the floor. He was taken to another room for some time before being released by the guards.
The next hearing is expected to take place on November 29.
Yashin is an ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny and was close to Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician assassinated near the Kremlin in 2015.

Yashin was detained over the summer while walking through a Moscow park.
He is accused of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army under legislation introduced after Putin launched the operation in Ukraine.
In an April YouTube stream Yashin spoke about the “murder of civilians” in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha where the Russian army has been accused of war crimes.
He called it a “massacre.”
His supporters at court said authorities were using the draconian legislation to muzzle critics of the military campaign in Ukraine.
“This law is absolutely anti-legal,” said Anastasia Leonova, 48.
“It’s just there to shut people up.”
Her 20-year-old daughter, Olga, said their family liked Yashin’s Youtube streams.
“We would gather in the kitchen every Thursday to watch them,” she said. “Me, mum and my 87-year-old grandmother.”
Since Moscow’s intervention began in Ukraine, independent media outlets have been shut down or their operations suspended in Russia.
Tens of thousands of Russians — including many independent journalists — have left the country.
Another Moscow councillor, Alexei Gorinov, was in July sentenced to seven years in prison for denouncing the Ukraine offensive.
The 61-year-old had questioned plans for an art competition for children in his constituency while “every day children are dying” in Ukraine.
Almost all of Putin’s well-known political opponents have either fled the country or are in jail.
Navalny, 46, is serving a nine-year sentence for embezzlement charges, which is widely seen as politically motivated. His political organizations have been outlawed.

 


Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada
Updated 28 November 2022

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada

Mexican asylum seekers set their sights north — on Canada
  • Despite the risk of rejection, though, the surge in Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada persists

MONTREAL: Pedro Meraz says living in Colima, Mexico, was like living in a war zone, with shootings, burning cars and dismembered bodies being left outside of schools.

When his wife Rocio Gonzalez, a 28-year-old lawyer who worked with abused women, began receiving death threats from a cartel and the local authorities ignored her pleas for assistance, they knew they had to leave.

“They knew where we lived and what car we drove,” said Meraz, 41, who taught at The University of Colima, near the Pacific Coast and about 485 kilometers west of Mexico City. “Feeling that you are going to lose your life, or one of your daughters, I don’t mind starting from scratch.”

The family is part of a surge in the number of Mexicans who have requested asylum in Canada this year. Due to the relative ease of obtaining asylum in Canada compared to the US, visa-free travel between Mexico and Canada, and the threat of violence back home, more than 8,000 Mexican nationals have sought refugee status in 2022. That’s almost five times as many as last year and more than twice as many as in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that accompanied it.

The vast majority of them are flying in to Montreal, which has many direct flights to and from Mexico.

Among them is Viviana Tapia Gonzalez, a human rights activist and mother of four from Aguascalientes, about 425 kilometers northwest of Mexico City, who said she left Mexico in January after being attacked by the military. She said her work with the families of missing and murdered women and girls made her a target.

“Death threats were constant,” she said. “I thought it was the last option I had to be safe. I work for many causes and help many people. I did not want to stop helping, but I must also protect (and) take care of myself.”

Tapia Gonzalez has been living in a Montreal women’s shelter while awaiting a decision on her asylum claim, which she fears might get rejected.

If her claim is turned down, she wouldn’t be alone.

In the first nine months of 2022, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent tribunal that investigates and decides asylum cases, finalized more than 2,700 claims by Mexican asylum seekers. Of those, 1,032 were accepted, 1,256 were rejected; and the remaining 400-plus were either abandoned, withdrawn, or had other outcomes, said Christian Tessier, an IRB spokesperson.

In Canada, claimants must meet the United Nations’ definition of a “convention refugee,” meaning they are outside of their home countries and have a well-founded fear that they would be persecuted if they returned based on their race, religion, political opinions, nationality or affiliation with a social group. Otherwise, they must prove that they need protection and can’t safely return to their home countries without risking torture, cruel or unusual punishment, or death.

Despite the risk of rejection, though, the surge in Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada persists.

The Welcome Collective, a Montreal-based charitable organization that provides essential goods to new asylum seekers, said half of the group’s current clients came from Mexico — a 300 percent increase compared with earlier this year.

“They had to run away because of violence and other humanitarian reasons. To find a better place for their children,” said Flavia Leiva, the group’s volunteer and social outreach coordinator.

As for what is causing the increase in applicants, Leiva suggested that social media is playing a role.

“There have been YouTubers and some videos on TikTok talking about how easy it is to come to Canada,” she said.

At least one YouTube video that was published 10 months ago and made for a Mexican audience explains the Canadian immigration process in Spanish and has more than 4 million views.

It has been harder for Mexicans to seek asylum in the US since the start of the pandemic. A US public health rule that suspends the right to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19 has fallen disproportionately hard on Mexicans. Title 42 authority has been used to expel migrants more than 2.4 million times since it was introduced in March 2020.

Further adding to Canada’s allure is that Mexicans haven’t needed a visa to travel to the country since the Canadian government lifted the requirement in late 2016.

Leiva also suggested that more Mexicans might be choosing to come to Canada instead of the US because they think it’s safer.

“In the US, they are put in cages, the conditions are not as good,” Leiva said. “People do not feel safe or protected.”

Meraz said he and his family decided that Canada would offer them the best chance to start over.

“My wife investigated the existence of international treaties to protect people who are at risk,” he said.

He referenced Canadian policies and regulations protecting women and children in addition to the country’s comparatively low crime rate.


Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies
Updated 27 November 2022

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies

Former Pakistan PM Khan ‘running out of options’ as party set to quit all assemblies
  • Khan said his PTI party was getting out of “corrupt system”
  • Announcement made in bid to create political disruption: Expert

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to create more pressure on the government, experts said on Sunday, as he announced his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies.

Khan was removed in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April.

The former cricket star turned politician is now in the opposition and has since held several anti-government rallies and demanded early elections, frequently claiming that his ouster was part of a US-backed “foreign conspiracy,” accusations denied by Washington and Khan’s opponents who are now in power.

The leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party on Saturday made his first public appearance since being wounded in a gun attack earlier this month, when he called off a protest march that began from the eastern city of Lahore and was set to culminate in Islamabad.

He also announced that his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies, telling tens of thousands of cheering supporters that the PTI was getting out of a “corrupt system.”

The announcement was a new move taken after months of calling for early elections, which saw Khan’s narrative “getting weaker due to repetition,” said political analyst Dr. Huma Baqai.

“Economy is the main concern of all, and after mass resignations by the PTI, the situation will further deteriorate and put the government on the back foot and can force them to announce early elections,” she added.

Pakistan, faced with high inflation and dwindling foreign reserves, has been battling an economic crisis exacerbated by devastating floods that killed more than 1,700 people.

The former attorney-general of Pakistan also said the latest political development “can build pressure” on the current government.

“But they tried it in the national assembly but did not succeed. It is a matter of wits and how long the government can sustain pressure,” Anwar Mansoor Khan told Arab News.

PTI lawmakers resigned from the national assembly en masse in April, ahead of a vote to elect a new premier after Khan was removed from office.

Khan’s decision could “create a lot of problems” for the federal government and was taken because of the recent change in military leadership, senior journalist Arifa Noor told Arab News.

“He wants to increase the pressure on the new army chief to make some decision in favor of his demand of calling early elections,” Noor said.

Pakistan named Lt. Gen. Asim Munir on Thursday as chief of its army, an organization that plays a major and influential role in the governance of the nuclear-armed nation. The appointment coincided with a dispute between Khan and the military, who the former premier blamed for playing a part in his ouster.

The PTI’s mass resignation was intended to “create the possibility of political disruption,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, told Arab News.

“By doing this he maintains pressure on the government and sends a message to the army as well that they should use their influence to prevent the possible disruption,” Mehboob said.

Khan, who said he called off his protest march because he feared it would cause havoc in the country, was “running out of options,” Mehboob added.

“Threat to resign from provincial assemblies is all he could do at this time to keep the momentum of his campaign.”

But there remain uncertainties with Khan’s announcement. Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi told Arab News that, “resignations from the assemblies would not have the same effect as a dissolution.”

“PTI’s threat of the dissolution of the KP and Punjab assemblies would need to actually happen for it to actually challenge the federal government,” Zaidi said, alluding to the PTI’s stronghold in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the coalition government Khan has in Punjab with ally the Pakistan Muslim League (Q).

The former secretary of Pakistan’s election commission Kanwar Dilshad said Khan’s announcement was incomplete, as he had not clarified whether “he will dissolve assemblies or will just resign,” adding that each would have different consequences.

“Dissolution of assemblies can bring a real constitutional crisis and force the federal government to call early elections.”

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Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital
Updated 27 November 2022

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital
  • Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which controls large swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack
  • The assailants stormed the Villa Rose hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, two police officers said

MOGADISHU: Militants attacked a hotel used by government officials in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Sunday evening, police and witnesses said.
Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which controls large swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that it was targeting the nearby presidential palace.
“We were shaken by a huge blast, followed by heavy exchange of gunfire,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, who lives close to the scene. “We are just indoors and listening to gunfire.”
The assailants stormed the Villa Rose hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, two police officers told Reuters. It was not immediately clear how many attackers there were, the officers said.
Some government officials at the Villa Rose were rescued after using windows to escape, said Mohammed Abdi, one of the police officers.
The state minister for the environment, Adam Aw Hirsi, wrote on Twitter that he was safe after a “terrorist explosion targeted at my residence” at the hotel, where many government officials stay.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected earlier this year, has been carrying out a military offensive against Al-Shabab.