Kremlin dismisses mass burial discoveries as ‘lies’

Forensic personnel work at a mass burial site near the town of Izium, Ukraine, in this screen grab obtained from a video released September 20, 2022. (REUTERS)
Forensic personnel work at a mass burial site near the town of Izium, Ukraine, in this screen grab obtained from a video released September 20, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Kremlin dismisses mass burial discoveries as ‘lies’

Kremlin dismisses mass burial discoveries as ‘lies’
  • Attacks around Ukrainian nuclear facilities have spurred calls from Kyiv and its Western allies to de-militarise surrounding areas

KUPIANSK, Ukraine: The Kremlin on Monday denied its forces were responsible for large-scale killings in east Ukraine and accused Kyiv of fabricating its discoveries of mass graves in recaptured territory.
In the latest incident spurring fears of an atomic emergency, Ukraine said Russian rockets landed dangerously close to a nuclear power station in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine recaptured Izyum and other towns in the east this month, crippling Kremlin supply routes and bringing fresh claims of Russian atrocities with the discovery of hundreds of graves — some containing multiple bodies.
“These are lies,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. Moscow, he said, “will stand up for the truth in this story.”
Fighting in the northeast has raged and AFP journalists heard artillery exchanges in frontline Kupiansk on Monday, as traumatized civilians headed out of the town now mainly in Ukrainian hands.
The streets were strewn with broken glass, spent cartridge casings and the discarded remains of ration packs issued by both forces.
Most of the fire was outgoing, with Ukrainian tanks and artillery targeting Russian positions on the west side of the town, over a mess of broken bridges. A column of smoke rose in the distance.
At the entrance to the town, cowering from the sounds of Ukrainian tank shells passing overhead toward Russian lines, civilians gathered to hitch rides or join buses to head out into safer Ukrainian territory.
“It was impossible to stay where we were living,” said 56-year-old Lyudmyla, who braved the constant crack of shells to cross the Oskil river from the disputed east bank to the relative safety of the west.
“There was incoming fire not just every day, but literally every hour. It’s very tough there, on the other bank of the river.”
In his address to the nation on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russians were “panicking” as his forces held recaptured territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Russian-backed authorities in east Ukraine said a “punitive” strike by Kyiv’s forces had killed more than a dozen people and wounded more in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.
The rebel head of the region claimed the strike was “deliberate” and said it would “not go unpunished.”
A court in the neighboring rebel-held region of Lugansk meanwhile sentenced two employees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to 13 years on treason charges.
OSCE chairman Zbigniew Rau condemned the “unjustifiable” detention of the mission’s members since the outbreak of the war, calling it “nothing but pure political theater... inhumane and repugnant.”
Ukrainian civilians in the Kharkiv region have recounted months of brutality under Russian occupation.
In Kupiansk, Mykhailo Chindey told AFP he had been tortured on suspicion of supplying targeting coordinates to Ukrainian forces.
“One person was holding my hand and another one was beating my arm with a metal stick. They were beating me up two hours almost every day,” he told AFP.
“I lost consciousness at some point. I lost a lot of blood. They hit my heels, back, legs and kidneys.”
Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, said Russia struck the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant overnight, with a “powerful explosion” just 300 meters (985 feet) from its reactors.
The strike damaged more than 100 windows at the station, but the reactors were not damaged, Energoatom said, publishing photos of glass shattered around blown-out frames.
It also released images of what it said was a two-meter-deep crater from where the missile landed. No staff were wounded, it said.

Attacks around Ukrainian nuclear facilities have spurred calls from Kyiv and its Western allies to de-militarise surrounding areas.
Europe’s largest atomic facility — the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Russian-held territory in Ukraine — has become a hot spot for concerns after tit-for-tat claims of attacks.
The Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, where the Pivdennoukrainsk plant is located, is close to the front line of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Russian forces have continued to shell Ukrainian-held towns near the front lines.
The UN’s atomic agency deployed a monitoring team to the site in early September after new fighting.
“Russia endangers the whole world. We have to stop it before it’s too late,” Zelensky said early Monday.
Ukraine will be “very high on the agenda” when world leaders formally begin meeting in New York on Tuesday for the United Nations General Assembly, said the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
“There are many other problems, we know, but the war in Ukraine has been sending shockwaves around the world,” Josep Borrell said after meeting EU foreign ministers on the eve of the UN gathering, which Zelensky is to address by video.

 


Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
Updated 58 min 15 sec ago

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
  • The maps included in Tuesday's daily military briefing showed that Russian forces were no longer in control of the village of Dudchany
  • The Ukrainian military claimed in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces in Kherson are "demoralised" and were falling back on their positions

MOSCOW: Russia’s forces occupying Ukraine’s southern Black Sea region of Kherson have suffered serious territorial losses to Kyiv’s troops over recent days, maps published by Moscow’s defense ministry showed Tuesday.
The maps included in Tuesday’s daily military briefing showed that Russian forces were no longer in control of the village of Dudchany on the west bank of the river Dnieper, where Ukraine’s forces have been pushing to reclaim territory captured at the start of Moscow’s offensive.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, defense ministry maps showed that Russian forces have left positions on the west bank of the Oskil river, in the aftermath this month of a counter-offensive by Kyiv’s army.
The Ukrainian military claimed in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces in Kherson are “demoralized” and were falling back on their positions, destroying ammunition depots and bridges in their wake.
“All this in order to slow down the offensive of our troops,” the defense ministry said in their statement.
Ukraine’s deputy interior minister Yevhen Enin said Tuesday that Ukraine’s forces had recaptured 50 towns and villages in Kherson, without specifying when.
Kyiv’s forces have been slowly clawing back territory in Kherson for several weeks but the advance has accelerated in recent days.
With a population of one million before the war, Kherson is a key agricultural area and forms the gateway to the Crimean peninsula.
Its main city, also named Kherson, was one of the first to fall to Russian forces after they launched what the Kremlin calls its “special military operations” in February.
The Kremlin last week formally annexed the region along with three others even though Russian troops do not fully control it.


Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
Updated 04 October 2022

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
  • Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices
  • It remained unclear what caused Tuesday's unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 pm local time

DHAKA: At least 130 million people in Bangladesh were without power on Tuesday afternoon after a grid failure caused widespread blackouts, the government’s power utility company said.
Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has imposed regular service cuts to conserve electricity.
But it remained unclear what caused Tuesday’s unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 p.m. local time (0800 GMT), according to the Power Development Board.
Apart from some locations in Bangladesh’s northwest, “the rest of the country is without power,” Power Development Board spokesman Shamim Ahsan told AFP.
Ahsan said 130 million people or more were without electricity and it remained unclear what had caused the fault.
“It is still under investigation,” he said, adding that a technical malfunction was the probable cause.
Junior technology minister Zunaid Palak said on Facebook that power would be restored by 8 p.m. in the capital Dhaka, itself home to more than 22 million people.
Soaring energy prices have wrought havoc on the South Asian nation’s electricity grid in recent months, with utilities struggling to source enough diesel and gas to meet demand.
A depreciating currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves left Bangladesh unable to import sufficient fossil fuels, forcing it to close diesel plants and leave some gas-fired power stations idle.
The government imposed lengthy power cuts to conserve existing stocks in July, with outages lasting up to 13 hours each day at their peak.
Tens of thousands of mosques around the country have been asked to curtail the use of air conditioners to ease pressure on the electricity grid.
The blackouts sparked widespread public anger and helped mobilize large demonstrations on the streets of the capital Dhaka.
At least three protesters were killed by security forces during the rallies, partly motivated by rising cost-of-living pressures.
Around 100 others were injured during a police crackdown on one demonstration, according to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Consumer inflation has hit household budgets hard and the government recently pledged to cap the price of several staple foods, including rice, to quell public discontent.
Bangladesh last witnessed a major unscheduled blackout in November 2014, when around 70 percent of the country went without power for nearly 10 hours.


WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
Updated 04 October 2022

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
  • Fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case
  • WHO: The world was now witnessing a ‘worrying upsurge’ in cholera outbreaks

GENEVA: Haiti’s cholera outbreak death toll is likely “much higher” than reported and cases are expected to rise, the WHO said Tuesday, warning the country’s multiple crises would complicate response efforts.
The crisis-wracked Caribbean nation said Sunday that at least seven people had died from cholera, raising fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case.
Multiple suspected cases have been detected in Carrefour-Feuilles on the edge of the capital Port-au-Prince, and in the coastal neighborhood of Cite Soleil.
The areas are entirely controlled by gangs and access to them has been very difficult since the end of July.
Conditions in Haiti have worsened in recent weeks with blockades, fuel shortages, protest marches, looting and general strikes.
“This situation greatly complicates the humanitarian response,” World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The situation is evolving rapidly, and it is possible earlier cases have been undetected.”
He said the death toll figures could be “much higher.”
“With the humanitarian situation as it is, the sanitary situation, and the gang-controlled areas where there’s hardly any access to control, to test or even to bring in assistance, we should expect, unfortunately, cases to be higher, and to rise,” he said.
Lindmeier said a request was being prepared to be submitted to the international coordination group for the procurement of oral cholera vaccines.
However, global vaccine availability is limited with demand outstripping supply.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection in the small intestine causing sometimes fatal dehydration. It is generally contracted from food or water contaminated with vibrio cholerae bacteria.
In February this year, Haiti celebrated three years without a single confirmed cholera case and was preparing to submit its case for cholera-free status certification at the end of 2022.
Cholera killed nearly 10,000 people in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, when United Nations workers helping with the response introduced it to the country.
The outbreak affected at least 820,000 people, the WHO said.
The first infections were detected around the Artibonite River, where UN peacekeepers had dumped fecal matter.
It was not until August 2016 that the UN officially acknowledged its role in the epidemic.
Lindmeier said there was no information yet on where the current outbreak originated, but said roughly 80 percent of people carrying vibrio cholerae could be asymptomatic, making it difficult to detect.
The United Nations said it stood ready to deploy emergency response teams as soon as safe access is assured and fuel supplies are unblocked.
On Friday the WHO warned that after years of decline, the world was now witnessing a “worrying upsurge” in cholera outbreaks.
In the first nine months of this year alone, 26 countries have reported cholera outbreaks, the WHO said.


Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
Updated 04 October 2022

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
  • Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine
  • Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved

LONDON: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused neighboring Ukraine on Tuesday of sending 15,000 troops to the border area to build defenses and conduct reconnaissance, actions that he called “provocations.”
Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine. However, he has said Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved.
In comments carried by the state news agency BelTA, Lukashenko said the Ukrainian unit brought up to the border had blocked roads and was setting up checkpoints and firing positions.
“In a word, has not only barricaded itself, but built a wall. Constantly conducting optical, radio-electronic and radio-technical reconnaissance of our territory, troops and objects,” Lukashenko said.
“Often with their drones violating the line of the state border. And at the same time, they worry and worry: ‘Oh, don’t let Belarus enter the war’. And there are constant provocations at the border.”
Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lukashenko said his country was involved in the conflict only to prevent it spreading into Belarus and to “prevent an attack on Belarus under the guise of a special military operation from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.”
“As I have said, nobody will shoot the Russians in the back from the territory of Belarus,” he said.
Belarus’s three western neighbors are all part of the NATO transatlantic alliance, which is helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia with weapons and intelligence but says it will not take a direct part in the conflict.


Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
Updated 04 October 2022

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
  • Under Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed over 1.2 million refugees in 2015 and 2016

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it’s giving its highest award to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her efforts to welcome more than 1 million refugees — mostly from Syria — into Germany, despite some criticism both at home and abroad.
Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Merkel had been selected as the latest recipient for the Nansen award, which is handed out annually by the Geneva-based UN agency.
“Under the then-Federal Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015 and 2016, which, as you will remember, was the height of the conflict in Syria, and there was deadly violence in other parts of the world,” Saltmarsh told reporters. “Dr. Merkel helped to highlight the plight of refugees globally.”
Merkel’s decision to let in so many migrants boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany party and resulted in protests by a vocal minority. She was also blasted by some governments for being too friendly to refugees, when some European Union partner states were closing borders to refugees and asylum-seekers.
The award includes a $150,000 prize. Merkel is expected to travel to Geneva next Monday to receive the award, Saltmarsh said. Four regional winners were also announced.
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honors individuals, groups or organizations that go “above and beyond the call of duty” to protect refugees, other displaced and stateless people, the agency says.
More than 60 laureates have received the award since it was founded in 1954 to celebrate Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, explorer and diplomat who was the first commissioner for refugees in the League of Nations — the predecessor of the the United Nations
The recipient in 2021 was the Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development in Yemen, for its support for displaced Yemenis.