Blinken calls on international community to condemn Russia for Ukraine atrocities 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken listens as Ukraine Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. (AFP/Getty)
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken listens as Ukraine Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. (AFP/Getty)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Blinken calls on international community to condemn Russia for Ukraine atrocities 

Blinken calls on international community to condemn Russia for Ukraine atrocities 
  • The US foreign minister warned that Moscow’s actions put the world at risk by ‘sending a message to aggressors everywhere’
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded by censuring ‘Russophobia’ in Ukraine

NEW YORK CITY: US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told the UN Security Council that the world risked disaster if it failed to protect the international order by reacting sharply to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken slammed the “atrocities being committed in Ukraine by Russian forces,” noting that despite the divisions among countries at the UN, there had been “remarkable unity” regarding the war in Ukraine.

He said that leaders from around the world had spoken about the need to end the war in Ukraine and to reaffirm the UN’s principles, namely “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

But despite this unity and opposition to the violence, Blinken said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “doubled-down, choosing not to end the war but expand it.”

He added that Putin had chosen “not to pull troops back, but to call 3,000 additional troops up, not to ease tensions, but to escalate them through the threat of nuclear weapons.”

Blinken said that Putin’s escalatory actions during the UN General Assembly exposed his “utter contempt for the UN charter, to the General Assembly, and to this council.”

He continued: “The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes.

“We cannot, we will not, allow President Putin to get away with it.”

He warned that failing to defend territorial integrity in Ukraine would put “every country in the world at risk” by “sending a message to aggressors everywhere,” which would “open the door to a less peaceful, less secure world.”

Ahead of this morning’s debate on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that it would be “arguably the most significant Security Council meeting of our time,” referring to Dublin’s period as a non-permanent member of the council.

He added: “I think it will be a very abrasive meeting.”

That forecasted abrasiveness was delivered sharply by Blinken, who moved on to describe atrocities in Ukraine that had been reported to him and some that he had witnessed while visiting the war-torn country.

Blinken’s statement was anticipated to be staunchly critical of Russian actions in Ukraine, and he confronted his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, by detailing a shocking range of allegations of war crimes, torture, mass graves, and severe beatings conducted by Russian forces.

Blinken called on countries that have yet to speak out in strong terms against these alleged crimes by Russian forces.

However, despite the firm nature of his demands of other countries on the council and those attending the UNGA proceedings this week, Blinken is reportedly not expecting the UNSC to act effectively against Moscow due to Russia’s power to veto as a permanent member on the council.

An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, earlier told AP that despite this block to action, Blinken’s speech is being delivered in order to urge other UNSC members to pressure Moscow about the global damage that the war is causing, demanding that it ends.

Opening the council’s meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “the world may run out of food” if urgent measures are not successfully taken to support various humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

He praised deals struck with Ukraine and Russia, such as the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the “Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federation on the full access of Russian food and fertilizer products, including ammonia, to global markets,” but added that the situation was still severe.

China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi followed Blinken and said that Beijing had sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, urging the international community to “de-escalate and create conditions for political settlement.”

He said that the “international community needs to support the UN in creating neutrality” in the crisis, urging stakeholders to “contain spillovers” from the conflict.

Yi supported calls for investigations into rights abuses in Ukraine, but reaffirmed that they must be “objective and fair, based on facts rather than an assumption of guilt” and “must not be politicized.”

On the energy and food crises sparked by the conflict, the Chinese representative said that “energy suppliers and consumers should work together to keep the global energy market stable.”

He added: “We support the secretary-general in helping facilitate the exports of Russian and Ukrainian grains.”

The Chinese representative added that it had “put forth the international food security cooperation initiative” to ensure the developing countries do not “pay the price” of the food crisis caused by the conflict.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, criticized “spurious” attempts to promote an idea of “Russian aggression.”

Lavrov opened his address by attacking the “neo-Nazis” and other extremists in Ukraine who had enjoyed the “direct support of Western countries” since 2014. He said that “ethnic Russians are being subject to intolerance” in some Ukrainian regions, warning that “anti-Russian feelings” were no longer being hidden by Ukrainian officials. 

Lavrov, who did not address the energy or food crises concerns raised by other speakers at the security council, continued to outline alleged rights abuses suffered by Russian or Russia-supporting forces and citizens in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. 

Lavrov added that Moscow had “no confidence” in the UNSC and other international fora, outlining how the “special military operation” was “inevitable.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly followed Lavrov, slamming Putin and the Russian administration for its invasion of Ukraine. He said the Ukrainian spirit had “continued to inspire” people around the world, adding that UN agencies had noted more than 14,000 civilian casualties in the country since the invasions. 

Cleverly returned the conversation to “mounting evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians,” including “indiscriminate shelling” and “horrific acts of sexual violence.”

Lamenting the “grizzly discoveries” of torture, Cleverly also slammed the food and energy crises sparked by the conflict, attacking Putin’s government for attempting to escape responsibility for the changes to the food market.


Biden cites Cuban Missile Crisis in describing Putin’s nuclear threat

Biden cites Cuban Missile Crisis in describing Putin’s nuclear threat
Updated 13 sec ago

Biden cites Cuban Missile Crisis in describing Putin’s nuclear threat

Biden cites Cuban Missile Crisis in describing Putin’s nuclear threat

NEW YORK: US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons threatens to bring about the biggest such risk since the Cuban Missile Crisis, adding Washington was “trying to figure out” Putin’s off-ramp.
The White House has said repeatedly that it has seen no indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons in despite what it calls Putin’s “nuclear saber-rattling.”
But Biden on Thursday made clear he was keeping a wary eye on Putin and how he might react as Ukraine’s military makes gains against Russian invaders.
“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat to the use of nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue down the path they’d been going,” Biden told Democratic donors in New York.
He also said, “we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis.”
In the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States under President John Kennedy and Soviet Union under its leader, Nikita Khrushchev, came close to the use of nuclear weapons over the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Putin, said Biden, is “not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, because his military is, you might say, is significantly underperforming.”
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said.
Biden said he and US officials are searching for a diplomatic off-ramp.
“We’re trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp...Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position he does not, not only lose face but lose significant power in Russia,” Biden said.
Biden spoke at the New York home of businessman James Murdoch, turning to the son of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch to try to boost his party’s chances in Nov. 8 congressional elections.
The event at Murdoch’s home was to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is providing support for Democratic candidates for the Senate.


2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaska island

2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaska island
Updated 4 min 21 sec ago

2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaska island

2 Russians seek asylum after reaching remote Alaska island

JUNEAU, Alaska: Two Russians who said they fled the country to avoid military service have requested asylum in the US after landing in a small boat on a remote Alaska island in the Bering Sea, US Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office said Thursday.
Karina Borger, a spokesperson for the Alaska Republican senator, said in an email that the office has been in communication with the US Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection and that “the Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.”
Thousands of Russian men have fled since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine. While Putin said the move was aimed at calling up about 300,000 men with past military service, many Russians fear it will be broader.
Spokespersons with the US Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection referred a reporter’s questions to the US Department of Homeland Security public affairs office, which provided little information Thursday. The office, in a statement, said the people “were transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then subsequently processed in accordance with applicable US immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
The agency said the two Russians arrived Tuesday on a small boat. It did not provide details on where they came from, their journey or the asylum request. It was not immediately clear what kind of boat they were on.
Alaska’s senators, Republicans Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, on Thursday said the two Russians landed at a beach near the town of Gambell, an isolated Alaska Native community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Sullivan said he was alerted to the matter by a “senior community leader from the Bering Strait region” on Tuesday morning.
Gambell is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the western Alaska hub community of Nome and about 36 miles (58 kilometers) from the Chukotka Peninsula, Siberia, according to a community profile on a state website. The remote, 100-mile (161-kilometer) long island, which includes Savoonga, a community of about 800 people, receives flight services from a regional air carrier. Residents rely heavily on a subsistence way of life, harvesting from the sea fish, whales and other marine life.
A person who responded to an email address listed for Gambell directed questions to federal authorities. A message seeking comment also was sent to the Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco.
Sullivan, in a statement, said he has encouraged federal authorities to have a plan in place in case “more Russians flee to Bering Strait communities in Alaska.”
“This incident makes two things clear: First, the Russian people don’t want to fight Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “Second, given Alaska’s proximity to Russia, our state has a vital role to play in securing America’s national security.”
Murkowski said the situation underscored “the need for a stronger security posture in America’s Arctic.”
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday, as initial details of the situation were emerging, said he did not expect a continual stream or “flotilla” of people traversing the same route. He also warned that travel in the region could be dangerous as a fall storm packing strong winds was expected.
It is unusual for someone to take this route to try to get into the US.
US authorities in August stopped Russians without legal status 42 times who tried to enter the US from Canada. That was up from 15 times in July and nine times in August 2021.
Russians more commonly try to enter the US through Mexico, which does not require visas. Russians typically fly from Moscow to Cancun or Mexico City, entering Mexico as tourists before getting a connecting a flight to the US border. Earlier this year, US authorities contended with a spate of Russians who hoped to claim asylum if they reached an inspection booth at an official crossing.
Some trace the spike to before Russia invaded Ukraine, attributing it to the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year.
 


Indian village goes for evening ‘detox’ to break digital addiction

Indian village goes for evening ‘detox’ to break digital addiction
Updated 06 October 2022

Indian village goes for evening ‘detox’ to break digital addiction

Indian village goes for evening ‘detox’ to break digital addiction
  • Mohityanche Vadgaon in Maharashtra introduced daily breaks from electronic devices in August
  • Digital addiction has come to attention of Indian authorities, parents following 2 years of online classes

NEW DELHI: When a siren goes off at 7 p.m., residents of one Indian village turn off their TV sets and mobile devices to observe a self-imposed blackout, a measure they hope will help protect their children from digital addiction.

The daily routine started in Mohityanche Vadgaon on Aug. 15 when India celebrated 75 years of independence. Since then, the village in the Sangli district of Maharashtra has been trying to observe its own liberation — 90 minutes of freedom from digital clutter.

“Everyone observes self-discipline,” village head Vijay Mohite told Arab News. “It’s digital cleansing for the whole village.”

Digital addiction has come to the attention of Indian authorities and parents following long coronavirus pandemic restrictions which kept children away from school and group activities for nearly two years.

Soon after online classes started in 2020, a study by a city hospital in the northern Indian city of Jaipur warned that 65 percent of the minors surveyed had shown symptoms of addiction to mobile phones, making them unable to leave their devices for more than 30 minutes.

In March, Electronics and IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar told the parliament that more than one-third of Indian children were experiencing reduced concentration due to mobile phone use.

In Mohityanche Vadgaon, the fallout from virtual online learning was observed as well.

“COVID-19 lockdowns and the online classes for school kids made the majority of school-going boys and girls addicted to mobile phones and that was affecting the academic and emotional behavior of youngsters,” Mohite said.

“We know that it’s like going against the tide, but digital detox is important if the parents in the village want their kids to have a bright future.”

The agrarian village, which survives mainly on growing sugarcane, has two government schools. Jayvant Vitthal Mohite, who teaches history at one of them, said he had noticed that after two years of online learning there was a significant drop in his students’ academic performance, and they would remain connected to their phones even during classes.

“The initiative that the village head has taken, and the parents’ awareness have made a difference in the behavior and attitude of the kids in school.”

He noted that daily digital detox, even for as short a period of 90 minutes, helped improve the well-being of kids, and even after one month his students demonstrated more creativity and focus.

“They look more relaxed and at ease than before,” he added.

Fifteen-year-old Gayatri Nikam now turns off her phone when loudspeakers at a village temple sound the digital break time in the evening.

She told Arab News: “My academic performance has improved over one month, and I have not played any mobile games for some time now.”

Parents in Mohityanche Vadgaon follow the discipline of detox too to support their children.

“We don’t switch on the TV, we don’t use mobile phones, and take only calls which are necessary,” Nikam’s father, Anil, said. “I have two daughters and I want them to do well in life.”

For her mother, Anuradha, the regular 90-minute digital-free sessions come with a sense of relief.

She said: “You hear stories of how children get spoiled by mobile addiction. The initiative in the village has really made me happy and I feel the kids are becoming more creative by being away from mobile phones.”


Six facing criminal charges over Indonesia stadium disaster: police chief

Six facing criminal charges over Indonesia stadium disaster: police chief
Updated 06 October 2022

Six facing criminal charges over Indonesia stadium disaster: police chief

Six facing criminal charges over Indonesia stadium disaster: police chief
  • The six suspects include three police officers and three people responsible for the match and its security
  • The announcement came as anger grew over the police response to a pitch invasion

MALANG, Indonesia: Indonesia’s police chief on Thursday said six people were facing criminal charges over a football stadium disaster that killed 131 people at the weekend.
“Based on the investigation and sufficient evidence, we have determined six suspects,” national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a press conference.
The six suspects include three police officers and three people responsible for the match and its security, including the head of Arema FC’s organizing committee and one of the club’s security officers, he said.
The announcement came as anger grew over the police response to a pitch invasion.
Officers reacted by firing tear gas into packed stands as fans of Arema FC tried to approach players following their defeat to fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday evening.
Hundreds of people fled for small exits, resulting in a crush that left many trampled or suffocating to death.
Police described the pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.
Officers responded with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and footage, pushing the spectators back into the stands where many would die after tear gas was fired.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced an investigation after the tragedy and called for a safety review of all stadiums.


UK government talks tough on immigration — again

UK government talks tough on immigration — again
Updated 06 October 2022

UK government talks tough on immigration — again

UK government talks tough on immigration — again
  • "It's not racist for anyone... to want to control our borders," said Home Secretary Suella Braverman x
  • "It's not racist for anyone... to want to control our borders," said Home Secretary Suella Braverman The 42-year-old anti-EU right-winger pointedly vowed to get tough on asylum seekers who do not "meet the needs of the country"

LONDON: Accusing asylum seekers of “abusing the system” and urging the need to “take back control,” the UK government is once again talking tough on immigration.
But its latest pledge to reduce crossings from northern France in small boats comes with a blatant promise to defy international conventions.
“It’s not racist for anyone... to want to control our borders, it’s not bigoted to say that we have too many asylum seekers who are abusing the system,” said Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
The stance earned Braverman, whose parents emigrated to Britain from Kenya and Mauritius in the 1960s, a standing ovation at this week’s Conservative party’s annual conference.
The 42-year-old anti-EU right-winger, who has been in the job for the past month, pointedly vowed to get tough on asylum seekers who do not “meet the needs of the country.”
“If you deliberately enter the United Kingdom illegally from a safe country, you should be swiftly returned to your home country or relocated to Rwanda. That is where your asylum claim will be considered,” she said.
Successive Conservative governments since 2010 have been promising to drastically reduce the number of migrants but to no avail.
Since the beginning of the year, a record 33,500 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.
More than half of them came from Afghanistan (18 percent), Albania (18 percent) or Iran (15 percent), according to the Home Office.
Since 2018, Iranians and Iraqis have accounted for almost half of all migrants intercepted on the route.
Zoe Gardner, an expert on British migration and asylum systems, said while the pro-Brexit Tories have never managed to reduce immigration, they have made a tougher for asylum seekers to settle.
“For a long time, it (immigration policy) has been a way to gain support, when every other area of policy seems to be a failure for them,” she told AFP.
“Every time the government of Boris Johnson had a bad week in the newspapers, you can be sure they would announce another plan to target immigrants just to distract people.”
The strategy, though, is in danger of running out of steam, she added.
Britons are overwhelmingly in favor of taking in refugees, according to polls, but are now more concerned about a cost-of-living crisis.
Proposing to ban access to asylum would be a violation of the UN Refugee Convention to which Britain is a signatory.
It states that a migrant can travel in any way he or she wishes — or can — to a country to seek refuge, without being harmed by the mode of arrival.
For some experts, such a ban would result in court action, just as it did when the government attempted to deport the first batch of failed asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In June, a plane bound for Kigali was grounded after last-minute legal challenges in the English courts, and a ruling at the European Court of Human Rights.
Braverman, a former attorney general and successor to another hard-liner Priti Patel, blasted the ruling of the “foreign court,” which Britain helped set up after World War II.
She told conference delegates with a smile that her “dream” for Christmas would be to see “a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda.”
According to Braverman’s own department, 94 percent of the 50,000 or so migrants who arrived in the UK across the Channel between January 2018 and June 2022 applied for asylum.
Some 82 percent of those applicants were still waiting for a decision, but the majority who have received a response were successful.
“We are talking about people with good reason to seek asylum in UK, with no other way of doing so because the government has closed the majority of other options,” said Daniel Sohege, a refugee law specialist who heads the association Stand For All.
As the law currently stands, a migrant must be physically in the UK to start the asylum process.
But there is “no way” that London would allow them to arrive in the country and seek refuge, Zoe Gardner said.
The UK also relies on its island status and believes that it does not have to take in migrants who have traveled through other so-called safe countries.
With this impossible equation for refugees, “the UK receives fewer asylum applications than France, Germany or Italy,” said Gardner.