Zelensky discredits Russian referendums, thanks Saudi Crown Prince for prisoner swap’s ‘brilliant result’

Short Url
Updated 04 October 2022

Zelensky discredits Russian referendums, thanks Saudi Crown Prince for prisoner swap’s ‘brilliant result’

Zelensky discredits Russian referendums, thanks Saudi Crown Prince for prisoner swap’s ‘brilliant result’
  • Nuclear threats by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov ‘should not be taken seriously,’ says Ukrainian president
  • Iran slammed for lying and continuing to send kamikaze drones for use against Ukraine
  • Arab countries and business welcome to invest and contribute to rebuilding Ukrainian cities and sectors 

RIYADH: Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s referendums and accords formally recognizing the annexation of territories in eastern Ukraine a “bloody PR-(stunt) based on human victims.”

“I’m not sure what kind of referendums they had. We don’t have any such referendums in Ukraine. We don’t have any law even for that purpose,” Zelensky told Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen in an exclusive interview via Zoom video link from Kyiv.

Referendums across Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson saw an overwhelming majority voting to join the Russian Federation, in a process that many international observers believe was rigged.

Zelensky also rebuffed Putin’s recent claims of major victories on the battlefield. Just last week, Ukrainian forces retook the strategic eastern town of Lyman located in one of the four regions annexed by Russia, prompting Moscow to announce the “withdrawal” of its troops to “more favorable lines.”

“What they declare is clearly different from what they can do. They said they will occupy our territory, our nation. But in eight months of the war, I can tell you that we won back yet another city, the city of Lyman in Donetsk Oblast, exactly the one that Russia declared as fully occupied a couple of days ago,” said Zelensky.

“I can assure Russia and the Russian people that, unlike Russia, we are not interested in Russian territories. We are interested in our territory, in our borders based on the international recognition from 1991.”




Zelensky speaking to Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen in an exclusive interview via Zoom video link from Kyiv. (Screenshot/AN Photo)

The war in Ukraine has shaken the region and the global geopolitical and economic order due to shifts in the trade of energy, the rising cost of oil and gas, and the reconfiguration of supply chains.

More than six million Ukrainians fled to nearby countries. Meanwhile, diplomatic tensions have mounted as nations are pressed to choose a side. There is also growing concern for global food security.

News of Putin’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions has put world leaders on edge once more, as there appears to be no clear end to the war in sight. 

For Zelensky, there are three components that will contribute to Ukraine’s eventual success.

“I think it’s a great victory for any nation worldwide when its people are united and people are able to leave some minor squabbles and historical discrepancies. This is very important,” he said.

“Another important step is that we are advancing against the world’s second biggest army, and we are able to show that the true strength is in unity, not in armaments.

“The third victory is, we have been able to unite Europe and the whole world. You know, before it was much more like everyone stands for him or herself. Now we see this unification and we see that there will be many more challenges also internationally, and there will be more of them.”

Despite Zelensky’s note of optimism, Moscow has vowed to never give up its newly annexed areas and to defend them with all means available. Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic, has even gone so far as to suggest the use of low-grade nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Zelensky dismissed these threats, branding Kadyrov a “terrorist who was not even elected by his own people.”

“This is not serious. Come on. In (the) modern world, how can someone threaten others with nuclear weapons? Yeah, we have lots of terrorists worldwide. We have killers, but I cannot condescend to talk to a terrorist like that,” he said.

Since the annexations, Zelensky has signed a request asking for the acceleration of the process of Ukraine joining NATO. However, many skeptics view this as a futile request, especially given the response from Washington did not signal any immediate action.

On Saturday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US believes Ukraine’s NATO application “should be taken up at a different time.”

“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” said Sullivan.

In spite of this, Zelensky said countries should “pay attention just to the facts, not just to the words.”




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Special Envoy Rustem Umerov in September. (SPA)

“We had statements from 10 allies, NATO members, with full support for Ukraine,” he said. The country should join NATO “as soon as possible.”

“I would rather say not when, in terms of time, but in terms of geography. I think it might happen when we will be standing at our borders.”

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian actor-turned-wartime leader also repeated his rejection of Putin’s offer to negotiate, firmly reiterating that he will only negotiate with a different president.

“We did warn them, if you want to launch these fake referendums, there will be no further talks with the president of the Russian Federation, for if the Russian president cannot respect the law, international law, the constitution, and by the way, not just our constitution, but that of his own country, he should not be violating our territorial integrity if this happens,” Zelensky said.

“Am I in a position to talk to him? He’s not a president.”

However, there does seem to be room for mediation and initiatives that could help to solve different pressing issues such as prisoner swaps and the release of Black Sea grain from Ukraine’s southern ports.  

Just last month, Saudi Arabia brokered a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, playing an important diplomatic role between the warring nations.




Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month held successful mediation sessions to release ten prisoners from various countries from Russia. (SPA)

“I’d like to thank Saudi Arabia for the effort,” said Zelensky. “Given the ties that the crown prince has with Russia, probably it was, you know, a good chance of success, and I’m very much thankful to him for this brilliant result.”

The deal saw almost 300 people, including 10 foreigners, returned to their homelands, the first of very few breakthroughs since the war began.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said at the time that the initiative was based on the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in continuation of his efforts to adopt humanitarian initiatives toward the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

“We are open to any proposals when it is about the results to be achieved, the results of such efforts,” said Zelensky. 

While Saudi Arabia has been trying to mediate, Iran has been accused of lying to top Ukrainian officials and selling drones to Russia.

Ukrainian forces shot down Iranian kamikaze drones sold to Russia in an effort to target civilians, which led Zelensky to dismiss Iranian diplomats from the country.

“It is sad that we have to recognize that the Iranian government is lying, as the Russian Federation government is, because we had contact with Iran’s leaders at the topmost level. We talked to the embassy, we had the ambassadors called up to the Ministry of External Affairs, and we were assured that nothing was sold to Russia, it wasn’t their drones, and nothing of the kind,” he said.




During his interview, Zelensky rebuffed Putin’s recent claims of major victories on the battlefield. (AN Photo/Screenshot)

“We have a number of these downed Iranian drones, and these have been sold to Russia to kill our people, and they are — you’re right — they are being used against civilian infrastructure and civilians, peaceful civilians. Because of that, we sent Iranian diplomats away from the country. We have nothing to talk with them about.”

While the war rages on, Zelensky has also been looking to the future and insists there are big opportunities for Arab nations to invest in the rebuilding of Ukraine.

“We would really love to see Arab businesses, and (for) Arab countries to be present, working in our country. We are ready to offer wonderful terms and conditions for businesses, fiscal, and so on. And there is also one ambitious aim for every country willing to come to Ukraine with an idea of recovery.”

“There will be a possibility for private companies, for Arab countries as well, because it is about rebuilding — recovering the whole of the state, of the nation.”

However, a recent Arab News/YouGov study conducted in May showed that a majority (66 percent) of Arabs felt indifferent toward the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Furthermore, a majority of respondents from the Arab world expressed a view that the blame for the war lies not with Russia but with US President Joe Biden and with NATO for not allowing Ukraine to join years ago — a finding Zelensky challenged. 

“Truly, this war was started by Russia, and Russia is the only one to blame. What else could the united West do to avoid it? Maybe they could do more, but to blame the US, that they, the war is because of them, this is not just, this is not true. Only Russia is guilty of that,” he said.

Among countries in the GCC, Levant and North Africa, although NATO is perceived more often as the party responsible for the conflict, the apportioning of blame is more balanced. People in the Gulf states, for example, blame NATO (23 percent) only marginally more than they do Russia (19 percent).

Despite opting to condemn Russian aggression during a UN vote last March, major Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, have remained largely neutral, and expressed a desire to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv. 

Arab News Disclaimer

* It is important to note that since the beginning of this war, Arab News has reached out numerous times to various Russian officials for comment. Most recently the newspaper also reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, to appear on Frankly Speaking.

To date, all of our interview requests have fallen on deaf ears. However, Arab News wishes to reiterate that in our adherence to our professional duty, Ms. Zakharova’s invitation to appear on Frankly Speaking remains open, and the program looks forward to having her on this show whenever she accepts.

A Cup of Gahwa
The taste and traditions of Saudi coffee

Enter


keywords

 


Toronto police charge man in 1983 killings of 2 women

Toronto police charge man in 1983 killings of 2 women
Updated 29 November 2022

Toronto police charge man in 1983 killings of 2 women

Toronto police charge man in 1983 killings of 2 women
  • In 2019, genetic samples in the case were sent to a lab in Texas, where the results were cross-referenced with samples uploaded to Family Tree DNA, a Houston-based commercial genetic testing company, police said

TORONTO: A 61-year-old man has been charged in the cold case killings of two women who were found dead in their Toronto homes within months of each other almost four decades ago, police said Monday.
Police Chief James Ramer said Joseph George Sutherland, of Moosonee, Ontario, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice in 1983.
Both women had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, Ramer said. Although their bodies were discovered four months apart, detectives linked the deaths using DNA technology in 2000, and investigators suspected the same man in both cases, he said.
Police said Gilmour was a 22-year-old aspiring fashion designer and Tice was a 45-year-old mother of four who held a master’s degree in social work and worked with disadvantaged children.
“This is a day that I and we’ve been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” said Sean McCowan, Erin’s brother.
“It finally puts a name and a face to someone who for all of us had been a ghost.”
In 2019, genetic samples in the case were sent to a lab in Texas, where the results were cross-referenced with samples uploaded to Family Tree DNA, a Houston-based commercial genetic testing company, police said.
From there, detectives worked backwards, building a family tree of the suspect’s nearest common relatives, said Det. Sgt. Steve Smith. As they closed in on Sutherland, police served him with a warrant for his DNA to test directly against the samples recovered from the crime scenes.
Smith said the same lab had helped police in a different case, analyzing DNA samples to identify the man who likely killed 9-year-old Christine Jessop in 1984. Police said they would have charged that man with murder, but a lawyer for the Jessop family said he died by suicide in 2015.
Smith said Sutherland had not previously been a suspect or person of interest in the deaths of Gilmour and Tice, and that police would not have connected him without the DNA technology.
Toronto police said they will now investigate whether Sutherland is connected to any other unsolved cases from the past 39 years. Detectives are also reaching out to police services across the province where the man might have lived or visited, Smith said.
Officers with the Ontario Provincial Police arrested Sutherland without incident on Thursday in Moosonee. He is next set to appear in court on Dec. 9.
Smith said Sutherland was living in Toronto at the time of the deaths. He said there is a publication ban on the case and declined to release more details.

 


Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
Updated 29 November 2022

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange

Leading media outlets urge US to end prosecution of Julian Assange
  • The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the globe

WASHINGTON: The United States should end its prosecution of Julian Assange, leading media outlets from the United States and Europe that had collaborated with the WikiLeaks founder said on Monday, citing press freedom concerns.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” editors and publishers of the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País said in an open letter.
Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed US wrongdoing, including in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Monday marked twelve years since those media outlets collaborated to release excerpts from over 250,000 documents obtained by Assange in the so-called “Cablegate” leak.
The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by the then American soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of US diplomacy around the globe. The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale,” the letter said.
In August, a group of journalists and lawyers sued the CIA and its former director Mike Pompeo over allegations the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited Assange during his stay in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. He has remained in prison in London while his extradition case is decided. If extradited to the United States, he faces a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum security prison.
His legal team has appealed to the High Court in London to block his extradition in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.
“Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said in their letter on Monday.

 


Australia falls short in Great Barrier Reef efforts, say experts

Australia falls short in Great Barrier Reef efforts, say experts
Updated 28 November 2022

Australia falls short in Great Barrier Reef efforts, say experts

Australia falls short in Great Barrier Reef efforts, say experts

PARIS: Despite warnings, Australia’s efforts to save the Great Barrier Reef still fall short of protecting the world’s largest coral reef system from pollution and climate change, experts said on Monday.

Australia had taken unprecedented steps towards the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, which the United Nations has designated a world heritage site, but more was needed to avoid the site being declared “in danger” by UNESCO, the UN agency which compiles and manages a list of heritage sites.

Such a designation puts a government on notice that a site could be removed from the World Heritage list altogether, a very rare event.

“Despite the unparalleled science and management efforts” made by Australia over recent years, the Great Barrier Reef is “significantly impacted by climate change factors,” Eleanor Carter at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and UNESCO representative Hans Thulstrup said in a report based on a mission to the Reef.

“The resilience of the property to recover from climate change impacts is substantially compromised,” they said.

Carter and Thulstrup recommended that the reef should be added to the “World Heritage in Danger” list.

The Australian government in January announced a billion-dollar package to protect the reef, seven years after its “Reef 2050” plan, already a response to a UN downgrade threat.

The Climate Council pressure group said this latest package of funding was like putting “a Band-Aid on a broken leg.”

Monday’s report echoed that assessment, saying the reef’s ability to recover from climate change impacts was “substantially compromised.”

In particular, Australian strategies were “lacking clear climate change targets,” while some measures were not fully implemented, especially concerning “water quality and fisheries activities,” it said.

Australia reported in May that 91 percent of the reef’s coral had been damaged by bleaching after a prolonged summer heat wave, a process that increases the mortality rates of the affected corals.

After intense lobbying, Australia narrowly avoided the Reef being placed on UNESCO’s “in danger” list in the summer of 2021.

The then-government of conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison was voted out this year in favor of a center-left government under Anthony Albanese who has promised greener policies.

A UNESCO spokesperson told AFP that “a constructive dialogue is ongoing with the current government.”

A source close to the matter called Monday’s report “a roadmap submitted to the Australian government which should say what it intends to do with it and produce results.”

The source added: “The path to saving the Great Barrier Reef is narrow, but it exists. Strong and rapid action can produce results.”


Somali troops overpower militants to end hotel siege

Somali troops overpower militants to end hotel siege
Updated 28 November 2022

Somali troops overpower militants to end hotel siege

Somali troops overpower militants to end hotel siege
  • Somalian security forces, who are trained by the US and Turkey, were under orders to “eliminate” the militants
  • Mohamed Sayid Hassan Elmi, who lives in Birmingham, was named locally as one of the victims at Villa Rose hotel

MOGADISHU: Somali security forces stormed a hotel in the capital on Monday to end a near day-long siege by Al-Shabab militants who killed nine people at the building near the president’s residence in the capital, police said.

A Briton is reported to have died in the siege, where Somalian security forces, who are trained by the US and Turkey, were under orders to “eliminate” the militants who stormed it yesterday.

Mohamed Sayid Hassan Elmi, who lives in Birmingham, was named locally as one of the victims at Villa Rose Hotel.

Gunfire crackled from inside the hotel as the special forces fought the militants more than 12 hours after the Islamist group stormed the building in the center of Mogadishu.
A police spokesperson said 60 civilians had been rescued, while a government minister said he and others had kicked down a door to escape after being caught in the hotel following evening prayers when a suicide bomber struck and the gunbattle broke out.
The assault underscores the continuing ability of the Al-Qaeda-allied militants to stage deadly attacks with sometimes high casualties inside the city even as President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government presses an offensive against them.
“The operation at the hotel Rose has been concluded,” Sadik Aden Ali, the police spokesperson said, referring to the Villa Rose hotel where the siege occurred.
Ali said the militants had killed eight civilians and later added that one soldier had also died in the siege. Five soldiers were injured, he said.
Six Al-Shabab fighters had been involved in the attack, with one blowing himself up and five shot dead by the security forces, Ali said.
Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which controls swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that it was targeting the nearby presidential palace.
Al Shabab, which is seeking to topple the government and establish its own rule based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, frequently stages attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
Government officials in Mogadishu often use the Villa Rose hotel for meetings. Some officials also live there.
Somalia’s environment minister Adam Aw Hirsi said the assault on the hotel, where he lives, began with a deafening explosion by a suicide bomber who was followed by militants on foot to breach the perimeter of the heavily guarded hotel.
“I had exited the hotel mosque where we performed the evening prayer in congregation when the explosion hit. The roof of the VIP room I was in flew and glasses shattered far and wide,” Hirsi told Reuters, describing the scene of the attack.
“Then bullets rained in all directions,” he said, adding that he, a friend and another minister fled the building through a back exit. “Many people followed us to the exit, we broke the door with collective kicks and we exited to safety,” he said.
Asked what the government would do next, he said there was no turning back and the government would “not let up the fight.”
Somalia government forces, supported by clan militias and, at times, African Union troops and US air strikes, have made a number of battlefield gains in an offensive against Al-Shabab over the last three months.
The US military has conducted several air strikes against the Al-Shabab this year, but it was not clear whether it was involved in Monday’s battle.
Despite being pushed back, Al-Shabab has still been able to stage large attacks on both civilian and military targets.
In October two car bombs exploded at Somalia’s education ministry next to a busy market intersection, killing at least 120 people. It was the deadliest attack since a truck bomb exploded at the same intersection in October 2017, killing more than 500 people.
Somalia’s parliament said it had postponed a scheduled session for both of its houses on Monday as the siege unfolded.


Saudi-Indonesia kinship in spotlight as Kingdom pledges support to restore Jakarta Islamic Center

Saudi-Indonesia kinship in spotlight as Kingdom pledges support to restore Jakarta Islamic Center
Updated 28 November 2022

Saudi-Indonesia kinship in spotlight as Kingdom pledges support to restore Jakarta Islamic Center

Saudi-Indonesia kinship in spotlight as Kingdom pledges support to restore Jakarta Islamic Center
  • Major fire at JIC in late October destroyed dome of grand mosque
  • Islamic centers with ‘significant role’ in promoting tolerant Islam

JAKARTA: Indonesian officials have thanked Saudi Arabia after its pledge to finance the restoration of the Jakarta Islamic Center.

The announcement, which was made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this month, has reaffirmed the close and important relations between the two countries.

A major fire broke out at JIC in late October, destroying the iconic dome of a grand mosque located at the complex.

The crown prince announced the Kingdom’s financing of the center’s restoration earlier this month, and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the planned restoration “confirms his keenness and interest in Islamic centers in all brotherly and friendly countries.” 

Saudi’s financial help is expected to help speed up the restoration process which, according to the center’s management, could have taken as long as five years without assistance.

Paimun Abdul Karim, spokesman of JIC’s management, told Arab News: “We are very grateful for such help from the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We are filled with thanks because it means the restoration will be faster.

“His action shows the solidarity between Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia’s plan to help us shows the good relations between the Saudi and Indonesian governments, and it will bring great benefits for us.

“This is another way to open up JIC’s diplomacy and connection to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.”

JIC’s work has centered on the promotion of tolerant and moderate Islam, with the complex housing not only a grand mosque, but also a research studies center and a conference hall which hosts various programs and gatherings.

Eko Hartono, Indonesia’s consul general in Jeddah, told Arab News that the support offered by Saudi Arabia “reaffirmed the closeness of friendly relations” between Jakarta and Riyadh.

He added: “Saudi’s assistance also reaffirms the country’s commitment to help the Muslim world and glory of Islam in every part of the world, including Indonesia.”

Marzuki Abubakar, researcher and lecturer at Ar-Raniry State Islamic University in Banda Aceh, said Indonesia, which is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has always had a very close relationship with the Kingdom.

He told Arab News: “Islam in Indonesia certainly has its own unique characteristics that have captured the world’s attention, and this has led to campaigns for religious tolerance and moderation, which are also important for Saudi Arabia.

“This is why Saudi Arabia’s participation in supporting programs related to tolerance and moderation, including at the Jakarta Islamic Center, has become very important.”