DONETSK, Ukraine: Ukrainian attackers shot and seriously injured a judge in an eastern Russian-controlled region of Ukraine who sentenced three foreigners to death in June, a pro-Moscow official said on Saturday.
Denis Pushilin, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, said Alexander Nikulin had been injured late on Friday in the town of Vuhlehirsk to the north east of the city of Donetsk.
“The Ukrainian regime continues to display its vile terrorist methods,” Pushilin wrote on Telegram.
Doctors assessed Nikulin to be in a serious but stable condition, he added.
In June, Nikulin passed death sentences on two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine, ruling they had tried to overthrow local authorities.
The three men, who Pushilin described as “Nazi war criminals,” were released in September as part of a major prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia.
A number of Russian-installed officials have been killed and injured in recent months in apparent assassination attempts.
Millions breathing hazardous air as smoke from Canadian wildfires streams south over US
Smoke from Canadian wildfires is pouring into the US East Coast and Midwest and covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze
Canadian officials have expanded evacuation orders and asked other countries for help fighting more than 400 fires nationwide
Updated 21 sec ago
NEW YORK: Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the US East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports, postponing Major League Baseball games and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. Canadian officials asked other countries for additional help fighting more than 400 blazes nationwide that already have displaced 20,000 people. Air with hazardous levels of pollution extended into the New York metropolitan area, central New York state and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Massive tongues of unhealthy air extended as far as North Carolina and Indiana, affecting millions of people. “I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, which was enveloped in an amber pall. The smoke, he later said by phone, even made him a bit dizzy. The air quality index, a US Environmental Protection Agency metric for air pollution, exceeded a staggering 400 at times in Syracuse, New York City and Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. A level of 50 or under is considered good; anything over 300 is considered “hazardous,” when even healthy people are advised to curtail outdoor physical activity. In Baltimore, Debbie Funk sported a blue surgical mask as she and husband, Jack Hughes, took their daily walk around Fort McHenry, a national monument overlooking the Patapsco River. The air hung thick over the water, obscuring the horizon. “I walked outside this morning, and it was like a waft of smoke,” said Funk. Canadian officials say this is shaping up to be the nation’s worst wildfire season ever. It started early on drier-than-usual ground and accelerated very quickly, exhausting firefighting resources across the country, fire and environmental officials said. Smoke from the blazes in various parts of the country has been lapping into the US since last month but intensified with recent fires in Quebec, where about 100 were considered out of control Wednesday — which, unsettlingly, was national Clean Air Day in Canada. The smoke was so thick in downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital, that office towers just across the Ottawa River were barely visible. In Toronto, Yili Ma said her hiking plans were canceled and she was forgoing restaurant patios, a beloved Canadian summer tradition. “I put my mask away for over a year, and now I’m putting on my mask since yesterday,” the 31-year-old lamented. Quebec Premier François Legault said the province currently has the capacity to fight about 40 fires — and the usual reinforcements from other provinces have been strained by conflagrations in Nova Scotia and elsewhere. Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center spokesperson Jennifer Kamau said more than 950 firefighters and other personnel have arrived from the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and more are due soon. In Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. His administration has contacted some US governors and local officials about providing assistance, she said. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that he spoke by phone with Biden and “thanked him for all the help Americans are providing as we continue to fight these devastating wildfires.” The largest town in Northern Quebec — Chibougamau, population about 7,500 — was evacuated Tuesday, and Legault said the roughly 4,000 residents of the northern Cree town of Mistissini would likely have to leave Wednesday. But later in the day, Mistissini Chief Michael Petawabano said his community remains safe and asked residents to wait for instructions from Cree officials. Eastern Quebec got some rain Wednesday, but Montreal-based Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said no significant rain is expected for days in the remote areas of central Quebec where the wildfires are more intense. US National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Taylor said the current weather pattern in the central and eastern US is essentially funneling in the smoke. Some rain should help clear the air somewhat in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this weekend or early next week, though more thorough relief will come from containing or extinguishing the fires, he said. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said 1 million N95 masks would be available at state facilities. New York City closed beaches, and Mayor Eric Adams told residents to stay indoors as much as possible as smoke smudged out the skyline. Zoos in the Bronx and Central Park closed early and brought their animals inside. The Federal Aviation Administration paused some flights bound for LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark Liberty and Philadelphia because the smoke was limiting visibility. It also contributed to delayed arrivals at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, where a heavy haze shrouded the Washington Monument and forced the cancelation of outdoor tours. Major League Baseball put off games in New York and Philadelphia, and even an indoor WNBA game in Brooklyn was called off. On Broadway, “Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing and left the matinee of “Prima Facie” after 10 minutes; the show restarted with an understudy, show publicists said. “Hamilton” and “Camelot” canceled Wednesday evening performances, with “Hamilton” publicists saying the the deteriorating air quality “made it impossible for a number of our artists to perform.” In Central Park, the popular outdoor Shakespeare in the Park performances were put off through Friday. Schools in multiple states canceled sports and other outdoor activities, shifting recess inside. Live horse racing was canceled Wednesday and Thursday at Delaware Park in Wilmington. Organizers of Global Running Day, a virtual 5K, advised participants to adjust their plans according to air quality. New Jersey closed state offices early, and some political demonstrations in spots from Manhattan to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were moved indoors or postponed. Striking Hollywood writers were pulled off picket lines in the New York metropolitan area. The smoke exacerbated health problems for people such as Vicki Burnett, 67, who has asthma and has had serious bouts with bronchitis. After taking her dogs out Wednesday morning in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Burnett said, “I came in and started coughing and hopped back into bed.” Still, she stressed that she’s concerned for Canadians, not just herself. “It’s unfortunate, and I’m having some problems for it, but there should be help for them,” she said. Gillies reported from Toronto. Contributing were Associated Press journalists Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware; Michael Hill in Albany, New York; David Koenig in Dallas; Aamer Madhani in Washington; Brooke Schultz in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Lea Skene in Baltimore; Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Ron Todt in Philadelphia; Corey Williams in West Bloomfield, Michigan; and Ron Blum, Mark Kennedy, Jake Offenhartz, Karen Matthews and Julie Walker in New York.
Australia plans to ban swastikas and other Nazi symbols in legislation coming next week
Law would include a penalty for people displaying Nazi symbols of up to a year in prison
Displaying symbols for religious, educational or artistic purposes would be among a range of exclusions from the ban
Updated 3 min 6 sec ago
CANBERRA: Australia’s government plans legislation to ban swastikas and other Nazi symbols nationwide due to an increase in far-right activity, attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Thursday.
While most Australian states already ban such Nazi symbols, the federal law would go further by also banning the trade in such material, Dreyfus said.
“There’s been a rise in this kind of violent far right activity. We think it’s time for there to be a federal law which I’ll be bringing to the Parliament next week,” Dreyfus told Nine Network television.
We’ve got responsibility for import and export. We want to see an end to trading in this kind of memorabilia or any items which bear those Nazi symbols,” Dreyfus said. “There’s no place in Australia for spreading of hatred and violence.”
The Labour Party government controls the House of Representatives but not the Senate, and it’s unclear when a ban might pass or take effect. The law would include a penalty for people displaying Nazi symbols of up to a year in prison.
Displaying symbols for religious, educational or artistic purposes would be among a range of exclusions from the ban. It will not affect the use of the swastika for people observing Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Dreyfus, who is Jewish, said the number of neo-Nazis was small, but the main domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, had raised concerns about their activity in the past three years.
“This is a very small number of people. I’m hoping it’s getting small and it will eventually disappear,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Mike Pence bids to topple Trump as Republican 2024 frontrunner
Former VP attacks Trump for backing off conservative policies and accuses him of breaking a promise “on day one” to govern with “decency and civility”
Updated 08 June 2023
WASHINGTON: Former US vice president Mike Pence launched his presidential campaign Wednesday by framing the Republican nomination as a choice between “reckless” Donald Trump and the Constitution — arguing that his old boss’s bid to overturn the last election should bar him from returning in 2024.
Offering a spirited defense of the Trump White House’s policies, the deeply religious former radio talk show host and Indiana governor said he was proud to stand with his running mate “every single day” during the 2017-21 administration.
But he drew the line at the then-president’s incitement of a crowd to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Pence was inside, overseeing the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
“As I’ve said many times, on that fateful day, president Trump’s words were reckless and endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol,” Pence told supporters in Ankeny, Iowa.
“The American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution and I always will.”
Pence honed a reputation as an unstintingly loyal vice president who stuck with Trump throughout a scandal-plagued four years in the White House, and brought the religious right into the tent.
But the evangelical Christian’s refusal to follow Trump’s urging and use his role as president of the Senate to sabotage the 2020 election made him a pariah with Trump’s fanatical base — and the populist firebrand himself.
Pence was forced to flee for his life when a mob directed by Trump to march on the Capitol broke through barricades and called for the vice president’s execution.
Pence, who in a launch video earlier Wednesday insisted that “God is not done with America yet,” is the first modern vice president to challenge his old running mate for his party’s nomination.
His announcement underscored the tightrope that he will have to walk on the campaign trail as he attempts to distance himself from the chaos of the Trump years while taking credit for the gains he believes the country made.
Pence attacked Trump for backing off conservative policies such as tough abortion curbs and fiscal responsibility, and accused him of breaking a promise “on day one” to govern with “decency and civility.”
When asked about media reports that Trump’s lawyers had been informed their client was the target of an investigation into the mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House, Pence told a CNN town hall audience that “no one’s above the law.”
“I would just hope there would be a way for them to move forward without the dramatic and drastic and divisive step of indicting a former president of the United States,” he added.
Pence, who was celebrating his 64th birthday, announced his presidential run a day after former New Jersey governor Chris Christie joined the contest, promising to be the only candidate who would not pull his punches against Trump — still the dominant Republican figure for much of the country.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis and two former governors, Nikki Haley and Asa Hutchinson, are also in the race.
Polls show Trump as the overwhelming early frontrunner, regularly posting leads on second-placed DeSantis in excess of 30 points. None of the other candidates — Pence included — is achieving double figures.
DeSantis traveled to southern Arizona Wednesday, where he touted his tough stance on immigration and defended his state’s decision to send dozens of mainly Venezuelan migrants to California on charter flights from Texas in recent days.
California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom threatened DeSantis with kidnapping charges — calling him a “small, pathetic man” — over the taxpayer-funded operation, after officials said the migrants had been misled into boarding the planes with false promises of jobs.
DeSantis responded by criticizing “sanctuary” cities and states, like California, and called for the border to be “shut down” at a round-table discussion in Sierra Vista with law enforcement officials from Florida, Arizona and Texas.
“That’s the policies that they’ve (staked) out,” DeSantis said, criticizing California’s more relaxed approach to immigration control.
“And then what? When they have to deal with some of the fruits of that, they all of a sudden become very, very upset about that.”
Myanmar lawyers face harassment, intimidation in junta courts: HRW
Since it seized power more than two years ago, Myanmar's junta has arrested tens of thousands in a sweeping and bloody crackdown on dissent
Updated 08 June 2023
BANGKOK: Myanmar lawyers defending political detainees in junta-run courts are being harassed and even jailed by military authorities, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, warning that intimidation was forcing many to stop taking cases.
Since it seized power more than two years ago and plunged the country into turmoil, the junta has arrested tens of thousands in a sweeping and bloody crackdown on dissent.
Rights groups say the military has used the courts to throttle opponents including democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi and former president Win Myint, who were jailed for lengthy terms by closed-door courts.
Defense lawyers working in “special courts” set up by the junta to try political crimes face harassment, intimidation and threats from authorities, HRW said in a report based on interviews with 19 lawyers.
“In the courtroom, I now have to worry about not getting myself detained rather than speaking the truth,” one Yangon-based lawyer told the watchdog.
“Everyone at the court knows who I am... The junta can detain me at any time, and they can and will make up any reasons they want.”
HRW cited the case of attorney Ywet Nu Aung, who was reportedly detained as she left a hearing where she was representing a former chief minister and member of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
She was accused of helping to provide financial support to anti-junta militias and later sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.
Lawyers are regularly barred from communicating privately with clients ahead of hearings, HRW said, and in an overcrowded legal system, some had taken on hundreds of cases.
“Sometimes cross-examination doesn’t even happen,” another lawyer told HRW.
“It’s near impossible to challenge what they (the prosecution) present as evidence, and we never get to have a defendant released on bail.”
All 19 lawyers told HRW they had experienced “intimidation and surveillance by junta authorities.”
“Few have been willing to put themselves at risk of further surveillance and intimidation and many have stopped taking cases,” HRW said.
More than 23,000 people have been arrested by the junta since the coup in February 2021, according to a local monitoring group.
Last year, a junta-controlled court ordered the execution of a former NLD lawmaker along with a prominent activist over allegations of “terrorism” — Myanmar’s first use of capital punishment in decades.
Air India plane flying to San Francisco lands in Russia’s Siberia after engine problem
The airline said later Wednesday that a replacement plane was flying from Mumbai to Magadan to take the stranded passengers to San Francisco on Thursday
Updated 08 June 2023
JEFF LATZKE | AP
NEW DELHI: An Air India plane flying from New Delhi to San Francisco was diverted to Russia after it developed an engine problem, the airline said Wednesday.
The plane, a Boeing 777 carrying 216 passengers and 16 crew members, landed safely at Magadan airport in Siberia in Russia’s far east on Tuesday, Air India said in a statement.
The flight “developed a technical issue with one of its engines,” it said, adding that the aircraft was undergoing safety checks and the passengers were being provided support.
The airline said later Wednesday that a replacement plane was flying from Mumbai to Magadan to take the stranded passengers to San Francisco on Thursday.
In Washington, US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said that fewer than 50 American citizens were on the plane and the department was not aware of any of them reaching out to the US Embassy in Russia or other diplomatic posts.
Girvaan Singh Kahma, 16, was traveling on the flight with his uncle and brother. He said they were barred from leaving the hostel where they were staying in Magadan and were unable to use their credit cards because of sanctions over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“The first day and a half was really hard for all of us,” he said. “The weather went to 3 to 4 degrees (Celsius) in the morning, and in the night it was bitter cold,” he said, adding that it was getting better with food and a place to sleep.
“The Russian soldiers, the Russian police, the authorities, everyone working in the hostel has been treating us extremely well,” he said.