Senior Ukrainian officials depart amid corruption crackdown

Senior Ukrainian officials depart amid corruption crackdown
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, 33, had been the deputy head of presidential office since 2019, overseeing regions and regional policies. (Photo: Ukraine's official presidential website)
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Updated 24 January 2023

Senior Ukrainian officials depart amid corruption crackdown

Senior Ukrainian officials depart amid corruption crackdown
  • Tymoshenko gave no reason for his resignation

KYIV: The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office quit Tuesday, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to launch a staff shake-up amid high-level corruption allegations during the war with Russia.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko asked to be relieved of his duties, according to an online copy of a decree signed by Zelensky and Tymoshenko’s own social media posts.
Neither gave a reason for the resignation.
Deputy Defense Minister Viacheslav Shapovalov also resigned, local media reported, alleging his departure was linked to a scandal involving the purchase of food for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko also quit.
Tymoshenko joined the presidential office in 2019, after working on Zelensky’s media and creative content strategy during his presidential campaign.
Zelensky had promised personnel changes in the government, regional administrations and security forces following corruption allegations that emerged after Russia’s invasion last February.
Tymoshenko last year was under investigation relating to his personal use of luxury cars. He was also among officials linked last September to the embezzlement of humanitarian aid worth more than $7 million earmarked for the southern Zaporizhzhia region.
He has denied all the allegations.
Zelensky vowed to drive out corrupt officials in comments on Sunday, when a deputy minister was dismissed for being part of a network embezzling budget funds. Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry later identified the dismissed official as Vasyl Lozynsky, a deputy minister there.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said that Ukraine’s focus on the war would not stop his government from tackling corruption.
Zelensky, who came to power in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform, pointed to suspicions in the areas of energy and military procurement.
He said he intended the deputy minister’s dismissal to send “a signal to all those whose actions or behavior violate the principle of justice.”
“I want to be clear: There will be no return to what used to be in the past,” Zelensky said.
Oleksandr Kubrakov, the infrastructure minister, said Lozynsky was relieved of his duties after Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency detained him while he was receiving a $400,000 bribe for helping to fix contracts related to restoring infrastructure facilities battered by Russian missile strikes.
A statement by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine described Lozynsky as part of “an organized criminal group involved in the embezzlement of budget funds.”
It said its detectives were working to identify the group’s other members.
In other developments:
Russian shelling overnight killed one civilian and wounded two others near the eastern city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of the fighting in recent months, regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Tuesday.
Russian forces also shelled nine towns and villages in the northern Sumy region, which borders Russia, killing a young woman and wounding three other people, local Gov. Dmytro Zhyvytskyy reported on Telegram.
He said the casualties all lived in the same house, which suffered a direct artillery hit.


Andrew Tate loses appeal in Romania, to be held 30 more days

Andrew Tate loses appeal in Romania, to be held 30 more days
Updated 9 sec ago

Andrew Tate loses appeal in Romania, to be held 30 more days

Andrew Tate loses appeal in Romania, to be held 30 more days
  • Tate lost his appeal against a judge’s decision to extend his arrest a second time for 30 days

BUCHAREST, Romania: Andrew Tate lost his appeal at a Romanian court and will be held for a further 30 days, an official said Wednesday.
Tate, a divisive influencer and former professional kickboxer, is detained on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking.
Tate lost his appeal at the Bucharest Court of Appeal against a judge’s Jan. 20 decision to extend his arrest a second time for 30 days, said Ramona Bolla, a spokesperson for Romania’s anti-organized crime agency DIICOT.
Tate, 36, a British-US citizen who has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter, arrived at the Bucharest Court of Appeal on Wednesday handcuffed to his brother Tristan, who is held in the same case along with two Romanian women.
The court rejected all four appeals and will remain in custody until Feb. 27 as prosecutors continue investigating the case.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
BUCHAREST, Romania: Andrew Tate, the divisive influencer and former professional kickboxer who is detained in Romania on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking, appeared at a court in Bucharest on Wednesday to appeal against a second 30-day extension of his detention.
Tate, 36, a British-US citizen who has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter, arrived at the Bucharest Court of Appeal handcuffed to his brother Tristan, who is being held in the same case along with two Romanian women.
All four, who were initially detained in Bucharest in late December, will look to overturn a judge’s Jan. 20 decision to extend for a second time their detention by 30 days at the request of prosecutors. They previously lost an appeal against an earlier extension.
A document seen by The Associated Press explaining the Jan. 20 decision, said the judge took into account the “particular dangerousness of the defendants” and their capacity to identify victims “with an increased vulnerability, in search of better life opportunities.”
Ioan Gliga, a lawyer representing the Tate brothers, told the media Wednesday that the defense presented “solid arguments” that the extended detention period “is not necessary.”
“The probationary (period) originally considered the value of this preventative measure for 30 days and it was significantly diluted by other means of evidence administered in the meantime,” he said.
As the Tates left the court after a morning hearing, Andrew Tate said: “Ask them for evidence and they will give you none, because it doesn’t exist. You’ll find out the truth of this case soon.”
If the court rejects their appeal, all four will remain in custody until Feb. 27 as prosecutors continue investigating the case.
Andrew Tate, who has reportedly lived in Romania since 2017, was previously banned from various prominent social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. He has claimed there is “zero evidence” against him in the case and alleged it is instead a political attack to silence him.
“My case is not criminal, it’s political. It’s not about justice or fairness. It’s about attacking my influence on the world,” read a post that appeared on his Twitter account on Sunday.
An online petition launched in January to free the brothers has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures.
After the Tates and the two women were arrested, Romania’s anti-organized crime agency, DIICOT, said in a statement that it had identified six victims in the human trafficking case who were subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” and were sexually exploited by members of the alleged crime group.
The agency said victims were lured with pretenses of love, and later intimidated, surveilled and subjected to other control tactics while being coerced into engaging in pornographic acts for substantial financial gains.
Earlier in January, Romanian authorities descended on a compound near Bucharest where they towed away a fleet of luxury cars that included a blue Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Porsche. They reported seizing assets worth an estimated $3.9 million.
Prosecutors have said that if they can prove the owners gained money through illicit activities such as human trafficking, the assets would be used to cover the expenses of the investigation and to compensate victims. Tate also unsuccessfully appealed the asset seizure.


Moscow warns Israel against supplying arms to Ukraine

Moscow warns Israel against supplying arms to Ukraine
Updated 21 min 6 sec ago

Moscow warns Israel against supplying arms to Ukraine

Moscow warns Israel against supplying arms to Ukraine
  • Warning comes after Israeli PM said he was considering military aid for Kyiv

MOSCOW: Russia on Wednesday warned Israel against supplying weapons to Ukraine after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering military aid for Kyiv and was willing to mediate in the conflict.
“We say that all countries that supply weapons (to Ukraine) should understand that we will consider these (weapons) to be legitimate targets for Russia’s armed forces,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.


Half a million strike in UK’s largest walkout in 12 years

Half a million strike in UK’s largest walkout in 12 years
Updated 01 February 2023

Half a million strike in UK’s largest walkout in 12 years

Half a million strike in UK’s largest walkout in 12 years
  • As Europe battles a cost-of-living crisis, Britain's umbrella labour organisation the Trades Union Congress called it the "biggest day of strike action since 2011"
  • Unions have accused millionaire Sunak of being out of touch with the challenges faced by ordinary working people struggling to make ends meet

LONDON: Half a million workers went on strike in Britain on Wednesday, calling for higher wages in the largest such walkout in over a decade, closing schools and severely disrupting transport.
As Europe battles a cost-of-living crisis, Britain’s umbrella labor organization the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called it the “biggest day of strike action since 2011.”
The latest strikes come a day after more than 1.27 million took to the streets in France, increasing pressure on the French government over pension reform plans.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for pay rises to be “reasonable” and affordable” warning that big pay rises would jeopardize attempts to tame inflation.
But unions have accused millionaire Sunak of being out of touch with the challenges faced by ordinary working people struggling to make ends meet in the face of low paid, insecure work and spiralling costs.
Teachers and train drivers were among the latest groups to act, as well as border force workers at UK air and seaports.
“The workload is always bigger and bigger and with the inflation our salary is lower and lower,” London teacher Nigel Adams, 57, told AFP as he joined thousands of teachers marching through central London.
“We’re exhausted. We’re paying the price and so are the children,” he added as protesters held up placards reading “Pay Up” and “We can’t put your kids first if you put their teachers last.”
Britain has witnessed months of strikes by tens of thousands of workers — including postal staff, lawyers, nurses and employees in the retail sector — as UK inflation raced above 11 percent, the highest level in more than 40 years.
Job center worker and union representative, Graham, who preferred not to give his last name said workers had no choice but to strike faced with soaring costs.
“Some of our members, even though they are working, still have to make visits to food banks,” he said.
“Not only are wages not keeping up, but things like fares, council tax and rents are going up. Anything we get is eaten away,” he added.
At London’s King’s Cross rail station, Kate Lewis, a 50-year-old charity worker, said she sympathized with the strikers despite her train being delayed.
“I understand. We are all in the same boat. All impacted by inflation,” she said.
Another major commuter hub in the capital, London Bridge station, was completely closed.
One train driver who gave his name as Tony, 61, said the sort of pay rises on offer were insulting, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
“We worked all through Covid. We were being praised as key workers and then there is this slap in the face,” he said.
“I was leaving (home) at 3 am to go to work. People were having barbecues, you could hear the bottles. I think we deserve a pay increase that keeps up with inflation.”
Government and company bosses are standing firm over wage demands.
With thousands of schools closed for the day, Education Minister Gillian Keegan told Times Radio she was “disappointed” teachers had walked out.
But union boss Mark Serwotka said the government’s position was “unsustainable.”
“It’s not feasible that they can sit back with this unprecedented amount of industrial action growing, because it’s half a million today,” he told Sky News.
“Next week, we have paramedics, and we have nurses, then will then be the firefighters,” he added, warning that unions were prepared to strike throughout the summer.
Prime Minister Sunak on Wednesday told parliament the government had given teachers the “highest pay rise in 30 years” including nine percent for newly qualified teachers.
He urged opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to say “that the strikes are wrong and we should be backing our school children“
The latest official data shows 1.6 million working days were lost from June-November last year because of strikes — the highest six-month total in more than three decades — according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
A total of 467,000 working days were lost to walkouts in November alone, the highest level since 2011, the ONS added.
Alongside the strikes, unions are also staging rallies across the country against the Conservative government’s plans to legislate against public sector strike action.
Sunak has introduced a draft law requiring some frontline workers to maintain a minimum level of service during walkouts.


In rural Indonesia, women join climate action in fight for survival

In rural Indonesia, women join climate action in fight for survival
Updated 01 February 2023

In rural Indonesia, women join climate action in fight for survival

In rural Indonesia, women join climate action in fight for survival
  • Nearly half of coastal cities, districts in Indonesia are at risk of tidal flooding by 2050
  • Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of risks posed by climate change

JAKARTA: For the past few years, Rania has been constantly living in fear of the day she and her family would have to abandon their home when everything they own falls into the ocean. 

Life and livelihood in Rania’s village, Pondok Kelapa in Bengkulu province on the western coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, have been increasingly affected by erosion. 

Environmentalists estimate that seawater has already entered 30 m into the mainland since 2011 and the pace at which it reclaims more is increasing. 

The village has been also losing its main source of livelihood, fisheries, as tidal waves destroy marine vegetation and fish habitats, leaving many men jobless and trapping the whole community in a poverty cycle. 

“Where we live is being eroded by the waves. Tidal floods are greatly affecting our lives,” Rania, 47, told Arab News. 

“We are trying our best, but some children don’t go to school. Some of them have had to leave because there’s simply not enough money.” 

Pondok Kelapa is not the only place affected, as coastal erosion and tidal flooding are threatening many more communities in the archipelagic nation of 270 million. 

A recent study by Indonesia’s biggest daily, Kompas, showed that nearly 200 out of about 500 coastal cities and districts are at risk of being submerged by 2050, as the country is one of the most vulnerable in terms of risks posed by the changing climate.

In Rania’s village of 4,300 people, women have decided to fight back. 

In 2020, she and over 20 other village women formed a group to advocate for government climate resilience assistance to build a seawall and help the community adapt to the rapidly changing conditions with proper infrastructure. 

“Because of climate change, seawater has increasingly eroded our place in Pondok Kelapa,” she said. 

“Now the women are stepping up and trying to confront this issue. Who knows, maybe the government will respond to us ladies.” 

Action is urgently needed not only in Pondok Kelapa but along the coast of the whole Bengkulu province, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, a non-governmental organization, which is part of the Friends of the Earth International network. 

“A number of villages are in danger of sinking because of coastal erosion and tidal flooding…These tidal floods in Bengkulu province are very hard to predict, and they have impacted the earnings of fishermen and subsequently affected their livelihood,” Dodi Faisal, who heads the forum’s advocacy in the province, told Arab News. 

“It’s very worrying. The provincial and local governments have yet to take any concrete action.” 

Masmarawati, another member of Rania’s group, said she hopes action will come soon.

“We can still survive in the village for now,” she said. 

“But what about next year? In five years? What’s going to happen to our children and grandchildren?” 


Ukrainian police rescue six-year-old girl from besieged Bakhmut

Ukrainian police rescue six-year-old girl from besieged Bakhmut
Updated 01 February 2023

Ukrainian police rescue six-year-old girl from besieged Bakhmut

Ukrainian police rescue six-year-old girl from besieged Bakhmut
  • They are among millions of people who have been displaced since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 last year

BAKHMUT: Ukrainian police staged a risky rescue mission in the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut this week to evacuate a six-year-old girl who had become separated from her pregnant mother.
Young Arina was found living with her grandparents in a run-down apartment building in Bakhmut, which has been pummelled by Russian forces in heavy fighting.
After trudging through snow to reach Arina, with artillery fire echoing in the distance, policeman Pavlo Dyachenko and two colleagues in combat gear drove Arina to the nearby city of Sloviansk to be reunited with her mother, Halyna Danylchenko.
“A shell exploded in our yard!” Arina, clutching a large white teddy bear, told her mother after they hugged.
“I heard that a shell exploded in your yard, that’s why I got so worried,” said Danylchenko, who is 24 and eight months pregnant.

They are among millions of people who have been displaced since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 last year.
Dyachenko said there were still about 200 children living in Bakhmut. The city was home to about 70,000 people before the war but officials say only a few thousand residents now remain.
“We’re meeting the families that are still there and talk to them, trying to convince them to agree to be evacuated, either the whole family or the children. Because children must live in a peaceful environment,” he told Reuters.
He had to gently coax Arina into leaving Bakhmut, calmly explaining the dangers of remaining.
“Are there any other children you can play with here?” Dyachenko asked the young girl after finder her in Bakhmut.

“No,” she replied, and started to cry.
“You’re supposed to be in a safe place. Do you understand?,” another officer said. “Do they shoot and shell a lot here?“
Arina nodded in reply.
One of the officers then put a bright orange helmet on her head, explaining: “This is for when we go outside, so that nothing can hit your head.”
They left the building to the sound of shelling, got into a waiting van and left for safety.