US speeds up Abrams tank delivery to Ukraine war zone

US speeds up Abrams tank delivery to Ukraine war zone
US officials say the Pentagon is speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster. (AP/File)
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Updated 21 March 2023

US speeds up Abrams tank delivery to Ukraine war zone

US speeds up Abrams tank delivery to Ukraine war zone
  • Pentagon officials are expected to make the announcement soon
  • It's unclear how soon the U.S. would begin training Ukrainian forces on how to use, maintain and repair the tanks

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster, with the aim of getting the 70-ton battle powerhouses to the war zone in eight to 10 months, US officials told The Associated Press.
The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or two to build and ship. But officials said the decision was made to send the older M1A1 version, which can be taken from Army stocks and will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain.
The officials spoke on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been publicly announced. Pentagon officials are expected to make the announcement soon.
The Biden administration announced in January that it would send the tanks to Ukraine — after insisting for months that they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair. The decision was part of a broader political maneuver that opened the door for Germany to announce it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow Poland and other allies to do the same.
It’s unclear how soon the US would begin training Ukrainian forces on how to use, maintain and repair the tanks. That training pipeline could affect the amount of time it takes for the tanks to be used in battle. The Pentagon will also have to ensure that Ukrainian forces have an adequate supply chain for all the parts needed to keep the tanks running.


Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI
Updated 20 sec ago

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI
  • The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort
  • Agreement to serve as framework on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology deemed critical to national security

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday reiterated their commitment to help Ukraine repel Russia’s ongoing invasion, while agreeing to step up cooperation on challenges their economies face with artificial intelligence, clean energy, and critical minerals.

The leaders said the “first of its kind” agreement— what they are calling the “Atlantic Declaration”— will serve as a framework for the two countries on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology that is critical to national security and other economic security issues.
“We will put our values front and center,” Biden said as the two leaders started talks in the Oval Office. He later added at a joint news conference that the agreement will help both nations “adapt and upgrade our partnership to ensure our countries remain on the cutting edge of a rapidly changing world.”
As part of the declaration announced Thursday, the two sides will kick off negotiations on the use of minerals from the UK that are critical in the production of electric vehicles that are eligible for US tax credits. The administration has also opened talks with the European Union and forged a deal with Japan that allow certain critical raw materials for EVs to be treated as if they were sourced in the United States.
Allies have raised concerns about incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act favoring the North American auto industry. The legislation — one of Biden’s key policy victories — invests some $375 billion to transition the United States to cleaner cars and energy sources.
Biden and Sunak have already had four face-to-face meetings since Sunak became prime minister in October, but the talks in Washington offered the two leaders a chance for their most sustained interaction to date.
Sunak reflected on the significant conversations their respective predecessors have had over the years in the Oval Office and acknowledged that both he and Biden were facing their own daunting moment. The visit to Washington is Sunak’s first since becoming Britain’s prime minister in October.
“Our economies are seeing perhaps the biggest transformation since the Industrial Revolution as new technologies provide incredible opportunities, but also give our adversaries more tools,” Sunak said.
The 15-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine was high on the agenda. The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort and play a central role in a long-term effort announced last month to train, and eventually equip, Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
Biden reiterated confidence that Congress would continue to provide Ukraine funding as needed despite some hesitation among Republican leaders at the growing cost of the war for American taxpayers.
“The US and the UK have stood together to support Ukraine,” Biden said at the start of their meeting.
Sunak also made the case to Biden for UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace to succeed outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is set to end his term leading the 31-member alliance in September. Stoltenberg is slated to meet with Biden in Washington on Monday, and leaders from the alliance are set to gather in Lithuania on July 11-12 for their annual summit.
Asked if it was time for a UK leader for NATO, Biden said “it may be” but “that remains to be seen.”
“We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO,” he said.
Biden also reflected that the two countries have worked through some of the toughest moments in modern history side-by-side, recalling the meetings that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt held in the White House.
“You know Prime Minister Churchill and Roosevelt met here a little over 70 years ago and they asserted that the strength of the partnership between Great Britain and the United States was strength of the free world,” Biden told Sunak. “I still think there’s truth to that assertion.”
Sunak is keen to make the UK a key player in artificial intelligence, and announced that his government will gather politicians, scientists and tech executives for a summit on AI safety in the fall.
He said it was vital to ensure that “paradigm-shifting new technologies” are harnessed for the good of humanity.
“No one country can do this alone,” Sunak said Wednesday. “This is going to take a global effort.”
Biden said the challenges that comes with the advancement of AI technology are “staggering.”
“It is a limitless capacity and possibility but we have to do it with great care,” said Biden, who added that he welcomed the UK’s leadership on the issue.
Sunak’s visit comes as US and British intelligence officials are still trying to sort out blame for the breaching of a major dam in southern Ukraine, which sent floodwaters gushing through towns and over farmland. Neither Washington nor London has officially accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam.
Sunak said Wednesday that UK intelligence services are still assessing the evidence, but “if it does prove to be intentional, it will represent a new low ... an appalling barbarism on Russia’s part.”
“Russia throughout this war has used as a deliberate active strategy to target civilian infrastructure,” he told broadcaster ITV in Washington.
The two sides looked to demonstrate that the US-UK relationship remains as strong as ever despite recent political and economic upheaval in the UK Sunak is one of three British prime ministers Biden has dealt with since taking office in 2021, and the administrations have had differences over Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland.
Nonetheless, there’s a sense in the Biden administration that the US-UK relationship is back on more stable footing after the sometimes choppy tenure of Boris Johnson and the 45-day premiership of Liz Truss.
“I think there’s a sense of relief to some degree, not just in the White House, but throughout Washington, that the Sunak government has been very pragmatic and maintained the UK’s robust commitment to Ukraine and to increasing defense spending,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He added that with Sunak, there’s also been “somewhat of a return to pragmatism” on economic issues and relations with the European Union post-Brexit.
Sunak at the press conference sought to hammer home that the UK remains “as reliable an ally as ever.”
“I know some people have wondered what kind of partner Britain would be after we left the EU,” Sunak said. “I’d say judge us by our actions.”
Biden invited Sunak to stay at Blair House, the official presidential guest residence on Lafayette Square. Before the US government purchased Blair House in 1942, foreign leaders visiting the president often stayed at the White House.
In a lighter moment, the president began telling the story of how in the pre-Blair House days Churchill wandered toward the president’s family quarters in the wee hours to rouse the sleeping Roosevelt for conversation. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have cut off Churchill before he could make it to the president.
“Don’t worry,” Sunak interjected. “You won’t see me bothering you and the first lady.”
 


Trump indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents

Trump indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents
Updated 21 min 15 sec ago

Trump indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents

Trump indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents
  • The controversial former president said he was due in court Tuesday in Miami, calls it a "DARK DAY for the United States of America"
  • Trump has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges

MIAMI: Donald Trump said Thursday he’s been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, igniting a federal prosecution that is arguably the most perilous of multiple legal threats against the former president as he seeks to reclaim the White House.

The Justice Department did not immediately publicly confirm the indictment. But two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump’s team had been informed that he had been indicted on seven counts and that prosecutors had contacted lawyers to advise them of the indictment shortly before Trump announced it himself on his Truth Social platform. The PBS NewsHour confirmed the indictment and that Trump has been instructed to appear in US District Court in Miami at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.

“This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America,” Trump posted. “We are a Country in serious and rapid Decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!”

Within 20 minutes of his announcement, Trump, who said he was due in court Tuesday afternoon in Miami, had begun fundraising off it for his 2024 presidential campaign.

The case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges. As the prosecution moves forward, it will pit Trump’s claims of sweeping executive power against Attorney General Merrick Garland’s oft-stated mantra that no person, including a former commander in chief, should be regarded as above the law.

The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether Trump took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.

Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation.

Trump and his team have long seen the special counsel investigation as far more perilous than the New York matter — both politically and legally. Campaign aides had been bracing for the fallout since Trump’s attorneys were notified that he was the target of the investigation, assuming it was not a matter of if charges would be brought, but when.

But it remains unclear what the immediate and long-term political consequences will be for Trump. His first indictment spurred millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t damage Trump in the polls. No matter what, the indictment — and the legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the 2024 presidential race.

Trump has insisted he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.

The former president has long sought to use mounting legal troubles to his political advantage, complaining on social media and at public events that the cases are being driven by Democratic prosecutors out to hurt his 2024 election campaign. He is likely to rely on that playbook again, reviving his longstanding claims that the Justice Department — which, during his presidency, investigated whether his 2016 campaign had colluded with Russia — is somehow weaponized against him.

The case is a milestone for a Justice Department that had investigated Trump for years — as president and private citizen — but had never before charged him with a crime. Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden, who is seeking reelection in 2024.

Among the various state and federal investigations that Trump faces, legal experts — including Trump’s own former attorney general — had long seen the Mar-a-Lago probe as one of the most likely to result in indictment and the one where evidence seemed to favor the government. Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the retention of national defense information, destruction of government records and obstruction of an investigation.

Since then, the Justice Department has amassed additional evidence and secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own lawyers. The statutes governing the handling of classified records and obstruction are felonies that could carry years in prison in the event of a conviction.
Signs had mounted for weeks that an indictment was near, including a June 5 meeting between Trump’s lawyers and Justice Department officials. After that meeting, Trump said on social media that he anticipated he could be charged, even as he insisted he had done nothing wrong.

Though the bulk of the investigative work had been handled in Washington, with a grand jury meeting there for months, it recently emerged that prosecutors were presenting evidence before a separate panel in Florida, where many of the alleged acts of obstruction scrutinized by prosecutors — including efforts to move the boxes — took place.

Trump’s legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified documents case.

The special counsel has a separate probe underway focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And the district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in that state.


Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse

Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse
Updated 08 June 2023

Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse

Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse
  • Before the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River broke, farm fields appear green and crossed by peaceful streets and farm roads and dotted with trees
  • Afterward, only metal roofs and treetops poke above the murky water

KHERSON, Ukraine: Before-and-after images of the area downstream from a dam that collapsed Tuesday vividly show the extent of the devastation of a large, flooded swathe of southern Ukraine.
Before the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River broke, farm fields appear green and crossed by peaceful streets and farm roads and dotted with trees. Afterward, only metal roofs and treetops poke above the murky water. Greenhouses and homes are almost entirely submerged.
The pre-collapse satellite photos were taken in May and early June. Photos of the same area taken after the dam collapsed clearly show how much of it has become unlivable. Brown water as high as people covers much of the territory captured in the images.
Paired with exclusive drone footage of the Ukrainian dam and surrounding villages occupied by Russia, the before-and-after satellite images illustrate the profound changes wrought by the disaster.
Ukraine has warned since last October that the hydroelectric dam was mined by Russian forces, and accused them of touching off an explosion that has turned the downstream areas into a waterlogged wasteland. Russia said Ukraine hit the dam with a missile. But while the AP footage clearly shows the extent of the damage to the region, it offered a limited snapshot of the partially submerged dam, making it difficult to categorically rule out any scenario.
Experts have said the structure was in disrepair, which could also have led to its collapse.


WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas

WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas
Updated 08 June 2023

WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas

WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas
  • Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the bursting of the Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam
  • "The impact of the region's water supply sanitation systems and public health services cannot be underestimated," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing

GENEVA: The World Health Organization has rushed emergency supplies to flood-hit parts of Ukraine and are preparing to respond to an array of health risks including trauma, drowning and waterborne diseases like cholera, officials said on Thursday.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the bursting of the Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, which sent waters cascading across the war zone of southern Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
“The impact of the region’s water supply sanitation systems and public health services cannot be underestimated,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
“The WHO has rushed in to support the authorities and health care workers in preventive measures against waterborne diseases and to improve disease surveillance.”
Asked specifically about cholera, WHO technical officer Teresa Zakaria said that the risk of an outbreak was present since the pathogen exists in the environment. She said that the WHO was working with Ukraine’s health ministry to put mechanisms in place to ensure that vaccines can be imported if needed.
“We are trying to address quite a wide range of health risks actually associated with the floods, starting from trauma to drowning, to waterborne diseases but also all the way to the potential implications of disruption to chronic treatment,” she added.
The huge Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River separates Russian and Ukrainian forces and people have been affected on both sides of its banks. WHO’s Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said the WHO has offered assistance to Russian-controlled areas but that its operational presence was “primarily” on the Ukrainian side.
He said Russian authorities had given them assurances that people living in areas it occupies were being “well monitored, well cared for, well fed (and) well supported.”
“We will be delighted to be able to access those areas and be able to monitor health as we would in most situations wish to do,” he said, adding it would be for the Ukrainian and Russian authorities to agree how that could be achieved.


UK unveils new sanctions targeting Russia’s ally Belarus

UK unveils new sanctions targeting Russia’s ally Belarus
Updated 08 June 2023

UK unveils new sanctions targeting Russia’s ally Belarus

UK unveils new sanctions targeting Russia’s ally Belarus
  • London said the new curbs would hit Belarus exports that have been funding the administration of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko
  • The UK is now banning imports of gold, cement, wood and rubber from Belarus, and blocking exports of banknotes and machinery

LONDON: Britain announced Thursday new sanctions against Belarus, its latest punishment for the eastern European country’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and suppression of anti-government activists.
London said the new curbs would hit Belarus exports that have been funding the administration of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and “crack down on Russia’s efforts to circumvent sanctions.”
Western countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow, and its neighbor to the west Minsk, following the launch of the Russian war in Ukraine in February last year.
The UK is now banning imports of gold, cement, wood and rubber from Belarus, and blocking exports of banknotes and machinery, alongside goods, technologies and materials that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons.
The measures also give Britain grounds to prevent designated Belarusian media organizations from spreading propaganda and disinformation in the UK, including over the Internet.
Social media companies and Internet service providers will be required to restrict access to the websites of sanctioned Belarusian media organizations, as occurs with sanctioned Russian outlets.
The new legislation also expands sanctions criteria, giving the UK government the basis to target a broader range of Belarusians, such as Lukashenko’s aides, advisers and ministers.
“This new package ratchets up the economic pressure on Lukashenko and his regime which actively facilitates the Russian war effort and ignores Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
“Our support for Ukraine will remain resolute for as long as it takes and the UK will not hesitate to introduce further measures against those who prop up Putin’s war.”
Belarus has been ruled by Lukashenko since 1994.
The UK was among a number of Western countries that imposed sanctions on Lukashenko’s government for its suppression of mass anti-government protests in 2020.
Western countries then imposed various new sanctions last year over its role in Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.
Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use Belarusian territory and airspace to conduct missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, as well as providing training and logistical support to Moscow’s forces.