Zelensky is expected to visit Washington as US Congress debates $21 billion in aid for Ukraine

Zelensky is expected to visit Washington as US Congress debates $21 billion in aid for Ukraine
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a ceremony marking Tank Troops Day in Kyiv on September 14, 2023. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/handout via AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2023
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Zelensky is expected to visit Washington as US Congress debates $21 billion in aid for Ukraine

Zelensky is expected to visit Washington as US Congress debates $21 billion in aid for Ukraine
  • $21 billion in military and humanitarian aid is being proposed for Ukraine as it fights Russian invasion
  • Zelensky will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House next Thursday, say Biden officials

WASHINGTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected on Capitol Hill and at the White House next week as he visits the US during the United Nations General Assembly.
Zelensky’s trip comes as Congress is debating providing as much as $21 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion.
An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive visit, said Zelensky will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House next Thursday. The trip to the Capitol was confirmed by two congressional aides granted anonymity to discuss the plans.
The Ukrainian president made a wartime visit to Washington in December 2022 and delivered an impassioned address to a joint meeting of Congress.
At the time Zelensky thanked Americans for helping to fund the war effort and told lawmakers the money is “not charity,” but an “investment” in global security and democracy.
Details of Zelensky’s visit next week were not yet being made public.
Congress is increasingly divided over providing additional funding for Ukraine. Biden has sought a package of $13 billion in additional military aid for Ukraine and $8 billion for humanitarian support.
But some conservative Republican lawmakers have been pushing for broad federal spending cuts and some are specifically looking to stop money to Ukraine as Congress works to pass its annual appropriations bills before a Sept. 30 deadline to keep the US government running.


UK placing children of Daesh brides up for adoption

UK placing children of Daesh brides up for adoption
Updated 13 sec ago
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UK placing children of Daesh brides up for adoption

UK placing children of Daesh brides up for adoption
  • At least 10 children, some born in the caliphate, quietly repatriated to Britain from Syrian camps
  • US has argued returning Western citizens is ‘only durable solution’

LONDON: The children of British Daesh brides are being returned to the UK from Syrian detention camps and put up for adoption, The Times reported.

At least 10 children — mainly orphans or those who have been left unaccompanied — have been quietly repatriated from the camps.

Dozens of British women married to fighters traveled to Syria and Iraq during Daesh’s peak, but were captured or left widowed following the collapse of the group.

The UK is only country in Western Europe that continues to block the repatriation of the women. France reportedly returned 160 of its citizens, including 160 children and over 50 women, and Germany repatriated about 100 children and their mothers.

The US has claimed that repatriation is the “only durable solution” to the problem of detention camps operating over capacity in Syria.

Human rights organizations have warned that the camps are a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists.

Living conditions in the facilities are also poor, with Al-Hol, Syria’s largest camp, facing a series of disease outbreaks.

Reprieve, a charity, has warned that the UK is avoiding responsibility in caring for its citizens.

Katherine Cornett, head of Reprieve’s unlawful detentions team, said: “It shames ministers and shocks the conscience that British kids are growing up in freezing tents in dangerously unstable detention camps simply because their government refuses to bring them home.

“The longer it goes on, the greater the chances that a British child will die in the camps, or that a British boy will be taken from his family by men with guns and thrown into an adult prison never to be heard from again.”

In one case, two British siblings under the age of eight will be put up for adoption after their mother was killed during fighting in Syria and their father imprisoned.

Charities believe that up to 38 other children with British ties remain in Syrian camps, as well as 21 women, including Shamima Begum, who, aged 15, left London along with three friends to join Daesh in 2015.

The two siblings who are set to be adopted were born in Syria, and are believed to have received counseling and support since being flown to Britain last year.

Under the UK’s existing adoption framework, prospective foster parents will be told about the pair’s upbringing in Daesh territory in Syria.

One set of grandparents of the children living overseas offered to adopt them, but were denied by the local British authority now responsible for the siblings.

Another set of grandparents were judged to be unable to care for the children.

The former director of counterterrorism at MI6, Richard Barrett, warned that Britain could face a growing threat to its national security if the Syrian camps remain open.

“It is hard to argue that these women and children pose less of a threat, either now or in the future, while they remain poorly supervised, exposed to the influence of their former Islamic State (Daesh) comrades and at risk of further exploitation than they would if under the watchful eye of our highly competent security authorities in the UK, and of their own communities,” he said.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “Each request for consular assistance from Syria is considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account all relevant circumstances, including, but not limited to, national security.”


Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail

Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail
Updated 03 December 2023
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Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail

Kashmiri students arrested for celebrating India's Cricket World Cup defeat get bail
  • Police dropped the charges and an Indian court granted bail to the students on Saturday, according to their lawyer
  • In granting bail, the court imposed a condition the students should be available when needed for the investigation

SRINAGAR: An Indian court has granted bail to seven Kashmiri students who were arrested under anti-terror laws for allegedly celebrating Australia's victory over India in the men's Cricket World Cup final last month, a lawyer said on Sunday. 

The students from an agriculture university were detained in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after one student filed a complaint accusing them of using anti-India slogans and cheering for Pakistan along with Australia after the match. 

Claimed in full but ruled in part by India and Pakistan, Muslim-majority Kashmir has seen a bloody insurrection against New Delhi for decades. Muslims in the region have in the past cheered for the competing side in India cricket matches as a way of protesting Indian rule. 

Local political leaders opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's rule over J&K had said the arrests were a way to intimidate locals using the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The act deals with inciting any unlawful activity and is punishable with seven years' imprisonment. 

Police dropped the UAPA charges and an Indian court granted bail to the students on Saturday, according to the lawyer of students, Shafiq Bhat, and a court order seen by Reuters. 

In granting bail, the local court imposed a condition that the students should be available when needed for the investigation and "shall not indulge in any anti national activity," the order stated. 

The students still face allegations under other Indian laws that related to making statements inducing public mischief. 

Australia had entered the World Cup match as clear underdogs against an all-conquering India side, who had won 10 matches in a row to storm into the final. But India was defeated in the final match on Nov. 19. 

India blames Pakistan for supporting the Muslim insurgents. Pakistan denies this and accuses India of violating the rights of Kashmir's Muslim people, a charge India rejects. 


A suspected bomb blast kills at least 4 Christian worshippers during Mass in southern Philippines

Members of police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) stand guard along a popular market street in Manila on June 1, 2022. (AFP)
Members of police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) stand guard along a popular market street in Manila on June 1, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2023
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A suspected bomb blast kills at least 4 Christian worshippers during Mass in southern Philippines

Members of police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) stand guard along a popular market street in Manila on June 1, 2022. (AFP)
  • 'Foreign terrorists’ behind deadly Philippine bombing — officials
  • Bombing follows military operations against Islamists

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr condemned a deadly bombing on Sunday, blaming “foreign terrorists,” as police and the military strengthened security in the country’s south and around the capital Manila.
At least four people were killed and at least 50 injured after a bomb exploded during a morning Catholic Mass in a university gymnasium in Marawi, a city in the south of the country besieged by Islamist militants for five months in 2017.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists,” Marcos said in a statement. “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.”
Law enforcement operations to bring to justice the perpetrators of the “terrorist activity” will “continue unabated,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a press conference.
There were “strong indications of a foreign element” in the bombing, Teodoro said, refusing to elaborate so as not to compromise ongoing investigation.
Fragments of a 16-mm mortar were recovered at the scene, senior police official Emmanuel Peralta told the press conference.

HIGH ALERT
The blast in Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur province, followed a series of military operations against local pro-Daesh groups in the southern Philippines, the military chief said, including one on Sunday in Lanao del Sur that led to the killing of a leader of the Dawlah Islamiya-Maute group.
“It is possible that what happened this morning was a retaliatory attack,” Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner told the press conference.
The Islamic State-linked Maute seized Marawi on May 2017, seeking to make it a Southeast Asian “wilayat” – or governorate — for Islamic State. In the ensuing five-month battle, Islamist fighters and Philippine forces killed more than a thousand people, including civilians.
Military officials surveyed the gym at the Mindanao State University, which appeared intact except for burn marks in the center where the explosion occurred, according to images shared by the Lanao del Sur government on Facebook. White plastic chairs were strewn about.
Videos posted by DZBB radio on X showed rescuers carrying injured people out of the gym on plastic chairs.
Police offices in Mindanao and the capital region were placed on high alert and police checkpoints tightened “to prevent possible follow-up incidents,” police official Peralta said.
The coast guard directed its districts to intensify pre-departure inspection at ports.
Mindanao State University is “deeply saddened and appalled by the act of violence that occurred during a religious gathering,” the school posted on Facebook. “We unequivocally condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless and horrific act.”
The university said it was said it was suspending classes until further notice. 


Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say

Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say
Updated 03 December 2023
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Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say

Breaches by Iran-affiliated hackers spanned multiple US states, federal agencies say
  • Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, the group has expanded and accelerated targeting Israeli critical infrastructure, said Check Point’s Sergey Shykevich

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: A small western Pennsylvania water authority was just one of multiple organizations breached in the United States by Iran-affiliated hackers who targeted a specific industrial control device because it is Israeli-made, US and Israeli authorities say.
“The victims span multiple US states,” the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, as well as Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said in an advisory emailed to The Associated Press late Friday.
They did not say how many organizations were hacked or otherwise describe them.
Matthew Mottes, the chairman of the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa, which discovered it had been hacked on Nov. 25, said Thursday that federal officials had told him the same group also breached four other utilities and an aquarium.
Cybersecurity experts say that while there is no evidence of Iranian involvement in the Oct. 7 attack into Israel by Hamas that triggered the war in Gaza they expected state-backed Iranian hackers and pro-Palestinian hacktivists to step up cyberattacks on Israeli and its allies in its aftermath. And indeed that has happened.
The multiagency advisory explained what CISA had not when it confirmed the Pennsylvania hack on Wednesday — that other industries outside water and water-treatment facilities use the same equipment — Vision Series programmable logic controllers made by Unitronics — and were also potentially vulnerable.
Those industries include “energy, food and beverage manufacturing and health care,” the advisory says. The devices regulate processes including pressure, temperature and fluid flow.
The Aliquippa hack promoted workers to temporarily halt pumping in a remote station that regulates water pressure for two nearby towns, leading crews to switch to manual operation. The hackers left a digital calling card on the compromised device saying all Israeli-made equipment is “a legal target.”
The multiagency advisory said it was not known if the hackers had tried to penetrate deeper into breached networks. The access they did get enabled “more profound cyber physical effects on processes and equipment,” it said.
The advisory says the hackers, who call themselves “Cyber Av3ngers,” are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the US designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. The group targeted the Unitronics devices at least since Nov. 22, it said.
An online search Saturday with the Shodan service identified more than 200 such Internet-connected devices in the US and more than 1,700 globally.
The advisory notes that Unitronics devices ship with a default password, a practice experts discourage as it makes them more vulnerable to hacking. Best practices call for devices to require a unique password to be created out of the box. It says the hackers likely accessed affected devices by “exploiting cybersecurity weaknesses, including poor password security and exposure to the Internet.”
Experts say many water utilities have paid insufficient attention to cybersecurity.
In response to the Aliquippa hack, three Pennsylvania congressmen asked the US Justice Department in a letter to investigate. Americans must know their drinking water and other basic infrastructure is safe from “nation-state adversaries and terrorist organizations,” US Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey and US Rep. Chris Deluzio said. Cyber Av3ngers claimed in an Oct. 30 social media post to have hacked 10 water treatment stations in Israel, though it is not clear if they shut down any equipment.
Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, the group has expanded and accelerated targeting Israeli critical infrastructure, said Check Point’s Sergey Shykevich. Iran and Israel were engaged in low-level cyberconflict prior to the Oct. 7. Unitronics has not responded to the AP queries about the hacks.
The attack came less than a month after a federal appeals court decision prompted the EPA to rescind a rule that would have obliged USpublic water systems to include cybersecurity testing in their regular federally mandated audits. The rollback was triggered by a federal appeals court decision in a case brought by Missouri, Arkansas and Iowa, and joined by a water utility trade group.
The Biden administration has been trying to shore up cybersecurity of critical infrastructure — more than 80 percent of which is privately owned — and has imposed regulations on sectors including electric utilities, gas pipelines and nuclear facilities. But many experts complain that too many vital industries are permitted to self-regulate.

 


Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban

Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban
Updated 03 December 2023
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Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban

Ex-president barred from leaving Ukraine amid alleged plan to meet with Hungary’s Viktor Orban
  • Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been monitoring safety at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the world’s 10 biggest nuclear power stations

KYIV, Ukraine: Former President Petro Poroshenko was denied permission to leave Ukraine for a planned meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Ukraine’s security service said Saturday.
Poroshenko announced Friday that he had been turned away at the border despite previously receiving permission from Parliament to leave the country. Under martial law, Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 years of age are not allowed to leave the country without special approval.
The 58-year-old, who lost his re-election bid in 2019 to current Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said that he had planned to meet with US House Speaker Mike Johnson, and the Polish parliament during his trip.
But security officials said that Poroshenko had also agreed to meet Orban, who has previously praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and refused to support Kyiv’s bid for EU accession. In a statement on social media, they said such talks would make Poroshenko a “tool in the hands of the Russian special services.”
Poroshenko, who called his experience at the border an “attack on unity”, is yet to comment on the allegation that he planned to meet Orban.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was left on “the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident” Saturday after it was unable to draw power from two of the lines connecting it to the local energy grid, the country’s nuclear energy operator said.
It said that the plant switched to diesel generators to stop the plant from overheating before off-site power was restored by Kyiv.
Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early stages of the war. Over the past year, the station has become a focal point of concern for international observers, with both Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of shelling the plant.
In a statement on social media, Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator, accused Moscow of “incorrect, erroneous, and often deliberately risky operation of the equipment” at the site.
The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the claims.
Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been monitoring safety at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is one of the world’s 10 biggest nuclear power stations.
Although the plant’s six reactors have been shut down for months, it still needs power and qualified staff to operate crucial cooling systems and other safety features.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia launched 11 Iranian-made Shahed drones and one guided cruise missile overnight Saturday, military officials said. The missile and all but one of the drones were reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said that it had shot down two Ukrainian C-200 rockets over the Sea of Azov.