Ukraine troops retake village south of Bakhmut

Ukraine troops retake village south of Bakhmut
Village of Andriivka lies south of Bakhmut, the site of the fiercest and longest battle since the invasion by Russia in February last year. (File/AP)
Short Url
Updated 15 September 2023
Follow

Ukraine troops retake village south of Bakhmut

Ukraine troops retake village south of Bakhmut
  • Kyiv says foothold could help advance to Bakhmut’s south
  • Village lies on higher ground

KYIV: Ukraine said on Friday it had recaptured the devastated eastern village of Andriivka, setting the stage for further advances on the southern flank of Bakhmut, the city that fell into Russian hands in May after months of heavy fighting.
Kyiv’s troops were securing their foothold in the area, while Russian forces suffered significant casualties and lost equipment, the Ukrainian General Staff said in a morning report. There was no immediate comment from Russia.
“In the course of assault operations, they seized Andriivka in Donetsk region,” the General Staff said.
The village of Andriivka lies south of Bakhmut, the site of the fiercest and longest battle since the invasion by Russia in February last year. The General Staff also reported “partial success” near Klishchiivka, a village also south of Bakhmut.
“Capturing and holding Andriivka — is our path to a breakthrough on the right flank of Bakhmut and the key to the success of the entire further offensive,” said the Third Assault Brigade, which took part in the push.
Ukraine advanced cautiously in the area to minimize losses from mines and “very active” Russian defenses, brigade spokesman Oleksandr Borodin said.
“They defend their flanks very heavily here because they understand if (their) flank falls completely it will create direct problems to hold the city (Bakhmut) itself,” he said.
“There is no Andriivka left per se,... but as a place, as a square, it is an important square,” he said in televised comments.
HIGHER GROUND
The village lies on higher ground which will allow Ukrainian artillery to operate more easily in the area, said Kyiv-based military analyst Oleksandr Musiyenko.
During its three-month-old counteroffensive, Ukraine has reported slow, steady progress against entrenched Russian positions, retaking a string of villages and advancing on the flanks of Bakhmut, but taking no major settlements.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials have dismissed Western critics who say the offensive is too slow and hampered by strategic errors.
Further south in Donetsk region, Ukrainian troops continued to hold back a Russian offensive toward the towns of Avdiivka and Maryinka, General Staff spokesman Andriy Kovaliov said in televised comments. He said the defenders had managed to repel all Russian attacks near Maryinka.
On the southern front, the General Staff said its troops were inflicting substantial losses on the enemy near the village of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.


Philippines’ eyes defense pacts with France, Canada and NZ in face of China threat

Philippines’ eyes defense pacts with France, Canada and NZ in face of China threat
Updated 28 sec ago
Follow

Philippines’ eyes defense pacts with France, Canada and NZ in face of China threat

Philippines’ eyes defense pacts with France, Canada and NZ in face of China threat
  • The Philippines and Japan signed a landmark military pact earlier this month that allows the deployment of forces on each other’s soil in the face of China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region

MANILA: The Philippines is looking to forge reciprocal troops access agreements with Canada, France, New Zealand, and other countries, the defense minister said on Monday.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told ANC news channel he hoped the agreements could be signed next year.
The agreements would allow greater interoperability, as armed forces of these countries can operate within the Philippine territory and vice-versa, Teodoro said.
“It is close to the apex of a defensive alliance,” he said.
The Philippines and Japan signed a landmark military pact earlier this month that allows the deployment of forces on each other’s soil in the face of China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region.
Canada, France, and New Zealand have expressed support for the Philippines’ claims within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and rejects a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague that its expansive claims had no basis under international law. The case was brought to the court by the Philippines.
 


Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look

Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look
Updated 1 min ago
Follow

Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look

Tougher tone on Israel, steady on NATO: how a Harris foreign policy could look
  • Harris could also be expected to hold firm against Israel’s regional arch-foe, Iran, whose recent nuclear advances have drawn increased US condemnation
  • On China, Harris has long positioned herself within Washington’s bipartisan mainstream on the need for the US to counter China’s influence, especially in Asia

WASHINGTON: Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to stick largely to Joe Biden’s foreign policy playbook on key issues such as Ukraine, China and Iran but could strike a tougher tone with Israel over the Gaza war if she replaces the president at the top of the Democratic ticket and wins the US November election.
As the apparent frontrunner for the nomination after Biden dropped out of the race and endorsed her on Sunday, Harris would bring on-the-job experience, personal ties forged with world leaders, and a sense of global affairs gained during a Senate term and as Biden’s second-in-command.
But running against Republican candidate Donald Trump she would also have a major vulnerability — a troubled situation at the US-Mexico border that has bedeviled Biden and become a top campaign issue. Harris was tasked at the start of his term with addressing the root causes of high irregular migration, and Republicans have sought to make her the face of the problem.
On a range of global priorities, said analysts, a Harris presidency would resemble a second Biden administration.
“She may be a more energetic player but one thing you shouldn’t expect – any immediate big shifts in the substance of Biden’s foreign policy,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Democratic and Republican administrations.
Harris has signaled, for instance, that she would not deviate from Biden’s staunch support for NATO and would continue backing Ukraine in its fight against Russia. That stands in sharp contrast to a pledge by former president Trump to fundamentally alter the US relationship with the alliance and the doubts he has raised about future weapons supplies to Kyiv.

STAYING THE COURSE ON CHINA?
A lawyer by training and a former California attorney general, Harris struggled in the first half of Biden’s term to find her footing, not helped by being saddled early on with a major part of the intractable immigration portfolio amid record crossings at the US-Mexico border.
That followed a failed 2020 presidential campaign that was widely considered lackluster.
If she becomes the nominee, Democrats will be hoping Harris will be more effective at communicating her foreign policy goals.
In the second half of Biden’s presidency, Harris — the country’s first Black and Asian American vice president — has elevated her profile on issues ranging from China and Russia to Gaza and become a known quantity to many world leaders.
At this year’s Munich Security Conference she delivered a tough speech slamming Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and pledging “ironclad” US respect for NATO’s Article 5 requirement for mutual self-defense.
On China, Harris has long positioned herself within Washington’s bipartisan mainstream on the need for the US to counter China’s influence, especially in Asia. She would likely maintain Biden’s stance of confronting Beijing when necessary while also seeking areas of cooperation, analysts say.
Harris has made several trips aimed at boosting relations in the economically dynamic region, including one to Jakarta in September to fill in for Biden at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). During the visit, Harris accused China of trying to coerce smaller neighbors with its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Biden also dispatched Harris on travels to shore up alliances with Japan and South Korea, key allies who have had reason to worry about Trump’s commitment to their security.
“She demonstrated to the region that she was enthusiastic to promote the Biden focus on the Indo-Pacific,” said Murray Hiebert, a senior associate of the Southeast Asia Program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While she could not match the “diplomatic chops” Biden had developed over decades, “she did fine,” he added.
However, like her boss, Harris has been prone to the occasional verbal gaffe. On a tour of the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea in September 2022 to reassert Washington’s support for Seoul, she mistakenly touted a US “alliance with the Republic of North Korea,” which aides later corrected.
If Harris becomes her party’s standard-bearer and can overcome Trump’s lead in pre-election opinion polls to win the White House, the Israel-Palestinian conflict would rank high on her agenda, especially if the Gaza war is still raging.
Although as vice president she has mostly echoed Biden in firmly backing Israel’s right to defend itself after Hamas militants carried out a deadly cross-border raid on Oct. 7, she has at times stepped out slightly ahead of the president in criticizing Israel’s military approach.
In March, she bluntly criticized Israel, saying it was not doing enough to ease a “humanitarian catastrophe” during its ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave. Later that month, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a full-scale invasion of refugee-packed Rafah in southern Gaza.
Such language has raised the possibility that Harris, as president, might take at least a stronger rhetorical line with Israel than Biden, analysts say.
While her 81-year-old boss has a long history with a succession of Israeli leaders and has even called himself a “Zionist,” Harris, 59, lacks his visceral personal connection to the country.
She maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, some of whom have pressed Biden to attach conditions to US weapons shipments to Israel out of concern for high Palestinian civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.
But analysts do not expect there would be a big shift in US policy toward Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East.
Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, from 2017 to 2018, said Harris’ support of Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she said.
IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT
Harris could also be expected to hold firm against Israel’s regional arch-foe, Iran, whose recent nuclear advances have drawn increased US condemnation.
Jonathan Panikoff, formerly the US government’s deputy national intelligence officer for the Middle East, said the growing threat of “weaponization” of Iran’s nuclear program could be an early major challenge for a Harris administration, especially if Tehran decides to test the new US leader.
After a series of failed attempts, Biden has shown little interest in returning to negotiations with Tehran over resuming the 2015 international nuclear agreement, which Trump abandoned during his presidency.
Harris, as president, would be unlikely to make any major overtures without serious signs that Iran is ready to make concessions.
Even so, Panikoff, now at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, said: “There’s every reason to believe the next president will have to deal with Iran. It’s bound to be one of the biggest problems.”

 


Biden’s decision to drop out leaves Democrats across the country relieved and looking toward future

Biden’s decision to drop out leaves Democrats across the country relieved and looking toward future
Updated 15 min 27 sec ago
Follow

Biden’s decision to drop out leaves Democrats across the country relieved and looking toward future

Biden’s decision to drop out leaves Democrats across the country relieved and looking toward future
  • Recent AP-NORC polling revealed that nearly two-thirds of Democrats felt Biden should withdraw from the presidential race
  • The Democratic Party has been deeply divided since Biden’s poor debate performance on June 27, which left many questioning his ability to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November

HARPER WOODS, Michigan: After weeks of uncertainty about who would be at the top of the Democratic Party’s ticket in November, many voters expressed relief over the news that President Joe Biden would drop his reelection bid and began to think about who might replace him in a dramatically altered election landscape.
Jerod Keene, a 40-year-old athletic trainer from swing-state Arizona, had planned to vote for Biden in November but was thankful for the president’s decision, calling it “inevitable.” Keene said he’s excited about the next candidate, hoping it will be Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden endorsed on Sunday.
“Kamala Harris is the easiest pick based on the fact that she’s vice president and it would be tough for the party to try to go a different direction on that,” said Keene, who lives in Tucson. “And I think she seems ready.”
The Democratic Party has been deeply divided since Biden’s poor debate performance on June 27, which left many questioning his ability to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November and secure another term. Party leaders had increasingly called for Biden to step aside, but his reluctance to bow out left voters nationwide uncertain about who would face Trump in November.
Recent AP-NORC polling revealed that nearly two-thirds of Democrats felt Biden should withdraw from the presidential race, while a majority believe Harris would perform well in the top slot.
Keene’s relief that the saga surrounding Biden’s decision was over was echoed by voters nationwide in interviews with The Associated Press. In key swing states such as Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada, many expressed optimism about the party’s next nominee — whether it be Harris or someone else.

 

In Pittsburgh, Fred Johnston said he has been terrified of another Trump presidency and had long worried that Biden couldn’t beat Trump again. After seeing Biden’s wobbly debate performance, he was eager for Biden to drop out and hand off his candidacy to Harris.
“Kamala is someone we can vote for, and that’s what we need,” Johnston said.
He also thinks she can win Pennsylvania: “I have no logical basis for this, but it’s good to have hope. I haven’t had hope for a while.”
In Las Vegas, Lucy Ouano, 68, said she was proud of both Biden’s decision to drop out of the race and his move to quickly endorse Harris.
“He’s ending on a great note,” Ouano said. “Trump should be worried. He’s now running against someone strong.”
Ouano, who emigrated in 1960 to the US from Thailand as a young child with her parents, said she couldn’t have imagined this outcome just a few weeks ago when she attended a Harris rally in Las Vegas meant to quiet concerns about Biden’s reelection campaign.
At the time, she told the AP that while she planned on voting for Biden, she wanted Harris at the top of the ticket.
“She’s going to get the Asians drummed up, and she’s going to get the women drummed up,” Oaano said Sunday after learning about Biden’s decision.
Similarly, Arthur L. Downard Jr., a 72-year-old resident of Portland, Oregon, viewed Biden’s presidency favorably but said he was “very pleased” that Biden stepped aside. The Democratic voter, who cast his ballot for Biden in 2020, said his opinion of Biden changed after what he called a “disastrous” debate.
“He’s been a great president and he’s gotten a lot done for our country. But he’s too old, he’s not articulate,” he said. “He’s not a good messenger for the Democratic Party.”
Some voters, like Nebraska resident Lacey LeGrand, had planned to reluctantly vote for Biden simply because he wasn’t Trump.
“I’m definitely not supporting Trump,” LeGrand said. “So I think by default I was going to end up supporting Biden. I wasn’t very happy about it.”
LeGrand, a registered Democrat in Nebraska’s swing district, a potentially decisive electoral vote that Biden and Obama both won previously, believes Harris “has a shot” at defeating Trump, though she added, “I wouldn’t say it’s a great shot.”
But not all voters were happy about Sunday’s news. Georgia voter Dorothy Redhead, 76, was “disappointed” that Biden dropped out of the race but said she is “just having to accept” Biden’s decision as one between the president and God.
Jarvia Haynes, a real estate agent in New Orleans, said she has “mixed feelings” about Biden’s decision to leave the race.
“I don’t think President Biden should have dropped out,” she said. “On the other hand, maybe it’s for the best.”
Haynes, 72, of Harvey, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, quickly focused on who should lead the Democratic ticket, saying she is “very positive about Vice President Kamala Harris being able to handle the job.”
She added that she hopes Harris would choose Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be her running mate.
“I think two women would change the whole dynamic of the race,” said Haynes, who joins Harris as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first intercollegiate historically African American sorority. The group boasts more than 360,000 members in graduate and undergraduate chapters in 12 countries and could be a formidable political force of its own.
Barbara Orr, a psychotherapist in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, said she thought Biden was capable of running for president, beating Trump and serving as president. She viewed his decision to end his candidacy, however, as a sign that he is not guided by ego and recognized that, because of his debate performance, voters assume that he can’t do the job.
Orr, 65, said she isn’t “super impressed” with Harris, “but she might rise to the occasion. That’s happened before in history.”
She also acknowledged that Harris hasn’t had the chance to prove her mettle as a candidate against Trump.
Orr, a self-described progressive who favored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president in 2020, said she would probably prefer Whitmer to replace Biden on the Democratic ticket.
“I love what she stands for,” Orr said.
Joe DeFrain was out kayaking when a text informed him that Biden had dropped out. While the Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, resident said he wasn’t stunned to learn of the development, one thing did surprise him.
“I was waiting to see if all the boaters out there were going to be screaming with joy, because a lot of them are Trump fans. And I didn’t hear anything,” DeFrain said after sitting down for dinner at They Say, a restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods.
Biden visited They Say earlier this year, a moment that manager George Ledbetter said was “the best ever.”
Ledbetters’ first reaction to the news came down to a single word: “Why?”
“He’s a good president. I like Biden,” Ledbetter said. But, he added, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Ledbetter said he’ll support Harris despite his disappointment.
“I’ll take that, too. I think she can do it. First woman president. That’d be nice. African American president. It’d be nice again,” said Ledbetter, who is Black.
As for DeFrain, he said he’ll be watching to see what happens before and during the Democratic National Convention.
“It’s going to be something we have never seen in our lifetime,” said DeFrain, who has voted for Democrats in recent elections. “It should be entertaining.”
 


Trump says Kamala Harris will be easier to defeat than Biden

Trump says Kamala Harris will be easier to defeat than Biden
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Trump says Kamala Harris will be easier to defeat than Biden

Trump says Kamala Harris will be easier to defeat than Biden
  • President Joe Biden ended his reelection bid on Sunday and endorsed Harris as the Democratic nominee
  • Even before that decision was made, Trump was saying Harris was no different from Biden

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday he thinks Vice President Kamala Harris will be easier to defeat in November’s election than Democratic President Joe Biden, who earlier in the day stepped aside as his party’s candidate.
“Harris will be easier to beat than Joe Biden would have been,” Trump told CNN.
Trump and his campaign later also attacked Biden and Harris on social media while saying Biden was unfit to continue serving as president.
Biden ended his reelection campaign on Sunday after fellow Democrats lost faith in his mental acuity and ability to beat Trump. Biden endorsed Harris to replace him as the party’s candidate.
Biden had faced growing doubts about his reelection chances after a weak and faltering performance in a televised debate against Trump late last month.
On his Truth Social platform on Sunday, Trump said Biden “was not fit to run for President, and is certainly not fit to serve.”
Other top Republicans, including House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, also said Biden was not fit to serve as president and finish his term if he was stepping aside as the Democratic presidential candidate. Johnson explicitly called on Biden to resign.
Trump, in a post on his Truth Social platform, said: “We will suffer greatly because of his (Biden’s) presidency, but we will remedy the damage he has done very quickly.”
Trump and Biden had been mostly tied in polls, but after the debate some polls showed Trump narrowly ahead of the president in a match-up for the November elections.
The Trump campaign had already begun discussions about how it would redeploy campaign resources for the possibility of Biden’s dropping out, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.
Given that any alternative Democratic candidate would likely have different strengths and weaknesses than Biden, that person said, the president’s dropping out would require rethinking where to spend ad dollars and where to deploy resources more generally.
Publicly, Trump campaign advisers and allies have been telling reporters they are not worried about facing Harris because they can simply tie her to Biden’s record in office, particularly on immigration and inflation. They say they will try to portray Harris, and any of the other candidates being suggested as alternatives for the Democrats, as being to the left of Biden on various policies.
In a statement after Biden dropped out, the Trump campaign said Harris was Biden’s “enabler in chief.” The campaign said Biden and Harris owned each other’s records and “there is no distance between the two.”
The official Republican National Committee YouTube channel published a two minute video on Sunday afternoon attacking Harris over immigration policies, alleging she neglected that issue.
In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign and some of his allies have launched pre-emptive political attacks on Harris to try to discredit her amid talk she could replace Biden atop the party’s 2024 presidential ticket.
In March 2021 Biden said Harris would lead efforts with Mexico and Central American nations to address illegal immigration.
Republicans have seized on that to accuse her of failing to stem the flow of millions of migrants crossing illegally into the United States, although she was never directly responsible for securing the southern border.


Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats on Sunday quickly backed Vice President Kamala Harris to run as the party’s presidential nominee against Donald Trump after incumbent President Joe Biden’s abrupt departure from the race, but some powerful party members, including former House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, stayed quiet.

After weeks of in-party fighting between Democrats on whether Biden, 81, should stay in the race, a rush of support coalescing behind Harris is crucial just over 100 days before November’s election.

However, there are plenty of doubts inside the Democratic Party about whether Harris can beat Trump in November.

Biden himself endorsed Harris on Sunday, not in his initial letter stepping down, but in a separate statement. He was quickly followed by the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, several key donors, lawmakers including US Senator Patty Murray, and super PACs including Priorities USA and Unite the Country.

“Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year,” Biden said on social media platform X. “Democrats — it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, an adviser to Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn founder and a major Democratic donor, called Harris “the American dream personified,” noting she was the daughter of immigrants. “She is also toughness personified, rising from my home town of Oakland California to become the top prosecutor of the state. With Scranton Joe stepping back, I cannot wait to help elect President Harris.”

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both Democrats, also endorsed Harris in a statement.

Still, others including Pelosi and former President Barack Obama thanked Biden for his patriotism but did not yet throw their support behind Harris or any other candidate.

“We will be navigating uncharted waters in the days ahead,” Obama said in a statement. “But I have extraordinary confidence that the leaders of our party will be able to create a process from which an outstanding nominee emerges.”

US Senator Peter Welch, the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to drop his reelection run, called for an open process to nominate Harris.

The Democrats should have “an open process so that whoever our nominee is, including Kamala, has the strength of having a process that shows the consensus position of the party,” he said. “The debate in the Democratic Party is who can carry on the legacy of President Biden and defeat Trump.”

One Democratic donor told Reuters they would support a ticket for Kamala Harris as the presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro as her vice president, as a way to gain votes in Pennsylvania. It is not clear yet whom Harris would pick as her vice president if she were to become the nominee.

Though Shapiro said on Sunday he was grateful for Biden’s leadership, he did not endorse Harris.