Zelensky makes plea for US aid as Russia claims advances

Update Zelensky makes plea for US aid as Russia claims advances
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will face his real test when he addresses Republican and Democratic senators, and meets the new Republican speaker of the House. (AFP)
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Updated 12 December 2023
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Zelensky makes plea for US aid as Russia claims advances

Zelensky makes plea for US aid as Russia claims advances
  • Republicans are ever-more openly rejecting the need to fund Ukraine
  • Republicans are also questioning whether Ukraine should keep fighting at all

WASHINGTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will press Tuesday for more US military aid to battle Russia, which said any funding would be a “fiasco” and claimed its forces were advancing on the front.

Zelensky, who is in Washington to plead for continued support, will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House and also with congressional leaders from both parties.

For much of the nearly two years that Ukraine has resisted President Vladimir Putin’s onslaught, the United States has led a Western coalition sending billions of dollars in weaponry and ammunition.

But Republicans are ever-more openly rejecting the need to fund Ukraine, saying that Biden needs to devote more attention to domestic security, particularly to stopping illegal migration over the US-Mexican border.

The Republicans are also questioning whether Ukraine should keep fighting at all.

Biden is a key supporter, framing the Ukrainian war effort as part of a global struggle between democracies and aggressive autocracies.

But on Capitol Hill, Zelensky will face his real test when he addresses Republican and Democratic senators, and meets the new Republican speaker of the House, Mike Johnson.

In a speech on Monday at the National Defense University in Washington, Zelensky said that politics should not “betray” Ukraine’s soldiers and he echoed Biden in saying that the struggle had global implications.

“When the free world hesitates, that’s when dictatorships celebrate and their most dangerous ambitions ripen,” he said. “They see their dreams come true when they see delays.”

“Putin must lose,” he said.

The Kremlin played down the consequences of any further US funding on Tuesday, saying it would be doomed to a “fiasco.”

“It is important for everyone to understand: the tens of billions of dollars pumped into Ukraine did not help it gain success on the battlefield,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“The tens of billions of dollars that Ukraine wants to be pumped with are also headed for the same fiasco.”

In an interview with Russian state television on Sunday, Putin said that Ukraine was “running out” of arms because its defense industry was not able to produce enough.

“They have no base of their own. When there is no base of their own, no ideology of their own, no industry of their own, no money of their own, nothing of their own, then there is no future. And we have one.”

Russia further upped the pressure on Tuesday, saying its forces had “advanced significantly” in southern Ukraine.

“Our units have advanced significantly forward northeast of Novopokrovka,” the Moscow-installed head of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, said on Telegram.

Ukraine said Russia had launched a “massive offensive” with armored vehicles in another part of the front near Avdiivka in the east.

Republican senators last week blocked a White House request for $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel.

Conservatives said they would refuse the package for these close foreign allies unless Democrats and the White House also agreed to far-ranging immigration reforms.

One key Republican senator, James Lankford, was quoted by US media on Monday saying “we’re not going to be able” to get a deal by the end of this week.

But the Republican right-wing, led by former president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump, has dramatically soured in a much broader sense against Ukraine’s cause.

Influential Republicans increasingly question why the United States is supporting what they describe as Ukraine’s impossible ambition to drive back all of Russia’s invading forces.

“What’s in America’s best interest is to accept Ukraine is going to have to cede some territory to the Russians and we need to bring the war to a close,” Senator JD Vance, a close Trump ally, said Sunday.

He dismissed as “preposterous” White House warnings that allowing Russia to win in Ukraine would put other eastern European countries, including NATO members, at risk.

There should be no “blank check” for Ukraine, Vance said.

“You need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61 billion going to accomplish that $100 billion hasn’t?“


Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules

Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules
Updated 24 sec ago
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Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules

Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules
  • Judge said the former president should be disqualified from the ballot for violating the anti-insurrection clause of the US constitution
  • Colorado and Maine earlier removed Trump from their state ballots, but both decisions are on hold while Trump appeals

An Illinois state judge on Wednesday barred Donald Trump from appearing on the Illinois’ Republican presidential primary ballot because of his role in the insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but she delayed her ruling from taking effect in light of an expected appeal by the former US president.

Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter sided with Illinois voters who argued that the former president should be disqualified from the state’s March 19 primary ballot and its Nov. 5 general election ballot for violating the anti-insurrection clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The final outcome of the Illinois case and similar challenges will likely be decided by the US Supreme Court, which heard arguments related to Trump’s ballot eligibility on Feb. 8.
Porter said she was staying her decision because she expected his appeal to Illinois’ appellate courts, and a potential ruling from the US Supreme Court.
The advocacy group Free Speech For People, which spearheaded the Illinois disqualification effort, praised the ruling as a “historic victory” in a statement.
A campaign spokesperson for Trump, the national frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, said in a statement this “is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal.”
Colorado and Maine earlier removed Trump from their state ballots after determining he is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Both decisions are on hold while Trump appeals.
Section 3 bars from public office anyone who took an oath to support the US Constitution and then has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, attacked police and swarmed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours did not act on requests that he urge the mob to stop.
The Supreme Court is currently weighing Trump’s challenge to his Colorado disqualification. The justices in Washington appeared skeptical of the decision during oral arguments in the case, expressing concerns about states taking sweeping actions that could affect the national election.


Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set

Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set
Updated 29 February 2024
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Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set

Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set
  • Govt blames attack on opposition group led by Yaya Dillo, cousin of interim President Mahamat Deby Itno and a strong contender in the upcoming election
  • The government announced earlier that the presidential election would be held on May 6

N’DJAMENA, Chad: Several people were killed in an attack on the national security agency in Chad’s capital, officials said on Wednesday.

Opposition group The Socialist Party Without Borders attacked The agency, known as ANSE, D’jamena, government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah in a statement. The group is led by Yaya Dillo, the current president’s cousin and a strong contender in the upcoming election.
Koulamallah said, “the situation is now totally under control” but did not reveal the exact number of people killed. He said some were arrested and others were being pursued.
In the same statement, the government said that earlier the party’s finance secretary tried to assassinate the president of the supreme court, which led to his arrest.
Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, seized power after his father who ran the country for more than three decades was killed fighting rebels in 2021. Last year, the government announced it was extending the 18-month transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.
On Tuesday, the government announced that presidential election would be held on May 6.
On Wednesday afternoon the Internet was cut in the capital and tensions remained high.


US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim

US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim
Updated 29 February 2024
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US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim

US Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump presidential immunity claim
  • Trump’s claim to be immune from criminal liability for actions he took while in the White House is “unsupported by precedent, history

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to hear Donald Trump’s claim that as a former president he enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution, as the 2024 White House candidate faces dozens of state and federal charges.
The court scheduled arguments in the high-stakes case for the week of April 22 and said Trump’s trial on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election would remain on hold for now.
Trump had been scheduled to go on trial for election interference on March 4 but the proceedings have been frozen as his presidential immunity claim wound its way through the courts.
The Supreme Court said it would address the question of “whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”
It will be among the most consequential election law cases to reach the court since it halted the Florida vote recount in 2000 with Republican George W. Bush narrowly leading Democrat Al Gore.
A three-judge appeals court panel ruled earlier this month that the 77-year-old Trump has no immunity from prosecution as a former president.
Trump’s claim to be immune from criminal liability for actions he took while in the White House is “unsupported by precedent, history or the text and structure of the Constitution,” the judges said in a unanimous opinion.
“We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter,” they said.
The ruling was a major legal setback for Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and the first ex-president to be criminally indicted.
The appeals court put the immunity ruling on hold to give Trump the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the election conspiracy case against Trump in August and had been pushing hard for the March start date for his trial.
Lawyers for the former president have sought repeatedly to delay the trial until after the November election, when Trump could potentially have all of the federal cases against him dropped if he wins the White House again.
Trump also faces 2020 election interference charges in Georgia, and has been indicted in Florida for allegedly mishandling classified information.
He was impeached twice by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives while in office — once for inciting an insurrection — but acquitted both times by the Senate.
The immunity case is one of two election-related cases before the Supreme Court.
The Colorado Supreme Court barred Trump in December from appearing on the Republican presidential primary ballot in the state because of his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump appealed the Colorado ruling and the conservative-majority Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in early February.
Both conservative and liberal justices expressed concern during arguments about having individual states decide which candidates can be on the presidential ballot this November.


UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
Updated 29 February 2024
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UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
  • He was suspended by the Conservative Party after refusing to apologize for suggesting ‘Islamists’ have taken control of London and the city’s mayor
  • Several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong” but stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic

LONDON: Police in the UK are “assessing” hate speech allegations made against MP Lee Anderson, after he suggested that “Islamists” had taken control of London and the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Anderson was suspended by the ruling Conservative Party on Saturday after he refused to apologize for the remarks, which were branded racist by Khan and others.

Anderson defended himself again on Wednesday in an article for the Daily Express, in which he accused Khan of “playing the race card” and said the mayor had accused him of racism to gain “political advantage.” However, he admitted the words he used were “clumsy.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have received a complaint about alleged hate speech by an MP. “A report was made to police on Saturday, Feb. 24. Officers are assessing this report,” a spokesperson told Sky News.

While several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong,” they have stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic.

On Tuesday, Downing Street said that Sunak does not believe Anderson is racist but that “the language he used was wrong and it’s obviously unacceptable to conflate all Muslims with Islamist extremism or the extreme ideology of Islamism.”

The spokesperson told Sky News that ministers had not been instructed to avoid using the term “Islamophobia,” which “conflates race with religion, does not address sectarianism within Islam and may inadvertently undermine freedom of speech. Anti-Muslim hatred is the more precise term, which better reflects UK hate-crime legislation.”

Anderson did not rule out the possibility that he might join rival political party Reform, which was founded by Nigel Farage.


Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
Updated 29 February 2024
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Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
  • FM Haddad: We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles
  • Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global GDP, three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population

SAO PAULO: Brazil called for a “new globalization” to address poverty and climate change as finance ministers from the world’s top economies met Wednesday, but the Ukraine and Gaza wars risked overshadowing the plea.

“It is time to redefine globalization,” Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad told his counterparts from the Group of 20 leading economies, opening their first meeting of the year in Sao Paulo.
“We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles,” said Haddad, who gave his speech remotely after coming down with Covid-19.
The meeting, which follows one by foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro last week, will lay the economic policy groundwork for the annual G20 leaders’ summit, to be held in Rio in November.
Brazilian officials said they were working on a compact final statement that would steer clear of divisive issues such as the Ukraine and Gaza wars.
“We know the world is going through a tense geopolitical moment,” said finance ministry executive secretary Dario Durigan.
But “there’s consensus on the economic issues,” he told journalists. “The whole world speaks the same economic language.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to use the rotating G20 presidency this year to push issues like the fights against poverty and climate change, reducing the crushing debt burdens of low-income nations, and giving developing countries more say at institutions like the United Nations.
International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva called for bolder climate action, urging countries to accelerate emissions cuts, end fossil fuel subsidies — which reached an estimated $1.3 trillion worldwide last year — and massively mobilize climate financing.
“The climate crisis is already upon us, and we have to admit we have been a bit slow to address it,” she said at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the meeting.
Also on the agenda: increasing taxes on corporations and the super-rich.
“We need to ensure the billionaires of the world pay their fair share of taxes,” said Haddad.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire backed that call, telling journalists that Paris is pushing to “accelerate” international negotiations on a minimum tax on the ultra-wealthy.
However, Durigan said the issue was unlikely to make it into the final statement.

Even before the meeting opened, the conflict in Ukraine took center stage.
The Group of Seven countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union — held their own meeting on the sidelines to discuss shoring up Western support for Kyiv.
Officials said the meeting — attended remotely by Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko — focused on proposals to seize an estimated $397 billion in Russian assets frozen by the West.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday the issue was “urgent.”
But there were divisions among G7 members.
“I want to be very clear: We don’t have the legal basis for seizing the Russian assets now. We need to work further... The G7 must act abiding by the rule of law,” said France’s Le Maire.
Ukraine has warned it is in dire need of more military and financial assistance, with a fresh $60 billion US package stalled in Congress.
The war in Gaza was also a recurring theme, amid fears Israel’s offensive against Palestinian militant group Hamas could spiral into a wider war, with potentially catastrophic effects for the global economy.
Both conflicts could overshadow Brazil’s bid to use the G20 to amplify the voice of the global south.
“It’s a very tricky global context at the moment,” said Julia Thomson, an analyst at Eurasia Group.
“The international agenda will probably hinder part of Brazil’s ability to advance on some of the broader themes” of its G20 presidency, she told AFP.
Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population.
It has 21 members: 19 of the world’s biggest economies, plus the EU and, participating as a member for the first time this year, the African Union.