Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support

Update Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support
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Police guard at site where an apartment building was damaged during a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 13, 2023. (REUTERS)
Update Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support
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A view shows a kindergarten damaged during a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on December 13, 2023. (REUTERS)
Update Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support
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Local residents leave their apartment building damaged during a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, (REUTERS)
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Updated 14 December 2023
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Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support

Russian missile attack on Kyiv wounds at least 53 as Ukraine pleads for more European support
  • Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 10 ballistic missiles toward Kyiv and all were intercepted by air defenses, but their debris struck homes and a children’s hospital

KYIV, Ukraine: A barrage of Russian missiles targeted Kyiv on Wednesday, wounding at least 53 people, officials said, as the Ukrainian president sought more military support in Europe after a trip to Washington secured no new pledges.
Loud explosions rocked Ukraine’s capital at 3 a.m. as the city’s air defenses were activated for the second time this week. Ukraine’s air force said Russia launched 10 ballistic missiles toward Kyiv and all were intercepted by air defenses, but their debris struck homes and a children’s hospital.
The attack underscored the continuing threat to Ukraine from the Kremlin’s missile arsenal in the 21-month war. Russia has been stockpiling its air-launched cruise missiles from its heavy bomber fleet, according to a recent assessment by the UK Ministry of Defense.
That may herald another heavy winter bombardment of Ukraine’s power grid. Moscow last year targeted energy infrastructure in an effort to deny Ukrainians heat, light and running water and break their fighting spirit.
As winter sets in and hinders troop movements, allowing little change along the front line, long-range air bombardment plays a growing role.
Ukraine has dwindling supplies of air defense munitions and other ammunition. That prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Washington on Tuesday in an effort to persuade lawmakers to approve President Joe Biden’s request for $61.4 billion for Ukraine. His trip accomplished no breakthrough.
Zelensky said on Telegram that he and Biden agreed to work on increasing the number of air defense systems in Ukraine. “The terrorist state has just demonstrated how crucial this decision is,” Zelensky said, referring to the overnight strikes.
On Wednesday, he met in Oslo with Nordic leaders who feel keenly the potential threat from nearby Russia and are among Kyiv’s staunchest supporters.
Zelensky may also attend a European Union summit on Thursday in Brussels, where the continent’s leaders are expected to discuss their backing for Ukraine. Officials did not confirm such a trip.
“Russia is eager to exploit divisions,” the senior leaders from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden said in a joint statement in Oslo. “We must continue to stand united against Russia’s illegal and immoral war.”
They vowed “comprehensive assistance” for Ukraine. “Now is not the time to tire,” the Nordic leaders said, amid signs of war fatigue among Kyiv’s foreign supporters.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said her government will unveil a Ukraine support package of almost 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) this week. Norway announced it will give additional air defenses to Ukraine, taking them from its own stocks to ensure speedy delivery.
Separately, Latvia and Ukraine announced an agreement on the production of drones, a key part of the war.
In the overnight missile attack, debris from the intercepted weapons fell in Kyiv’s eastern Dniprovskyi district, injuring dozens of people, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Kitschko said on Telegram. Twenty people, including two children, were hospitalized, and 33 people received medical treatment on the spot.
An apartment building, a private house and several cars caught fire, while the windows of a children’s hospital were shattered, Klitschko said. Falling rocket debris also damaged the water supply system in the district.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, 10 Russian drones were shot down, most of them in the Odesa region, the Ukrainian air force said.
In other developments, a “hacktivist” group called SoIntsepek claimed responsibility for a major cyberattack Tuesday against Ukrainian Internet and cell phone provider Kyivstar, which serves more than 24 million mobile customers across the country.
The Google-owned US cybersecurity firm Mandiant said SoIntsepek regularly claims credit for the activity of the Russian hacking team known as Sandworm, part of the GRU military intelligence agency.
“The persona was probably fabricated by the GRU to launder their operations publicly,” Mandiant threat analyst John Hultquist said in an emailed statement, adding that Sandworm is responsible for “most major disruptive cyberattacks we know about.”
A Kyivstar spokeswoman said the company hoped to restore all service by end of Wednesday but the network integrity company Kentik Inc. said only a fraction had been restored by the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a report that Russian forces this year have “continued to use explosive weapons with wide area effects in their attacks on densely populated urban areas of Ukraine ... both in areas close to heavy fighting and in cities far from the contact line.”
The governmental organization added in the report published Wednesday that Ukrainian armed forces, though on a much smaller scale, also shelled populated areas of Ukraine that are occupied by Russia, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
 


California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war
Updated 15 June 2024
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California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday without the disruption of protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, with proceedings largely undisturbed.
The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.
UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reported a number of graduates wore keffiyeh scarves, which have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The newspaper also said dozens of graduates peacefully walked out of the Luskin ceremony but overall a festive atmosphere prevailed throughout for tens of thousands of graduates and visitors.
Commencement ceremonies were also scheduled at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Irvine.
University protests in recent months have seen occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. Pro-Palestinian activists encamped at UCLA were violently attacked by a mob weeks ago.
Student protesters have demanded an end to the war, a halt to US support for Israel and divestment by their schools from companies with ties to Israel.
More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s eight-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war has also displaced nearly the entire 2.3 million population in Gaza, caused widespread hunger there and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 , killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.


Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused

Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused
Updated 15 June 2024
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Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused

Trump marks his 78th birthday by tearing into 81-year-old Biden as frail and confused
  • Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party’s base and elected officials

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: Donald Trump marked his 78th birthday on Friday night by addressing a fawning crowd in Florida and repeatedly dismissing his opponent in November’s election, 81-year-old President Joe Biden, as too frail to handle a second term.

“Our country is being destroyed by incompetent people,” said Trump, who devoted large swathes of a jovial speech to poking fun at Biden. “All presidents should have aptitude tests.”
The former president addressed “Club 47” fan club members at a convention center in West Palm Beach, a short drive from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence. As part of the festivities, organizers brought out a towering, multi-layered cake as audience members tossed red and blue balloons.
Setting on a gold-colored base, the cake featured separate tiers that included a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and the Club 47 logo, an American flag, the phrase “Born in the USA on Flag Day,” a depiction of Trump golfing and the Oval Office fitted gold frames common in many Trump properties as well as Trump and Republican logos.
When Trump took the stage, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and chanted “USA! USA!” The layer cake was just for show. But backstage there was a sheet cake with vanilla icing and a gold hue that was served to some members of the former president’s campaign staff.

The event in Trump’s adopted home state sold out of 5,000 tickets at about $35 apiece, with closer spots to the stage costing $60, according to Club 47 President Larry Snowden.
“This is the biggest birthday party I’ve ever had by far,” Trump said.
The former president elicited strong cheers by listing his now-familiar campaign plans, including discussing immigration in menacing terms and pledging to reduce regulations, scrap environmental protections to stimulate domestic energy production and cut taxes.
Despite so often scoffing at Biden, even declaring that the president often “doesn’t know where the hell he is,” Trump also offered a seemingly contradictory message to his own supporters. He endorsed early voting, casting ballots by mail and also on Election Day in person, only to later note: “I actually tell our people, we don’t need your vote. We’ve got so many votes.”
Before Trump took the stage, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both Florida Republicans, helped warm up the crowd, gushing about Trump and his prospects for winning back the White House.
It was yet another strong show of support for Trump and came a day after Republicans in Congress sang their own rendition of “Happy Birthday” and presented the former president with a cake and gifts during a Thursday visit to Capitol Hill — displaying remarkable loyalty for a former president who was shunned by many of the same lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party’s base and elected officials. Next month, he is scheduled to accept his party’s presidential nomination for the third time — despite facing sentencing in his hush money case on July 11.
Trump referenced his conviction on 34 felony counts on Friday, declaring, “In the end, they’re not after me. They’re after you and I just happened to be standing in their way.”
Mary Lou and Sue Reardon both came to the event from the Villages near Ocala, about 240 miles (386 kilometers) northwest of West Palm Beach. Both were wearing US flag shirts and matching “Birthday” headbands with candles.
“We just feel like he’s our last hope,” Sue Reardon said of Trump.
Biden will turn 82 shortly after Election Day in November. His campaign marked Trump’s birthday by compiling a listing of “78 of Trump’s historic… ‘accomplishments,’” with links to media coverage of policy proposals including “cutting Social Security and Medicare,” Trump’s presidency during GOP losses in the US House and Senate and several references to his legal cases.
“On behalf of America, our early gift for your 79th: Making sure you are never President again,” Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer added to the birthday wishes.
By contrast, there was no hint of GOP disunity when Trump was in Washington to meet with House and Senate Republicans on Thursday, in his first visit to Capitol Hill since the riot, which was carried out by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden.
Among those attending was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite not having spoken since 2020.
Club 47 is based in Palm Beach County and says on its website that the club’s goal is to keep Trump’s supporters “in our area connected and engaged.” Trump most recently spoke to the club in October, days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
Lydia Maldonado, a local Hispanic activist, said Friday’s event is unique compared to any rally nationwide with the former president and that Trump feels comfortable and familiar with this crowd since it’s his hometown.
“The purpose of having this event is pretty much to let him know how much the community here loves him and how much the community supports him,” Maldonado said.
 


US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists

US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists
Updated 15 June 2024
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US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists

US designates Nordic far-right group as terrorists
  • “The United States remains deeply concerned about the racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist threat worldwide and is committed to countering the transnational components of violent white supremacy,” a State Department statement said

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday designated the Nordic Resistance Movement and three of its leaders terrorists, saying the Scandinavian neo-Nazis pose a threat to Americans.
The State Department added the movement and the leaders to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, meaning that any US-based assets will be frozen and that they will be blocked from using the US financial system.
The State Department said it made its finding based on the group’s history of violence rooted in “its openly racist, anti-immigrant, antisemitic, anti-LGBTQI+ platform.”
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist threat worldwide and is committed to countering the transnational components of violent white supremacy,” a State Department statement said.
The group has carried out or attempted to carry out “acts of terrorism that threaten the security of United States nationals or the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States,” it said.
The leaders blacklisted by the State Department, all Swedes, were group’s chief Fredrik Vejdeland, and two other senior figures, Par Oberg and Leif Robert Eklund.
The group, known by its Swedish acronym NMR, professes Nazism and seeks a united “ethnic Nordic” nation.
Founded in 1997 in Sweden as the Swedish Resistance Movement, it saw sister organizations spring up in other Nordic countries until they were united under NMR in 2016.
The group stages protests and produces media arguing against immigration, but has also been linked to violence.
In 2016, a 28-year old man died after being assaulted by NMR members in Helsinki and, according to watchdog organization Expo, several members have been convicted of a series of bombings in Gothenburg in 2016 and 2017.
Finland’s Supreme Court banned the group in 2020.
After takin office in 2021, President Joe Biden’s administration laid out a strategy to counter domestic terrorism that included identifying foreign groups that provide support.
The State Department first designated a white supremacist group as terrorists in 2020 — the Russian Imperial Movement — after years of largely targeting Islamist and far-left movements overseas.
 

 


US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships
Updated 15 June 2024
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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships
  • The confluence of Russian, Canadian and US vessels in Cuba was a reminder of old Cold War tensions
  • Tensions with the US over communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

HAVANA: A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and US vessels in Cuba — a Communist-run island nation just 145 km (90 miles) south of Florida — was a reminder of old Cold War tensions and fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.
However, both the US and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.
The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean, Russia’s defense ministry said.
Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit ... in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A group of Cuban pioneers look at the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, part of the Russian naval detachment visiting Cuba, docked at Havana's harbor on June 14, 2024. (AFP)

Hours earlier, the US Southern Command said the fast-attack submarine Helena had arrived on a routine port visit to Guantanamo Bay, a US naval base on the tip of the island around 850 km (530 miles) southeast of Havana.
“The vessel’s location and transit were previously planned,” Southern Command said on X.
Cuba`s foreign ministry said it had been informed of the arrival of the US submarine but was not happy about it.
“Naval visits to a country are usually the result of an invitation, and this was not the case,” said Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío.
“Obviously we do not like the presence in our territory (of a submarine) belonging to a power that maintains an official and practical policy that is hostile against Cuba.”
A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries,” adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”
Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union, and tensions with Washington over communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow has maintained ties with Havana.
When asked what message Moscow was sending, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the West never appeared to take notice when Russia sent signals through diplomatic channels.
“As soon as it comes to exercises or sea voyages, we immediately hear questions and a desire to know what these messages are about,” Zakharova said. “Why do only signals related only to our army and navy reach the West?“
The Russian warships are expected to remain in Havana harbor until Monday.


South Africa’s Ramaphosa re-elected as president after coalition deal

South Africa’s Ramaphosa re-elected as president after coalition deal
Updated 15 June 2024
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South Africa’s Ramaphosa re-elected as president after coalition deal

South Africa’s Ramaphosa re-elected as president after coalition deal
  • Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to put Ramaphosa, back in office for another five years after the May 29 general election
  • The ANC-led broad coalition brings together a majority of the 18 parties in the 400-seat National Assembly

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was re-elected for a second term on Friday, after his humbled ANC cobbled together an unprecedented coalition government.

Lawmakers in Cape Town voted overwhelmingly to put Ramaphosa, 71, back in office for another five years after the May 29 general election that produced no outright winner.
“I am humbled and honored that you, as members of the National Assembly, have... decided to elect me to be the President of the Republic of South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in his acceptance speech.
Last month’s election marked a historic turning point for South Africa, ending three decades of dominance by the African National Congress of the late Nelson Mandela.
The party that led the anti-apartheid struggle won only 40 percent of the vote and, for the first time, lost its absolute majority in parliament.
It has now struck a deal to form what it calls a government of national unity.
“This is a historic juncture in the life of our country, which requires that we must work and act together,” Ramaphosa said.
ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said on Friday the broad coalition brings together a majority of the 18 parties that won representation in the 400-seat National Assembly.
These include the center-right Democratic Alliance (DA), the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party and other smaller groups.
Ramaphosa was re-elected by fellow MPs with 283 votes in a secret ballot.
He saw off a last-minute challenge by Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose candidacy gained 44 votes.
Ramaphosa will be sworn in next week in Pretoria and then unveil his new cabinet.
Earlier, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had opened the parliament’s first sitting, swearing in MPs in batches ahead of votes on the election of a speaker and deputy speaker.
The first post went to the ANC’s Thoko Didiza and, in a first sign the power-sharing deal was working, the second went to the DA’s Annelie Lotriet. Both are women and Lotriet is from South Africa’s white minority.

Lawmakers cast their ballot one by one in a lengthy ceremony held in a Cape Town convention center, as the parliament building is being rebuilt after a 2022 fire.
EFF members took the oath wearing red overalls and in some cases rubber boots and plastic construction worker helmets.
They declined to support the incoming administration, having refused to countenance joining an alliance with right-wing or white-led parties.
“This is not a government of national unity, this is a grand coalition between the ANC and white monopoly capital. History will judge you harshly,” Malema said, after conceding defeat.
Graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma’s new party uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), which came third in the election, has disputed the results and its MPs boycotted Friday’s sitting.
“The sitting of the national assembly today as far as we’re concerned is illegal and unconstitutional,” MK spokesman Nhlamulo Ndhlela told AFP.
A former trade unionist turned millionaire businessman, Ramaphosa will preside over a government combining radically different political views.
The ANC is a historically pan-Africanist, progressive party of the left that has overseen welfare and economic empowerment programs for poor, black South Africans.
The largest coalition party, the DA, pushes a liberal, free-market agenda. Smaller parties that are understood to have agreed to join the government range from the left to the far right.
“At the heart of this government of national unity statement is a shared respect and defense of our constitution and the rule of law,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said.

The agreement extended to regional coalitions in Johannesburg’s Gauteng province and in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma’s MK won the most votes in the latter but was left empty-handed as coalition members managed to get a wafer-thin majority of 41 out of 80 provincial councillors.
Steenhuisen added that the coalition agreement included a consensus mechanism to deal “with the disagreements that will inevitably arise.”
“This is not the end of the process. And the road ahead will not be an easy one,” Steenhuisen said, explaining that the two-week deadline imposed by the constitution to form a government did not leave enough time to iron out all details.
Ramaphosa first came to power in 2018 after Zuma was forced out under the cloud of corruption allegations.
Under his watch South Africa suffered from record power cuts, the economy languished and crime remained rife. Unemployment is at almost 33 percent.
He will now have the arduous task to bridge conflicting views within government to turn around South Africa’s economic fortunes.
“Rapid, inclusive and sustainable economic growth” was listed as a top priority in a draft of the coalition deal.
GDP grew by only 0.6 percent in 2023 and was down 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2024.