Ukraine downs drones as Russia retaliates for Belgorod attack

A view shows the Kharkiv Palace Hotel heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine December 31, 2023. (REUTERS)
A view shows the Kharkiv Palace Hotel heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine December 31, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 January 2024
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Ukraine downs drones as Russia retaliates for Belgorod attack

Ukraine downs drones as Russia retaliates for Belgorod attack
  • Moscow said the Belgorod attack had included the use of controversial cluster munitions, and told an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council that Kyiv had targeted a sports center, an ice rink and a university

KYIV, Ukraine: Kyiv said Sunday it had destroyed 21 of 49 Iranian-made drones fired after Russia vowed to retaliate for what it called a “terrorist attack” on a border city that left 24 dead.
The Ukrainian air force said the “Shahed” drones were particularly targeted at “the front line of defense, as well as at civilian, military and infrastructure facilities in the front-line territories.”
Six guided missiles had also targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Kyiv said in a statement on Telegram, without specifying whether they had hit their targets.
Oleg Sinegubov, the head of Kharkiv’s military administration, said there had been 28 civilians wounded in the attack on the city, including two teenagers and a foreign citizen.
Residential buildings, offices and cafes were hit in the latest overnight attacks, said Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov.
“On the eve of the New Year, Russians want to intimidate our city, but we are not scared,” he said.
The fresh Russian strikes came a day after the deadliest attack on civilians in Russia since the start of the conflict in February 2022.
The official death toll has risen to 24 with 108 wounded in Belgorod — just 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Ukrainian border, which has been repeatedly struck by what Moscow says is indiscriminate shelling.
The two sides took turns to accuse each other of pummelling civilian areas of their shared frontier region over the weekend.
The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said Sunday that one person had been killed by Ukrainian shelling in a village close to the border.

Moscow said the Belgorod attack had included the use of controversial cluster munitions, and told an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council that Kyiv had targeted a sports center, an ice rink and a university.
Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzya called it a “deliberate, indiscriminate attack against a civilian target.”
Ukraine’s allies countered that responsibility ultimately lay with Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading the neighboring country nearly two years ago.
“If Russia wants someone to blame for the deaths of Russians in this war, it should start with President Putin,” said British envoy to the UN Thomas Phipps.
Putin gave his traditional New Year’s Eve address on Sunday, in which he praised Russia’s soldiers on the front line and called for unity in the face of “difficult tasks.”
“To all those who are on duty, on the front line of the fight for truth and justice,” Putin said, “you are our heroes. Our hearts are with you. We are proud of you, we admire your courage.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed in his New Year’s address to wreak “wrath” against Russian forces in 2024, despite what he said were attempts to “undermine” support for Kyiv.

The Belgorod attack came a day after Ukraine said a barrage of Russian missile strikes on several cities, including the capital, had killed 39 people.
Schools, a maternity hospital, shopping arcades and blocks of flats were among the buildings hit in Friday’s barrage, one of the most violent attacks since the start of the war.
Ukraine was still sifting through the rubble on Saturday when fresh strikes hit the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Chernigiv, according to local authorities.
Three more people were killed by Russian strikes across Ukraine on Saturday, the officials said.
January 1 was to be declared a day of mourning in the capital Kyiv, where 19 people had been killed, city officials said.
Russia’s army said it had “carried out 50 group strikes and one massive strike” on military facilities in Ukraine over the past week, adding that “all targets were hit.”
The United Nations condemned the attacks and said they must stop “immediately.”
Ukraine is urging Western allies to maintain military support.
“Next year will be a time of many decisions — global decisions. And Ukraine needs to be able to influence them to be able to achieve its goals,” Zelensky said in his evening address Saturday.
“We will fight for our influence, for justice for Ukraine, and I am grateful to all the leaders who help, who have been with us since February 24th and will be with us in 2024.”
Britain announced it would send hundreds more air-defense missiles to Kyiv, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared: “We must continue to stand with Ukraine — for as long as it takes.”
 

 


Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right

Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right
Updated 18 May 2024
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Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right

Argentine president begins unusual visit to Spain, snubbing officials and courting the far-right
  • The brash President Javier Milei has no plans to meet Spain's PM — nor any other government official
  • He will instead attend a far-right summit Sunday hosted by Sánchez’s fiercest political opponent, the Vox party

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Even before kicking off a three-day visit to Madrid on Friday, Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei stirred controversy, accusing the socialist government of bringing “poverty and death” to Spain and weighing in on corruption allegations against the prime minister’s wife.

In such circumstances, a typical visiting head of state may strive to mend fences with diplomacy.
Not Milei. The brash economist has no plans to meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez during his three days in the Spanish capital — nor the Spanish king, nor any other government official. Instead, he’ll attend a far-right summit Sunday hosted by Sánchez’s fiercest political opponent, the Vox party.
The unorthodox visit was business as usual for Milei, a darling of the global far right who has bonded with tech billionaire Elon Musk and praised former US President Donald Trump. Earlier this year on a trip to the United States, Milei steered clear of the White House and took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, where he railed against abortion and socialism and shared a bear hug with Trump.
Milei presented his 2022 book, “The Way of the Libertarian,” in Madrid Friday at a literary event organized by La Razón, a conservative Spanish newspaper.
The book — withdrawn from circulation in Spain earlier this month because the back-flap biography erroneously said Milei had earned a doctorate — traces his meteoric rise in politics from eccentric TV personality to national lawmaker and outlines his radical free-market economic ideas.
To thunderous applause, Milei condemned socialism as “an intellectual fraud and a horror in human terms.”
“The good thing is that the spotlight is shining on us everywhere and we are making the reds (leftists) uncomfortable all over the world,” Milei said.
He took the opportunity to promote the results of his harsh austerity campaign in Argentina, celebrating a decline in monthly inflation in April though making no mention of the Buenos Aires subway fares that more than tripled overnight.
Repeating a campaign pledge to eliminate Argentina’s central bank — without giving further details — Milei promised to make Argentina “the country with the most economic freedom in the world.”
At the event Milei gave a huge hug to his ideological ally Santiago Abascal, the leader of the hard-right Vox party and the only politician with whom Milei has actual plans to meet in Madrid.
The Vox summit Sunday seeks to bring together far-right figures from across Europe in a bid to rally the party’s base ahead of European parliamentary elections in June. Milei described his attendance a “moral imperative.” He also has plans to meet Spanish business executives Saturday.
Tensions between Milei and Sánchez have simmered since the moment the Spanish prime minister declined to congratulate the libertarian economist on his shock election victory last November.
But hostility exploded earlier this month when one of Sánchez’s ministers suggested Milei had taken narcotics. The Argentine presidency responded with an unusually harsh official statement accusing Sánchez’s government of “endangering the middle class with its socialist policies that bring nothing but poverty and death.”
The lengthy government statement also accused Sánchez of having “more important problems to deal with, such as the corruption accusations against his wife.”
The allegations of influence peddling and corruption brought by a right-wing group against Sánchez’s wife, Begoña Gómez, had prompted Sánchez, one of Europe’s longest serving Socialist leaders, to consider stepping down.
 


Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger

Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger
Updated 18 May 2024
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Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger

Senegal’s new president welcomes challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger
  • Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo sought Bassirou Diomaye Faye's help during their meeting in Accra on Friday
  • Faye said that he hoped to convince the countries to “come back and share our common democratic values and what we stand for”

ACCRA: Ghana’s president Friday urged his visiting Senegalese counterpart to use his goodwill within the Economic Community of West African States to help resolve disputes with Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

President Bassirou Diomaye Faye arrived in the capital Accra early in the morning after visiting Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in January 2024 announced they were leaving ECOWAS after they were suspended by the group over military coups in all three nations.
“We are lucky to have a new leader in place because I think he is also going to help us to try and resolve the big problem that we have in the ECOWAS community,” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said after meeting Faye.
“President Faye is very committed to seeing what he and the rest of us can do to reach out and revive the dialogue.”
Speaking to reporters after bilateral talks, Akufo-Addo said Faye had demonstrated commitment to ECOWAS efforts to bring the three countries to the table for further talks and back to the bloc.
Faye, 44, won a resounding victory as an anti-establishment candidate promising major reforms to become Senegal’s youngest-ever president.
His election has been seen as an inspiration for change in contrast to some of the continent’s aging leaders who have been in power for years and to other countries now run by military governments.
He welcomed the challenge to help reconcile ECOWAS with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
ECOWAS “is going through difficult times but we are going to do all we can to consolidate the gains made in integration, in a spirit of common, fraternal solidarity,” Faye told reporters.
Unity was “primordial” in the region, he added.
Earlier in Nigeria, Faye said that alongside Nigeria, which currently chairs ECOWAS, he hoped to convince the countries to “come back and share our common democratic values and what we stand for.”
 


Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years

Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years
Updated 18 May 2024
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Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years

Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s attacker jailed for 30 years

SAN FRANCISCO: A man who attacked the elderly husband of former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.
David DePape was convicted last year of breaking into the couple’s San Francisco home and bludgeoning Paul Pelosi in a horrifying attack captured on police bodycam.
At the time of the October 2022 assault, Democrat Nancy Pelosi was second in line to the presidency and a regular target of outlandish far-right conspiracy theories.
Jurors in his trial last year heard how DePape — a Canadian former nudist activist who supported himself with occasional carpentry work — had initially planned to target Nancy Pelosi, planning to smash her kneecaps if she did not admit to her party’s “lies.”
On arriving at their home armed with rope, gloves and duct tape, DePape instead encountered her then-82-year-old husband, and kept asking, “Where’s Nancy?“
During what DePape told officers was a “pretty amicable” conversation with Paul Pelosi, the husband managed to call for help from law enforcement officers.
Moments later when police arrived DePape hit Pelosi with a hammer before officers rushed at him and took the weapon away.
Pelosi was knocked unconscious and had his skull fractured. He spent almost a week in a hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Nancy Pelosi was not at home the night of the attack.
Prosecutors had asked the federal court in San Francisco to sentence DePape to 40 years in prison.
In the lead up to Friday’s sentencing, Nancy Pelosi had asked the judge to impose a “very long” sentence for an attack that “has had a devastating effect on three generations of our family.”
“Even now, eighteen months after the home invasion and assault, the signs of blood and break-in are impossible to avoid.
“Our home remains a heartbreaking crime scene,” she wrote, according to court documents cited by the San Francisco Chronicle.
On Friday her office said the family was proud of Paul Pelosi “and his tremendous courage in saving his own life on the night of the attack and in testifying in this case.”
DePape had pleaded not guilty to charges that included assault on a family member of a US official, and attempted kidnapping of a US official.
While not denying the attack, his defense rested on contesting federal prosecutors’ claims that he had targeted Nancy Pelosi in her official capacity.
Instead, his lawyers argued that DePape was driven to target a number of prominent liberal figures, due to his exposure to a web of obscure conspiracy theories.
In social media posts, DePape shared QAnon theories and false claims that the last US election was stolen.
The trial heard how DePape did not intend to stop his supposed anti-corruption crusade with Pelosi, and had drawn up a list of other targets including a feminist academic whom he accused of turning US schools into “pedophile molestation factories.”
Other personalities the defendant admitted wanting to attack included California Governor Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and actor Tom Hanks.
Jurors took less than 10 hours to reject DePape’s explanation of the attack, which took place just a few days before the US midterm elections.
The attack itself became politicized in the weeks after it occurred, with some members of the Republican Party mocking the incident and suggesting lurid and unsubstantiated explanations for why there was a man in Pelosi’s house late at night.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that DePape’s sentence should serve as a warning that attacks on political figures and their families were unacceptable.
“In a democracy, people vote, argue, and debate to achieve the policy outcome they desire,” he said.
“But the promise of democracy is that people will not employ violence to affect that outcome.
“The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who target public servants and their families with violence.”


Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency
Updated 18 May 2024
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Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency
  • Burkina Faso news agency AIB reported that an individual had tried to attack a guard at the palace but there were no injuries or damage
  • Junta leader Traore seized power in a coup on September 30, 2022, deposing a military regime that earlier ousted the elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Burkina Faso’s capital Friday in support of the country’s military rulers after gunfire was reported near the presidency, AFP reporters said.
Demonstrators gathered at a roundabout in central Ouagadougou, vowing to protect the rule of President Ibrahim Traore.
Earlier in the afternoon, “there were shots fired near the presidential palace,” said one demonstrator, Moussa Sawadogo.
“We do not know what is going on but we are there to stop anything from happening.”
Burkina Faso news agency AIB reported that an individual had tried to attack a guard at the palace but there were no injuries or damage.
Security forces closed off access to the area around the palace, AFP reporters saw.
The landlocked West African nation has been run by a military regime since mutinying soldiers deposed elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore in 2022.
Junta leader Traore then seized power in another coup on September 30, 2022.
He established a transitional government and legislative assembly for 21 months, a period set to expire on July 1.
National consultations on the next steps in the transition to civilian rule are scheduled for May 25 to 26.
Since 2015, Burkina’s forces have been struggling to combat jihadist insurgencies that have killed thousands of people and forced around two million from their homes — violence that the army’s leaders used to justify their coups.


Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia

Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia
Updated 18 May 2024
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Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia

Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia
  • Zelensky said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron who made the appeal told him Russian President Putin cannot be trusted
  • Putin earlier on Friday also suggested that Moscow would not support the idea of a truce during the games in Paris this summer

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with AFP on Friday rejected a French call for an Olympic truce this summer, saying it could just help Russia move its troops and equipment.

In an interview with AFP on Friday, Zelensky said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron who made the appeal and told him: “Let’s be honest... Emmanuel, I don’t believe it.”
“Who can guarantee that Russia will not use this time to bring its forces to our territory?” Zelensky said, adding: “First of all, we don’t trust Putin.”
“We are against any truce that plays into the hands of the enemy,” he said.
“If it’s a truce, an Olympic truce for the duration of the Olympics, a land truce, they will have an advantage,” he said, explaining that there was “a risk that they will bring heavy equipment to our territory and no one will be able to stop them.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Friday also suggested that Moscow would not support the idea of a truce during the games in Paris this summer.
Asked during a visit to China whether he backed Macron’s idea, Putin said: “I think these Olympic principles, including the ‘Olympic truce’ are very right.”
But he added: “Today’s international sporting officials are themselves disobeying the principles of the Olympic charter.”
He accused sports bodies of “not allowing our athletes to perform at the games with our banner, flag and our national music, our anthem.”
“They are committing violations against us and demand fulfilment from us. Dear friends: we won’t get far that way. No one has ever come to an agreement that way,” Putin said.
Macron had restated on Friday his idea of “an Olympic truce so that Russia ceases its current operations” in Ukraine.
Macron also thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping last week for backing the idea of a truce in all conflicts, including Ukraine, during the Paris Olympics.

Only 25 percent of needed air defense
Zelensky also said his country needed over a hundred aircraft to counter Russian air power and said Ukraine only had a quarter of the air defenses it needs.
His country has faced a surge of devastating attacks as the war stretches into its third year, leading Kyiv to double down on pleas to strengthen its depleted air defenses.
“Today we have about 25 percent of what we need to defend Ukraine. I’m talking about air defense,” Zelensky said.
Russia currently holds an advantage in the air, which limits Ukraine’s ability to protect cities and hold the front line.
To combat sustained aerial and ground assaults, Ukrainian officials have called for more support.
“So that Russia does not have air superiority, our fleet should have 120 to 130 modern aircraft... to defend the sky against three hundred (Russian) aircraft,” Zelensky said.
He also said the fighter jets were needed “to have parity” with Russia.
His comments came just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling.
Zelensky called for some of the assistance to be delivered.
“Can we have three (billion) to get two (Patriot) systems in Kharkiv region, and no bombs will fall on the heads of the military,” he said.