Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky

Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference during the “Ukraine Year 2024” forum in Kyiv on February 25, 2024, marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky

Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky
  • In a rare acknowledgement of setbacks, he said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his country’s victory “depends” on support from the West and expressed hope the United States would approve a critical package of military aid.

In a rare acknowledgement of setbacks, Zelensky said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war and that plans for last summer’s failed counteroffensive had been leaked to Russia.

He appealed to the West to boost Ukraine’s war chances, at a forum marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“Whether Ukraine will lose, whether it will be very difficult for us, and whether there will be a large number of casualties depends on you, on our partners, on the Western world,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine has in recent weeks been weakened by an ammunition shortage, with a vital $60-billion US aid package blocked by political wrangling in the US Congress.

The Ukrainian president said that “there is hope for Congress, and I am sure that it is going to be positive.”

Ukraine has for months said that Western aid is too slow coming and that the hold-ups have real consequences as the war against Russia enters its third year.

Zelensky for the first time suggested that Russia had prior information on the country’s much-anticipated but unsuccessful counteroffensive last summer.

“Action plans were on the Kremlin’s table before the counteroffensive actions began,” said the president, who this month sacked the army’s commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny.

Zelensky said that Ukraine’s war losses were nevertheless much lower than Russia has claimed.

He said: “31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in this war. Not 300,000 or 150,000, or whatever Putin and his lying circle are saying.”

In December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 383,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or injured.

The second anniversary of the war was marked around the world with moving tributes.

During a Sunday service in the Vatican, Pope Francis called for intensified efforts to find a “just and lasting peace” to the conflict.

“There have been so many victims, so many wounded, so much destruction, so much anguish and so many tears over what has become a terribly long period — the end of which we cannot yet foresee,” he said.

But the focus in Kyiv was on shoring up Western support.

Ukraine Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said earlier Sunday that half of Western military aid to Kyiv was delivered later than promised, causing losses.

Europe has admitted it will fall far short of a plan to deliver more than one million artillery shells to the country by March, instead hoping to complete the shipments by the end of the year.

Such delays meant Kyiv would “lose people, lose territories,” especially given Russia’s “air superiority,” said Umerov.

“We do everything possible and impossible but without timely supply it harms us,” he said.

US President Joe Biden has said the hold-ups directly contributed to Ukraine being forced to withdraw from the frontline town of Avdiivka earlier in February — handing Russia its first territorial gain in almost a year.

Zelensky had pressed G7 leaders on Saturday to ensure the fast delivery of weapons, telling them: “Putin can lose this war” and “we will win.”

But, after a year of static frontlines, Russia has in recent weeks been seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield and try to advance beyond Avdiivka.

“Despite the difficult situation, our soldiers courageously hold their lines and positions,” Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, said Sunday after visiting frontline command posts.

Russia marked the start of the war’s third year with a wave of overnight missile and drone attacks.

A missile strike on the eastern city of Kostyantynivka wounded one, destroyed the railway station — which is not in use — along with dozens of apartments, shops and administrative buildings, Ukrainian authorities said.

Explosives dropped by a Russian drone killed a 57-year-old man in Nikopol, across the Dnipro river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, captured by Russia at the start of the war.

Umerov said Russia had fired more than 8,000 missiles at his country since the start of the invasion — an average of more than 10 a day.

Visiting the southern city of Mykolaiv, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, pledged an additional 100 million euros ($108 million) in humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

“We should not minimize this aid as being in vain — it saves lives every day,” she said, standing in front of a building destroyed by Russian strikes on the city.

French President Emmanuel Macron will on Monday host a summit European leaders at the Elysees Palace in Paris to try to strengthen Western support for Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda will be among some 20 European leaders attending the conference, which will open with a video address from Zelensky.


Pro-Palestinian protesters at Drexel ignore call to disband as arrests nationwide surpass 3,000

Pro-Palestinian protesters at Drexel ignore call to disband as arrests nationwide surpass 3,000
Updated 10 sec ago
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Pro-Palestinian protesters at Drexel ignore call to disband as arrests nationwide surpass 3,000

Pro-Palestinian protesters at Drexel ignore call to disband as arrests nationwide surpass 3,000
  • Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to press colleges to cut financial ties with Israel

PHILADELPHIA: Pro-Palestinian protesters ignored a request by Drexel University’s president to disband their encampment on Monday as arrests linked to campus demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war surpassed the 3,000 mark nationwide.
Drexel’s campus remained on lockdown, with classes being held virtually as police kept watch over the demonstration on the school’s Korman Quad. Many Drexel employees were told to work from home.
In a statement issued a day earlier, Drexel President John Fry said as many as 60 protesters were at the encampment, lambasting it as “intolerably disruptive to normal university operations.” He said there were “serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protesters subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs and chants.” Fry threatened disciplinary action against Drexel students participating in the protest.
The Drexel Palestine Coalition responded on Instagram late Sunday that “it is slander to accuse the encampment of ‘hateful’ or ‘intimidating’ actions when we have done neither.” The group accused Drexel and city police of harassment and intimidation. A pro-Palestinian group of faculty and staff blasted Fry on Monday for shuttering campus facilities and said the encampment was “not disruptive to learning.”
The Drexel protesters’ demands ranged from the university administration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and divesting from companies that do business with Israel, to abolition of the Drexel police department and termination of the school’s chapter of Hillel, the Jewish campus organization.
No arrests were reported.
Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to press colleges to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall but demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University.
More than 3,000 people have been arrested on US campuses over the past month. Campuses have been calmer recently, with fewer arrests, as students leave for summer break. Still, colleges have been vigilant for disruptions to commencement ceremonies.
At the University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate students went on strike Monday as part of a rolling, systemwide protest over how administrators have responded to pro-Palestinian encampments, including arrests of protesters at the Los Angeles, San Diego and Irvine campuses.
The encampment at Drexel, which has about 22,000 students, was set up after several hundred demonstrators marched from Philadelphia’s City Hall to west Philadelphia on Saturday. Nearby, on the University of Pennsylvania campus, university and city police arrested 19 demonstrators Friday night, including six Penn students.
On Monday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner declined to charge four of the Penn protesters, citing a lack of evidence submitted by campus police. Krasner’s office approved misdemeanor charges against three others. The remaining 12 arrested Friday night were given citations for failing to disperse.
Penn’s main commencement ceremony, meanwhile, was held under tightened security and a ban on flags and signs. There were no disruptions.
But dozens of students walked out of Yale University’s commencement ceremony Monday, some waving Palestinian flags. Yale said in a prepared statement that “a number of graduating students chose to peacefully walk out during the ceremony. University staff helped guide these individuals to an area outside the event space, and the ceremony continued as scheduled.”
Wesleyan University in Connecticut said it has reached agreement with student protesters to review possible divestment, with meetings scheduled for later this month and in the fall. Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced the deal over the weekend and disclosed that 1.7 percent of Wesleyan’s endowment was invested in aerospace and defense businesses, but that none were directly involved in the manufacture of weapons.
As part of the agreement, Wesleyan protesters cleared their encampment on Monday, according to a school spokesperson.
The Associated Press has recorded at least 82 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the US At least 3,025 people have been arrested on the campuses of 61 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.
The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, while Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.

 


What is the ICC and why it is considering arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders

What is the ICC and why it is considering arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders
Updated 10 min 40 sec ago
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What is the ICC and why it is considering arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders

What is the ICC and why it is considering arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders
  • Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The International Criminal Court could soon issue arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, more than seven months into the war between the two sides, based on a request by the court’s chief prosecutor.
Karim Khan said that he believes Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The ICC was established in 2002 as the permanent court of last resort to prosecute individuals responsible for the world’s most heinous atrocities — war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression.
The Rome Statute creating the ICC was adopted in 1998 and took effect when it got 60 ratifications on July 1, 2002. The UN General Assembly endorsed the ICC, but the court is independent.
Without a police force, the ICC relies on member states to arrest suspects, which has proven to be a major obstacle to prosecutions.
Netanyahu said last month that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defense.” He said that while the ICC won’t affect Israel’s actions, it would “set a dangerous precedent.”
WHAT IS THE ICC?
The ICC’s 124 member states have signed on to the Rome Statute. Dozens of countries didn’t sign and don’t accept the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and other crimes. They include Israel, the United States, Russia and China.
The ICC becomes involved when nations are unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes on their territory. Israel argues that it has a functioning court system, and disputes over a nation’s ability or willingness to prosecute have fueled past disputes between the court and individual countries.
In 2020, then US President Donald Trump authorized economic and travel sanctions on the ICC prosecutor and another senior prosecution office staffer. The ICC staff were looking into US and allies’ troops and intelligence officials for possible war crimes in Afghanistan.
US President Joe Biden, whose administration has provided crucial military and political support for the Gaza offensive, lifted the sanctions in 2021.
The ICC has 17 ongoing investigations, issued a total of 42 arrest warrants and taken 21 suspects into custody. Its judges have convicted 10 suspects and acquitted four.
In its early years, the court was criticized for focusing on crimes in Africa, but now it has investigations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
WHAT IS THE ICC’S RELATIONSHIP TO ISRAEL AND PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES?
The UN General Assembly raised the Palestinians’ status in 2012 from a UN observer to a nonmember observer state. That opened the door for the Palestinian territories to join international organizations, including the ICC.
The ICC accepted “The State of Palestine” as a member in 2015, a year after the Palestinians accepted the court’s jurisdiction.
The court’s chief prosecutor at the time announced in 2021 that she was opening an investigation into possible crimes on Palestinian territory. Israel often levies accusations of bias at UN and international bodies, and Netanyahu condemned the decision as hypocritical and antisemitic.
Khan, the current ICC prosecutor, visited Ramallah and Israel in December, meeting Palestinian officials and families of Israelis killed or taken hostage by Hamas militants in the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the Israel-Hamas war.
Khan called Hamas’ actions “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, crimes which the ICC was established to address,” and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
Khan said “international humanitarian law must still apply” in the Israel-Hamas war and “the Israeli military knows the law that must be applied.” After the visit, Khan said that an ICC investigation into possible crimes by Hamas militants and Israeli forces “is a priority for my office.”
WHO ELSE HAS THE ICC CHARGED?
Last year, the court issued a warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. Russia responded by issuing its own arrest warrants for Khan and ICC judges.
Other high-profile leaders charged by the court include ousted Sudanese strongman Omar Al-Bashir on allegations including genocide in his country’s Darfur region. Former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was captured and killed by rebels shortly after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest on charges linked to the brutal suppression of anti-government protests in 2011.
 

 


Biden: What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide

Biden: What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide
Updated 21 May 2024
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Biden: What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide

Biden: What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide

US President Joe Biden strongly defended Israel on Monday, saying Israeli forces are not committing genocide in their military campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza.

“What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide,” Biden said at a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House.


Trump trial prosecution rests, closing arguments next week

Trump trial prosecution rests, closing arguments next week
Updated 21 May 2024
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Trump trial prosecution rests, closing arguments next week

Trump trial prosecution rests, closing arguments next week

NEW YORK: Approximately five weeks, 19 witnesses, reams of documents and a dash of salacious testimony later, the prosecution up against Donald Trump rested its case Monday, handing over to the defense before closing arguments set for next week.

The defense called its first witness, the paralegal of Trump lawyer Todd Blanche, to kick off their case that sees the former president accused of covering up hush money payments to a porn star over an alleged encounter that could have derailed his 2016 White House bid.

Monday featured extended quibbling among the legal teams that, along with the upcoming holiday weekend, means closing arguments that the judge had hoped could start Tuesday are now set for next week.

The defense then called lawyer Robert Costello, who was not a potential witness until Cohen testified at length about exchanges with him.

Trump’s team wanted to question him about the credibility of Cohen, who he has assailed in the past.

The door also remains open for Trump to take the stand, a highly risky move.

Experts doubt he will opt to testify — there’s no requirement to — in his criminal trial, the first ever of a former US president, as it would expose him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination by prosecutors.

But Blanche has raised the prospect his client could step up as a witness.

On Monday, Blanche finished his third day of questioning Cohen after hours of at times digressive, at other times bruising, exchanges.

Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer turned tormentor, recounted last week how he kept Trump informed about $130,000 paid to porn star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence about an alleged affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s lawyers set out to paint Cohen as a convicted criminal and habitual liar, recalling his time in prison for tax fraud and lying to Congress.

Blanche also probed Cohen’s loyalty to Trump and then to the prosecution, looking to show jurors that the former fixer is self-serving and willing to go to great lengths to accomplish his aims.

Blanche vied to goad Cohen, who has a reputation for a short temper that could have hurt him on the stand — but the witness largely maintained his composure, dulling the questioning at moments by voicing confusion or nonchalance.

Cohen’s story has generally lined up with Daniels and David Pecker, the tabloid boss who said he worked with Trump and Cohen to suppress negative coverage during the Republican’s 2016 White House run.

After Blanche finished with him the prosecution returned for redirect, with prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asking what the whole experience has meant for him.

“My entire life has been turned upside down,” Cohen said, genuine emotion in his voice. “I lost my law license, my financial security... my family’s happiness... just to name a few.”

Trump meanwhile has complained his 2024 election campaign for another White House term is being stymied by the weeks-long court proceedings, which he has to attend every day.

He did so again Monday, complaining to journalists that he’s “not allowed to have anything to do with politics because I’m sitting in a very freezing cold, dark room for the last four weeks. It’s very unfair.”

Branding the case as politicized, a coterie of leading Republicans have stood in the wings behind him as he gives remarks to reporters outside the courtroom.

The growing list includes several lawmakers eyeing Trump’s vice presidential pick, including Ohio Senator JD Vance and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

The defense also hopes to bring in an election campaign finance expert but calling of that witness was under dispute.

The prosecution has voiced opposition, saying only the judge should explain how the law applies.

When the jury begins deliberating, the often juicy testimony will likely linger — but they will also have stacks of documents to consider.

The charges hinge on financial records, and whether falsifying them was done with intent to sway the 2016 presidential vote.


Biden slams ‘outrageous’ ICC bid to arrest Israeli leaders

Biden slams ‘outrageous’ ICC bid to arrest Israeli leaders
Updated 20 May 2024
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Biden slams ‘outrageous’ ICC bid to arrest Israeli leaders

Biden slams ‘outrageous’ ICC bid to arrest Israeli leaders

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Monday condemned an “outrageous” request by the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As Washington moved to defend its key ally, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the Hague-based court’s move could harm ceasefire talks to end the Gaza conflict.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders, on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous” Biden said in a statement.

“And let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

He added that the United States “will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Neither the United States nor Israel is a member of the ICC, which was set up in 2002 as a court of last resort for the world’s worst crimes.

Asked whether Biden backed ICC arrest warrants for Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and political chief Ismail Haniyeh, White House spokesman John Kirby said “we don’t believe the ICC has jurisdiction in this matter.”

Biden’s expression of support for Netanyahu over the ICC bid comes despite recent tensions over Israel’s war in Gaza in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack.

Washington recently withheld a shipment of bombs to Israel in a bid to it warn off an offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

Blinken said the United States “fundamentally rejects” the ICC prosecutor’s arrest bid.

“We reject the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful,” Blinken said.

Blinken added that “this decision does nothing to help, and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement that would get hostages out and surge humanitarian assistance in.”

US lawmakers were reportedly considering a legislative response punishing the ICC, amid bipartisan fury among Republicans and Democrats.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson slammed the court’s “baseless and illegitimate” decision.

He accused Biden of a “pressure campaign” against Israel, saying the country was “fighting a just war for survival.”

Biden faces political pressure on both sides ahead of a November election clash with Donald Trump, with pro-Gaza student protests roiling US campuses while Republicans accuse him of failing to fully back Israel.

The White House has previously refused to comment on whether the US could take retaliatory action including sanctions against the ICC if it targeted Israel.

In 2020, the administration of then-president Donald Trump targeted the ICC with sanctions over its investigation into Afghanistan, but the Biden administration later lifted them.

However Washington’s ambiguous position over the court is reflected by the fact that it has backed the ICC’s attempt to prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that the United States will keep assisting the ICC on its investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine despite denouncing the Israel move.

“Regarding the question of whether or not we will continue to provide support to the ICC with respect to crimes that are committed in Ukraine, yes, we continue that work,” Austin told reporters.