Ukraine’s parliament passes a controversial law to boost much-needed conscripts as war drags on

Ukraine’s parliament passes a controversial law to boost much-needed conscripts as war drags on
The law will become effective a month after President Volodymyr Zelensky signs it. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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Ukraine’s parliament passes a controversial law to boost much-needed conscripts as war drags on

Ukraine’s parliament passes a controversial law to boost much-needed conscripts as war drags on
  • Lawmakers dragged their feet for months over the new law, and it is expected to be unpopular
  • With Russia increasingly seizing the initiative, the law came in response to a request from Ukraine’s military, which wants to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukraine’s parliament passed a controversial law Thursday that will govern how the country recruits new soldiers to replenish depleted forces who are increasingly struggling to fend off Russian troops.
Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion captured nearly a quarter of the country, the stakes could not be higher for Kyiv. After a string of victories in the first year of the war, fortunes have turned for the Ukrainian military, which is dug in, outgunned and outnumbered. Troops are beset by shortages in soldiers and ammunition, as well as doubts about the supply of Western aid.
Lawmakers dragged their feet for months over the new law, and it is expected to be unpopular. It comes about a week after Ukraine lowered the draft-eligible age for men from 27 to 25.
The law will become effective a month after President Volodymyr Zelensky signs it — and it was not clear when he would. It took him months to sign the law reducing conscription age.
It was passed Thursday against a backdrop of an escalating Russian campaign that has devastated Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks. Authorities said Russian overnight missile and drone attacks again struck infrastructure and power facilities across several regions and completely destroyed the Trypilska thermal power plant, the largest power-generating facility in Kyiv region.
With Russia increasingly seizing the initiative, the law came in response to a request from Ukraine’s military, which wants to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops, Zelensky said in December. Incumbent army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Zelensky have since revised that figure down because soldiers can be rotated from the rear. But officials haven’t said how many are needed.
The law — which was watered down from its original form — will make it easier to identify every draft-eligible man in the country, where even in war many have dodged conscription by avoiding contact with authorities.
But it’s unclear that Ukraine, with its ongoing ammunition shortages, has the ability to arm large numbers of recruits without a fresh injection of Western aid.
Earlier this month, Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Center for Applied Political Studies Penta, said the law is crucial for Ukraine’s ability to keep up the fight against Russia, even though it is painful for Ukrainian society.
“A large part of the people do not want their loved ones to go to the front, but at the same time they want Ukraine to win,” he said.
Thursday’s vote came after the parliamentary defense committee removed a key provision from the bill that would rotate out troops who served 36 months of combat — a key promise of the Ukrainian leadership. Lawmaker Oleksii Honcharenko said in a Telegram post that he was shocked by the move to remove the provision.
The committee instructed the Defense Ministry to draft a separate bill on demobilization within several months, news reports cited ministry spokesperson Dmytro Lazutkin as saying.
Exhausted soldiers, on the front lines since Russia invaded in February 2022, have no means of rotating out for rest. But considering the scale and intensity of the war against Russia, coming up with a system of rest will prove difficult to implement.
Ukraine already suffers from a lack of trained recruits capable of fighting, and demobilizing soldiers on the front lines now would deprive Ukrainian forces of their most capable fighters.
In nighttime missile and drone attacks, at least 10 of the strikes damaged energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 200,000 people in the region were without power and Russia “is trying to destroy Kharkiv’s infrastructure and leave the city in darkness.”
Ukraine’s leaders have pleaded for more air defense systems — aid that has been slow in coming.
Four people were killed and five injured in an attack on the city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, the regional governor, Vitalii Kim, said. In the Odesa region, four people were killed and 14 injured in Russian missile strikes Wednesday evening, said Gov. Oleh Kiper.
Energy facilities were also hit in the Zaporizhzhia and Lviv regions.


Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea

Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea
Updated 6 sec ago
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Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea

Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea
  • Philippine foreign ministry ‘denounces the illegal and aggressive actions’ of Chinese authorities
  • ‘Peace cannot be achieved if China’s words do not match its behavior in the disputed waters’
MANILA: China must avoid actions that would endanger sailors and vessels in the South China Sea, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Wednesday, adding peace cannot be achieved if its words do not match its behavior in the disputed waters.
The Philippine foreign ministry said it “denounces the illegal and aggressive actions” of Chinese authorities that resulted in personnel injury and vessel damage during Manila’s routine resupply mission in the South China Sea on June 17.
“In line with the Philippines’ commitment to pursue peace, the Department has been exerting efforts to rebuild a conducive environment for dialogue and consultation with China on the South China Sea,” the ministry said in a statement.
“This cannot be achieved if China’s words do not match their actions on the waters.”
The ministry also called on China to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its own waters.

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
Updated 19 June 2024
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Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
  • The Pentagon has said that Black broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China

Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of four years and eight months for a US soldier who has been detained in the Russian city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft and threats to kill his girlfriend, Russian agencies reported on Wednesday.
Gordon Black, who was detained on May 2 in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her.
“(We ask) to impose a sentence of four years and eight months, to be served in a penal colony,” Russia’s RIA state news agency cited the prosecutor as saying at the court hearing.
The prosecutor has also asked for a fine of 40,000 roubles ($469), RIA reported.
Black’s defense lawyer has asked the court to acquit him of all of the charges, RIA reported.
Earlier, RIA reported that Black “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 roubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent.”
The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.


US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
Updated 19 June 2024
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US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
  • The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza

WASHINGTON: The United States bristled Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested ally Washington was withholding critical weapons to his country as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
With the exception of “one particular shipment of munitions” that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said “there are no other pauses. None.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier Tuesday that Washington is “continuing to review one shipment... with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” a city in southern Gaza.
But the top American diplomat said other weapons were moving as usual and that Washington was “making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”
The pointed reaction from the White House came hours after Netanyahu said Blinken had assured him the US government was working “day and night” to address the delay in the arrival of the weapons.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza crisis, he also said he told Blinken “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
Updated 19 June 2024
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Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
  • Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities
  • As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Authorities in China’s western Xinjiang region have been systematically replacing the names of villages inhabited by Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to reflect the ruling Communist Party’s ideology, as part of an attack on their cultural identity, a report released by Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
About 630 villages in Xinjiang have had their names changed to remove references to Islam or the Uyghurs’ culture and history, according to the group's report, done in collaboration with the Norway-based organization Uyghur Hjelp.
The report compared the names of 25,000 Xinjiang villages as listed by the National Bureau of Statistics of China between 2009 and 2023.
Words like “dutar,” a traditional Uyghur string instrument, or “mazar,” a shrine, have been removed from the names of villages, and replaced with words such as “happiness,” “unity” and “harmony” — generic terms often found in the Communist Party’s policy documents.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions about the report and its policies in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In 2017, the Chinese government launched a campaign of assimilation that has included mass detentions, alleged political indoctrination, alleged family separations and alleged forced labor among other methods.
As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps. The Chinese government at the time described the camps as " vocational training centers " and said they were necessary to curb separatism and religious extremism.
The U.N. Human Rights Office in 2022 found accusations of rights violations in Xinjiang “credible” and said China may have committed crimes against humanity in the region.
The changes to the names of Xinjiang villages included removing mentions of religion, including terms such as “Hoja,” a title for a Sufi religious teacher, and “haniqa,” a type of Sufi religious building, or terms such as “baxshi,” a shaman.
References to Uyghur history or to regional leaders prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 have also been removed, according to the report.
“The Chinese authorities have been changing hundreds of village names in Xinjiang from those rich in meaning for Uyghurs to those that reflect government propaganda,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “These name changes appear part of Chinese government efforts to erase the cultural and religious expressions of Uyghurs.”
The Chinese government wants to “erase people's historical memory, because those names remind people of who they are,” said Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur linguist based in Norway and founder of Uyghur Hjelp.
Most of the village name changes occurred between 2017 and 2019, at the height of the government crackdown in Xinjiang, according to the report.

 


Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
Updated 19 June 2024
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Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
  • Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created

RACINE, Wisconsin: Donald Trump holds a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where he will slam Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, even as a major local factory that Trump broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a flop.
The Republican former president was in this largely working-class, lakeside city in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.
But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.
“I think people look at it as a joke,” said Nancy Anderson, a 67-year-old retired teacher, while having breakfast at a local cafe.
Trump is expected to speak to supporters at a lakeside park at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT). Among the topics he will address, according to the campaign, is how high inflation under Biden has hurt Wisconsin residents.
Foxconn’s underwhelming debut has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to be competitive in the Nov. 5 election.
According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020.
The two candidates are competing furiously for every vote. Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.
“Foxconn turned out to be just that — a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.
Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.
Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.
But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.
“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Racine is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.
Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the US House of Representatives.
His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment.