Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive

Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive
Future Ukrainian fighter pilots likely to fly American F-16 aircraft are receiving their initial training in the south of France with the French Air Force, the French defence minister said on Friday, amid a European training push. (AP/File)
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Updated 12 April 2024
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Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive

Ukrainian fighter pilots train in France during European training drive
  • Other countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania are seeking to help Ukraine train its F-16 pilots
  • A dozen Ukrainians, some of whom have received prior training in Britain, are currently also undergoing “advanced training” for “several months”

PARIS: Future Ukrainian fighter pilots likely to fly American F-16 aircraft are receiving their initial training in the south of France with the French Air Force, the French defense minister said on Friday, amid a European training push.
The pilots are receiving “general training on the Alpha Jet (a Franco-German military aircraft), which enables Ukrainian pilots to acquire the fundamentals of flying a fighter jet,” Sebastien Lecornu said in an interview with the newspaper Ouest France.
Other countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania are seeking to help Ukraine train its F-16 pilots following the green light given by the United States.
A dozen Ukrainians, some of whom have received prior training in Britain, are currently also undergoing “advanced training” for “several months” in an undisclosed location to learn how to fly fighter jets, according to a military source.
They will then join specific F-16 training programs in countries allied with Ukraine that have the aircraft, while Kyiv awaits their delivery, the same source added. France’s military does not use the F-16.
Lecornu pointed out on Friday that the French armed forces had succeeded in adapting AASM air-to-ground guided bombs on Soviet-class aircraft held by the Ukrainians.
“We have taken the lead with these AASM bombs to be able to supply Ukraine with them,” Lecornu said.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, France has trained 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers on its own territory and in Poland.


Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia

Zelensky rejects Olympic truce call, saying it could help Russia
Updated 6 sec ago
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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.


Out on bail, firebrand Indian politician poses fresh challenge for Modi

Out on bail, firebrand Indian politician poses fresh challenge for Modi
Updated 17 May 2024
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Out on bail, firebrand Indian politician poses fresh challenge for Modi

Out on bail, firebrand Indian politician poses fresh challenge for Modi
  • Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is in power in the Delhi region and in the northern state of Punjab, which together account for just 20 seats in parliament, out of the 543 being contested

NEW DELHI: Firebrand Indian politician Arvind Kejriwal has hit the ground running since his surprise release from detention in the midst of a contentious general election, energizing the opposition as it challenges Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Supreme Court gave 55-year-old Kejriwal, who is also the chief minister of the national capital territory of Delhi, bail in a graft case on May 10 and he wasted no time in getting on the campaign trail.
“I have only one request from you; we all have to come together to save the country from dictatorship. I am fighting this dictatorship with all my might,” he told a jubilant crowd soon after walking out of Delhi’s Tihar jail, clearly referring to Modi.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Delhi voters have mixed reactions to his campaign.

• Kejriwal will generate sympathy but victory unsure, analysts say.

Kejriwal is part of the INDIA alliance led by the Congress Party and one of its biggest crowd-pullers. Analysts say while his campaigning will give fresh impetus to the opposition, they are unsure if that will translate into any significant victories against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which is tipped to return to power.
Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is in power in the Delhi region and in the northern state of Punjab, which together account for just 20 seats in parliament, out of the 543 being contested.
“He may be able to generate some sympathy vote, but would that be enough to change the outcome of the election?” said Rahul Verma, a fellow at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research think tank.
“The BJP led in Delhi by 20 percentage points on an average in each seat, so it needs a substantial amount of swing for BJP to start losing seats in Delhi,” Verma added.
Still, Kejriwal has the ability to embarrass the BJP.
A day after his release, he said Modi, central to the ruling party’s campaign, would not be prime minister beyond 2025 when he turns 75, and would hand over the reins to Home (Interior) Minister Amit Shah.
“Modi made the rule in BJP that whoever turns 75 will be retired. So I ask BJP, who will be your prime minister?” Kejriwal said. “Modi is not seeking for votes for himself, but for Amit Shah...who will fulfil Modi’s guarantees then?“
The BJP scrambled to deny the suggestion that flag-bearer Modi would retire.

ANTI-GRAFT CRUSADER
India began voting on April 19 in the seven-phase election in which Modi, 73, is seeking to be the second prime minister to win a third straight term since independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.
Delhi goes to the polls on May 25 and Punjab on June 1. Results are due on June 4.
Kejriwal is an anti-corruption crusader-turned-politician with a reputation of being a street-fighter. He projects himself as a messiah of the working class through AAP’s focus on health care, schools and subsidies, and has a high profile image in the media, allowing him to punch above his weight, analysts say.
The Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crime-fighting agency, arrested him on March 21 in connection with corruption allegations related to the capital territory’s liquor policy.
Kejriwal has dismissed the graft allegations against him as an attempt by Modi’s government to destroy his party and damage the opposition. Modi and the BJP have denied the charges.
Delhi’s voters had mixed reactions to his campaign.
“Giving bail to Kejriwal is like adding fuel to the fire (for the opposition),” said Irshad, 35, a barber in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area, who gave only his first name. “He’s a genuine leader.”
In the Model Town locality of the capital, vegetable vendor Surya Bali, 33, asked: “If he was not corrupt, why would they send him to jail?“
Some were undecided who they would vote for, including Madhuri Akshay Rajput, 30, a tailor in another part of the city. “Whether Kejriwal has done something wrong or not, going to jail dents your image,” she said. “What’s the point of voting? Nothing has changed.”

 


4 killed, including 3 foreign tourists, in Afghanistan shooting: govt

4 killed, including 3 foreign tourists, in Afghanistan shooting: govt
Updated 17 May 2024
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4 killed, including 3 foreign tourists, in Afghanistan shooting: govt

4 killed, including 3 foreign tourists, in Afghanistan shooting: govt
  • According to preliminary information provided by hospital sources, the three foreigners who were killed were Spanish nationals
  • The wounded were from Norway, Australia, Lithuania and Spain

KABUL: Three foreign tourists and an Afghan were killed on Friday in a shooting in the popular tourism destination of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, the interior ministry said.
“One Afghan and three foreign nationals were killed,” in gunfire Friday evening in Bamiyan city, interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani, told AFP.
Another four foreigners and three Afghans were wounded, he added.
Qani said the “foreigners were here for tourism,” without giving the nationalities of the foreign victims.
According to preliminary information provided by hospital sources, the three foreigners who were killed were Spanish nationals.
The wounded were from Norway, Australia, Lithuania and Spain.
Diplomatic sources said they were seeking to confirm the information, including the identities of the dead.
Security forces have arrested four people in connection with the attack, Qani said.
He did not say if there had been multiple shooters.
The Taliban government “strongly condemns this crime, expresses its deep feelings to the families of the victims and assures that all the criminals will be found and punished,” Qani said in a statement.
A local resident, who did not want to be named, said he “heard the sounds of successive gunshots, and the city streets leading to the site were blocked immediately by the security forces.”
Bamiyan, home to the giant Buddhas blown up by the Taliban in 2001, is Afghanistan’s top tourist destination.
Deadly attacks on foreigners have been rare in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.
Tourists have been traveling to the country in increasing numbers in recent years as security has improved since the Taliban ended their insurgency after ousting the US-backed government.
Arriving in western Herat province Friday evening, a foreign tourist posted on a WhatsApp group for travelers in Afghanistan that he and others were stopped by the Taliban authorities and told “that because of Bamiyan we were no longer safe.”
“After some time and Google translate, we convinced them to let us go, they said go eat quickly and get off the streets,” the tourist said.
The Bamiyan region is majority inhabited by members of the Hazara Shiite community.
The historically persecuted religious minority has been repeatedly targeted by the Daesh group, which considers them heretics.
The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has reduced dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power.
However, a number of armed groups, including IS, remain a threat.


Greek trial of Egyptians over Pylos shipwreck may be unfair: Rights groups

Greek trial of Egyptians over Pylos shipwreck may be unfair: Rights groups
Updated 17 May 2024
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Greek trial of Egyptians over Pylos shipwreck may be unfair: Rights groups

Greek trial of Egyptians over Pylos shipwreck may be unfair: Rights groups
  • Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch: Defendants disadvantaged by Coast Guard investigation, withheld evidence
  • Groups say evidence altered by Coast Guard, which was accused by survivors of causing disaster that killed over 600 people

LONDON: Human rights groups have raised concerns that the upcoming trial in Greece of nine Egyptians who survived the Pylos shipwreck in 2023 may not be fair.
The nine are charged with “smuggling, aggravated by the deaths of passengers, causing a shipwreck, irregular entry, and forming and membership of a criminal organization,” with the possibility of multiple life sentences if convicted.
However, while the trial is set to commence on May 21, an investigation into the culpability of Greek authorities over the disaster, which killed at least 600 of the 750 passengers aboard, is only at its preliminary stage.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch warned the mismatched timing of the process jeopardized the chance of a fair trial.
Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said: “There’s a real risk that these nine survivors could be found ‘guilty’ on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence given that the official investigation into the role of the Coast Guard has not yet been completed.”
She added: “Credible and meaningful accountability for one of the worst shipwrecks in the Mediterranean needs to include a determination of any liabilities of Greek authorities.”
The overcrowded vessel sank in Greek waters on June 14 last year, carrying people mainly from Egypt, Syria and Pakistan.
Both HRW and Amnesty subsequently accused the Hellenic Coast Guard of culpability, and there have been numerous allegations that a patrol boat caused the disaster after it tried to tow the stricken migrant vessel.
So far, 53 survivors have come forward as part of a case brought against the Hellenic Coast Guard in front of the country’s Naval Court, which began in June last year but has made little progress.
However, the “Pylos 9” have been accused of being smugglers in charge of the vessel that sank and therefore culpable for the disaster.
They were arrested on June 15 following testimony by nine other survivors of the disaster blaming them, which was compiled and submitted by Coast Guard investigators. They deny the charges.
In a statement, HRW and Amnesty said: “There are real concerns regarding the respect of fair trial standards based on questions about the integrity of the investigation and evidence.
“The speed at which the investigation against survivors was concluded, and the Pylos 9 defense lawyers’ lack of access to the Naval Court case file compound these concerns.”
Investigations by Lighthouse Reports and Solomon also found eyewitness testimony compiled by the Coast Guard contained identical accounts of the accident, which omitted details about the patrol boat later submitted to a public prosecutor in Kalamata.
Another witness told HRW and Amnesty their testimony had been altered by the Coast Guard to omit the claim that the patrol boat caused the disaster.
The defense team for the nine Egyptians has also claimed requests for evidence for the criminal trial, including data from survivors’ mobile phones confiscated by Greek authorities, have been denied over questions into the jurisdiction of the Naval Court investigation.
“The defendants’ lawyers have been unable to gain access to the investigation file before the Naval Court despite its clear relevance to preparing the defense,” Amnesty and HRW said.
“The judge also rejected motions by defense lawyers to take testimony from additional survivors, and to acquire the communications between the Hellenic Coast Guard, Frontex and the Greek Joint Rescue Coordination Center, and aerial photos of the boat prior to the shipwreck.
“The Kalamata court should guarantee that the Pylos 9 receive a fair and impartial trial, and that their full due process rights are upheld and respected. The Naval Court should advance investigations promptly, effectively and impartially and ensure the safe and effective participation of the largest possible number of survivors and relatives of victims and full collection of evidence,” they added.
The groups also highlighted the tendency for Greek authorities to blame people from ethnic minorities for smuggling and people trafficking, citing a study that said that as of February 2023, 90 percent of the 2,154 people detained in Greece on smuggling charges were “third country” nationals.
“Time and again, in Greece and in other countries, racialized people who are seeking to travel to Europe end up being the only ones facing accountability in the context of migration movements,” said Adriana Tidona, migration researcher at Amnesty International.
“The Pylos investigations and trials must serve as a turning point for this dangerous trajectory.”


King Charles III to attend D-Day anniversary in France: palace

King Charles III to attend D-Day anniversary in France: palace
Updated 17 May 2024
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King Charles III to attend D-Day anniversary in France: palace

King Charles III to attend D-Day anniversary in France: palace
  • The 75-year-old British head of state will be at a commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial in northern France on June 6
  • Charles will be accompanied by his wife Queen Camilla and elder son Prince William

LONDON: King Charles III is to make his first overseas trip since being diagnosed with cancer, at an event to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.
The 75-year-old British head of state, who only recently resumed public engagements, will be at a commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial in northern France on June 6, a statement read.
The memorial, at Ver-sur-Mer, is near Gold Beach, the codename for one of five separate beachheads in northern France where Allied troops came ashore on June 6, 1944.
Charles will be accompanied by his wife Queen Camilla, 76, and elder son Prince William, 41, who will join Canadian veterans at the Juno Beach Center at Courseulles-sur-Mer, along the Channel coast.
William will then join more than 25 heads of state, representing his father at the international commemorative ceremony at Omaha Beach, where US troops landed.
Charles and Camilla will head to France, where they made a three-day state visit last year, after attending the UK’s national commemorative event in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5.
Senior royals will be out in force in both the UK and France for the anniversary, which is likely to be among the last to feature veterans who served in World War II.
As head of state, Charles is commander-in-chief of the British armed forces but also served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
His heir William was an RAF search and rescue pilot before becoming a full-time royal.
One notable absentee from the commemorations will be William’s wife Catherine, 42, who is receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and was last seen at a public engagement in December last year.
Charles announced his diagnosis in February but last month royal officials said doctors were “very encouraged” by the progress of his treatment, allowing him to resume his official duties.
This week he has attended a Buckingham Palace garden party and a commemoration service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, as well as unveiling a new official portrait of himself.