Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses

Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses
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Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations gather on the second day of their meeting on Capri island, Italy, on April 18, 2024. (REUTERS/Pool)
Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses
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Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations gather on the second day of their meeting on Capri island, Italy, on April 18, 2024. (REUTERS/Pool)
Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses
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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) meets with Germany's Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck in Kyiv on April 18, 2024. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service handout photo/ AFP)
Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses
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Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, left, is welcomed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 18, 2024, as the US Congress moved to advance an emergency aid package for Ukraine Israel and Taiwan. (AP Photo)
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Updated 19 April 2024
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Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses

Ukraine seeks urgent G7, NATO help for battered air defenses
  • NATO chief says working on a solution
  • UK seeks ‘creative’ deal on seized Russian assets

CAPRI, Italy: Ukraine warned foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major powers on Thursday they had to change strategy if they wanted Kyiv to withstand increasingly destructive Russian air assaults.

The G7 ministers meeting on the island of Capri acknowledged the need to get more air defense systems to Ukraine and applauded Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as he joined them on the second day of their three-day gathering.
The G7, comprising Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Britain, the United States and European Union representatives, has been fiercely critical of Russia’s two-year long invasion of Ukraine.
However, military aid to Kyiv has slowed in recent months, with European partners apparently running low on ammunition and vital US funding blocked by Republicans in Congress.
Speaking to reporters as he arrived in Capri, Kuleba bemoaned the fact that while US, British and French forces had intervened on Saturday to help prevent Iranian missiles from hitting Israel, his own country lacked vital defenses.
“The strategy of our partners in Israel seems to be in preventing damage and death. ... In the last months, the strategy of our partners in Ukraine seems to be in helping (us) to recover from damage,” he said.
“So our job today is to find a way where our partners will design a mechanism, a way that will allow us also to avoid death and destruction in Ukraine.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also took part in Thursday’s G7 meetings, telling reporters beforehand that the military alliance was actively seeking to send more air defense systems as quickly as possible.
“We are working at the possibility of (dispatching) more Patriot batteries to Ukraine. We are in dialogue with some specific countries,” he said.
In Washington, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told reporters that Ukraine had asked for additional air defense equipment and another Patriot missile battery, adding that Kyiv was looking for a minimum of seven Patriot systems.
Shmyhal declined to say how many Patriot systems Ukraine had currently, saying that was classified information.
He said US and White House officials had assured the Ukrainian delegation that weapons would be supplied in a matter of weeks, not months, once a $60.8 billion US aid package for Ukraine was approved by Congress.
“We hope it will take days, but not more than weeks,” he said.
Domestic political wrangling has delayed delivery of the US aid, but the US House of Representatives might finally get to vote on the package this weekend, bringing some hope to G7 ministers.

Looking to Washington
Germany has already said it would hand over one Patriot system. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged other EU nations to do likewise to help stave off concerted Russian attacks on vital Ukrainian infrastructure.
“Otherwise the electricity system of Ukraine will be destroyed. And no country can fight without having electricity at home, in the factories, online, for everything,” he told reporters in Capri.
“In these turbulent times, it is a hopeful sign that there are now signals from the Republicans in the US that support for Ukraine can be continued intensively,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told a news conference.
Another key issue under review is how to use profits from some $300 billion of sovereign Russian assets held in the West to help Ukraine, as European Union member states hesitate over concerns about the legality of such a move.
“It’s important we try and get agreement. ... That’s what we’re discussing here. I’m in no doubt we will find a way, but we’re going to have to be creative. We’ll have to be flexible,” said British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.
Shmyhal told reporters in Washington that he had detailed discussions with US and G7 officials about how to use the frozen Russian assets, and he expected some results on that front this year.
Kuleba said he hoped to get immediate pledges this week on the delivery of more Patriot and SAMP/T air defense systems and also new Western sanctions targeting Iran’s production of armed drones, which are being exported to Russia.
Hours later, the United States and Britain announced they would introduce new sanctions on Iran targeting its drone program in retaliation for the April 13 strike on Israel.
But some G7 ministers also urged Israel not to exacerbate an already tense situation with a major retaliation of its own.
“Our appeal is always for prudence and de-escalation,” said Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. “We hope that Israel’s response, which will probably come, will be a targeted response and not something that provokes escalation.”


China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
Updated 22 May 2024
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China to continue to strengthen ties with Iran, state media says

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AFP file photo)
  • “Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news

BEIJING: China will continue to strengthen strategic cooperation with Iran, safeguard common interests, and make endeavors for regional and world peace, Chinese state media reported on Tuesday, citing comments from Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Wang made the remarks in talks on Tuesday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari, while attending a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
“Iran has lost outstanding leaders and China has lost good friends and partners, said Wang, according to Xinhua news. “In this difficult time, China firmly stands by Iranian friends,” he said, referring to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday.

 


Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says

Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says
Updated 22 May 2024
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Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says

Ireland to announce recognition of Palestinian state on Wednesday, source says
  • The Irish government has said recognition would complement peace efforts and support a two-state solution

DUBLIN: The Irish government is to announce the recognition of a Palestinian state on Wednesday, a move strongly opposed by Israel, a source familiar with the matter said.
European Union members Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Malta have indicated in recent weeks that they plan to make the recognition, possibly in a coordinated announcement, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.
The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.
Since 1988, 139 out of 193 UN member states have recognized Palestinian statehood.
The Irish government has said recognition would complement peace efforts and support a two-state solution.
Israel’s foreign ministry on Tuesday warned against the move, saying in a post on social media platform X that recognition would “lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardize any prospects for peace.”
“Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas,” the ministry said.
Hamas holds around 125 hostages seized during its cross-border rampage on Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and triggered the war. Gaza medical officials say more than 35,000 have been killed during the Israeli offensive.
The Irish government on Tuesday evening said the prime minister and foreign minister would speak to the media on Wednesday morning but did not say what the topic would be.


Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after turbulence-hit flight

Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after turbulence-hit flight
Updated 22 May 2024
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Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after turbulence-hit flight

Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after turbulence-hit flight
  • The airline said the aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER with a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board
  • A 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack and at least 30 people were injured

SINGAPORE: More than 140 passengers and crew from a Singapore Airlines flight hit by heavy turbulence that left dozens injured and one dead finally reached Singapore on a relief flight Wednesday morning after an emergency landing in Bangkok.
The scheduled London-Singapore flight on a Boeing 777-300ER plane diverted to Bangkok after the plane was buffeted by turbulence that flung passengers and crew around the cabin, slamming some into the ceiling.
A 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack and at least 30 people were injured.
“I saw people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in like really awkward positions. People, like, getting massive gashes in the head, concussions,” Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight told Reuters after arriving in Singapore.
Photographs from the interior of the plane showed gashes in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn around. A passenger said some people’s heads had slammed into the lights above the seats and punctured the panels.
Singapore Airlines took 131 passengers and 12 crew on the relief flight from Bangkok that reached Singapore just before 5 a.m. (2100 GMT). There were 211 passengers including many Australians, British and Singaporeans, and 18 crew on board the original flight; injured fliers and their families remained in Bangkok.
“On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased,” Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a video message.
Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) is looking into the incident, and the US National Transportation Safety Board is also sending representatives for support.
The plane encountered sudden extreme turbulence, Goh said, and the pilot then declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok.
Aircraft tracking provider FlightRadar 24 said at around 0749 GMT the flight encountered “a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event,” based on flight tracking data.
“There were thunderstorms, some severe, in the area at the time,” it said.
The sudden turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar about 10 hours into the flight, the airline said. Turbulence has many causes, most obviously the unstable weather patterns that trigger storms, but this flight could have been affected by clear air turbulence, which is very difficult to detect.
Turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type of accident, according to a 2021 NTSB study.
While the airline said 30 people were injured, Samitivej Hospital in Thailand said it was treating 71 passengers.
From 2009 through 2018, the US agency found that turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported airline accidents and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no aircraft damage.
Singapore Airlines, which is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading airlines and is a benchmark for much of the industry, has not had any major incidents in recent years.
Its last accident resulting in casualties was a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Taipei, where it crashed on Oct. 31, 2000 at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, killing 83 of the 179 people on board.
 

 


Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces

Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces
Updated 22 May 2024
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Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces

Over 1 million claims related to toxic exposure granted under new veterans law, Biden announces
  • In raw numbers, more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022, the administration said Tuesday

NASHUA, N.H.: President Joe Biden, aiming to highlight his legislative accomplishments this election year, traveled to New Hampshire on Tuesday to discuss how he’s helped military veterans get benefits as a result of burn pit or other toxic exposure during their service.
“We can never fully thank you for all the sacrifices you’ve made,” Biden said to the veterans and their families gathered at a YMCA. “In America, we leave no veteran behind. That’s our motto.”
In raw numbers, more than 1 million claims have been granted to veterans since Biden signed the so-called PACT Act into law in August 2022, the administration said Tuesday. That amounts to about 888,000 veterans and survivors in all 50 states who have been able to receive disability benefits under the law.
That totals about $5.7 billion in benefits given to veterans and their survivors, according to the administration.
“The president, I think, has believed now for too long, too many veterans who got sick serving and fighting for our country had to fight the VA for their care, too,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told reporters on Monday. PACT stands for “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics.”
The PACT Act is relatively lower profile compared to the president’s other legislative accomplishments — such as a bipartisan infrastructure law and a sweeping tax, climate and health care package — but it is one that is deeply personal for Biden.
He has blamed burn pits for the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau, who served in Iraq, and has vowed repeatedly that he would get the PACT Act into law. Burn pits are where chemicals, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste were disposed of on military bases and were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before the law, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied 70 percent of disability claims that involved burn pit exposure. Now, the law requires the VA to assume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were related to burn pit or other toxic exposure without veterans having to prove the link.
Before Biden’s planned remarks, he went to a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Merrimack, New Hampshire. The president met there with Lisa Clark, an Air Force veteran who is receiving benefits through the PACT Act because her late husband, Senior Master Sergeant Carl Clark, was exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, marked the milestone by praising the veterans who advocated for the law.
“For far too long, our nation failed to honor its promises to our veterans exposed to toxins in military conflicts across the globe— until we fought like hell alongside veterans to finally get the PACT Act signed into law,” Tester, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.


Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza

Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza
Updated 22 May 2024
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Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza

Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza
  • The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is willing to work with Congress to respond to the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders over the Gaza war, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, amid Republican calls for US sanctions against court officials.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Blinken called the move “profoundly wrong-headed” and said it would complicate the prospects of reaching a hostage deal and a ceasefire in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s defense chief and three Hamas leaders “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Both President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and his political opponents have sharply criticized Khan’s announcement, arguing the court does not have jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict and raising concerns over process.
The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.
“We’ll be happy to work with Congress, with this committee, on an appropriate response” to the ICC move, Blinken said on Tuesday.
He did not say what a response to the ICC move might include.
In a later hearing, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Blinken he hoped to work together with the administration to express the United States’ opposition to the ICC prosecutor.
“What I hope to happen is that we level sanctions against the ICC for this outrage, to not only help our friends in Israel but protect ourself over time,” said Graham.
Republican members of Congress have previously threatened legislation to impose sanctions on the ICC, but a measure cannot become law without support from President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the Senate.
In 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration accused the ICC of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorized an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The US targeted court staff, including then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans.