Drone footage shows Ukrainian village battered to ruins as residents flee Russian advance

This drone footage shows the village of Ocheretyne, a target for Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. It had a population of 3,000. (AP)
This drone footage shows the village of Ocheretyne, a target for Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. It had a population of 3,000. (AP)
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Updated 05 May 2024
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Drone footage shows Ukrainian village battered to ruins as residents flee Russian advance

Drone footage shows Ukrainian village battered to ruins as residents flee Russian advance
  • Russian troops have been advancing in the Ocheretyne, pounding Kyiv’s depleted, ammunition-deprived forces with artillery, drones and bombs

KYIV: The Ukrainian village of Ocheretyne has been battered by fighting, drone footage obtained by The Associated Press shows. The village has been a target for Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Russian troops have been advancing in the area, pounding Kyiv’s depleted, ammunition-deprived forces with artillery, drones and bombs. Ukraine’s military has acknowledged the Russians have gained a “foothold” in Ocheretyne, which had a population of about 3,000 before the war, but says that fighting continues.
Residents have scrambled to flee the village, among them a 98-year-old woman who walked almost 10 kilometers (6 miles) alone last week, wearing a pair of slippers and supported by a cane, until she reached Ukrainian front lines.

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Ukraine’s military has acknowledged the Russians have gained a “foothold” in Ocheretyne, which had a population of about 3,000 before the war, but says that fighting continues.

Not a single person is seen in the footage, and no building in Ocheretyne appears to have been left untouched by the fighting. Most houses, apartment blocks and other buildings look damaged beyond repair, and many houses have been pummeled into piles of wood and bricks. A factory on the outskirts has also been badly damaged.
The footage also shows smoke billowing from several houses, and fires burning in at least two buildings.
Elsewhere, Russia has in recent weeks stepped up attacks on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in an attempt to pummel the region’s energy infrastructure and terrorize its 1.3 million residents.
Four people were wounded and a two-story civilian building was damaged and set ablaze overnight after Russian forces struck Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, with exploding drones, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said Saturday.
The four, including a 13-year-old, were hurt by falling debris, he said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russian state agency RIA reported Saturday reported that Moscow’s forces struck a drone warehouse in Kharkiv that had been used by Ukrainian troops overnight, citing Sergei Lebedev, described as a coordinator of local pro-Moscow guerrillas. His comments could not be independently verified.
Syniehubov said Russia also bombed Kharkiv on Friday, damaging residential buildings and sparking a fire. An 82-year-old woman died and two men were wounded.
Ukraine’s military said Russia launched a total of 13 Shahed drones at the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions of eastern Ukraine overnight, all of which were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

 


It was meant to be a Christian utopia. Now this Nigerian community is helpless against rising seas

It was meant to be a Christian utopia. Now this Nigerian community is helpless against rising seas
Updated 1 min 3 sec ago
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It was meant to be a Christian utopia. Now this Nigerian community is helpless against rising seas

It was meant to be a Christian utopia. Now this Nigerian community is helpless against rising seas

AYETORO, Nigeria: The coastal Nigerian community of Ayetoro was founded decades ago and nicknamed “Happy City,” meant to be a Christian utopia that would be sinless and classless. But now its remaining residents can do little against the rising sea.
Buildings have sunk into the Atlantic Ocean, an increasingly common image along the vulnerable West African coast. Old timber pokes from the waves like rotten teeth. Shattered foundations line the shore. Waves break against abandoned electrical poles.
For years, low-lying nations have warned the world about the existential threat of rising seas. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, struggles to respond. Some plans to address shoreline protection, even for Ayetoro, have come to nothing in a nation where corruption and mismanagement is widespread.
Prayers against the rising sea are “on the lips of everybody” in the church every Sunday, according to youth leader Thompson Akingboye. But they know the solution will require far more.
Even the church has been relocated away from the sea, twice. “The present location is now also threatened, with the sea just 30 meters (98 feet) away,” Akingboye said.

A damage house is seen due to coastal erosion in Ayetoro, a coastal community more than 200 km southeast of Nigeria's business capital Lagos. (AP)

Thousands of people have left. Of those who remain, Stephen Tunlese can only gaze from a distance at the remnants of his clothing shop.
Tunlese said he lost an investment of eight million naira, or the equivalent of $5,500, to the sea. Now he adapts to a watery future. He repairs canoes.
“I will stay in Ayetoro because this is my father’s land, this is heritage land,” he said.
The Mahin mud coast where the community is slipping away has lost more than 10 square kilometers, or nearly 60 percent of its land, to the ocean in the past three decades.
Researchers studying satellite imagery of Nigeria’s coast say a number of things are contributing to Ayetoro’s disappearance.
Underwater oil drilling is one reason, according to marine geologist Olusegun Dada, a professor at the Federal University of Technology in Akure who has studied years of satellite imagery. As resources are extracted, the ground can sink.
But he and colleagues note other reasons, including the deforestation of mangroves that help anchor the earth and the erosion caused by ocean waves.
“When we started coming to this community, then we used to have fresh water,” Dada said. Today, the freshwater ecosystem is transforming into a salty, marine one.
The transformation is enormously costly in Nigeria. The World Bank in a 2020 report estimated the cost of coastal degradation in three other coastal Nigerian states — nearby Lagos, Delta and Cross River — at $9.7 billion, or more than 2 percent of the country’s GDP. It looked at erosion, flooding, mangrove loss and pollution, and noted the high rate of urbanization.
And yet dramatic images of coastal communities slipping away only capture Nigeria’s attention from time to time, as when the annual flooding occurs — another effect of climate change.
But Ayetoro residents can’t turn away.
“Ayetoro was like a paradise, a city where everyone lived joyfully, happily,” said Arowolo Mofeoluwa, a retired civil servant.
She estimated that two-thirds of the community has been slowly swept under the waves, along with some residents’ multiple attempts to rebuild.
“This is the third house we are living in, and there are some living in the fourth house now, and we do not have enough space for ourselves again. Four or five people living in a small room, you can just imagine how painful it is,” Mofeoluwa said.
“If you look where the sea is now, that is the end of the former Ayetoro.”

A man rides a boat on the waters of Ayetoro, a Nigerian coastal community that has been experiencing coastal erosion for many years. (AP)

For the community’s traditional leader and head of the local church, Oluwambe Ojagbohunmi, the pain is not only in the loss of land but also “what we are losing in our socio-cultural and religious identity.”
Some residents say even burial grounds have been washed away.
Early this year, the Ondo state government announced a commitment to finding “lasting solutions” to the threat to Ayetoro. But residents said that’s been vowed in the past.
It might be too late for efforts to be effective, Dada said. For years, he has hoped for an environmental survey to be carried out to better understand what’s causing the community’s disappearance. But that’s been in vain.
The Niger Delta Development Commission, a government body meant in part to address environmental and other issues caused by oil exploration, didn’t respond to questions from The Associated Press about efforts to protect the community’s shoreline.
The commission’s website lists a shoreline protection project in Ayetoro. A photo shows a sign marking the feat with the motto, “Determined to make a difference!”
The project was awarded two decades ago. Project status: “Ongoing.”
Residents say nothing ever started.
“Help will come one day, we believe,” youth leader Akingboye said.
 


Taiwan president says China has no right to sanction Taiwan’s people

Taiwan president says China has no right to sanction Taiwan’s people
Updated 27 min 30 sec ago
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Taiwan president says China has no right to sanction Taiwan’s people

Taiwan president says China has no right to sanction Taiwan’s people

TAIPEI: Taiwan President Lai Ching-te said on Monday that China has no right to sanction Taiwan’s people or go after their rights, after China threatened to impose the death penalty in extreme cases for “diehard” Taiwan independence separatists.
China should talk to Taiwan’s legitimately elected government and recognize its existence, and if it does not then relations will only drift further apart, he told reporters at the presidential office in Taipei.


Trump and Biden do battle in first US presidential debate

Trump and Biden do battle in first US presidential debate
Updated 24 June 2024
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Trump and Biden do battle in first US presidential debate

Trump and Biden do battle in first US presidential debate
  • For Trump, the 90-minute clash is a chance to drive home worries about 81-year-old Biden’s mental alertness — although the Republican, 78, has faced age concerns of his own
  • For Biden, the first ever debate between a sitting and former president will be an opportunity to underline the legal challenges engulfing Trump and to paint him as unfit for office

WASHINGTON: Joe Biden and Donald Trump square off for a historic US presidential debate this week, with the stage set for what could be a pivotal moment in the 2024 race as millions of potential voters tune in.
The showdown fires the starting gun on what promises to be a bruising summer on the campaign trail, in a deeply polarized and tense United States still convulsed over the chaos and violence that accompanied the 2020 election.
With only two debates this cycle, Thursday’s high-stakes clash takes on heightened significance, and both candidates have stepped up their personal attacks, with national polls showing the pair neck and neck.
“The debate is important because it’s an opportunity for two well-known candidates to ‘reintroduce’ themselves to a public that knows them well but hasn’t been paying attention,” said Donald Nieman, a political analyst and history professor at Binghamton University in New York state.
“The big question is how much of the public — beyond political aficionados — will pay attention to such an early debate.”
For Trump, the 90-minute clash is a chance to drive home worries about 81-year-old Biden’s mental alertness — although the Republican, 78, has faced age concerns of his own.
For Biden, the first ever debate between a sitting and former president will be an opportunity to underline the legal challenges engulfing Trump and to paint him as unfit for office.
The president will also be desperate to avoid any major gaffes — which, on this stage, could lose him the November election.

The debate comes in the wake of a criminal trial that has consumed Trump’s attention for months — with his sentencing on 34 convictions for falsifying business records scheduled for July 11.
Both candidates shunned the bipartisan commission that has run debates since 1988, deciding instead to go with CNN for a first showdown unusually early in the year, and another on ABC on September 10.
Abortion, the state of US democracy and foreign conflicts are all issues of concern to voters, although inflation and border security are likely to loom largest.
The last debates between the two men in 2020 were fraught, with Biden at one point snapping “will you shut up, man?” as Trump repeatedly interrupted him.
This time, moderators have more tools than usual to maintain decorum, with the microphones muted except for the candidate whose turn it is to speak.
“Trump is notoriously undisciplined and is likely to chafe at not being able to dominate the event by talking over his opponent and drawing out time with his long-winded, insult-laden tirades,” said political scientist Nicholas Creel, of Georgia College and State University.
“Biden is also counting on this debate reminding Americans of the chaos that was the Trump presidency, so Trump being unable to abide by the rules and performing poorly as a result is a very striking possibility.”

But debates are about soundbites on social media as much as policy arguments, and both candidates will look for explosive viral moments.
“I’ll be looking for whether former president Trump tries to become more ‘presidential’ in any respect, though the campaign trail would suggest the answer to that is no,” said Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University.
The Biden campaign released an ad last week hitting Trump over his criminal convictions as the president headed to his mountainside retreat at Camp David to fine-tune attack lines and rebuttals.
Trump — who struggles in granular discussions of policy — huddled with aides and vice presidential hopefuls at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where the emphasis was more on tone and broad substance than detail.
Trump would benefit by sticking to a script, highlighting Biden’s weaknesses on inflation and immigration and dialing down the bombast, said Nieman, the Binghamton analyst.
“It would disappoint his base, but it would go far to make inroads with suburban, college-educated women,” he told AFP.
 


With its new pact with North Korea, Russia raises the stakes with the West over Ukraine

With its new pact with North Korea, Russia raises the stakes with the West over Ukraine
Updated 24 June 2024
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With its new pact with North Korea, Russia raises the stakes with the West over Ukraine

With its new pact with North Korea, Russia raises the stakes with the West over Ukraine
  • The new agreement with Pyongyang marked the strongest link between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War

MOSCOW: Behind the smiles, the balloons and the red-carpet pageantry of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to North Korea last week, a strong signal came through: In the spiraling confrontation with the US and its allies over Ukraine, the Russian leader is willing to challenge Western interests like never before.
The pact that he signed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un envisions mutual military assistance between Moscow and Pyongyang if either is attacked. Putin also announced for the first time that Russia could provide weapons to the isolated country, a move that could destabilize the Korean Peninsula and reverberate far beyond.
He described the potential arms shipments as a response to NATO allies providing Ukraine with longer-range weapons to attack Russia. He bluntly declared that Moscow has nothing to lose and is prepared to go “to the end” to achieve its goals in Ukraine.
Putin’s moves added to concerns in Washington and Seoul about what they see as an alliance in which North Korea provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
A landmark pact
The new agreement with Pyongyang marked the strongest link between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War.
Kim said it raised bilateral relations to the level of an alliance, while Putin was more cautious, noting the pledge of mutual military assistance mirrored a 1961 treaty between the Soviet Union and North Korea. That agreement was discarded after the Soviet collapse and replaced with a weaker one in 2000 when Putin first visited Pyongyang.
Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations noted that when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev signed the deal with Pyongyang in 1961, he also tested the world’s biggest nuclear bomb, built the Berlin Wall and probably started thinking about moves that led to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
“The question for Western policymakers now is whether Putin is becoming comparably reckless,” Sestanovich said in a commentary. “His language in North Korea — where he denounced the United States as a ‘worldwide neocolonialist dictatorship’ — might make you think so.”
South Korea responded by declaring it would consider sending arms to Ukraine in a major policy change for Seoul, which so far only has sent humanitarian assistance to Kyiv under a longstanding policy of not supplying weapons to countries engaged in conflict.
Putin insisted Seoul has nothing to worry about, since the new pact only envisions military assistance in case of aggression and should act as a deterrent to prevent a conflict. He strongly warned South Korea against providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, saying it would be a “very big mistake.”
“If that happens, then we will also make corresponding decisions that will hardly please the current leadership of South Korea,” he said.
Asked whether North Korean troops could fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine under the pact, Putin said there was no need for that.
Potential weapons for Pyongyang
Last month, Putin warned that Russia could provide long-range weapons to others to hit Western targets in response to NATO allies allowing Ukraine to use its allies’ arms to make limited attacks inside Russian territory.
He followed up on that warning Thursday with an explicit threat to provide weapons to North Korea.
“I wouldn’t exclude that in view of our agreements with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Putin said, adding that Moscow could mirror the arguments by NATO allies that it’s up to Ukraine to decide how to use Western weapons.
“We can similarly say that we supply something to somebody but have no control over what happens afterward,” Putin said. “Let them think about it.”
Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that Moscow could share weapons technologies with Pyongyang to help improve its ballistic missile capabilities, noting there is evidence of this happening already, with Russia possibly providing help to North Korea with its successful satellite launch in November, two months after Kim last met Putin.
“This is deeply concerning because of the substantial overlap between the technologies used for space launches and intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Terry said in a commentary. “Russia can also provide North Korea with critical help in areas where its capabilities are still nascent, such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles.”
While raising the prospect of arms supplies to Pyongyang that would violate UN sanctions, Putin also said Russia would take efforts at the world body to ease the restrictions — an apparent signal that Moscow may try to keep arms supplies to Pyongyang under the radar and maintain a degree of deniability to avoid accusations of breaching the sanctions.
Russia and North Korea have rejected assertions by the US and its allies that Pyongyang has given Moscow ballistic missiles and millions of artillery shells for use in Ukraine.
Going ‘to the end’ in a confrontation with the West
By explicitly linking prospective arms shipments to Pyongyang to Western moves on Ukraine, Putin warned Kyiv’s allies to back off as he pushes his goals in the war — or face a new round of confrontation.
“They are escalating the situation, apparently expecting that we will get scared at some point, and at the same time, they say that they want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield,” Putin said. “For Russia, it will mean an end to its statehood, an end to the millennium-long history of the Russian state. And a question arises: Why should we be afraid? Isn’t it better, then, to go to the end?”
Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, said Putin’s statement reflected an attempt to discourage the US and its allies from ramping up support for Kyiv as Russia pushes new offensives in several sectors of the front line.
“The situation is becoming increasingly dangerous, and Russia believes that it should quickly rap the West over its knuckles to show that its deeper engagement in the war will have a price,” he said in remarks carried by Dozhd, an independent Russian broadcaster.
He noted that Putin’s statement that Moscow wouldn’t know where its arms end up if sent to Pyongyang could have been a hint at North Korea’s role as an arms exporter.
Treading cautiously with China
Putin’s visits to North Korea handed a new challenge to Pyongyang’s top ally, China, potentially allowing Kim to hedge his bets and reduce his excessive reliance on Beijing.
China so far has avoided comment on the new pact, but many experts argue that Beijing won’t like losing sway over its neighbor.
Ever since Putin invaded Ukraine, Russia has come to increasingly depend on China as the main market for its energy exports and the source of high-tech technologies in the face of Western sanctions. While forging a revamped relationship with Pyongyang, the Kremlin will likely tread cautiously to avoid angering Beijing.
“Whether this upgraded Russia–North Korea relationship will be without limits depends upon China,” which will watch events closely, said Edward Howell of Chatham House in a commentary. “Beijing will have taken stern note of Kim Jong Un’s claim that Russia is North Korea’s ‘most honest friend.’ Despite the likely increase in cooperation in advanced military technology between Moscow and Pyongyang, China remains North Korea’s largest economic partner.”

 


IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant

IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant
Updated 24 June 2024
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IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant

IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant
  • The Zaporizhzhia plant’s Russia-installed management said some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions, but that nuclear safety measures remained fully operational

MOSCOW: The UN’s nuclear watchdog called on Sunday for a halt to attacks on Enerhodar, a town near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station after drone strikes this week hit two electricity substations serving the area.
The plant’s Russian-installed officials accused Ukraine of staging two drone strikes that destroyed one substation, damaged another and cut power to residents for a time.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made no reference to Ukraine and said the incidents had no affect on the Zaporizhzhia plant’s operations.
But he said the attacks had to stop.
“Whoever is behind this, it must stop. Drone usage against the plant and its vicinity is becoming increasingly more frequent,” Grossi said in a statement on the IAEA website.
“This is completely unacceptable and it runs counter to the safety pillars and concrete principles which have been accepted unanimously.”
Power had been cut to Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the plant, for 16 hours, he said. But neither of the attacks, which occurred on Wednesday and Friday, had any impact on the power lines that the nuclear plant uses to keep operating.
The Zaporizhzhia plant’s Russia-installed management said some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions, but that nuclear safety measures remained fully operational.
Ukrainian officials have made no comment on the incidents and Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the attacks exposed Ukraine’s disregard for nuclear safety.
Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early days of the February 2022 invasion, and Moscow and Kyiv have since regularly accused each other of endangering safety around the facility. It produces no electricity at the moment.
The IAEA maintains inspectors at the station.
Russia launched mass attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the first winter of the conflict and resumed a long series of attacks in March. Kyiv says the renewed attacks have knocked out half of its energy-generating capacity.