G7 officials play down expectations on details of loan for Ukraine

G7 officials play down expectations on details of loan for Ukraine
US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen holds a press conference ahead of the G7 Finance Minister and Central Bank Governors' Meeting in Stresa, Italy. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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G7 officials play down expectations on details of loan for Ukraine

G7 officials play down expectations on details of loan for Ukraine
  • Using Russian assets for Ukraine not simple, G7 chair says
  • Agreement on Ukraine loan seen ‘in principle’

STRESA, Italy: G7 finance chiefs are not expected to agree on details of a loan for Ukraine at their meeting in Italy starting on Friday, several officials said, leaving much work ahead in coming weeks or months to secure more financing for the war-torn country.
The United States has been pushing its allies to agree to a loan backed by the future income from some $300 billion of Russian assets frozen shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the loan could amount to some $50 billion, but that no amounts have been agreed. Other G7 officials involved in the negotiations voiced caution, citing thorny legal and technical aspects to be hammered out.
“With great difficulty we have found a compromise for the use of the interest (already accrued),” Italian Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti told reporters, referring to a deal already struck by the European Union.
“The problem is how the legal basis for this can be used for future profits.”
Giorgetti, who will chair the meeting as Italy holds the G7 presidency this year, said finding a solution “will not be simple,” and added that several central banks had expressed reservations over the US proposal.
Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of Seven industrial democracies — the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — are meeting in the northern Italian lakeside town of Stresa on Friday and Saturday.
One European official said the communique at the end of the meeting would probably include an agreement on a loan in principle, but no details.
“I don’t think there will be any numbers,” the official said when asked about the $50 billion figure.
“There will be no decisions on the matter taken at Stresa,” another European official said.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner also said many questions remained open and he did not expect the G7 to reach any concrete decision at the Stresa gathering.
In that case, officials will continue to negotiate in the hope of making progress by the time G7 heads of government meet in the southern Italian region of Puglia on June 13-15.
Yellen, at a news conference on Thursday, said she expected a “general agreement on the concept” of using the earnings from Russian assets to provide Ukraine with significant financial support beyond 2025.
A key condition for European Union countries, where most of the assets are held, is to not confiscate the asset principal and harness only the earnings.
Giorgetti said a loan backed by future income from the frozen assets would meet with Russian retaliation, and stressed any deal must have a “solid legal basis,” echoing comments made this week by Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.
Under the proposal being discussed, the loan would be disbursed to Kyiv in one lump sum, Giorgetti said, and could possibly be issued by the G7 countries directly rather than through a global financial institution such as the World Bank.


Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Updated 6 sec ago
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Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
  • The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime

GENEVA: Campaign groups called on the United Nations human rights chief on Thursday to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and Amnesty International said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk had not followed up on a 2022 report by his own predecessor that found China may have committed crimes against humanity.
China defended its record and dismissed the groups’ statement given at a meeting in the Geneva headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council.
Volker did not attend the meeting and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After taking office in October 2022, the Austrian former lawyer said he stood by the report and wanted to engage China over the findings.
The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime.
China has repeatedly denied accusations of abuses in its northwest Xinjiang region.
Just before Turk took office, mostly non-Western members of the Rights Council voted down a motion brought by the US, Britain and other mostly Western powers to hold a debate about the report — a result that was seen as a diplomatic victory for Beijing.
“To date there has been no action, no meaningful action,” Zumretay Arkin, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, told Thursday’s meeting. “We are here to remind everyone ... that impunity cannot be the solution.”
The campaign groups, also including Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights, translated the 2022 report into five languages, published them and called for Turk to give an update on how his office and China had responded to the report’s recommendations.
China’s attache at its mission in Geneva, Zhu Kexing, told the session: “In order to discredit China and hinder China’s development, a small number of NGOs and Western countries do not hesitate to act as liars and rumor-makers to serve their anti-China separatist plots.”
Several countries including the United States and Australia also voiced concerns about the lack of follow-up on the 2022 report but stopped short of giving specific recommendations on how Turk’s office should react.

 


US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software
Updated 7 min 47 sec ago
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US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular anti-virus products in the country, the US Commerce Department announced.
“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the Commerce Department said in a statement announcing the action, which it said is the first of its kind.
 

 


Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily
Updated 15 min 36 sec ago
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Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

MOSCOW: Russians on Thursday reported some problems with processing payments at major banks after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Russian banks, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
At least one Russian bank was telling clients that it was having trouble sending messages containing codes to confirm payments, a Reuters reporter said.
The Kommersant newspaper said Russians had reported problems using the websites of major banks, as well as with the Telegram messaging app and with major mobile phone networks.
It cited Russia’s payments cards operator as saying that the disruption had been short-lived and that the fast payments system was now working as usual.
The IT army of Ukraine, a group of volunteers committed to disrupting Russian digital communications, later issued a statement saying it was responsible the Russian bank outages.


US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden
Updated 25 min 15 sec ago
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US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden

US philanthropist Melinda French Gates endorses Biden
  • French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion

WASHINGTON: American philanthropist Melinda French Gates, the ex-wife of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, endorsed President Joe Biden on Thursday for November’s US election, arguing that he is the best candidate for women.
“I’ve never endorsed a presidential candidate before. But this year’s election stands to be so enormously consequential for women and families that, this time, I can’t stay quiet,” she said on X.
“Women deserve a leader who cares about the issues they face and is committed to protecting their safety, their health, their economic power, their reproductive rights, and their ability to freely and fully participate in a functioning democracy.”
French Gates, who recently stepped down as president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the contrast between Biden and his Republican opponent Donald Trump “couldn’t be greater, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
“I will be voting for President Biden,” she concluded.
Reproductive rights have been an effective political cudgel for Democrats in the two years since the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion a constitutionally protected right.
A comfortable majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in most cases, according to extensive polling, and around half of states have measures in place to protect access.
The issue has been a major theme of the election campaign, with Biden supporting women’s right to choose and Trump failing to stake out a clear-cut position beyond pride in appointing three of the justices who struck down Roe v Wade.
French Gates announced in May that she would be using her $12.5 billion fortune to help “women and families,” making a first payment of $1 billion.
She said the Supreme Court ruling on abortion had prompted her to devote herself to defending women’s rights.


Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts

Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts
Updated 50 min 56 sec ago
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Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts

Mystery sonic boom rattles Mediterranean resorts
  • The Corriere della Sera daily quoted an unnamed person from Italy’s civil protection agency saying “the impact would have been registered by seismographs

ROME: A sonic boom heard in Tuscany and on the French island of Corsica, initially mistaken by holidaymakers, locals and officials for an earthquake, may have been a meteorite, experts said Thursday.
The town of Campo nell’Elba, on the Italian tourist island of Elba, said on its Facebook page that a nearby tracking station had “captured a seismic, acoustic event felt by everyone” at 4:30pm (1430gmt).
Corsican media reports said it was also felt on the island.
Tuscany regional government president Eugenio Giani initially said it was an earthquake, before backtracking after Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) ruled one out.
The Italian Air Force told Giani it had nothing to do with the sonic boom.
“The type of event which caused the tremor, felt by many as an earthquake over the entire coast of Tuscany and in some inland areas, is currently unconfirmed,” Giani wrote on social media.
The region’s Geophysics Institute and the University of Florence said in a joint statement that whatever caused the boom was traveling at 400 miles per second.
“A meteorite entering the atmosphere seems the most likely and in line with the data registered.”
The Corriere della Sera daily quoted an unnamed person from Italy’s civil protection agency saying “the impact would have been registered by seismographs. The most likely hypothesis is still an airplane.”
It is not the first time mysterious sonic booms have been registered on Elba, the Corriere della Sera said. Similar events in 2012, 2016 and 2023 have yet to be explained, it said.