Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit

Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit
People take part in a demonstration for the return of Ukrainian prisoners of war, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, on the first day of the Summit on Peace in Ukraine, in Lucerne, on Jun. 15, 2024. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 15 June 2024
Follow

Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit

Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit
  • Among the singers were around 50 Ukrainian refugees, some wearing embroidered national dress and crowns of flowers
  • “It’s about freedom. I haven’t learned German but I feel a lot of power and freedom and joy,” Anna Haidash, a refugee from Odesa, said

LUCERNE: Dozens of Ukrainian refugees from choirs around Switzerland converged in the city of Lucerne on Saturday near a global summit to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” a choral work they say embodies their hopes for peace and freedom.
The singers gathered in a public square in Lucerne close to the mountaintop resort of Buergenstock where dozens of world leaders were meeting to try to build support for Ukraine’s peace proposals.
Among the singers were around 50 Ukrainian refugees, some wearing embroidered national dress and crowns of flowers, from five different choirs from around Switzerland. The country has accepted over 65,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
The rousing lyrics to “Ode to Joy” are by German poet Friedrich Schiller and laud the values of unity, hope and solidarity. “Ode to Joy” is also the anthem for the European Union to which Ukraine hopes to accede.
“It’s about freedom. I haven’t learned German but I feel a lot of power and freedom and joy,” Anna Haidash, a refugee from Odesa, told Reuters. “When you see all these people you feel you are not alone in this situation and in this song too.”
The choir, accompanied by a small orchestra, was surrounded by crowds of tourists next to Lucerne’s famous wooden Chapel Bridge and pro-Ukrainian protesters, some of whom joined in as they later sang the national anthem.
“They want to appeal to the world with Beethoven’s great music and reaffirm their wish of peace and freedom for their battered country on its way to Europe,” event organizer Daniela Majer said.
The melody has been used in the past as a protest anthem to celebrate resistance to oppression, for example during the Tiananmen Square protests in China and to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.


Top UN court says Israel’s settlement policy in occupied territories violates international law

Top UN court says Israel’s settlement policy in occupied territories violates international law
Updated 20 sec ago
Follow

Top UN court says Israel’s settlement policy in occupied territories violates international law

Top UN court says Israel’s settlement policy in occupied territories violates international law
  • Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 1967 war

THE HAGUE: The top United Nations court said Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem violates international law, as it delivered a non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state, a ruling that could have more effect on international opinion than it will on Israeli policies.
International Court of Justice President Nawaf Salam was expected to take about an hour to read out the full opinion of the panel, which is made up of 15 judges from around the world.
In part of the opinion, he said the panel had found that "the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” The court also noted with “grave concern” that Israel’s settlement policy has been expanding.
The court also found that Israel's use of natural resources was “inconsistent” with its obligations under international law as an occupying power.
Friday’s hearing comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating 10-month military assault on Gaza, which was triggered by the Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel. In a separate case, the International Court of Justice is considering a South African claim that Israel’s campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide, a claim that Israel vehemently denies.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state.
Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory, whose future should be decided in negotiations, while it has moved population there in settlements to solidify its hold. It has annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized, while it withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but maintained a blockade of the territory after Hamas took power in 2007. The international community generally considers all three areas to be occupied territory.
At hearings in February, then-Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki accused Israel of apartheid and urged the United Nations’ top court to declare that Israel’s occupation of lands sought by the Palestinians is illegal and must end immediately and unconditionally for any hope for a two-state future to survive.
Israel, which normally considers the United Nations and international tribunals as unfair and biased, did not send a legal team to the hearings. But it submitted written comments, saying that the questions put to the court are prejudiced and “fail to recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens,” address Israeli security concerns or acknowledge Israel-Palestinian agreements to negotiate issues, including “the permanent status of the territory, security arrangements, settlements, and borders.”
The Palestinians presented arguments in February along with 49 other nations and three international organizations.
Erwin van Veen, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael think tank in The Hague, said that if the court rules that Israel’s policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem breach international law, that is unlikely to change Israeli policies but it would “isolate Israel further internationally, at least from a legal point of view.”
He said such a ruling would “worsen the case for occupation. It removes any kind of legal, political, philosophical underpinning of the Israeli expansion project.”
It would also strengthen the hand of “those who seek to advocate against it” — such as the grassroots Palestinian-led movement advocating boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
He said it also could increase the number of countries that recognize the state of Palestine, in particular in the Western world, following the recent example of Spain and Norway and Ireland.”
It is not the first time the ICJ has been asked to give its legal opinion on Israeli policies. Two decades ago, the court ruled that Israel’s West Bank separation barrier was “contrary to international law.” Israel boycotted those proceedings, saying they were politically motivated.
Israel says the barrier is a security measure. Palestinians say the structure amounts to a massive land grab because it frequently dips into the West Bank.
The U.N. General Assembly voted by a wide margin in December 2022 to ask the world court for the advisory opinion. Israel vehemently opposed the request that was promoted by the Palestinians. Fifty countries abstained from voting.
Israel has built well over 100 settlements, according to the anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now. The West Bank settler population has grown by more than 15% in the past five years to more than 500,000 Israelis, according to a pro-settler group.
Israel also has annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city to be its capital. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in settlements built in east Jerusalem that Israel considers to be neighborhoods of its capital. Palestinian residents of the city face systematic discrimination, making it difficult for them to build new homes or expand existing ones.
The international community considers all settlements to be illegal or obstacles to peace since they are built on lands sought by the Palestinians for their state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government is dominated by settlers and their political supporters. Netanyahu has given his finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, a former settler leader, unprecedented authority over settlement policy. Smotrich has used this position to cement Israel’s control over the West Bank by pushing forward plans to build more settlement homes and to legalize outposts.
Authorities recently approved the appropriation of 12.7 square kilometers (nearly 5 square miles) of land in the Jordan Valley, a strategic piece of land deep inside the West Bank, according to a copy of the order obtained by The Associated Press. Data from Peace Now, the tracking group, indicate it was the largest single appropriation approved since the 1993 Oslo accords at the start of the peace process.


Zelensky makes ‘historic’ address to UK Cabinet

Zelensky makes ‘historic’ address to UK Cabinet
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Zelensky makes ‘historic’ address to UK Cabinet

Zelensky makes ‘historic’ address to UK Cabinet
  • Zelensky gave members of the new Labour government a rundown of the latest situation in Ukraine
  • The Ukrainian president and Starmer had a one-on-one meeting beforehand, in which he thanked Britain for its sustained backing for Kyiv

LONDON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday received a standing ovation from senior ministers as he became the first foreign leader to address the British cabinet in person since 1997.
Zelensky gave members of the new Labour government a rundown of the latest situation in Ukraine after a red-carpet welcome at Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s 10 Downing Street residence and office.
He and Starmer had a one-on-one meeting beforehand, in which he thanked Britain for its sustained backing for Kyiv since Russian forces invaded in February 2022.
“Thank for the invitation, for the privilege, for me to be here,” he told Starmer, who led Labour to victory in elections two weeks ago and has reaffirmed UK support for Ukraine “for as along as it takes.”
Zelensky on Thursday urged European leaders to remain united against Russian aggression, as he seeks more military help, including much-needed air firepower to push back Russian troops.
At Cabinet, dressed in his trademark army fatigues, and flanked on either side by Britain’s Union flag and the blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine, he renewed his call for help in boosting his country’s “long-range capability.”
“If the restrictions on using Western weapons against Russian military are lifted, we can strike further than just near the border,” he told ministers.
That would allow Ukraine to “not only protect ourselves from any Russian offensives but also secure our frontline positions and cities from Russian bombs,” he added.
International support
NATO member states, including the UK, have been hesitant about Ukraine using Western-supplied weapons such as missiles on targets inside Russia, for fear of escalating the conflict.
Britain has signalled that Ukrainian forces could use UK-supplied Storm Shadow missiles for defensive strikes.
“We’re providing weapons to Ukraine for their defense of their sovereign country. And that does not preclude them hitting targets in Russia,” Defense Secretary John Healey told BBC radio.
“But that must be done by the Ukrainians, it must be done within the parameters and the bounds of international humanitarian law,” added Healey, who visited Ukraine within days of his appointment.
The last foreign leader to address the British Cabinet in person was US president Bill Clinton in 1997 after Labour’s Tony Blair swept to power, also in a landslide win over the Conservatives.
Zelensky’s “historic address,” as Starmer called it, came as 44 countries and the European Union agreed to target Russia’s so-called “shadow fleet” of tankers seeking to evade sanctions on Russian oil.
The 600 or so vessels — most of them old and unsafe — transport 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, providing funding for the Russian war effort, but also allegedly carrying weapons.


Britain will resume funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

Britain will resume funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Britain will resume funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

Britain will resume funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA
  • Britain was one of several countries to halt their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel

LONDON: Britain’s new Labour government said on Friday it would resume funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and called on Israel to allow more aid to enter Gaza.
Britain was one of several countries to halt their funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) following accusations by Israel that some agency staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war.
British foreign minister David Lammy told parliament he was reassured that the agency, which provides education, health and aid to millions of Palestinians, had taken steps to “ensure it meets the highest standards of neutrality” and the government would now provide 21 million pounds ($27.1 million) in new funding.
Lammy said malnutrition in Gaza was now so severe that mothers could not produce breast milk for their children and the rates of diarrhea were 40 times their normal rates and polio had been detected.
“Humanitarian aid is a moral necessity in the face of such a catastrophe, and it is aid agencies who ensure UK support reaches civilians on the ground,” he said.
“UNRWA is absolutely central to these efforts. No other agency can deliver aid at the scale needed.”
Other countries including Japan, Germany, Italy, Australia and Canada have resumed funding to the agency.
Israel accuses UNRWA of complicity with Hamas, saying the militant Islamist group was embedded within the UN agency’s infrastructure.
A review, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, published in April said Israel had not provided evidence for its accusations that hundreds of are members of militant groups.
In February, Britain’s then-foreign minister David Cameron said he wanted an “absolute guarantee” that UNRWA would not employ staff who were willing to attack Israel.
Cameron was replaced by Lammy as foreign minister following the Labour Party’s July 4 election win.


South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew

South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew

South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew
  • The South Korean broadcasts could trigger an angry response from North Korea

SEOUL: South Korea said Friday it has restarted blasting propaganda broadcasts into North Korea to retaliate against the North’s latest round of trash-carrying balloon launches, a resumption of Cold War-style tactics that are raising animosities between the rivals.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it used front-line loudspeakers to blare anti-Pyongyang broadcasts over the border between Thursday evening and Friday morning. It said the South Korean military turned on loudspeakers again later Friday as it found out the North was preparing to fly more balloons.
The broadcasts were the first of their kind in about 40 days. The contents of the broadcasts were not immediately known, but previous ones last month reportedly included K-pop songs, weather forecasts and news on Samsung, the biggest South Korean company, as well as outside criticism of the North’s missile program and its crackdown on foreign video.
The South Korean broadcasts could trigger an angry response from North Korea because it is extremely sensitive to any outside attempt to undermine its political system. In 2015, when South Korea restarted loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border, prompting the South to return fire, according to South Korean officials. No casualties were reported.
South Korea’s military said North Korea must be blamed for heightened tensions because it ignored South Korea’s repeated warnings and continued its “despicable” balloon campaigns. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the South Korean military will conduct loudspeaker broadcasts in a fuller manner and other stronger steps if North Korea continues provocations like balloon launches.
South Korea’s military earlier said North Korea’s launch on Thursday afternoon was its eighth balloon campaign since late May. About 200 North Korean balloons were found on South Korean soil as of Friday morning, and they mostly carried waste papers, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Previous North Korean-flown balloons carried scraps of cloth, cigarette butts, waste batteries and even manure, though they caused no major damages in South Korea. North Korea said they were sent in response to South Korean activists sending political leaflets to the North via their own balloons.
South Korea responded by suspending a 2018 tension-reduction deal with North Korea, conducting propaganda broadcasts for two hours on June 9 and front-line live-fire military drills at border areas.
Earlier this week, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hinted at flying rubbish-carrying balloons again or launching new countermeasures, saying South Korean balloons have been found again at border and other areas in North Korea. In her statement Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong warned that South Korean “scum” must be ready to pay “a gruesome and dear price.” That raised concerns that North Korea could stage physical provocations, rather than balloon launches.
South Korea’s military said Wednesday it has boosted its readiness to brace for any provocation by North Korea. It said North Korea may fire at incoming South Korean balloons across the border or floating mines downriver.
It wasn’t immediately known whether groups in South Korea have recently scattered leaflets in North Korea. For years, activist groups led by North Korean defectors have used helium-filled balloons to drop anti-North Korean leaflets, USB sticks containing K-pop music and South Korean dramas and US dollar bills in the North.
North Korea views such activities as a serious security threat and challenge to its ban on foreign news for most of its 26 million people. In 2020, North Korea destroyed an unoccupied South Korean-built liaison office on its territory in a furious response to South Korean civilian leafleting campaigns. In 2014, North Korea fired at balloons flying toward its territory and South Korea returned fire, though there were no casualties.
Tensions between the Koreas have heightened in recent years because of North Korea’s missile tests and the expansion of U.S-South Korean military drills that North Korea calls invasion rehearsals. Experts say North Korea’s expanding ties with Russia could embolden Kim Jong Un to stage bigger provocations, particularly ahead of the US presidential election in November.
North Korea’s state media said Friday that Kim met a visiting Russian delegation led by Vice Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko. During the meeting, Kim stressed the need for the two countries’ armies to unite more firmly to defend international peace and justice, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
In June, Kim met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang and signed a deal requiring each country to provide aid to the other if it is attacked and vowed to boost other cooperation. Analysts say the accord represents the strongest connection between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.


Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world

Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world

Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world
  • DownDectector, which tracks user-reported disruptions, recorded growing outages in Visa, ADT security and Amazon
  • News outlets in Australia, including the ABC and Sky News, were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels

WELLINGTON: A widespread Microsoft outage was disrupting flights, banks, media outlets and companies around the world on Friday.
Escalating disruptions continued hours after the technology company said it was gradually fixing an issue affecting access to Microsoft 365 apps and services.
The website DownDectector, which tracks user-reported internet outages, recorded growing outages in services at Visa, ADT security and Amazon, and airlines including American Airlines and Delta.
News outlets in Australia reported that airlines, telecommunications providers and banks, and media broadcasters were disrupted as they lost access to computer systems. Some New Zealand banks said they were also offline.
Microsoft 365 posted on X that the company was “working on rerouting the impacted traffic to alternate systems to alleviate impact in a more expedient fashion” and that they were “observing a positive trend in service availability.”
The company did not respond to a request for comment. It did not explain the cause of the outage further.
Meanwhile, major disruptions reported by airlines and airports grew.
In the U.S., the FAA said the airlines United, American, Delta and Allegiant had all been grounded.
Airlines, railways and television stations in the United Kingdom were being disrupted by the computer issues. The budget airline Ryanair, train operators TransPennine Express and Govia Thameslink Railway, as well as broadcaster Sky News are among those affected.
“We’re currently experiencing disruption across the network due to a global third party IT outage which is out of our control,’’ Ryanair said. “We advise all passengers to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their scheduled departure time.”
Widespread problems were reported at Australian airports, where lines grew and some passengers were stranded as online check-in services and self-service booths were disabled. Passengers in Melbourne queued for more than an hour to check in.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said on its website that the outage was having a “major impact on flights” to and from the busy European hub. The outage came on one of the busiest days of the year for the airport, at the start of many people’s summer vacations.
In Germany, Berlin Airport said Friday morning that “due to a technical fault, there will be delays in check-in.” It said that flights were suspended until 10 a.m. (0800GMT), without giving details, German news agency dpa reported.
At Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, some US-bound flights had posted delays, while others were unaffected.
Australian outages reported on the site included the banks NAB, Commonwealth and Bendigo, and the airlines Virgin Australia and Qantas, as well as internet and phone providers such as Telstra.
News outlets in Australia — including the ABC and Sky News — were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels, and reported sudden shutdowns of Windows-based computers. Some news anchors broadcast live online from dark offices, in front of computers showing “blue screens of death.”
Shoppers were unable to pay at some supermarkets and stores due to payment system outages.
The New Zealand banks ASB and Kiwibank said their services were down.
An X user posted a screenshot of an alert from the company Crowdstrike that said the company was aware of “reports of crashes on Windows hosts” related to its Falcon Sensor platform. The alert was posted on a password-protected Crowdstrike site and could not be verified. Crowdstrike did not respond to a request for comment.