Ukraine says seized cargo ship used for Crimea grain exports

Ukraine says seized cargo ship used for Crimea grain exports
The Security Services of Ukraine claimed that the grain exported by Usko Mfu had been produced in southern Ukraine. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Ukraine says seized cargo ship used for Crimea grain exports

Ukraine says seized cargo ship used for Crimea grain exports
  • Kyiv has accused Moscow of illegally harvesting and shipping grain produced on occupied territory to third countries
  • Prosecutors say 12 other foreign crew members were on board at the time of the vessel’s seizure

KYIV: Kyiv said Thursday that it had seized a foreign cargo ship and detained its captain, alleging that the vessel had illegally exported Ukrainian grain from the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Since Russia’s capture of swaths of agricultural land in Ukraine in early 2022, Kyiv has accused Moscow of illegally harvesting and shipping grain produced on occupied territory to third countries.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said it had “seized” a foreign vessel in the Odesa region that had earlier exported agricultural products via the Crimean port of Sevastopol — a key military hub for Russia in the Black Sea.
The Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) said in a separate statement that it had detained the ship’s captain, accusing him of violating rules on entering occupied territory.
It also claimed that the grain exported by the vessel — Usko Mfu — had been produced in southern Ukraine.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, the SBU said, while prosecutors identified the captain as a citizen of Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet country in the South Caucasus.
Prosecutors said 12 other foreign crew members were also on board at the time of the vessel’s seizure, without elaborating on their nationality or whether they too would face charges.
The Cameroonian-flagged vessel illegally docked at Sevastopol in November 2023 and was loaded with more than 3,000 tons of agricultural products “intended for a Turkish company,” prosecutors said.
“To conceal the illegal activity, the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was turned off before entering the port of Sevastopol, which is a gross violation of maritime safety requirements,” their statement added.
Prosecutors said the ship returned to Sevastopol a second time in May this year.
It was seized at the Ukrainian port of Reni, they added, where they discovered documents issued by Sevastopol port authorities.
Igor Delanoe — deputy director of the Franco-Russian Observatory — said this was the first time Ukraine had seized an internationally-flagged vessel over the shipments.
“The signal is that they want to make third countries face up to their responsibilities,” he said.
“From the Ukrainian point of view, these countries are supporting Russia by their silence, while at the same time benefiting from grain that Ukrainians consider stolen,” he added.
The European Union in May imposed “prohibitive” duties on grain imports from Russia in a bid to cut off revenues to Moscow for its war on Ukraine.
The bloc’s trade commissioner said the measure would “tackle illegal Russian exports of stolen Ukraine grain into EU markets.”
The head of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, said Thursday that Russian forces caused fires on dozens of hectares of Ukrainian land growing grain.
He also said that Russian forces had struck a grain storage facility in the region and attacked firefighters who arrived to extinguish the fire with drones.


US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

Updated 11 sec ago
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US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
  • If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said

NEW YORK: The Treasury Department ordered the nation’s banking industry to start disclosing its holdings of Russian assets on Tuesday, with the goal of eventually seizing those billions of dollars in assets and selling them to aid the devastated Ukrainian economy.
The disclosure is required under a new law passed by Congress earlier this year known as the REPO Act, which gives the US government the authority to seize Russian state assets held by US banks, with the goal of eventually selling them and giving those funds to Ukraine. While the vast bulk of Russian assets are held in Europe, it is estimated that the US banking system holds as much as $6 billion in Russian assets in trust.
Banks will need to report Russian assets on their books no later than Aug. 2 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has killed tens of thousands but has also caused significant devastation to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. The World Bank estimated in February that Ukraine will need $486 billion for recovery and reconstruction, a figure that has only risen as the war has continued.
The US, Canada, France, Germany Italy, the UK and Japan — commonly known as the G7 — froze roughly $300 billion worth of Russian assets at the start of the war. These assets included hard currency, as well as gold and investments in publicly and privately-held companies. But there has been little conversation until this year about what to do with those frozen assets, until the idea of forfeiture and liquidation was included in the REPO Act.


Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
Updated 8 min 23 sec ago
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Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
  • Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress

WASHINGTON: Protesters against the Gaza war staged a sit-in at a congressional office building Tuesday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress, with Capitol Police making multiple arrests.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Dozens of protesters rallied outside his hotel Monday evening, and on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators took over the rotunda of the Cannon Building, which houses offices of House of Representatives members.
Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, protesters wearing identical red T-shirts that read “Not In Our Name” took over the Rotunda of the Cannon Building, chanting “Let Gaza Live!”
After about a half-hour of clapping and chanting, officers from the US Capitol Police issued several warnings, then began arresting protesters — binding their hands with zip ties and leading them away one by one.
“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and I know what a Holocaust looks like,” said Jane Hirschmann, a native of Saugerties, New York, who drove down for the protest along with her two daughters — both of whom were arrested. “When we say ‘Never Again,’ we mean never for anybody.”
The demonstrators focused much of their ire on the Biden administration, demanding that the president immediately cease all arms shipments to Israel.
“We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom,” Hirschmann said. “But how can (Biden) be calling for a ceasefire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”
It wasn’t immediately clear how many protesters had been arrested.
Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said in a statement that his office called for Capitol Police intervention after the demonstrators “became disruptive, violently beating on the office doors, shouting loudly, and attempting to force entry into the office.”
Netanyahu’s American visit has touched off a wave of protest activity, with some demonstrations condemning Israel and others expressing support but pressuring Netanyahu to strike a ceasefire deal and bring home the hostages still being held by Hamas.
Families of some of the remaining hostages were planning a protest vigil Tuesday night on the National Mall. And multiple overlapping protests are planned for Wednesday, when Netanyahu is slated to address Congress. In anticipation, police have significantly boosted security around the Capitol building and closed multiple roads for the entire week.
Biden and Netanyahu are expected to meet Thursday, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement. Vice President Kamala Harris will also meet with Netanyahu separately that day.
Harris, as Senate president, would normally sit behind foreign leaders addressing Congress, but she’ll be away Wednesday, on an Indianapolis trip scheduled before Biden withdrew his reelection bid and she became the likely Democratic presidential candidate over the weekend.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he would meet with Netanyahu on Friday.


Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
Updated 21 min 8 sec ago
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Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
  • Chad’s foreign ministry did not say why they had been arrested
  • It added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks

N’DJAMENA: Chad repatriated 157 of its citizens who had been detained in neighboring Libya on Tuesday, working in partnership with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Libyan state, its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Chadian nationals were flown back to the Sahel country on a special flight, the statement said.

It did not say why the Chadians had been arrested but added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks in order to “release and repatriate” all Chadians still detained in the North African country, and said that a “diaspora conference” would be organized in the coming days.

The repatriation flight comes a week after President Mahamat Idriss Deby attended an international forum on trans-Mediterranean migration in Libya.

Deby, who seized power after rebels killed his father in 2021, was sworn in as president in May following a controversial election. 


Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics
Updated 34 min 25 sec ago
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Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Israeli athletes were “welcome” for the Paris Olympics, rejecting calls from some left-wing French MPs and the Palestinian Olympic Committee for a boycott.

“Israeli athletes are welcome in our country. They must be able to compete under their colors because the Olympic movement has decided it,” he told France 2 television in an interview, adding that it was “France’s responsibility to provide them with security.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible way all those who create risks for these athletes and implicitly threaten them,” he said.

He added that Israel had “the right to defend itself” but called the continuing bombardment of Gaza — where 39,090 people have died, according to the latest estimate from the Hamas-run health ministry — “unacceptable.”

“France was one of the first countries in Europe to call for a ceasefire,” he added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and Macron said Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would also be “welcome” but was not expected because he is in the United States.

Discussing the opening ceremony for the Paris Games as helicopters could be heard in the background hovering over the capital, Macron said that “we will all see on Friday night why it was worth the hassle.”

Much of central Paris is off-limits ahead of the ceremony along the river Seine, with 45,000 members of the security forces set to be on duty as well as 10,000 soldiers to prevent any incident that would ruin the show.

“There is a security challenge and it’s true for all capitals which organize the Games,” Macron said. “It’s true for the opening ceremony. It will be true for the whole of the Games.”

“We need to come together as France that is welcoming the world,” added the centrist, who called snap elections in June that have led to political deadlock in parliament.

Asked about the artists set to perform on Friday evening, he said it would be “fantastic news” if Quebec-born singer Celine Dion could take part, but he declined to confirm her presence.

Dion has been spotted in Paris, while video of Lady Gaga in the City of Light has also fueled rumors that she might be one of the top international performers.


Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister

Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister
Updated 23 July 2024
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Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister

Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister
  • France’s leftist New Popular Front coalition, which won the largest number of seats in parliament in elections this month proposed financial crime specialist Lucie Castets
  • When asked about Castets, who is unknown to the public, Macron told France 2: “The issue is: Which majority can emerge at the (National) Assembly?“

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday his outgoing government will remain in place until mid-August while France hosts the Olympic Games, dismissing an effort by a left-wing alliance to name a prime minister.
France’s leftist New Popular Front coalition, which won the largest number of seats in parliament in elections this month proposed financial crime specialist Lucie Castets as its candidate for prime minister only an hour before Macron spoke in a TV interview.
But when asked about Castets, who is unknown to the public, Macron told France 2: “This is not the issue. The name is not the issue. The issue is: Which majority can emerge at the (National) Assembly?“
“Until mid-August, we’re in no position to change things, because it would create disorder,” Macron added.
The Olympic Games in Paris, which run from Friday to Aug. 11, are a major logistics and security challenge for France, with 35 venues and an estimated 10,500 athletes.
France has been in a state of parliamentary deadlock since the election. No party won an outright majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, which is instead fragmented broadly into three blocs.
The leftist coalition has sought to propose a new prime minister to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, but has ruled out striking deals with other political forces and does not have enough seats to form a majority government.
According to the French constitution, it is up to the president to name a prime minister, so the leftist coalition has no way to force Macron’s hand. Instead, the president urged political parties to work on forming a broader coalition.
Castets is a director of finance and purchasing at Paris city hall. She graduated from France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration school for civil servants in 2013, but she has no background in party politics.
The four parties in the leftist NPF — the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists, the Greens and the Communists — have been arguing for weeks over who to propose as prime minister.
The outgoing government acts as caretaker, running day-to-day matters without being able to pass new legislation.