US sending Ukraine more weapons, dozens evacuated from steelworks

Dozens of civilians were evacuated from Mariupol’s besieged steelworks, the last pocket of resistance against Russian troops in the port city. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 May 2022

US sending Ukraine more weapons, dozens evacuated from steelworks

  • Friday’s new batch brings the total value of US weaponry sent to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began to $3.8 billion

ZAPORIZHZHIA: US President Joe Biden announced another package of military assistance for Ukraine, as dozens of civilians were evacuated from Mariupol’s besieged steelworks, the last pocket of resistance against Russian troops in the port city.
Worth $150 million, the latest security assistance would include artillery munitions and radars, Biden said, as the country braces for fresh bombardment by Moscow’s forces ahead of May 9, the day Russia celebrates the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War II.
A senior US official said the aid included counter-artillery radars used for detecting the source of enemy fire as well as electronic jamming equipment.
Friday’s new batch brings the total value of US weaponry sent to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began to $3.8 billion.
The president urged Congress to further approve a huge $33 billion package, including $20 billion in military aid, “to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
The Pentagon meanwhile denied reports it helped Ukrainian forces sink the Russian warship Moskva in the Black Sea last month.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US had “no prior knowledge” of the plan to strike the ship, which sank leaving a still-unclear number of Russian sailors dead or missing.
While providing Ukraine with military aid, the United States has sought to limit knowledge of the full extent of its assistance to avoid provoking Russia into a broader conflict beyond Ukraine.
Biden, other G7 leaders, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky are to meet virtually on Sunday to discuss Western support for Kyiv.

On Friday Zelensky said “diplomatic options” were also under way to rescue Ukrainian soldiers from the Mariupol steelworks, as civilian evacuations continued.
The Russian defense ministry said 50 people were evacuated from the site, including 11 children.
It added they were handed over to the UN and Red Cross, which are assisting in the operation, and that the “humanitarian operation” would continue on Saturday.
About 200 civilians, including children, are estimated to still be trapped in the Soviet-era tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling Azovstal factory, along with a group of Ukrainian soldiers making their last stand.
Russia announced a daytime cease-fire at the plant for three days starting Thursday but the Ukrainian army said Russian “assault operations” had continued by ground and by air.
Ukraine’s Azov battalion, leading the defense at Azovstal, said one Ukrainian fighter had been killed and six wounded when Russian forces opened fire during an attempt to evacuate people by car.
Azov battalion leader Andriy Biletsky wrote on Telegram that the situation at the plant was critical.
“The shelling does not stop. Every minute of waiting is costing the lives of civilians, soldiers, and the wounded.”

Ten weeks into a war that has killed thousands, destroyed cities and uprooted more than 13 million people, defeating the resistance at Azovstal and taking full control of strategically located Mariupol would be a major win for Moscow.
It would also be a symbolic success ahead of May 9, when Russia marks the anniversary of its 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany.
Ukrainian officials believe Moscow is planning a May 9 military parade in Mariupol, though the Kremlin has denied any such plans.
Officials have also said they expect the anniversary will coincide with an escalation of the war throughout the country.
“In the coming days, there is a high probability of rocket fire in all regions of Ukraine,” mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said in a statement on social media.
“Be careful and follow the rules of security in wartime.”
The eastern city of Odessa will also impose a longer curfew on May 8-9, its mayor said, as will Poltava in the country’s center.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that the G7 meeting will come a day before “Victory Day” and the leaders will demonstrate “unity in our collective response.”
“While (Russian President Vladimir Putin) expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv, that’s obviously not what’s going to happen,” Psaki said.

Since failing to take Kyiv early on in the war, Russia has refocused its offensive on the south and east of Ukraine.
Taking full control of Mariupol would allow Moscow to create a land bridge between the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and separatist, pro-Russian regions in the east.
In those regions, separatists said they had removed Ukrainian and English language traffic signs for Mariupol and replaced them with Russian ones.
Locals want to see proof that “Russia has come back here forever,” said Denis Pushilin, head of the breakaway region of Donetsk.
In neighboring Lugansk, Ukrainian officials said on Friday that Russian forces had almost encircled Severodonetsk — the easternmost city still held by Kyiv — and are trying to storm it.
Kherson in the south remains the only significant city Russia has managed to capture since the war began.
A senior official from the Russian parliament visiting the city on Friday also emphasised that Russia would remain in southern Ukraine “forever.”
“There should be no doubt about this. There will be no return to the past,” Andrey Turchak said.

On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted its first declaration on Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24.
It backed Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s efforts to find a “peaceful solution” to the war but stopped short of supporting a mediation effort led by him.
Russia then vetoed a resolution condemning the invasion and asking Moscow to move its army back to Russian soil.
Ukraine’s Western allies have supported Kyiv with financial and military assistance, and have slapped unprecedented sanctions on Russia.
As European countries have sought to clamp down on Russian assets overseas, Italian authorities impounded a mega yacht as speculation swirled it might even belong to the Russian president.
“Scheherazade,” worth an estimated $700 million, has been the subject of a probe into its ownership by Italy’s financial police, which has helped “establish significant economic and business links” between the ship’s owner and “eminent people in the Russian government.”
Researchers at the anti-corruption foundation of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny have linked the yacht to Putin.
But the European Commission’s proposal that all 27 EU members gradually ban Russian oil imports — a move that would have been its toughest yet — was dealt a blow on Friday when Hungary said it crossed a red line and should be sent back.


Video shows US police kill Black man in hail of gunfire

Updated 44 min 28 sec ago

Video shows US police kill Black man in hail of gunfire

  • Police claimed the victim had earlier fired at them when they were chasing him over a traffic violation
  • Akron mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community

AKRON, Ohio: A Black man was unarmed when Akron police chased him on foot and killed him in a hail of gunfire, but officers believed he had shot at them earlier from a vehicle and feared he was preparing to fire again, authorities said Sunday at a news conference.
Akron police released video of the shooting of Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed June 27 in a pursuit that had started with an attempted traffic stop. The mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community.
It’s not clear how many shots were fired by the eight officers involved in the shooting, but Walker sustained more than 60 wounds. An attorney for Walker’s family said officers kept firing even after he was on the ground.
Officers attempted to stop Walker’s car early in the morning for unspecified traffic and equipment violations, but less than a minute into a pursuit, the sound of a shot was heard from the car, and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle flash coming from the vehicle, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett said. That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue,” he said.
Police body camera videos of the nighttime confrontation show the minutes that followed. Several shouting officers with guns drawn approach the slowing car on foot, as it rolls up over a curb and onto a sidewalk. A person wearing a ski mask exits the passenger door and runs toward a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a burst of shots that lasts 6 or 7 seconds.
At least one officer had tried first to use a stun gun, but that was unsuccessful, police said.
Mylett said Walker’s actions are hard to distinguish on the video in real time, but a still photo seems to show him “going down to his waist area” and another appears to show him turning toward an officer. He said a third picture “captures a forward motion of his arm.”
The officers were separated at the scene afterward, and each one indicated a belief that Walker had been moving into a firing position, Mylett said.
The footage released by police ends with the officers’ gunfire and doesn’t show what happened in the moments after.
Mylett said an officer firing at someone has to be “ready to explain why they did what they did, they need to be able to articulate what specific threats they were facing ... and they need to be held to account.” But he said he is withholding judgment on their actions until they give their statements, and he said the union president has told him that all are “fully cooperating” with the investigation.
Police said more than 60 wounds were found on Walker’s body but further investigation is needed to determine exactly how many rounds the officers fired and how many times Walker was hit. Officers provided aid, and one can be heard saying he still had a pulse, but he was pronounced dead, Mylett said.
A handgun, a loaded magazine and an apparent wedding ring were found on the seat of the car. A casing consistent with the weapon was later found in the area where officers believed a shot had come from the vehicle.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost vowed a “complete, fair and expert investigation” and cautioned that “body-worn camera footage is just one view of the whole picture.”
The officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave, which is standard practice in such cases.
Demonstrators marched peacefully through the city and gathered in front of the Akron justice center after the video was released. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement that Walker’s death wasn’t self-defense, but “was murder. Point blank.”
Walker’s family is calling for accountability but also for peace, their lawyers said. One of the attorneys, Bobby DiCello, called the burst of police gunfire excessive and unreasonable, and said police handcuffed Walker before trying to provide first aid.
“How it got to this with a pursuit is beyond me,” DiCello said.
He said Walker’s family doesn’t know why he fled from police. Walker was grieving the recent death of his fiancee, but his family had no indication of concern beyond that, and he wasn’t a criminal, DiCello said.
“I hope we remember that as Jayland ran across that parking lot, he was unarmed,” DiCello said.
He said he doesn’t know whether the gold ring found near the gun in the car belonged to Walker.


India stops Kashmiri photojournalist from flying to Paris

Updated 03 July 2022

India stops Kashmiri photojournalist from flying to Paris

  • Sanna Irshad Mattoo was to travel for a book launch, photography exhibition
  • The photojournalist is one of 10 winners of the Serendipity Arles Grant 2020

NEW DELHI: A Pulitzer Prize-winning Kashmiri photojournalist said on Saturday that she was stopped by Indian immigration authorities from flying to Paris without giving any reason. 

In a tweet, Sanna Irshad Mattoo said she was scheduled to travel from New Delhi to Paris for a book launch and photography exhibition as one of 10 winners of the Serendipity Arles Grant 2020. 

"Despite procuring a French visa, I was stopped at the immigration desk at Delhi airport,” she said. 

She said she was not given any reason but was told by immigration officials that she would not be able to travel internationally. 

There was no immediate comment by Indian authorities. 

Mattoo was among the 2022 Pulitzer Prize winners in the Feature Photography category for the coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in India as part of a Reuters team. 

She has been working as a freelance photojournalist since 2018 depicting life in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where insurgents have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with neighboring Pakistan. 

Journalists have long braved threats in the restive region as the government seeks to control the press more effectively to censure independent reporting. Their situation has grown worse since India revoked the region’s semi-autonomy in 2019. 


Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official

Updated 03 July 2022

Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official

  • Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan

QUETTA: A passenger bus plunged into a ravine in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday killing 20 people, a government official said.
The road crash also injured another 13 people aboard the bus that was traveling from garrison city of Rawalpindi to Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, said Ijaz Jaffar, deputy commissioner of Sherani district.
The ravine is some 350 kilometers north of Quetta.
Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan.
The province is home to several Chinese projects under an investment plan in which Beijing is seeking road and sea trade linkages with the world. 


Blasts kill 3 in Russian border city, lawmaker blames Ukraine

Updated 03 July 2022

Blasts kill 3 in Russian border city, lawmaker blames Ukraine

  • At least four people were injured and two hospitalized, including a 10-year-old boy
  • Since Russia launched it invasion on Feb. 24, there have been numerous reports of attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine

At least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, the regional governor said, after reports of several blasts in the city.
At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private houses were damaged, including five that were destroyed, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Gladkov said earlier the “incident” was being investigated, adding, “Presumably, the air defense system worked.”
At least four people were injured and two hospitalized, including a 10-year-old boy, Gladkov said.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the reports.
Belgorod, a city of nearly 400,000 some 40 km (25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, is the administrative center of the Belgorod region.
Since Russia launched it invasion on Feb. 24, there have been numerous reports of attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine, with Moscow accusing Kyiv of carrying out the strikes.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for previous attacks but has described the incidents as payback and “karma” for Russia’s invasion.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and its allies in the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.


Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest

Updated 03 July 2022

Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest

  • If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms

ALMATY: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Saturday dropped plans to curtail the autonomy of the country’s Karakalpakstan province following a rare public protest in the northwestern region, his office said.
Friday’s rally was called to protest constitutional reform plans that would have changed the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic home to the Karakalpak people — an ethnic minority group with its own language, Uzbek authorities said.
Police dispersed the protesters after some of them tried to storm local government buildings in the region’s capital, Nukus, following a march and a rally at the city’s central market, local and government officials said.
Mirziyoyev later issued a decree proclaiming a state of emergency in Karakalpakstan for a month “in order to ensure the security of citizens, defend their rights and freedoms and restore the rule of law and order” in the region.
Under the current Uzbek constitution, Karakalpakstan is described as a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan that has the right to secede by holding a referendum.
The new version of the constitution — on which Uzbekistan plans to hold a referendum in the coming months — would no longer mention Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or right for secession.
But in a swift reaction to the protest, Mirziyoyev said on Saturday during a visit to Karakalpakstan that the changes regarding its status must be dropped from the proposed reform, his office said in a statement.
Karakalpakstan’s government said in a statement earlier on Saturday that police had detained the leaders of Friday’s protest, and several other protesters who had put up resistance.
The changes concerning Karakalpakstan were part of a broader constitutional reform proposed by Mirziyoyev, which also includes strengthening civil rights and extending the presidential term to seven years from five.
If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms.