Ukrainian officials report Russian missile attack on Kyiv

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the explosions were caused by the strikes or by air defense systems operating. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2023

Ukrainian officials report Russian missile attack on Kyiv

  • Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that “explosions were heard in Dniprovskyi district, left bank of Kyiv”

KYIV: A series of explosions rocked Kyiv on Saturday morning and minutes later air raid sirens started to wail as an apparent missile attack on the Ukrainian capital was underway.
Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram that critical infrastructure in Kyiv was targeted.
Kyiv’s city military administration said that an unidentified object of infrastructure was hit in the city and emergency services were operating at the site of the strike.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that explosions were heard in the Dniprovskyi district of the city and that fragments of a missile fell on a non-residential area in the Holosiivskyi district. No casualties have been reported so far.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether several facilities in Kyiv were targeted or just the one that was reported hit. The Ukrainian capital hasn’t been attacked with missiles since New Year’s night.
In the outlying Kyiv region, a residential building in the village of Kopyliv was hit, and windows of the houses nearby were blown out, Tymoshenko said.
Earlier on Saturday, two Russian missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, the governor of the Kharkiv region reported.
Oleh Syniehubov said Russian forces fired two S-300 missiles at the industrial district of Kharkiv. The extent of the damage from the strike wasn’t immediately clear, but no casualties have been reported.

EU reaches long-stalled deal on refugee hosting

Updated 28 sec ago

EU reaches long-stalled deal on refugee hosting

  • Sweden, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, announced the breakthrough after talks between EU interior ministers
  • Belgian state secretary says migrants from Morocco, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan had less chance of getting refugee status

LUXEMBOURG: EU nations on Thursday reached agreement on a long-stalled revision of the bloc’s rules to share the hosting of asylum seekers and migrants more equitably.

Sweden, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, announced the breakthrough after a fraught day of negotiations between EU interior ministers in Luxembourg.

The deal — which needed approval from a majority of countries representing at least 65 percent of the bloc’s population — comes after years of wrangling over asylum policy.

European interior affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson hailed a “hugely significant step” for the EU on migration.

“These are not easy decisions for everyone around the table, but they are historic decisions,” said German interior minister Nancy Faeser.

The proposal tabled at the meeting called for compulsory help between EU countries, but with an option of doing that in one of two ways.

The priority is for EU countries to share the hosting of asylum-seekers, taking in many that arrive in nations on the bloc’s outer rim, mainly Greece and Italy.

The agreement said nations that refuse would instead be required to pay a sum of 20,000 euros ($21,000) per person into a fund managed by Brussels.

Poland and Hungary voted against the proposals, while Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained.

The preliminary agreement opens the way for negotiations with the European Parliament on legislation that could be adopted before European elections in June next year.

Parliament president Roberta Metsola said lawmakers were “ready to start negotiations immediately to reach a deal.”

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said he was happy that “all my proposals” were accepted.

“Italy will not be the reception center of migrants on behalf of Europe,” he said.

The difficult reform has jumped up the bloc’s agenda as the number of asylum seekers rises, after a pause caused by travel curbs during the Covid pandemic.

The European Commission — haunted by the migrant crisis of 2015 — put forward its suggestion for a new migration and asylum pact in 2020 based on a quota system.

But that plan quickly hit the buffers after refusals from Hungary, Poland and other countries that objected to any requirement to take them in.

Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of this month, presented two compromise texts: one that called for the hosting-or-cash approach by all member states, and the other on asylum procedures on the EU’s external borders.

That second text obliges member states to put in place fast-track procedures at the borders for arrivals from countries deemed as safe in order to facilitate their return.

“These files constitute the two main pillars of the reform of the EU asylum system and is key to a good balance between responsibility and solidarity,” the Swedish presidency tweeted.

Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor said migrants who statistically had less chance of getting refugee status included citizens from “Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.”

But Oxfam, a charity that aids refugees, has criticized the direction of the talks as EU countries take harsher steps to stem asylum seekers.

It argued prior to the final negotiations that the proposals “will not fix the chronic deficiencies in the EU asylum system.”

“Instead, they signal the EU’s desire to barricade Europe from asylum seekers,” Oxfam said.

China envoy in South Korea warns of ‘wrong bets’ over Sino-US rivalry

Updated 15 min 29 sec ago

China envoy in South Korea warns of ‘wrong bets’ over Sino-US rivalry

  • Envoy blames Seoul for creating ‘difficulties’ for bilateral ties by failing to respect Beijing’s core interests, while being influenced by the US

SEOUL: South Korea might be making “wrong bets” in the Sino-US rivalry, the Chinese ambassador in Seoul said, urging Seoul to stop “decoupling” from China and restore economic and diplomatic ties.
Xing Haiming made the remarks during a meeting late Thursday with Lee Jae-myung, head of South Korea’s main opposition party, which has criticized President Yoon Suk Yeol for pursuing lopsided diplomacy toward the US alliance at the expense of relations with China, its top trading partner.
Xing blamed Seoul for creating “difficulties” for bilateral ties by failing to respect Beijing’s core interests, including Taiwan, while being influenced by the United States.
“China-South Korea relations face many difficulties. Frankly, the blame does not lie with China,” he said, according to a statement released by the embassy. “We hope that the South Korean side will faithfully keep its promise and clearly respect China’s core concerns, such as the Taiwan issue.”
Xing warned against making the “wrong judgment” on China because of the “interference of external factors” such as US pressure.
“In a situation where the United States is pressuring China with all its might, some are betting that the United States will win and China will lose. This is clearly a wrong judgment and a failure to properly grasp the course of history,” he said. “I can assure you, those who bet on China’s defeat will definitely regret it.”
Yoon’s office and Seoul’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Yoon has treaded cautiously amid intensifying US-China competition, but Seoul and Beijing exchanged heated words in April over Yoon’s comments on Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
In an interview with Reuters, Yoon said that flaring tensions around Taiwan were due to attempts to change the status quo by force, and that he opposed such a change.
Xing said South Korea’s trade deficits have worsened because of its efforts to “decouple” from China, but it can “enjoy the bonus” from Chinese economic growth if its confidence in bilateral ties are restored.
“The two countries have built an inextricable economic structure in which their industrial and supply chains are closely connected,” he said.

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

Updated 09 June 2023

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

  • The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort
  • Agreement to serve as framework on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology deemed critical to national security

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday reiterated their commitment to help Ukraine repel Russia’s ongoing invasion, while agreeing to step up cooperation on challenges their economies face with artificial intelligence, clean energy, and critical minerals.

The leaders said the “first of its kind” agreement— what they are calling the “Atlantic Declaration”— will serve as a framework for the two countries on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology that is critical to national security and other economic security issues.
“We will put our values front and center,” Biden said as the two leaders started talks in the Oval Office. He later added at a joint news conference that the agreement will help both nations “adapt and upgrade our partnership to ensure our countries remain on the cutting edge of a rapidly changing world.”
As part of the declaration announced Thursday, the two sides will kick off negotiations on the use of minerals from the UK that are critical in the production of electric vehicles that are eligible for US tax credits. The administration has also opened talks with the European Union and forged a deal with Japan that allow certain critical raw materials for EVs to be treated as if they were sourced in the United States.
Allies have raised concerns about incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act favoring the North American auto industry. The legislation — one of Biden’s key policy victories — invests some $375 billion to transition the United States to cleaner cars and energy sources.
Biden and Sunak have already had four face-to-face meetings since Sunak became prime minister in October, but the talks in Washington offered the two leaders a chance for their most sustained interaction to date.
Sunak reflected on the significant conversations their respective predecessors have had over the years in the Oval Office and acknowledged that both he and Biden were facing their own daunting moment. The visit to Washington is Sunak’s first since becoming Britain’s prime minister in October.
“Our economies are seeing perhaps the biggest transformation since the Industrial Revolution as new technologies provide incredible opportunities, but also give our adversaries more tools,” Sunak said.
The 15-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine was high on the agenda. The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort and play a central role in a long-term effort announced last month to train, and eventually equip, Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
Biden reiterated confidence that Congress would continue to provide Ukraine funding as needed despite some hesitation among Republican leaders at the growing cost of the war for American taxpayers.
“The US and the UK have stood together to support Ukraine,” Biden said at the start of their meeting.

Sunak also made the case to Biden for UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace to succeed outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is set to end his term leading the 31-member alliance in September. Stoltenberg is slated to meet with Biden in Washington on Monday, and leaders from the alliance are set to gather in Lithuania on July 11-12 for their annual summit.
Asked if it was time for a UK leader for NATO, Biden said “it may be” but “that remains to be seen.”
“We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO,” he said.
Biden also reflected that the two countries have worked through some of the toughest moments in modern history side-by-side, recalling the meetings that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt held in the White House.
“You know Prime Minister Churchill and Roosevelt met here a little over 70 years ago and they asserted that the strength of the partnership between Great Britain and the United States was strength of the free world,” Biden told Sunak. “I still think there’s truth to that assertion.”
Sunak is keen to make the UK a key player in artificial intelligence, and announced that his government will gather politicians, scientists and tech executives for a summit on AI safety in the fall.
He said it was vital to ensure that “paradigm-shifting new technologies” are harnessed for the good of humanity.
“No one country can do this alone,” Sunak said Wednesday. “This is going to take a global effort.”
Biden said the challenges that comes with the advancement of AI technology are “staggering.”
“It is a limitless capacity and possibility but we have to do it with great care,” said Biden, who added that he welcomed the UK’s leadership on the issue.
Sunak’s visit comes as US and British intelligence officials are still trying to sort out blame for the breaching of a major dam in southern Ukraine, which sent floodwaters gushing through towns and over farmland. Neither Washington nor London has officially accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam.
Sunak said Wednesday that UK intelligence services are still assessing the evidence, but “if it does prove to be intentional, it will represent a new low ... an appalling barbarism on Russia’s part.”
“Russia throughout this war has used as a deliberate active strategy to target civilian infrastructure,” he told broadcaster ITV in Washington.
The two sides looked to demonstrate that the US-UK relationship remains as strong as ever despite recent political and economic upheaval in the UK Sunak is one of three British prime ministers Biden has dealt with since taking office in 2021, and the administrations have had differences over Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland.
Nonetheless, there’s a sense in the Biden administration that the US-UK relationship is back on more stable footing after the sometimes choppy tenure of Boris Johnson and the 45-day premiership of Liz Truss.
“I think there’s a sense of relief to some degree, not just in the White House, but throughout Washington, that the Sunak government has been very pragmatic and maintained the UK’s robust commitment to Ukraine and to increasing defense spending,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He added that with Sunak, there’s also been “somewhat of a return to pragmatism” on economic issues and relations with the European Union post-Brexit.
Sunak at the press conference sought to hammer home that the UK remains “as reliable an ally as ever.”
“I know some people have wondered what kind of partner Britain would be after we left the EU,” Sunak said. “I’d say judge us by our actions.”
Biden invited Sunak to stay at Blair House, the official presidential guest residence on Lafayette Square. Before the US government purchased Blair House in 1942, foreign leaders visiting the president often stayed at the White House.
In a lighter moment, the president began telling the story of how in the pre-Blair House days Churchill wandered toward the president’s family quarters in the wee hours to rouse the sleeping Roosevelt for conversation. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have cut off Churchill before he could make it to the president.
“Don’t worry,” Sunak interjected. “You won’t see me bothering you and the first lady.”

Trump charged over classified documents in first federal indictment of an ex-president

Updated 43 min 52 sec ago

Trump charged over classified documents in first federal indictment of an ex-president

  • The controversial former president said he was due in court Tuesday in Miami, calls it a "DARK DAY for the United States of America"
  • Trump has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges

MIAMI: Donald Trump said Thursday that he was indicted for mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes him the first former president in US history to face criminal charges by the federal government that he once oversaw.
The indictment carries unmistakably grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if he’s convicted.
But it also has enormous political implications, potentially upending a Republican presidential primary that Trump had been dominating and testing anew the willingness of GOP voters and party leaders to stick with a now twice-indicted candidate who could face still more charges. And it sets the stage for a sensational trial centered on claims that a man once entrusted to safeguard the nation’s most closely guarded secrets willfully, and illegally, hoarded sensitive national security information.
The Justice Department did not immediately confirm the indictment publicly. But two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said the indictment included seven criminal counts. One of those people said Trump’s lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted.
Within 20 minutes of his announcement, Trump began fundraising off it for his 2024 presidential campaign. He declared his innocence in a video and repeated his familiar refrain that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” He said he planned to be in court Tuesday afternoon in Miami, where a grand jury had been meeting to hear evidence as recently as this week.
The case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges. But among the various investigations he faces, legal experts — as well as Trump’s own aides — had long seen the Mar-a-Lago probe as the most perilous threat and the one most ripe for prosecution. Campaign aides had been bracing for the fallout since Trump’s attorneys were notified that he was the target of the investigation, assuming it was not a matter of if charges would be brought, but when.
Appearing Thursday night on CNN, Trump attorney James Trusty said the indictment includes charges of willful retention of national defense information — a crime under the Espionage Act, which polices the handling of government secrets — obstruction, false statements and conspiracy.
The case is a milestone for a Justice Department that had investigated Trump for years — as president and private citizen — but had never before charged him with a crime. The most notable investigation was an earlier special counsel probe into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, but prosecutors in that probe cited Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. Once he left office, though, he lost that protection.
The inquiry took a major step forward last November when Attorney General Merrick Garland, a soft-spoken former federal judge who has long stated that no person should be regarded as above the law, appointed Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor with an aggressive, hard-charging reputation to lead both the documents probe as well as a separate investigation into efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether he took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.
Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.
Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the retention of national defense information, destruction of government records and obstruction.
Since then, the Justice Department has amassed additional evidence and secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own lawyers. The statutes governing the handling of classified records and obstruction are felonies that could carry years in prison in the event of a conviction.
It remains unclear how much it will damage Trump’s standing given that his first indictment generated millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t weaken him in the polls. But no matter what, the indictment — and legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the race.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump opponent in the primary, condemned the indictment on Twitter, saying it represented “the weaponization of federal law enforcement.”
The former president has long sought to use his legal troubles to his political advantage, complaining on social media and at public events that the cases are being driven by Democratic prosecutors out to hurt his 2024 election campaign. He is likely to rely on that playbook again, reviving his longstanding claims that the Justice Department — which, during his presidency, investigated whether his 2016 campaign had colluded with Russia — is somehow weaponized against him.
Trump’s legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified documents case.
Smith is separately investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And the district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in that state.
Signs had mounted for weeks that an indictment was near, including a Monday meeting between Trump’s lawyers and Justice Department officials. His lawyers had also recently been notified that he was the target of the investigation, the clearest sign yet that an indictment was looming.
Though the bulk of the investigative work had been handled in Washington, with a grand jury meeting there for months, it recently emerged that prosecutors were presenting evidence before a separate panel in Florida, where many of the alleged acts of obstruction scrutinized by prosecutors took place.
The Justice Department has said Trump and his lawyers repeatedly resisted efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration to get the documents back. After months of back-and-forth, Trump representatives returned 15 boxes of records in January 2022, including about 184 documents that officials said had classified markings on them.
FBI and Justice Department investigators issued a subpoena in May 2022 for classified documents that remained in Trump’s possession. But after a Trump lawyer provided three dozen records and asserted that a diligent search of the property had been done, officials came to suspect even more documents remained.
The investigation had simmered quietly for months until last August, when FBI agents served a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago and removed 33 boxes containing classified records, including top-secret documents stashed in a storage room and desk drawer and commingled with personal belongings. Some records were so sensitive that investigators needed upgraded security clearances to review them, the Justice Department has said.
The investigation into Trump had appeared complicated — politically, if not legally — by the discovery of documents with classified markings in the Delaware home and former Washington office of President Joe Biden, as well as in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. The Justice Department recently informed Pence that he would not face charges, while a second special counsel continues to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents.
But compared with Trump, there are key differences in the facts and legal issues surrounding Biden’s and Pence’s handling of documents, including that representatives for both men say the documents were voluntarily turned over to investigators as soon as they were found. In contrast, investigators quickly zeroed on whether Trump, who for four years as president expressed disdain for the FBI and Justice Department, had sought to obstruct the inquiry by refusing to turn over all the requested documents.

Blast kills 11 during funeral of deputy governor in northern Afghanistan

Updated 08 June 2023

Blast kills 11 during funeral of deputy governor in northern Afghanistan

  • Daesh claimed responsibility for a car bomb on Tuesday that killed Badakhshan’s deputy governor
  • Daesh claimed killing of governor of northern Balkh province in attack on his office in March

KABUL: An explosion took place inside a mosque in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least eleven people during the funeral of the Taliban’s provincial deputy governor who died in an attack earlier this week, officials said.

The Taliban-run Ministry of Interior said that over 30 people had also been injured in the blast in Badakhshan, a province in the far north of the country that shares borders with China and Tajikistan.

Daesh claimed responsibility for a car bomb on Tuesday that killed Badakhshan’s deputy governor.

The Taliban administration has been carrying out raids against members of Daesh, which had claimed several major attacks in urban centers.

The Daesh group has targeted Taliban administration officials, including claiming the killing of the governor of northern Balkh province in an attack on his office in March.