Ukraine’s Zelensky visits Kherson region, vows to ‘restore everything’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky takes selfie with servicemen after meeting them in a warehouse and handing out awards, near Bakhmut. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2023

Ukraine’s Zelensky visits Kherson region, vows to ‘restore everything’

  • The visit was his second outside Kyiv this week
  • He earlier visited troops near the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the southern region of Kherson, where he toured local infrastructure and promised to “restore everything” following Russia’s invasion.
The visit, to a region where Ukraine staged a successful counteroffensive against Russian occupying forces late last year, was his second outside Kyiv this week. On Wednesday he visited troops near the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut. “I spoke with local residents about their current issues and needs,” Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app under footage of his visit to Kherson region.
“We will restore everything, we will rebuild everything. Just like with every city and village that suffered because of the occupiers.”
The Ukrainian counteroffensive last year pushed Russian troops out of the regional capital Kherson after months of occupation. Workers in the region are now busy restoring power and the water supply.
“We have to ensure full restoration and protection of our energy sector!” Zelensky wrote in a separate post showing him inspecting energy infrastructure.
“I am grateful to everyone who works for this and returns the light to our people!“


Girl unable to enter Kyiv shelter killed in Russia attack, Zelensky demands change

Updated 01 June 2023

Girl unable to enter Kyiv shelter killed in Russia attack, Zelensky demands change

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed frustration at the miscue and said if local officials were unable to provide protection, they could be prosecuted
  • Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyanskyi district of Kyiv

KYIV: A nine-year-old Ukrainian girl, her mother and another woman were killed in a Russian missile strike on Kyiv on Thursday after the air raid shelter they rushed to failed to open, witnesses said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed frustration at the miscue and said if local officials were unable to provide protection, they could be prosecuted.
His comments appeared aimed at Kyiv city authorities and Mayor Vitali Klitschko, with whom he has periodically clashed during the war.
Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyanskyi district of Kyiv after the 18th attack on the capital since the start of May.
“Three people, one of them a child, died near the clinic last night,” Klitschko said. “A rocket fragment fell near the entrance to the clinic four minutes after the air alert was announced. And people headed for the shelter.”
Residents said people were unable to enter the shelter because it was closed. It was not clear why.
“The air alert sounded. My wife took our daughter and they ran to the entrance here,” local resident Yaroslav Ryabchuk told Reuters in the Desnyanskyi district.
“The entrance was closed, there were already maybe five to 10 women with children. No one opened up for them.”
The case prompted calls for residents to check shelters and report safety violations. Local media said prosecutors searched city administration offices as part of the investigation.

PRESIDENT CALLS OUT LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Zelensky, in his nightly video message, said shelters “must be kept accessible. Never again should we see a repeat of the situation that occurred last night in Kyiv...”
This was “very clearly” the duty of local authorities “and if this duty is not fulfilled at the local level, it is the direct duty of law enforcement bodies to prosecute.”
In earlier comments to reporters in Moldova, Zelensky said that as well as facing the Russian enemy, “we also have internal ones.” He said the response could be a “knockout” blow, a veiled dig at Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion.
At a makeshift memorial for the girl, another parent woken by the attacks spoke of her terror.
“I grabbed my child and ran into the corridor because I didn’t have any other options. We sat there the whole time, there were a few more explosions,” said Oleksandra, 25, visiting the memorial with her five-year-old son Hryhoriy.
“My child got really scared, he sat in the corner of our corridor. He cried, saying that we’re all gonna die. I was terrified to hear this from him. It was terrible.”
Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes though its air strikes have caused devastation in cities across Ukraine since the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukraine reported no major damage from Thursday’s attack, saying it had shot down all 10 missiles. But, in a statement on International Children’s Day, UN human rights monitors in Ukraine said 525 children had been killed since the invasion.


Biden trips, tumbles on Air Force stage

Updated 01 June 2023

Biden trips, tumbles on Air Force stage

  • Biden, 80, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell
  • Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help

COLORADO SPRINGS, United States: President Joe Biden took a face-first tumble on Thursday after tripping over an obstacle on stage at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but he appeared unhurt.
Biden, 80, who had delivered the commencement address to graduates of the military academy, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell.
Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help.
As he rose, Biden pointed to the object that had apparently caught his foot. It resembled a small black sandbag on the stage.
Biden is the oldest person ever in the presidency and is seeking a second term in the 2024 election. His official doctor’s report this year declared him physically fit and he exercises regularly.
In November 2020, shortly after winning his election against the incumbent Donald Trump, Biden broke his foot while playing with a pet dog.


Russia says it seeking third suspect over war blogger killing

Updated 01 June 2023

Russia says it seeking third suspect over war blogger killing

  • Tatarsky, a native of eastern Ukraine's Donbas whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had been addressing an event in the cafe when the blast occurred
  • Roman Popkov, a Ukraine-based Russian journalist who was previously a leader of Russia's banned ultranationalist National Bolshevik Party, was wanted on terrorism charges

MOSCOW: Russian investigators said on Thursday they were seeking a third suspect over the April 2 killing of popular pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg.
In a statement posted on the Telegram messenger app, the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said that Roman Popkov, a Ukraine-based Russian journalist who was previously a leader of Russia’s banned ultranationalist National Bolshevik Party, was wanted on terrorism and explosives charges.
Tatarsky, a native of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had been addressing an event in the cafe when the blast occurred. Russian officials later said a bomb had been hidden inside a statuette given to him as a gift during the event.
Russian officials have previously named Russian citizen Darya Trepova and Ukrainian national Yury Denisov as suspects in the killing.
Trepova, an anti-war and feminist activist, was arrested on April 3, while Denisov is believed to be still in Ukraine. Trepova is accused of giving Tatarsky the explosive statuete and has been charged with terrorist offenses.
Trepova’s husband told independent Russian media outlets he believed she had been framed and had not known the statuette she had been told to deliver contained explosives.
In its statement, the Investigative Committee said Popkov had exchanged messages with Trepova over social media and had given her “instructions regarding the preparation of the terrorist act.”


US set to allow GE to make engines in India for New Delhi’s military jets

Updated 01 June 2023

US set to allow GE to make engines in India for New Delhi’s military jets

  • Final deal on joint production of the engines expected to be announced when Biden hosts Modi on June 22
  • Washington sees deeper military-to-military ties with India as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: The Biden administration is poised to sign off on a deal that would allow General Electric Co. to produce jet engines powering Indian military aircraft in that country, according to three people briefed on the decision.

A deal finalizing the joint production of the engines is expected to be inked and announced by the time President Joe Biden hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an official state visit on June 22, the people said on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.

The White House, which said in January that it had received the application to jointly produce the engines in India, declined to comment. GE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Washington is working to deepen ties with the world’s largest democracy and sees deeper military-to-military and technology ties with the South Asian country as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region.

India, the world’s largest arm importer, depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies, and has bought fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier over the decades.

New Delhi has frustrated Washington by participating in military exercises with Russia and increasing purchases of the country’s crude oil, a key source of funding for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. had previously said it planned to use the GE-manufactured 414 engine on a second generation of light-combat aircraft and that it was in talks over domestic production of those engines.

The deal is not finalized and also requires notification to the US Congress, according to two of the people briefed on the arrangement.

Washington maintains strict controls over what domestic military technology can be shared or sold to other countries.

A broader joint partnership between the United States and India announced earlier this year is designed to encourage companies from both countries to collaborate, especially on military equipment and cutting-edge technology.

While GE has offered some transfer of technology to HAL, which will produce the engines as a licensed manufacturer, India is pushing for more technology to be shared, according to one of the people with knowledge of the conversations.

India is keen to get the know-how to make aircraft engines. Though it can manufacture fighter jets domestically, it lacks the ability to produce engines to power them.

HAL is using a lighter GE engine for the 83 light combat aircraft it is manufacturing for the Indian air force. However, India intends to produce more than 350 fighter jets for its air force and navy over the next two decades, which could be powered by the GE 414.


NATO presses Turkiye to drop objections to Sweden’s membership as summit looms

Updated 01 June 2023

NATO presses Turkiye to drop objections to Sweden’s membership as summit looms

  • The military organization wants to bring Sweden into the fold in time for the summit in Lithuania next month
  • Turkiye’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient on terrorist organizations and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt

OSLO: NATO on Thursday ramped up pressure on its member Turkiye to drop its objections to Sweden’s membership as the military organization seeks to deal with the issue by the time US President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet next month.
Fearing that they might be targeted after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella. Finland became NATO’s 31st member country in April.
NATO must agree unanimously for countries to join. Turkiye’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient on terrorist organizations and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.
Hungary has also delayed its approval, but the reasons why have not been made publicly clear.
“It’s time for Sweden to join now,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt told reporters in Oslo, where she was hosting a meeting with her counterparts to prepare for NATO’s July 11-12 summit in Lithuania.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that he would travel to Ankara “in the near future to continue to address how we can ensure the fastest possible accession of Sweden.” He was unable to provide a precise date for his trip.
“I’m confident that also Hungary will ratify the accession protocol,” Stoltenberg said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that “it is essential that we can finally welcome Sweden as the 32nd member.” She stressed that the Swedish government has Berlin’s “full support.”
Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said that “it is time for Turkiye and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.” He said that “everything (that) bars Sweden joining NATO will be seen as wine for (Russian president Vladimir) Putin.”
For months Sweden, Finland and Turkiye have been holding talks to try to address Ankara’s concerns. Billström said that he expects things to be made clear at a new meeting of this “permanent joint mechanism” in coming weeks.
He noted that as of Thursday Sweden had tightened its antiterrorism laws. It is now it illegal to finance, recruit for or publicly encourage “a terrorist organization,” or to travel abroad with the intention of joining such groups.
The time may be ripe for movement. Sweden’s membership became embroiled in campaigning for elections in Turkiye, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won on Sunday. Erdogan has also been seeking upgraded US fighter jets, and Washington signaled this week that they might be delivered.
“I spoke to Erdogan and he still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden. So let’s get that done,” Biden said Monday.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the issues of Sweden’s membership and the fighter jets were distinct. However, he stressed that the completion of both would dramatically strengthen European security.
“Both of these are vital, in our judgment, to European security,” Blinken told reporters. “We believe that both should go forward as quickly as possible; that is to say Sweden’s accession and moving forward on the F-16 package more broadly.”