Love, pain and loss at historic Ukraine cemetery

A woman and child sits among the graves at Lychakiv military cemetery in Lviv, western Ukrainian on Mar. 18, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2023
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Love, pain and loss at historic Ukraine cemetery

  • Located in southeastern Lviv, the Lychakiv cemetery is one of the oldest graveyards in Europe
  • It is the resting place of prominent figures including the poet Ivan Franko and thousands of soldiers who perished during World War I and II

LVIV, Ukraine: At a historic military cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Valeriy Pushko lights up two cigarettes. One is for himself, the other for his son whose portrait is fixed to a cross planted in the ground.
“I smoke with my son,” said the grey-haired man.
“We used to take cigarette breaks together. It’s a bad habit but it makes things easier. I talk to him, think about him and that makes me feel better.”
Pushko said many others come here to smoke with their fallen husbands or sons.
Located in southeastern Lviv, the Lychakiv cemetery is one of the oldest graveyards in Europe and is often compared to the historic Père Lachaise in Paris, where dozens of celebrities are buried.
It is the resting place of prominent figures including the poet Ivan Franko and thousands of soldiers who perished during World War I and II.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, rows of new graves have appeared. A sea of blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags and red-and-black nationalist banners mark them.
Some mourners leave stuffed animals, cigarettes, and cups of coffee at the graves of their loved ones.
More unusual symbols of love and sorrow included children’s drawings, vinyl records, a golf ball, and a bottle of beer.
Shortly after the Russian invasion in February 2022, authorities began burying soldiers killed in fighting at the Lychakiv cemetery.
But the area initially designated for military burials quickly filled up, said city official Oleg Pidpysetsky.
The authorities then began laying Ukrainian servicemen to rest at a new site bordering Lychakiv.
Funerals are held nearly every day in the new burial ground. Called the Field of Mars, it now contains about 350 graves.
“No one knew how critical the situation was,” Pidpysetsky told AFP.
“Someone thought it would end in a month, two, three, six months. But, unfortunately, the war has only gotten bigger.”
Oleg, one of the mourners who came to visit a friend’s grave, called the losses “irreparable.”
“We will have our victory of course, but this is the price we pay. And that is not the end,” said the 55-year-old.
“These people gave their lives for us.”
Oleg mourns the loss of his 45-year-old friend also called Oleg.
He said the father of two volunteered to go to the front.
“Unfortunately, nothing can be done now. Thousands of Russians will not replace my Oleg,” he said bitterly.
Kyiv does not reveal the number of its military casualties but Western officials say more than 100,000 Ukrainians have been killed or wounded.
Olga, who came to visit her brother-in-law’s grave, says the mementos people leave “is all that’s left, the only connection with their heroes.”
Her sister comes to the cemetery every day, she added.
“That’s her second home now,” said Olga.
Vyacheslav Sabelnikov, who served in the infantry before receiving a serious injury, says several men he fought with are now buried at the cemetery.
“I came to visit a friend whose birthday is today,” said Sabelnikov, placing a candle in front of his portrait.
Sabelnikov said he lights up candles to remember his friends, saying it was important to “honor” their memory.
Anna Mikheyeva, a 44-year-old social worker, came to visit her son Mykhailo’s grave. He served in the 80th Parachute Brigade and was killed last year at the age of 25.
Mikheyeva says she often brings her son things “he liked” including Coca-Cola, sweets, and cigarettes.
“If I come in the morning, I buy a coffee for myself and also for him,” added the dark-haired woman.
She said she felt calm at the Field of Mars.
“There are only young people here. They are like sons and brothers to me.
“When I come I always say ‘Hi guys’. And I always, always thank them.”


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

Updated 58 min 51 sec ago
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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

Updated 24 July 2024
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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

Updated 24 July 2024
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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

Updated 24 July 2024
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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

Updated 23 July 2024
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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.