Zelensky denies attacking Moscow, vows to start counteroffensive

A still image taken from video shows a flying object exploding in an intense burst of light near the dome of the Kremlin Senate building during the alleged Ukrainian drone attack in Moscow in this image taken from video obtained by Reuters on May 3, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 May 2023
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Zelensky denies attacking Moscow, vows to start counteroffensive

  • Russia accused Ukraine on Wednesday of attacking the Kremlin with drones overnight
  • Ukraine’s president on surprise visit to Finland

HELSINKI/KYIV Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected on Wednesday Moscow’s claim that Kyiv had attempted to attack the Kremlin and said his country would soon start a counteroffensive on its own soil against Russian forces.

Russia earlier on Wednesday accused Ukraine of a failed attempt to assassinate President Vladimir Putin in a drone attack on the Kremlin citadel in central Moscow, and threatened to retaliate.
Speaking at a press conference in Finland, NATO’s newest member, Zelensky said his concern was to defend Ukraine’s own cities and villages against the Russian invasion launched almost 15 months ago.
“We don’t attack Putin, or Moscow, we fight on our territory,” Zelensky said.
Asked why it was in Russia’s interests to accuse Ukraine of trying to assassinate Putin, Zelensky said: “It’s very simple. Russia has no victories. He (Putin) can no longer motivate his society, and he can’t just send his troops to their death anymore... now he needs to somehow motivate his people to go forward.”
The Ukrainian president also said he was sure the West would supply Kyiv with modern war planes if his country was successful on the battlefield, citing prior examples that had led to Ukraine being granted new types of military aid.
“This is why I am sure we will soon have aircraft. Because we will soon conduct an offensive, and after it I am sure we will be given planes. I would rather it was the other way round, as it would be easier for us, but it is like it is, and we are grateful for everything,” Zelensky said.
“We need them. Really need them,” he said.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Finland could not donate its US-made Hornets fighters because they were old and few other countries in Europe had similar models, so it would not make sense to build up a service chain.




Danish PM Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto meet the press during the Nordic-Ukrainian Summit in Helsinki, Finland, on May 3, 2023. (Mads Claus Rasmussen via REUTERS)

Case for NATO membership
The Ukrainian president’s visit to Finland, one of only a few journeys he has made abroad since the Russian invasion, was announced only after his arrival amid tight security in the Finnish capital.
He reiterated his case for Ukraine to join NATO, the Western military alliance of which Finland last month became the 31st member in direct response to Russia’s invasion.
“We need security guarantees today, while we are not in NATO,” Zelensky said.
“But in any case, our goal is to have full membership in the alliance. This is one of the reasons why I am here today. The second reason, or to be honest the priority, is strengthening our army.”
Zelensky held bilateral talks with Niinisto as well as a regional summit that included the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, all of which said they supported Ukraine’s ultimate goal of becoming a member of the EU and NATO.
Hundreds of people gathered in central Helsinki to see Zelensky arrive, cheering as he appeared in front of the presidential palace.

Zelensky said Russia did not appear to be interested in extending the Black Sea grain deal that has allowed vital food exports, but that Kyiv was focused on looking for partners to continue the deal due to expire on May 18.
Asked about the grain deal and whether the alleged attack on the Kremlin would affect negotiations, he said: “I don’t see interest from Russia to continue the grain initiative, but this happens every time. But we are not looking for interest from Russia. We are looking for the fulfilment of the agreements with our partners.”


Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

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Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

LONDON: British police on Wednesday arrested nine people during a protest against arms exports to Israel that briefly blocked the street outside the foreign ministry, highlighting pressure on the new Labour government over its stance on the Gaza war.
Pro-Palestinian protesters in Britain have been campaigning for a government ban on arms sales to Israel following its offensive on Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack.
Last week new Foreign Minister David Lammy, who has said he wants a balanced position on Israel and Gaza, said a blanket ban on arms exports to Israel would not be right, but he would follow a quasi-judicial process in assessing whether sales of offensive weapons that could be used in Gaza could proceed.
London’s Metropolitan Police said protesters arrived outside Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and blocked pedestrian and vehicle access. Police then said the protest could only continue if it left the central arch of the street clear.
“When the group failed to comply with the conditions, officers intervened and made nine arrests, quickly restoring access,” a Met Police spokesperson said.
While in opposition, Lammy earlier this year said the government should suspend the sale of UK arms if there were a clear risk they might be used in a serious breach of humanitarian law.
Now in government, he said last week he requested on his first day in office an assessment of the legal situation and that he hoped to be able to communicate any decisions with “full accountability and transparency.”
Labour was elected with a huge majority earlier this month, but lost some seats to pro-Gaza candidates.
Campaign group Workers for a Free Palestine, which organized the protest, said that was a sign the government should take a stronger stance on restricting arms sales, and called on Lammy to “practice what he preached in opposition.”
While the previous Conservative government was a strong supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack, Reuters found that the value of Britain’s approvals of new arms licenses dropped sharply after the start of the war.

Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

Updated 25 sec ago
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Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu: Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years
  • Qu Dongyu: FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all

RIYADH: The 2024 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, or SOFI, report, jointly published on Wednesday by five UN agencies under the theme “Financing to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” highlighted the deepening global food crisis. 

The heads of the five UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, and UNICEF — emphasized the urgent need for increased and more efficient financing to address these complex challenges. They called for transformative measures in agrifood systems, equitable access to resources, and enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: “Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years. FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all. 

“We will work together with all partners and with all approaches, including the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, to accelerate the needed change. Together, we must innovate and collaborate to build more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems that can better withstand future challenges for a better world,” Qu added.

The report, unveiled during the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty Task Force Ministerial Meeting in Brazil, underscored that the international community is falling significantly short of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030. Highlighting a setback of 15 years in progress, the report compares current undernourishment levels to those last seen in 2008-2009.

In 2023, approximately 733 million people worldwide faced hunger, marking a continuation of the high levels observed over the past three years. This equates to one in 11 people globally, with the situation particularly dire in Africa, where one in five individuals grappled with food insecurity.

While there have been some gains in specific areas such as reducing stunting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding, the overall number of undernourished people is at a constant, ranging between 713 and 757 million in 2023. Regional disparities persist, with hunger increasing in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and several African subregions, while remaining stable in Asia and showing improvement in Latin America.

The report’s projections for 2030 suggest that around 582 million people will continue to suffer from chronic undernourishment, half of them in Africa. This mirrors levels observed in 2015 when the SDGs were adopted, indicating a plateau in progress.

Beyond hunger, the report highlights broader challenges in food security and nutrition. In 2023, 2.33 billion people faced moderate or severe food insecurity, worsened by various factors such as economic decline and climate change. 

The affordability of healthy diets is also a critical issue, particularly in low-income countries where over 71 percent of the population cannot afford adequate nutrition.

Despite gains in exclusive breastfeeding rates and reductions in child stunting, the world is still faced with many challenges. Rates of wasting among children and adult obesity are concerningly high, states the report, and indicate a double burden of malnutrition affecting global populations.

“The fastest route out of hunger and poverty is proven to be through investments in agriculture in rural areas. But the global and financial landscape has become far more complex since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015,” said IFAD President Alvaro Lario. 

“Ending hunger and malnutrition demands that we invest more — and more smartly. We must bring new money into the system from the private sector and recapture the pandemic-era appetite for ambitious global financial reform that gets cheaper financing to the countries who need it most,’’ Lario added.

The report urges unified global action to achieve SDGs by 2030 by adopting and prioritizing innovative solutions and substantial investments to ensure that all people have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

The SOFI report is an annual assessment providing insights into global progress toward ending hunger, improving food security, and advancing nutrition under the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its findings are intended to guide policymakers, international organizations, and the public in addressing these pressing global challenges.


10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

Updated 15 min 50 sec ago
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10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

  • The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current
  • Their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto

PANAMA CITY: Ten migrants drowned trying to cross a rushing river in Panama’s Darien Gap that borders Colombia, Panamanian authorities said Wednesday.
The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current and their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto.
An agency official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case said on condition of anonymity that the drownings were believed to have occurred on July 16, but the area was so remote that they were only now able to release the information.
The prosecutor’s office was investigating details, including the victims’ nationalities, the official said. More than half of the migrants crossing the Darien come from Venezuela.
More than 500,000 migrants made the treacherous crossing through the jungle-clad border in a record-setting 2023. So far this year, more than 212,000 have entered Panama through the Darien.
It is the rainy season in Panama, making the numerous rivers that migrants have to cross more dangerous.
New Panamanian President José Raúl Mulino has pledged to stop migration through the Darien with assistance from the US government.


‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

Updated 36 min 33 sec ago
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‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

  • Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide“
  • He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically“

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that it was “entirely possible” that US Vice President Kamala Harris will win November’s presidential election, describing her as “competent and experienced.”
Following 81-year-old President Joe Biden’s stunning decision to exit the race for the White House on Sunday, Harris has emerged as the virtually unchallenged frontrunner for the nomination of their Democratic party.
Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide.”
Scholz said that Harris was “a competent and experienced politician who knows exactly what she’s doing.”
He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically” and was not simply “saying something prepared beforehand.”
He added that Harris had “clear ideas about the role of her country in the world and the challenges that confront us.”
The US presidential race is being keenly watched by Washington’s allies in Europe, particularly due to the possibility of victory for the combative and often isolationist Donald Trump.
“What happens there is of the greatest importance for all countries in the world and of course especially for the close allies of the US in Germany and in Europe,” Scholz said.
He made clear that the relationship “cannot depend on who the president is,” saying it was his job to work with whichever administration was elected.


1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

Updated 56 min 32 sec ago
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1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

  • Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze
  • According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved

ROME: Around 1,000 tourists were evacuated on Wednesday after a wildfire broke out in the southern Italian region of Puglia, firefighters said.
Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze in a wooded coastal area in the Gargano sub-region.
“The fire is being tackled from the land and from the air,” a fire service spokesman told AFP, confirming that around 1,000 tourists had been evacuated.
According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved.
Puglia attracts tourists from around the world with its clear waters, white sandy beaches and distinctive architecture.
The area hit by the fire is dominated by the Gargano National Park.
“The situation is critical,” the mayor of nearby Vieste, Giuseppe Nobiletti, had earlier told reporters, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He expressed concern that the winds were pushing the flames toward the tourist complex.
After weeks of hot weather, fires have broken out almost daily across Italy, particularly in the south and on the islands.
Two firefighters died last week fighting a blaze near Matera in Basilicata, a region that neighbors Puglia.