Zelensky wants Putin trial, Russia accuses US of drone attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the purported drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2023
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Zelensky wants Putin trial, Russia accuses US of drone attack

  • Russia claims Ukraine attacked the Kremlin in Moscow with drones meant to assassinate Putin
  • Kyiv was target of air attack for third time in four days

THE HAGUE: Ukraine and Russia pressed their wartime rhetoric Thursday, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressing confidence that Vladimir Putin would be convicted of war crimes and the Kremlin alleging that the US was behind an assassination attempt against the Russian president.
The country’s leaders have personally attacked each other multiple times during the war Russia started by invading Ukraine in February 2022. The latest flareup came Wednesday, with Russia’s claim that Ukraine had attacked the Kremlin in Moscow with drones meant to assassinate Putin.
Zelensky denied that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the purported drone attack. The Kremlin promised unspecified retaliation for what it termed a “terrorist” act, and pro-Kremlin figures called for the assassinations of senior Ukraine leaders.
Uncertainty still surrounds exactly what happened in the purported attack.
Putin’s spokesman on Thursday accused the United States of involvement. To generate domestic support for the war, Moscow has often tried to blame Washington for trying to destroy Russia through its help for Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily conference call that the Kremlin was “well aware that the decision on such actions and terrorist attacks is not made in Kyiv, but in Washington.”
“And then Kyiv does what it’s told to do,” Peskov said, without offering evidence for his claim.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council at the White House, described the claim as “ludicrous.” Zelensky, in the Netherlands, said he was “not interested” in the Kremlin’s opinion.
Zelensky’s top adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, claimed Thursday that Russia had “staged” the alleged drone attack. He cited the delay in Russian state media reporting it and “simultaneous video from different angles” that appeared to show the aftermath of the alleged 2:30 a.m. attack.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War also saw evidence of staging.
“Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization,” the think tank said.
Given recent Russian moves to bolster security, it’s “extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera,” the ISW stated.
In The Hague, where the International Criminal Court is based, Zelensky urged the global community to hold Putin accountable and told the ICC judges that Russia’s leader “deserves to be sentenced for (his) criminal actions right here in the capital of the international law.”
In March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. It was the first time the global court circulated a warrant for a leader of one of the five permanent UN Security Council members.
Zelensky’s visit to the Netherlands came a day after he went to Finland, which doubled the size of NATO’s border with Russia when it joined the military alliance last month, largely out of its concerns about Moscow’s long-term ambitions.
The Ukrainian president also used his trip to press the prime ministers of Belgium and the Netherlands to send advanced warplanes so his country can achieve “justice on the battlefield.” Zelensky has successfully assembled significant Western military and political support for Ukraine’s defense since the war began in February 2022.
Zelensky traveled in a Dutch-supplied plane and an armored car, with security kept tight at his appearances. Next week, he is expected to go to Berlin, the capital of European Union economic powerhouse Germany, in the latest display of the Western might marshaled against Putin.
Zelensky’s trips have paid dividends. After traveling to Washington last December and then London, Paris and Brussels in February, Ukraine received heavy artillery and tanks.
But the chances of Putin standing trial in The Hague are remote. The court, which puts individuals on trial for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression, does not have a police force to execute its warrants. The Russian leader is unlikely to travel to any of the ICC’s 123 member nations, which are under obligation to arrest him, if they can.
On the battlefield, Ukraine’s military claimed three Russian drones that hit the southern city of Odesa early Thursday had “for Moscow” and “for the Kremlin” written on them, seemingly implying they were sent in retaliation for the reported strike on the Kremlin.
Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv was the target of an air attack for the third time in four days. In total, Ukraine’s air forces intercepted 18 out of 24 Iranian-made drones launched by Russian forces in various regions. No casualties were reported.
In Russia, drones hit two oil facilities in southern regions of the country near Ukraine in what appeared to be a series of attacks on fuel depots behind enemy lines, Russian media reported Thursday.
Four drones struck an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region, which borders Russia-annexed Crimea, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing law enforcement sources. Another facility was reportedly hit in the Rostov region.
The Netherlands has been a strong supporter of the Ukrainian war effort. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government has promised 14 modern Leopard 2 tanks it is buying together with Denmark. They are expected to be delivered next year.
The Netherlands also joined forces with Germany and Denmark to buy at least 100 older Leopard 1 tanks for Ukraine.
In addition, the Dutch government sent two Patriot air defense missile systems, promised two naval minehunter ships and sent military forensic experts to Ukraine to assist with war crime investigations.


Blinken will be the latest top US official to visit China in a bid to keep ties on an even keel

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Blinken will be the latest top US official to visit China in a bid to keep ties on an even keel

The United States and China also are battling over trade and commerce issues, with President Joe Biden announcing new tariffs on imports of Chinese steel this past week
Talks between Blinken and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected, although neither side will confirm such a meeting is happening until shortly before it takes place

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China this coming week as Washington and Beijing try to keep ties on an even keel despite major differences on issues from the path to peace in the Middle East to the supply of synthetic opioids that have heightened fears over global stability.
The rivals are at odds on numerous fronts, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, Taiwan and the South China Sea, North Korea, Hong Kong, human rights and the detention of American citizens. The United States and China also are battling over trade and commerce issues, with President Joe Biden announcing new tariffs on imports of Chinese steel this past week.
The State Department said Saturday that Blinken, on his second visit to China in less than a year, will travel to Shanghai and Beijing starting Wednesday for three days of meetings with senior Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Talks between Blinken and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected, although neither side will confirm such a meeting is happening until shortly before it takes place.
The department said in a statement that Blinken would “discuss a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues,” including the Middle East, the war in Ukraine, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
He will also talk about progress made in “resuming counternarcotics cooperation, military-to-military communication, artificial intelligence, and strengthening people-to-people ties” and will reaffirm how important it is for the US and China to be “responsibly managing competition, even in areas where our two countries disagree,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
The trip follows a phone call this month between Biden and Xi in which they pledged to keep high-level contacts open, something they had agreed to last year at a face-to-face summit in California. Since that call, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has visited China and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken by phone with his Chinese counterpart. Meetings at lower levels also have taken place.
Despite those encounters, relations are rocky. The US has recently become more vocal in its calls for China to stop supporting Russia’s military-industrial sector, which Washington says has allowed Moscow to boost weapons production to support the war against Ukraine.
“We see China sharing machine tools, semiconductors, other dual-use items that have helped Russia rebuild the defense industrial base that sanctions and export controls had done so much to degrade,” Blinken said Friday. “Now, if China purports on the one hand to want good relations with Europe and other countries, it can’t on the other hand be fueling what is the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.”
Blinken also has pushed for China to take a more active stance in pressing Iran not to escalate tensions in the Middle East. He has spoken to his Chinese counterpart several times since the Israel-Hamas war began six months ago as he has sought China’s help in getting Iran to restrain proxy groups it has supported, armed and funded in the region.
That topic has taken on new urgency since direct back-and-forth attacks by Iran and Israel on each other’s soil in the past week.
Also high on the agenda for Blinken will be Taiwan and the South China Sea.
The US has strongly condemned Chinese military exercises threatening Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province and vowed to reunify with the mainland by force if necessary. Successive US administrations have steadily ramped up military support and sales for Taipei, much to the anger of Chinese officials.
In the South China Sea, the US and others have become increasingly concerned by provocative Chinese actions in and around disputed areas. In particular, the US has voiced objections to what it says are Chinese attempts to thwart legitimate activities by others in the waterway, notably the Philippines and Vietnam.
That was a major topic of concern earlier this month when Biden held a three-way summit with the prime minister of Japan and the president of the Philippines.

London police apologize after threatening to arrest ‘openly Jewish’ man near pro-Palestinian protest

Updated 20 April 2024
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London police apologize after threatening to arrest ‘openly Jewish’ man near pro-Palestinian protest

  • London’s Metropolitan Police Service on Friday afternoon apologized for the language the officer used in describing Falter’s appearance
  • “In an effort to make a point about the policing of protest we caused further offense,” the force said

LONDON: London’s police force has been forced to issue two apologies after officers threatened to arrest an “openly Jewish” man if he refused to leave the area around a pro-Palestinian march because his presence risked provoking the demonstrators.
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, was wearing a traditional Jewish skullcap when he was stopped by police while trying to cross a street in central London as demonstrators filed past on April 13.
One officer told Falter he was worried that the man’s “quite openly Jewish” appearance could provoke a reaction from the protesters, according to video posted by the campaign group. A second officer then told Falter he would be arrested if he refused to be escorted out of the area because he was “causing a breach of the peace.”
London’s Metropolitan Police Service on Friday afternoon apologized for the language the officer used in describing Falter’s appearance, but said counter demonstrators had to be aware “that their presence is provocative.”
The Met later deleted that apology from its social media accounts and issued a second statement.


“In an effort to make a point about the policing of protest we caused further offense,” the force said. “This was never our intention. We have removed that statement and we apologize.”
“Being Jewish is not a provocation. Jewish Londoners must be able to feel safe in the city.”
The episode highlights the challenges London police face amid the boiling tensions surrounding the war in Gaza, with some Jewish residents saying they feel threatened by repeated pro-Palestinian marches through the streets of the British capital.
While the marches have been largely peaceful, many demonstrators accuse Israel of genocide and a small number have shown support for Hamas, the group that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and which has been banned by the British government as a terrorist organization.
The Met has deployed thousands of officers during each of the dozen major marches as it sought to protect the rights of the pro-Palestinian protesters and prevent clashes with counter-demonstrators and Jewish residents.
Following Falter’s confrontation with police, the Campaign Against Antisemitism issued a call for Londoners to exercise their right to walk wherever they choose on April 27, when another pro-Palestinian march is scheduled.
In response, the Met emailed Falter about what it described as his intention to “protest” next week and offered to meet with him to discuss ways to “ensure we can police the event as safely as possible,” according an exchange of correspondence released by the campaign group.
Falter rejected the idea that he was staging a protest, saying he was planning to go for a walk as a “private individual” and others might choose to join him.
“Unfortunately @MetPoliceUK is missing the point,” he said on the social media site X. “This is not a protest or counterprotest. Anyone who wishes to walk around London on Saturday 27th April … is free to do so. Even if they are ‘quite openly Jewish.’”


Man arrested after Denmark’s Billund Airport evacuated over bomb threat

Updated 20 April 2024
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Man arrested after Denmark’s Billund Airport evacuated over bomb threat

  • Investigations into the incident are continuing, the police said

COPENHAGEN: A man was arrested in Denmark on Saturday in connection with a bomb threat at Billund Airport, the country’s second largest aviation hub, police said in a statement.
The airport, in central western Denmark, was evacuated and remains shut following the threat.
“The evacuation has proceeded calmly and as expected, with travelers following our instructions,” police inspector Michael Weiss said in a statement.
Investigations into the incident are continuing, the police said, adding it was not clear when the airport would reopen.


Indonesia on highest alert as Sulawesi volcano continues to erupt

Updated 20 April 2024
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Indonesia on highest alert as Sulawesi volcano continues to erupt

  • Over 7,500 people living near the volcano have so far been evacuated
  • Volcanic activity is common in Indonesia, which lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities were on the highest alert on Saturday as a volcano in North Sulawesi continued to erupt. Thousands living nearby have been forced to leave their homes.

Mount Ruang, located on the northern side of Sulawesi Island, had at least eight eruptions since April 16, including a major one on Wednesday evening, which prompted Indonesia’s volcanology agency to issue its highest alert, which indicates an active eruption.

The center recorded at least two eruptions on Saturday, with the crater emitting white-gray smoke more than 1,200 meters above its peak after midnight, followed by another eruption at noon that released an ash column of about 250 meters.

“Based on visual observations, as of April 20, 2024, at 12:15 p.m., there is still high volcanic activity in Mt. Ruang,” Muhammad Wafid, head of the geology department at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said in a statement.

“The potential danger is an explosive eruption that may cause the mountain to spew volcanic rocks in different directions, followed by clouds, as well as effusive eruption, or lava flow.”

With authorities having established a six-kilometer exclusion zone around the volcano, around 7,500 people have so far been evacuated, including more than 1,500 residents who live on the smaller island where Mount Ruang stands, and around 6,000 people living on neighboring Tagulandang island, northeast of the volcano, according to the latest data from Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Thousands more are still at risk.

The international airport in Manado city, less than 100 kilometers away from Mount Ruang, is closed until at least Sunday because of volcanic ash.

“There are still concerns, because tremors and volcanic earthquakes are still being recorded by our devices, indicating magmatic fluid supply is still moving from the depth to the surface,” Hendra Gunawan, who heads Indonesia’s volcanology agency, told Arab News.

“There’s still potential for more eruptions … And a tsunami may occur if there is a large flow of volcanic material into the sea.”

Indonesia, a vast archipelago nation, has around 120 active volcanoes. The country experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin known as the “Ring of Fire.”


Moscow says 50 Ukrainian drones shot down as attacks spark fires at Russian power stations

Updated 20 April 2024
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Moscow says 50 Ukrainian drones shot down as attacks spark fires at Russian power stations

  • Fifty drones were shot down by air defenses over eight Russian regions, including 26 over the country’s western Belgorod region
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it had shot down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet

KYIV: Ukraine launched a barrage of drones across Russia overnight, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said Saturday, in attacks that appeared to target the country’s energy infrastructure.
Fifty drones were shot down by air defenses over eight Russian regions, including 26 over the country’s western Belgorod region close to the Ukrainian border. Two people — a woman with a broken leg and the man caring for her — died during the overnight barrage, after explosions sparked a blaze that set their home alight, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on social media. A pregnant woman and her unborn child were also killed in shelling later Saturday, he said.
Drones were also reportedly destroyed over the Bryansk, Kursk, Tula, Smolensk, Ryazan, Kaluga regions across Russia’s west and south, as well as in the Moscow region.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it had shot down a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet. It provided no details and the claims could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian officials normally decline to comment about attacks on Russian soil. However, many of the drone strikes appeared to be directed toward Russia’s energy infrastructure.
The head of the Kaluga region, Vladislav Shapsha, said Saturday that a drone strike had sparked a blaze at an electrical substation, while Bryansk Gov. Alexander Bogomaz and Smolensk Gov. Vasily Anokhin also reported fires at fuel and energy complexes.
In recent months, Russian refineries and oil terminals have become priority targets of Ukrainian drone attacks, part of stepped-up assaults on Russian territory.
Ukrainian drone developers have been extending the weapons’ range for months, as Kyiv attempts to compensate for its battlefield disadvantage in weapons and troops. The unmanned aerial vehicles are also an affordable option while Ukraine waits for more US military aid.
Moscow also said Friday evening that an American citizen known to have fought with Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine between 2014 and 2017 had died in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region.
Russell Bentley, 64, was no longer involved in military operations and previously worked for state-owned Russian news agency Sputnik. His death was confirmed by his former battalion and by Margarita Simonyan, head of the state-funded television channel RT, who described him as “a real American.” He used the call-sign “Texas” and had spent time in prison on charges of drug smuggling before leaving the United States.
No information has been released as to the cause of Bentley’s death, but local police had previously reported the American as missing on April 8.
Meanwhile, Russia attacked Ukraine overnight with seven missiles, and air defenses downed two missiles and three reconnaissance drones, the Ukrainian air force said Saturday.
Gov. Oleh Kiper, head of Ukraine’s Odesa region, said that ballistic missiles had damaged infrastructure overnight, but did not provide further details. Previous attacks on the Black Sea city on Friday damaged port infrastructure, including two food export terminals, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Russian shelling also killed two men, including an 81-year-old pensioner in the city of Vovchansk, said Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, head of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.
A 60-year-old woman was also injured after shelling struck a nine-story apartment block, he said.