Zelensky returns to Washington to face growing dissent among Republicans to US spending for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Washington on Thursday for a whirlwind one-day visit. (AP/File)
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Updated 21 September 2023

Zelensky returns to Washington to face growing dissent among Republicans to US spending for Ukraine

  • Zelensky will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House
  • National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the Ukrainian president “our best messenger” in persuading US lawmakers to keep vital US money and weapons coming

WASHINGTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Washington on Thursday for a whirlwind one-day visit, this time to face the Republicans now questioning the flow of American dollars that for 19 months has kept his troops in the fight against Russian forces.
Zelensky will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House, speak with US military leaders at the Pentagon and stop at Capitol Hill to talk privately with Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate as the world is watching Western support for Kyiv.
It is Zelensky’s second visit to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and comes as Biden’s request to Congress for an additional $24 billion for Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs is hanging in the balance.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the Ukrainian president “our best messenger” in persuading US lawmakers to keep vital US money and weapons coming.
“It’s really important for members of Congress to be able to hear directly from the president about what he’s facing in this counteroffensive,” Kirby told reporters Wednesday, “and how he’s achieving his goals, and what he needs to continue to achieve those goals.”
Biden has called on world leaders to stand strong with Ukraine, even as he faces domestic political divisions at home. A hard-right flank of Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race for the White House, is increasingly opposed to sending more money overseas.
As the White House worked to shore up support for Ukraine before Zelensky’s visit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top intelligence officials briefed senior lawmakers behind closed doors Wednesday to argue the case.
But some Senate Republicans walked out of the briefing no more convinced than before about the necessity of spending more on Ukraine. “It’s not close to the end,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said. “What we’re basically told is, ‘Buckle up and get out your checkbook.”’
Since the start of the war, most members of Congress supported approving four rounds of aid to Ukraine, totaling about $113 billion, viewing defense of the country and its democracy as an imperative, especially when it comes to containing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some of that money went toward replenishing US military equipment sent to the frontlines.
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, who traveled to Kyiv this week, said cutting off US aid during the Ukrainians’ counteroffensive would be “catastrophic” to their efforts.
“That would clearly be the opening that Putin is looking for,” Kelly said Wednesday. “They cannot be successful without our support.”
The political environment has shifted markedly since Zelensky addressed Congress last December on his first trip out of Ukraine since the war began. He was met with rapturous applause for his country’s bravery and surprisingly strong showing in the war.
His meeting with senators on Thursday will take place behind closed doors in the Old Senate Chamber, a historical and intimate place of importance at the US Capitol, signifying the respect the Senate is showing the foreign leader.
But on the other side of the Capitol, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who faces more opposition within his Trump-aligned ranks to supporting Ukraine, is planning a separate meeting with Zelensky, with a smaller bipartisan group of lawmakers and committee chairmen.
“I will have questions for President Zelensky,” McCarthy told reporters before the visit.
The House speaker said he wanted more accountability for the money the US has already approved for Ukraine before moving ahead with more.
And, McCarthy said, he wants to know, “What is the plan for victory?”
In the Senate, however, Ukraine has a strong ally in Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who is out front in pushing his party, and the president, to continue robust support for Kyiv.
McConnell urged Biden before Wednesday’s closed-door briefing to senators to make sure the administration’s top brass puts forward a more forceful case in support of Ukraine so Congress can send Zelensky what’s needed to win the war.
“I sometimes get the sense that I speak more about Ukraine matters than the president does,” McConnell said in a speech Wednesday.

Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind

Updated 9 sec ago

Hundreds of inmates flee after armed gangs storm Haiti’s main prison, leaving bodies behind

  • Armed gangs attacked the prison facility on Saturday while Haiti's PM is abroad trying to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to stabilize the troubled Carribean country

44fePORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Hundreds of inmates fled Haiti’s main prison after armed gangs stormed the facility in an overnight explosion of violence that engulfed much of the capital. At least five people were dead Sunday.

The jailbreak marked a new low in Haiti’s downward spiral of violence and came as gangs step up coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince, while embattled Prime Minister Ariel Henry is abroad trying to salvage support for a United Nations-backed security force to stabilize the country.

Haiti's Prime Minister Ariel Henry gives a public lecture at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, Kenya, on March. 1, 2024, amid gang violence in his troubled Caribbean country. (AP)

Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance, which was wide open, with no guards in sight. Plastic sandals, clothing and electric fans were strewn across normally overcrowded concrete patios that were eerily empty on Sunday. In another neighborhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind their backs laid face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.
Haiti’s government urged calm as it sought to find the killers, kidnappers and perpetrators of other violent crimes that it said escaped during the outbreak of violence.
“The National Police is taking all measures to find the escaped prisoners and arrest those responsible for these criminal acts as well as all their accomplices so that public order can be restored,” the Communications Ministry said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Arnel Remy, a human rights attorney whose nonprofit works inside the prison, said on X that fewer than 100 of the nearly 4,000 inmates remained behind bars. Those choosing to stay included 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. On Saturday night, several of the Colombians shared a video pleading for their lives.
“Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said in the message widely shared on social media. “They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells.”
On Sunday, Uribe told journalists who walked breezily into the normally highly guarded facility “I didn’t flee because I’m innocent.”

Colombian inmates accused in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise talk to journalists inside the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (AP)

In the absence of official information, inmates’ family members rushed to the prison to check on loved ones.
“I don’t know whether my son is alive or not,” said Alexandre Jean as she roamed around the cells looking for any sign of him. “I don’t know what to do.”
The violence Saturday night appeared to be widespread, with several neighborhoods reporting gunfire.
There were reports of a jailbreak at a second Port-au-Prince prison containing around 1,400 inmates. Armed gangs also occupied and vandalized the nation’s top soccer stadium, taking one employee hostage for hours, the nation’s soccer federation said in a statement. Internet service for many residents was down as Haiti’s top mobile network said a fiber optic cable connection was slashed during the rampage.
In the space of less than two weeks, several state institutions have been attacked by the gangs, who are increasingly coordinating their actions and choosing once unthinkable targets like the Central Bank. After gangs opened fire at Haiti’s international airport last week, the US Embassy said it was temporarily halting all official travel to the country. As part of coordinated attacks by gangs, four police officers were killed Thursday.

Police officers battle gangsters trying to take control of Haiti on March 1, 2024. (REUTERS)

The epicenter of the latest violence Saturday night was Haiti’s National Penitentiary, which is holding several gang leaders. Amid the exchange of gunfire, police appealed for assistance.
“They need help,” a union representing police said in a message on social media bearing an “SOS” emoji repeated eight times. “Let’s mobilize the army and the police to prevent the bandits from breaking into the prison.”
The clashes follow violent protests that turned deadlier in recent days as the prime minister went to Kenya to try and salvage a proposed UN-backed security mission in Haiti to be led by the East African country. Henry took over as prime minister following Moise’s assassination and has repeatedly postponed plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, which haven’t happened in almost a decade.
Haiti’s National Police has roughly 9,000 officers to provide security for more than 11 million people, according to the UN. They are routinely overwhelmed and outgunned by gangs, which are estimated to control up to 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.
Jimmy Chérizier, a former elite police officer known as Barbecue who now runs a gang federation, has claimed responsibility for the surge in attacks. He said the goal was to capture Haiti’s police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry’s return.
The prime minister, a neurosurgeon, has shrugged off calls for his resignation and didn’t comment when asked if he felt it was safe to come home.

US vice president calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Updated 6 min 1 sec ago

US vice president calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

  • “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses”
  • Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, according to an Israeli newspaper
  • Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas government's Ministry of Health

SELMA, United States: US Vice President Kamala Harris called Sunday for a proposed six-week ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas war to be accepted, while criticizing Israel over insufficient aid deliveries into Gaza.
“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table,” Harris said during a speech in Selma, Alabama.
A senior US official on Saturday had said that Israel had broadly accepted the deal, which would see a six-week cessation of hostilities if Hamas agrees to release the most vulnerable hostages it holds.

A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

“This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in,” Harris said, calling on Hamas to accept the deal.
“Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal.”
She also issued the sharpest criticism to date of Israel by a top US official, calling on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps to increase aid into Gaza.
“The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses,” Harris said.
She added that Israel “must open new border crossings” and “must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid.”
Harris delivered her remarks at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where a march by hundreds of peaceful activists was violently suppressed by police on March 7, 1965.
The event, known as “Bloody Sunday,” further catalyzed support for Black rights and helped lead a few months later to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, a federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.
The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of around 1,160 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures, with around 250 people believed to have been taken hostage.
The Israeli army says 130 hostages remain in Gaza, of whom 31 are believed to be dead.
Israel’s military response has claimed 30,410 deaths, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas government’s Ministry of Health.


Zelensky defiant as Ukraine mourns victims of Odesa drone strike

Updated 03 March 2024

Zelensky defiant as Ukraine mourns victims of Odesa drone strike

  • The attack killed five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelensky and the regional governor

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday called for the world to help Kyiv defeat “Russian evil” as the death toll from a drone strike on Odesa rose to 12, including five children.
The strike on an apartment block in the southern port city early Saturday morning partially destroyed several floors, leaving more than a dozen people under the rubble.
The attack killed five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelensky and the regional governor.
“Mark, who was not even three years old, Yelyzaveta, eight months old, and Timofey, four months old,” Zelensky said, naming the youngest victims of the strike in a post on Telegram.
“Ukrainian children are Russia’s military targets,” he added.
Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Sunday evening, more than 36 hours after the strike, although Zelensky said the search and rescue operation had been called off.
He had pleaded Saturday with Kyiv’s Western allies to supply more air-defense systems as Russia continued to pound Ukraine with drones, missiles and artillery fire in the war’s third year.
Kyiv is currently on the back foot, following recent battlefield gains by Russia.
Zelensky said this latest strike underlined the importance of supporting Ukraine. A stalled $60-billion aid package from the United States has left Kyiv facing ammunition shortages.
“We are waiting for supplies that are vitally necessary, we are waiting, in particular, for an American solution,” Zelensky said later Sunday in his evening address.
Russia had lost 15 military aircraft since the beginning of February, he added. “The more opportunities we have to shoot down Russian aircraft... the more Ukrainian lives will be saved.”
There was no comment on the Odesa attack in Moscow. It denies targeting civilians despite evidence of Russian strikes on residential areas and the United Nations having verified at least 10,000 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Ukraine’s emergency services said they had found the bodies of families huddled together as they sifted through the rubble Sunday.
“A mother tried to cover her eight-month-old baby with her body. They were found in a tight embrace,” the agency said on Telegram.
Odesa Governor Oleg Kiper said the bodies of a brother and sister, aged 10 and eight, were also found together in the debris on Sunday evening.
In other incidents, Ukraine’s interior ministry reported one death and three people wounded in the southern Kherson region; and police said an airstrike on a residential quarter of Kurakhove, a town in the eastern Donetsk region, had wounded 16 people.
Russian military bloggers also reported a massive Ukrainian drone attack on the annexed peninsula of Crimea overnight.
Moscow said it shot down 38 Ukrainian drones, while the Rybar Telegram channel, close to Russia’s armed forces, said one had hit a pipeline at an oil depot, the presumed target of the attack.
Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
A senior Ukrainian commander also accused Russian forces of dropping explosives containing an unspecified chemical substance over the battlefield, and said the situation on the front lines was “complicated, but under control.”
Meanwhile, the fallout from a leaked audio recording of German military officials looked set to sink relations between Moscow and Berlin even lower on Sunday.
A 38-minute recording of German officers discussing the possible use of German-made Taurus missiles by Ukraine and their potential impact was posted on Russian social media late Friday.
Russia has demanded an explanation from Berlin.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Sunday that Moscow was “using this recording to destabilize and unsettle us,” adding that this was part of Putin’s “information war.”

US Supreme Court to issue ruling; Trump ballot case looms

Updated 03 March 2024

US Supreme Court to issue ruling; Trump ballot case looms

  • The highest court did not specify what ruling it would issue, but the justices on Feb. 8 heard arguments in Trump’s appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that kicked him off the ballot for taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection
WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court plans to issue at least one ruling on Monday, the day before Colorado holds a presidential primary election in which a lower court kicked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump off the ballot for taking part in an insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol attack. The Supreme Court, in an unusual Sunday update to its schedule, did not specify what ruling it would issue. But the justices on Feb. 8 heard arguments in Trump’s appeal of the Colorado ruling and are due to issue their own decision. Colorado is one of 15 states and a US territory holding primary elections on “Super Tuesday.” Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 US election. The Republican Party of Colorado has asked the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump, to rule before Tuesday in the ballot eligibility case. During arguments, Supreme Court justices signaled sympathy toward Trump’s appeal of a Dec. 19 ruling by Colorado’s top court to disqualify him from the state’s ballot under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from holding public office any “officer of the United States” who took an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Trump supporters attacked police and swarmed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours rebuffed requests that he urge the mob to stop. Anti-Trump forces have sought to disqualify him in more than two dozen other states — a mostly unsuccessful effort — over his actions relating to the Jan. 6 attack. Maine and Illinois also have barred Trump from their ballot, though both those decisions are on hold pending the Supreme Court’s Colorado ruling. During arguments in the Colorado case, Supreme Court justices — conservatives and liberals alike — expressed concern about states taking sweeping actions that could impact a presidential election nationwide. They pondered how states can properly enforce the Section 3 disqualification language against candidates, with several wondering whether Congress must first pass legislation to enable that. In another case with high stakes for the election, the Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. The court appears likely to reject Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution, according to legal experts, but its decision to spend months on the matter could aid his quest to regain the presidency by further delaying a monumental criminal trial. Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse Biden’s victory because he was president when he took those actions, a sweeping assertion of immunity firmly rejected by lower courts. But the Supreme Court’s decision not to schedule its arguments on the issue until late April reduces the chances that a trial on the election subversion charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith could be finished before the presidential election.

Outstanding female achievement recognized at 10th Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London

Updated 03 March 2024

Outstanding female achievement recognized at 10th Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London

LONDON: Arab women from diverse professional backgrounds were honored for their global achievements at an annual awards ceremony in London, with Saudi Arabia leading the praise for female empowerment.

The 10th Arab Women of the Year Awards, organized by the UK-based London Arabia Organization, this year celebrated eight females for their achievements in business leadership, research and development, creativity, cultural pioneering, social development, cultural exchange, cybersecurity education, and humanitarian aid.

Omar Bdour, chief executive officer of the organization, said: “We don’t set a category, because we want every woman to go to our website for nominations and feel that she’s not pushed away, so it’s open to all fields and anyone can nominate anyone.”

This year saw the entry of new categories in creativity, as well as cybersecurity education, he told Arab News during the ceremony that was hosted at the Carlton Tower Jumeirah on Wednesday. Through the awards, organizers aim to strengthen UK-Arab ties by focusing on empowering Arab women worldwide.

Winners with their award at the 10th Arab Women of the Year Awards. (Supplied)

Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, founder of Saudi Fashion Week and the Global Culture House, a Saudi boutique consultancy, thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “for their vision and enablement of women with the minister of culture.”

The princess dedicated her award in cultural pioneering to “all the women out there.”

She said: “I was recently in the public sector, so I owe this to the Ministry of Culture for furthering my career, as well as from a personal perspective, my dear parents and siblings, and the other people that have supported my career growth through partnerships and opportunities.”

Princess Noura joined the ministry in 2019 where she headed strategy development for the Kingdom’s fashion sector and helped support and nurture local talent.

Winner of the social development achievement went to Emirati Khuloud Hassan Al-Nuwais, a businesswoman and strategist who has been profiled as one of the UAE’s inspirational leaders in 2014 and played a key role in establishing the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Foundation, a national charity dedicated to facilitating public-private social development programs and initiatives.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the awards, organizers decided to host the first annual Arab Women’s Summit on Thursday at Lancaster House. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“My journey from the private sector to philanthropy was a decision driven by a desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

“Our leadership’s commitment to empowering women in the UAE has given me the opportunity to grow, to give and to serve as I reflect on this journey,” Al-Nuwais said.

Baria Alamuddin, a member of the organization’s advisory board, said: “(Awards that celebrate) successful women give them a lot of confidence, a lot of things to look forward to.

“I think in the Arab world we need it, because for a long time women in the Arab world have been brought up (to believe) that the brother and the boy can do more things and are more important.”

A writer and journalist, she noted that Arab societies were “reaching some kind of an equilibrium,” but that Arab women still “lacked a bit of self-confidence.”

Bahraini ambassador to UK Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa with an award winner. (Supplied)

On the awards’ cybersecurity category, she added: “It is extremely important in our part of the world (and) we need it because, as you know, this is almost the new enemy in the new world, and we cannot live without our internet and our connections.”

Alamuddin also called for equal opportunities for women in computer programming, journalism, the army, parliament, and many other fields.

And she praised the increase in Saudi female participation in the workforce, currently running at 34 percent, which had already surpassed the Vision 2030 target of 30 percent of the labor market.

“What I like about Saudi women is their passion. They really want to arrive, they really want to succeed, they really want to be firm believers, and they’re not only proud of their country, but also to participate in the development of their country and the Arab world at large,” Alamuddin said.

London Arabia annually hosts sessions at the British Parliament and various universities on the sidelines of the awards ceremony, but this year, to mark the 10th anniversary, organizers decided to host the first annual Arab Women’s Summit on Thursday at Lancaster House with former UK Prime Minister Theresa May as headline speaker.

Baria Alamuddin (C), a member of the organization’s advisory board, spoke at the Arab Women’s Summit. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Kiran Haslam, chief marketing officer for the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, a key sponsor of the event, said: “It’s a very important summit and some of the discussion points that we’ve had, the recipients of the awards from the ceremony, which was absolutely sensational to experience, and to hear their own words of what motivated them and drove them to succeed in the way that they have, was absolutely fantastic.”

He pointed out that the two-day event took seriously the opportunity, vision, and ambition of the Kingdom under the country’s leadership.

“What we have is an extraordinary development in society which sees 85 percent of the workforce in Diriyah being Saudi, 36 percent being female, 16 percent of the female population of employees we have are in senior leadership positions, which is a real testament to the vision and the ambition and sees really delivering the Diriyah project through extremely authentic eyes, hearts, and minds.

“The entire Vision 2030 path that has been laid is unlocking so many very special ways in which society is developing.

“I encounter young Saudi women all across the world who are being recognized and awarded for exceptional things, their exceptional perseverance, their intellect, dedication, and focus on particular subjects and causes,” Haslam added.