Zelensky says frontline situation ‘difficult’ due to aid ‘delays’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) visiting the frontline positions of Ukrainian troops in the Kupyansk sector, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 20 February 2024
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Zelensky says frontline situation ‘difficult’ due to aid ‘delays’

  • Russian troops “are taking advantage of the delays in helping Ukraine,” Zelensky says

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said his troops were facing complicated fighting along sections of the sprawling front line, with delays in Western military aid impacting his army.
Moscow’s forces are back on the offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine, and captured Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region, securing their first major gain since taking Bakhmut in May 2023.
“The situation is extremely difficult in several parts of the front line, where Russian troops have concentrated maximum reserves,” Zelensky said.
He was returning from a trip to brigades around the northeastern city of Kupiansk, in the frontline Kharkiv region.
Russian troops “are taking advantage of the delays in helping Ukraine,” Zelensky continued, adding his country faced artillery shortages and needed frontline air defense capabilities as well as longer-range weapons.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian troops said they were facing “heavy fire” from advancing Russian forces in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.
Senior Ukrainian commander Oleksandr Tarnavsky said Russia was launching multiple attacks near the village of Robotyne — one of the few places where Ukraine had managed to regain ground during last year’s counter-offensive.
Russia was trying to advance with “small assault groups with the involvement of several units of armored vehicles,” he said in a Telegram post.
“These offensive attempts are being halted, the enemy is being eliminated in the outskirts of Robotyne,” Tarnavsky, who commands Ukraine’s forces in the area, said in a post on Telegram.
Reports from Russian military bloggers had earlier said Moscow’s forces were in the southern edges of the village.
“The situation is dynamic here, the enemy is inflicting heavy fire,” Tarnavsky’s spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy said earlier Monday on state TV.
Like many settlements across eastern Ukraine, Robotyne has been completely flattened by months of artillery fire.
Ukraine’s defenses have been stretched in recent weeks by shortages in ammunition and manpower.
Lykhoviy said the Russians were “regrouping” after Ukraine withdrew from Avdiivka and “will probably transfer units to other sectors.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the capture of Avdiivka as an “important victory” for his troops, just days before the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on February 24.


London art exhibition addresses Arab pasts to ‘envision bright futures,’ says artist

Updated 10 sec ago
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London art exhibition addresses Arab pasts to ‘envision bright futures,’ says artist

  • Born in Los Angeles, Massoud Hayoun draws upon his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage to explore notions of belonging and identity
  • The exhibition is entitled ‘Between Broken Promises, Harissa’

LONDON: An art exhibition “addressing Arab pasts to imagine futures full of solidarity, progress and unity” has debuted at a gallery in London, drawing people from different Arab backgrounds, according to the artist.

Born in Los Angeles, Massoud Hayoun draws upon his Tunisian, Moroccan and Egyptian heritage to explore notions of belonging, identity and systems of power through his work, exhibiting 14 canvases drawn from his critically acclaimed memoir “When We Were Arabs: A Jewish Family’s Forgotten History,” published in 2019 by The New Press in New York.

“His evocative portraits, painted as though they were drawn using a blue-ink ballpoint pen, celebrate the complexity of society at its fullest, featuring convicts, sex workers and migrant laborers while also paying homage to the people who raised him: his Egyptian and Tunisian grandparents,” the London-based Larkin Durey gallery said in a statement.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Larkin Durey (@larkindurey)

The exhibition, entitled “Between Broken Promises, Harissa,” which is set to conclude on Friday, was listed as one of “the coolest things to do in London this week” by British GQ magazine when it opened on May 9.

“I wrote a book on Arab identity in 2019 in which I ask what Arabness is and apply that to the lives of my grandparents, who raised me ... and I felt it was important to share our little political theories with the world,” Hayoun told Arab News.

“Those ideas reflect largely in these works. Our family is of Jewish faith, but like many believers in Arabism of diverse backgrounds, our Arabness is paramount. It supersedes but does not cancel out any simultaneous identity,” he added.

The death of Hayoun’s grandparents, with whom he was especially close, led him to interrogate his Jewish Arab roots as, for the 36-year-old artist, “politics are personal, and the more people benefit from certain oppressive power structures, the less likely they are to notice ... the degree to which all politics are personal.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Larkin Durey (@larkindurey)

Similarly, his two poetic novels, “Building 46” and “Last Night in Brighton,” both published by Darf Publishers in London, use the framework of the ghost story to examine body image, migrant laborers, and the North African diaspora.

“As a journalist, Hayoun was drawn to ‘help uplift voices — not just those of analysts and academics, but on many occasions of people who are systematically silenced,’ and personal loss, the pandemic and the example of his grandmother taking up drawing late in life, inspired Hayoun to focus on painting, a language he has always enjoyed as an immediate, visceral way in which to tell stories,” the gallery said.

His portraits are painted as though drawn using a blue ballpoint pen, which Hayoun described as “blue faces with highlights look ethereal and ghostly, and I’m often painting about people who are either passed away or set in the past or distant history.

“But, as with all art and literature, there are no invalid interpretations. Their interpretations will certainly influence my work going forward,” he said.

“The works in this show are about Arabness — not Jewish Arabness or any particular Arab community. With the news as it is, it is radical to envision bright Arab futures,” Hayoun explained.

Having already toured the US and almost concluding his UK exhibition, the artist said he is now in the process of talking to several galleries and museums to show more in Arab and Gulf countries instead of being “in the position of talking about Arabs in the so-called West.”

He said: “I’m just one of very many younger people of Arab origin right now who, for a variety of reasons, are coming together to ask what Arabness was, is, and will be and that’s a pressing and prescient question with current events as they are.

“Above all the more superficial things I’m taking away from London is a community of kindred spirits thinking past the darkness of these times. That’s a hopeful thing that will fuel my practice indefinitely,” he added.


Blinken urges Egypt to ensure aid is flowing into Gaza

Updated 27 min 15 sec ago
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Blinken urges Egypt to ensure aid is flowing into Gaza

  • Fighting near the crossing has made providing assistance challenging, but aid could still be getting through, Blinken said
  • “We do strongly urge our Egyptian partners to do everything that they can on their end of things to make sure that assistance is flowing“

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged Egypt to do everything it can to make sure humanitarian aid is flowing into Gaza as food and medicine bound for the strip piles up on the Egyptian side.
Blinken told a hearing in the House of Representatives that the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza remained closed after Israel’s military seized it on May 7.
Fighting near the crossing has made providing assistance challenging, but aid could still be getting through, Blinken said, an apparent reference to the Kerem Shalom crossing near Rafah that has been open.
“So we need to find a way to make sure that the assistance that would go through Rafah can get through safely, but we do strongly urge our Egyptian partners to do everything that they can on their end of things to make sure that assistance is flowing,” Blinken said.
Israel is retaliating against Hamas in Gaza — an enclave of 2.3 million people — over a brutal Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militants. Aid access into southern Gaza has been disrupted since Israel stepped up military operations in Rafah, a move that the UN says has forced 900,000 people to flee and has raised tensions with Egypt.
Egyptian security sources said Egypt cannot bring aid in through Rafah as this would mean an acceptance of the Israeli military’s presence at the crossing, which Egypt opposes.
Egypt’s foreign minister said on Monday that the Israeli military presence and combat operations put truck drivers in danger.
Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the hold-up was Egypt’s fault.
“Right now, Egypt is withholding 2,000 trucks of humanitarian assistance from going into Gaza because they have a political issue about the Rafah crossing,” Dermer said.


Nepal’s ‘Everest Man’ claims record 30th summit

Updated 35 min 23 sec ago
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Nepal’s ‘Everest Man’ claims record 30th summit

KATHMANDU: A 54-year-old Nepali climber known as “Everest Man” reached the peak of the world’s highest mountain for a record 30th time on Wednesday, three decades after his first summit.

Kami Rita Sherpa, who broke his own record after climbing the 8,849-meter peak for the 29th time earlier this month, has previously said that he was “just working” and did not plan on setting records.

“Kami Rita reached the summit this morning. Now he has made a new record with 30 summits of Everest,” Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, his expedition organizer, told AFP.

But celebrations were overshadowed after a Romanian mountaineer was confirmed dead, and a British climber and Nepali guide were reported missing — the latest casualties highlighting the risks of the sport.

Sherpa first stood on the top of Mount Everest in 1994 when working for a commercial expedition.

Since then he has climbed Everest almost every year, guiding clients.

“I am glad for the record, but records are eventually broken,” he told AFP after his 29th climb on May 12.

“I am more happy that my climbs help Nepal be recognized in the world.”

Nepal has issued more than 900 permits for its mountains this year, including 419 for Everest, earning more than $5 million in royalties. Around 500 climbers and their guides have already reached the summit of Everest after a rope-fixing team reached the peak last month.

This year, China also reopened the Tibetan route to foreigners for the first time since closing it in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks and welcomes hundreds of adventurers each spring, when temperatures are warm and winds typically calm.

Last year more than 600 climbers made it to the summit of Everest but it was also the deadliest season on the mountain, with 18 fatalities. 


Zelensky says Ukraine needs system to defend against Russia’s guided bombs

Updated 44 min 49 sec ago
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Zelensky says Ukraine needs system to defend against Russia’s guided bombs

  • Zelensky said Ukraine had made progress in developing electronic weaponry, “but in countering Russian bombs much remains to be done“
  • “Ukraine needs systems and tactics that will allow us to protect our positions, our cities and our communities from these bombs“

KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a fresh plea on Wednesday for upgraded defense systems to protect Ukraine’s cities against guided bombs, which he described as the “the main instrument” now used by Moscow in its attacks.
Zelensky has long called for improved air defenses as Russia intensifies its assaults on energy and other infrastructure. Russia says it does not deliberately target civilian sites, but thousands have been killed and injured since its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking in his nightly video address, Zelensky said Ukraine had made progress in developing electronic weaponry, “but in countering Russian bombs much remains to be done.”
“There can be no alternative. Ukraine needs systems and tactics that will allow us to protect our positions, our cities and our communities from these bombs,” he said.
“This is now practically the main instrument of Russian terror and in the occupiers’ advances.”
Earlier this month, Zelensky said Russia had used more than 3,200 guided bombs against Ukrainian targets throughout April, along with more than 300 missiles and about 300 Shahed-type drones.
Russia has increasingly resorted to these bombs, which are directed to a target by a guidance system, have great destructive potential and pose fewer risks to air crews delivering them.
In his comments, Zelensky said four more countries — Albania, Austria, Chile and Mozambique — had agreed to attend a “peace summit” in Switzerland in June with the aim of creating a broad front to oblige Russia to agree to a peace settlement under the terms of the UN Charter and acceptable to Kyiv.
“Russian aggression has tried to turn the UN Charter into a museum exhibit,” he said. “Our peace summit, the participation of global leaders, can restore the full effectiveness and full protection of the UN Charter to every nation.”
Zelensky’s peace plan calls for the withdrawal of all Russian forces and the restoration of Ukraine’s 1991 borders.
Russia, which rejects the plan, is not invited to the June meeting and dismisses as pointless any discussion of the conflict without its participation.


US says Palestinian state should come via talks, not unilateral recognition

Updated 22 May 2024
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US says Palestinian state should come via talks, not unilateral recognition

  • Washington’s reaction appeared to signal US dismay that the three European nations announced an intent to proceed with unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a regular news briefing each country could make its own decision on recognition of a Palestinian state

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden believes a Palestinian state should be achieved through negotiations, not unilateral recognition, the White House said on Wednesday after Ireland, Spain and Norway said they would recognize a Palestinian state this month.
Washington’s reaction appeared to signal US dismay that the three European nations announced an intent to proceed with unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, which does not exist in practice.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told a regular news briefing each country could make its own decision on recognition of a Palestinian state, but that Biden thinks direct negotiations by the parties is the best approach.
“President Biden believes that a two-state solution that guarantees Israel’s security and also a future of dignity and security for the Palestinian people is the best way to bring about long-term security and stability for everyone in the region,” Sullivan said.
“President Biden ... has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not for unilateral recognition.”
Sullivan had been asked if the United States was concerned that other nations might follow suit in recognizing a Palestinian state. He said the US would communicate its consistent position to partners “see what unfolds.”

WAR IN GAZA
Decades of US efforts have failed to achieve a “two-state solution” with Israel living alongside a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank, ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Gaza, ruled by the Hamas Islamist movement since it seized the coastal strip from the PA in a brief 2007 civil war.
Israel began an offensive in Gaza after Hamas-led gunmen attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli figures.
More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since then, health officials in the Hamas-run enclave say.
Israel is now attacking Rafah in southern Gaza, saying it wants to root out Hamas militants. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled Rafah since the start of the assault, and the main access routes for aid into Gaza have been blocked.
Sullivan said he was briefed on Israeli plans to minimize civilian harm in Rafah during a weekend visit to the region, and Washington will track whether the assault causes widespread death and destruction or is more precise and proportional.
“We now have to see what unfolds from here,” he said.
He said aid was flowing in from a pier in Gaza, and that it was wrong for Israel to withhold funds from the West Bank.