Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference during the “Ukraine Year 2024” forum in Kyiv on February 25, 2024, marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Ukraine needs Western aid to win war after setbacks: Zelensky

  • In a rare acknowledgement of setbacks, he said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his country’s victory “depends” on support from the West and expressed hope the United States would approve a critical package of military aid.

In a rare acknowledgement of setbacks, Zelensky said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war and that plans for last summer’s failed counteroffensive had been leaked to Russia.

He appealed to the West to boost Ukraine’s war chances, at a forum marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“Whether Ukraine will lose, whether it will be very difficult for us, and whether there will be a large number of casualties depends on you, on our partners, on the Western world,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine has in recent weeks been weakened by an ammunition shortage, with a vital $60-billion US aid package blocked by political wrangling in the US Congress.

The Ukrainian president said that “there is hope for Congress, and I am sure that it is going to be positive.”

Ukraine has for months said that Western aid is too slow coming and that the hold-ups have real consequences as the war against Russia enters its third year.

Zelensky for the first time suggested that Russia had prior information on the country’s much-anticipated but unsuccessful counteroffensive last summer.

“Action plans were on the Kremlin’s table before the counteroffensive actions began,” said the president, who this month sacked the army’s commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny.

Zelensky said that Ukraine’s war losses were nevertheless much lower than Russia has claimed.

He said: “31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in this war. Not 300,000 or 150,000, or whatever Putin and his lying circle are saying.”

In December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 383,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or injured.

The second anniversary of the war was marked around the world with moving tributes.

During a Sunday service in the Vatican, Pope Francis called for intensified efforts to find a “just and lasting peace” to the conflict.

“There have been so many victims, so many wounded, so much destruction, so much anguish and so many tears over what has become a terribly long period — the end of which we cannot yet foresee,” he said.

But the focus in Kyiv was on shoring up Western support.

Ukraine Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said earlier Sunday that half of Western military aid to Kyiv was delivered later than promised, causing losses.

Europe has admitted it will fall far short of a plan to deliver more than one million artillery shells to the country by March, instead hoping to complete the shipments by the end of the year.

Such delays meant Kyiv would “lose people, lose territories,” especially given Russia’s “air superiority,” said Umerov.

“We do everything possible and impossible but without timely supply it harms us,” he said.

US President Joe Biden has said the hold-ups directly contributed to Ukraine being forced to withdraw from the frontline town of Avdiivka earlier in February — handing Russia its first territorial gain in almost a year.

Zelensky had pressed G7 leaders on Saturday to ensure the fast delivery of weapons, telling them: “Putin can lose this war” and “we will win.”

But, after a year of static frontlines, Russia has in recent weeks been seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield and try to advance beyond Avdiivka.

“Despite the difficult situation, our soldiers courageously hold their lines and positions,” Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, said Sunday after visiting frontline command posts.

Russia marked the start of the war’s third year with a wave of overnight missile and drone attacks.

A missile strike on the eastern city of Kostyantynivka wounded one, destroyed the railway station — which is not in use — along with dozens of apartments, shops and administrative buildings, Ukrainian authorities said.

Explosives dropped by a Russian drone killed a 57-year-old man in Nikopol, across the Dnipro river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, captured by Russia at the start of the war.

Umerov said Russia had fired more than 8,000 missiles at his country since the start of the invasion — an average of more than 10 a day.

Visiting the southern city of Mykolaiv, Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, pledged an additional 100 million euros ($108 million) in humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

“We should not minimize this aid as being in vain — it saves lives every day,” she said, standing in front of a building destroyed by Russian strikes on the city.

French President Emmanuel Macron will on Monday host a summit European leaders at the Elysees Palace in Paris to try to strengthen Western support for Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda will be among some 20 European leaders attending the conference, which will open with a video address from Zelensky.


Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

Updated 7 sec ago
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Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

  • Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London
LONDON: An investigation into a ransomware attack earlier this month on London hospitals by the Russian group Qilin could take weeks to complete, the country’s state-run National Health Service said Friday, as concerns grow over a reported data dump of patient records.
Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London.
The attack affected King’s College and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital trusts, which run several south London hospitals, as well as clinics and doctors’ practices across a swath of the city. A memo to staff called it a “critical incident” and said it had a “major impact” on services, particularly blood transfusions.
NHS England said Friday that it has been “made aware” that data connected to the attack have been published online. According to the BBC, Qilin shared almost 400GB of data, including patient names, dates of birth and descriptions of blood tests, on their darknet site and Telegram channel.
“The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Center are working to verify the data included in the published files as quickly as possible,” NHS England said in a statement. “These files are not simple uploads and so investigations of this nature are highly complex and can take weeks if not longer to complete.”
According to Saturday’s edition of the Guardian newspaper, records covering 300 million patient interactions, including the results of blood tests for HIV and cancer, were stolen during the attack.
A website and helpline has been set up for patients affected.
“We understand the distress this will cause patients who have to re-test,” NHS England said.
The National Crime Agency has confirmed that it is leading the criminal investigation but said it is unable to comment further.
Ransomware involves criminals paralyzing computer systems with malware, then demanding money to release them. Ransomware is the costliest and most disruptive form of cybercrime, affecting local governments, court systems, hospitals and schools as well as businesses. It is difficult to combat as most gangs are based in former Soviet states and out of reach of Western justice.
Britain’s state-funded health system has been hit before, including during a 2017 ransomware attack that froze computers at hospitals across the country, closing down wards, shutting emergency rooms and bringing treatment to a halt.
Qilin, also known as Agenda, advertises on dark web cybercrime forums and leases malware to affiliates who use it to conduct attacks for a percentage of ransom payments, said Louise Ferrett of Searchlight Cyber, a threat intelligence company. The group has listed more than 100 victims.

BRICS countries launch joint tourism roadmap at Moscow forum

Updated 17 min 31 sec ago
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BRICS countries launch joint tourism roadmap at Moscow forum

  • BRICS accounts for 45 percent of world’s population, 25 percent of global economy
  • New strategy includes increased mobility between the nine countries

MOSCOW: The BRICS group of emerging-market nations has launched a roadmap to boost travel between member nations during the organization’s first tourism forum, which was held in Moscow over the weekend.

The BRICS group — an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — was formed in 2009 as an investment forum. It has since evolved into a geopolitical bloc and in January expanded to include Iran, the UAE, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The group’s leaders meet for annual summits hosted by the member holding its rotating presidency. This year’s chairmanship was taken by Russia.

Over 300 representatives of the industry gathered in Moscow for the BRICS Tourism Forum on Friday as delegates of the nine member countries announced a roadmap for joint policy and investment initiatives, which covers the development of digital tourism solutions, the BRICS green initiative for tourism, and the development of business relations in the sector, which Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said makes up around five percent of the group members’ economies.

“We can say that the BRICS tourism track has been formally launched as of this moment,” Reshetnikov told reporters. “The document will bolster cooperation in the tourism industry’s digitalization and in promoting and increasing tourist exchanges.”

The roadmap was welcomed by the Indian Ministry of Tourism.

“This is a great achievement, the first of its kind, and now the countries will work together in a certain manner through the roadmap,” Niraj Sharan, assistant director general at the ministry, told Arab News.

“In the future, more and more tourists will move within BRICS nations. It will be easy to go around, easing travel formalities, each country will facilitate member countries’ citizens, there will be cooperation between the hospitality sectors, and the countries will invest in each other’s firms.”

India is already offering e-visas to most of the BRICS nations.

“India is aiming at a better partnership, coordination and cohesion among all the BRICS nations — better facilities, easy movement of tourists, better exchanges for tourism sectors, tourism stakeholders, enhancing investment in each other’s countries,” Sharan said.

Amr El-Kadi, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said: “The BRICS Tourism Forum is significant, it’s opening up new territories. It’s a golden opportunity, where we can all work (together) within BRICS to increase intra-tourism.

“We have another major program to promote Egypt in India. We are working hard with the Indian embassy in Cairo to do a lot,” he continued. “We have a joint working team between both countries to know exactly how and where to promote tourism both ways. So, we have very ambitious plans.”

BRICS nations have a combined population of about 45 percent of the world’s inhabitants and account for some 25 percent of the global economy.

Since last year, 40 countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan, have reportedly expressed interest in becoming members of the BRICS bloc, which aims to represent the Global South and provide an alternative model to the Western-dominated G7 — the most advanced economies comprising Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the US.


BRICS countries launch tourism cooperation roadmap at Moscow forum

Updated 26 min 53 sec ago
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BRICS countries launch tourism cooperation roadmap at Moscow forum

  • BRICS accounts for 45 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the global economy
  • New roadmap includes increased mobility between the nine countries and mutual investments

MOSCOW: BRICS countries on Friday launched a tourism cooperation roadmap during the intergovernmental organization’s first tourism forum held in Moscow, with top officials calling it a “great achievement” toward easing travel formalities and boosting cooperation among the hospitality sectors of the grouping of emerging-market nations. 

The BRICS group — the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — was formed in 2009 as an investment forum and has since evolved into a geopolitical bloc. In January, the group expanded its membership to include Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The group’s leaders meet for annual summits hosted by the members holding its rotating presidency. This year’s chairmanship was taken by Russia, which for the first time in the bloc’s history held a forum dedicated to tourism.

Over 300 representatives of the industry gathered in Moscow on Friday for the BRICS Tourism Forum, where delegates of the nine member countries announced a roadmap on joint policy and investment initiatives.

“We can say that the BRICS tourism track has been formally launched as of this moment,” Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov told reporters.

“The document will bolster cooperation in the tourism industry’s digitalization and in promoting and increasing tourist exchanges.”

It included developing digital tourism solutions, a BRICS green initiative for tourism, and business relations in the sector, which Reshetnikov said contributes about five percent to the group’s member economies.

The roadmap was welcomed by the Indian Ministry of Tourism.

“This is a great achievement, first of its kind, and now the countries will work together in a certain manner or through the roadmap,” Niraj Sharan, assistant director general at the ministry, told Arab News on the sidelines of the forum.

“In the future, more and more tourists will move within BRICS nations. It will be easy to go around, easing travel formalities, each country will facilitate member countries’ citizens, there will be cooperation among the hospitality sectors, and the countries will be investing in each other’s firms.”

India is already offering e-visas to most of the BRICS nations.

“India is aiming at a better partnership, coordination and cohesion among all the BRICS nations, better facilities, easy movement of tourists, better exchanges for tourism sectors, tourism stakeholders, enhancing investment in each other’s countries,” Sharan said.

BRICS nations have a combined population of about 45 percent of the world’s inhabitants and account for some 25 percent of the global economy.

Since last year, 40 countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan, have expressed interest in becoming members of the bloc, which tries to represent the Global South and provide an alternative model to the Western-dominated G7 — the most advanced economies comprising Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada and the US.

Egypt, a new member of the bloc, said the roadmap was an opportunity to benefit from linkages with some of the world’s most populous countries.

“The BRICS Tourism Forum is significant, it’s opening up to new territories ... It’s a golden opportunity, where you all have to work on the development and improvement, and work between the nations within the BRICS to increase intra-tourism,” said Amr El-Kadi, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

“We are having another big-scale program to promote Egypt in India. We are working hard with the Indian embassy in Cairo to do a lot. We have a joint working team between both countries to know exactly how and where and where to promote tourism both ways. So, we have very ambitious plans for us.”


Anger after fireworks trigger Greek forest fire

Updated 26 min 33 sec ago
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Anger after fireworks trigger Greek forest fire

  • Greece has recently toughened penalties for arson, with perpetrators now facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 euros

ATHENS: A forest fire on the Greek tourist island of Hydra, near Athens, was started by fireworks launched from a yacht, firefighters said Saturday, sparking widespread anger.
The fire, which started on Friday evening, has been brought under control, authorities said.
The blaze was “caused by a fireworks launched from a boat and burned the only pine forest on the island in a place that is difficult to access and has no road,” said the island’s seasonal firefighting team on Facebook.
The mayor of the island, Giorgos Koukoudakis, told public television channel ERT that he was “outraged that certain people are starting fires in such an irresponsible manner.”
The news also sparked fury on social media.
Greece has recently toughened penalties for arson, with perpetrators now facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 euros.
The country has been bracing for a particularly difficult summer as authorities warned that strong winds and high temperatures mean there was a “very high risk” of forest fires.
The Mediterranean country recorded its first heatwave of the year last week with temperatures passing more than 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in some locations.
Greek firefighters on Friday battled wildfires fanned by three days of fierce winds that left at least one person dead.
Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.
Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world.
Rising temperatures are leading to extended wildfire seasons and increasing the area burnt by the blazes, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Italian coast guard recovers 14 more bodies of shipwreck victims off Calabria, dozens still missing

Updated 22 June 2024
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Italian coast guard recovers 14 more bodies of shipwreck victims off Calabria, dozens still missing

  • Humanitarian groups have decried the deaths as evidence of the failure of European migration policy

ROME: The Italian coast guard has recovered 14 more bodies from last week’s shipwreck in the Ionian Sea off the southern Italian coastline, bringing to 34 the number of known victims from the sinking. Dozens are still missing and presumed dead.
The bodies, recovered on Friday, were transferred to a port in Calabria. Three coast guard ships were active in the air-and-sea search, some 190 kilometers (120 miles) from shore.
Survivors reported that the motorboat had caught fire, causing it to capsize off the Italian coast overnight last Sunday, about eight days after departing from Turkiye with about 75 people from Iran, Syria and Iraq on board, according to the UN refugee agency and other UN organizations. Eleven survivors were being treated on shore.
The latest deaths bring to more than 800 people who have died or went missing and are presumed dead crossing the central Mediterranean so far this year, an average of five dead a day, the UN agencies said.
Humanitarian groups have decried the deaths as evidence of the failure of European migration policy.