Kyiv slams Pope’s ‘white flag’ call, vows no surrender to Russia

People waves Ukrainian flags before Pope Francis Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 10 March 2024
Follow

Kyiv slams Pope’s ‘white flag’ call, vows no surrender to Russia

  • Ukraine says Moscow has launched missile attacks on the northeastern Kharkiv region and sent attack drones across the center and south of the country

KYIV, Ukraine: Ukraine on Sunday angrily rejected Pope Francis’s call to negotiate with Russia two years into its invasion, vowing “never” to surrender after the pontiff said Kyiv should “have the courage to raise the white flag.”
The row over his comments came as officials in Ukraine said Russian shelling in the east had killed three people Sunday. A strike on a residential building in the eastern town of Myrnograd wounded a dozen more people, said Kyiv.
Ukraine also said Moscow launched missile attacks on the northeastern Kharkiv region and sent attack drones across the center and south of the country.
Russia, meanwhile, said one woman was killed in Ukrainian shelling of a border village.
The pope’s comments this weekend fueled anger in Kyiv this weekend after he said in an interview that Ukraine should negotiate with Russia, which has seized large swathes of its territory in the offensive.
“Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
He was responding to the Pope’s interview to Swiss broadcaster RTS in which the Catholic leader raised the prospect of surrender — two years after Kyiv has battled Russian forces on its territory.
“I believe that the strongest are those who see the situation, think about the people, and have the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate,” Pope Francis said in an interview conducted in early February and broadcast on Saturday.
Ukrainian officials compared the statement to some of the Catholic church collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II.
“At the same time, when it comes to the white flag, we know this Vatican strategy from the first half of the 20th century,” Kuleba said, calling on the Holy See to “avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrii Yurash, went further, comparing the Pope’s negotiation suggestion to talking to Adolf Hitler:
“(The) lesson is only one — if we want to finish war, we have to do everything to kill (the) Dragon!,” he said on social media.
After the interview aired, Francis offered fresh prayers for “martyred Ukraine,” as Vatican officials said his call was simply intended to end fierce fighting.
Some Western diplomats joined the criticism.
“Russia is the aggressor and breaks international law! Therefore Germany asks Moscow to stop the war, not Kyiv!,” said Bernhard Kotsch, Germany’s envoy to the Vatican.
Kuleba said Kyiv hoped Francis would visit his war-torn country after more than two years of battling its bigger neighbor.
In Ukraine itself, officials reported the latest deaths.
“Three people died as a result of today’s shelling in the Donetsk region,” said the head of the embattled region, Vadym Filashkin, on social media.
He said rescuers pulled out two bodies “from under the rubble of a house” in the town of Dobropillya, which he said Russia attacked with Iranian-made Shahed drones at night.
A 66-year-old man was also killed in the frontline town of Chasiv Yar, Filashkin said.
Further south, a Russian night-time strike on the east Ukrainian town of Myrnograd wounded a dozen people, Kyiv said. Myrnograd lies in the Donetsk region around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the frontline with Russian forces.
Kyiv also said it had shot down more than two dozen Iranian-made Shahed attack drones launched by Russia across central and southern regions, including the Kyiv region.
Russia on Sunday said Ukrainian shelling killed a woman in the border village of Kulbaki, 10 kilometers (six miles) from Ukraine in the Kursk region.
“As a result of a direct hit from a shell, a residential building caught fire and a local woman died. Her husband had extensive burns and is now receiving qualified medical care,” Kursk governor Roman Starovoyt said.
In Moscow-occupied Ukraine, Russian-installed official Denis Pushilin said Kyiv had shelled a bread factory at night in the city of Gorlovka, wounding four workers.


Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

Updated 17 sec ago
Follow

Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

District official Khimananda Bhusal said: “It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way“
Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river

BHARATPUR, Nepal: Nepali rescue teams on Saturday recovered the first body from around 50 people missing after monsoon rains triggered a landslide that swept two buses off a highway and into a river.
The force of Friday’s landslide in central Chitwan district pushed the vehicles over concrete crash barriers and down a steep embankment, at least 30 meters (100 feet) from the road.
“One body has been found about 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the accident site,” police spokesman Kumar Neupane told AFP.
District official Khimananda Bhusal told AFP that roughly 50 people remained unaccounted for, revising down the number of missing from the 63 reported by authorities on Friday.
“It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way,” he said.
Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river with rafts, sensor equipment and dive teams to find any trace of the passengers or the vehicles.
Teams on Saturday also moved downstream in hope of locating the missing passengers.
Fierce currents made worse by this week’s torrential downpours have hampered their efforts so far.
Chitwan district chief Indra Dev Yadav said that all authorities in the area have been instructed to stay on alert for any signs of the missing.
“The river is narrow here and very deep,” he told AFP. “The water level is high, its speed is high and its turbidity is also high.”
The accident happened before dawn on Friday along the Narayanghat-Mugling highway, around 100 kilometers west of Katmandu.
One bus was heading from the capital to Gaur in Rautahat district in southern Nepal, and the other was en route to Katmandu from southern Birgunj.
A driver was killed in a separate accident on the same road after a boulder hit his bus. He died as he was being treated at a hospital.
Deadly crashes are common in the Himalayan republic because of poorly constructed roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
Nearly 2,400 people lost their lives on Nepal’s roads in the 12 months to April, according to government figures.
Twelve people were killed and 24 injured in an accident in January when a bus heading to Katmandu from Nepalgunj fell into a river.
Road travel becomes deadlier during the annual monsoon season as rains trigger landslides and floods across the mountainous country.
Monsoon rains across South Asia from June to September offer respite from the summer heat and are crucial to replenishing water supplies, but also bring widespread death and destruction.
The rainfall is hard to forecast and varies considerably, but scientists say climate change is making the monsoon stronger and more erratic.
Floods, landslides and lightning strikes have killed 88 people across the country since the monsoon began in June, according to police figures.

Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

Updated 15 min 21 sec ago
Follow

Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

  • Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region
  • In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District was set ablaze on Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack

KYIV: Russian shelling of Ukraine’s Kherson region killed two people, local officials said, as the two countries exchanged drone attacks overnight into Saturday.
Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region.
In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District, deep inside the region, was set ablaze in the early hours of Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack — the latest long-range strike by Kyiv’s forces on a border region.
Ukraine has in recent months stepped up aerial assaults on Russian soil, targeting refineries and oil terminals in an effort to slow down the Kremlin’s war machine. Moscow’s army is pressing hard along the front line in eastern Ukraine, where a shortage of troops and ammunition in the third year of war has made defenders vulnerable.
Rostov regional Gov. Vasily Golubev said the drone attack had caused a fire spanning 200 square meters (2,100 square feet), but there were no casualties. Some five hours after he reported the fire on Telegram, Golubev said the fire had been extinguished.
In addition to two drones being intercepted over the Rostov region, Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed two drones over the country’s western Kursk and Belgorod regions, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Saturday.
Ukraine’s air defenses, meanwhile, intercepted four of the five drones launched by Russia overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said Saturday morning. Mykola Oleschuk, commander of Ukraine’s Air Forces, said the fifth drone left Ukrainian airspace in the direction of Belarus.
In other developments, Vadym Filashkin, the Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied eastern Donetsk region, said Saturday that Russian attacks on Friday had killed six people and wounded a further 22.


‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

Updated 36 min 22 sec ago
Follow

‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

  • “We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters

SHANNON, Ireland: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his UScounterpart Joe Biden accidentally referring to him as Russian President Vladimir Putin was a mistake that could be forgotten about given all the support the US has provided to Ukraine.
Biden mistakenly referred to Zelensky as Putin at a NATO summit in Washington on Thursday before correcting himself two seconds later.
“It’s a mistake. I think United States gave a lot of support for Ukrainians. We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters on Saturday at Ireland’s Shannon airport where he was meeting Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris.


A Pakistani court acquits ex-PM Khan and wife in marriage case, paving the way for possible release

Updated 59 min 57 sec ago
Follow

A Pakistani court acquits ex-PM Khan and wife in marriage case, paving the way for possible release

  • The acquittal comes two weeks after another appeals court upheld the Feb. 5 conviction and sentence of Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Saturday overturned the conviction and seven-year prison sentence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife in the case of the couple’s alleged 2018 unlawful marriage case, removing the last known hurdle in the way of his release nearly a year after he was jailed, lawyers said.
Naeem Panjutha, one of Khan’s lawyers, said the court announced the verdict in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where the former premier is being held.
The acquittal comes two weeks after another appeals court upheld the Feb. 5 conviction and sentence of Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi.
The court in its brief order said if the couple is not wanted in any other case, they should be released.
Bibi is Khan’s third wife and a spiritual healer. She was previously married to a man who claimed that they divorced in November 2017, less than three months before she married Khan. Islamic law, as upheld by Pakistan, requires a three-month waiting period before a new marriage.
Bibi has said they divorced in August 2017 and the couple insisted during the trial that they did not violate the waiting period.
It was unclear how the government would respond to the court order. Authorities have registered multiple cases against Khan since 2022 when he was ousted from power through a vote of no-confidence in the parliament.
The latest development came a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that the party of Khan was improperly denied at least 20 seats in parliament, in a significant blow to the country’s fragile governing coalition.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party was previously excluded from a system that gives parties extra seats reserved for women and minorities in the National Assembly, or lower house of the parliament. Though the verdict was a major political win for Khan, it would not put his party in a position to oust the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who came into power following a Feb. 8 election that Khan allies say was rigged.
Khan has been embroiled in more than 150 legal cases, including inciting violence, since his arrest in May 2023. During nationwide riots that followed that, Khan’s supporters attacked the military and government buildings in various parts of the country and torched a building housing state-run Radio Pakistan in the northwest.
The violence subsided only when Khan was released by the Supreme Court. Khan was again arrested in early August 2023 after a court handed him a three-year jail sentence for corruption.
Since then, Khan has been given bail by different courts in all the cases in which he has been convicted.


Philippine diving town trades plastic for rice to tackle ocean waste

Updated 44 min 29 sec ago
Follow

Philippine diving town trades plastic for rice to tackle ocean waste

  • Philippines is the third-largest source of ocean plastic waste worldwide
  • Plastic Palit Bigas helps Mabini residents cut food spending while saving the sea

MANILA: Campaigners in Mabini, one of the Philippines’ most famous diving resorts, have found a new way to make the issue of plastic pollution everybody’s business, as they swap rice for waste in a drive to clean up the town’s shores.

Known for its pristine waters, the town in Batangas province — some 100 km south of Manila — is considered the birthplace of the Philippine scuba-diving industry and every weekend draws crowds of tourists to enjoy its sandy beaches.

While they significantly contribute to Mabini’s economy, many have been arriving and leaving behind trails of plastic waste, compounding the problem of ocean pollution, which was already threatening the region’s marine wildlife.

“Marine plastic washes up on shore. During the habagat (southwest monsoon) season, onshore winds can cause a lot of plastic to pile up on our beaches from faraway places, but we also noticed that tourists from all over the country spend the day at our beaches and sadly some of them leave garbage behind,” said Ronald Necesito, the founder of Plastic Palit Bigas, an initiative to tackle the problem by mobilizing local communities.

Launched in mid-2022, Plastic Palit Bigas translates to “trade plastic for rice.” It offers to exchange a bag of plastic waste collected by Mabini residents for a sack of rice.

Necesito told Arab News: “I just thought rice would encourage citizens to clean the shores and segregate household plastic. Everyone needs rice. This way, we can reduce pollution as well.”

Poor waste management has plagued the Philippines’ waterways for years. According to the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the country is the third-largest source of ocean waste worldwide. Every year it discards an estimated 3.3 kg of plastic waste per person, emitting 350,000 tonnes of non-degradable litter into the ocean.

Necesito’s campaign is trying to address the issue on a local scale and is concentrated along a 3-km-long shoreline, which every Saturday will see a few dozen volunteers who, for 3 kg of the collected waste, can bring home 1 kg of rice.

The program is sustained by donations from individuals, local resorts and small enterprises.

“According to the families participating in this program, it is a big help for them because the cost they need to spend on buying rice is reduced,” Necesito said.

“So far, it has greatly helped our environment and even the sea. We have noticed less plastic on our shores. Mabini relies heavily on tourism, so having clean beaches is very important to our economy as well.”

The campaign has provided over 2,600 kg of rice to families in need to date.

Sheila Casa, a 35-year-old schoolteacher who regularly participates in the program, said that it had also helped raise awareness and incentivize people to care more as it reduces their food expenditure, with one sack of rice being enough to feed a family for a few days.

“There are some people who, even at home, avoid dumping their plastic waste … There are also more volunteers who want to join in the cleaning. This is a huge help for us,” she told Arab News.

“Waste becomes valuable because we can exchange it for rice.”