A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

Rescuers work at a site of residential buildings destroyed during a Russian drone strikes in Odesa on Apr. 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

  • Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years
  • “Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a Russian missile strike that smashed a prominent skyline television tower in Kharkiv was part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate Ukraine’s second-largest city, which in recent weeks has come under increasingly frequent attack.
The strike sought to “make the terror visible to the whole city and to try to limit Kharkiv’s connection and access to information,” Zelensky said in a Monday evening address.
The northeastern Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The front line has changed little during a war of attrition, focused mostly on artillery, drones and trenches.
Since late March, Russia has stepped up the pressure on Kharkiv, apparently aiming to exploit Ukraine’s shortage of air defense systems. It has pounded the local power grid and hit apartment blocks.
On Monday, a Russian Kh-59 missile struck Kharkiv’s 250-meter (820-foot) -high TV tower, breaking it roughly in half and halting transmissions.
A Washington think tank said Russia may be eyeing a ground assault on Kharkiv.
“The Kremlin is conducting a concerted air and information operation to destroy Kharkiv City, convince Ukrainians to flee, and internally displace millions of Ukrainians ahead of a possible future Russian offensive operation against the city or elsewhere in Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment.
The expected arrival in Ukraine in coming weeks of new military aid from its Western partners possibly has prompted Russia to escalate its attacks before the help arrives, the ISW said, adding that trying to capture Kharkiv would be “a significant challenge” for the Kremlin’s forces.
Instead, the Russian military command “may attempt to destroy Kharkiv City with air, missile, and drone strikes and prompt a large-scale internal displacement of Ukrainian civilians,” it said.
The US Senate was returning to Washington on Tuesday to vote on $61 billion in war aid to Ukraine after months of delays. Zelensky said US President Joe Biden assured him the aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.
“Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said.
Also Tuesday, Britain pledged 500 million pounds ($620 million, 580 million euros) in new military supplies for Ukraine, including 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition.
The shipment will also include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of about 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proven effective at hitting Russian targets, the British government said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke with Zelensky on Tuesday morning to confirm the new assistance. He was due to announce the aid later Tuesday during a visit to Warsaw where he was meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Less cheering news came from the European Union, however. EU countries that have Patriot air defense systems gave no clear sign Monday that they might be willing to send them to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries.
Ukraine’s army is also heavily outnumbered in the fight, and expanding the country’s mobilization has been a delicate issue.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday signaled that authorities plan to clamp down on young men of conscription age who have moved abroad, with details of the specific measures to be made public soon.
“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland,” Kuleba said on the social media platform X.
Meanwhile, Russia launched 16 Shahed drones and two Iskander-M ballistic missiles over Ukraine’s southern and central regions, the Ukrainian air force said Tuesday morning. It said all but one of the drones were intercepted.
In Odesa, an overnight attack injured nine people, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said. Among those injured were two infants and two children aged nine and 12, Kiper said. City mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said 58 apartments in 22 buildings were damaged.
In other developments:
A Russian missile strike near Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, injured four people who were admitted to hospital, regional Gov. Serhii Lysak said.
Russian forces dropped a guided aerial bomb in Kostiantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, injuring five people who were riding in a car, police said. Two of them were in critical conditions.


Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

Police officers remove ‘Workers for a Free Palestine’ demonstrators in London.
Updated 57 min 23 sec ago
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Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

  • Last week new Foreign Minister David Lammy said a blanket ban on arms exports to Israel would not be right
  • London’s Metropolitan Police said protesters arrived outside Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and blocked pedestrian and vehicle access

LONDON: British police on Wednesday arrested nine people during a protest against arms exports to Israel that briefly blocked the street outside the foreign ministry, highlighting pressure on the new Labour government over its stance on the Gaza war.
Pro-Palestinian protesters in Britain have been campaigning for a government ban on arms sales to Israel following its offensive on Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack.
Last week new Foreign Minister David Lammy, who has said he wants a balanced position on Israel and Gaza, said a blanket ban on arms exports to Israel would not be right, but he would follow a quasi-judicial process in assessing whether sales of offensive weapons that could be used in Gaza could proceed.
London’s Metropolitan Police said protesters arrived outside Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and blocked pedestrian and vehicle access. Police then said the protest could only continue if it left the central arch of the street clear.
“When the group failed to comply with the conditions, officers intervened and made nine arrests, quickly restoring access,” a Met Police spokesperson said.
While in opposition, Lammy earlier this year said the government should suspend the sale of UK arms if there were a clear risk they might be used in a serious breach of humanitarian law.
Now in government, he said last week he requested on his first day in office an assessment of the legal situation and that he hoped to be able to communicate any decisions with “full accountability and transparency.”
Labour was elected with a huge majority earlier this month, but lost some seats to pro-Gaza candidates.
Campaign group Workers for a Free Palestine, which organized the protest, said that was a sign the government should take a stronger stance on restricting arms sales, and called on Lammy to “practice what he preached in opposition.”
While the previous Conservative government was a strong supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack, Reuters found that the value of Britain’s approvals of new arms licenses dropped sharply after the start of the war.


Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

Updated 52 min 19 sec ago
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Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu: Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years
  • Qu Dongyu: FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all

RIYADH: The 2024 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, or SOFI, report, jointly published on Wednesday by five UN agencies under the theme “Financing to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” highlighted the deepening global food crisis. 

The heads of the five UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, and UNICEF — emphasized the urgent need for increased and more efficient financing to address these complex challenges. They called for transformative measures in agrifood systems, equitable access to resources, and enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: “Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years. FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all. 

“We will work together with all partners and with all approaches, including the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, to accelerate the needed change. Together, we must innovate and collaborate to build more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems that can better withstand future challenges for a better world,” Qu added.

The report, unveiled during the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty Task Force Ministerial Meeting in Brazil, underscored that the international community is falling significantly short of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030. Highlighting a setback of 15 years in progress, the report compares current undernourishment levels to those last seen in 2008-2009.

In 2023, approximately 733 million people worldwide faced hunger, marking a continuation of the high levels observed over the past three years. This equates to one in 11 people globally, with the situation particularly dire in Africa, where one in five individuals grappled with food insecurity.

While there have been some gains in specific areas such as reducing stunting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding, the overall number of undernourished people is at a constant, ranging between 713 and 757 million in 2023. Regional disparities persist, with hunger increasing in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and several African subregions, while remaining stable in Asia and showing improvement in Latin America.

The report’s projections for 2030 suggest that around 582 million people will continue to suffer from chronic undernourishment, half of them in Africa. This mirrors levels observed in 2015 when the SDGs were adopted, indicating a plateau in progress.

Beyond hunger, the report highlights broader challenges in food security and nutrition. In 2023, 2.33 billion people faced moderate or severe food insecurity, worsened by various factors such as economic decline and climate change. 

The affordability of healthy diets is also a critical issue, particularly in low-income countries where over 71 percent of the population cannot afford adequate nutrition.

Despite gains in exclusive breastfeeding rates and reductions in child stunting, the world is still faced with many challenges. Rates of wasting among children and adult obesity are concerningly high, states the report, and indicate a double burden of malnutrition affecting global populations.

“The fastest route out of hunger and poverty is proven to be through investments in agriculture in rural areas. But the global and financial landscape has become far more complex since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015,” said IFAD President Alvaro Lario. 

“Ending hunger and malnutrition demands that we invest more — and more smartly. We must bring new money into the system from the private sector and recapture the pandemic-era appetite for ambitious global financial reform that gets cheaper financing to the countries who need it most,’’ Lario added.

The report urges unified global action to achieve SDGs by 2030 by adopting and prioritizing innovative solutions and substantial investments to ensure that all people have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

The SOFI report is an annual assessment providing insights into global progress toward ending hunger, improving food security, and advancing nutrition under the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its findings are intended to guide policymakers, international organizations, and the public in addressing these pressing global challenges.


10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

Updated 24 July 2024
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10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

  • The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current
  • Their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto

PANAMA CITY: Ten migrants drowned trying to cross a rushing river in Panama’s Darien Gap that borders Colombia, Panamanian authorities said Wednesday.
The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current and their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto.
An agency official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case said on condition of anonymity that the drownings were believed to have occurred on July 16, but the area was so remote that they were only now able to release the information.
The prosecutor’s office was investigating details, including the victims’ nationalities, the official said. More than half of the migrants crossing the Darien come from Venezuela.
More than 500,000 migrants made the treacherous crossing through the jungle-clad border in a record-setting 2023. So far this year, more than 212,000 have entered Panama through the Darien.
It is the rainy season in Panama, making the numerous rivers that migrants have to cross more dangerous.
New Panamanian President José Raúl Mulino has pledged to stop migration through the Darien with assistance from the US government.


‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

Updated 24 July 2024
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‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

  • Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide“
  • He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically“

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that it was “entirely possible” that US Vice President Kamala Harris will win November’s presidential election, describing her as “competent and experienced.”
Following 81-year-old President Joe Biden’s stunning decision to exit the race for the White House on Sunday, Harris has emerged as the virtually unchallenged frontrunner for the nomination of their Democratic party.
Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide.”
Scholz said that Harris was “a competent and experienced politician who knows exactly what she’s doing.”
He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically” and was not simply “saying something prepared beforehand.”
He added that Harris had “clear ideas about the role of her country in the world and the challenges that confront us.”
The US presidential race is being keenly watched by Washington’s allies in Europe, particularly due to the possibility of victory for the combative and often isolationist Donald Trump.
“What happens there is of the greatest importance for all countries in the world and of course especially for the close allies of the US in Germany and in Europe,” Scholz said.
He made clear that the relationship “cannot depend on who the president is,” saying it was his job to work with whichever administration was elected.


1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

Updated 24 July 2024
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1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

  • Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze
  • According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved

ROME: Around 1,000 tourists were evacuated on Wednesday after a wildfire broke out in the southern Italian region of Puglia, firefighters said.
Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze in a wooded coastal area in the Gargano sub-region.
“The fire is being tackled from the land and from the air,” a fire service spokesman told AFP, confirming that around 1,000 tourists had been evacuated.
According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved.
Puglia attracts tourists from around the world with its clear waters, white sandy beaches and distinctive architecture.
The area hit by the fire is dominated by the Gargano National Park.
“The situation is critical,” the mayor of nearby Vieste, Giuseppe Nobiletti, had earlier told reporters, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He expressed concern that the winds were pushing the flames toward the tourist complex.
After weeks of hot weather, fires have broken out almost daily across Italy, particularly in the south and on the islands.
Two firefighters died last week fighting a blaze near Matera in Basilicata, a region that neighbors Puglia.