Ukraine suspends consular services abroad for men of fighting age

Ukraine's army has been struggling to hold frontlines, partly due to a lack of soldiers over two years into Russia's invasion. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Ukraine suspends consular services abroad for men of fighting age

  • Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry “announced a temporary suspension of accepting new applications for consular services” for men between 18 and 60
  • It made an exception for documents allowing Ukrainians to return to Ukraine

KYIV: Ukraine authorities on Tuesday suspended consular services for men of fighting age living abroad, after announcing measures to bring them home amid manpower shortages in the army fighting Russia.
Ukraine’s army has been struggling to hold frontlines, partly due to a lack of soldiers over two years into Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry “announced a temporary suspension of accepting new applications for consular services” for men between 18 and 60.
It made an exception for documents allowing Ukrainians to return to Ukraine.
The move would likely oblige Ukrainian men to return from abroad to undergo administrative procedures that were previously available abroad.
The government has already adopted a mobilization law, due to come into force on May 18, that toughens penalties against draft dodgers and obliges men to keep their military registration up-to-date.
The ministry said men would be able to access consular services once the law came into force and “after updating their military registration.”
“Male citizen of Ukraine aged 18 to 60 with valid military registration documents will have full access to consular services,” the ministry said.
Ukrainian men have been forbidden to leave the country since the invasion began, apart from a few exceptions.
But some lived away before the war began, and Ukrainian media estimates that thousands more illegally fled the country.


Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California

Updated 13 sec ago
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Thousands flee fast-spreading wildfire in northern California

  • More than 3,500 people had evacuated the area, Governor Gavin Newsom said

LOS ANGELES: Firefighters were battling a fast-moving wildfire in the US state of California on Thursday, authorities said, with more than 3,500 people forced to flee their homes.
The Park Fire, enveloping more than 71,000 acres, broke out Wednesday evening, on the last day of a heat wave affecting the region.
More than 1,150 personnel were deployed to fight the blaze, which was only three percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
As of 12:00 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Thursday, the fire had enveloped 71,489 acres (290 square kilometers), according to CalFire.
More than 3,500 people had evacuated the area, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
The town of Chico, under threat from the fire, is located just 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of Paradise, a town that was destroyed by a massive wildfire in 2018, resulting in the deaths of 85 people.
The cause of the Park Fire remains under investigation, according to CalFire.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a “red flag” weather warning for “critical fire weather conditions” in the area, including wind gusts and low humidity.
The western United States has experienced several heat waves since the beginning of June, and dozens of fires are currently burning in the region.
Oregon, California’s northern neighbor, is battling a megafire that is the largest in the country, having ravaged more than 268,000 acres of forest and prompting evacuations in a rural region.
The raging flames have created vast columns of smoke, affecting air quality as far away as neighboring Idaho.
Wildfires were also burning in western Canada, where part of the tourist town of Jasper has been destroyed.
Western North America has increasingly been affected by extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change.
In mid-July, Newsom warned of a fire season that was “shaping up to be very active.”


Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants

Updated 1 min 7 sec ago
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Argentine President Milei travels to France to meet Macron after outcry over racist soccer chants

  • The Argentine presidency said that in addition to meeting Macron and other French officials at the Elysee Palace on Friday, Milei would attend the 2024 Olympic opening ceremony
  • Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said she held “constructive” talks about Milei’s libertarian reforms with Argentine Economy Minister Luis Caputo

BUENOS AIRES: Argentine President Javier Milei arrived Thursday in Paris, his office said, where he is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron after tensions escalated between their countries over the Argentine soccer team’s derogatory post-match chants about French players.
A short clip captured during Argentina’s Copa America victory celebrations in Miami earlier this month shows triumphant Argentine players chanting a song considered racist toward French players of African heritage. “They play for France but their parents are from Angola,” the refrain goes, with some transphobic slurs mixed in.
French officials castigated the Argentina athletes in the Instagram live video posted by midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who publicly apologized. The French soccer federation filed a legal complaint over the “unacceptable racist and discriminatory remarks.” Fernandez’s English club Chelsea started an internal disciplinary procedure.
“Argentina is the enemy in France,” was a headline Thursday in Argentine newspaper Clarín, citing the deafening boos and jeers that greeted the Argentine national anthem in Paris.
Censure from the soccer world snowballed into a political scandal last week when Argentina’s conservative vice president, Victoria Villarruel, defended Fernandez and the team, saying that Argentina would not tolerate criticism from a “colonialist” country.
In a widely shared social media post, she insisted that Argentina was not a racist country because, unlike France, “We never had colonies or second-class citizens. We never imposed our way of life on anyone.”
“Enough with faking indignation, hypocrites,” she added.
French diplomats in Buenos Aires were seething.
President Milei, a right-wing populist, has sought to walk a fine line — nodding to the upswell of nationalism buoying the Argentina team while attempting to curb diplomatic backlash. Already, Milei’s rhetorical attacks on leaders and enthusiasm for the far-right have sparked diplomatic rows with Argentina’s historic allies and major foreign investors, Brazil and Spain.
Last week, Milei removed the undersecretary of sport, Julio Garro, from his post for requesting that team captain Lionel Messi apologize for the chants. “No government can tell the Argentine national team, world champion and two-time champion of Copa America, what to comment, what to think or what to do,” Milei’s office said at the time.
But more recently the presidential spokesperson, Manuel Adorni, has tried to distance Milei from what he called Villarruel’s “personal” and “unfortunate” comments.
He said that Karina Milei, the president’s sister and general secretary, took it upon herself to disavow Villarruel’s remarks in a meeting with the French ambassador last week.
“It’s a comment that does not represent the opinion of the government,” Adorni said of Villarruel’s post. “Relations with France are intact.”
But controversy has only mounted after chaos engulfed the Olympic men’s soccer match between Argentina and Morocco.
Doubling down on her nationalist messaging, Vice President Villarruel posted footage of Wednesday’s incident, showing Morocco fans invade the field and rain bottles and other objects down on Argentine players in an outpouring of anger over Argentina’s late goal.
“Although they insult us and whistle our anthem, Argentina is destined for greatness,” she wrote.
The Argentine presidency said that in addition to meeting Macron and other French officials at the Elysee Palace on Friday, Milei would attend the 2024 Olympic opening ceremony and hold talks with French business leaders.
The investment-focused meetings come as Argentina seeks to lobby for support from major shareholders of the International Monetary Fund, including France and the US, to reach a new deal for extra funds.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, said she held “constructive” talks about Milei’s libertarian reforms with Argentine Economy Minister Luis Caputo on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, where G20 finance ministers were gathering.
As in previous months, Georgieva praised Argentina’s performance in fighting inflation and slashing the deficit, writing on X, “We are committed to support the govt’s efforts to turn around the economy for the benefit of Argentine people.”
But she said nothing about an imminent new loan for the crisis-stricken country.
Argentina — the IMF’s biggest debtor — needs more cash to pay the fund back for past borrowing under the program, originally worth $57 billion in 2018.
Analysts say that right-wing Milei is pinning his hopes on Donald Trump becoming president of the US, the IMF’s main stakeholder.
“The expectation of the government is that a Trump administration would be more politically favorable to Milei and that by early next year it would exert some pressure on the IMF,” said Marcelo J. García, Americas director at geopolitical risk firm Horizon Engage.


Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu

Updated 28 min 10 sec ago
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Halt Gaza war now, Trump tells Netanyahu

JEDDAH: Israeli forces killed at least 30 more Palestinians in Gaza on Thursday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks in Washington with the US president and vice president.

In Florida on Friday Netanyahu will meet Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who used a TV interview on Thursday to urge the Israeli leader to halt the war. “You have to end this fast. It can’t continue to go on like this. It’s too long. It’s too much,” Trump said.

Netanyahu took part in separate meetings at the White House with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic nominee in November’s presidential election.

Biden has offered Netanyahu almost unlimited financial and military support in his war on Gaza, but the president has also been increasingly critical of Israel over the Palestinian death toll, and denounced restrictions on the amount of aid getting through to the enclave, much of which has been reduced to rubble.
In Gaza on Thursday at least 30 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes and shelling as Israeli forces pushed deeper into towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis and tanks advanced in central Rafah.

Fighting has centred on the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna and Al-Karara. Strikes there killed 14 Palestinians, several were wounded by tank and aerial shelling, and an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah near the Egypt border as tanks operated north, west and in the town center. Deir Al-Balah, where tanks have not yet invaded, is currently crowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from other areas of the enclave.


Trump discusses US wiping Iran ‘off the face of the Earth’

Updated 44 min 3 sec ago
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Trump discusses US wiping Iran ‘off the face of the Earth’

  • US media reported last week that the US Secret Service had increased security for Trump weeks ago after authorities learned of an Iranian plot to kill him

WASHINGTON: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday invoked the annihilation of US adversary Iran in a social media post reminiscent of his most incendiary outbursts while in the White House.
“If they do ‘assassinate President Trump,’ which is always a possibility, I hope that America obliterates Iran, wipes it off the face of the Earth — If that does not happen, American Leaders will be considered ‘gutless’ cowards!” he wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.
Trump made the remarks alongside a brief video of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu bringing up alleged Iranian plots against Trump in his address to the US Congress on Wednesday.
US media reported last week that the US Secret Service had increased security for Trump weeks ago after authorities learned of an Iranian plot to kill him, although it was not linked to the recent attempt on his life in which a 20-year-old American fired shots during a campaign rally.
CNN reported that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” on a plan by Tehran targeting the former president, causing protection to be boosted for Trump. Other US outlets also reported the plot.
But it was not connected to the campaign shooting in Butler, Pennsylvania, in which gunman Thomas Matthew Crooks opened fire, lightly wounding Trump and killing a rally attendee, they said.
Relations between Washington and Iran have long been strained and reached a breaking point as Tehran sought revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, ordered by Trump when he was president.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years.”
Trump’s post recalled a controversial episode in 2019 when, as president, he threatened the “obliteration” of Iran if the country carried out an attack on “anything American.”
That confrontation came after Iranian officials said the path to diplomacy between the two nations was permanently closed after Trump’s new round of sanctions Monday.
As president, he also threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” although he later became friends with the isolated country’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, and often referred to their “love.”


Migrants and homeless people are cleared out of Paris during the Olympics

Updated 52 min 17 sec ago
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Migrants and homeless people are cleared out of Paris during the Olympics

  • Group of largely African migrants headed for the fringes of the city in buses paid for by the French government and into temporary lodging until at least the end of the Games
  • Activist groups and migrants have called the practice – long used in other Olympic host cities like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – a form of ‘social cleansing’

PARIS: Carrying backpacks and small children, hundreds of people sleeping on the streets of Paris climbed aboard buses surrounded by armed police Thursday, the latest group of migrants and homeless people to be driven out of the city ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics.
The group of largely African migrants headed for the fringes of the city in buses paid for by the French government and into temporary lodging until at least the end of the Games. While some living on the streets were happy to have a roof over their head for the night, few knew what laid ahead once the world’s eyes were off Paris.
“It’s like poker. I don’t know where I will go, or how much time I will stay,” said Nikki, a 47-year-old homeless Parisian who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy.
French authorities have been clearing out migrant and homeless encampments for months leading up to the massive global sports event, which is an important moment for President Emmanuel Macron at a time of political turmoil. But the Games also have faced criticism as Parisians have complained about everything from elevated public transit fees to government spending on cleaning up the Seine River for swimming instead of investing in the social safety net.
Authorities also have been sharply criticized as they have bused camping migrants from the city center where the Olympics are taking place to the fringes of Paris or other areas. Activist groups and migrants have called the practice – long used in other Olympic host cities like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – a form of “social cleansing.”
“They want to clean the city for the Olympic Games, for the tourists,” said Nathan Lequeux, an organizer for the activist group Utopia 56. “As treatment of migrants is becoming more horrible and infamous, people are being chased off the streets. ... Since the Olympics, this aggressiveness, this policy of hunting has become more pronounced.”
Christophe Noël Du Payrat, chief of staff of the regional government of Île-de-France that surrounds Paris, firmly denied those accusations and said the government has relocated migrants from the city for years.
“We are taking care of them,” he said. ”We don’t really understand the criticism because we are very much determined to offer places for these people.”
He spoke as dozens of police rounded up migrants, blocking them from walking on the streets and putting up caution tape. When asked why there were so many armed police officers for a group largely made up of families, Noël Du Payrat said it was to maintain “peace and calm.”
The buses Thursday came after three days of protest by hundreds of migrants and other homeless people like Nikki, who slept in front of a local government office as athletes and tourists flooded into Paris. They railed against authorities breaking up homeless encampments and demanded better access to temporary housing.
Among them was Natacha Louise Gbetie, a 36-year-old migrant from Burkina Faso, and her 1-year-old son she carried on her back. Gbetie, who once worked as an accountant in her country, migrated to the southern French city of Montpellier with family members five years ago.
Many of the families relocated by French authorities are like Gbetie — from African countries once colonized by the French, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
After an abusive situation, she moved to Paris. She was able to make ends meet working as a baby-sitter and sleeping in public housing. That ended during the lead up to the Olympics, when she said access to social housing was slashed and prices of lodging in hostels soared. She said most employers in France don’t want to hire her because she’s an immigrant without legal status and has felt rejected as an anti-immigrant far-right party has gained greater power in France.
“I think France is saturated. They’re tired of migrants, they want us to leave their country,” Gbetie said.
The protest group agreed that families would board buses to a province near Paris and families would remain together in shelters.
Despite the agreement, protest leaders expressed concern that the move would isolate migrants and said it was still unclear what would happen to the city’s homeless people.
Others like Gbetie worried for the future of her 1-year-old son, Richard. Despite being born in France, Gbetie said he was among those who had been forgotten.
“We have children who are French,” she said. “They will be the future engineers and executives of this country. Think of them first and, for now, forget about the Olympics.”