Protesters Say Russian Ship Bound for Antarctica Unwelcome at South African Port  

Climate activists in South Africa are protesting a refueling stop by a Russian ship that they say is ignoring a ban on exploring oil and gas in Antarctica.

Protest organizers Greenpeace Africa and Extinction Rebellion say the seismic tests the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky has been conducting in Antarctica for the past 25 years are harmful to marine life like dolphins and whales.

They also say that fossil fuels should stay in the ground if the world is to prevent catastrophic global warming.

The ship’s operator, Polar Marine Geosurvey Expedition, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned mineral explorer RosGeo, insists it is not exploring for oil and gas in Antarctica but simply conducting research.

South African environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan isn’t convinced and says it’s vital everyone sees the importance of fighting global warming.

“It’s incredibly Important from a climate change perspective because the oceans there absorb a lot of the Co2 from the atmosphere but it’s also part of regulating the world’s climate and, also the currents and the weather system. But it’s also very much affected by climate change because the ice is melting,” he said.

Cormac says it’s problematic that there isn’t a government for Antarctica but instead an agreement signed in the 1950s, called the Antarctic Treaty System, where 29 countries have decision-making powers.

“Decisions are made by consensus and over the last years, when they tried to declare more marine protected areas, countries like Russia and China block them so it’s not really going anywhere,” he said.

He says terms of the treaty are only binding on the people who’ve signed up to them. And he says policing compliance is almost impossible because there’s no international police force dedicated to this task.

“If there is a big enough dispute, it could be referred to the International Court of Justice. But you know in a situation like this, often countries won’t take on another country like Russia because they think Russia may retaliate in other ways,” he said.

Cullinan is working on a Declaration for the Rights of Antarctica which environmentalists hope will be launched towards the end of this year or early in 2024. He says among other things, they hope it will make it possible for lawyers to represent Antarctica in courts of law.

“Certainly, if you think how important human rights are in the world. Even though you know governments violate rights all the time, just the fact that we’ve got agreed standards of behavior.”

He says a similar rights-of-nature declaration is being worked out for the Amazon rain forest which spreads across several countries.

Meanwhile, in Cape Town, Greenpeace Africa volunteer Elaine Mills says her organization is working on a letter of demand to send to the government.

“The one is that Alexander Karpinsky and other vessels like it are not allowed into South Africa. The second is that the Alexander Karpinsky and vessels like it have to prove that they are engaged in genuine scientific research before they are allowed entry into our ports. The third one is that we want the parties to adopt a treaty that no hydrocarbon extraction will ever be allowed within the Antarctic region,” said Mills.

Contacted by VOA, the South African Ministry and Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment did not provide comment.

South Africa announced Tuesday that it will host representatives of its partners in the BRICS bloc, namely Russia, China, India and Brazil, in Limpopo province on Wednesday and Thursday.

Naval exercises with Russia and China are also planned in February, a few days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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У МЗС кажуть, що Україна взяла до відома звіт HRW, який належним чином проаналізують

МЗС наголошує, що нині є важливою універсалізація міжнародних інструментів із заборони такого негуманного типу зброї, як протипіхотні міни

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Nordic Unions to Quit Global Journalists’ Body IFJ, Citing ‘Corruptive Activity’

Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic unions will quit a global media federation on Tuesday in protest at “corruptive activity,” including allowing Russian state media journalists in Ukraine to stay as members, the Finnish union said.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 journalists in 146 countries, denounced the accusations as “false, defamatory and damaging.”

The Nordic members accused the IFJ of longstanding undemocratic practices, unethical finances and of allowing the Russian state media representatives to continue as members.

“We call this corruptive activity,” Hanne Aho, the chair of the Union of Journalists in Finland, told Reuters, adding the four Nordic unions would resign from the IFJ on Tuesday.

The leader of the Norwegian Union of Journalists, Dag Idar Tryggestad, said the unions had fought for years to put in place democratic rules on IFJ elections as well as transparency around decisions and spending.

“..we believe this (resignation) is the only thing that can save IFJ. Changes must be forced,” he said.

Both Aho and Tryggestad said the Nordic unions’ latest disappointment resulted from the IFJ not taking action against the Russian Union of Journalists for setting up regional journalists’ associations in Ukrainian territories invaded by Russia.

“They have been able to do so in all tranquility without the international federation expelling the Russian union,” Aho said.

The IFJ said its executive committee had triggered a formal process for suspending and expelling the Russian Union of Journalists. It said expenditure was formally audited every year, adding that it had sought to answer all questions posed by the Nordic unions.

“We entirely reject what are false, defamatory and damaging allegations,” IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear told Reuters in an emailed response.

The Nordic unions also complained about what they said was the IFJ’s non-transparent use of finances, including its decision to hold its world congress last year in Oman, which has limited press freedom, Aho said.

The congress in Oman was organized at the end of May, at a time when journalists were widely accusing FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, of corruption and criticizing it for taking the World Cup to Qatar despite its poor track record on human rights.

“Trappings at the congress were extremely flamboyant so we began to wonder where the money had come from to pay for them,” Aho said, asking if it was appropriate for journalist unions to accept such lavish sponsoring.

Aho said the Union of Journalists in Finland had requested and received IFJ’s budget for the congress, which showed that up to 745,000 euros ($811,000) of the total of 778,000 euros ($844,675) came from Omani ministries and private companies as well as the Oman Journalists’ Association, while IFJ itself paid only 33,000 euros ($35,818) of the expenses.

The IFJ said the amounts included subsidies negotiated by the Oman Journalists’ Association.

“This has been normal procedure used in the hosting of successive IFJ congresses over decades,” it wrote in a statement shared with Reuters.

The IFJ, on its website, says it promotes collective action to defend human rights, democracy and media pluralism.

“IFJ policy is decided democratically at a Congress which meets every three years and work is carried out by the Secretariat under the direction of an elected executive committee,” it says.

 

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Australia and France to Supply Artillery Shells to Ukraine  

France and Australia have agreed to join forces to produce thousands of artillery shells to help Ukraine push Russian forces out of its country. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong are in Europe for talks with key allies.

French and Australian officials say several thousand 155 millimeter artillery shells will be manufactured jointly by French arms supplier Nexter, while Australia will supply the gunpowder. The first supplies are expected to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of April.

The announcement was made Monday at a joint news conference in Paris by French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart, Richard Marles.

Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine’s war effort.

It has supplied missiles and Bushmaster armored personnel carriers. A group of up to 70 Australian defense force personnel has also been stationed in Britain to help train Ukrainian troops.

Australia also has sweeping sanctions on Russia — the most severe Canberra has ever imposed on a foreign government.

Marles told reporters Paris and Canberra are standing in solidarity with Ukraine.

“We wanted to act together as a statement about how importantly Australia and France regard the support of Ukraine in the current conflict,” he said. “Both of us have supported Ukraine separately in other ways, but we wanted to make it really clear that Australia and France do stand together in support of Ukraine in the face of this Russian aggression.”

Also attending the media briefing in Paris were French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.

While support for Ukraine’s effort to repel the Russian invasion have dominated bilateral talks, Paris and Canberra have also sought to ease diplomatic tensions.

Ties between the countries took a serious hit in 2021 when Canberra abandoned a French submarine contract in favor of American nuclear submarines, as well as joining the trilateral security alliance with the United States and Britain known as AUKUS.

Marles and Wong are also due to hold talks this week with British government ministers.

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New Round of Strikes as French Workers Protest Pension Reforms

Tuesday brought a new round of strikes in France as citizens protest proposed pension reforms. 

Worker strikes severely limited Paris metro and other rail services, while Air France canceled some of its short and medium flights. 

Half of the primary school teachers planned to strike, their union said, while power supplies were down with workers in the electrical sector also going on strike. 

Tuesday’s round of protests follows an initial round on January 19 in which more than a million people participated. 

President Emmanuel Macron’s government is proposing raising the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 years of age. 

Macron said Monday the change is necessary to keep the pension system working. 

Unions have said the government could instead tax the super rich. 

Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

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Київ розкритикував заяву президента Хорватії про те, що «Крим більше ніколи не буде Україною»

У МЗС заявили, що Україна вважає неприйнятними висловлювання президента Хорватії, «який фактично поставив під сумнів територіальну цілісність України»

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Belarusian President Arrives in Zimbabwe

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday for talks with his counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, aimed at boosting “strong cooperation” in several areas between the two countries.    

Lukashenko landed in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, for a two-day visit and was greeted by Mnangagwa and thousands of ruling party supporters.    

The two countries are close allies of Russia. Belarus has backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, while Zimbabwe has claimed neutrality and refused to condemn Moscow. 

The two leaders plan to meet on Tuesday. The talks are aimed at strengthening “existing excellent relations” in areas such as politics, mining and agriculture, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

“The visit is historic, as it is the first such undertaking to a sub-Saharan African nation, by President Lukashenko,” the ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse.    

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. He was reelected in 2020 in a highly contested vote that was widely denounced as a sham, resulting in mass protests. Lukashenko’s government cracked down violently on demonstrators, arresting more than 35,000 people and brutally beating thousands, according to The Associated Press.    

Mnangagwa’s reign has been shorter, coming into power in 2017 after the leader of the previous 37 years, Robert Mugabe, was forced to resign because of numerous human rights violations. Mnangagwa has faced similar controversies.    

Both leaders have been accused by rivals and the West of being corrupt and limiting free speech by stifling dissent, accusations that Lukashenko and Mnangagwa have denied.    

Some information from this report came from Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press. 

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New Czech President Vows to Boost Ties with Taiwan

Czech President-elect Petr Pavel vowed Monday to boost his country’s ties with Taiwan after holding a phone call with the island’s president and foreign minister. 

President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Pavel on his win in Saturday’s presidential run-off over the populist billionaire Andrej Babis. 

“I thanked her for her congratulations, and I assured her that Taiwan and the Czech Republic share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” Pavel said on Twitter. 

“We agreed on strengthening our partnership,” added the former general, who served as head of NATO’s military committee in 2015-2018. 

He said he “expressed hope to have the opportunity to meet President Tsai in person in the future.” 

The call is likely to anger China, which is trying to keep Taipei isolated on the world stage and prevents any sign of international legitimacy for the island. 

Beijing claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary. 

The Taiwanese presidential office said the call, which Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also joined, lasted almost 15 minutes. 

“The president… acknowledged that President-elect Pavel carries on the spirit of former Czech President (Vaclav) Havel who respected democracy, freedom and human rights, under which the republic was founded, and is like-minded with Taiwan,” Tsai’s office said in a statement. 

Havel was the Czech Republic’s first president in 1993-2003. 

Before Havel became head of state, the anti-communist dissident playwright had in 1989 led the so-called Velvet Revolution, which toppled communism in former Czechoslovakia. 

As the Czech Republic’s fourth president, Pavel will replace pro-Chinese and pro-Russian incumbent Milos Zeman, whose final term expires in March.  

Zeman is currently visiting Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia, which has not joined Western sanctions against Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. 

In a sign that his foreign policy would vastly differ from Zeman’s, Pavel spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the phone Sunday.  

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Azerbaijan Embassy in Iran Suspends Work After Deadly Attack

Azerbaijan said on Monday it was suspending work at its embassy in Iran, days after a gunman stormed the mission, killing one guard and wounding two others. 

Iran has said the attack on Friday was motivated by personal reasons, but Baku labeled it an act of terrorism. 

“The operation of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran has been temporarily suspended following the evacuation of its staff and their family members from Iran,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Ayxan Hacizada told Agence France-Presse.

“That doesn’t mean that diplomatic ties had been severed,” he said, adding that Baku’s consulate general in the Iranian city of Tabriz was “up and running.” 

In a phone call on Saturday with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he hoped “this violent act of terror would be thoroughly investigated.”

Tehran’s police said the attacker, who was arrested, was an Iranian man married to an Azerbaijani woman. 

The United States condemned the “unacceptable violence” and urged a prompt investigation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow was “shocked” by the attack. 

Iran is home to millions of Turkic-speaking, ethnic Azeris, and it has long accused Azerbaijan of fomenting separatist sentiment inside its territory.

Relations between the two countries have traditionally been sour, with the former Soviet republic a close ally of Iran’s historical rival Turkey.

Tehran also fears that Azerbaijani territory could be used for a possible offensive against Iran by Israel, a major supplier of arms to Baku. 

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With Media on Trial or in Exile, Belarusian Journalists Strive to Keep Reporting

In a little over two years, the team at Tut.by have seen their news outlet go from being one of the most read in Belarus to being labeled an “extremist” organization whose staff are equated with criminals.

Currently five of the media outlet’s journalists are standing trial in a case that many analysts see as a somber reminder of President Alexander Lukashenko’s war on the press.

Those closely following charges filed against the Belarusian media have grim predictions for how the Tut.by trial will play out. In the past two years, Minsk has sentenced several journalists to lengthy prison terms.

But even after authorities forced the closure of Tut.by, members of its surviving team are reconvening in exile and under a new name to ensure audiences still have access to news.

Tut.by drew the government’s ire for its coverage of the August 2020 contested presidential elections, when Lukashenko claimed victory and opposition candidates were detained or forced to flee. When demonstrations broke out across the country, authorities arrested scores of protesters and journalists.

The government later branded Tut.by and other independent outlets as “extremist.” In May 2021, officials raided the newsroom, blocked access to its website and detained staff, including the editor-in chief Marina Zolatova and general director Lyudmila Chekina. A few months later, Tut.by was declared “extremist” and banned.

A closed-door trial for Zolatova and Chekina on charges including tax evasion, “inciting hatred,” and endangering the country’s national security, started in the capital, Minsk, on January 9.

Their colleagues Volha Loika, Alena Talkachova and Katsyaryna Tkachenka, are being tried in absentia. All three had left the country earlier, according to the Belarusian human rights group Viasna.

For Tut.by co-founder Kirill Voloshin, there is no question that the trial is a sham.

“I don’t think that there is any significance to this trial because it’s just a show for Lukashenko and his authority,” Voloshin told VOA from his new home in Lithuania. “It’s just a showcase that you should keep your mouth shut.”

“There’s no justice,” Voloshin added. “It’s just some imitation of a court.”

He believes the government came down hard on Tut.by because it had such wide readership and influence in Belarus. At its height, around 70% of internet users in Belarus read Tut.by, Voloshin estimated.

The Belarus embassy in Washington did not reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.

‘Harsh conditions’

The journalists will almost certainly be sentenced to lengthy prison terms, according to Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“It is very clear that the Lukashenko regime is prosecuting every single journalist, every single critic, everybody who expresses or expressed in the past any dissenting views,” Said told VOA. “The difference between Lukashenko now and Lukashenko in the past is that now there is no pretext. The masks are off.”

“Officials are not even trying to pretend that the reasons behind this prosecution are not political,” she said.

The New York-based media advocate was especially concerned about the conditions journalists face in prison, noting that political detainees are often treated worse than criminals in Belarus.

If convicted, Zolatava and Chekina both face up to 12 years in prison.

“Belarusian prisons are notorious for really harsh conditions for all prisoners,” she said. “Many journalists, as well as political opponents of Lukashenko, are probably facing harsher conditions in prisons.”

More than 1,400 political prisoners are currently detained in Belarus, according to rights group Viasna.

The country is among the worst jailers of journalists in the world, with 33 reporters currently behind bars, either awaiting trial or serving sentences, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Two of those detained contributed to VOA’s sister network Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“This is their sacrifice for freedom of speech,” said Volha Khvoin, who is on BAJ’s board.

Belarusian authorities are destroying independent media “to make sure that the residents of Belarus have no access or the most difficult access to non-state media,” Khvoin wrote in an email to VOA.

People in Belarus can use a VPN to access the websites that authorities blocked, she said, but that can bring its own risks, since police often check the phones of people they detain.

A lack of access to independent media affects people’s understanding of the world, including the war in Ukraine, according to Khvoin.

People who don’t read independent media are more likely to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine, for instance, she said.

“Propaganda changes the consciousness of a person,” she said.

Media in exile

Due to the threat of imprisonment, few independent reporters still work inside Belarus. The BAJ estimates that around 400 reporters left the country since 2020, many of whom set up in Lithuania and Poland.

Voloshin, who helped found Tut.by in 2000, is working with other exiled colleagues to found a successor to the media outlet.

Named Zerkalo — which means “mirror” in Russian — the website is working to replicate Tut.by’s coverage of Belarus and reconnect with audiences in and outside the country.

Alongside its reporting on politics and human rights issues, Zerkalo is monitoring the case against Tut.by’s team. When the trial began, it issued a statement saying the case “was fabricated from start to finish and appeared only because the regime is afraid of journalists.”

Zerkalo is part of a broader effort from exiled media to keep reporting on what’s happening inside Belarus.

The BAJ has coordinators in cities across Europe who are trying to help reestablish journalist networks from outside Belarus, said Khvoin, who is based in Warsaw.

“At the moment the ties between people from the Belarusian journalistic community have been preserved, and maybe they have become stronger in some way,” Khvoin wrote in an email to VOA. “Because in exile people need more support, contacts, maintaining life balance.”

To Voloshin, the spirit of Tut.by lives on in Zerkalo, and that gives him some hope for the future of his country.

“Tut.by’s mission was to report the truth on what’s happening in the country, highlighting the good and bad sides of what’s happening. That mission never disappeared,” Voloshin said. “This is one of the most important ways to demolish the dictatorship.”

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«Немає табу» на надання Україні винищувачів F-16 – премʼєр-міністр Нідерландів

Президент Франції не виключив надсилання в Україну військових літаків, натомість лідер США наразі негативно оцінив таку можливість

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Boris Johnson Says Putin Threatened Missile Strike in Call 

In a new BBC documentary, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Britain with a missile strike. Johnson says the conversation took place during a phone call in the run up to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.

Johnson recalled the Russian leader saying, “It would only take a minute… Jolly.”

Johnson, however, said he did not take the threat seriously in their “extraordinary” call. “He was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson said of Putin.

“It’s a lie,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters about Johnson’s interpretation of the telephone conversation. “There were no threats of missiles.”

Johnson also told the BBC he tried to dissuade Putin from war, telling him Ukraine would not be joining NATO for the “foreseeable future.” Johnson also said he told the Russian leader that an invasion of Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions.

Johnson, who stepped down last year in the wake of a series of scandals, sought to position London as Ukraine’s top ally in the West.

While in office he visited Kyiv several times and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy frequently.

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Turkey Now Willing to Back Finland’s NATO Membership but Ruling Out Sweden 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday his country would consider evaluating Finland’s NATO membership bid separately from Sweden’s. Until now, Turkey threatened to veto both countries’ bids after the burning of a Quran in Stockholm sparked outrage in Ankara.

The Turkish foreign minister told reporters in Ankara that Turkey is ready to assess Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership individually.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey can evaluate the Finnish and Swedish NATO applications separately.

Cavusoglu added that such an approach made sense, given one country’s application was more problematic than the other. The Turkish foreign minister’s comments echo President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement on Sunday, suggesting Finland would face little difficulty joining.

Erdogan also repeated his demand that Stockholm extradite 120 people whom Turkey considers terrorists.

Erdogan accuses the Swedish government of allowing its country to become a sanctuary for terrorists’ organizations that are fighting Turkey. Swedish officials insist the extradition demands are a matter for the courts.

Turkish-Swedish relations deteriorated further in January after far-right protesters were allowed to burn a Quran in Stockholm, causing outrage in Ankara. But Finnish-Turkish relations got a boost this month, with Helsinki allowing the sale of specialized steel to Turkey’s defense industry, ending Finland’s military embargo on Ankara over human rights concerns.

Ilhan Uzgel, a political analyst at the Kisa Dalga news portal, says Erdogan is seeking to maximize the concessions from NATO to allow its enlargement, given the upcoming presidential elections expected to be held in May.

“It’s not like a strategic decision, but it’s more like leverage that Erdogan needs in domestic politics. But this can be solvable. Under pressure, Erdogan makes concessions, that’s for sure. But he has to get something. He has learned this over the years that anything can be turned into a bargaining chip. An issue of transnationalism that he is very good at it. So, he knows how to make bargains. I mean, he has learned it in 20 years [in power],” said Uzgel.

Until now, Finland and Sweden have been committed to joining NATO together. But earlier this month, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Helsinki could review that stance if Sweden became permanently blocked from the military alliance.

Asli Aydintasbas of the Brookings Institution says Washington’s role may be critical to ending the impasse.

“The U.S. holds important cards. The question has been whether some of its policy goals can be achieved by actually keeping the relationship relatively frozen until the Turkish elections and then considering a reset. What we are seeing is that Turkey is frustrated, feeling it is not getting enough attention from Washington,” said Aydintasbas.

Ankara has numerous demands from Washington and ongoing disputes. Still, analysts suggest with only a few months until elections, which opinion polls indicate Erdogan is far from assured of winning, Sweden and Finland, along with NATO, will likely be closely following the forthcoming elections.

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«Нам не відома причина вибухів на іранських об’єктах» – МЗС України

«Україна неодноразово застерігала Іран: наслідки за підтримку агресії проти України будуть набагато масштабніші, ніж вигода від співпраці з Росією»

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Серед російських медалістів на Олімпіаді-2020 були члени ЦСК армії Росії – Кулеба

25 січня Міжнародний олімпійський комітет закликав спортивні федерації допустити російських та білоруських спортсменів на змагання в нейтральному статусі

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Росія, ймовірно, залишає відкритою можливість подальшої «часткової мобілізації» – розвідка Британії

Відомство вказує на повідомлення в медіа, за якими російські прикордонники не випускали з країни киргизьких мігрантів із подвійним громадянством

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Russians Gone From Ukraine Village, Fear and Hardship Remain

When night falls in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she pours sunflower oil that aid groups gave her into a jar and seals it with a wick-fitted lid. A flick of a match, and the make-do candle is lit.

“This is our electricity,” Trofimenko, 68, says.

It has been over 11 weeks since Ukrainian forces wrested back her village in Kherson province from Russian occupation. But liberation has not diminished the hardship for residents of Kalynivske, both those returning home and the ones who never left. In the peak of winter, the remote area not far from an active front line has no power or water. The sounds of war are never far.

Russian forces withdrew from the western side of the Dnieper River, which bisects the province, but remain in control of the eastern side. A near constant barrage of fire from only a few kilometers away, and the danger of leftover mines leaving many Ukrainians too scared to venture out, has rendered normalcy an elusive dream and cast a pall over their military’s strategic victory.

Still, residents have slowly trickled back to Kalynivske, preferring to live without basic services, dependent on humanitarian aid and under the constant threat of bombardment than as displaced people elsewhere in their country. Staying is an act of defiance against the relentless Russian attacks intended to make the area unlivable, they say.

“This territory is liberated. I feel it,” Trofimenko says. “Before, there were no people on the streets. They were empty. Some people evacuated, some people hid in their houses.”

“When you go out on the street now, you see happy people walking around,” she says.

The Associated Press followed a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy into the village on Saturday, when blankets, solar lamps, jerrycans, bed linens and warm clothes were delivered to the local warehouse of a distribution center.

Russian forces captured Kherson province in the early days of the war. The majority of the nearly 1,000 residents in Kalynivske remained in their homes throughout the occupation. Most were too fragile or ill to leave, others did not have the means to escape.

Gennadiy Shaposhnikov lies on the sofa in a dark room, plates piled up beside him.

The 83-year old’s advanced cancer is so painful it is hard for him to speak. When a mortar destroyed the back of his house, neighbors rushed to his rescue and patched it up with tarps. They still come by every day, to make sure he is fed and taken care of.

“Visit again, soon,” is all he can muster to say to them.

Oleksandra Hryhoryna, 75, moved in with a neighbor when the missiles devastated her small house near the village center. Her frail figure steps over the spent shells and shrapnel that cover her front yard. She struggles up the pile of bricks, what remains of the stairs, leading to her front door.

She came to the aid distribution center pulling her bicycle and left with a bag full of tinned food, her main source of sustenance these days.

But it’s the lack of electricity that is the major problem, Hryhoryna explains. “We are using handmade candles with oil and survive that way,” she says.

The main road that leads to her home is littered with the remnants of the war, an eerie museum of what was and what everyone here hopes will never return. Destroyed Russian tanks rust away in the fields. Cylindrical anti-tank missiles gleam, embedded in grassy patches. Occasionally, there is the tail end of a cluster munition lodged into the earth.

Bright red signs emblazoned with a skull warn passersby not to get too close.

The Russians left empty ammunition boxes, trenches and tarp-covered tents during their rapid retreat. A jacket and, some kilometers away, men’s underwear hangs on the bare branches. And with the Russians waging ongoing attacks to win back the lost ground in Kherson, it is sometimes hard for terrorized residents to feel as if the occupying forces ever left.

“I’m very afraid,” says Trofimenko. “Even sometimes I’m screaming. I’m very, very scared. And I’m worried about us getting shelled again and for (the fighting) to start again. This is the most terrible thing that exists.”

The deprivation suffered in the village is mirrored all over Kherson, from the provincial capital of the same name to the constellation of villages divided by tracts of farmland that surround it. Ukrainian troops reclaimed the territory west of the Dnieper River in November after a major counteroffensive led to a Russian troop withdrawal, hailed as one of the greatest Ukrainian victories of the war that’s now in its 12th month..

The U.N. ramped up assistance, supporting 133,000 individuals in Kherson with cash assistance, and 150,000 with food. Many villagers in Kalynivske say the food aid is the only reason they have something to eat.

“One of the biggest challenges is that the people who are there are the most vulnerable. It’s mainly the elderly, many who have a certain kind of disability, people who could not leave the area, and are really reliant on aid organizations and local authorities who are working around the clock,” says Saviano Abreu, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The shelling is constant.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reports near daily incidents of shelling in Kherson city and surrounding villages, including rocket, artillery and mortar attacks. Most fall closer to the river banks nearer to the front line, but, that doesn’t mean those living further away feel any safer. On Friday, a missile fell in the village of Kochubeivka, north of Kalynivske, killing one person.

“Kherson managed to resume most of the essential services, but the problem is the hostilities keep creating challenges to ensure they are sustained,” Abreu says. “Since December, it’s getting worse and worse. The number of attacks and hostilities there is only increasing.”

Without electricity, there is no means to pump piped drinking water. Many line up to fetch well water, but a lot is needed to perform daily functions, residents complain.

To keep warm, many forage around the village for firewood, a task that presents danger post-occupation.

Everyone in Kalynivske knows the story of Nina Zvarech. She went looking for firewood in the nearby forest and was killed when she stepped on a mine.

Her body lay there for over a month because her relatives were too afraid to go and find her.

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Friends Mourn Foreign Volunteers Killed Helping Civilians in Ukraine

Friends and volunteers gathered Sunday at Kyiv’s St. Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine with another volunteer while they were trying to evacuate people from a front-line town.

Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer Christopher Parry, 28, went missing this month while heading to the town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, where heavy fighting was taking place.

Volunteers spoke of their memories of Bagshaw and read tributes from his family.

Nikolletta Stoyanova, a friend in Ukraine, shared memories of his bravery.

“Even if no one wanted to go to Soledar, they can do that. Because if he understood that someone needs help, they need to do this help for these people,” Stoyanova said, speaking in English.

Bagshaw’s father, Phil, told reporters in New Zealand that his son wanted to do something to help.

“He was a very intelligent man, and a very independent thinker,” he said. “And he thought a long time about the situation in Ukraine, and he believed it to be immoral. He felt the only thing he could do of a constructive nature was to go there and help people.”

Ukrainian police said Jan. 9 that they lost contact with Bagshaw and Parry after the two headed for Soledar. Their bodies were later recovered. A Ukrainian official reported Wednesday that the defending forces made an organized retreat from the salt-mining town.

In a Jan. 24 statement, Parry’s family said he was “drawn to Ukraine in March in its darkest hour.” They said he’d “helped those most in need, saving over 400 lives plus many abandoned animals.”

Friends said the men’s bodies would be handed over to relatives in the U.K.

In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces Sunday heavily shelled the city of Kherson, killing three people and wounding six others, the regional administration said. It said the shelling damaged a hospital, school, bus station, post office, bank and residential buildings.

Among those reported injured were two women in the hospital at the time: a nurse and a cafeteria worker. Russian forces retreated across the Dnieper River from Kherson in November, but still hold much of the province of the same name.

On Sunday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine and its Western allies of war crimes in connection with the shelling of two hospitals in Russian-held parts of Ukraine.

Russian officials said 14 people died Saturday when a hospital in the eastern Luhansk province settlement of Novoaidar was struck. They said shells also fell on the territory of a hospital in Nova Kakhovka, a Russian-occupied city in Kherson province where a strategically vital bridge across the lower reaches of the Dnieper is located.

“The deliberate shelling of active civilian medical facilities and the targeted killing of civilians are grave war crimes of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The lack of reaction from the United States and other NATO countries to this, yet another monstrous trampling of international humanitarian law by Kyiv, once again confirms their direct involvement in the conflict and involvement in the crimes being committed.”

Russian forces have shelled hundreds of hospitals and other medical facilities in Ukraine since the war began, reducing more than 100 of them to rubble, according to the Ukrainian Health Ministry.

Russian state TV aired footage of what it said was the damaged hospital in Novoaidar. It said rockets hit the pediatric department of the two-story building.

“There are no military factories here. There are no military vehicles, no tanks. Who did you shoot at?” Olga Ryasnaya said in an interview on Russian TV, which identified her as a pediatric nurse.

Luhansk province, where Novoaidar is located, is almost entirely under the control of Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists. Russian and separatist officials alleged the hospital was deliberately targeted. The movements of journalists are restricted in areas of Ukraine under Russian control.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukrainian forces were likely increasing strikes on Russian positions deep inside Luhansk province, closer to the Russian border, in an effort “to disrupt Russian logistics and ground lines of communication.” It said the strikes could be part of preparations for a future counteroffensive.

In another development, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday that Ukrainian tank crews have arrived in the U.K. to begin training on the Challenger 2 battle tank. The U.K. government has said it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine, which also was promised advanced battle tanks from the U.S., Germany and other European allies.

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