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Germany Treating Afghan, Ukrainian Refugees Differently, Afghans Say

Some newly arrived Afghans in Germany are complaining they feel forgotten as Ukrainian refugees enter the country. VOA’s Helay Asad has the story, narrated by Roshan Noorzai.

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Biden Administration Strengthens Hostage Policy

Hostage negotiations are a delicate test in diplomacy and are handled at the highest levels of the American government. The Biden administration recently clarified its stance on this issue — but does this come in time for the release of several high-profile hostages held overseas? VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Washington.

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US Judge Sentences Wildlife Trafficker to More Than 5 Years in Jail

A U.S. judge sentenced a Liberian man to 63 months in prison for conspiring to traffic millions of dollars’ worth of horns and ivory from endangered rhinoceros and elephants, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Moazu Kromah, a Uganda resident, was extradited from the west African country to the United States in June 2019 and has been detained since then. He pleaded guilty in March of this year to one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and two counts of wildlife trafficking, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, said in a statement.

The trafficking plot involved the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.

Williams praised the more than five-year sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.

“Today’s sentence demonstrates that those who are responsible for the decimation of global populations of endangered and threatened animals protected by international agreements will face serious consequences,” he said.

Kromah, 49, and accomplices had buyers in the United States and Southeast Asia, trafficking at least 190 kilograms of rhinoceros horns and at least 10 tons of elephant ivory from East African countries between roughly 2012 and 2019.

The estimated average retail value of the rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory was at least around $3.4 million and $4 million respectively.

During the investigation, law enforcement agents intercepted multiple packages bound for Manhattan buyers containing rhinoceros horns.

They concealed some of the animal parts in pieces of art such as African masks and statues, the New York investigators say.

Poaching is fueled by a seemingly insatiable demand for rhino horn in Asia, where people pay huge sums for a substance, coveted as a traditional medicine, that is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance as in human fingernails.

Kromah is one of five men accused of being part of the criminal enterprise.

Kenyan Mansur Mohamed Surur was extradited to the United States last year and pled guilty to trafficking and drug dealing charges, according to a June statement from Williams’s office.

Guinean Amara Cherif is also in U.S. custody and pled guilty to the charges against him in April this year.

Co-defendants Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh and Abdi Hussein Ahmed have reportedly been arrested. 

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One-of-a-Kind Museum Celebrates Women of the American West 

The Cowgirls of the West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming, tells the hidden story of the women on farms and ranches who helped build the American West. VOA’s Katherine Gypson reports.

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VOA Interview: Ukraine Defense Chief Believes in Victory, Restoration of 1991 Borders

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his country’s goal in the current conflict with Russia is complete victory and the restoration of Ukraine’s borders as of 1991. He spoke this week with VOA Ukrainian Service’s Ruslan Petrychka about developments in the country since Russia’s invasion earlier this year.

VOA: What goal do you set for Ukraine in the war with Russia?

Reznikov: The all-Ukrainian plan is the complete de-occupation of the territories occupied by the Russian Federation and return to the internationally recognized borders as of 1991. Not 2014, ’15. Not February 24, 2022. The ultimate goal is the victory of Ukraine and its restoration within its borders as of 1991. This is the main plan.

The “cool-down” of the military situation is possible. I do not see a possibility of “freezing” — what people tend to call a conflict — because it is not a conflict. It is a war. This is an open war between two regular armies, and one army invaded the territory of its neighbor without any legitimate explanation or right to do so. Therefore, this war is for survival. We will be defending ourselves to survive.

VOA: Per your assessment, how many combat-ready troops have Russian forces assembled near Ukraine’s borders or in the occupied territories?

Reznikov: I may be wrong, but according to the latest military reports, there seems to be about 115 so-called battalion-tactical groups, of which 105 are actively deployed, and 10 are on rotation for replenishment or rest. In sum, there are up to 135,000 people.

VOA: What new military equipment do you expect to receive from the United States and other Western countries?

Reznikov: We are certainly expecting support and assistance from our partners. We are hopeful that a political decision will be made to give us [an] ATACMS [Army Tactical Missile System] that would allow us to hit targets up to 300 km away. This would also allow us to preserve more lives of our soldiers — men and women — and inflict very successful damage. We are hopeful to finally receive Western planes that would allow us to dominate the sky due to their better radars, range, maneuverability and speed. And of course, receiving tanks would also give us an advantage. Today, the modern world can easily provide us with technology to assure our victory and compensate for the imbalance in manpower [between Russia and Ukraine].

VOA: Are you satisfied with the latest $1 billion assistance package to Ukraine from the U.S.?

Reznikov: I am very pleased, because it contains many 155 mm ammunition for the artillery systems that we have received before. It also contains quite a significant number of missiles for HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]. Also, missiles that allow our military to destroy and blind Russian radars. It helps us weaken their air defense system and therefore act more decisively. Hence, we are very satisfied with the assistance package. This is a tremendous help. And I will repeat once again that I hope that a political decision regarding the ATACMS missiles will soon be made. The HIMARS have changed our battlefield strategies significantly, therefore the ATACMS will be a great addition to benefit Ukraine and the civilized world.

VOA: Has Ukraine lost in battle any of the HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine by the U.S. so far?

Reznikov: I can confirm with absolute responsibility that not a single HIMARS was lost. Therefore, when you read Russian mass media or social networks about “a soldier Ivanov with a Kalashnikov breaking into a truck where he destroyed 12 HIMARS” — all you can do is laugh, shake your head and say, “Well, this is simply their system of propaganda.” It’s total nonsense.

VOA: Do you have any agreements with the U.S. for not hitting Russian military objects in Crimea with the weapons systems provided?

Reznikov: We have an agreement with the United States that we will not be using the weapons provided to us by our partners, the United States, to target the territory of the Russian Federation. However, if we are talking about de-occupying the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine where our enemies are located, then accordingly, we have no such restrictions.

VOA: What measures has Ukraine put in place to monitor and provide control for the use of U.S, weapons systems delivered to Ukraine?

Reznikov: We have several levels of such interactions [to control the use of delivered weapons] because to me, it is fundamentally important to retain and even grow the level of trust. It is essential to maintain this support. And from my first appeals to [U.S. Defense Secretary] Mr. Lloyd Austin and other ministers at the Ramstein conference [on April 26], I said directly in my speech, “Please help us create a system of maximum transparent control of weapons so that you could have open access to this information. We open this information for you completely. Send your emissaries and controllers, even if you would like for them to go to the front line. Feel free to control it according to your own systems.”

And some countries did send their representatives to us immediately according to their security regulations. I will emphasize once again that we are totally interested in the transparency of those things, because if some people are saying that there is some smuggling involved, all that is are propagandistic narratives aimed at weakening this very support and lowering the level of trust.

VOA: What is your message to the world on the eve of Ukraine Independence Day on August 24?

Reznikov: I want to ask everyone — please believe in Ukraine. We continue to pay for our independence. We may have gained independence a little easier than other countries have, as we have not paid so much in blood. But now we are paying a lot, and we are washing our independence with blood. I want to add that today, the Independence Day of Ukraine is simultaneously the Independence Day of many European countries. Therefore, I ask you not to give in to the syndrome of fatigue. Stay with us, and we will win together. Ukraine will win. Everything will be Ukraine!

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На військовому аеродромі «Бельбек» у Криму чути вибухи – ЗМІ

«Губернатор» тимчасово окупованого РФ Севастополя Михайло Развожаєв каже, що в районі аеропорту «Бельбек» сили ППО збили безпілотник

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Клімкін: Ердоган хоче бути «посередником між Заходом та Росією»

Президент Туреччини вперше з початку повномасштабної війни прибув з візитом в Україну

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US to Boost Monkeypox Vaccine Supply

The White House announced Thursday it will make an additional 1.8 million doses of monkeypox vaccine available for distribution beginning next week.

At a news conference, White House national monkeypox response coordinator Bob Fenton said the additional doses will be available for U.S. jurisdictions to order starting Monday, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also took part in the news briefing.

Fenton said in the less than 10 days since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC authorized the Jynneos vaccine for emergency use against monkeypox in individuals 18 years of age and older, HHS has delivered nearly 1 million doses to U.S. states and cities, making it the largest program of its kind for monkeypox vaccine in the world.

Fenton said the additional doses are part of the National Monkeypox Response Team’s plan to address the viral disease’s outbreak in the United States and mitigate its spread.

He said HHS has been working on launching a pilot program that will provide up to 50,000 doses from the national stockpile to be made available for events that will have high attendance of gay and bisexual men.

While monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, or STI, it has been found to be disproportionally affecting men who have sex with men. The disease can spread through close or intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing and sex. It can also be transmitted by touching infected items such as clothing, bedding or towels.

Fenton said the Biden administration has also significantly increased availability and convenience of monkeypox tests, expanding capacity from 6,000 tests per week to 80,000 tests per week.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Місія МАГАТЕ на Запорізьку АЕС має вирушати з Києва, але має бути згода України та Росії ‒ Ґутерріш

В ООН занепокоєні ситуацією навколо найбільшої в Європі атомної станції

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«Можуть влаштувати теракт». ГУР попереджає про можливі провокації окупантів на Запорізькій АЕС

У розвідці звертають увагу, що окупанти оголосили несподіваний «вихідний» на Запорізькій АЕС і сьогодні заявили про начебто підготовку «теракту» з боку ЗСУ

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Trump Organization Top Executive Pleads Guilty in Tax Evasion Case

A top executive at former President Donald Trump’s family business pleaded guilty Thursday to evading taxes in a deal that could potentially make him a star witness against the company at a fall trial.

Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to all 15 of the charges he faced in the case. He was accused of dodging taxes on lavish fringe benefits he got from the company, including lease payments for a luxury car, rent for a Manhattan apartment and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

Weisselberg is the only person to face criminal charges so far in the Manhattan district attorney’s long-running investigation of the company’s business practices.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan agreed to sentence Weisselberg to five months incarceration and five years probation at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, although he will be eligible for release much earlier if he behaves well behind bars. The judge said Weisselberg will have to pay nearly $2 million in taxes, penalties and interest.

The plea bargain also requires Weisselberg to testify truthfully as a prosecution witness when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related charges. The company is accused of helping Weisselberg and other executives avoid income taxes by failing to accurately report their full compensation to the government.

Trump himself is not charged in the case.

Testimony by Weisselberg could potentially weaken the Trump Organization’s defense. If convicted, the company could face fines or potentially be placed on probation and be forced to change certain business practices.

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Rushdie Attack Suspect Due in Court Thursday

The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie will make another court appearance Thursday in western New York state, the Reuters news agency reports.

Citing an email from the Chautauqua County District Attorney, Reuters reports 24-year-old New Jersey resident Hadi Matar will make his second court appearance in the afternoon local time. 

The 75-year-old Rushdie was attacked Friday as he prepared to speak in a lecture hall in Chautauqua, New York, outside the city of Buffalo. He was stabbed in the neck and torso and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he underwent several surgeries. His agent said that his liver was damaged, nerves were severed in one arm, and he might lose an eye, but is on the road to recovery.

Police arrested Matar at the scene. He made his initial appearance Saturday, pleading not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges. He is being held in the Chautauqua County jail without bond.

In a jail-house video interview published Wednesday by the New York Post, Matar expressed surprise Rushdie was alive, saying he did not think the writer would survive. 

The Post reports, on the advice of his attorney, Matar would not comment if he was inspired by an Iranian fatwa — or religious edict — calling for the author’s death, following the publication of Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses.”  

The late Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. Matar said he respected the late ayatollah, calling him a great man, and said he had only read a few pages of Rushdie’s book.

But the accused assailant said he did not like Rushdie. The Post quoted Matar saying, I don’t think he’s a very good person … He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Matar denied being in contact with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and alluded to acting completely alone. He told The Post he was inspired to go to Chautauqua after seeing a tweet sometime in the winter announcing Rushdie’s visit and described how he took a bus to the area the day before the attack.

Iran’s foreign ministry this week denied any involvement with attack or attacker. 

Matar was born in the U.S. but holds dual citizenship in Lebanon, where his parents were born. His mother has told reporters in interviews that Matar was changed when he returned from a visit to see his father in Lebanon in 2018.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Москва називає «неприйнятною» ідею створення демілітаризованої зони навколо ЗАЕС

На тлі повідомлень про обстріли ЗАЕС минулого тижня Антоніу Ґутерріш запропонував створити демілітаризовану зону навколо станції

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In Ukraine’s Hard-Hit Chernihiv, Volunteers Help Older People Survive

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on its northern Chernihiv region. Older residents have lost almost everything, including their homes and personal possessions. But volunteers are doing their best to help these people return to normal life. Anna Kosstutschenko has the story. VOA footage by Paviel Syhodolskiy.

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Zelenskyy Hosting UN Chief, Turkey’s President in Lviv 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are set to meet Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with an agenda expected to include a global food crisis, threats to a nuclear power plant, and finding a political solution to the war launched by Russia. 

Efforts to ease the food crisis are ongoing, with ships carrying Ukrainian exports now able to depart under an agreement the U.N. and Turkey brokered in late July with Russia and Ukraine. 

Guterres is scheduled to travel Friday to visit a port in Odesa, then on Saturday to Istanbul to see the Joint Coordination Center that is monitoring the export system, including inspections of inbound and outbound ships demanded by Russia.  

The center said it expects inspections teams to conduct checks Thursday on four ships that departed Ukraine this week.    

Those include the Osprey S, which is carrying corn to Turkey, the Ramus and its cargo of wheat bound for Turkey, the Brave Commander carrying wheat to Djibouti, and the Bonita carrying corn to South Korea. 

Four other ships are set to be inspected on their way to Ukraine. Russia has sought to ensure that inbound vessels are not bringing weapons for Ukrainian forces. 

Three more ships departed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Wednesday.  The coordination center said the Sara, carrying 8,000 metric tons of corn, and the Efe, carrying 7,250 metric tons of sunflower oil, left the Odesa port bound for Turkey.     

The Petrel S, loaded with 18,500 metric tons of sunflower meal, left the Chornomorsk port and was headed to Amsterdam, the coordination center said.  

Since exports began August 1, 24 vessels have left Ukraine.   

Crimea blasts 

A series of explosions during the past week in Russian-occupied Crimea are part of a new strategy being deployed by Ukrainian forces in the war, a Ukraine official said Wednesday.    

A week ago, an attack at a Russian air base in Crimea destroyed nine warplanes. On Tuesday, a series of explosions rocked an ammunitions storage facility at a Russian base.  

Russia called the latest attacks “sabotage.”  

Ukrainian officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that Ukraine special forces were responsible for the attacks in Crimea.  

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the Post that the Ukrainian government’s official position is that it can neither confirm nor deny Ukrainian involvement in the Crimea attacks.   

However, Reznikov also told the Post that striking targets behind Russian lines is part of Ukraine’s current military strategy. He added that Ukraine lacks weapons with the range to reach targets in Crimea from Ukrainian-controlled territory.  

In 2014, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities have vowed to recapture Crimea and other territories now occupied by Russia after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.  

In a speech following the August 9 attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea – its liberation.”   

Elsewhere, Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killed seven people and injured 16, the Ukrainian Emergencies Service said Wednesday. 

Kharkiv has often been targeted, and Zelenskyy called Wednesday’s attack “a devious and cynical strike on civilians with no justification” in a Telegram post.  

Also on Wednesday, Ukraine held disaster response drills after repeated shelling of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe.   

Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told Reuters his government was very concerned about the safety of the plant in Enerhodar in the southeast of the country.     

Both sides have accused the other of attacks near the facility in recent days and engaging in what they call “nuclear terrorism,” Reuters reported.       

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

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Media Companies to Argue for Release of Trump Search Warrant Affidavit

A U.S. federal magistrate judge will hear Thursday from attorneys for some of the nation’s most prominent media companies arguing for the release of the affidavit supporting a search warrant executed last week at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

The U.S. Justice Department has objected to making the document public, arguing that would jeopardize its investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material.

The media companies argued in a court filing that it is in the public interest to see “the government’s basis for the extraordinary step of seeking the warrant to search a former president’s home.”

The filing further said that if the judge reviews the document and finds a compelling interest in keeping some portions of the information secret, then the remainder should be made public.

Those arguing for the document’s release include The Associated Press, broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, as well as newspaper companies The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dow Jones & Company, E.W. Scripps Company and McClatchy.

FBI agents removed 11 sets of classified documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Україна отримала ще 450 мільйонів канадських доларів кредиту через рахунок МВФ – Мінфін

Зараз загальна сума кредиту від Канади становить 1,45 мільярда канадських доларів

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Житель Сумщини «провів» російську техніку до околиць Києва на початку вторгнення – СБУ

«Після звільнення Сумської області агент продовжив співпрацювати із ФСБ РФ і виконувати завдання своїх кураторів»

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Myanmar to Import Russian Oil, Military Says

Military-ruled Myanmar plans to import Russian gasoline and fuel oil to ease supply concerns and rising prices, a junta spokesperson said, the latest developing country to do so amid a global energy crisis.

The Southeast Asian country has maintained friendly ties with Russia, even as both remain under a raft of sanctions from Western countries — Myanmar for a military coup that overthrew an elected government last year, and Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation.”

Russia is seeking new customers for its energy in the region as its biggest export destination, Europe, will impose an embargo on Russian oil in phases later this year.

“We have received permission to import petrol from Russia,” military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said during a news conference Wednesday, adding that it was favored for its “quality and low cost.”

Fuel oil shipments are due to start arriving from September, according to media.

Zaw Min Tun said junta chief Min Aung Hlaing discussed oil and gas during a trip to Russia last month. Myanmar now imports its fuel through Singapore.

Myanmar would consider joint oil exploration in Myanmar with Russia and China, he said.

The military has set up a Russian Oil Purchasing Committee headed by a close ally of Min Aung Hlaing to oversee the buying, importing, and transport of fuel at reasonable prices based on Myanmar’s needs, according to a statement published in a state newspaper on Wednesday.

In addition to political turmoil and civil unrest, Myanmar has been hit hard by high fuel prices and power cuts, prompting its military leadership to turn to imports of fuel oil that can be used in power plants.

Petrol prices have surged about 350% since the coup in February last year to about $1  (2,300-2,700 kyat) per liter. 

In the past week, petrol stations have shut down in various parts of the country because of shortages, according to media reports.

Russia is also a major supplier of weapons to the Myanmar military.