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International Community Trains Ivorian Forces in Preparation for Terror Threat

While much of the world is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts warn that nations should not ignore Islamist militants, who are increasing attacks in Africa’s Sahel region and spreading to West Africa’s coastal states.

Since 2020, terror groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida have carried out attacks against Ivorian forces. In response to the threat, French security forces are training the region’s militaries.

One Ivorian commando, who declined to give his surname, said the threat is real and they are preparing to face it in every way possible.

“In Ivory Coast, we are really, really focused on terrorism, because in the north part of our country, we are facing terrorism, so we’re talking about sea, air and land. That’s why we are here,” William said. 

Security analysts say terrorism is spreading to the north of coastal states like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin and Togo — the next phase in the western Sahel’s decade-long conflict.

Large parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are experiencing daily attacks targeting military and civilians alike.  

Since 2020 began, there have been 17 incidents — including gun battles and roadside bombs — in the north of Ivory Coast linked to al-Qaida-affiliated groups, according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Ivory Coast has sent large numbers of troops to the north in response to these attacks. 

The commander of French forces in the country, Colonel Arnaud Mettley, expressed doubt regarding fears that terror groups had co-opted local populations in Ivory Coast.

“For the moment, we think that the local population does not cooperate with the jihadist groups, because there is a strong answer from the Ivorian armed forces … but it’s really, it’s a real concern for us,” he said.   

He added that limiting the spread of the terrorist threat from Burkina Faso is possible, saying, “We cannot prevent the threat going to the south, but we can succeed in fighting this threat.”

The United States last month carried out Operation Flintlock, an exercise to promote cooperation among regional, NATO and U.S. forces, in Ivory Coast for the first time. Richard K. Bell, the U.S. ambassador to Ivory Coast, said a sustained effort will be needed against terror groups spreading in the north.  

“I think the nature of this threat makes it very difficult to eliminate it entirely,” Bell said. “I think it can be contained at a really low level. And I believe that the key to success is the support of the population.”  

Analysts say a military response by itself will not be enough.   

Geoffroy-Julien Kouao, an associate researcher at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a research organization in Germany, said the areas in question are poorly developed, with glaring social problems. He said there are not enough schools, not enough water supply, not enough electricity, not enough jobs for the youth, and terror groups will exploit these social deficiencies to recruit young people.  

 

Asked if he had a message for terror groups operating in Ivory Coast, William, the Ivorian commando, said, “I don’t have any particular message for them, but I’m just ready for them.”  

Efforts to boost that readiness are continuing.   

 

Posted by Ukrap on

Голова Рівненської ОВА повідомив про ракетний удар, дані про збитки уточнюються

«Можливі збитки та руйнування, втрати уточнюються», – додав голова ОВА.

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Ukrainians and Russians Arrive at Southern US Border Seeking Entry

Ukrainians and Russians are arriving at the southern U.S. border in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But reaching the border with Mexico does not guarantee immediate access into the United States, as Vicente Calderón reports from Tijuana

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Soviet Echoes of Deportations Alarm Historians

Forced civilian deportations from Ukraine’s besieged port town of Mariupol to Russia are “unconscionable,” U.S. officials said Sunday after authorities in Kyiv and Mariupol’s mayor accused Moscow of transporting thousands of people against their will.

The claims are unverified so far but earlier this month Kyiv rejected an offer from Moscow to create “humanitarian corridors” allowing civilians to flee six heavily bombed Ukrainian cities when it emerged that Moscow expected the civilians to use the proposed safe routes to go to Russia or its ally, Belarus.

Only two of the corridors proposed by Russia would end up funneling civilians into safer Ukrainian-controlled territory. French president Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of “moral and political cynicism,” adding, “I do not know many Ukrainians who want to go to Russia.”

Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, dismissed Moscow’s proposed routes for civilian evacuation to Russia as “completely immoral.”

The city council in Mariupol was the first to make the allegation about forced civilian deportations to Russia. The governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kirilenko, also accused Moscow of having “forcibly deported more than 1,000 inhabitants of Mariupol.”

Kirilenko said deported civilians were being processed at Russian “filtration camps” where their mobile phones were checked and then their identity documents confiscated “Then they are sent to Russia,” he said on Facebook, adding “their fate on the other side is unknown.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday: “I’ve only heard it. I can’t confirm it.” She added: “But I can say it is disturbing. It is unconscionable for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in what will basically be concentration and prisoner camps.”

According to some reports the deported civilians are being sent to remote Russian towns and given identity documents that indicate they can work where they are sent and are not allowed to relocate for two years.

The reports of the involuntary deportations have drawn scathing criticism from authoritative historians, who label them a distressing echo of the Soviet era when Communist autocrat Josef Stalin ordered deportations of entire nationalities, forced labor transfers and organized migrations in opposite directions to fill ethnically cleansed territories.

Stalin evicted 1.8 million kulaks from their homes and relocated them to labor camps and remote parts of Russia in 1930–31. A further estimated 1 million peasants and ethnic minorities were involuntarily relocated between 1932–39. Under Stalin’s rule 3.5 million ethnic minorities were forcibly relocated between 1930 to 1952.

In May 1944, over three days, nearly 200,000 Tatars, mostly women and children, were deported on cattle trains from Crimea and dispatched to Uzbekistan. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 Tatars still living on the peninsula have not been permitted to commemorate the event.

“If we’d paid attention to what Putin did to the Crimean Tatars after the 2014 annexation we’d hardly be surprised by his forced deportations in Mariupol today. Russian occupation forces are not merely committing war crimes in Ukraine, they’re committing crimes against humanity,” tweeted Jasmin Mujanović, the author of Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans.

“Plumbing yet more depths of evil, deportations from Mariupol to Russia, and according to Ukraine human rights spokesperson, deprived of passports and forced to work at specified Russian locations for at least 2 years — essentially deported slave labour,” tweeted Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews Volume Two: Belonging.”

Schama’s own family’s history included deportations and forced migrations which had among other relatives, his own parents passing through Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova and Romania.

“When Putin says that there is no Ukrainian nation and no Ukrainian State, he means that he intends to destroy the Ukrainian nation and the Ukrainian State. Everyone gets that, right?” tweeted Timothy Snyder, who specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust.

Snyder was referencing Putin’s frequently repeated view that Ukrainians are basically Russians. The Russian leader has long pushed a narrative that Ukraine is part of Russia.

He famously declared to then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2008: “You have to understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a country.” In 2014, after annexing Crimea and using armed proxies, later backed by the Russian military, to seize part of Ukraine’s Donbas region, Putin said: “Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”

Posted by Ukrap on

Інформаційно-аналітична програма Свобода Live виробництва Радіо Свобода виходитиме на телеканалі Еспресо  

Свобода Live виходить в ефір щодня з понеділка по п’ятницю о 18-й годині за київським часом

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Наслідки обстрілів Подільського району Києва (фотосвідчення)

Російська армія обстріляла ввечері 20 березня один із ТРЦ в Подільському районі Києва, що викликало масштабні руйнування. Вісім людей загинули.

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Деблокувати Маріуполь технічно можливо – Білецький 

«Якби міжнародні організації працювали так, як по Сирії, то я певен, що можна було б домогтися твердого перемир’я на 5-7 днів»

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US Official: Biden fortified Saudi’s Patriot Missile Supply

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has transferred a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks as the Biden administration looks to ease what has been a point of tension in the increasingly complicated U.S.-Saudi relationship.

A senior administration official confirmed Sunday night that the interceptors have been sent to Saudi Arabia. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a decision that has not been formally announced, said the decision was in line with President Joe Biden’s promise that “America will have the backs of our friends in the region.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday condemned Houthi forces in Yemen after they unleashed one of their most intense barrages of drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia’s critical energy facilities, sparking a fire at one site and temporarily cutting oil production at another.

The Associated Press reported in September that the U.S. had moved its own Patriot defense system from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh even as the kingdom faced continued to face air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The kingdom has insisted that the interceptors are critical to their defense against Houthi attacks. The Saudis have been locked in a stalemate war with the Houthis since March 2015.

At the time the U.S. Patriot systems were moved out of the kingdom, administration officials said the shift in defense capabilities was made in part due to a desire to face what American officials see as the looming “great powers conflict” with China and Russia. Pentagon officials noted that the U.S. maintained tens of thousands of forces and a robust force posture in the Middle East representing “some of our most advanced air power and maritime capabilities.”

The decision to fortify Saudi Arabia’s supply of interceptors was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has been strained since Biden took office. The president has refused to deal directly with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has removed the Houthis from a list of designated terrorist groups.

The Biden administration last year released a declassified intelligence report concluding that the crown prince, son of the aging King Salman and known as MBS, had authorized the team of Saudi security and intelligence officials that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The killing of Khashoggi, a critic of MBS, drew global condemnation. The crown prince insists he was not involved in the operation carried out by Saudi operatives.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, the crown prince was asked whether Biden misunderstands something about him. He responded, “Simply, I do not care” and that it was up to Biden to think “about the interests of America” when weighing his dealings with the Saudi monarchy.

The White House dispatched Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Middle East coordinator, and the State Department’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, to Riyadh last month to talk to Saudi officials about a range of issues — chief among them the ongoing war in Yemen and global energy supplies.

The Saudis have thus far declined to pump more crude to alleviate a spike in global oil prices that’s been spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Norway’s Equinor Shuts Snorre B Oil Platform As Precaution After Earthquake

OSLO — Norway’s Equinor has shut its Snorre B oil platform as a precautionary measure following an earthquake in the North Sea, although no damage has been reported so far, the company said Monday. 

It was not yet clear when Snorre B, which produces between 30,000-35,000 barrels per day of oil, could resume normal operation, Equinor spokesperson Gisle Ledel Johannessen said. 

“Our focus now is on the safety,” he said. 

Remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, have been deployed to scan the seabed for any damage, Equinor said. 

The quake, which took place early on Monday, had an estimated magnitude of 4.6, according to the Norwegian National Seismic Network. 

The tremor was noticed at the Snorre field, which has several platforms, Johannessen said. 

“At Snorre B, the production has been shut down as a precaution,” he said. 

“Snorre is the closest in proximity to the earthquake and on the installations they felt the earthquake … But (there are) no reports of any damages to installations or on the seabed,” he added. 

While small earthquakes are common along Norway’s coast, a tremor of the magnitude seen on Monday happens only once a decade on average, University of Bergen seismology Professor Lars Ottermoller told newspaper Bergens Tidende. 

Norway is Europe’s second largest petroleum producer after Russia, producing around 4 million barrels of oil equivalents per day, roughly equally divided between oil and natural gas. 

The Nordic country has said it will do its utmost to maintain high output of oil and gas at a time when Western nations are seeking to wean themselves off Russian petroleum following last month’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Operator Equinor has a stake of 33.3% in Snorre, while state oil firm Petoro holds 30%, Vaar Energi holds 18.5%, INPEX Idemitsu 9.6% and Wintershall DEA 8.6% according to Norwegian government data. 

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У Мелітополі повідомляють про викрадення військовими РФ групи місцевих представників ЗМІ

Йдеться про керівника МВ-холдингу Михайла Кумка і ще трьох працівників холдингу

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Jackson, 1st Black female High Court Pick, Faces Senators

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee is beginning historic confirmation hearings Monday for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Barring a significant misstep by the 51-year-old Jackson, a federal judge for the past nine years, Democrats who control the Senate by the slimmest of margins intend to wrap up her confirmation before Easter.

Jackson is expected to present an opening statement Monday afternoon, then answer questions from the committee’s 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans over the next two days. She will be introduced by Thomas B. Griffith, a retired judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Lisa M. Fairfax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

Jackson appeared before the same committee last year, after President Joe Biden chose her to fill an opening on the federal appeals court in Washington, just down the hill from the Supreme Court.

Her testimony will give most Americans, as well as the Senate, their most extensive look yet at the Harvard-trained lawyer with a resume that includes two years as a federal public defender. That makes her the first nominee with significant criminal defense experience since Thurgood Marshall, the first Black American to serve on the nation’s highest court.

In addition to being the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, Jackson would be the third Black justice, after Marshall and his successor, Justice Clarence Thomas.

The American Bar Association, which evaluates judicial nominees, on Friday gave Jackson’s its highest rating, unanimously “well qualified.”

Janette McCarthy Wallace, general counsel of the NAACP, said she is excited to see a Black woman on the verge of a high court seat.

“Representation matters,” Wallace said. “It’s critical to have diverse experience on the bench. It should reflect the rich cultural diversity of this country.”

It’s not yet clear how aggressively Republicans will go after Jackson, given that her confirmation would not alter the court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

Still, some Republicans have signaled they could use Jackson’s nomination to try to brand Democrats as soft on crime, an emerging theme in GOP midterm election campaigns. Biden has chosen several former public defenders for life-tenured judicial posts. In addition, Jackson served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency created by Congress to reduce disparity in federal prison sentences.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., highlighted one potential line of attack. “I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Hawley wrote on Twitter last week in a thread that was echoed by the Republican National Committee. Hawley did not raise the issue when he questioned Jackson last year before voting against her appeals court confirmation.

The White House pushed back forcefully against the criticism as “toxic and weakly presented misinformation.” Sentencing expert Douglas Berman, an Ohio State law professor, wrote on his blog that Jackson’s record shows she is skeptical of the range of prison terms recommended for child pornography cases, “but so too were prosecutors in the majority of her cases and so too are district judges nationwide.”

Hawley is one of several committee Republicans, along with Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who are potential 2024 presidential candidates, and their aspirations may collide with other Republicans who would just as soon not pursue a scorched-earth approach to Jackson’s nomination.

Biden chose Jackson in February, fulfilling a campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court for the first time in American history. She would take the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he would retire this summer after 28 years on the court.

Jackson once worked as a high court law clerk to Breyer early in her legal career.

Democrats are moving quickly to confirm Jackson, even though Breyer’s seat will not officially open until the summer. They have no votes to spare in a 50-50 Senate that they run by virtue of the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

But they are not moving as fast as Republicans did when they installed Amy Coney Barrett on the court little more than a month after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and days before the 2020 presidential election.

Barrett, the third of President Donald Trump’s high court picks, entrenched the court’s conservative majority when she took the place of the liberal Ginsburg.

Last year, Jackson won Senate confirmation by a 53-44 vote, with three Republicans supporting her. It’s not clear how many Republicans might vote for her this time.

Jackson is married to Patrick Johnson, a surgeon in Washington. They have two daughters, one in college and the other in high school. She is related by marriage to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who also was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012. Ryan has voiced support for Jackson’s nomination.

Jackson has spoken about how her children have kept her in touch with reality, even as she has held a judge’s gavel since 2013. In the courtroom, she told an audience in Athens, Georgia, in 2017, “people listen and generally do what I tell them to do.”

At home, though, her daughters “make it very clear I know nothing, I should not tell them anything, much less give them any orders, that is, if they talk to me at all,” Jackson said.

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Ukraine Finally Rotates Workers at Chernobyl: IAEA

VIENNA, AUSTRIA — Ukraine has managed to rotate staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for the first time since Russia seized it last month as it invaded its neighbor, the U.N.’s nuclear agency said.

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency that around half of the staff were “finally” able to return to their homes on Sunday after working at the Russian-controlled site for nearly four weeks, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said.

Those who left were replaced by other Ukrainian staff, Grossi said in a statement late Sunday. 

“It is a positive — albeit long overdue — development that some staff at the Chernobyl NPP have now rotated and returned to their families,” Grossi said. 

“They deserve our full respect and admiration for having worked in these extremely difficult circumstances. They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.”

On February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Moscow’s troops seized the Chernobyl compound, the site of the 1986 core meltdown that sparked the worst nuclear reactor catastrophe in history. 

Around 100 technicians have been working under armed guard to maintain the site since then.

Grossi, who had expressed deep concern about the well-being of the Ukrainian staff at the site, “welcomed the news about the partial rotation of personnel,” the IAEA said. 

“Before today’s rotation, the same work shift had been on-site since the day before the Russian forces entered the area,” it continued. 

It is unclear why Russian soldiers seized Chernobyl, where the destroyed reactor is kept under close supervision within a concrete and lead sarcophagus, and the three other reactors are being decommissioned. 

In 2017, the site was one of several Ukrainian targets hit by a massive cyberattack thought to have originated in Russia, which briefly took its radiation monitoring system off-line.  

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У Китаї розбився пасажирський Boeing, на борту перебували 133 людини

За попередньою інформацією, літак врізався в гору. На місці катастрофи розпочалася пожежа, туди виїхали рятувальники

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Генштаб ЗСУ про втрати РФ: близько 15 тисяч осіб, майже пів тисячі танків

«Дані уточнюються. Підрахунок ускладнюється високою інтенсивністю бойових дій»

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Russia Gives Ukraine Ultimatum to Surrender Mariupol

Russia has given Ukraine until the early hours of Monday to surrender the besieged city of Mariupol, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is ready for peace negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

However, a short time later, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk rejected the ultimatum. “There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

According to a Russian state news agency RIA, Russia’s defense ministry wanted a response from Ukraine’s military by 5 a.m. Moscow time/4 a.m. in Kyiv (0200 GMT). Moscow referred to refusing to surrender as siding with “bandits.”

The ultimatum came hours after Zelenskyy told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview broadcast Sunday that failure to reach a negotiated agreement with Russia “would mean that this is a third World War.”

Zelenskyy has called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow that restore the territorial integrity and provide justice for Ukraine. Russia’s lead negotiator has said in recent days the sides have moved closer to agreement on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO and adopting neutral status.

Zelenskyy told CNN that Russian forces entered Ukraine “to exterminate us, to kill us,” but he vowed that Ukraine would not concede its sovereignty or its integrity.

“Russians have killed our children. You cannot reverse the situation anymore. You cannot demand from Ukraine to recognize some territories as independent republics. These compromises are simply wrong,” said Zelenskyy.

Mariupol

A Mariupol art school where about 400 people had found shelter was bombed by Russian forces early Sunday.

Mariupol’s city council said that the building was destroyed in the attack. Information about survivors was not immediately available.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he thinks Russian forces are resorting to these brutal civilian attacks because its military “campaign is stalled.”

“This is really disgusting,” Austin said.

Just a few days earlier a Russian airstrike targeted a theater where hundreds of people had been sheltering. The word “CHILDREN” had been written in Russian in big letters visible from the sky on the ground just outside the theater, to alert Russian forces of who was inside.

More than 100 have been rescued from the theater, and it is still unclear how many casualties and fatalities the attack caused.

The city continues to resist Russian military forces, who are having to engage in attrition tactics and urban fighting that requires going from building to building.

“Mariupol has not yet fallen. It is out of food, fuel, water, everything except for heart. They are still fighting very hard,” retired Gen. David Petraeus told CNN Sunday.

Thousands of residents of Mariupol have been forcibly taken from their homes to Russian territory, according to a Mariupol city council statement on its Telegram channel.

“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing,” the statement said.

“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said.

Russia still stalled

Austin said that Russian forces across the country have been ineffective as Ukrainian forces continue to attrit Russian troops with weapons provided by the U.S. and NATO allies.

“It’s had the effect of him (Putin) moving his forces into a woodchipper,” Austin told CBS.

U.S. officials have estimated that Ukrainians have killed more than 3,000 Russian troops since the invasion began.

At least five of those have been senior Russian officers, according to the Ukrainian government.

Petraeus said Sunday at least four of the five Russian generals’ deaths “are absolutely confirmed,” adding that Ukrainian snipers “have just been picking them off left and right.”

Russian troops have failed to seize control of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, a major objective of the Kremlin, even as the invasion enters its fourth week.

Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement Saturday on Telegram that Russia was attacking the northwestern suburbs of Kyiv, while the regional Kyiv government reported the city of Slavutych, north of Kyiv was “completely isolated.”

Mykolaiv

Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine have yet to release the death toll following a Russian missile attack Friday on a military base where soldiers were sleeping in barracks, now destroyed, in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv.

One soldier told AFP that 50 bodies have been found, while another said there could be as many as 100 dead under the rubble.

Mykolaiv is located 130 kilometers from the strategic military port of Odesa.

Russia said Saturday that its hypersonic missiles had destroyed an underground depot for missiles and ammunition Friday in Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk region. Russian news agencies said it was the first time it used the advanced weapons system in Ukraine since it invaded February 24.

U.S Defense Secretary Austin said Sunday he could not confirm or dispute whether Russia had used those types of weapons in Ukraine but added he would not see it as a gamechanger if they had.

A Ukrainian air force representative verified the attack in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, but said Ukraine had no information on the type of missiles used.

Meanwhile, neighboring Slovakia’s defense minister said Sunday that Patriot air defense systems started arriving in Slovakia from NATO partner countries.

The systems will be operated by German and Dutch troops to help reinforce the defense of NATO’s eastern flank, in a move prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) reports that at least 902 civilians have been killed and upward of 1,459 have been wounded as of Saturday, while warning the actual count likely is higher. Most of the deaths were from explosions caused by shelling from heavy artillery and multiple missiles and airstrikes, OHCHR said. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said 112 of those killed were children.

Millions of people have fled their homes since the Russian invasion. “The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled — either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grande tweeted Sunday.

U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

Some information also came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Fritz Hands Nadal First 2022 Defeat to Lift Indian Wells Trophy

INDIAN WELLS — Taylor Fritz stunned Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) on Sunday to win the ATP Indian Wells Masters and end the 21-time Grand Slam champion’s perfect 20-0 run to start 2022. 

Fritz, ranked 20th in the world, claimed his second career title and his first at the elite Masters 1000 level while denying Nadal a record-equalling 37th Masters crown. 

The 24-year-old American achieved his biggest triumph despite an injured right ankle that was so painful when he tested it Sunday morning he didn’t think he’d be able to play. 

“This is just one of those childhood dreams, winning this tournament especially, Indian Wells, this is one of those childhood dreams you never even think can come true,” the Southern California native said, fighting back tears. 

“It was just an emotional roller coaster all day,” said Fritz, who spent hours leading up to the match receiving treatment to numb his ankle after “basically almost crying because I thought I was going to have to pull out. 

“It was a game-time decision,” Fritz said. “A lot of members of my team wanted me to not play the match. I’m never going to let them forget that because I went on the court and it was a complete non-issue, didn’t feel it at all, didn’t hinder me at all.” 

The 35-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, was pushing himself through pain, twice receiving treatment on his upper body for a yet-to-be diagnosed problem that not only hurt but also affected his breathing. 

“I don’t know if it’s something on the rib, I don’t know yet,” Nadal said. “It’s a kind of pain that limit me a lot.” 

Nadal had already said he would skip next week’s Miami Masters to give his body a rest and prepare for the claycourt season. 

After fearing a foot injury that halted his 2021 campaign might end his career, the Spaniard claimed a record-setting 21st Grand Slam singles title with an epic comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, then won the title at Acapulco. 

Fritz said he was aware that there was “stuff going on” with Nadal even before the match began. 

“I can’t imagine how banged up someone’s body must be after 20-something straight matches, playing as much as he has,” Fritz said. 

“I didn’t let it change how I was going to play at all. I treated it like I was playing the Rafa that I know, that everybody knows.” 

Battling to the end, Nadal saved one match point in the 10th game of the second set, but in a tense tiebreaker that decided it all Fritz proved too much. 

After Nadal spun a forehand wide to give up another match point, Fritz put it away with yet another of his big forehand winners. 

Fast start for Fritz  

Fritz’s fitness concerns were at the forefront when the American fell on the very first point of the match. 

But he seized a 4-0 lead in the opening set in just 19 minutes. 

Nadal, coming off a draining three-set semi-final victory over 18-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, appeared to have found his range when he held at love to make it 4-1. 

But he was unable to make any inroads on Fritz’s serve until the American served for the set at 5-2 and Nadal converted his only break chance of the set when Fritz sent a forehand long. 

However, Nadal was unable to build any momentum, immediately surrendering the break and the set after 39 minutes. 

Nadal took a medical timeout between sets and gained the first break of the second set for a 2-1 lead.  

Fritz opened the door for him with a double fault, came up with a big serve then fell to a forehand winner on the Spaniard’s second break chance. 

But the American broke back immediately and saved four break points in the next game and they went with serve to the tiebreaker, Fritz finally sealing it on his first match point with a forehand winner to the corner. 

“I just kept telling myself there’s no reason why I can’t win this,” said Fritz, who became the first American men’s champion at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001 and the youngest Indian Wells men’s winner since Novak Djokovic in 2011. 

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For Afghans Resettled in US, An Uncertain Future

BOSTON — In a storied corner of Boston, one of America’s newest families is finding its feet months after fleeing Afghanistan: Israr and Sayeda are starting work, studying English and setting up home to welcome their first-born child. 

But like many of the tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated after Kabul’s fall to the Taliban, the young couple — who asked to be identified by first names only — are also taking steps to ensure the rug doesn’t get pulled out from under their new life.

Though he worked as a U.S. Army interpreter, Israr and his wife are in the United States on what is known as humanitarian parole, a “tenuous legal status,” according to resettlement organizations, that offers only two years residence.

After an arduous, months-long journey that took them from Kabul via Qatar, Washington and a military base in Texas, the pair settled early this year in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, where they were taken under the wing of a couple they now call their second “mama and papa.” 

“My papa is working on it,” 26-year-old Israr said of his immigration status. “He got me a pro bono lawyer.” 

Israr had carefully packed all his documents before heading to Kabul airport as the chaotic evacuation unfolded in late August. 

But after nerve-racking encounters with Taliban at the airport entrances, Sayeda, 23, hid some on her person, hoping they wouldn’t search, or beat a woman.  

In the event, she was beaten to the point she couldn’t walk. Israr, also injured, abandoned the bags and carried her.  

“I lost my luggage, my important documentation, my money, my clothes, my everything,” he told AFP. 

They finally made it onto a plane with only his passport, a handful of documents and the clothes on their backs. 

Now the couple face an uncertain path to permanent residency.  

For the time being, the main avenues are the Special Immigrant Visa — reserved for those who aided the U.S. government — and asylum. 

Israr said completing his SIV application is proving complicated, but asylum comes with other challenges. 

While he describes “threats” and “blackmail” from the Taliban, a credible fear of persecution is not always easy to prove.  

‘No brainer’ 

Resettlement of Afghans to the United States wound down to a trickle by late February, but as focus turns to the Ukraine war and a new refugee crisis, advocates are urging lawmakers to ensure Afghans can stay for good. 

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has said she is working on legislation and Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, head of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said she’s met with sympathetic Republicans too. 

LIRS and others are advocating for Congress to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act, which would give Afghans a pathway to permanent U.S. status. 

“To us, it’s a no brainer,” said Vignarajah, but she is still braced for “challenges” ahead. 

For now, asylum is a “high threshold to meet,” she told AFP. 

To establish a credible claim, Vignarajah explained, requires a significant amount of documentation. 

“That’s a potential Catch-22,” she said, with many people encouraged to destroy evidence of their links to the United States to avoid Taliban retribution. 

“That same documentation that might be a death sentence in Afghanistan could be the key to winning an asylum case here in the U.S.” 

‘Unjust’ 

Jeffrey Thielman, head of the International Institute of New England (IINE), which helped settle Israr and Sayeda, already knows of a Boston immigration court denying an Afghan asylum request over persecution concerns deemed “too general.” 

Thielman told AFP many may find themselves without a pathway to permanent residency on the same grounds. 

“They’ve been vetted, they’ve gone through our cultural orientation program, their kids are now in school, they’re getting jobs — to rip these people out of this country and to give them this uncertainty is very unjust,” he said. 

Another hurdle is that the U.S. resettlement infrastructure faces “severe” backlogs of more than 10,000 SIV applications and roughly 600,000 pending asylum cases, said Vignarajah. 

The impetus to create a new pathway is amplified by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, where aid agencies have said more than half the population faces hunger. 

Israr and Sayeda are relieved and grateful to be safe in the United States with “another chance.” 

In the calm of their bright, cozy apartment, Sayeda blends breakfast smoothies before going to work, she at a daycare and Israr at a local Whole Foods. 

And yet they are wracked with worry for those left behind. 

Israr is helping both his and Sayeda’s relatives in Afghanistan, as jobs disappear and food prices skyrocket, while also preparing for their baby’s arrival and to pay rent once it is no longer covered by the resettlement organization. 

“It’s a lot of responsibilities on my shoulder,” he said. 

But he holds out hope, that perhaps “one day my family is coming here.” 

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