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Europe Warns China over Ukraine War

The first European Union-China summit in nearly two years took place Friday by video link and lasted just two hours.

The European Union warned China not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine or interfere with international sanctions against Moscow, during a virtual summit that failed to ease sharp differences between the sides over the conflict.

Speaking after the meeting, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen offered this assessment of what EU officials described as frank and open discussions on Russia’s war in Ukraine: “Frank and open means we exchanged very clearly opposing views. This is not a conflict, this is a war. This is not a European affair, this is a global affair.”

The EU has called on China to pressure Russia to end the war — or at least open humanitarian corridors in Ukraine — saying that as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Beijing had a special responsibility to act.

“So we also made very clear that China should, if not support, at least not interfere with our sanctions,” von der Leyen said. “We discussed that and also the fact that no European citizen would understand any support to Russia’s ability to wage war. Moreover, it would lead to a major reputational damage for China here in Europe.”

EU officials also warn that undermining sanctions on Russia could trigger economic consequences. Von der Leyen noted the EU and China trade roughly $2.2 billion worth of goods and services every day — compared with just over $364 million between Russia and China. Meanwhile, European and other Western companies are suspending operations or exiting Russia over the war.

“The business sector is watching very closely the events and evaluating how countries are positioning themselves,” von der Leyen said. “This is a question of trust, of reliability and, of course, of decisions on long-term investments.”

China has tried to cast itself as a neutral player in the Ukraine war, while also trying to strengthen strategic ties with Moscow and keep its economic ones with Europe on track. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported President Xi Jinping saying he hoped the EU could form its view of China “independently.”

Analysts described Friday’s summit as “frosty” and said China was concerned about the closer relations between Europe and the U.S. in recent months.

Ties between the EU and China have been increasingly strained in recent years over issues including Taiwan and China’s human rights record. Both were addressed at the summit, along with areas where more cooperation is possible, including climate change and COVID-19 vaccines.

EU officials also called on China to stop barring imports from member state Lithuania over its warming ties with Taiwan.

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Мінкульт заявив про 135 епізодів злочинів військ РФ проти культурної спадщини України

Повідомляється, найбільше постраждали релігійні споруди – близько 60-ти

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UN Weekly Roundup: March 26-April 1, 2022 

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN seeks humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that his aid chief would immediately begin exploring with Moscow and Kyiv possible arrangements for a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine. Martin Griffiths is scheduled to fly to Moscow on Sunday.

UN to Seek Humanitarian Cease-fire in Ukraine

Humanitarian evacuations from Mariupol fail Friday

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that its team was unable to reach the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol to evacuate civilians and would make another attempt Saturday.

ICRC Operation to Evacuate Civilians from Mariupol Remains Uncertain

International donors rally for Afghanistan

On Thursday, many international donors overcame their frustration with the Taliban’s recent decision to suspend school for girls from secondary level up and rallied around the Afghan people, pledging more than $2.4 billion to help alleviate the country’s dire humanitarian crisis. The U.N. requested $4.4 billion — its biggest appeal ever — to meet humanitarian needs. The U.N. Development Program says that following the change in government in August, the country is facing a potentially non-reversible economic collapse, a frozen banking system and liquidity shortage, leaving as many as 80% of its people in debt.

Donors Pledge $2.4 Billion for Afghan Relief

Rainy season threatens South Sudan

Aid agencies warned Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese are likely to suffer devastating consequences during this year’s wet season without emergency international support to head off the worst impacts.

Thousands in South Sudan Brace for Potentially Disastrous Rainy Season

In brief

— The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that he had reached separate agreements with Ukrainian and Russian authorities on what assistance his agency would provide to safeguard Ukrainian nuclear sites. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters after a field visit to Ukraine and meetings in Russia that they had delivered some equipment and had agreed on a “structured set of activities” that would start next week. There are eight nuclear plants in the country, including the defunct Chernobyl reactor, which in 1986 was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident.

— Eight U.N. peacekeepers were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday. The DRC’s army has blamed M23 rebels, saying they shot down the helicopter. The U.N. says it is investigating the circumstances and cause but acknowledges there were hostilities in the area. Six of the peacekeepers were from Pakistan, the other two were from Russia and Serbia.

— Secretary-General Guterres told the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission on Wednesday that 2 billion people — one-quarter of the planet — live in conflict-affected areas. He said last year 84 million people were forcibly displaced because of conflict, violence and human rights violations. The U.N. estimates that this year, at least 274 million will need humanitarian assistance.

Some good news

In a breakthrough, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen announced Friday that the parties to that war had accepted a U.N. proposal for a two-month truce that goes into effect Saturday — the first day of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Envoy Hans Grunberg said in a statement that the parties agreed to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders; they also agreed for fuel ships to enter Hodeida ports and commercial flights to operate in and out of Sanaa airport to predetermined destinations in the region. The truce can be renewed beyond the two-month period if the parties agree.

Quote of note

“In Kabul, I visited the Indira Gandhi hospital and saw severely malnourished children and newborns — newborns — clinging to life, sharing run-down, rickety incubators. These babies were emaciated, listless and far too small.”

— U.N. Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, who visited Afghanistan this week, to international donors on the dire humanitarian situation.

What we are watching next week

As the war in Ukraine grinds on, humanitarians are trying to mitigate the suffering of millions of people in besieged cities with both aid and evacuations. The U.N. Security Council will be briefed on Tuesday on the efforts.

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Зеленський подякував президентці Європарламенту за позицію на «боці світла і добра»

Президентка Європейського парламенту раніше сьогодні в українському парламенті заявила, що Європейський союз визнає європейські амбіції України

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Секретар РНБО висловився довкола подій на російській нафтобазі у Бєлгороді

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Reporter’s Notebook: An Apocalyptic War With No End?

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the western Ukrainian town of Ternopil was full at lunch time — as it has been most days since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The cathedral is full of people praying for peace,” Archbishop Vasyl Semeniuk told me. But as I reported Thursday, the Greek-Catholic prelate can sound like a holy warrior: He sees Vladimir Putin’s army as an evil that must be overcome so it cannot again attack Ukraine or others. His sentiment is not out of line with the thoughts of many in his flock.

While no one wants a long war, both growing confidence and fury with what weeks of war have done to Ukraine — with the loss of life and widespread damage — has left many Ukrainians in no mood to concede very much to Russia to end the fighting.

“You have to do what you have to do, if you want to keep what you have, or get what you want,” one of Semeniuk’s priests told me. He said he hopes for peace but suspects this might turn into a long war.

Anti-Russia sentiments are hardening. A group of lawmakers has drafted a law to strip the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate — an autonomous church subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church — of its property, churches and monasteries. More than 150 of its churches have already defected to the smaller Kyiv-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Their priests and congregants have reacted furiously to the spiritual defense that Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has made for Russia’s invasion. In weekly broadcasts the 75-year-old Kirill has depicted the war as an apocalyptic battle against evil forces determined to shatter the God-given unity of Holy Russia. He has described the conflict as having a “metaphysical significance” as he echoes President Putin’s painting of a depraved and decadent West.

The late American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who played a key role in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Accords that put an end to the three-and-a-half-year-long Bosnian War, used to say that warring parties could only strike a peace deal when both had become exhausted. It is not clear that either Russia or Ukraine is yet exhausted.

But many people are — the millions of Ukrainians who are displaced, mainly sheltering in central and western Ukraine.

The displaced

Outside Ternopil’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, local volunteers crowd around a truck delivering humanitarian aid sent by churches in Sicily. They quickly unload its contents for distribution — the consignment including food, clothes and diapers. They make short work of the unloading.

Nearby, some of the displaced sort through items already laid out in front of the cathedral.

“People come here from the east and south of Ukraine with nothing,” says Maria, a 30-year-old local journalist. “They arrive with just what they were wearing when they crawled out of bunkers and fled.”

She has taken time off from work to help with the humanitarian effort.

“They need clothes, shampoo, soap, food and toys for the kids,” she adds. “They also have no money — most Ukrainians live from month to month and don’t have savings.”

Some 230 kilometers to the east, in the crowded central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia, accommodating the steady influx of evacuees from farther east and south is becoming harder.

Despite local aid efforts here on the ground, most continue moving west.

“People come here in an awful state: they’re physically exhausted because the way here is long and most probably they were staying in the basements and in shelters for days and weeks in terrible conditions,” says Valeriy Dyakiv, director of a reception facility sheltering around 300 evacuees.

Dyakiv told me air raid sirens sounded at the same time a young couple was arriving with their child, after having been under shelling for days.

The couple’s daughter “got a panic attack; she started screaming and she couldn’t keep quiet and so he hugged her, and then she finally calmed, eventually,” Dyakiv said.

People from all walks of life shelter at Dyakiv’s reception — among them theater director Oleksandr Kovshun and thespian Olena Prystup. Kovshun is the director of the world famous Berezil Theater in Kharkiv, the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian town.

“The building is still intact,” he tells me. But a building next door was struck by a Russian missile.

Prystup said many of the theater company sheltered at the Berezil for 10 days mainly huddled in the capacious wardrobe. She and her photographer husband decided to leave the city when the neighboring building was hit. She has been in Vinnytsia for three weeks and with Kovshun has organized drama classes and poetry readings for the kids.

“But I so want to go back to our theater,” she says.

Journalists

Journalists are urging Ukrainian authorities to clarify and discuss wartime reporting rules following a series of ugly confrontations between TV crews and Ukrainian officials and soldiers at media centers in both Kyiv and Lviv, as well as on the streets. A team of British broadcasters was at the center of a heated confrontation Thursday when Ukrainian soldiers waved guns at the reporter and crew as they filmed blast scenes from Russian missile strikes.

Ukrainian authorities say real-time footage can be used by Russian commanders to assess the impact of missile strikes and to repeat an attack, if they judge it unsuccessful. Foreign TV crews have been accused of being “camera killers.”

Media companies say the Russians have other means for damage assessment — including footage and images they get from drones and satellites. They also point out that the Russian armed forces are notorious in Syria for striking at targets twice. The technique is called a “double tap” — when an initial strike is followed by a second attack shortly after, targeting and often killing rescuers and first responders who have converged on the site.

There have been mounting frustrations among the foreign press corps over accreditation hold-ups, resulting in applications taking weeks to receive approval or never materializing at all. Ukrainian photographers have complained of being obstructed in Kyiv and having their cameras snatched or broken. Journalists, led by the local Ukrainian media, appealed this week to authorities to develop more transparent rules for covering Russian shelling.

With relations souring, Ukraine’s defense and culture ministries issued a statement this week urging the media to adhere to the rules of martial law. They praised the media, saying: “It is difficult to overestimate the work of a journalist in wartime. Working in combat zones, they are constantly in an atmosphere of fear and tension, risking their own lives to convey the most complete, true and unbiased picture of developments.

But they continued: “Under martial law, information must be balanced and portioned, as the enemy is constantly monitoring the information field to counter Ukrainian defenders. So, we call on the media to continue to follow the rules during martial law so as not to endanger themselves and others.”

The ministries acknowledged the tensions, adding that after the war, government and media can pool their experience and “work together to develop the necessary solutions for more effective interaction.”

In the meantime, media organizations — foreign and local — are worried at the lack of clarity about what is allowed or not.

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US to End COVID Order Blocking Asylum-Seekers at Mexico Border

The United States will end a sweeping pandemic-related expulsion policy that has effectively closed the U.S. asylum system at the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday. 

The Title 42 public health order will remain in effect until May 23, Mayorkas said in a statement. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the order in March 2020 as countries around the world shuttered their borders amid COVID-19 fears, said it was no longer needed to limit the spread of the virus. 

“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” the CDC said in a separate statement. 

The formal announcement comes after Reuters and other news outlets reported details of the plan on Wednesday. 

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, kept Title 42 in place after taking office in January 2021 despite fierce criticism from his own political party and campaign promises to reverse the restrictive immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. 

Leading Democrats, medical experts and the United Nations have criticized Title 42, saying that it expels migrants to danger in Mexico and that scientific evidence does not support its stated goal of limiting the spread of the virus. 

Several migrants in a nearly 2,000-person encampment in Reynosa, Mexico, told Reuters on Thursday they were hopeful the order would be lifted so they could legally claim asylum in the United States. 

Republicans blasted Biden this week following reports the order would be ended, saying lifting the pandemic restrictions would encourage more migrants to enter illegally at a time when border crossings are already breaking records. 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials said earlier this week that although they were preparing to handle a sharp spike in border crossings, it remained unclear whether lifting the COVID-era order would increase migration. 

 

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Russian Foreign Minister Praises Indian Position on Ukraine Crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised India for not judging the Ukraine crisis in a “one-sided way,” and said that the two countries would find ways to trade using local currencies.

“Our relations were very sustainable during many difficult times in the past,” the Russian foreign minister said during a visit to New Delhi Friday. “We appreciate that India is taking this situation in the entirety of facts.”

New Delhi faces intense pressure from Western countries to join them in taking tougher action against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

India has not condemned the invasion, abstaining from United Nations resolutions censuring Moscow and is pursuing deals to purchase crude oil from Russia at discounted prices, irking the United States and its allies.

Lavrov also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who conveyed his country was ready to contribute to the peace efforts.

India’s foreign ministry said that during discussions with Lavrov, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar emphasized the importance of cessation of violence, ending hostilities in Ukraine and called for resolving differences through dialogue and diplomacy.

Lavrov, who arrived in India from China, which has also not condemned the invasion, is seen as trying to shore up support among Moscow’s two big Asian allies in the face of tough Western sanctions.

Talking to reporters after his discussions with the Indian foreign minister, Lavrov said that Moscow developed a system to trade in national currencies many years ago and that “more and more transactions” would be done through this mechanism for trade with countries such as India, bypassing the dollar, euro and other major currencies.

Lavrov said Russia is ready to supply India with any goods it wants. “I have no doubt that a way would be (found) to bypass the artificial impediments, which illegal, unilateral sanctions by the West create. This relates also to the area of military technical cooperation.”

More than two-thirds of India’s military hardware is of Russian origin and the supply of spares is critical for New Delhi, whose tense border standoff with China shows no sign of easing.

The Indian foreign ministry, in a statement, said that that during Friday’s discussions, Foreign Minister Jaishankar stressed that “it is important to both countries that their economic, technological and people-to-people contacts remain stable and predictable.”

India has defended its decision to pursue oil deals with Moscow, which is offering crude at discounted prices.

“When the oil prices go up, I think it is natural for countries to go out into the market and look for what are the good deals for their people,” Jaishankar said on Thursday. He pointed out that Europe has remained a major buyer of Russian oil and gas even after the crisis in Ukraine unfolded.

On Thursday, U.S. and British diplomats were in New Delhi to try to persuade India not to undermine the Western sanctions on Russia.

U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Daleep Singh, who met Indian officials in New Delhi, said Washington did not want to see a “rapid acceleration” in oil purchases from Russia or mechanisms that “are designed to prop up the ruble” or circumvent financial sanctions.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, said at a briefing on Thursday that it is not seeking to change the relationships different countries have with Russia but to “do all we can to see to it that the international community is speaking in unison, speaking loudly against this unjustified, unprovoked premeditated aggression, calling for an end to the violence using the leverage that countries including India, have to those ends.”

India’s ties with Russia, which date back to the Cold War years, have remained strong, even as it has built close ties with the United States in recent years. India is a part of the Quad alliance along with the U.S, Japan and Australia.

Analysts say India is attempting a balancing act as it navigates ties with both sides. Although annual trade between India and Russia adds up to only about $9 billion, New Delhi depends on Moscow for much of its military hardware, while it sees its partnership with the U.S. and its allies as important to countering an aggressive China.

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Рада схвалила закон про повне гарантування банківських вкладів на час війни

Через 3 місяці після завершення воєнного стану в Україні масимальна сума відшкодування становитиме 600 тисяч гривень

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На памʼятнику Шевченку в Сербії з’явився символ російської армії Z

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Павлюк: на Київщині від військ РФ звільнені Броварський район і більша частина Бучанського

На сьогоднішній день на Київщині повністю звільнений Броварський район і більша частина Бучанського району. Про це в ефірі Радіо Донбас.Реалії (проєкт Радіо Свобода) повідомив голова військової адміністрації Київської області Олександр Павлюк.

Пересування російських військ, за його словами, ще фіксуються у північній частині Бучанського району та більшій частині Вишгородського.

«Поки наші війська не пройдуть цю територію, тяжко говорити, бо пересування противника ми там поки що відзначаємо. Хоча наші розвідувальні підрозділи уже вийшли на Іванків, місто противником залишене», – зазначив Павлюк.

Також тривають бойові дії у трикутнику Гостомель-Буча-Ворзель.

За його словами, армія намагається максимально знищити війська агресора і не допустити їхнього виходу, тому російські підрозділи намагаються максимально швидко вийти з території. «Противник поніс великі втрати, але сили у нього ще є, тому неможливо назвати це повністю втечею. Є перегрупування, ми максимально не даємо це зробити. І ми не виключаємо, що ці війська після перегрупування можуть і далі продовжувати бойові дії, швидше за все, на сході України».

За словами Олександра Павлюка, російські війська під час відходу забирають у цивільного населення награбовані автомобілі та майно. «Завантажують максимально на свій транспорт і намагаються вивезти. У багатьох питаннях вони дійсно створюють вивідні смуги забезпечення і не дають нам повністю їх знищити, створюють опорні лінії, тому доводиться гнати їх з боями», – зазначив голова військової адміністрації області.

За його словами, найважча ситуація серед звільнених населених пунктів – в Ірпені. Знищено більше 50% будівель.

Повертатися у міста можна після завершення розмінування, входу туди поліції і відповідного сигналу населенню від місцевої влади, сказав Павлюк.

Раніше сьогодні британська розвідка заявила, що і Чернігів, і Київ зазнають постійних авіаційних і ракетних ударів, незважаючи на заяви Росії про нібито скорочення активності армії РФ біля цих міст.

Президент України Володимир Зеленський заявив, що українські військові не зменшуватимуть своїх оборонних зусиль з огляду на заяви РФ. У Генштабі ЗСУ назвали «оманою» нібито відмову військ РФ від оточення Києва.

28 березня міський голова Ірпеня, розташованого поруч з Бучею, повідомив про звільнення міста від російських військ, але наголосив, що жителям повертатися ще не можна.

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IAEA to Assist in Safeguarding Ukraine Nuclear Sites

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said he has reached separate agreements with Ukrainian and Russian authorities on what assistance his agency will provide as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters a second month.

Fears have been high throughout the five-week-long war of a potential nuclear accident, as Russia indiscriminately shells many parts of Ukraine. On March 3, shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine exacerbated those fears.

“We delivered some equipment; this is a start,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told reporters after returning to Vienna Friday from a field visit to Ukraine and meetings in Russia. “But we have a structured set of activities that are going to start as of next week.”

That assistance will include sending expert teams and equipment, as well as establishing a rapid assistance mechanism.

“In case there was a situation — an emergency — that maybe taking place, we are setting up a mechanism whereby we could be sending a team to assess and to assist almost immediately,” Grossi said.

Early in its invasion, Russian troops occupied the defunct Chernobyl plant. On Thursday, it was confirmed they were leaving. Reports emerged that hundreds of Russian soldiers had radiation poisoning after digging trenches in the most polluted part of the Exclusion Zone, known as the Red Forest.

Grossi said the general radiation situation around the plant is “quite normal” now and he could not confirm the reports about the Russian troops being sickened.

“There was a relatively higher level of localized radiation because of the movement of heavy vehicles at the time of the occupation of the plant, and apparently this might have been the case again on the way out,” Grossi said. “We heard about the possibility of some personnel being contaminated, but we don’t have any confirmation about that.”

The director general said that his staff would be moving to Chernobyl “very, very soon” and that there is a lot of technical work to be done there, as they have lost a lot of remote monitoring capabilities that need to be reconnected. He said that could be done quickly.

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Biden Administration Seeks to Expand Central American Minors Program

A program that allows children from Central America into the U.S. to safely rejoin their parents has been reopened and expanded by the Biden administration. But 15 Republican states are attempting to shut down the program because they believe it encourages undocumented immigrants to cross the border. VOA immigration reporter Aline Barros has the story.

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President Biden Says Jobs Report Shows US Economy ‘On the Move’

U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday the nation’s economy is at full strength as he praised a new report showing the economy added 431,000 jobs in March, lowering the unemployment rate to 3.6%.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden said the U.S. economy is “no longer on the mend, it’s on the move,” noting the unemployment rate was at 6.4% when he took office roughly 15 months ago.

He said the drop to 3.6% was the fastest-ever decline in unemployment to start a president’s term.  

In its report Friday, the U.S. Labor Department also revised its employment estimates upward for January and February by a total of 95,000 jobs.  Biden said that means in the last three months, the U.S. economy has averaged more than 500,000 new jobs each month, and at least 400,000 new jobs for 11 straight months.

The U.S. president said as more people in the United States go to work, it could ease the supply issues the nation has been facing and could help reduce inflation, which continues to hover near 8%, well above the nation’s long-term average of 3.24%.

In another encouraging sign for the U.S. economy, 418,000 people began looking for work in March, and many found one. Since the pandemic struck in 2020, many people have remained on the sidelines of the job market, a trend that has contributed to a chronic worker shortage in many industries.

Biden credited much of the good economic news to the “American Rescue Plan,” passed by Congress last year, for helping bring the pandemic under control, get schools open and bring people back to work.

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

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COVID Pandemic’s End May Bring Turbulence for US Health Care

When the end of the COVID-19 pandemic comes, it could create major disruptions for a cumbersome U.S. health care system made more generous, flexible and up-to-date technologically through a raft of temporary emergency measures.

Winding down those policies could begin as early as the summer. That could force an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients to find new sources of coverage, require congressional action to preserve broad telehealth access for Medicare enrollees, and scramble special COVID-19 rules and payment policies for hospitals, doctors and insurers. There are also questions about how emergency use approvals for COVID-19 treatments will be handled.

The array of issues is tied to the coronavirus public health emergency first declared more than two years ago and periodically renewed since then. It’s set to end April 16 and the expectation is that the Biden administration will extend it through mid-July.

Some would like a longer off-ramp.

Transitions don’t bode well for the complex U.S. health care system, with its mix of private and government insurance and its labyrinth of policies and procedures. Health care chaos, if it breaks out, could create midterm election headaches for Democrats and Republicans alike.

“The flexibilities granted through the public health emergency have helped people stay covered and get access to care, so moving forward the key question is how to build on what has been a success and not lose ground,” said Juliette Cubanski, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, who has been researching potential consequences of winding down the pandemic emergency.

Medicaid churn

Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people, is covering about 79 million people, a record partly due to the pandemic.

But the nonpartisan Urban Institute think tank estimates that about 15 million people could lose Medicaid when the public health emergency ends, at a rate of at least 1 million per month.

Congress increased federal Medicaid payments to states because of COVID-19, but it also required states to keep people on the rolls during the health emergency. In normal times states routinely disenroll Medicaid recipients whose incomes rise beyond certain levels, or for other life changes affecting eligibility. That process will switch on again when the emergency ends, and some states are eager to move forward.

Virtually all of those losing Medicaid are expected to be eligible for some other source of coverage, either through employers, the Affordable Care Act or — for kids — the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

But that’s not going to happen automatically, said Matthew Buettgens, lead researcher on the Urban Institute study. Cost and lack of awareness about options could get in the way.

People dropped from Medicaid may not realize they can pick up taxpayer-subsidized ACA coverage. Medicaid is usually free, so people offered workplace insurance could find the premiums too high.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” said Buettgens. “The uncertainty is real.”

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, is advising states to take it slow and connect Medicaid recipients who are disenrolled with other potential coverage. The agency will keep an eye on states’ accuracy in making eligibility decisions. Biden officials want coverage shifts, not losses.

“We are focused on making sure we hold on to the gains in coverage we have made under the Biden-Harris administration,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “We are at the strongest point in our history and we are going make sure that we hold on to the coverage gains.”

ACA coverage — or “Obamacare” — is an option for many who would lose Medicaid. But it will be less affordable if congressional Democrats fail to extend generous financial assistance called for in President Joe Biden’s social legislation. Democrats stalling the bill would face blame.

Republicans in mostly Southern states that have refused to expand Medicaid are also vulnerable. In those states, it can be very difficult for low-income adults to get coverage and more people could wind up uninsured.

State Medicaid officials don’t want to be the scapegoats. “Medicaid has done its job,” said Matt Salo, head of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “We have looked out for physical, mental and behavioral health needs. As we come out of this emergency, we are supposed to right-size the program.”

Telehealth static

Millions of Americans discovered telehealth in 2020 when coronavirus shutdowns led to the suspension of routine medical consultations. In-person visits are again the norm, but telehealth has shown its usefulness and gained broader acceptance.

The end of the public health emergency would jeopardize telehealth access for millions enrolled in traditional Medicare. Restrictions predating COVID-19 limit telehealth mainly to rural residents, in part to mitigate health care fraud. Congress has given itself 151 days after the end of the public health emergency to come up with new rules.

“If there are no changes to the law after that, most Medicare beneficiaries will lose access to coverage for telehealth,” the Kaiser Foundation’s Cubanski said.

A major exception applies to enrollees in private Medicare Advantage plans, which generally do cover telehealth. However, nearly 6 in 10 Medicare enrollees are in the traditional fee-for-service program.

Tests, vaccines, treatments, payments & procedures

Widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments rests on legal authority connected to the public health emergency.

One example is the Biden administration’s requirement for insurers to cover up to eight free at-home COVID-19 tests per month.

An area that’s particularly murky is what happens to tests, treatments and vaccines covered under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Some experts say emergency use approvals last only through the duration of the public health emergency. Others say it’s not as simple as that, because a different federal emergency statute also applies to vaccines, tests and treatments. There’s no clear direction yet from health officials.

The FDA has granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and older and Moderna’s for those 18 and older, so their continued use would not be affected.

But hospitals could take a financial hit. Currently Medicare pays them 20% more for the care of COVID-19 patients. That’s only for the duration of the emergency.

And Medicare enrollees would have more hoops to jump through to be approved for rehab in a nursing home. A suspended Medicare rule requiring a prior three-day hospital stay would come back into effect.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra recently told The Associated Press that his department is committed to giving “ample notice” when it ends the public health emergency.

“We want to make sure we’re not putting in a detrimental position Americans who still need our help,” Becerra said. “The one that people are really worried about is Medicaid.”

Posted by Worldkrap on

Ukraine’s Mariupol Hoping For Humanitarian Corridor

The besieged Southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol is waiting Friday to see whether Russia will honor a humanitarian corridor that could allow aid into the city and allow evacuations out.

“We remain hopeful, we are in action moving towards Mariupol … but it’s not yet clear that this will happen today,” Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

Convoys delivering the aid and the evacuation buses were stopped Thursday by Russian forces.

Turkey’s top diplomat, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in a televised interview Thursday that Turkey is working to bring the two sides back to the bargaining table.

The head of the Ukrainian delegation, David Arakhamia, said that talks would resume Friday by videoconference.

A Russian regional official says two Ukrainian helicopters launched an airstrike on a fuel depot early Friday in the  Russian city of Belgorod, setting the facility afire.  The incident is the first time Russia has reported a Ukrainian attack on Russian territory.

Ukraine’s president said in his nightly address Thursday that he has stripped two top generals of their rank.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the generals “antiheroes.”  One of the generals had been the chief of internal security at the country’s main intelligence agency, while the other had been the intelligence agency’s chief in the Kherson region.

The Ukrainian leader said he did “not have time to deal with all the traitors, but gradually they will all be punished.”

Ukrainian authorities estimate Russia overnight withdrew 700 units of equipment from the Kyiv region, moving them back into Belarus, VOA’s Jamie Dettmer writes from Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Gen. Oleksandr Gruzevych, deputy chief of staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, said the departing armored personnel carriers could be redeployed to eastern Ukraine’s Donbas to strengthen forces there for an offensive.

“The troops that are leaving the area around Kyiv are pretty significant,” Gruzevych said.

The withdrawal seems to be consistent with Russian declarations that it intends to deescalate around Kyiv and to focus on the Donbas. Ukraine’s General Staff said Friday that it believes Russia aims to seize areas in the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts that it does not currently occupy, as well as blockade the towns of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk and it predicts Russian will continue to relocate troops to eastern Ukraine.

However, Russian ground forces are facing stiff resistance in their efforts to enlarge their occupation in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian military officials say overnight seven Russian attacks were repelled in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. They claimed three Russian tanks, two armored personnel carriers, two artillery systems were destroyed and a Russian drone shot down.

But Russia is also transferring more missile units to Belarus — a possible prelude to an intensification of ballistic missiles attacks on targets across Ukraine.

Britain’s military intelligence division warned early Thursday that a majority of Russia’s forces near Kyiv were holding in place “despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units.”

“Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days,” Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath, the British defense attaché, said in a statement.

A senior U.S. defense official described the Russian movements as “minor,” warning that Russian forces continue to target Kyiv and other northern cities with airstrikes and artillery.

“It has not been wholesale by any means, nor has it been rapid,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said later Thursday, saying less than 20% of the Russian forces arrayed against Kyiv and Chernihiv had been moved.

“It’s not exactly clear … where they’re going to go, for how long, and for what purpose,” Kirby said. “But we do not see any indication that they’re going to be sent home.”

U.S. defense officials believe most of the repositioned Russian forces are likely headed to Belarus for supplies and maintenance before heading back into Ukraine, possibly to help Russian forces fighting in the eastern part of the country.

However, even there, U.S. officials believe, Russia’s military has been stymied.

“As for actual progress, pinching it off or sealing it off and fixing Ukrainian armed forces [in the Donbas], they have been frustrated and not successful,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence.

Russia has put more effort into the Donbas, the official added, warning that “it could mean that this could be a lengthy, more drawn-out conflict.”

Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the largest-ever release from the strategic petroleum reserve, announcing the release of 1 million barrels a day for six months — a move aimed at lowering domestic oil prices as the sanctions on Russian oil and gas have sent prices skyrocketing globally.

This is the third time Biden has ordered releases from the strategic reserve. The first two did not cause a meaningful decline in prices in global oil markets.

Sanctions

Russia on Thursday said it would expand the list of European Union officials prohibited from entering the country in response to a broad range of Western sanctions that continue to be imposed on Russia after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The travel ban applies to the EU’s “top leadership,” which includes “a number of European Union commissioners and heads of EU military structures” and the “vast majority” of parliamentary members, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday. Other public officials and “media workers who are personally responsible for promoting illegal anti-Russian sanctions” were also targeted.

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin, Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb, United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer and White House correspondent Anita Powell contributed to this report.

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Генштаб ЗСУ: Росія втратила у війні проти України близько 17 700 військових

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На Запоріжжі війська РФ продовжують обстріл у Пологівському районі, але втрачають техніку – влада

Станом на вечір 31 березня та на ранок 1 квітня було знищено два російських бронетранспортери, два танки, 7 автомобілів та 2 реактивні системи залпового вогню «Град»

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ЄС на онлайн-саміті вимагає від Китаю не допомагати Росії в обхід міжнародних санкцій

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Central Serbia Mine Accident Kills At Least 8, Injures 20

An accident in a mine in central Serbia killed at least eight people and wounded 20 Friday, state Serbian television RTS reported.

The accident in the Soko coal mine happened around 5 a.m. (0300 GMT). The RTS report says part of the mine pit collapsed trapping the miners inside.

The head of the medical center in nearby Aleksinac, Rodoljub Zivadinovic, said that 18 people have been hospitalized there, mostly with light injuries.

The TV report said that 49 miners were inside when the accident happened. No more details were immediately available.

The Soko mine, about 200 kilometers southeast of Belgrade, has been operating since the early 1900s. An accident in the mine in 1998 killed 29 miners.