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Cuba Adopts Russian Narrative on Ukraine War 

When Brent Renaud was killed covering the impact of the Ukraine war, state media in Cuba described the American photojournalist as a CIA agent.

The state-run news website Cubadebate cited an Iranian news outlet as the source of the story, which it ran on March 13. But it didn’t specify the name of the Iranian outlet.

Renaud, an award-winning photojournalist, was in Ukraine on assignment for TIME Studios, working on a documentary about refugees when he was killed. Fact checkers have debunked the claim about his being a CIA agent.

Independent analysts say efforts to link the journalist to the U.S. intelligence services illustrates the way Havana has adopted the Russian version of events on Ukraine.

The state-aligned media also seek to discredit Western reporting on the invasion.

Across Latin America, the Russian version of events has been promoted through social media and via RT en Español, the Spanish-language version of Russian state television.

VOA spoke to independent journalists and analysts in Cuba to assess why the communist government has replicated the Russian reports, thousands of kilometers from the front line.

The International Press Center, the Cuban government media center in Havana, and the Cuban Embassy in Madrid did not reply to emailed requests for comment.

Conflict downplayed

Juan Manuel Moreno Borrego, who works for the independent outlet Comunitario Amanecer Habanero, said that Cuban official media have downplayed the Ukraine conflict, which has dominated headlines around the rest of the world.

“The reports in the official media in Cuba of what is going on in Ukraine are minimal and superficial,” he told VOA in a telephone interview from his home on the Caribbean island.

“There is no mention that there has been an invasion. Instead it is called a ‘special military operation.’ Of course, there is no mention of the genocide that is going on in Ukraine.”

The terms reflect official directives Moscow issued to Russian media personnel, who can face up to 15 years in prison for not covering the war on Kremlin terms.

The United Nations on Thursday voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council over atrocities and human rights violations related to the war.

Despite limited coverage in state-run media, Moreno believes almost all Cubans are aware of the war.

“I am sure that 90 percent of the Cuban population know the reality of what is happening through access to social media,” he said.

Moreno said RT has an important presence in Cuba because it broadcasts in Spanish and is viewed widely.

“But independent journalists here are doing their best to inform the people of Cuba about the reality of what is occurring in Ukraine,” he said.

UN abstention

Alberto Corzo, director of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), a nongovernmental group that created a network of independent journalists, noted that Cuba had abstained in a recent United Nations vote on the Ukraine war.

“In my personal opinion, the abstention by Cuba shows the conduct of traitors because it shows [the Cuban government’s] fear to define its posture and which side it is on,” he told VOA.

“From the beginning, the Cuban government has said the only reliable source for information [about Ukraine] is Russia Today in Spanish, alleging that CNN and other media are at the service of the West. Official media reports justify the aggression of Russia towards Ukraine,” he said.

RT en Espanol, which reaches throughout Latin America, portrays the United States as a greater threat to world peace than Moscow. “Never forget who is the real threat to the world,” read a RT headline in February, The Associated Press reported this week.

Although many claims reported on RT en Espanol have been discredited, researchers say its Spanish-language content on Ukraine is the third most shared site on Twitter.

Ana Leon, a journalist who writes for the independent news website CubaNet under a pseudonym for her safety, believes Cuba repeats the Russian version of the Ukraine war because it cannot afford to fall out with a close ally on which it depends financially.

“Since the start, the official media in Cuba have been aligned to the Russian version of events. They have talked about the special military operation to protect the people,” she said.

Contrary to revolutionary principles

“The actions of Russia are contrary to all the principles which the Cuban revolution stands for, like the right of the people to determine their own future; however, Cuba has denied the brutality of Russia. Reports [in the state media] talk about the 2014 democratic election [in Ukraine] as a coup d’etat.”

The pro-European Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s 2014 presidential election on a platform that included a promise to stop the war in the eastern regions. He was defeated in 2019 by current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Leon said that when Russia softened a debt deal, this ensured Cuban loyalty in its coverage of the Ukraine conflict.

“Two days before the invasion of Ukraine, on 22 February, Russia changed the $2.3 billion debt deal for Cuba to relieve the economic pressure on the communist government,” said Leon.

Russia agreed to postpone the debt payments until 2027.

The loans, provided to Cuba between 2006 and 2019, helped underwrite investments in power generation, metals and transportation infrastructure, the Reuters news agency reported.

Russia’s decision to soften the loan terms came as Havana struggled to cope with a deepening social and economic crisis, which led to food shortages and lack of medicine and sparked widespread protests.

Since the 1959 Cuban revolution, Havana and Moscow have enjoyed strong military and economic ties.

This alliance faded after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 but Russia has continued to deliver humanitarian aid and offer loans.

Normando Hernández, the director general of the ICLEP in Miami, said the Cuban government fed its citizens an alternative reality over events in Ukraine.

“The Cuban state media is following the Russian line on Ukraine exactly. It refers to the invasion of Ukraine as a special military operation and there is no mention of massacres of civilians,” he told VOA in a telephone interview.

“They are trying to stop the people of Cuba from knowing what is really going on in this war, which was started by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

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На Донбасі українські військові відбили сім атак сил РФ – пресслужба ООС

Після провалу наступу в Київській, Чернігівській та Сумській областях війська РФ зосередили свої зусилля на виході на адміністративні кордони Донецької та Луганської областей

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Верещук: 7 квітня вдалося евакуювати майже 4,7 тисячі людей

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Обстріли з боку військ РФ заблокували евакуацію поїздами – голова Луганської ОВА

Днем раніше «Укрзалізниця» повідомила про потерпілих на одній зі станції унаслідок російського ракетного обстрілу, але тоді не уточнювала, про яку саме станцію йдеться

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AG: Fine Trump $10K a Day for Failing to Turn Over Evidence

New York’s attorney general asked a court Thursday to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt and fine him $10,000 per day for failing to comply with a subpoena for documents in her ongoing civil investigation into his business practices.

Attorney General Letitia James argued in court papers that Trump should be fined “a sum sufficient to coerce his compliance” after he missed a March 31 court-imposed deadline to turn over the documents.

Trump is in the process of appealing a February court ruling forcing him to answer questions under oath in the civil investigation but has not appealed a ruling establishing the deadline for him to provide documents, James said.

A message seeking comment was left with Trump’s lawyer.

James, a Democrat, has said that her investigation into the Republican former president’s business practices uncovered evidence that he may have misstated the value of assets like golf courses and skyscrapers on financial statements for more than a decade.

Her office has said it is seeking Trump’s testimony and documents as it works to determine whether the misrepresented values shown to lenders, taxing authorities and other business interests constituted fraud and, if so, who committed that fraud.

Last week, in a related matter, a judge ordered weekly progress reports from a digital forensics company that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, hired to provide evidence to James’ office, which had raised concerns that the process was playing out slower than expected. The company must turn over all requested evidence by April 22, the judge said.

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Senate Confirms Jackson to US Supreme Court

The U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday by a vote of 52-47, making her the first African-American female justice on the highest court in the country.

 

Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the historic moment, even though Democrats did not need her tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate to confirm Jackson.  

 

Three Republicans — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney — all voted to approve the 51-year-old judge, only the third African American justice in the Supreme Court’s history.  

 

In a four-day hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Democrats praised Jackson for her depth of experience, serving as a judge for nearly 10 years at the federal and appellate levels, and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who U.S. President Joe Biden nominated her to replace.

 

“She is a once-in-a-generation legal talent,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said ahead of her confirmation vote Thursday.

 

“With Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the highest court in the land, we are not only making history, we are carrying on a great American tradition — elevating one of our nation’s best and brightest legal minds to an honored position of service. There’s no one more deserving of this high honor,” said Durbin. “As we’ve learned over the past month, she is the best of us. She has devoted her life to serving our country. She’s done so at every level of the federal judiciary, and at every turn, she’s distinguished herself.”

 

Jackson is also the first public defender to serve on the Supreme Court. But her background representing defendants and later experiences sentencing child pornographers drew complaints from Senate Republicans who say she is soft on crime.

 

“On average nationally, every federal district judge sentences those convicted of distribution of child pornography to 135 months, which is 75 months more than the mandatory minimum sentence. Judge Jackson, on average, sentenced those same defendants to just 11.9 months more than the mandatory minimum sentence. This is a disturbing pattern,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz told reporters Thursday ahead of Jackson’s confirmation.

 

Jackson’s seating does not alter the court’s 6-3 conservative-dominated balance. But Republicans expressed concern about voting for a justice who they say will be further to the left of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who were both nominated by Democratic presidents.

 

“Her judicial record is full of cases where Judge Jackson ruled like a policymaker implementing personal biases instead of a judge following text where it led,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

 

But for Democrats and the Biden White House, the lifetime appointment of Jackson is a victory in what has been an often-difficult year for them.

 

“A joyous, momentous, groundbreaking day,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “This milestone should have happened generations ago, but we are always trotting on a path toward a more perfect union. Nevertheless, America today is taking a giant step towards making our union more perfect.”

 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA, “I’m emotional about that, as well. I’m proud. I am. It’s taken too long for this to happen. But it’s a historic moment, and it’s one that I am so proud to be here to witness. And I look forward to what she will be able to accomplish on the court.”

 

Jackson joins three other female justices on the court — Sotomayor, Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — marking the first time the court has had four women at the same time.  

VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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Pelosi Tests Positive for COVID-19 

Pelosi tested positive for COVID-19, it was announced Thursday. 

The announcement came a day after Pelosi, 82, appeared unmasked at an event with President Joe Biden.

She was reportedly not having any symptoms and will quarantine. 

“The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said Thursday. 

Hammill also said an upcoming congressional trip to Asia will be postponed. 

Pelosi is second in line to the presidency after the vice president. 

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press. 

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Greece Vows to Seek War Crimes Prosecution of Russia for Ukraine Offensive

Greece says it will ask the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine’s southern port of Mariupol. The move comes as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Greece’s parliament on Thursday, urging Athens to use all its diplomatic might to prosecute Russian military and political officials for atrocities he said were being waged not just in Mariupol, but across Ukraine. Anthee Carassava reports, the legal move may not be that easy.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias announced the government’s bid as he moved to meet with his NATO counterparts in Brussels to discuss developments in Ukraine. He said the government’s war crimes prosecution was linked to attacks waged against ethnic Greeks at the start of the offensive in Mariupol.

“Greece has a special interest in Mariupol because of the existence of a 100,000-strong community there,” Dendias said. “But apart from that, I am going to ask my colleagues in the Alliance to help Ukraine protect Odesa, so that Odesa can avoid the fate of Mariupol.”

The announcement marks the latest sign of Greece’s shifting alliance, sidelining traditional and long-standing relations with Russia after a convoy of ethnic Greeks were attacked at the start of the offensive in Mariupol, killing at least 10 people.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine.

Since the deadly attack, Greece has poured in more than 40 tons of military assistance, aiding Ukrainian fighters with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket propelled grenades to fend off further attacks, mainly in areas where ethnic Greeks have resided since the 6th century, influencing local culture and customs.

On Thursday, President Zelenskyy alluded to the long-standing links during a live, video conference with the Greek Parliament to drum up additional support.

Speaking through a Greek translator, Zelenskyy underscored Ukraine’s Christian links  with Greece, saying the country turned to Christianity because of the strong Greek influence there. He said much of Ukraine’s culture and traditions hinged on those links and that the loss of the Greek community there would spell what he called “a loss of Ukraine’s identity” as well.

But in rallying further Greek support, Zelenksy invoked Greece’s motto in seeking independence from its Ottoman rulers in the 19th century.

As your revolutionaries fought under the saying “Freedom or death,” so are we today, he said. We need, however, more help immediately, he said. Russia must be made accountable of its crimes, he said. And time is of crucial essence.

Zelensky received a standing ovation for his seven-minute speech, but hardline communists refused to attend the assembly and several other leftist lawmakers who did attend, walked out when the Ukraine president introduced two freedom fighters of Greek descent to speak.

Both were part of the far-right nationalist Azov Batallion, a controversial militia group in Ukraine attracting extremists, including white supremacist neo-Nazis.

It is unclear whether Zelensky’s move to include them in his address will reduce Greek lawmakers’ support for seeking war crimes prosecution of Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

Experts, however, warn that even if it doesn’t, the legal move may prove more show than substance.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, making it impossible to call either side to any potential hearing, even if atrocities being waged merit war crimes charges.

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Естонія вирішила «перестати купувати газ у путінського режиму»

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Зеленський закликав Грецію «використати вплив» для порятунку Маріуполя

«Я впевнений, що сила Греції може допомогти реалізувати цю місію. Рахунок іде на дні»

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Thousands of Russians Move to Armenia Amid Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russian citizens — the majority working in the IT sector and passionately opposing Russia’s aggression — have moved to Armenia. Shake Avoyan went to Armenia to find out why and has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. VOA footage by Shake Avoyan.

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У Бородянці 200 людей вважаються зниклими безвісти – Геращенко

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Explainer: What is Title 42 and Its Effect on US Southern Border?

For more than a year, the Biden administration kept in place at the U.S. southern border a Trump-era policy known as Title 42, which allowed the United States to quickly expel migrants to their country of origin or Mexican border towns. 

On April 1, the administration announced the policy would end on May 23, giving U.S. officials time to prepare for what they expect to be an increase in migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Some Democrats celebrated the end of Title 42, but Republicans want to keep the policy in place.  

Here’s what you need to know.  

What is Title 42? 

Title 42 comes from a 1944 public health law to prevent the spread of communicable disease. It was implemented in March 2020 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC order empowered border enforcement agencies to remove migrants crossing into the United States, including those hoping to apply for asylum, which is their right under U.S. law and international treaty.  

How did expulsions work? 

Once Title 42 was implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrants encountered by border patrol officers were sent back to Mexico within hours or back to their country of origin within days — without any immigration process. 

Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said under the policy, this meant “no legal consequence” to migrants who tried to cross between ports of entry. 

Brown said without Title 42, “There would be a consequence that would make it harder for them to come back legally under immigration law. So, by using Title 42, there was no consequence, and therefore what we saw was many immigrants, particularly Mexicans, who had been expelled back to Mexico, simply trying again,” ultimately fueling a significant increase in repeat border crossings.  

What is the latest encounter data from the southern border? 

According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data, Title 42 has been used in most of the estimated 2 million expulsions of migrants from Brazil, Central America, Haiti, Mexico and Colombia since March 2020. Other asylum-seekers from South America also have been rapidly blocked at ports of entry under the policy. 

In February, U.S. border officials registered 164,973 migrant encounters. Of those, 91,513 were expelled. The rest could have been detained, allowed to seek asylum, paroled or other possibilities. 

In February 2021, CBP recorded 101,099 migrant encounters, and in February 2020, just before Title 42, encounters were 36,687. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the February encounters were 76,545.  

Brown said the rate of repeated crossing attempts is estimated to be 30% higher in the Title 42 era.  

“Before that, recidivism rates were relatively low, below 10%,” she said.  

What about those who were not expelled?  

The migrants who made it into the U.S. under asylum claims — mostly unaccompanied children and migrant families with children — received a notice to appear in immigration court. With the current immigration court backlog of 1.7 million cases, the asylum process can take years.  

What could happen at the border after May 23?  

Luis Miranda, a CBP spokesperson, told VOA that officials will “simply go back to processing any encounters across the border the way we always have under Title 8, which is the immigration authority that has always been in place throughout the history of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” 

Miranda said the U.S. government is expecting arrivals to increase at the southern border but added that those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.  

“We’ve been planning for that. … And to process any encounters effectively, humanely. But ultimately, if someone is trying to come in without legal authorization and doesn’t have the legal basis to stay, they will be placed in removal proceedings,” he said. 

How does the law treat migrants? 

Those arriving at the border without documents or trying to enter between ports of entry can be removed without their case being decided by an immigration court.  

However, if a migrant wants to claim asylum, they are interviewed by an asylum officer before a removal or deportation. 

Federal law allows people from other countries to seek asylum in the United States if they fear persecution at home. They must be present in the U.S. and prove a fear of persecution on one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social class (the most vague of the five categories; it can include grounds such as sexuality or caste).

If a migrant passes what’s called a credible fear screening by the asylum officer, then their case is referred to immigration court, where the migrant can apply for asylum as a defense against being deported. If they don’t pass the fear screening or are denied in immigration court, the applicant will be removed. If they try to come back without documents, the penalties can be higher, such as being prosecuted under criminal law and denied the ability to apply for any legal immigration visa in the future.  

Will Title 42 come back?  

On April 3, the Republican-led states of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona filed a lawsuit arguing the administration did not correctly justify its decision to end Title 42.  

And, Brown said, it is “very possible” that a judge could “order the administration to continue Title 42 for some period of time while that litigation plays out.” 

In the meantime, Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to initiate a Senate debate on a $10 billion COVID-19 compromise. They are demanding a vote targeting the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42.  

VOA’s Jorge Agobian contributed to this report.

 

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Shipping LNG to Europe: Pros, Cons for US Gulf Coast

International efforts to punish Russia for its war on Ukraine are being felt far from Europe, in the U.S. Gulf state of Louisiana, a hub of America’s energy sector.

Late last month, the European Union announced it was exploring ways to gain independence from Russian energy “well before 2030.” American firms took note.

“You can see most European countries don’t want to be seen as complicit with the barbarism of Russia,” said Brian Lloyd, vice president for communications at Sempra Energy, a U.S.-based energy infrastructure company with investments in natural gas production. “Many see every dollar sent to Russia’s state-owned energy companies as helping to fuel its aggression in Ukraine, so Europe is seeking energy alternatives.”

In late March, the U.S. announced a deal with the EU to begin replacing some of the natural gas Russia had been supplying. By the end of this year, President Joe Biden said, the United States would be able to ship enough gas to Europe to offset at least 10% of what Russia currently provides, or 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas.

LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state. Its volume is approximately 600 times smaller than its gaseous state.

“This makes shipping to Europe economical when building pipelines across an ocean wouldn’t be,” explained Eric Smith, associate director of Tulane University’s Energy Institute in New Orleans.  

 The U.S. plans to meet its new commitments to Europe by increasing domestic production of natural gas. To do so, industry leaders propose building new LNG facilities and expanding and increasing the efficiency of existing ones.

“It will be like the Marshall Plan we supported Europe with after World War II, but this one will have an energy focus,” Lloyd said. “The United States is uniquely positioned to lead the way on this because we have some of the least expensive natural gas in the world.”

Much of the existing and increased LNG production capacity is centered in the states of Louisiana and Texas, along the energy-rich Gulf of Mexico. Many state and industry leaders welcome the production of LNG in the region, while environmentalists and commercial fishers are far less enthusiastic.

“We make our living in the sea,” said Dean Blanchard, a shrimper and the president of Dean Blanchard Seafood. “I don’t know much about natural gas yet, but anything that alters the dynamics of the water really screws us.”

Energy crisis abroad

Approximately 40% of the natural gas used in Europe — as well as 25% of crude oil and refined petroleum products — is produced in Russia.

“Europe is a continent that has been dependent on Russian energy for quite some time,” Smith told VOA. “So Biden’s commitment to help supply the EU with LNG became a key component in convincing some European countries to announce sanctions against Moscow. That’s why this increased production of LNG is so important.”

But Europe’s energy crisis began long before Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. Consecutive colder-than-usual winters and a world awakening from coronavirus lockdowns boosted demand for many types of energy.

Europe has moved aggressively to embrace renewable energy sources but found production to be inconsistent because it often depends on the weather.

“Europe is caught in a tough spot — they don’t want to be importing fossil fuels like natural gas as they try to reduce carbon emissions,” Smith said. “But natural gas actually makes for a perfect transition. Nuclear and coal plants take weeks to turn on and off, whereas natural gas can be switched off in minutes. When you’re low on renewables, natural gas can be an easy bridge to get you through another cold winter.”

Smith added, “It’s also, by the way, needed for fertilizer and to produce grain, which might be very important for Europe and the Middle East should this war in Ukraine continue.”

Environmental crisis at home

Much of the LNG exported by the United States will be funneled through the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“We have six or seven LNG export terminals in the United States,” explained Naomi Yoder, staff scientist at Healthy Gulf, an environmental organization focused on protecting the Gulf of Mexico. “Four of those — soon to be five — are located on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas. We have six more that are in the works in the region as well. That’s a massive number for one relatively limited region.”

And it’s a region that is no stranger to energy-related environmental disasters.

“It would take me hours to tell you about the effects of that one BP oil spill from 2010,” seafood entrepreneur Blanchard said. “Our ecosystem is still recovering from that spill — the amount of fish and shrimp and oysters are still down. And the number of humans that got sick down here in Grand Isle (small Louisiana barrier island), those people will never recover.”

Blanchard said the BP oil spill got attention only because of its magnitude. But smaller spills, he said, happen every day.

“These energy companies say they care about us and our livelihood, but they’re destroying us,” he said.

Blanchard’s hometown of Grand Isle could soon gain an LNG facility nearby. While Blanchard admits he’s unsure precisely how expanding the production and transportation of natural gas will affect the ecosystem, Yoder predicts only bad results.

“We’ve seen it many times,” Yoder said. “The production of natural gas produces air pollution through methane leaks and water pollution, too. It harms the ecosystem locally as well as the environment more generally. People like to say natural gas emits less carbon than coal, but the process of building these facilities, and liquifying that gas, and shipping it across the ocean just to turn it back into gas — that all emits a lot of carbon into the air, too. We don’t need to produce more energy from fossil fuels. We need to transition to renewables like solar, wind and water energies.”

Balancing act

Advocates of natural gas don’t oppose renewable energy, said Sempra Energy’s Lloyd. Rather, he sees them as complementing each other.

“I think we all have the same goal,” he said. “We want to see an increase in the use of renewable energy over time. But you can’t pretend like if we don’t produce this natural gas now, that Europe won’t just get it from somewhere else. They’ll probably get it from Russia, where the methane leaks are far more numerous and where they aren’t working nearly as hard as we are to further curb carbon emissions.”

Tulane University’s Smith agrees.

“Every serious analyst says we aren’t able to shift our world economy away from fossil fuels between now and 2050,” he said. “So Europe is going to get their natural gas one way or another because they’re not going to just let their people freeze or starve.”

For now, many energy industry leaders and lawmakers say, an opportunity exists to curtail a source of revenue to Russia’s war machine — and to boost jobs and revenues along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

But fishermen like Blanchard fret about a potentially costly trade-off.

“Of course I want to help Ukraine, and I’m proud of the way they’re fighting for themselves,” he said. “But how can I be expected to support something that could destroy my livelihood? I can’t do that for Ukraine or anyone else.”

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Війська РФ за добу завдали 48 ударів по Харкову – голова ОВА

«Зараз окупанти концентруються на східному напрямку від Харкова. Ми знаємо про всі маневри і скупчення сил в Ізюмському, Куп’янському напрямах, де росіяни використовують залізницю»

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У Мукачеві через агресію РФ погруддя і меморіальну дошку Пушкіна демонтували – мерія

21 березня в Ужгороді демонтували пам’ятник «300-річчя возз’єднання України та Росії»

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Сенат США схвалив законопроєкт про ленд-ліз для України. У МЗС це назвали «важливим першим кроком»

«Розраховуємо на швидке ухвалення у Палаті представників і підпис президента США», – заявив голова МЗС України Дмитро Кулеба

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Ukraine’s Agenda for NATO Talks: ‘Weapons, Weapons and Weapons’  

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday dismissed the reluctance of some countries fulfill Ukrainian requests for arms due to fears of being drawn into the conflict with Russia, saying that by giving Ukraine what it needs, Ukrainians will do the fighting so no one else has to.

“I think the deal that Ukraine is offering is fair: You give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives, and the war is contained in Ukraine,” Kuleba said.

He spoke in Brussels alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of a meeting with NATO foreign ministers where Stoltenberg said allies would address Ukraine’s need for air defense systems, anti-tank weapons and other support.

“The more weapons we get, and the sooner they arrive in Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved, the more cities and villages will not be destructed, and there will be no more Buchas,” Kuleba said, citing the area outside the capital where retreating Russian soldiers are accused of killing civilians.

Kuleba welcomed new Western sanctions against Russia, but called for further measures, including a full embargo on Russian oil and gas, blocking all Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system and closing ports to Russian vessels and goods.

“I hope we will never face a situation again when to step up the sanctions pressure we need atrocities like at Bucha to be revealed and to impress and to shock other partners to the extent that they sit down and say, ‘OK, fine, we will introduce new sanctions,’” Kuleba said. “I don’t believe that Ukrainians have to pay with their lives, hells and sufferings for the political will of partners to impose sanctions.”

New sanctions

The United States and its Western allies said Wednesday they imposed “new, severe and immediate economic sanctions” against Russia, banning American investment there, fully blocking the country’s largest financial institutions and targeting assets held by President Vladimir Putin’s adult children.

“Together with our allies and our partners, we’re going to keep raising economic costs, to ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increase Russia’s economic isolation,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday during remarks at a North America’s Building Trades Unions event.

The new measures, according to the White House, are in retribution for atrocities against Ukrainian civilians allegedly committed by Russian troops, including those discovered in recent days in Bucha.

Biden said horrific images from Bucha, where dead civilians were left on the street, imparted “a sense of brutality and inhumanity left for all the world to see,” as he outlined the steps his administration is taking to punish those responsible. Russia has denied killing civilians in Bucha.

The most punishing of the new measures are the “full blocking sanctions” on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and the country’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank.

Applying full blocking sanctions against Russia’s largest bank takes U.S. measures against the Russian financial sector to their maximum level, said Andrew Lohsen, a fellow in the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Until now, the Biden administration had refrained from applying the same restrictions on Sberbank as it had on other Russian banks because Sberbank is one of the main institutions handling energy payments.

“That seems to have changed as images from Bucha are circulating around the world,” Lohsen told VOA. “The aversion to carve-outs is eroding, as evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine comes to light.”

In a move to add psychological pressure on Putin’s inner circle, the White House said it is also sanctioning Putin’s adult children — daughters Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova — as well as the wife and daughter of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and members of Russia’s Security Council. New sanctions were also applied to “critical, major Russian state-owned enterprises.”

“We’ve seen attempts and efforts to stash assets in the accounts and resources of his (Putin’s) children,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing to reporters Wednesday.

The U.S. is also blocking Russia from making debt payments with money subject to U.S. jurisdiction. This follows action earlier this week to make Russia’s frozen funds in the United States unavailable for debt payments. Psaki said Moscow will have to decide whether they are going to spend the dollars they have to avoid default or continue to fund military operations in Ukraine.

“Part of our objective is to force them into a place where they are making that decision,” Psaki said.

The move makes it more costly for Russia to remain current on foreign debt, which may eventually push it to default and lead to further consequences, Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told VOA.

“There will be investor lawsuits. They will go after Russian government assets in Western jurisdictions. So, this could potentially be a further isolation of the Russian economy in general,” he added.

Without access to its dollars held in American banks, Russia’s Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that it had used rubles to pay about $650 million in dollar-denominated debt obligations. Payments are usually required to be made in the currency the debt was sold in.

In his remarks, Biden said that the steps already taken to punish Russia are expected to shrink the country’s gross domestic product by double digits this year alone and wipe out the last 15 years of Russia’s economic gains.

“Because we’ve cut Russia off from importing technologies like semiconductors and encryption security and critical components of quantum technology that they need to compete in the 21st century, we’re going to stifle Russia’s ability in its economy to grow for years to come,” he added.

The steps announced Wednesday were sweeping and hard-hitting, but they also mean the West is running out of levers to stop Russian aggression, unless they are willing to apply direct pressure on the Russian oil and gas sector.

“The remaining large category of unused tools would likely focus on both direct sanctions on Russian energy exports and importantly, secondary sanctions on any non-Western entities that take or facilitate such trade,” said Daniel Ahn, global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to VOA.

Alleged war crimes

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is assisting Ukrainian and European partners and the State Department to collect evidence of alleged war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Federal criminal prosecutors met with prosecutors from Eurojust and Europol on Monday “to work out a plan for gathering evidence.” On Tuesday, the top Justice Department prosecutor in Paris met with French prosecutors, Garland said at a news conference. He also announced the indictment of a Russian oligarch.

VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara and Masood Farivar contributed to this report. 

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Moscow Slapped With New US Sanctions Over War Crimes Allegations

The United States announced new sanctions against Moscow on Wednesday following allegations that Russian forces in Ukraine massacred civilians. Henry Ridgwell reports from London. Camera: Henry Ridgwell.

This video contains graphic images and may not be suitable for all viewers.

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Німеччина не має сумнівів у правдивості даних про масові вбивства у Бучі – речник уряду

У Німеччині назвали безпідставними заяви російської сторони про те, що знімки з Бучі були «інсценуванням»