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Зеленський: за 50 днів вторгнення РФ показала, що Донбас для неї – «головна мішень»

«Саме Донбас Росія хоче знищити насамперед. Саме Луганську й Донецьку області російські війська руйнують так, ніби хочуть, щоб від них залишилося тільки каміння»

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У Росії опозиційного політика затримали за звинуваченням у «дискредитації» армії РФ

Лев Шлосберг – один із небагатьох опозиційних політиків, які залишилися в Росії, хто відкрито виступив проти російського вторгнення в Україну

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US Spy Chief Warns of Russia’s Nuclear Threats, ‘Potential Desperation’

Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling has the attention of top U.S. intelligence officials, some of whom are expressing growing concern about the Kremlin’s willingness to unleash some of its nuclear arsenal as it faces “potential desperation” in Ukraine.

Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns warned Thursday that the world should not underestimate Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose appetite for risk has only grown “as his grip on Russia has tightened.”

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said during a speech to students at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, also known as Georgia Tech.

“We’re obviously very concerned,” he said, noting that Putin has an “almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia’s sphere of influence,” which includes bringing Ukraine under the Kremlin’s sway.

Russia first put its nuclear deterrence forces on high alert on February 27, just three days after sending troops into Ukraine, citing aggressive statements by NATO and economic sanctions from the West.

Another warning

On Thursday, one of Putin’s closest allies further warned that Russia would place nuclear warheads in the Baltics should Sweden and Finland decide to join the Atlantic alliance.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.

Medvedev said Russia would place warheads in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that is 500 kilometers from Berlin and less than 1,400 kilometers from London and Paris.

Lithuania’s defense minister downplayed the Russian threat, calling it nothing new.

“Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad … the international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this,” Arvydas Anusauskas told Lithuania’s BNS news service.

‘Troubled’

Still, the U.S. spy chief Thursday warned that Russia’s nuclear threats bear watching.

“I have learned over the years never to underestimate Putin’s relentless determination, especially on Ukraine,” said Burns, who met with Putin in Moscow last November, hoping to dissuade the Russian leader from invading Ukraine.

“I was troubled by what I heard,” Burns said.

Despite his concern, the CIA director said U.S. intelligence has yet to see evidence Moscow is preparing to unleash any part of its nuclear arsenal.

“While we’ve seen some rhetorical posturing on the part of the Kremlin, moving to higher nuclear alert levels, so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern,” he said.

U.S. defense officials have previously described Russia’s decision to put its nuclear deterrence forces on high alert in February as “escalatory and unnecessary,” but say they have yet to see anything that would require a U.S. response.

“We’re obviously watching that very closely,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters during a briefing Thursday. “We have seen nothing in the space out there that has given us cause to change that [nuclear deterrence] posture in any tangible way.”

“It is not something that we take for granted,” he added.

The latest U.S. security package for Ukraine, approved Wednesday, includes gear designed to protect Ukrainian forces from nuclear, biological and chemical exposure.

Russian war crimes

During his speech Thursday, Burns warned “the last chapter in Putin’s war has yet to be written,” saying that Russia was unlikely to depart from its current, vicious strategies.

“I have no doubt about the cruel pain and damage that Putin can continue to inflict on Ukraine, or the raw brutality with which Russian force is being applied,” he said.

 

China

The U.S. spy chief also called out China as “a silent partner in Putin’s aggression” in Ukraine, adding that Beijing presents a threat to the United States and the West in its own right.

China “is our greatest challenge, in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced,” Burns said. “As an intelligence service, we have never had to deal with an adversary with more reach in more domains.”

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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Over 150 Journalists Have Left Russia Since Start of Ukraine Invasion

More than 150 Russian journalists have left the country since its invasion of Ukraine. More are working with international organizations safeguarding the rights of journalists. Anush Avetisyan looks at how the international community is helping independent Russian journalists in these difficult times.
Camera: Andrey Degtyarev, Dmitry Shakhov Produced by: Marcus Harton

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Зеленський розповів про переговори з Макроном

«Обговорили розслідування російських злочинів, спротив українського народу загарбнику»

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Abortion Restriction Bill Signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law Thursday as the state joined a growing conservative push to restrict access ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could limit the procedure nationwide.

The new law marks a significant blow to abortion access in the South, where Florida has provided wider access to the procedure than its regional neighbors.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow for exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Under current law, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

“This will represent the most significant protections for life that have been enacted in this state in a generation,” DeSantis said as he signed the bill at the “Nación de Fe” (“Nation of Faith”), an evangelical church in the city of Kissimmee that serves members of the Latino population.

DeSantis, a Republican rising star and potential 2024 presidential candidate, signed the measure after several women delivered speeches about how they chose not to have abortions or, in the case of one, regretted having done so.

Some of the people in attendance, including young children, stood behind the speakers holding signs saying “Choose life,” while those who spoke stood at a podium to which was affixed a sign displaying an infant’s feet and a heartbeat reading, “Protect Life.”

Debate over the proposal grew deeply personal and revealing inside the Florida legislature, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and experiences with sexual assault in often tearful speeches on the House and Senate floors.

Elsewhere in the United States, Republican lawmakers have introduced new abortion restrictions, some similar to a Texas law that bans abortion after roughly six weeks and leaves enforcement up to private citizens, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave in place.

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a bill to make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to a decade in prison. Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in March signed legislation to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks if the U.S. Supreme Court leaves Mississippi’s law in place.

If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban or severely restrict abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights. During debate of the Florida legislation, Republicans have said they want the state to be well placed to limit access to abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s law.

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As Calls Grow for Justice on Ukraine, ICC Steps Forward

Calls are mounting for Russia to face a legal reckoning for atrocities its forces are allegedly committing in Ukraine. Many activists are looking toward the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which last month opened a Ukraine war crimes investigation. But experts warn delivering justice will be slow, difficult and, in some cases, impossible.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan visited the Ukrainian town of Bucha Wednesday, as workers dug up bodies in black plastic bags from the earth. Russian soldiers are blamed for horrific rights violations there, including raping and executing Bucha residents.

Khan called Ukraine a “crime scene.”

“Every individual, particularly civilians, they have certain rights,” he said. “We must speak for them and we must insist that we get to the truth of what’s taken place, and judges will decide if there is responsibility.”

International outrage is growing over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. On Wednesday, the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe accused Moscow of committing war crimes in some places — like deliberately attacking a maternity hospital and theater in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

It also found Ukraine committed lesser violations. The OSCE’s investigation ended in early March, so does not cover more recent cases like Bucha.

U.S. President Joe Biden has called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a war criminal, and Russian actions in Ukraine a “genocide” — although others dispute that description.

The U.S. is not part of the ICC, and the Trump administration sanctioned some court members for probing alleged war crimes by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Now, Washington is reportedly looking at how it can help the court on Ukraine.

So far, dozens of countries have referred the Ukraine war to the ICC. France sent experts to help Kyiv investigate possible war crimes. The European Union is increasing funding and other support to the Hague-based court for probing Ukraine atrocities.

Experts say prosecuting suspects and delivering justice won’t be easy. Neither Ukraine nor Russia are members of the ICC. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia could hamper the U.N. court’s ability to hold it to account.

Still, Ukraine recognizes the ICC’s jurisdiction for crimes committed on its territory since 2014.

“I think there’s absolutely the possibility that war crimes will be prosecuted by the ICC. The … question will be who will be prosecuted by who,” said Carsten Stahn, a professor of international criminal law and global justice at Leiden University in the Netherlands and Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Like some other experts, Stahn believes the ICC doesn’t have to shoulder the whole legal burden. Some alleged Ukraine war crimes cases could be handled by courts in countries like Germany, which have universal jurisdiction.

Another option, analysts say, is creating a special tribunal for Ukraine, like the ones created to judge the Rwandan genocide and the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

But while Russia’s lower ranking military officers may one day be held accountable for their alleged actions, experts say that’s unlikely to happen for top leadership — like President Vladimir Putin, barring a change in government.

“We’ve seen from the practice of the tribunals, the Yugoslavia tribunal, that as a regime is in power, it is very difficult to proceed with crimes, ongoing investigations,” Stahn said. “Because you will simply not be able to get hold of the perpetrators.”

Still, analysts say the ICC can help broader efforts to deliver justice and will create one more headache for the Kremlin.

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US Counters Chinese Outreach to Solomon Islands

The United States is increasing its diplomatic outreach and COVID-19 vaccine assistance to the Solomon Islands amid concerns over a security deal between the Pacific island nation and China.   

This week, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele about plans to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Honiara and what U.S. officials described as “joint efforts to broaden and deepen engagement” between the two countries.

 

The U.S. is also donating additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the South Pacific nation. The Solomon Islands has received 52,650 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in recent days, after 100,620 doses were delivered in November. 

The U.S. currently maintains a consulate in Honiara after closing its embassy in 1993.  The plan to re-open a U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands’ capital was first announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Pacific trip in February. 

Sherman’s latest diplomatic push follows reports that the Solomon Islands and China have reached a deal that could allow the deployment of Chinese forces in the event of a domestic disturbance.  

According to a leaked draft, China could send armed police and military forces if requested by the government of the Solomon Islands. China could also be allowed to base its navy ships off the coast of the Pacific island nation. 

In early April, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said his country would not invite China to establish a military base. China also denied it seeks a military foothold there. 

“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC military forces to the Solomon Islands,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA, referring to the People’s Republic of China.  

“We believe signing such an agreement could increase destabilization within Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region,” the spokesperson added.  

Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, flew to the Solomon Islands for talks with Sogavare earlier this week.  

“We have asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement and to consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency, consistent with our region’s security frameworks,” said Seselja in a statement.  

Australia already has a bilateral security agreement with the Solomon Islands. Australian police peacekeepers have been in Honiara since riots in November.  

Experts said the pact between Beijing and Honiara has set off alarm bells in and beyond the Solomon Islands. 

Charles Edel, who is Australia chair and senior adviser of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA the concern with the Solomons-China agreement is that “it could undermine the Solomon Islands’ sovereignty, increase corruption within its political system, divide the Pacific island community, lead to environmental destruction and resource exploitation, and even potentially open the door for an authoritarian regime to set up a military base able to project power in and restrict access to the region.” 

Edel warned China would continue to pursue similar arrangements in the Asia-Pacific until the U.S. and its allies become more proactive and regain a sense of urgency in the region.    

In Beijing, Chinese officials said security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands “does not target any third party.”  

During a Wednesday briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian urged other nations to refrain from “stoking confrontation and creating division” and to “respect the sovereignty and independent choice of China and Solomon Islands.”  

In a visit to Australia, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General David Berger, warned that the Chinese security offering to the Solomons sounds “too good to be true” and may come with strings attached, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.  

Some information for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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Visual Explainer: Russia Sanctions

Russia is facing economic sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine from dozens of countries. Here is a look at the efficacy of similar punitive measures applied to various countries in the past.

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Рада визнала дії військ Росії в Україні геноцидом українського народу

Акти геноциду проявляються, зокрема, у вчиненні масових звірств в містах Буча, Бородянка, Гостомель, Ірпінь

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Вперше за 10 днів російські військові обстріляли Сумщину – Живицький

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На території Придністровʼя спостерігається підготовка до прийому російських літаків – Маляр

Заступниця міністра оборони наголошує, що загроза ракетних ударів зберігається по всій території України

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Michigan Police Release Videos in Shooting Death of Black Man

Police in the U.S. state of Michigan released videos Wednesday showing a police officer shooting a Black man dead after a traffic stop earlier this month.

Protesters gathered late Wednesday in the city of Grand Rapids to demand justice for Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying the shooting is the latest example of police violence against Black people in the United States.

The officer has not been publicly named and was placed on paid leave while authorities investigate the shooting.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom, citing the need for transparency, released the videos, which include those recorded by a passenger in Lyoya’s car, the officer’s body-worn camera, the officer’s patrol car and a doorbell camera.

The April 4 incident began with the officer stopping Lyoya due to a license plate not matching the car.

Videos show Lyoya stepping out of the car, and later trying to walk away as the officer attempted to handcuff him.  There was a short foot chase, leading to the officer and Lyoya wrestling on a lawn and fighting over the officer’s stun gun before the officer shot Lyoya.

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

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Report: Black Americans Face Growing Racial Inequalities

African Americans in the United States face an array of challenges, including barriers to building economic wealth, an erosion of voting rights, persistent inequalities along racial lines and disproportionate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study issued this week reveals.

In its annual “State of Black America” report, the National Urban League, one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, found that while African Americans have experienced economic and health gains since 2005, they have fallen further behind white people in education, social justice and civil engagement.

“‘The State of Black America’ is a commentary on the state of the nation at large,” National Urban League President Marc Morial said.

The report’s 2022 Black-White Equality Index put Black Americans at 73.9% attainment relative to white Americans across five categories: economic status, health, education, social justice and civic engagement. The score showed a .2% improvement from the 2020 index, but nevertheless indicated that Black people lag significantly behind white people in key areas

For instance, the equality index noted a median household income for Black people at nearly $44,000, which was 37% less than that of white people, at nearly $70,000. The data indicate that Black people are also less likely to benefit from home ownership, which has fueled generational wealth among Americans.

“In that area of wealth, we’ve seen almost no change — none — since the civil rights days,” Morial said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The wealth disparity has gotten wider.”

The report also provided a snapshot of health care disparities. It showed life expectancy declined slightly for African Americans to 74.7, four fewer years than a white person. Researchers released other grim statistics indicating that Black women are 59% more likely to die as a result of bearing a child, and 31% more likely to die of breast cancer. And Black men were 52% more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men.

At the same time, the report noted some changing trends between 2020 and 2022. Black students are less likely to consider suicide relative to their white peers; the disparity in breastfeeding rates between Black women and white women declined; and more Black children had a regular place to receive health care.

Overall, however, African Americans have long tended to suffer worse health outcomes than white Americans, a disparity widely believed to have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers say it could take years to fully document the pandemic’s impact on Black America.

Criminal justice

The “State of Black America” study also highlighted racial inequalities in the U.S. justice system, finding that Black people were more than twice as likely as white people to experience use of force during police encounters. African Americans are three times more likely to be jailed if arrested, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The murder of George Floyd and the deaths of so many at the hands of police officials over the last several years has motivated a strong response to systemic racism within the criminal justice system, and that’s a good thing,” said Wade Henderson, interim president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The loss of the George Floyd Policing Act and the failure to get traction in Congress on that (police reform) issue was a profound disappointment.”

Voting rights

The report highlighted what it calls “The Plot to Destroy Democracy,” outlining voter suppression efforts and urging a national mobilization to protect and defend the constitutional right to vote.

A public opinion poll contained in the study found an overwhelming majority of Black Americans continue to believe strongly in the power of their vote concerning issues of social and racial justice.

Last year, 19 Republican-led state legislatures approved laws that imposed new voting requirements and/or limited the avenues and time frames for people to cast a ballot.

Republicans insist they seek only to prevent voter fraud and to ensure the integrity of elections. Democrats and voting rights groups counter that many of the measures contained in the new laws will disproportionately impact the ability of African Americans and other minority groups, as well as the poor, to vote.

“The burden of these laws with strict photo ID requirements, the elimination or restriction of Sunday voting, voting by mail, early voting, and the closing of polling locations overwhelmingly falls on Black voters,” said Morial.

Voting rights advocates have called on the Justice Department to ensure free and fair elections nationwide. However, the department has limited powers following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 which dismantled part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department before changes are made to state election laws.

Historically, it has been left up to individual states to determine how to conduct elections. Republican lawmakers bristle at any suggestion of federalizing voting in America with uniform rules set in Washington.

“We are seeing more voter suppression efforts in our states,” said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “We will find ways to organize as best we can for the upcoming elections while we still fight for voting rights reforms.”

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Воєнні злочини в Бучі вплинули на рішучість у наданні зброї Україні – Рахманін

За словами члена комітету Верховної Ради з питань національної безпеки, оборони та розвідки, те, що Україні нарешті починають давати важке озброєння і не приховують цього факту – це величезний крок уперед

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ДБР затримало лідера фракції ОПЗЖ в Маріупольській міськраді за підозрою в сприянні Росії

За оперативними даними, затриманий – колишній чоловік ексгенеральної прокурорки Криму Поклонської, медіа називають ім’я Володимира Клименка

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EU Closes Loophole Allowing Multimillion-Euro Arms Sales to Russia

The European Union has closed a loophole that allowed EU governments to export weapons worth tens of millions of euros to Russia last year alone despite an embargo which took effect in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

EU countries last year sold to Russia weapons and ammunition worth 39 million euros ($42.3 million), according to the latest data made available by the EU Commission — up more than 50% from 2020, when sales were worth 25 million euros, a volume in line with previous years.

The EU had banned the export of arms to Moscow in July 2014 in reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but a clause in the sanctions permitted sales under contracts signed before August 2014.

Countries with large defense industries, such as France and Germany, were among the largest exporters.

The loophole has come under fire from some EU governments since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which the Kremlin calls “a special military operation.”

In a bid to weaken the Kremlin’s war efforts in Ukraine, the EU has imposed five rounds of sweeping sanctions banning exports to Russia of a large variety of technology that could be used by the defense industry.

But EU governments failed to immediately agree to scrap the exemption on arms sales until last week, when the loophole was closed as part of the fifth package of EU sanctions, EU diplomats and officials told Reuters.

A legal text published on April 8 in the EU official journal deletes that exemption.

The EU Commission did not mention the closure of the loophole in its public communication about the fifth package of sanctions.

A spokesperson for the Lithuanian diplomatic mission to the EU said the exemption had been eliminated, but EU countries will be able to continue moving Russia-made weapons to Russia for repairs before they are returned to the EU.

The EU Commission, which is responsible for preparing sanctions, did not propose the amendment on closing the loophole as it was not clear whether it had the unanimous political backing of the 27 EU states, diplomats said.

But at a meeting last week, envoys agreed to amend the text after fresh criticism from some governments, including Poland and Lithuania, diplomats who attended the meeting said.

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Russia Says Black Sea Flagship Seriously Damaged

Russia said Thursday the flagship of its Black Sea fleet had been seriously damaged and that all the crew evacuated following what Russia said was an explosion and what Ukrainian officials said was a missile strike.

The Russian defense ministry blamed a fire that detonated ammunition on board the guide-missile Moskva. It said the fire had been contained and the ship remained afloat.  The ministry added that the ship’s main weapons were not damaged and that efforts were being made to take the ship back to port.   

The governor of Odesa said two cruise missiles struck the ship.

The White House on Wednesday reinforced U.S. President Joe Biden’s surprise statement Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be committing genocide in Ukraine.

Biden also announced that Washington is sending another $800 million in weapons, ammunition and other assistance to Ukraine.

“The president was speaking to what we all see, what he feels is clear as day in terms of the atrocities happening on the ground,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the genocide remark.

“As he also noted yesterday, of course there will be a legal process that plays out in the courtroom, but he was speaking to what he sees, has seen on the ground, what we’ve all seen in terms of the atrocities on the ground.”

She added, “Regardless of what you call it, what our objective now is — as evidenced by the enormous package of military assistance we put out today — is to continue to help and assist the Ukrainians in this war, one where we see atrocities happening every single day.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected Biden’s description, saying, “We consider this kind of effort to distort the situation unacceptable. This is hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times.”

Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the new shipment in an hourlong phone conversation on Wednesday. He later said in a statement, “The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. The United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself.”

New weapons, renewed Russian push

The Pentagon said the new tranche of weaponry includes 500 Javelin missiles, 300 Switchblade drones, 300 armored vehicles, 11 helicopters, chemical, biological and nuclear protective gear and 30,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

The U.S. is also providing an unknown quantity of anti-personnel mines, which are configured to be only manually detonated.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said U.S. defense officials want to deliver this equipment while Russia is regrouping its forces, including helicopters and artillery systems, in Belarus.

“They’re not fully up to readiness for this renewed push for they want to put in the Donbas,” he said. “We recognize that, and we’re taking advantage of every day, every hour to get this stuff there as fast as we can. … We have a good sense of Russian efforts to resupply and reinforce.”

Biden’s agreement to send more weapons to Ukraine, along with additional helicopters, came after a video appeal from Zelenskyy.

“Freedom must be armed better than tyranny,” the Ukrainian leader said. “Without additional weapons, this will turn into an endless bloodbath that will spread misery, suffering and destruction.”

Biden said the Western supply of arms to Ukraine “has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion. It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now.”

Also Wednesday, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — all NATO countries bordering Russia — visited Kyiv to show support for Ukraine a day after Putin vowed to continue Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine until its “full completion.”

The leaders of the four countries, all worried that Russia could attack them if Ukraine were to fall, traveled by train to the Ukrainian capital to meet with Zelenskyy.

While failing to capture Kyiv and much of Ukraine, Russian forces have bombarded numerous cities, killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and destroyed housing and hospitals.

United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths recently went to Moscow and Kyiv to seek a cease-fire. But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Wednesday it does not look like that is possible right now.

However, Guterres said there are “a number of proposals that were made, and we are waiting for an answer from the Russian Federation in relation to those proposals — including different mechanisms for local cease-fires, for corridors, for humanitarian assistance, evacuations and different other aspects that can minimize the dramatic impact on civilians that we are witnessing.”

Guterres said the U.N. also proposed the creation of a mechanism involving Russia, Ukraine, the U.N. and potentially other humanitarian entities, to help guarantee the evacuation of civilians from areas where fighting is going on and to guarantee humanitarian access.

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

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US Set to Include Ukraine in G-20 Agenda

The Biden administration appears set to include discussions of international economic repercussions of the Russian invasion and potentially Ukraine’s reconstruction as part of the November G-20 summit agenda, an idea that is likely to create further rift in the economic forum.

“It is not uncommon for events that are impacting the global community as Ukraine is, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to play a central role at international forums,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told VOA during a briefing Wednesday. “And their economic recovery and rebuilding and reconstruction is going to be something that the global community is going to be involved in and address.”

In March, President Joe Biden said he wanted Russia removed from the Group of 20 largest economies or to have Ukraine be invited as an observer in the upcoming G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

“The inclusion of Ukraine does not mean it’s only about the battle on the ground. We’re going to need to rebuild Ukraine,” Psaki added, noting that Ukraine has applied for membership in the European Union, which is part of G-20.

Responding to criticism that Western demands to exclude Moscow disrupt the summit’s agenda and create division in the group, Psaki said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a “pariah in the world” and has “no place at international forums.”

Following its 2014 annexation of Crimea, Moscow was kicked out from the Group of Eight (G-8), now known as the Group of Seven (G-7). However, the G-20 is a much wider grouping with many more competing interests.

G-20 boycott

Biden has not said he would boycott the G-20 summit should Putin attend but insists the forum cannot be “business as usual.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have also raised concerns about Putin’s participation.

This puts Indonesian President Joko Widodo, as this year’s G-20 chair, in a tough position. He must prepare to host leaders of the 20 largest economies at a time when the world is technically still under a pandemic and attempt consensus on the world’s most pressing economic problems while navigating new geopolitical rivalries triggered by Putin’s war.

Middle-power members, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and others, have their own agenda centered around post-pandemic recovery that do not align with the West’s focus of isolating Putin and helping Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“That’s all going to have to be renegotiated,” William Pomeranz, acting director of the Wilson Center Kennan Institute, told VOA. “Most of their members do not feel obliged to rebuild Ukraine.”

Gregory Poling, who researches U.S. foreign policy in the Asia Pacific at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told VOA’s Indonesian Service that while it is understandable that non-Western G-20 members are reluctant to have condemnation of Russia override the agenda, there is simply no possibility for Biden and other Western leaders to sit across Putin at the summit’s table.

Ultimately for Jakarta, it may boil down to whether they are willing to trade Putin’s attendance for several Western leaders’ absence, Poling said. And while Indonesian diplomats would have preferred quiet negotiations rather than public announcements from Western leaders, the tension was going to surface at some point.

“Indonesia was never going to disinvite Vladimir Putin without significant pressure and that pressure would have had to have been delivered publicly, sooner or later,” Poling said.

Jakarta’s dilemma

As a middle power struggling to recover from the pandemic, Indonesia is focused on using its G-20 presidency to create a conducive environment for emerging economies to excel and safeguard the forum from geopolitical rivalries that could further market uncertainties, Dinna Prapto Raharja, founder of the Jakarta-based think tank Synergy Policies, told VOA.

“His [Widodo’s] desire is mainly to make sure that (the) G-20 will be the forum that can sustain its mandate, which is the economic mandate,” Prapto Raharja said. “The scarcity of goods, the consequences of untenable rise of energy prices, the inability of emerging economies to get out from the COVID-19 crisis – this needs to be the agenda.”

Including Ukraine as an observer, as Biden has suggested, will complicate matters as Kyiv’s main interest is to secure assistance against Russian aggression and has nothing to do with G-20 goals, she said. However, Jakarta must prepare a contingent mechanism to allow views on Ukraine to be aired without disrupting the summit’s focus.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian public views Russia’s invasion of Ukraine partly through the lens of anti-West attitudes and skepticism of U.S. foreign policies. These sentiments have been magnified by pro-Putin propaganda pushed on social media.

“Our research shows 95% of TikTok users and 73% of Instagram users in Indonesia supports Russia after Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs assistance from NATO and the West,” Dudy Rudianto, founder of Jakarta-based data analysis firm Evello, told VOA’s Indonesian Service. This suggests Widodo may pay a political price should his government be seen as caving into Western demands to kick Putin out of the summit.

So far, Jakarta has neither revoked Putin’s invitation nor agreed to include Ukraine in the G-20 agenda. Earlier this month, a spokesman said the government is still considering different members’ points of views and will continue to focus on the three pillars of its G-20 presidency: global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation.

As an informal grouping established in 1999 following a global economic crisis, the G-20 has no mechanism to expel a member, said Matthew Goodman, who holds the Simon Chair in Political Economy at CSIS.

“It doesn’t have a formal set of rules or even a really clear rationale for who’s in the group and who isn’t,” Goodman told VOA. “In practice, it would require all the other 19 countries to say, we don’t want that 20th country in the group.”

This is unlikely considering China’s position that Moscow is an important member of the forum, as well as other members’ reluctance to condemn Russia, including India, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

A National Security Council spokesperson told VOA that the U.S. will continue discussions with G-20 partners, including Indonesia.

“We will continue to explore participation as Putin’s war continues and we get closer to the G-20 Leaders’ Summit that is still over seven months away,” the spokesperson said.

Fractured support

While there has been solid backing from Europe and the G-7 for Biden’s efforts to hold Russia accountable, support beyond that has been more fractured.

Most notable is G-20 and Quad member, India. New Delhi, reliant on Moscow for military hardware, has abstained from various U.N. votes relating to the conflict.

India’s ambivalence on the Ukraine war is emblematic of Russia’s considerable influence around the world. Washington needs to be mindful of these geopolitical realities, analysts said.

“It’s not going to be as simple as showing the videos of the terrible actions in Ukraine and then the rest of the world will say – yes, Russia is committing war crimes and so forth and that we need to isolate it,” Pomeranz, of the Wilson Center, said.

The Biden administration must also take into account how the war in Ukraine could trigger nonaligned instincts.

“There is a danger if you have a zero-sum competition between these two blocs,” Stewart Patrick, director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA. He noted that many countries loathe their Cold War experience of being treated as pawns in global rivalries.

Perceptions about selectivity of U.S. foreign policy is also a factor, Patrick said. It is problematic for Washington to rally global support against Moscow in light of its own invasion on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Trump administration’s recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

“I don’t have any updates on that front,” Psaki told VOA last month when asked if the Biden administration has plans to revoke the recognition.