A global shortage of microchips is only a part of the difficulty roiling the global automotive industry. As more drivers return to work as pandemic restrictions ease — increasing demand for new vehicles — inventory is scarce. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from Chicago.
A global shortage of microchips is only a part of the difficulty roiling the global automotive industry. As more drivers return to work as pandemic restrictions ease — increasing demand for new vehicles — inventory is scarce. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from Chicago.
Днями президент казав, що закордонні партнери «стали краще розуміти» потреби України у відбитті агресії Росії
Rights activists in Azerbaijan are accusing the government of manufacturing false charges to arrest critics who have been returned to the country after failing to gain asylum in Germany.
Samir Ashurov was detained on April 19 on charges of assault with a knife, just weeks after he was deported from Germany back to his native country.
Ashurov had fled to Germany in 2018 when he was a member of the opposition REAL Movement. After leaving Azerbaijan, Ashurov continued criticizing the Azerbaijani government.
He was readmitted to Azerbaijan on March 29, after the German government refused to grant him asylum.
His lawyer, Elchin Sadiqov, told VOA that Ashurov had left his house earlier this week planning to renew his passport so that he could again leave the country. Instead, he said, Ashurov was attacked in the street and had a knife planted on him.
“He said that a man approached him near a metro station in Baku, shouting and knocking him to the ground. Samir ran away and shouted, ‘Police,’ and that’s when the police officers immediately detained him,” Sadiqov said.
“They then put a knife in the right pocket of his jacket,” Sadiqov said. “He took the knife out and threw it away. Then they put it back in his left pocket. He was then taken to the 24th Police Station of the Nizami District Police Office.”
Ashurov’s lawyer said he was tortured in custody and now was on a hunger strike, protesting his arrest.
“He said that he was beaten at the police station,” said Sadiqov. “When I met him, he had bruises on his chest and groin. He said he had been on a hunger strike since April 19 to protest his arrest.”
Elshad Hajiyev, spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, called these allegations completely unfounded.
“Samir Ashurov is charged with a specific crime, and what his lawyer says is a defense. And that’s understandable,” he said.
A targeted campaign
Government critics say authorities are using criminal charges to jail political opponents, in particular those who have spoken out while seeking asylum abroad. They say it’s part of a coordinated campaign by President Ilham Aliyev.
“I met Samir Ashurov last week after his deportation from Germany. He told me that he had been summoned to the prosecutor’s office several times, was being monitored and that preparations were being made for his arrest,” Tofiq Yaqublu, deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party and a senior politician of the National Council of Democratic Forces, wrote on Facebook.
Ashurov, who spoke with VOA earlier this month following his return from Germany, said he was also questioned at the airport about why he had left the country.
“I said that I was facing political persecution in Azerbaijan,” he said. “I told them that I had been arrested twice under false pretenses. I told them that I would be one of the victims of the government. Just like four political activists before me — Malik Rzayev, Mutalim Orujov, Punhan Karimli and Jafar Mirzayev were arrested.”
He also predicted that he would be detained in the future. “This regime will arrest me again on false charges,” Ashurov told VOA.
In January, Mirzayev, a member of the Germany-based DAS (Elect a Democratic Azerbaijan) group, was detained on charges of drug trafficking and sentenced to four months of pretrial detention. Mirzayev faces between five and 12 years in prison.
Karimli, a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA); Rzayev and Orujov have also been charged with drug trafficking.
Some see coordinated campaign
Some rights activists argue that the arrests are part of a coordinated effort aimed at migrants who sought asylum in other countries.
“Political activists deported from Germany were being arrested on drug charges. Now they have switched from drugs to knives,” Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist, human rights defender and former political prisoner currently living in Germany, said in a Facebook post. “We knew Samir would be arrested. Ilham Aliyev takes revenge on migrants. In his speeches, he repeatedly targeted migrants, calling them agents.”
Zafar Ahmadov, co-founder of a human rights NGO known as “Defense Line,” told VOA that the fate of readmitted political activists continues to be a concern.
“The arrest of all five readmitted political activists is not a coincidence,” said Ahmadov, who is also a member of the Democracy for Azerbaijan (AND) movement. “As a rule, we raise the issue of readmitted human rights activists before the EU Delegation and the embassies of EU member states.”
The German Embassy in Azerbaijan on Thursday told VOA it was monitoring Ashurov’s case.
“We are monitoring such incidents. We hold regular talks with the Azerbaijani government on human rights issues,” the embassy officials said.
Pact on repatriation
The European Union and Azerbaijan in 2014 signed an agreement on the repatriation of persons residing without authorization. Since the signing of the agreement, more than 2,000 people have been returned to Azerbaijan, including 420 in 2021.
International human rights organizations, including Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, report that the government of Azerbaijan frequently arrests individuals exercising their fundamental rights on trumped-up charges.
The Azerbaijani government, on the other hand, says people are not persecuted for their political beliefs.
This story originated in VOA’s Azerbaijani Service.
Ще 27 людей російська влада назвала зниклими безвісти
Літак виконував технічний рейс із Запоріжжя до Ужгорода
The French military has accused Russian mercenaries of creating a mass grave and falsely blaming it on the French.
The French Army says it has drone video, seen by news agencies Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near Gossi, Mali, where the French army withdrew from a military base this week.
Video of what appears to be a similar location circulated Thursday on Twitter, showing a blurred image of what are alleged to be bodies buried in the sand. The accompanying Twitter message says the departing French army left that scene behind in Gossi.
Speaking to AFP and AP, the French Army said the mercenaries created the site to circulate images and blame the French army to stoke anti-French sentiment in Mali.
The drone video was reportedly captured Thursday morning, but the French army left Gossi on Tuesday. France recently said it would withdraw its troops from Mali in a operation expected to take four to six months.
A Twitter account named “Dia Diarra” posted a video Thursday, including what appears to be bodies partially buried in the sand, with the caption, “This is what the French left behind when they left the base at Gossi. These are excerpts from a video that was taken after they left! We cannot keep silent about this!”
“Dia Darra” claims to be a Malian veteran and “patriot” and posts mostly pro-Malian military and pro-Russia content. The original profile photo used for the account could also be seen on the Russian social media website VK on an account of a man believed to be located in Colombia.
After that was pointed out by several Twitter users, the profile picture was changed to a photo of Malian President Assimi Goita. The account has been active since January 2022.
Many governments have accused the Malian army of working with mercenaries from the Russian company the Wagner Group which, critics say, has close ties to the Russian government.
Mali’s government denies the allegation, saying it works only with “Russian instructors.”
In March, Human Rights Watch reported that residents of Moura, in central Mali, said that hundreds of civilians were killed by the Malian army while working with “white soldiers,” who spoke a language not familiar to them.
VOA spoke to a man who saw 12 to 15 men killed and witnessed both Malian and white soldiers in the village during the five-day operation.
U.S. President Joe Biden has chosen Earth Day on Friday to sign an executive order to protect some of the country’s largest and oldest trees.
The order the president is scheduled to sign in Washington State will require the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to identify threats to older trees, such as wildfire and climate change, and develop policies to safeguard them.
Old trees are an ally in fighting climate change because they absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. Scientists say redwood forests are among the world’s most efficient means of removing and storing carbon dioxide. Thousands of U.S. redwoods have been destroyed in recent years.
Biden’s order will require federal land managers to define and count mature and old-growth forests nationwide within a year.
The measure is a safeguard designed to protest U.S. forests that have been decimated by fires, drought, and blight in recent years.
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told fellow GOP lawmakers shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection that he would urge then-President Donald Trump to resign, according to audio posted Thursday night by The New York Times and aired on The Rachel Maddow Show on the U.S. cable network MSNBC.
In the recording of a Jan. 10 House Republican Leadership call, McCarthy is heard discussing the Democratic effort to remove Trump from office and saying he was thinking of calling Trump and telling him, “I think it will pass and it would be my recommendation he should resign.”
It’s unclear whether McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker if Republicans gain control during the fall midterm elections, followed through on his thinking or was merely sharing ideas privately with his colleagues in the aftermath of the deadly Capitol assault.
In the same conversation, McCarthy told his colleagues he doubted Trump would take the advice to step aside.
“That would be my recommendation,” McCarthy is heard saying in response to a question from Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who would emerge as a staunch Trump critic. “I don’t think he will take it, but I don’t know.”
Earlier Thursday, after the Times published its initial story describing the conversation, McCarthy released a statement calling it “totally false and wrong.” His spokesman, Mark Bednar, had told the paper, “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”
Bednar did not immediately respond to questions late Thursday night after the audio’s release. Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the tape.
The audio threatens to badly damage the relationship between McCarthy and Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party, despite his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection and his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. And it could threaten McCarthy’s standing with House Republicans aligned with Trump, whose support he will need for votes to become House speaker next year.
The audio depicts a very different McCarthy than the one who has been leading House Republicans over the last year and a half and who has remained allied with Trump even after delivering a speech on the House floor shortly after Jan. 6, during which he called the attack on the Capitol “un-American.” At the time, McCarthy called the assault among the saddest days of his career and told his fellow Republicans that Trump “bears responsibility” for the violence.
Even after the violence, though, McCarthy joined half of the House Republicans in voting to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory.
Since then, the California Republican has distanced himself from any criticism of Trump and has avoided directly linking him to what happened. Within weeks of the siege at the Capitol McCarthy said he did not think Trump provoked the attack, as other prominent Republicans said at the time.
Instead, McCarthy has allied with Trump, visiting him at the former president’s Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago as he relies on the former president’s brand for campaign support this fall.
McCarthy indicated during an interview with The Associated Press this week in California that Trump will motivate voters to turn out for the party in this fall’s midterm elections.
“He’ll motivate, get a lot of people out,” McCarthy said at a GOP event in Fresno.
The Times report Thursday was adapted from an upcoming book, This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future, by Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
In the audio, Cheney, who eventually lost her No. 3 leadership position after voting in favor of Trump’s impeachment, can be heard asking McCarthy about a 25th Amendment resolution calling for Trump’s ouster and whether Trump might resign.
“I’ve had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight,” McCarthy is heard saying. “What I think I’m gonna do is I’m gonna call him.”
“I think it will pass and it would be my recommendation he should resign,” he later adds. “I mean, that would be my take but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”
McCarthy, 57, has been strategically charting his own delicate course as he positions himself to try to take over as speaker if Republicans retake the House. He has begun to build out his leadership team and last summer tasked several groups of Republican lawmakers with drafting proposals on the party’s core legislative priorities in hopes of making a fast start in 2023.
But even as he inches closer to leading the chamber, McCarthy is well aware of the downside of power in recent months as hard-right members of the conference have created headaches with inflammatory actions and statements.
There was little immediate reaction Thursday night from fellow Republicans who could determine his future.
To be sure, no other Republican leader in the House has amassed the standing to challenge McCarthy for the leadership position.
McCarthy has recruited the class of newcomers bolstering GOP ranks and raised millions to bolster Republican campaigns. He has drawn his closest rivals into the fold even as he works to shore up the votes that would be needed to become speaker.
An outside group aligned with McCarthy has led fundraising ahead of the midterm elections, and rank-and-file Republicans working to regain the House majority are unlikely to be critical of the leader ahead of November.
Still, McCarthy has also been a person of interest for the House committee investigating the storming of the Capitol on Jan 6. The select committee, which Cheney vice-chairs, requested an interview with McCarthy in mid-January, hoping to learn more about his conversations with Trump “before, during and after” the riot.
They had also sought information about McCarthy’s communications with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days before the attack. Hours after the request was made, McCarthy issued a statement saying he would refuse to cooperate because he saw the investigation as not legitimate and accused the panel of “abuse of power.”
The committee has been especially focused on McCarthy’s communications with Trump and White House staff in the week after the violence, including a conversation with Trump that was reportedly heated.
Without his cooperation, it remains unclear whether the panel will be able to gain testimony from McCarthy or any other congressional allies of Trump. While the committee has considered subpoenaing fellow lawmakers, they have so far avoided doing so as it would be an extraordinary move and could run up against legal and political challenges.
Pope Francis cleared his schedule Friday after knee pain flared up again and required medical checks, the Vatican said.
“The pope has slowed down his activities today due to medical checks that were necessary today. That’s why the agenda is empty today,” spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters.
One event canceled was a scheduled meeting with Argentina’s foreign minister, Santiago Cafiero.
The pain in his right knee kept Francis, 85, from presiding over Ash Wednesday events and also kept him from presiding over some Easter weekend events at Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Francis delivered his Easter Sunday speech while sitting.
Overall, the Pope is considered to be in good health, though in 2013 he underwent surgery for an inflamed colon, and he also reportedly suffers from sciatica, which causes lower back and leg pain.
Earlier this month, Francis called the knee pain “a little annoying but it’s getting better.”
Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
З огляду на війну з Росією Рада єпископів Львова вирішила не проводити нічних богослужінь на Великдень
India and Britain have agreed to boost economic as well as defense ties that could eventually help New Delhi move away from its dependance on Russian arms.
Following talks in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, who is on a two-day visit to India, the two sides said they will wrap up a free trade deal by October and announced a security partnership.
“We have agreed a new and expanded defense and security partnership, a decadeslong commitment that will not only forge tighter bonds between us, but support your goal of Make in India,” Johnson said, referring to Modi’s push to expand domestic manufacturing of weaponry.
Despite pressure from its Western allies, like the United States and Britain, India has taken a neutral position on the Ukraine crisis, refusing to condemn Russia or join sanctions imposed by Western countries.
Analysts attribute India’s stance partly to the fact that India sources much of its military equipment from its former Cold War ally.
Britain said it will ensure faster delivery of defense equipment by streamlining licensing rules for exporting military hardware to India. Officials in New Delhi called it a “welcome development.”
Britain is offering next-generation defense and security collaboration across five domains — land, sea, air, space and cyber — to face complex new threats, according to the British Embassy.
“What we are looking for is a combination of U.K.’s technology and our production base to make it a win-win situation,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla told reporters.
Indian Prime Minister Modi told reporters that both sides underscored the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to settle the Ukraine crisis.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla said that there was no “pressure” on India over the position it has taken.
Modi said he also stressed a “free, open, inclusive and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” in an apparent reference to China’s aggressiveness in the region.
Both leaders sounded an upbeat note on strengthening ties. Using Hindi words, Johnson called Modi a “khaas dost,” or special friend, and said, “Our relations have never been as strong or as good between us as they are now.”
It was “historic” that Johnson’s visit to India came in the 75th year of its independence, Modi said.
Johnson said a free trade pact, when signed, could take trade between the two countries “to a whole new level.” The deal is expected to double their current trade of $50 billion by 2030.
The British prime minister also announced that Britain is to reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, at a news conference he held after his talks with Indian leaders.
“The extraordinary fortitude and success of (Ukraine) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv means I can announce that very shortly, next week, we will reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city,” Johnson said.
The main British diplomatic mission had been moved to the western city of Lviv in February.
In response to a question, the British leader said it remained a “realistic possibility” that Russia could win the war in Ukraine.
“Putin has a huge army. He has a very difficult political position because he has made a catastrophic blunder. The only option he now, he now has is to use his appalling, grinding approach led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down,” Johnson told reporters.
Saying that it was important to keep up “wave after wave” of pressure on Russia, he said Britain was seeing what it could do to reinforce the supply of military equipment, such as tanks to Poland, so that it could send heavier weaponry to Ukraine.
Про це свідчать способи вогневого ураження, форма побудови бойових порядків, ешелонування військ противника та безперервні наступальні дії на окремих напрямках
Підозрюваний «агітував своїх заступників до лояльного ставлення як до окупаційних військ, так і до РФ в цілому»
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden boarded Air Force One and flew to the West Coast for a Democratic Party fundraiser, marking the first time that he has gone on the road as president to raise money for his party. It almost certainly won’t be the last.
After a stop in Portland, Oregon, Biden headed to Seattle. In both cities he headlined events sponsored by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where donors, many of them extremely wealthy, listen to the president speak and answer questions in closed-door sessions.
The trip marks a late start for Biden, who took office in January 2021. U.S. presidents are typically major sources of campaign donations for their political parties, but the kind of in-person events that give wealthy donors personal access to the president have so far been significantly restricted by coronavirus precautions.
Huge sums required
Much of the money raised by the president on behalf of the DNC is parceled out to state party organizations and to individual candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Typically, a president who expects to run for a second term in office also holds some fundraisers that benefit his own campaign organization, sometimes in concert with the national party committee. This is the case with presidents of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
U.S. presidents spend a considerable amount of time raising funds because running successful political campaigns in the U.S. has become extraordinarily expensive.
According to data collected by the organization Open Secrets, which tracks campaign donations and spending, candidates for federal office spent a staggering $7.6 billion during the two-year 2020 election cycle. When money spent by political parties and outside advocacy groups is added to the mix, the total soars to $14.4 billion.
2020 set record
In the 2020 presidential race, candidates spent $3.95 billion and parties and advocacy groups added an additional $1.75 billion. The majority of that money was spent in support of the campaigns of former President Donald Trump and then-Democratic presidential nominee Biden, with presidential candidates who ran in primary elections accounting for a relatively small fraction.
Candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate spent $3.68 billion on the 2020 races, according to Open Secrets. Party committees and outside groups spent an additional $5.05 billion.
Years like 2020, in which a presidential election is held, feature far more spending than midterm elections, when presidential candidates are not on the ballot. However, 2020 was remarkably expensive by any standard. Even when adjusted for inflation, the total spent on the election more than doubled the amount spent in 2016, the previous presidential year.
Cash on hand
Political parties and candidates for federal office are required to file regular reports with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that document the amount of money they have raised and the amount of cash they have on hand.
According to FEC data, as of the end of March, the Republican National Committee had taken in $205.6 million in donations since the beginning of the current cycle on January 1, 2021, and had $44.9 million in cash on hand. Over the same period, the Democratic National Committee took in $172 million and had $52.9 million in cash on hand.
Former President Trump’s Save America Political Action Committee, as of the end of March, had $110.3 million in cash on hand, or more than the RNC and DNC combined. The political action committee would be in a position to direct those funds to Trump’s campaign, should the former president elect to run again in 2024.
Arguments about reform
There has been a long-running argument in the United States about whether the huge sums of money that flow through political campaigns have a negative effect on the public perception of the federal government.
“The cost of campaigns has been skyrocketing for a few decades, vastly outpacing inflation,” Ian Vandewalker, senior counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told VOA.
He said much of the recent increase was spurred by a Supreme Court decision in the 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC, which found it was unconstitutional for the federal government to restrict spending on political campaigns by corporations, unions and other organizations.
“This has created a sort of campaign finance arms race, where parties and outside groups that support them all sort of stumble over themselves to pursue the biggest donations from the biggest donors,” he said.
Vandewalker and others who advocate reforming the system argue that politicians’ constant need to raise funds for their next election has a corrosive effect on public perceptions of the federal government.
However, not everyone agrees. David Primo, a professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester, and his colleague, Jeffrey D. Milyo, chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Missouri, have conducted research on the question.
They began with the assumption that, if increased spending on political campaigns had the effect of further reducing the public’s already declining confidence in the federal government, that decline should have accelerated in the years following the Citizens United decision.
“If you look at patterns of attitudes toward government before and after Citizens United, you simply find no evidence that Citizens United represented a breakpoint in that trend,” Primo told VOA. “Basically, people were mistrustful of the government before Citizens United, and they were mistrustful of the government after Citizens United. There was no meaningful change.”
When it comes to the amount of money it spends on elections, the United States is an extreme outlier among the nations of the world.
“It’s not even close,” Robert Boatright, a professor of political science at Clark University, told VOA.
Boatright, who edited the 2015 book The Deregulatory Moment? looking at election practices worldwide, said that some of the reasons the U.S. spends so much more are structural. Because elections are held on a regular two-year schedule, the amount of time that candidates have to prepare and raise money is much greater than in countries with parliamentary systems, where governments can call elections with a few weeks’ notice.
Additionally, he said, “There’s effectively no public financing of elections in the United States in comparison to pretty much every other democratic country. And there’s very little regulation of outside groups’ spending.”
On a per capita basis, for example, Boatright said that the U.S. spends nine times as much money on elections as Canada does. And considering that the U.S. population is about nine times the size of Canada’s, that means total spending on U.S. elections is more than 80 times larger than Canada’s.
Approval of U.S. leadership in the world surged across Asia in 2021, with the biggest gains registered in Laos, South Korea and Vietnam, according to a Gallup survey released Friday.
The median approval rate across 33 countries polled in the survey stood at 41% last year, up 10 percentage points over the previous year, Gallup reported. Approval of Chinese leadership slipped by one point to 27% during the same period.
Respondents were also asked about their views of the leadership in Germany, which topped the poll at 43%, and Russia, which stood at 33%. The survey was conducted before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The findings will be welcome news for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who is planning a high-stakes summit with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next month.
The 41% approval rate for U.S. leadership was higher than at any point during the administration of former president Donald Trump, Gallup said, but was still below the 45% level recorded in a 2013 poll.
“Notably, the approval rating for the U.S. is based largely on data collected during or after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in August 2021,” Gallup said. Despite the tumult that withdrawal caused, the dismal 14% rating in that country was no worse than in 2019.
The only Asian country with a less favorable view of U.S. leadership was Iran, where the figure stood at 7%. Low levels of approval were also seen in Turkey, at 22%, and Pakistan, at 23%.
The most dramatic increase in approval of U.S. leadership was in Laos, where the level shot up from a miniscule 4% in 2020 to 34% last year. The approval rating rose 29 points, to 59%, in South Korea and 24 points, to 45%, in Vietnam.
Improvements of 20 points or more were also recorded in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, all U.S. allies. The highest approval level anywhere in Asia, 71%, was recorded in the Philippines.
За її даними, на «Азовсталі» перебувають близько 1000 цивільних.
«Ескалація війни на сході України призведе до жахливого кровопролиття та масового переселення зі східних регіонів»
Прямі влучання снарядів спричинили пожежу й руйнування як у лікарні, так і у житлових будинках, розташованих поруч
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol “liberated,” after nearly two months of fighting, even though Russian forces have not been able to penetrate the city’s massive Azovstal steel plant that remains in the hands of Ukrainian fighters and civilians.
Rather than storming the plant, Putin has instead ordered a blockade of the facility, sealing it off “so that not even a fly comes through,” a tactic observers believe will save Russian soldiers’ lives and possibly starve out the fighters and civilians inside the plant.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials say evidence of mass graves outside Mariupol has emerged. Photographs from Maxar Technologies, a U.S. satellite imagery company, appear to show images of at least 200 new graves in the town of Manhush.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the World Bank Thursday that his country needs as much as $7 billion a month in support and will need hundreds of billions to recover from Russia’s invasion.
U.S. President Joe Biden authorized another $800 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on Thursday, declaring it was necessary to help Kyiv’s forces repel Russian fighters in the critical battles unfolding in the eastern region of the country.
“This package includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition,” Biden said in a short White House speech. He said the new arms shipment was particularly aimed at helping Ukraine’s forces fight in the Donbas region, which is flatter, more open terrain than where earlier fighting had occurred to the west.
Biden said the new assistance, on top of another $800 million package announced last week, “almost” exhausts congressional authorization for U.S. military aid to Ukraine. But the president said he would soon ask Congress for even more money for Ukraine’s forces.
Biden said the United States and its Western allies remain united in their resolve to assist Ukraine in fighting back against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eight-week invasion.
“The most important thing is holding the world together” against Russia, Biden said. “So far, so good.”
Biden vowed that Putin “will never succeed in occupying all of Ukraine. Putin has failed to achieve his grand ambitions on the battlefield. Kyiv still stands,” the president said.
New refugee aid
In other war-related actions, Biden said he was sending $500 million to Ukraine in new economic aid, streamlining a humanitarian refugee effort to allow Ukrainians escaping the ravages of war in their homeland to move more quickly to the United States if they want and banning all Russian ships from docking at U.S. ports.
Earlier Thursday, Putin ordered his forces not to storm a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol where the last remaining Ukrainian forces have been holed up in the port on the north coast of the Sea of Azov.
In a televised meeting, Putin told Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russian forces should blockade the plant “so that a fly cannot not pass through,” and that going forward with a plan to storm the site would unnecessarily risk Russian troops.
Shoigu told Putin that there were 2,000 Ukrainian troops at the Azovstal plant, but that the rest of Mariupol, a key port city, had been “liberated.”
Biden claimed, “There is no evidence Mariupol has fallen,” but weeks of Russian bombing has all but flattened much of the city.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk demanded Russia allow for the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from the plant through a humanitarian corridor.
“There are about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers there. They all need to be pulled out of Azovstal today,” Vereshchuk said in an online post Thursday.
Vereshchuk also said four buses were able to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Wednesday.
More than 100,000 Ukrainians are believed to be trapped in Mariupol, where 400,000 people lived before Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24.
“The conditions there are truly horrific,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday at a diplomatic conference in Panama. He underscored that attempted humanitarian corridors to allow Mariupol residents to escape “have fallen apart very quickly.”
The fight over Mariupol is part of a broader Russian offensive in the strategically important Donbas region, where Moscow has been boosting its military presence.
“Moscow’s current objective is to broaden its control in the east and south. Ideally, they would like to grab Kharkiv and Odesa,” John Herbst, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told VOA. “But those are tall orders. They may have to settle for Mariupol.”
On March 25, following losses in northern Ukraine, Moscow announced a major shift in strategy and removed forces from the north, including the suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, to consolidate military gains in the Donbas and establish a land bridge to the Crimea Peninsula, which it seized in 2014.
Analysts say if Russian forces gain complete control of the Donbas, their diplomats will hold a stronger hand in peace negotiations and be in a better position to demand autonomy for the region.
“But even if (Putin) makes large gains in the east and south and accepts a settlement that gives him control of his new conquests, that does not mean that he will be satisfied,” Herbst said.
U.S. Defense Department analysts say the battle for the Donbas region, where fighting has been ongoing since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, could last for months more.
The United States slapped new sanctions Wednesday on dozens more individuals and entities accused of evading ongoing financial penalties imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
“The Department of Treasury sanctions Transkapitalbank — a key Russian commercial bank that has offered services to banks globally to evade international sanctions, and more than 40 individuals and entities that are part of a Russian sanctions-evasion network led by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Psaki said Washington also has imposed sanctions on companies in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry and applied visa restrictions on more than 600 individuals in response to human rights abuses by Russia and Belarus.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Президент: Росія відкинула пропозицію великоднього перемир’я, окупанти збирають дані для псевдореферендуму
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