«Для реалізації свого плану вчора вони збирали колишніх співробітників банківської системи, які стали колаборантами»
«Для реалізації свого плану вчора вони збирали колишніх співробітників банківської системи, які стали колаборантами»
Свою згоду Володимир Путін нібито озвучив під час телефонної розмови з Відодо
«Ленд-ліз допоможе Україні та всьому вільному світу подолати ідейних спадкоємців нацистів, які розв’язали війну проти нас на нашій землі»
First came a court summons alleging Mikhail Samin had discredited the Russian army. Then came the threatening calls.
Samin, a 22-year-old from Moscow who has been posting commentary about the war in Ukraine on social media, shared details of those chilling calls with VOA.
In one expletive-laden call, a man warned that Samin had 24 hours to delete his posts, saying that only then, “you may sleep peacefully.”
When Samin tried to reason with the caller, saying that people, children, were dying in Ukraine, the caller replied, “If you don’t stop being stupid, we will throw you off the balcony.”
The legal action and threats are becoming the new normal for those in Russia who defy the strict censorship around the war in Ukraine. Moscow in March passed a law to limit coverage of the military and invasion, and a mix of fines and website blocks has resulted in most independent news outlets being forced out.
With traditional media limited, citizen journalists and activists like Samin are filling the void, but at great personal risk. Samin and student Ilya Kursov have both faced legal action for posts about the war and protests.
That new law was cited by authorities when Samin was summoned to court for “discrediting” the Russian army.
He had condemned the invasion in a March 6 Facebook post.
“A terrible thing is happening right now on behalf of [Russian] people,” Samin had posted. “My compatriots — brainwashed or following criminal orders — have invaded the territory of a foreign country, destroying houses and killing people. Thousands of people are dying and suffering needlessly. There can be no justification for this. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who started this war, cannot be justified.”
For Samin, the death threats were more concerning than the threat of prison.
The door to his apartment was defaced with the letter Z, a pro-Kremlin symbol of war against Ukraine. Samin’s sister was scared when she saw the mark as she left to walk the dog.
Samin was at a loss for words when describing his view of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“Nothing discredits the armed forces of the Russian Federation more than the war crimes they commit, like torturing people, killing civilians,” he told VOA.
“There was a feeling of some unreality of what was happening because, before that, I was convinced that Putin would not do this,” said Samin. “It was apparent that this [war] would immediately destroy the future of Russia.”
When Ilya Kursov heard details of an anti-war protest in Barnaul, a city in the Altai Krai region of Siberia, at the end of February, the 24-year-old student shared the information on Instagram.
His post quickly came to the attention of police.
“I was abducted at 8 a.m. by [Russian police], right from my bed in the dormitory,” said Kursov, who was studying at the Altai State Pedagogical University.
At the police station he was questioned about the social media post. The police officers pressured him, threatening him with a prison term, Kursov said. He wasn’t allowed to call either his parents or lawyer and his laptop was confiscated.
The student believes the authorities are reacting so aggressively to any protest activity because, despite what the propaganda suggests, many Russians disapprove of the war.
Although many residents were afraid to join the protest openly, people approached the anti-war activists and spoke out for peace with Ukraine, he said.
Like Samin, Kursov is accused of “discrediting” the Russian army. Under the law, if the offense is repeated within a year, it can result in criminal prosecution, with a maximum punishment of up to 15 years in prison.
But the posts cited by police in Kursov’s case were published before the law was enacted.
“I have two fines for 50,000 rubles [approximately $700],”said Kursov.
The fine is about 1½ times the median monthly income for his city, according to the Federal Service for State Statistics in Russia.
The student said that in court documents he saw, authorities had flagged more of his social media posts on the war.
“I am afraid the prosecutors would have an opportunity to use it against me, which leads to a criminal case,” he said.
Both he and Samin have since left Russia, fearing for their safety.
‘Next to be targeted’
With independent media blocked off in Russia, ordinary citizens like Samin and Kursov have become a key source of war information in Russia, media freedom experts said.
“After this huge blow against independent media, the next to be targeted are the citizen journalists,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders.
“We can draw a parallel with what happened in Belarus, because when all major independent media were blocked and journalists were in prison or exile, the Belarusian authorities started to target citizen journalists,” Cavelier told VOA.
Another factor is the chilling effect. As well as making arrests and blocking platforms, Russia wants to extend its foreign agents law to citizens as well as media.
“It frightens people; it makes them think twice before sharing any information, even if they feel very strong in their opinions or their criticism of the Russian authorities, so that’s always a downside of any crackdown and repressive measures,” said Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
But while Kursov and Samin have been forced to leave their homes, both are adamant they will keep using social media to inform Russians about the war.
This story originated in VOA’s Russian Service.
For many students, living and studying at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States can be stressful and sometimes a little lonely. But some Muslim students at Princeton University can find comfort in their community during the month of Ramadan. VOA’s Nida Samir reports.
Millions of Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries since Russia invaded their homeland. Others have moved to western Ukraine and the city of Lviv, which for now are relatively safe. Anna Kosstutschenko has the story of volunteers in Lviv who are opening their homes to the displaced families. Camera – Yuriy Dankevych.
The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that refugee and migrant deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. More than 3,000 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean or Atlantic last year on attempts to reach Europe.
In comparison, 1,439 people died or went missing on those routes in 2019, and about 1,800 in 2020.
Since the beginning of this year, the U.N. refugee agency reports an additional 553 people also have died or gone missing while attempting to reach Europe.
UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said desperation is driving more people to make perilous sea journeys in search of protection and a better life.
“Most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats—many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life,” she said. “The sea journey from the West African coastal states such as Senegal, Mauritania to the Canary Islands is long and perilous and can take up to 10 days. Many boats drifted off course or otherwise went missing without trace in these waters.”
Mantoo pointed out that land routes also are highly dangerous, and even more people have died on journeys through the Sahara Desert and remote border areas than on the sea.
She said many people are subjected to horrific forms of abuse at the hands of smugglers or traffickers, armed and criminal gangs, and sometimes by law enforcement authorities.
“Among the litany of abuses reported by people traveling these routes are extrajudicial killings, unlawful and arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labor, slavery, forced marriage and other gross human rights violations,” Mantoo said. “UNHCR warns that continued political instability and conflicts, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, as well as the impact of climate change, may increase displacement and dangerous onward movements.”
The UNHCR is calling for support to provide credible alternatives to the dangerous journeys. It is appealing for $163.5 million to provide increased humanitarian assistance and solutions for people who need international protection.
The appeal covers some 25 countries in four regions. All are connected by the same land and sea routes used by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The UNHCR aims to provide essential services and protection to people on the move or stranded on route, intercepted at sea, or held in detention.
Сьогодні також були повідомлення про відновлення роботи від посольств Нідерландів та Азербайджану
Раніше такі танки Україні відправила Чехія
U.S. President Joe Biden recently announced the Uniting for Ukraine program, which aims to streamline the process for Ukrainians who have fled their country and are seeking safety in the United States.
The new program, which took effect Monday, will complement existing legal pathways available to those fleeing Russian aggression due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, Biden administration officials said.
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to provide relief to the Ukrainian people, while supporting our European allies who have shouldered so much as the result of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement to reporters on April 21.
What is Uniting for Ukraine?
The program allows U.S. citizens and residents to sponsor Ukrainian refugees under different immigration statuses. The online portal, open to potential sponsors or organizations, is accepting applications and has received more than 4,000 requests so far, CNN reported.
Who qualifies under the program?
Ukrainians, or an immediate family member of a Ukrainian citizen. They must have a U.S. sponsor and have been a resident of Ukraine as of February 11.
What are the requirements?
They must pass security checks — including a fingerprint and an FBI name check and biographic and biometric screening — and meet public health requirements, such as having the proper vaccinations, before entering the U.S.
Those approved will be allowed to travel to the U.S., be considered for humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis, stay in the country for two years, and apply for work permits.
“The United States strongly encourages Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States who do not have and are not eligible for a visa to seek entry via Uniting for Ukraine from Europe. This will be the safest and most efficient way to pursue temporary refuge in the United States,” a DHS statement said.
Who qualifies as a sponsor?
U.S. citizens and other residents who hold lawful status in the United States or who are beneficiaries of Deferred Enforced Departure, Temporary Protected Status, or Deferred Action, among others.
Sponsors will be required to prove they can financially support the refugee while they are in the U.S. They also need to pass security and background vetting “to protect against exploitation and abuse.” The Ukrainian applicant will receive authorization only after everything is verified, including that the sponsor has the means to support them while they are in the U.S.
Who is not eligible for parole under the program?
Ukrainian citizens already in the U.S. are not eligible for parole under Uniting for Ukraine.
However, they can apply for Temporary Protected Status, which is another form of humanitarian relief that allows people to legally stay and work in the U.S.
What about those arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border?
Citing safety issues, U.S. officials have urged Ukrainians not to travel to Mexico in hopes of entering the United States. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has no place to hold them while they go through the Uniting for Ukraine vetting process.
Since Uniting for Ukraine’s launch on Monday, Ukrainians who arrive at U.S. ports of entry without a valid visa or without preauthorization to travel to the United States through the Uniting for Ukraine program will be denied entry and told to apply to the program.
Biden officials hope this will curb the number of Ukrainian migrants seeking humanitarian parole along the border.
Those at the border must apply under the rules of Uniting for Ukraine, meaning they must have a qualifying sponsor or a non-government agency willing to sponsor them in the U.S. for up to two years. And they need to have all required vaccinations and pass background checks.
The Biden administration announced the private sponsorship initiative as another way the U.S. hopes to achieve President Biden’s commitment to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians displaced by the Russian military invasion.
As of Thursday, almost 5.4 million refugees have since left Ukraine, according to U.N. data.
Норвегія та Росія мають спільний кордон завдовжки 196 кілометрів
The Biden administration is asking Congress for additional legal authority to make it easier for the U.S. government to seize Russian government and oligarch assets and transfer the proceeds to Ukraine.
The White House released the package of legislative changes Thursday as President Joe Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in additional aid for Ukraine as it seeks to fend off a devastating Russian invasion, now in its third month.
If enacted, the proposed measures would “establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to link the proceeds to support Ukraine, and further strengthen related law enforcement tools,” the White House said in a statement.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland urged Congress to quickly enact the changes.
“The proposals the president announced today will give the Justice Department critical resources and tools to continue and strengthen this work,” Garland said Thursday during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Garland during a hearing earlier this week that “there will be a receptive audience to give you more money if that’s what it takes to go after the people who profited from destroying the Russian economy.”
The proposal comes as Ukrainian officials asked Western governments to hand over Russian oligarch and government assets seized since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said seized Russian assets, including frozen Russian Central Bank reserves, “have to be used to rebuild Ukraine after the war, as well as to pay for the losses caused to other nations.”
So far, European countries in which Putin’s wealthy associates have long maintained homes and investments, have led in seizing their assets.
According to the White House, European Union member states have reported freezing more than $30 billion in Russian assets, including $7 billion worth of boats, helicopters, real estate and artwork.
By contrast, the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned and blocked boats and aircraft belonging to Russian elites worth more than $1 billion, the White House said.
The confiscations include the seizure earlier this month of a $90 million yacht owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
In addition, the department has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in assets belonging to Russian elites held in U.S. bank accounts, the White House said.
U.S. lawmakers have voiced support for stepped-up enforcement of sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies.
Critics say some of the proposed legislative changes go too far and could lead to government abuse of civil forfeiture authority.
“It’s not just aimed at ‘oligarchs’ and ‘Russian elites,’ whatever that means,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “Many of the provisions would greatly expand the government’s civil forfeiture powers in other cases, as well.”
Here is a look at the new enforcement tools the administration is seeking.
Transferring Russian assets to Ukraine
The administration’s key proposal would allow the departments of Justice, Treasury and State to hand over to Ukraine Russian assets forfeited to the U.S. government.
At present, forfeited property goes into the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeitures Fund, which is primarily used to compensate victims of crime and to fund investigations.
To empower the government to give the money to Ukraine, “multiple statutes” would have to be amended, according to the Justice Department.
These include the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a 1970 law enacted to fight organized crime.
Garland said during the House hearing that the proposed changes would make it “easier” to transfer seized Russian assets to Ukraine.
Seizing property used to evade sanctions
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the primary U.S. sanctions statue, proceeds from violating sanctions are subject to forfeiture to the government.
The administration wants Congress to amend the 1977 law, extending the government’s authority to forfeit – or take ownership of – “property used to facilitate sanctions violations,” not just “proceeds of the offenses.”
The IEEPA authorizes the president to impose sanctions on foreign actors, including individuals and government officials.
Defining sanctions evasion as ‘racketeering activity’
The administration wants sanctions evasion to be defined as a “racketeering activity” under RICO.
Famously used in the 1980s to bring down mob leaders, the law includes a long list of crimes as racketeering, from bribery and money laundering to drug trafficking and kidnapping.
The proposed change “would extend a powerful forfeiture tool against racketeering enterprises engaged in sanctions evasion,” according to the Justice Department.
Creating a new criminal offense
The proposal would create a new criminal offense, making it illegal to possess proceeds obtained from “corrupt dealings” with the Russian government.
Smith said the proposed creation of a new offense is “scary.”
“How are ‘corrupt dealings’ to be defined?” he wrote in an email to VOA. “Presumably to make it as easy as possible for the government to seize and forfeit ‘oligarchs’ assets.”
Extending the time limit for prosecuting oligarchs
The proposal would extend the so-called statutes of limitations for prosecuting money laundering and seeking forfeiture of their assets from five years to 10 years. A statute of limitations limits the prosecution of an offense within a specified time.
Conducting such investigations can be complicated and time-consuming.
“Extending the statute of limitations would provide additional time for investigators and prosecutors to hold oligarchs criminally accountable,” the White House said in a statement.
RFE/RL journalist Vira Hyrych has died in Kyiv after a Russian air strike hit the residential building where she lived in the Ukrainian capital.
Hyrych’s body was found early in the morning on April 29 amid the wreckage of the building, which was hit by a Russian missile the night before, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Kyiv on April 28 as air strikes hit the capital, including the apartment block.
Videos and pictures from the site showed the lower floors of the building heavily damaged. Cars in the area had their windows blown out.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed “long-range, high-precision” missiles had hit factory buildings in Kyiv of Ukrainian rocket manufacturer Artem on April 28.
Ukrainian officials have not commented on whether the factory had been hit during the attack.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram on April 29 that one body had been retrieved from the rubble and another 10 people had been injured in the strikes. He gave no further details.
Hyrych, born in 1967, began working for RFE/RL in February 2018. Before that she worked at a leading television channel in Ukraine.
«ЗРК С-300 ефективно виконує свою роботу проти значної частини об’єктів російських окупантів і може збивати літаки, крилаті й балістичні ракети на дистанції від 5 до 150 км»
Торгівля людьми, гендерне насильство: правозахисники заявили про ризики для біженців з України в Польщі
Правозахисники кажуть, що виявили непослідовні заходи захисту і відсутність координації з боку уряду, що посилює ризики насильства, особливо для жінок і дівчат
Редакція Радіо Свобода висловлює співчуття родині Віри Гирич і буде згадувати її як світлу і добру людину, справжнього професіонала
The European Union has warned its members that paying for Russian gas in rubles would breach sanctions on Moscow. Russia on Wednesday cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. As Henry Ridgwell reports, some EU states have set up Russian bank accounts to try to work around the sanctions.
The United States has not seen many signs that Russia-Ukraine negotiations are “proving fruitful” as Moscow’s war on the country enters its third month, said a senior State Department official.
“The Russians don’t seem to be willing to negotiate in a particularly meaningful way,” State Department Counselor Derek Chollet told VOA in an interview Thursday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Ukraine on Thursday after a stop Tuesday in Moscow, where he met for nearly two hours with President Vladimir Putin.
Chollet said that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Guterres before his trip to Moscow and Kyiv, and that the U.S. looks forward to hearing from the U.N. chief to see whether there is a way forward toward peace.
In Congress, proposed legislation scrutinizing China’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. If adopted, the Assessing Xi’s Interference and Subversion Act would require the State Department to submit ongoing reports.
The U.S. has not witnessed China providing weapons and supplies to Russia, but it is watching closely, American officials said.
“China will pay a price if it is seen as assisting Russia — either providing a direct assistance, particularly military assistance, or assisting Russia in evading sanctions,” Chollet told VOA.
He warns that the “cooperation space” between the U.S. and China is “dwindling,” just as Blinken is expected to elaborate on a U.S. approach toward China “in coming days.”
The excerpts from VOA’s interview with Chollet have been edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: Today, President Biden announced a proposal to hold Russian oligarchs accountable. He’s also asking Congress for additional money to help Ukraine. … What makes today’s announcement unique from previous ones?
Chollet: This is a historic announcement of support from the United States. President Biden (asked) Congress for over $30 billion in U.S. support for Ukraine. Twenty billion of that will be towards security and defense assistance. And then there will also be humanitarian assistance and economic support. So this is yet another example of United States commitment to a strong, secure and independent Ukraine.
VOA: Also today, congressional members are voting … (on the) Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022.
Chollet: Well, what the U.S. is focused on right now is getting the supplemental assistance through the Congress that the president has just proposed, and the $30 billion is the kind of scale and scope of assistance that we think reflects (that) it’s in our interests to have a safe and secure Ukraine.
What’s been critical throughout this crisis is the bipartisan support we’ve had from Congress. And Congress has been working very closely with the administration to get Ukraine the significant support that we’ve received thus far. But again, we’re going to be quadrupling in the coming weeks if we get this $30 billion, which we believe we will, from the Congress.
VOA: Does the U.S. have an assessment on Putin’s health?
Chollet: We don’t. We obviously don’t deal with him much in person nowadays. And so we do not have an assessment on his health.
What we do have an assessment of is of the consequences of the decisions he’s making. He has made the wrong decision, we believe clearly, in prosecuting this brutal war against Ukraine. We gave him every opportunity to choose another path over many months, but we also made very clear to him that Russia and he would pay a high price if he pursued a war against Ukraine.
VOA: Has the U.S. talked to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after his meeting with Putin on Tuesday?
Chollet: We have been in very close touch with the secretary-general throughout this crisis. Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to speak with him on the phone before his trip to Moscow and Ukraine. I’m not sure if colleagues have spoken to him, since the secretary (Blinken) has not yet. But we, of course, will look forward to staying in touch with the secretary-general to hear about his trip, and if there is a possibility for a way forward on peace. We’re doubtful. We have not seen (many) signs (of) hope that negotiations are proving fruitful. The Russians don’t seem to be willing to negotiate in a particularly meaningful way.
VOA: Moving on to China’s role in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Could China face secondary sanctions if it provides material or financial support to Russia?
Chollet: Well, the United States has been very clear — President Biden in his conversations with President Xi (Jinping), Secretary Blinken in his conversations with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang (Yi) — that China will pay a price if it is seen as assisting Russia, either providing a direct assistance — particularly military assistance — or assisting Russia in evading sanctions.
China knows very well the economic consequences that it could face if it’s seen as helping Russia. China itself is suffering because of the sanctions we have placed on Russia. So we are hoping that the Chinese make a decision not to support Russia.
VOA: Is Secretary Blinken’s China speech before or after the US-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit?
Chollet: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of the secretary’s speech. He, of course, places a very high priority on our strategy towards China. We’ll look forward to speaking to that in the coming weeks.
VOA: What is the U.S. approach to PRC (People’s Republic of China)? Can (the) two countries work together after Russia’s war in Ukraine?
Chollet: The US-China relationship is a very complicated relationship. There are elements of it that are conflictual, clearly are areas where the U.S. and China are going to fundamentally disagree. There are areas of that relationship that are competitive, and the United States welcomes the competition with China as long as we are playing by the same set of rules. And there are areas of the relationship that we think, by necessity, have to be cooperative. For example, on an issue like climate change, where we are not going to be able to address the consequences of warming climate if the United States and China can’t find a way to work together. Unfortunately, that’s a dwindling space in terms of the cooperation space.
VOA: As Washington is hosting a special summit with ASEAN in May, what is the U.S. pitch to ASEAN on Ukraine?
Chollet: This ASEAN special summit … will be a historic summit. It will be the first time that ASEAN leaders have been able to meet here in Washington and will be the largest meeting of leaders here in Washington since before the pandemic. … Our pitch to our ASEAN allies and friends is the same pitch we make to all of our allies and friends around the world: There’s a clear side that we all should be on against what Russia has been doing in Ukraine. We want ASEAN friends to stand with us when it comes to isolating and punishing Russia.
VOA: How about the reported military drill between Vietnam and Russia, announced by Russian state media?
Chollet: I can’t comment specifically on that drill. I was in Hanoi a few weeks ago, had long conversations with Vietnamese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry officials about the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, which we believe has tremendous potential, and also our genuine concerns about Russia and the way forward with Russia.
Our point that we made to our Vietnam friends, which I believe they see merit in, which is that Russia is a far less attractive partner today than it was even four months ago. Russia is going to be more isolated in the world. It’s going to have an economy that’s destroyed. And frankly, its military has shown its vulnerability.
And so, if a country like Vietnam, for many decades, has had a relationship with Russia, and before that the Soviet Union. So, we realize that maybe perhaps some of the policy changes we’re asking for aren’t going to happen instantly. But nevertheless, we believe that those countries need to assess the relationship with Russia, and we’re willing to be a partner with them as they’re thinking through their security in the future.
VOA: Myanmar’s military government is showing support for Russia. Speaking of it, do you have anything on the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi?
Chollet: This was a sham judicial process, and it’s just yet another example of the junta in Myanmar that unlawfully took power in February of 2021 to use the judicial system to try to go after their political enemies. What we need to see in Myanmar is a cessation of violence. We need to see a return to democratic governance. And until we see that happen, the United States is not going to be engaging with the junta. The junta representatives will not be part of the ASEAN special summit here in Washington.
Myanmar will be represented at a nonpolitical level, like it has been in ASEAN meetings, and the junta in Myanmar knows what it needs to do. It needs to adhere to the ASEAN 5-Point Consensus and get Myanmar back on the track to democracy, not use its judiciary to have sort of sham sentences against democratically elected leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi.
«Росія знову демонструє кричущу зневагу до міжнародного права, обстрілюючи місто під час перебування в ньому генсекретаря ООН Антоніо Ґутерріша і прем’єра Болгарії Кирила Петкова»
Menthol cigarettes and other menthol tobacco products may soon be things of the past, according to an announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday saying authorities are moving forward on a plan to ban them.
It could still be years before the products are removed from stores.
“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Advocates for banning menthol tobacco products have long said they disproportionately impact African Americans, among whom they’re popular. It is estimated that 85% of African American smokers use menthol products.
“Black folks die disproportionately of heart disease, lung cancer and stroke,” said Phillip Gardiner of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “Menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are the main vectors of those diseases in the Black and brown communities and have been for a long time.”
Experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say menthol cigarettes are more dangerous than regular cigarettes because their minty flavoring masks the harshness of tobacco smoke, allowing for deeper inhalation and possibly more intense smoking habits. They also say more than half of smokers between the ages of 12 and 17 use menthol tobacco products.
Some states such as California and Massachusetts have already banned menthol tobacco products.
Members of the public will be allowed to give their input on the proposed ban until July 5, after which the FDA will finalize a plan.
Tobacco companies are likely to launch legal efforts to prevent banning menthol tobacco products.
Cigarette stocks were mixed on the news despite menthol tobacco products reportedly accounting for one-third of the market in the United States.
It is estimated that 12% of Americans smoke cigarettes.
Some information in this report comes from Reuters and The Associated Press.