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Кулеба назвав атаки українських міст «ракетним тероризмом» Росії

Ввечері 4 травня російські війська завдали ракетних ударів по Дніпру, Черкасах, Миколаєву, Кропивницькому та Київській області.

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Росіянам можуть заборонити купувати нерухомість в Євросоюзі – ЗМІ

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US Central Bank Boosts Key Interest Rate by Half Percentage Point

The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, raised its benchmark interest rate by a half percentage point on Wednesday and scaled back its support for the American economy, a pointed effort to curb surging inflation in the world’s largest economy.

The interest rate increase, pushing its federal-funds rate to a target range between 0.75% and 1%, was the largest since 2000, and could quickly ricochet through the U.S. economy, increasing borrowing rates for businesses and consumers alike, with the goal of curbing spending and cutting inflation. The Fed usually increases interest rates in quarter-point increments.

The cost of consumer goods has been spiraling for months in the U.S., and an 8.5% year-over-year increase was recorded in March, the biggest jump in four decades. U.S. consumers are paying sharply higher prices for food, housing and gasoline at service stations, squeezing family budgets.

Aside from increasing the interest rate, the Fed said that starting next month it would scale back its $9 trillion asset portfolio in another move to curb inflation.

After a two-day meeting in Washington, the Fed said in a statement, “The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is causing tremendous human and economic hardship. The implications for the U.S. economy are highly uncertain.”

It added, “The invasion and related events are creating additional upward pressure on inflation and are likely to weigh on economic activity. In addition, COVID-related lockdowns in China are likely to exacerbate supply chain disruptions” in world trade.

After the meeting, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference that “inflation is much too high, and we understand the hardship it is causing.”

But he said the Federal Reserve has various measures it can take over the coming months to bring the inflation rate to the Fed’s 2% average target, but not so fast that it sends the U.S. economy into a recession.

Ahead of this week’s meeting, policymakers had already said they could raise interest rates several more times through the end of 2022 to slow the surge in consumer prices.

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Report: Iran to Execute Swedish-Iranian National by May 21

Iran will later this month execute a Swedish-Iranian national whom it has imprisoned since 2016 and convicted of spying for Israel, media reported.

Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency on Wednesday released a report in which Iranian officials stated that Tehran will implement the death penalty against Ahmad Reza Jalali by May 21.

Jalali, a researcher and physician who specializes in disaster relief, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016. In 2017, Jalali was sentenced to death in Iran after he had been found guilty of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel to help it assassinate several nuclear scientists.

Rights groups have condemned Jalali’s detention, citing Iran’s pattern of detaining dual nationals and expatriates without due process.

Iran does not recognize dual nationals.

The announcement came as authorities in Stockholm wrapped up the trial of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian prosecution official whom Swedish officials arrested in November 2019.

Authorities say Nouri played a role in the deaths of political prisoners executed on Iranian government orders at Iran’s Gohardasht prison during the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Nouri has been held in custody in Sweden since his arrest.

On Wednesday, the final day of Nouri’s trial, a Stockholm district court judge set the date of the verdict for July 14.

Amnesty International put the number of those executed at the prison at 5,000 but said in a 2018 report that the number could be higher.

Human Rights Watch, in a recent report, said, “Iran continues to be one of the world’s leading implementers of the death penalty.”

If Nouri is convicted, he will face a maximum life sentence on charges of international war crimes and human rights abuses. Iran recently summoned the Swedish envoy in protest over Nouri’s case.

Maja Aberg, senior policy adviser with Amnesty International Sweden, says it is no coincidence that Iran announced Jalali’s pending execution just after Swedish prosecutors moved on Nouri’s trial.

“It indicates that (Iran) sees him as a kind of piece in the jigsaw puzzle, which is very worrying,” Aberg told Sweden’s TT news agency.

Swedish law allows for the prosecution of Swedish citizens and other nationals for crimes against international law committed abroad.

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

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Над Донбасом збили два російські літаки Су-30 – штаб ООС

Протягом 4 травня українські військовослужбовці успішно відбили 11 атак російських військ, кажуть у штабі ООС

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Blinken Tests Positive for COVID, State Department Says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19 and will shift to a virtual work schedule, the State Department said. 

“The Secretary is fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus and is experiencing only mild symptoms,” the department said in a statement. 

Blinken has not seen President Joe Biden in person for several days and Biden is not considered a close contact, it said. 

Spokesman Ned Price said that Blinken would no longer deliver a long-awaited speech on China policy scheduled for Thursday. 

“He looks forward to returning to the Department and resuming his full duties and travels as soon as possible,” the statement said. 

Blinken was among the guests who packed into a Washington hotel on Saturday evening for the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. 

Trevor Noah, the comedian who introduced Biden, joked about the dinner being a “super-spreader” event.

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Former Leader of Independent Belarus Dies   

Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of an independent Belarus and one of the signatories of the accords that formally dissolved the Soviet Union, has died at the age of 87.

His wife Irina told Agence France-Presse that Shushkevich passed away Tuesday in the capital Minsk. He had been hospitalized in intensive care last month after contracting COVID-19.

The former electrical engineer was serving as interim chairman of the Supreme Soviet, or parliament, of what was then known as Byelorussia when the country voted to secede from the Soviet Union in September 1991, one month after the failed coup to remove then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev from power. Shushkevich was elected permanent chairman of the Supreme Soviet on September 18.

Nearly three months later, on December 8, Shushkevich met then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin and then-President Leonid Kravchuk at a resort in western Belarus and co-signed the Belavezha Accords, which ended the Soviet Union’s existence after nearly 70 years while creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. Gorbachev subsequently resigned as the final leader of the USSR more than two weeks later on Christmas Day.

In an interview with VOA in 2016, Shushkevich dismissed Gorbachev’s accusation that the men signed the accord because they were power hungry as “complete rubbish.”

Shushkevich served as head of state until January 1994, when he was removed by a vote of confidence after he was accused of corruption by Alexander Lukashenko, then chairman of a parliamentary anti-corruption committee. Several months later, Shushkevich came in a distant fourth place in Belarus’ first presidential election behind Lukashenko, who won the second round in a landslide.

Shushkevich became a strident critic of Lukashenko and his autocratic regime, which has remained in power since 1994.

In an interview with VOA in 2016, Shushkevich said the Belavezha Accords averted a civil war in the Soviet Union similar to the one that led to the demise of Yugoslavia. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to restore the old Russian Empire, instead of the Soviet Empire.

“He wants to make Russia dominate those lands and those countries that it used to dominate,” Shushkevich said.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Transfer of US-Procured Afghan Helicopters to Ukraine Underway

The United States is giving Ukraine 16 Mi-17 helicopters that Washington had procured for Afghanistan, a U.S. government agency charged with monitoring Afghan events said Wednesday.

The Department of Defense (DOD) notified Congress in January that it intended to give the Ukrainian government five of the Russian-built helicopters, which had been undergoing maintenance at a Ukrainian facility.

“Ukraine accepted these excess defense articles on March 11,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) noted in its quarterly report submitted to U.S. lawmakers this week.

The report added: “In mid-April, President (Joe) Biden announced a military assistance package to Ukraine that included an additional 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had been scheduled for Afghanistan.”

Mi-17s are mostly used to carry troops and military equipment. Ukraine is one of the former Soviet Union republics which hosts production and repair facilities for the helicopters.

US equipment left in Afghanistan

In its report this week, the

SIGAR also confirmed reports that the fall of the Western-backed Afghan government last August gave the country’s new Taliban rulers access to more than $7 billion worth of U.S. Department of Defense equipment.

“DOD estimates that $7.12 billion worth of ANDSF equipment remained in Afghanistan in varying states of repair when U.S. forces withdrew in August 2021,” the report said in reference to the U.S.-trained and funded former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The SIGAR also clarified, citing the Pentagon data, that $18.6 billion worth of ANDSF equipment was procured through the U.S. Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) since 2005 — not the $80 billion reported by some media. Much of that equipment was destroyed during combat operation, it added.

The equipment includes aircraft, vehicles, munitions, guns and communication equipment, as well as other gear, “in varying states of repair,” according to Pentagon spokesperson Army Major Rob Lodewick.

“Nearly all equipment used by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan was either retrograded or destroyed prior to our withdrawal,” Lodewick said in a statement last week.

Pentagon officials also told VOA that only a sliver of U.S.-owned and operated equipment was left behind when the last U.S. troops departed Afghanistan, estimating its value at just more than $150 million before it was destroyed or otherwise rendered inoperable.

The Taliban seized power from the now-defunct Afghan government in mid-August 2021. U.S.-led foreign troops finished withdrawing from Afghanistan on August 30 after nearly two decades of war with Taliban insurgents.

Afghan air force personnel also flew almost 50 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to neighboring Uzbekistan as the Taliban took control of the country in a lightning 11-day military offensive. Several more aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters were taken to neighboring Tajikistan to prevent them from falling into Taliban hands.

The SIGAR report quoted the Taliban air force commander and former Afghan Air Force (AAF) personnel as saying that about 4,300 members, half of the former AAF, have joined the Taliban’s air force, including 33 pilots.

“Only a fraction of the 81 aircraft at the Kabul military airport are functional, including six repaired UH-60 Blackhawks,” the report said.

Humanitarian assistance

Meanwhile, the SIGAR report said that the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had paused the majority of development assistance programs in Afghanistan during August and September 2021. Since then, more than a dozen programs have restarted to address critical needs of the Afghan people.

“Efforts in these areas are being implemented through NGOs, international organizations, and other third parties, minimizing benefit to the Taliban to the extent possible,” the report noted.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 23 million people in Afghanistan, ravaged by years of war and the worst drought in three decades, are in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated nearly 9 million of them remain at risk of famine-like conditions.

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 3.2 million children in Afghanistan will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022, with one million severely malnourished children at risk of death if immediate action is not taken.

The Biden administration on March 31 pledged more than $204 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, according to the SIGAR. This is in addition to $308 million announced on January 11. The U.S. humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region since October 2020 now totals nearly $986 million.

VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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Віллу російського олігарха Фрідмана в Сен-Тропе, яку знайшли «Схеми», заморозили через санкції

Генеральне казначейство Франції внесло віллу Copab в Сен-Тропе до переліку «заморожених» російських активів у Франції

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Міноборони зараз не бачить «величезної загрози» для України з боку Придністров’я

«Там непроста ситуація… Генеральний штаб уважно моніторить ситуацію і слідкує за тим, що там відбувається»

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«Це – маячня»: Росія заперечує плани Путіна «оголосити війну» Україні 9 травня

«Маячнею» в Кремлі також назвають інформацію, що президент Росії може оголосити мобілізацію 9 травня

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Automakers, Appliance Manufacturers Struggle to Find Computer Chips Amid Shortage

Cars stuck on the assembly line. Delays in the delivery of dishwashers, refrigerators and game consoles. Consumers and businesses are feeling the pinch of the semiconductor shortage. The war in Ukraine could make the situation worse. Michelle Quinn reports.

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French Left Agrees in Principle on Rare Coalition Deal to Take on Macron 

France’s Socialist Party and the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party reached an agreement in principle on Wednesday to form an alliance for June’s parliamentary election.

The coalition pact, which the Greens and Communists agreed to earlier this week, is an attempt to deprive Macron of a majority in parliament in the June 12-19 vote and block his pro-business agenda, after he was re-elected president in April.

“We can and will beat Emmanuel Macron and we can do it with a majority to govern for a radical program,” LFI lawmaker Adrien Quatennens told Franceinfo radio.

If the agreement between the LFI and the Socialists is confirmed, the French left will be united for the first time in 20 years.

The deal was shaped under the leadership of LFI’s firebrand chief Jean-Luc Melenchon, who broke from the Socialist Party in 2008 after failing to dilute its pro-European Union stance. He wants to “disobey” the bloc’s rules on budget and competition issues and challenge its free-market principles.

A source in the Socialist Party (PS) said that there was agreement on who would run in what constituency and on overall strategy, but that negotiators still needed to finalize details of the joint program itself.

In particular, the wording on what the platform for the new alliance, which will run under the banner of the “Social and Ecological People’s Union,” would say on Europe was still being debated, sources said.

The deal would then need to be approved by the PS’s national committee.

‘Complicated’

Policies of the new alliance include plans to lower the retirement age to 60, raise the minimum wage and cap prices on essential products.

If confirmed Melenchon’s success in striking a deal with the Socialists, so far, the dominant force on the left, would mark a turning point for a party that gave the country two presidents since World War Two and has been a driving force for European integration.

PS veterans, including former party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, have already called on fellow members to block the deal, saying it could mark the end of a pro-EU force on the left.

“It will be complicated to get it approved in the national committee,” Corinne Narassiguin, a former PS lawmaker, told Reuters.

But the Socialists had little leeway in the talks. Their candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, garnered a meager 1.75% of votes cast in last month’s presidential ballot. However, they still control many local authorities.

In a sign of the Socialist Party’s collapse, a source close to the talks said the deal — which sees only one lawmaker from each party that joins the alliance run in any constituency — foresees that the PS would only have 70 candidates in mainland France, and possibly a few more in overseas territories.

The French lower house has 577 lawmakers.

A recent Harris Interactive poll showed a united left and an alliance between Macron’s party and the conservatives neck and neck, with each garnering 33% of the legislative vote. However, in France’s two round election system, projections show this could still translate into a majority of seats for Macron.

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Biden Urges Supplemental Ukraine Funding on Visit to Missile Facility

President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited an Alabama facility that manufactures weapons he said were key to fending off Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He also pushed his request for $33 billion in supplemental aid for Ukraine. This report from VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell.

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«Метінвест» прокоментувала обстріл її заводу в Авдіївці

Компанія стверджує, що перевела персонал на дистанційну роботу, на місці лишалися фахівці, які забезпечують зберігання потужностей АКХЗ під час війни

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Гайдай розповів про ситуацію на Луганщині. Біля Рубіжного через обстріли військ РФ загинув священник

Раніше сьогодні штаб ООС повідомив, що минулої доби армія РФ обстріляла 18 населених пунктів Донбасу, 19 людей загинули

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Pope’s Ukraine Diplomacy a Political and Spiritual Tightrope

His appeals for an Orthodox Easter truce in Ukraine went unheeded. His planned meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was canceled. A proposed visit to Moscow? Nyet. Even his attempt to showcase Russian-Ukrainian friendship fell flat.

Pope Francis hasn’t made much of a diplomatic mark in Russia’s war in Ukraine, seemingly unable to capitalize on his moral authority, soft power or direct line to Moscow to nudge an end to the bloodshed or at least a cease-fire.

Rather, Francis has found himself in the unusual position of having to explain his refusal to call out Russia or President Vladimir Putin by name — popes don’t do that, he said — and to defend his “very good” relations with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has justified the war on spiritual grounds.

While the long list of dead ends would indicate a certain ineffectiveness, it is par for the course for the Vatican’s unique brand of diplomacy that straddles geopolitical realities with spiritual priorities, even when they conflict. And in the case of Ukraine, they have: Francis has sought to be a pastor to his local flock in Ukraine, incessantly calling for peace, sending cardinals in with humanitarian aid and even reportedly proposing that a Vatican-flagged ship evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol.

But he has also kept alive the Holy See’s longer-term policy goal of healing relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which split from Rome along with the rest of Orthodoxy over 1,000 years ago. Up until recently, Francis held out hope that he would secure a second meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill, even while Moscow bombed Ukrainian civilians.

Francis recently revealed that their planned June meeting in Jerusalem had been called off, because Vatican diplomats thought it would send a “confusing” message. But he also told an Italian newspaper Tuesday that he had offered to go to Moscow to meet with Putin, and wondered aloud if NATO’s eastward expansion hadn’t provoked the war.

To his critics, Francis’ continued outreach to Moscow even amid reported atrocities harks back to the perceived silence of Pope Pius XII, criticized by some Jewish groups for failing to speak out sufficiently against the Holocaust. The Vatican insists Pius’ quiet diplomacy helped save lives.

“Francis is doing what he can, with the right priorities, to stop the war, stop people from suffering,” said Anne Leahy, who was Canada’s ambassador to the Holy See from 2008-12 and ambassador to Russia in the late 1990s.

“But he’s keeping channels of communication open in every way he can. Even if it doesn’t work, I think the idea is to keep trying,” she said.

Leahy noted that a pope must have as a top priority this Gospel-mandated objective to unify Christians, and that relations with the Orthodox therefore must remain at the forefront.

“Diplomacy is at the service of the church’s mission, and not the other way around,” she said in a telephone interview.

At times, Francis’ words and gestures seem contradictory: One day he sits down for a videoconference with Kirill that is prominently featured on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church with a statement saying both sides had expressed hope for a “just peace.” Three weeks later, he kisses a battered Ukrainian flag brought to him from Bucha, where Ukrainian civilians were found shot to death with their hands bound.

The Vatican has a long tradition of this dual-faceted diplomacy. During the Cold War, the policy of “Ostpolitik” meant that the Vatican kept up channels of communication with the same Communist governments that were persecuting the faithful on the ground, often to the dismay of the local church.

Francis’ decision to continue with the “classic Vatican diplomacy of Ostpolitik, of dialoguing with the enemy and not closing the door, is debatable,” said the Rev. Stefano Caprio, professor of church history at the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

“Those who are upset that the pope isn’t defending them more are right, but those from the diplomatic side who say ‘We can’t throw away these relations’ are also right. They are obviously in contradiction,” he said.

“But since we’re not talking about an argument of faith — we aren’t talking about the persons of the Holy Trinity — you can have opinions that differ from the pope,” he added.

In some ways, Francis’ role on the sidelines of the Ukraine conflict can be traced to his position when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and the Holy See appeared at least publicly neutral, despite appeals from Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who are a minority in the majority Orthodox country, for Francis to strongly condemn Moscow.

Instead, Francis described the ensuing conflict as the fruit of “fratricidal violence,” as if both sides were equally to blame and that the conflict was an internal Ukrainian matter.

“My experience in 2014 is that the existence of the (Ukrainian) Greek Catholics was seemingly an embarrassment and a frustration with the Holy Father and the Holy See,” said John McCarthy, who was Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican at the time. “Their priority was the relationship with the Russian Orthodox” and securing a meeting with Kirill.

Francis eventually obtained that long-sought meeting, embracing Kirill in a VIP room of the Havana, Cuba, airport on Feb. 12, 2016, in the first meeting between a pope with the Russian patriarch since the 1054 Schism.

The two men signed a joint statement that was hailed by the Holy See at the time as a breakthrough in ecumenical relations. But it enraged Ukraine’s Greek Catholics because, among other things, it referred to them as an “ecclesial community” as if they were a separate church not in communion with Rome, and didn’t mention Russia’s role in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Fast forward to 2022, and Francis again upset the local Ukrainian church: The Vatican had proposed that a Ukrainian and Russian woman carry the cross together during the Vatican’s torchlit Good Friday procession at the Colosseum. The gesture, which preceded Francis’ unheeded Easter appeal for a truce, was an attempt to show the possibility of future Russian-Ukrainian reconciliation.

But the Ukrainian ambassador objected, and the head of Ukraine’s Greek Orthodox faithful, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, decried the proposal as “inopportune and ambiguous,” since it didn’t take into consideration the fact that Russia had invaded Ukraine.

In the end, the Vatican compromised: The women carried the cross but instead of reading aloud a meditation that had called for reconciliation, stood together in silent prayer.

Leahy, the former Canadian ambassador, said the outcome was a classic example of papal pastoral care bridging Vatican diplomacy: Francis listened to Shevchuk’s complaint and modified the ritual, while keeping his broader agenda of dialogue with Russia alive.

Recalling the word “pontiff” derives from the Italian word for “bridge,” she said: “It’s the job of a diplomat, and certainly of a supreme pontiff who has the word ‘bridge’ written in his name, to keep the channels open.”

The Rev. Roberto Regoli, a professor of church history and an expert in papal diplomacy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said those diplomatic channels with the Orthodox are important now, but also in the future when eventually Ukraine will have to be rebuilt.

“The reconstruction of a country … requires the involvement of all forces, even religious ones,” he said. “So, keeping these channels open is useful for the present but even more for the future, because it will take decades to rebuild.”

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ЗСУ відтіснили російські війська, дозволивши відновити зв’язок у Херсоні – голова Держспецзв’язку

«Було перебито волоконно-оптичну мережу між Херсоном і Миколаєвом, близько 20 кілометрів від міста Миколаїв, постійно там велися обстріли»

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Families of Crash Victims Challenge Boeing Settlement in US Court

The families of victims of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 asked a Texas judge on Tuesday to overturn a $2.5 billion settlement between the aircraft manufacturer and the U.S. government.  

Under that agreement, Boeing admitted to having committed fraud in exchange for the Department of Justice dropping some of the proceedings against it over the deadly crashes of Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines, which killed 346 people total and caused the MAX to be grounded globally for 20 months.  

This January 7, 2021, arrangement was the focus of a court hearing Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas. 

“They messed up by making the crime fraud rather than manslaughter,” said Catherine Berthet, a French woman who lost her 28-year-old daughter when the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019. 

“We believe that the rights of the victims’ families have not been respected,” she told AFP. “We have not been consulted. We ask to be heard.” 

The January 2021 agreement included a $500 million compensation fund for victims’ relatives, $1.77 billion in compensation to the airlines and a $243 million criminal fine.  

Boeing has admitted that two of its employees had misled a group within the Federal Aviation Administration that was to prepare training for pilots in using Boeing’s new MCAS flight software, which was implicated in both crashes. 

“The judge listened carefully, and I think had a lot of concerns about how was it that the Justice Department can seal this agreement from the families,” said Paul Cassell, lawyer for the families in the audience. 

Relatives of the victims are now hoping for a quick decision from the Fort Worth judge. 

“It’s been three years and I never go to sleep before four or five in the morning,” Berthet said. “I still have panic attacks. There are things I don’t do anymore. There are films that I can no longer see, music that I can no longer listen to.” 

“I would like to see that the U.S. Department of Justice is responsible enough to make sure that corporations don’t get away with murder,” said Paul Njoroge, who lost his 33-year-old wife, his children ages 9 months, and 4 and 6 years old, as well as his mother-in-law in the Ethiopia crash.