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Posted by Ukrap on

Гурт Kalush Orchestra зі сцени «Євробачення» закликав світ підтримати Маріуполь та «Азовсталь»

«Save Mariupol, save Azovstal now», – закликав Олег Псюк зі сцени під час пісенного конкурсу «Євробачення»

Posted by Ukrap on

Нова президентка Угорщини засудила агресію Путіна і розповіла, на які жертви Будапешт готовий заради миру

«Як члени ЄС і НАТО, ми виконуємо свої зобов’язання, і коли ми маємо право сказати «ні» рішенню і того вимагають інтереси Угорщини, ми кажемо «ні» – сказала Каталін Новак

Posted by Worldkrap on

At Least 10 Dead in Shooting at New York Supermarket 

A gunman sporting a rifle and body armor opened fire in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing at least 10 people before being taken into custody Saturday afternoon, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. 

Details on the number of additional people shot at the Tops Friendly Market and their conditions weren’t immediately available. The two officials were not permitted to speak publicly on the matter and did so on the condition of anonymity. 

Investigators believe the man may have been livestreaming the shooting and were looking into whether he had posted a manifesto online, the official said. The official cautioned the investigation was in its preliminary stages and that authorities hadn’t yet discerned a clear motive but were investigating whether the shooting was racially motivated. 

The supermarket is in a predominantly Black neighborhood, about 5 kilometers north of downtown Buffalo. The surrounding area is primarily residential, with a Family Dollar store and fire station near the store. 

Buffalo police confirmed the shooter was in custody but did not identify him. Police officials and a spokesperson for the supermarket chain did not immediately respond to messages from the AP seeking comment. 

Witnesses reported the gunman was wearing military-style clothing in addition to the body armor, one of the officials said 

Braedyn Kephart and Shane Hill, both 20, pulled into the parking lot just as the shooter was leaving. They described him as a white male in his late teens or early 20s sporting camouflage clothing, a black helmet and what appeared to be a rifle. 

“He was standing there with the gun to his chin. We were like what the heck is going on? Why does this kid have a gun to his face?” Kephart said. He dropped to his knees. “He ripped off his helmet, dropped his gun, and was tackled by the police.” 

Police closed off the block, lined with spectators, and yellow police tape surrounded the full parking lot. Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz were at the scene late Saturday afternoon, gathered in a parking lot across the street from the Tops store and expected to address the media. 

Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted that she was “closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo,” her hometown. She said state officials have offered help to local authorities. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office said on social media that it ordered all available personnel to assist Buffalo police. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting, Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said. 

The shooting came little more than a year after a March 2021 attack at a King Soopers grocery in Boulder, Colorado, that killed 10 people. Investigators have not released any information about why they believe the man charged in that attack targeted the supermarket. 

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US Abortion Rights Activists Start ‘Summer of Rage’ With Saturday Protests

Abortion rights supporters will protest in cities across the United States on Saturday, kicking off what organizers said would be “a summer of rage” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Planned Parenthood, Women’s March and other abortion rights groups organized more than 300 “Bans Off Our Bodies” marches for Saturday, with the largest turnouts expected in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago.

The demonstrations are in response to the May 2 leak of a draft opinion showing the court’s conservative majority ready to reverse the 1973 landmark decision that established a federal constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The court’s final ruling, which could give states the power to ban abortion, is expected in June. About half of U.S. states could ban or severely restrict abortion soon after a ruling vacating Roe.  

Organizers said they anticipated hundreds of thousands of people to participate in Saturday’s events, which they said would be the first of many coordinated protests around the Supreme Court’s decision.

“For the women of this country, this will be a summer of rage,” said Rachel Carmona, president of Women’s March. “We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, until the attacks on our bodies let up, until the right to an abortion is codified into law.”

Democrats, who currently hold the White House and both chambers of Congress, hope that backlash to the Supreme Court decision will carry their party’s candidates to victory in the November midterm elections.  

But voters will be weighing abortion rights against other issues such as the soaring prices of food and gas, and they may be skeptical of Democrats’ ability to protect abortion access after efforts to pass legislation that would enshrine abortion rights in federal law failed. 

On Saturday, demonstrators in New York City plan to march across the Brooklyn Bridge, while protesters in Washington will meet at the Washington Monument and then head to the Supreme Court. Los Angeles protesters planned to meet at City Hall, and a group in Austin was to convene at Texas’ state capitol.

In the past week, protesters have gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, who have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the leaked opinion.

Students for Life of America, an anti-abortion advocacy group with campus chapters across the country, said it was holding counter protests on Saturday in nine U.S. cities, including in Washington.

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G7 to Continue Economic Pressure on Russia, Tackle ‘Wheat War’

Group of Seven foreign ministers vowed on Saturday to reinforce Russia’s economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons to Ukraine and tackle what Germany’s foreign minister described as a “wheat war” being waged by Moscow.

After meeting at a 400-year-old castle estate in the Baltic Sea resort of Weissenhaus, senior diplomats from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union also pledged to continue their military and defense assistance for “as long as necessary.”

They would also tackle what they called Russian misinformation aimed at blaming the West for food supply issues around the world due to economic sanctions on Moscow and urged China to not assist Moscow or justify Russia’s war, according to a joint statement.

“Have we done enough to mitigate the consequences of this war? It is not our war. It’s a war by the president of Russia, but we have global responsibility,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters at a closing news conference.

Key to putting more pressure on Russia is to ban or phase out buying Russian oil with EU member states expected next week to reach an agreement on the issue even if it remains at this stage opposed by Hungary.

“We will expedite our efforts to reduce and end reliance on Russian energy supplies and as quickly as possible, building on G-7 commitments to phase out or ban imports of Russian coal and oil,” the statement said.

The ministers said they would add further sanctions on Russian elites, including economic actors, central government institutions and the military, which enable President Vladimir Putin “to lead his war of choice.”

The meeting in northern Germany, which the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Moldova attended, also spotlighted food security concerns and fears that the war in Ukraine could spill over into its smaller neighbor Moldova.

“People will be dying in Africa and the Middle East and we are faced with an urgent question: how can people be fed around the world? People are asking themselves what will happen if we don’t have the grain we need that we used to get from Russia and Ukraine,” Baerbock said.

She added that the G-7 would work on finding logistical solutions to get vital commodities out of Ukraine storage before the next harvests.

Attention now turns to Berlin as ministers meet later on Saturday with Sweden and Finland gearing up to apply for membership of the transatlantic alliance, drawing threats of retaliation from Moscow and objections from NATO member Turkey.

“It is important that we have a consensus,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told reporters when asked about Turkey possibly blocking their accession.

Putin calls the invasion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and its allies say Russia launched an unprovoked war.

“More of the same,” EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters. “The one thing that is missing is pushing for a diplomatic engagement to get a ceasefire. It is missing because Vladimir Putin has been saying to everybody that he doesn’t want to stop the war.”

Posted by Worldkrap on

Putin Warns Finland Joining NATO Would Be ‘Mistake’

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart that it would be a “mistake” for Finland to join NATO, according to statement from the Kremlin.

The two leaders spoke by phone on Saturday as U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell led a delegation of Republican senators on a visit to Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the visit was a powerful signal of bipartisan American support for Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian presidential administration.

Meanwhile, Russian troops began withdrawing from the heavily contested northeastern city of Kharkiv after weeks of shelling. The Ukrainian military said Russian troops are pulling back from Ukraine’s second-largest city and are focusing on protecting supply routes, while launching attacks in the eastern Donetsk region to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications.”

Ukraine “appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said.

Phone call

The call between Finland President Sauli Niinisto and Putin about the Scandanavian country’s desire to join NATO was initiated by Finland, according to a statement released by Niinisto’s office.

“The conversation was direct and straightforward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office.

A Kremlin statement released after the call said Putin told Niinisto that abandoning Finland’s policy of neutrality would have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations.

Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Thursday that they want the country to join NATO “without delay,” a move that would be a major policy shift for the traditionally neutral country in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin statement said.

Sweden, another traditionally neutral Scandinavian country, is also expected to ask to join NATO in the coming days.

The possible expansion of NATO will be a focus of talks Saturday, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Berlin for an informal NATO foreign ministerial meeting.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday his country does not support Finland and Sweden joining NATO, citing their support of what Turkey considers terrorist organizations, such as Kurdish militant groups.

“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul. Any NATO enlargement requires the unanimous consent of the existing members.

US stance

U.S. officials said they were working to “clarify Turkey’s position,” while reiterating that the “United States would support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden should they choose to apply.”

“We strongly support NATO’s Open Door policy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters Friday. “I think that it’s important to remember that a fundamental principle the U.S. is defending in terms of its support for Ukraine is the right of every sovereign country to decide its own future foreign and security policy arrangement.”

Both Sweden’s and Finland’s foreign ministers will be participating in the North Atlantic Council informal dinner Saturday in Berlin. From Germany, Blinken heads to France on Sunday, where he will attend the second ministerial meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, known as the TTC.

U.S. President Joe Biden talked with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s Niinistö on Friday.

“President Biden underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangement,” the White House said in a readout of the call, adding the leaders “reiterated their shared commitment to continued coordination in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people affected by the war.”

Impact of NATO expansion

The German Marshall Fund’s Michael Kimmage told VOA that Finland’s joining NATO would shake up the security order in Europe, both for NATO and for Russia.

“It’s a very, very long border, and of course it brings NATO very close to — or will bring NATO if it all goes through — very close to St. Petersburg. And at the same time, it will give NATO a lot more territory right on the Russian border to defend. So those are big steps. Those are big changes,” Kimmage said.

Russia has warned against NATO expansion and said Finland’s and Sweden’s joining would bring “serious military and political consequences.”

“The expansion of NATO and the approach of the alliance to our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, for the first time since Feb. 18.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that Austin “urged an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.”

US aid to Ukraine

Austin also spoke Friday with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov about Ukraine’s “evolving battlefield needs.”

“Secretary Austin highlighted the President’s May 6 announcement of $150 million in Presidential Drawdown Authority to provide Ukraine’s Armed Forces with artillery, counter-artillery radars, and electronic jamming equipment,” Kirby said in a statement.

“Minister Reznikov shared his assessment of the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine.”

War crimes trial

In Ukraine, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was brought before a Kyiv court Friday, in the first war crimes proceeding since the war began.

Ukrainian prosecutors say Vadim Shishimarin fired several shots from a car in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine on Feb. 28, just days after the conflict began, killing an unarmed 62-year-old man who was pushing a bike on the side of the road.

Ukraine’s government says it is investigating more than 10,000 war crimes involving Russian forces, with cases of torture and mutilation having often been revealed after Russian forces left a Ukrainian city, as in the case of Bucha.

Russia has denied committing war crimes in Ukraine, and the Kremlin on Friday said it had no knowledge of the trial.

Putin-Scholz call

In Moscow, Russian President Vladmir Putin on Friday spoke by phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the stalled Ukrainian-Russian peace talks.

In a tweet, the German leader said he had called during the 75-minute conversation for an immediate cease-fire, countered the Russian claim “that Nazis are in power” as false and also reminded Putin “about Russia’s responsibility for the global food situation.”

G-7 meeting

The call came as G-7 ministers meeting in Germany pledged unity and more weapons and aid to Ukraine.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced an additional $520 million worth of military support to Ukraine for heavy weaponry, while expressing hope that member states would agree to a Russian oil embargo.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss also announced new sanctions against members of Putin’s inner circle, including his former wife and cousins.

VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine contributed to this report. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Posted by Ukrap on

У Києві та області від завтра змінюється комендантська година

З 16 травня також змінюється графік роботи громадського транспорту.

Posted by Ukrap on

Гайдай повідомив про евакуацію людей з Сєвєродонецька – вперше за тривалий час

Протягом тривалого часу евакуація із Сєвєродонецька була вкрай небезпечною

Posted by Ukrap on

У G7 кажуть, що військова допомога буде продовжуватись, а зміну кордонів України «ніколи не визнають»

Міністри закордонних справ країн «Групи семи» заявили, що продовжуватимуть військову допомогу Україні, «доки це буде необхідно»

Posted by Worldkrap on

20 Injured in Two Milwaukee Shootings After Bucks Playoff Game

Twenty people were injured in two shootings in downtown Milwaukee near an entertainment district where thousands of people were watching the Bucks play the Celtics in the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals, authorities said.

None of the injuries from either shooting were believed to be life-threatening.

The first shooting Friday night, involving three victims, occurred adjacent to the Deer District — an entertainment district with numerous bars and restaurants where large crowds often assemble for major sporting events.

The Milwaukee Fire Department said authorities took two people to a hospital, a 30-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl, and a third person drove to a hospital. Police said a 29-year-old man was in custody.

Seventeen more people were injured in a second shooting about two hours later, which happened a few blocks away. Ten people were taken into custody and nine guns were recovered, local station WTMJ-TV reported.

There was no immediate indication whether the two shootings were related or involved fans who were watching the game.

Witnesses told WTMJ-TV that they saw a fight outside a bar following the basketball game.

Bill Reinemann, a parking attendant at lot adjacent to Deer District, said he heard gunshots but didn’t see anyone get shot or see the shooter during the earlier shooting.

“It sounded like six to eight gunshots,” he said “It was close.”

After the shots were fired, scores of fans began running toward the Deer District, he said.

Reinemann, who has worked the lot for 18 years, remained at his post even as fearful Bucks fans ran past him.

“I sat in my chair here the whole while,” he said.

“The incident took place outside of the Deer District area. We direct all questions to the Milwaukee Police Department,” Bucks spokesman Barry Baum said.

Boston defeated Milwaukee in the game to force a Game 7 in the series.

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US Big City Hate Crimes Spiked By 39% in 2021, Report Finds

Preliminary data from more than three dozen U.S. police departments indicate a double-digit spike in hate crimes last year and a continued rise into 2022, with incidents targeting Asian and Jewish Americans accounting for the bulk of the increase.

On average, bias-motivated incidents in 37 major U.S. cities increased by nearly 39%, with the 10 largest metropolitan areas reporting a record increase of 54.5%, according to an analysis of national police data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Brian Levin, executive director of the center, said the uptrend in hate crime extended into the first quarter of 2022 with bias incidents rising by an average of 30% in 15 large cities and is likely to continue.

“Historically, in midterm election years, hate crimes almost always peak, or come close to peaking much later in the year – often in September and October, with the first quarter usually significantly lower than the rest of the year,” Levin said. “This suggests a turbulent year-end 2022 may be ahead.”

The university’s data, shared with VOA, offer an early peek into hate incidents in 2021 and come months before the FBI releases its annual hate crime report.

While large cities account for a disproportionate number of hate crime incidents in the United States, they can be a prognosticator of the overall national trend, Levin said.

The yearly FBI tally is based on voluntary data submissions by more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies. The bureau said the 2021 data are slated for release in the fall, a typical lag of several months.

Last October, the FBI reported that hate crime jumped to 8,263 incidents in 2020, the highest level in more than two decades.

The overall increase in hate crimes in 2021 came as anti-Asian incidents jumped 224% to a record 369 incidents in 20 of the largest U.S. cities, while anti-Jewish and anti-gay incidents posted increases of more than 50% to 373 incidents, according to the data.

Anti-Asian assaults and other types of incidents have been on an upswing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, fueled in part, community activists and experts say, by rhetoric blaming China for the deadly virus.

The Stop AAPI Hate coalition, created during the pandemic to track bias incidents, received nearly 11,000 anti-Asian hate reports from March 2020 to December 2021.

More than 60% of the incidents were reported by women, including women using public transit, according to Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of the founding partners of the anti-hate coalition.

Asian women reported being verbally harassed, coughed and spat on, physically assaulted and refused entry onto urban transit trains.

“What I see through the report is that horrible things are being said that are racist and sexist that I can’t even repeat to you now,” Choi said in an interview. “And of course, there’s always a fear that that type of verbal harassment, that type of racial profiling and targeting will escalate to violence.”

The FBI defines hate crimes as criminal offenses motivated by the perpetrator’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

While the majority of the incidents tracked by Stop AAPI Hate did not rise to the level of hate crimes, violence targeting Asian Americans continued to rise.

In Atlanta, a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at massage parlors in March 2021. Although the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, said he was motivated by sex addiction, not racism, prosecutors alleged anti-Asian animus.

In San Francisco, home to one of the largest Asian communities in the United States, several Asian Americans were violently attacked last year, including an 84-year-old man who died in January after being shoved to the ground.

The violence has rattled the Asian American community. A Pew survey released this week found that more than one-third of Asian Americans worry they might be threatened or attacked and have made changes in their daily routine because of that concern.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes

The rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes came as fresh violence between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 spurred a wave of antisemitic incidents in the United States.

Last month, the Anti-Defamation League reported that it had tallied 2,717 antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism in 2021, the highest number since it started tracking such cases in 1979.

New York City, the city with the largest Jewish American population in the U.S., was particularly hard hit. Police data show that anti-Jewish hate crimes increased by 71% to 207 incidents in 2021.

Of the 88 assaults on Jewish victims reported to the ADL last year, more than half took place in New York, noted Scott Richman, ADL regional director for New York and New Jersey.

Visibly identifiable Jews such as members of New York’s Hassidic community were frequent targets.

In November, three teenage girls were accused of attacking a 12-year-old Orthodox Jewish boy walking home with his 3-year-old brother. The New York Post, citing authorities, reported that one of the girls slapped the toddler in the face before fleeing the scene.

“That was very disturbing,” Richman said.

Similar attacks on New York’s Orthodox Jews have continued in recent weeks. Last week, a 32-year-old Hassidic man was punched in the face and the head by a stranger as he walked down a street in the city’s Crown Heights section.

“The Nazis should have killed you Jews,” the attacker allegedly said before taking off.

Richman said the incidents have terrorized the Hassidic community.

“People don’t know if they can walk in the streets, what’s going to happen,” Richman said.

Posted by Worldkrap on

Storm Chasers Face Host of Dangers Beyond Severe Weather

The deaths of four storm chasers in car crashes over the last two weeks have underscored the dangers of pursuing severe weather events as more people clog back roads and highways searching for a glimpse of a lightning bolt or tornado, meteorologists and chasers say.

Martha Llanos Rodriguez of Mexico City died Wednesday when a semitrailer plowed into her vehicle from behind on Interstate 90 in southwestern Minnesota. The car’s driver, Diego Campos, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he and Rodriguez and two other weather experts had been chasing violent weather and were hit after he stopped for downed power lines on the road.

More people are hopping into their cars and racing off after storms, jamming up roads, running stop signs and paying more attention to the sky than traffic, said Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia.

“There is such a volume of chasers out there on some storms sometimes that it creates potential traffic and other hazards,” Shepherd said. “Seeing storms within their natural context has scientific and broader value so I am not anti-chasing, however, there are elements that have become a little wild, wild West-ish.”

Popularized in the 1996 movie “Twister,” storm chasing involves pursuing severe weather events such as electrical storms and tornadoes, often in cars or on foot.

Some are researchers looking to gather data, such as verifying computer models predicting storm behavior. Some are looking to get in touch with nature. Others are photographers. And still others are just looking for a rush, said Greg Tripoli, an atmospheric and oceanic sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who taught a class on storm chasing.

“Seeing a tornado is a life-changing experience,” Tripoli said. “You want to see one instead of just talking about them. It’s really just one of the excitements of life. You’ve got to take chances and go out there and go after your passions. It’s no different from rock-climbing or deep-sea diving.”

The storms themselves present dangers to inexperienced chasers who get too close. They can get hit by debris, struck by lightning or worse. Tripoli said he decided to stop teaching his storm chaser class and taking students into the field in the early 1990s after university officials stopped insuring the trips.

Nature isn’t the only threat. Storm chasers spend long hours on the road traveling from state to state like long-haul truckers, inviting fatigue. When they catch up to the storms, they can often keep their eyes on the skies instead of the road, sometimes with deadly consequences. Tripoli said he would warn students in his storm chaser class that the most likely way they would get hurt is in a car crash.

Three University of Oklahoma students were killed on April 30 after traveling to Kansas to chase a tornado. According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the students’ car hydroplaned on the interstate in Tonkawa, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. They slid off and back onto the interstate before a semitrailer hit them.

The University of Oklahoma has a policy stating that anyone who chases storms does so at their own risk and that storm chasing isn’t part of the school’s meteorology curriculum.

The mother of one of the students, 19-year-old Gavin Short of Grayslake, Illinois, told WMAQ-TV that her son loved to chase storms.

“He loved it, and we were so happy for him,” Beth Short said. “And it just, this is just the worst nightmare for us and two other sets of parents.”

Chaser traffic jams are becoming more common, said Kelton Halbert, a University of Wisconsin atmospheric and oceanic sciences doctoral student. He said he’s been chasing storms since he was 16 because he wants to feel closer to nature’s beauty and verify his forecast modeling, mostly by taking video of storms’ behavior.

“Unless you’re with one of these research institutions, storm chasers don’t have the ability to collect a lot of hard data,” he said. “For most … it’s the beauty, it’s the photography and then obviously the thrill seekers and adrenaline seekers. You can have people tailgating you, people in the middle of the road. If you’re in Texas, Oklahoma or Kansas on a high-risk day, yeah, you can see hundreds of them. Given the recent couple weeks, I’ve definitely felt more apprehensive. It brings back to the forefront that every time you do this you’re taking a risk.”

Wednesday’s storm in the Upper Midwest left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power into Thursday. More potentially severe weather was forecast into Thursday evening that could bring hail, high winds and tornadoes from the Dakotas and Minnesota into other parts of the Midwest, the Storm Prediction Center said.

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Georgia’s Breakaway South Ossetia Sets Vote to Join Russia

The leader of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia announced Friday that a referendum on joining Russia would be held in July.

Russia has exercised effective control over the region since fighting a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Russia and a handful of other countries recognize South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers it to be part of Georgia.

“We did it!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote on Telegram Friday, announcing that he had signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.

“In legalese, we fulfilled yet another important legal requirement,” he said. “And in normal language, we took a life-changing step — we are going home, we are going to Russia.”

About a month into Russia’s war with Ukraine, Bibilov said South Ossetia would take the legal steps necessary to join Russia.

The referendum roughly follows the pattern of Crimea. After Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, a referendum was held on joining Russia and 97% were said to have voted in favor. The referendum was held while Crimea was under the control of Russian troops and the result was not recognized by most countries. Russia then annexed Crimea.

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Україна веде переговори про евакуацію 60 людей з «Азовсталі» – Верещук

«Там декілька сотень поранених, їх треба рятувати в першу чергу, бо щодо всіх одразу росіяни не погоджуються. Отже, спочатку важкопоранені й медики, їх дійсно 60 осіб»

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Війна РФ проти України: очільник ГУР заявляє про переломний момент у серпні та завершення активних боїв до кінця року

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Zelenskyy: Length of War with Russia Depends on Countries of the Free World

“No one today can predict how long this war will last,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Friday about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“But we are doing everything we can to liberate our land quickly. This is our priority – to work every day to make the war shorter,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the length of the war “depends, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already doing the maximum.”

He said, “It also depends on our partners – on European countries, on the countries of the whole free world.”

The possible expansion of NATO, in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, will be a focus of talks Saturday, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Berlin for an informal NATO foreign ministerial meeting.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have expressed their approval for joining the alliance, a move that would complete a major policy shift for the Scandinavian countries in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday his country does not support Finland and Sweden joining NATO, citing their support of what Turkey considers terrorist organizations, such as Kurdish militant groups.

“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul. Any NATO enlargement requires the unanimous consent of the existing members.

US stance

U.S. officials said they were working to “clarify Turkey’s position,” while reiterating that the “United States would support a NATO application by Finland and/or Sweden should they choose to apply.”

“We strongly support NATO’s Open Door policy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters Friday. “I think that it’s important to remember that a fundamental principle the U.S. is defending in terms of its support for Ukraine is the right of every sovereign country to decide its own future foreign and security policy arrangement.”

Both Sweden’s and Finland’s foreign ministers will be participating in the North Atlantic Council informal dinner Saturday in Berlin. From Germany, Blinken heads to France on Sunday, where he will attend the second ministerial meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, known as the TTC.

U.S. President Joe Biden talked with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s Niinistö on Friday.

“President Biden underscored his support for NATO’s Open Door policy and for the right of Finland and Sweden to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangement,” the White House said in a readout of the call, adding the leaders “reiterated their shared commitment to continued coordination in support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people affected by the war.”

Impact of NATO expansion

The German Marshall Fund’s Michael Kimmage told VOA that Finland’s joining NATO would shake up the security order in Europe, both for NATO and for Russia.

“It’s a very, very long border, and of course it brings NATO very close to — or will bring NATO if it all goes through — very close to St. Petersburg. And at the same time, it will give NATO a lot more territory right on the Russian border to defend. So those are big steps. Those are big changes,” Kimmage said.

Russia has warned against NATO expansion and said Finland’s and Sweden’s joining would bring “serious military and political consequences.”

“The expansion of NATO and the approach of the alliance to our borders does not make the world and our continent more stable and secure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, for the first time since Feb. 18.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement that Austin “urged an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.”

US aid to Ukraine

Austin also spoke Friday with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov about Ukraine’s “evolving battlefield needs.”

“Secretary Austin highlighted the President’s May 6 announcement of $150 million in Presidential Drawdown Authority to provide Ukraine’s Armed Forces with artillery, counter-artillery radars, and electronic jamming equipment,” Kirby said in a statement.

“Minister Reznikov shared his assessment of the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine.”

War crimes trial

In Ukraine, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was brought before a Kyiv court Friday, in the first war crimes proceeding since the war began.

Ukrainian prosecutors say Vadim Shishimarin fired several shots from a car in the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine on Feb. 28, just days after the conflict began, killing an unarmed 62-year-old man who was pushing a bike on the side of the road.

Ukraine’s government says it is investigating more than 10,000 war crimes involving Russian forces, with cases of torture and mutilation having often been revealed after Russian forces left a Ukrainian city, as in the case of Bucha.

Russia has denied committing war crimes in Ukraine, and the Kremlin on Friday said it had no knowledge of the trial.

Putin-Scholz call

In Moscow, Russian President Vladmir Putin on Friday spoke by phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about the stalled Ukrainian-Russian peace talks.

In a tweet, the German leader said he had called during the 75-minute conversation for an immediate cease-fire, countered the Russian claim “that Nazis are in power” as false and also reminded Putin “about Russia’s responsibility for the global food situation.”

G-7 meeting

The call came as G-7 ministers meeting in Germany pledged unity and more weapons and aid to Ukraine.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced an additional $520 million worth of military support to Ukraine for heavy weaponry, while expressing hope that member states would agree to a Russian oil embargo.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss also announced new sanctions against members of Putin’s inner circle, including his former wife and cousins.

VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine contributed to this report. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Germany and France on Saturday for NATO and trade meetings, as Finland says it wants to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has warned it will respond to what it calls a hostile move. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department.

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Despite US President Joe Biden’s urging that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations take a firmer stance on the Ukraine war, the U.S.-ASEAN Summit ended Friday without a condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a sign of geopolitical complexities in the region as the administration seeks to broaden the coalition against Moscow beyond Europe. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.
Producer: Bakhtiyar Zamanov