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AP Interview: Ukraine, Democracy ‘Must Win,’ Says Pelosi

“We thought we could die.”

The Russian invasion had just begun when Nancy Pelosi made a surprise visit to Ukraine, the House speaker then the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to lead a congressional delegation to Kyiv.

Pelosi and the lawmakers were ushered under the cloak of secrecy into the capital city, an undisclosed passage that even to this day she will not divulge.

“It was very, it was dangerous,” Pelosi told The Associated Press before Sunday’s one-year anniversary of that trip.

“We never feared about it, but we thought we could die because we’re visiting a serious, serious war zone,” Pelosi said. “We had great protection, but nonetheless, a war — theater of war.”

Pelosi’s visit was as unusual as it was historic, opening a fresh diplomatic channel between the U.S. and Ukraine that has only deepened with the prolonged war. In the year since, a long list of congressional leaders, senators and chairs of powerful committees, both Democrats and Republicans, followed her lead, punctuated by President Joe Biden’s own visit this year.

The steady stream of arrivals in Kyiv has served to amplify a political and military partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine for the world to see, one that will be tested anew when Congress is again expected this year to help fund the war to defeat Russia.

“We must win. We must bring this to a positive conclusion — for the people of Ukraine and for our country,” Pelosi said.

“There is a fight in the world now between democracy and autocracy, its manifestation at the time is in Ukraine.”

Looked beyond US borders

With a new Republican majority in the House whose Trump-aligned members have balked at overseas investments, Pelosi, a Democrat, remains confident the Congress will continue backing Ukraine as part of a broader U.S. commitment to democracy abroad in the face of authoritarian aggression.

“Support for Ukraine has been bipartisan and bicameral, in both houses of Congress by both parties, and the American people support democracy in Ukraine,” Pelosi told AP. “I believe that we will continue to support as long as we need to support democracy… as long as it takes to win.”

Now the speaker emerita, an honorary title bestowed by Democrats, Pelosi is circumspect about her role as a U.S. emissary abroad. Having visited 87 countries during her time in office, many as the trailblazing first woman to be the House speaker, she set a new standard for pointing the gavel outward as she focused attention on the world beyond U.S. shores.

In her office tucked away at the Capitol, Pelosi shared many of the honors and mementos she has received from abroad, including the honorary passport she was given on her trip to Ukraine, among her final stops as speaker.

It’s a signature political style, building on Pelosi’s decades of work on the House Intelligence committee, but one that a new generation of House leaders may — or may not — chose to emulate.

The new Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this month, the Republican leader’s first foray as leader into foreign affairs.

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries took his own first trip abroad to as House minority leader, leading congressional delegations last week to Ghana and Israel.

Pelosi said it’s up to the new leaders what they will do on the global stage.

“Other speakers have understood our national security — we take an oath to protect and defend — and so we have to reach out with our values and our strength to make sure that happens,” she said.

‘A fight for everyone’

When Pelosi arrived in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stood outside to meet the U.S. officials, the photo that ricocheted around the world a show of support for the young democracy fighting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

“The courage of the president in greeting us on the street rather than us just meeting him in his office was yet again another symbol of the courage of the people of Ukraine,” she said.

Pelosi told Zelenskyy in a video released at the time “your fight is a fight for everyone.”

Last year, in one of her final trips as speaker, Pelosi touched down with a delegation in Taipei, Taiwan, crowds lining the streets to cheer her arrival, a visit with the Taiwanese president that drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, which counts the island as its own.

“Cowardly,” she said about the military exercises China launched in the aftermath of her trip.

Pelosi offered rare praise for McCarthy’s own meeting with Tsai, particularly its bipartisan nature and the choice of venue the historic Reagan library.

“That was really quite a message and quite an optic to be there. And so, I salute what he did,” she said.

In one of her closing acts as House speaker in December, Pelosi hosted Zelenskyy for a joint address to Congress. The visit evoked the one made by Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Britain, at Christmastime in 1941 to speak to Congress in the Senate chamber of a “long and hard war” at the start of World War II.

Zelenskyy presented to Congress a Ukrainian flag signed by frontline troops that Pelosi said will eventually be displayed at the U.S. Capitol.

The world has changed much since Pelosi joined Congress — one of her first trips abroad was in 1991, when she dared to unfurl a pro-democracy banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square shortly after the student demonstrations that ended in massacre.

After the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s Russia and China that remain front of her mind.

“The role of Putin in terms of Russia that is a bigger threat than it was when I came to Congress,” she said. A decade after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, she said, Putin went up.

“That’s where the fight for democracy is taking place,” she said.

And, she said, despite the work she and others in Congress have done to point out the concerns over China’s military and economic rise, and its human rights record, “that has only gotten worse.”

Posted by Ukrap on

США евакуювали з Судану кілька сотень своїх громадян – Держдеп

Кілька сотень громадян США залишили Судан під час тимчасового припинення вогню, зазначив представник Держдепартаменту США Ведант Патель, пише The Hill.

У відомстві повідомили, що щонайменше 5 тисяч осіб запросили в Держдепартаменту інформацію про конфлікт у Судані, однак, «лише малій частині» від цієї кількості знадобилась допомога в виїзді з країни.

Посольство США в Хартумі було евакуйовано минулими вихідними морськими піхотинцями, оскільки сутички в продовжують загострюватися. Раніше США та інші країни домовилися про 72-годинне припинення вогню в конфлікті, яке було продовжено ще на 72 години в п’ятницю, 28 квітня, уточнили в Держдепі.

Також в США наголосили, що попри припинення вогню, повідомлення про бойові дії в Судані тривають, включно з обстрілом турецького військового евакуаційного літака.

«Очевидно, що мали місце численні порушення режиму припинення вогню. Але здійснення припинення вогню часто буває важким на самому початку, проте порушення режиму припинення вогню не означають провалу припинення вогню. І ми працюємо з партнерами, щоб забезпечити кращий моніторинг активності та залучити обидві сторони до поліпшення дотримання режиму», – заявив представник Держдепу.

За інформацією влади, до початку конфлікту в країні перебувало близько 16 тисяч американців, багато з яких мали подвійне громадянство США та Судану.

15 квітня в столиці Судану та інших містах спалахнули сутички між регулярною армією та воєнізованим угрупованням «Сили швидкої підтримки». Дві військові фракції борються за контроль над Хартумом і прибутковим експортом мінеральних ресурсів країни, особливо золота.

За даними ООН, станом на 21 квітня через бойові дії в Судані загинули 413 людей, ще 3551 – поранені. Низка країн евакуювали своїх дипломатів із Судану.

Головне управління розвідки Міноборони також повідомило про евакуацію десятки українців та іноземців із Судану 25 квітня.

Posted by Ukrap on

Трюдо щодо війни в Україні: «ми всі маємо про це хвилюватися»

«В усьому світі люди дивляться на рішення Росії вторгнутися в Україну і кажуть: якщо це спрацює, можливо, це спрацює і для нас»

Posted by Ukrap on

ОП «Північ»: російська армія атакувала прикордоння Сумщини та Чернігівщини, зруйновано будинки

«Про втрати серед місцевого населення чи пошкодження цивільної інфраструктури інформація не надходила»

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Man Kills 5 in Texas After Family Complained About Gunfire

A Texas man went next door with a rifle and began shooting his neighbors, killing an 8-year-old and four others inside the house, after the family asked him to stop firing rounds in his yard because they were trying to sleep, authorities said Saturday. 

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told reporters at the scene that authorities were still searching for 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza following the overnight shooting in the town of Cleveland, about 72 kilometers north of Houston. He said Oropeza used an AR-style rifle in the shooting. 

“Everyone that was shot was shot from the neck up, almost execution-style,” Capers said during an earlier news conference at the scene. 

Capers said there were 10 people in the house and that no one else was injured. He said two of the victims, all believed to be from Honduras, were found lying over two children inside. 

“The Honduran ladies that were laying over these children were doing it in such an effort as to protect the child,” according to Capers, who said a total of three blood-covered children were found in the home but were determined to be uninjured after being taken to a hospital. 

Capers said two other people were examined at the scene and released. 

The confrontation followed family members walking up to the fence and asking the suspect to stop shooting rounds, Capers said. The suspect responded by telling them that it was his property, according to Capers, and that one person in the house got a video of the suspect walking up to the front door with the rifle. 

Three of the victims were women and one was a man. Their names were not released. Capers said the victims were between the ages of 8 and about 40 years old. 

Authorities have previously been to the suspect’s home, according to Capers. “Deputies have come over and spoke with him about him shooting his gun in the yard,” he said. 

Capers said some of those in the house had just moved from Houston earlier in the week, but he did not know whether they were planning to stay there. 

The U.S. is on a record pace for mass killings this year, with at least 18 shootings since January 1 that left four or more people dead. The violence is sparked by a range of motives: murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas. 

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Chinese Migrants Use Social Media Tips on Trek to US-Mexico Border

The difficulty of obtaining U.S. visas and the economic aftershocks of China’s COVID lockdowns have led to a sharp increase in Chinese nationals presenting at the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of those arrivals have learned from social media websites and applications about how to make the long and dangerous journey, migrants, immigration experts, attorneys and current and former U.S. officials, told Reuters.

“Entering the United States at the southern border is an expensive and risky proposition. But if you have personal or economic reasons to do so, then it is a route is available to you,” said Erik Finch, director of immigration strategy at the Seattle, Washington-based legal tech startup Boundless Immigration and a former State Department official with experience in both China and Mexico. “And I think the fact that you’re seeing an increasing number of people utilize that is a product of the general trend and also the fact that other routes have become even more impossible.”

Over the course of three weeks photographing and reporting from a remote border stretch in southeastern Texas, Reuters witnessed hundreds of Chinese migrants crossing into the United States and interviewed more than two dozen in Mandarin.

All of those interviewed said they got the idea to take the land route to the United States on social media and drew on influencers, private groups and comments to plan their trips.

About half said they had been small business owners in China, running online stores, a sheep farm and a movie production company.

Some wore crosses and carried Chinese-language bibles, saying they were Christians who felt they could not freely practice their religion at home. China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but in recent years critics, including the U.S. government, say Beijing has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist party.

One migrant who asked after speaking with Reuters that their face not be shown said his route took them to Hong Kong, Thailand, Turkey before getting to Ecuador.

“I go to Hong Kong from Hubai first, then to Thailand from Hong Kong by plane, then Turkey from Thailand by plane, then Ecuador and up through South America to America here,” the migrant said.

The migrant said they were relieved when they arrived in the U.S.

“I feel relaxed. And I can breathe more comfortably. It’s rare. The people here, the police here, are very kind. And that’s the America in my head. That’s it. It’s good. It’s great,” the migrant said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in an email that the government opposes illegal migration, which “is an international issue that requires cooperation between countries,” but did not respond to a request for comment on the issue of religious freedom.

Short video app Douyin, owned by TikTok owner ByteDance, is one of the main sources of the Chinese tech giant’s revenue overall, Reuters previously reported. ByteDance, which also owns Xigua Video, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.

Apprehensions of Chinese nationals at the U.S.-Mexican border reached more than 6,500 in the six months since October 2022, the highest on record and a more than 15-fold increase over the same period a year ago, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

While just a sliver of the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving at the southwest border, Chinese people were the fastest growing demographic in those six months, CBP data show.

In a March 16 tweet, CBP Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez in the Rio Grande Valley sector that includes Fronton said the increase was “creating a strain on our workforce due to the complexities of the language barrier & lengthens the processing.”

Refusal rates among Chinese nationals for the most common U.S. visitor visas reached 80% in fiscal year 2021 and more than 30% in 2022, the two highest years on record, according to State Department data. While U.S. visa issuance globally has mostly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the number of U.S. visas issued from China last year remained 90% below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

“Because of their zero-COVID policy, the actual impact of COVID extended past the point where a lot of the restrictions and things were more severe than in the rest of the world, and to the point where a lot of 2022 and late 2022 COVID, the COVID situation in China was at its most severe, and therefore that inhibited travel to and from China during that period, even after restrictions had been removed in most of the rest of the world,” said Finch, whose career at the State Department included overseeing various visa section services in China. “So I think just generally speaking, that impact was much amplified there. And it’s stands to reason that they are experiencing issues like recovery and visa issuance is just one of the indicators of that.”

Visa holders and border crossers can request U.S. asylum on arrival if they fear persecution at home. Asylum seekers from China won in U.S. immigration court 58% of the time, according to U.S. Justice Department data.

The State Department in an emailed statement said 2021 and 2022 “were not standard years.” It said visa issuances were expected to increase as China “catches up on its passport backlog and air travel resumes after the end of the zero-COVID policy.”

Other Chinese nationals didn’t wait and chose to follow in the steps of others who learned via social media.

Scrolling through their social media feeds, one migrant came across “Baozai,” an internet personality who gained tens of thousands of followers on Douyin, Xigua Video, YouTube and Twitter by posting videos about his migration to the United States. Reuters was not able to independently confirm Baozai’s identity and in messages to Reuters, he denied being an influencer and said he was just a migrant.

Baozai’s original account “Baozai adventure the world alone” is shown as “blocked” on Douyin for violating “community self-discipline regulations.”

He is now posting under a new account with the same name on Douyin, sticking to content about his life in the United States.

Douyin did not respond to a request for comment on Baozai.

The travel guide presented on social media matched descriptions given by clients to U.S.-based immigration attorney Xiaosheng Huang, who says he has represented 15 Chinese nationals who have made the trip to the U.S. via Ecuador since last summer.

“They start talking about getting out of the country on the social media, such as Doiyin, the Chinese version of Tik Tok and also Kuaishou and some other platforms. So they exchange the information: how to get out of the country, how to go to Ecuador, from Europe or Macao, Hong Kong,” said Huang, who added that most of his clients were leaving to look for a better life.

At a clinic in Quito one migrant told Reuters they found a group of Chinese migrants who had contacted a local Colombian guide known only by his first name, “Carlos.”

The migrant and several others said Carlos and his associates charged around $1,230 per adult and $700 per child to arrange travel and hotels from Ecuador to Panama including a guided trek through the Darien Gap.

Jungle tents and horses were also available for part of the trip for an extra fee, the migrants said.

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У Бахмуті відбито дві спроби штурму армії РФ – прикордонники

За словами прикордонників, вони використовували стрілецьку зброю та ручні гранати, втрати російської армії наразі ще уточнюються

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Презентація фільму-розслідування «Віра». Пам’яті вбитої армією РФ журналістки Радіо Свобода Віри Гирич

29 квітня у Києві відбулася презентація фільму-розслідування до річниці загибелі продюсерки та журналістки Радіо Свобода Віри Гирич. Фільм підготували журналісти програми розслідування «Схеми».

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Росія: влада Бєлгородської області каже про «обстріл» села Нова Таволжанка

«Є сильні пошкодження в одному приватному домоволодінні, снаряд прилетів у двір нового нежитлового будинку»

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Black Parents in US Seek Schools Affirming Their History Amid Bans 

Every decision Assata Salim makes for her young son is important. Amid a spike in mass killings, questions of safety were at the top of her mind when choosing a school. Next on her checklist was the school’s culture.

Salim and her 6-year-old, Cho’Zen Waters, are Black. In Georgia, where they live, public schools are prohibited from teaching divisive concepts, including the idea that one race is better than another or that states are fundamentally racist.

To Salim, the new rules mean public schools might not affirm Cho’Zen’s African roots, or accurately portray the United States’ history of racism. “I never want to put his education in the hands of someone that is trying to erase history or recreate narratives,” she said.

Instead, Cho’Zen attends a private, Afrocentric school — joining kids across the country whose families have embraced schools that affirm their Black heritage, in a country where instruction about race is increasingly under attack. At Cho’Zen’s school, Kilombo Academic & Cultural Institute in an Atlanta suburb, photos of Black historical figures hang on the walls. And every single student and teacher identifies as Black or biracial.

In recent years, conservative politicians around the country have championed bans on books or instruction that touch on race and inclusion. Books were banned in more than 5,000 schools in 32 states from June 2021 to June 2022, according to free-speech nonprofit PEN America. Instructional bans have been enacted in at least 16 states since 2021.

Even when a topic isn’t explicitly banned, some teachers say the debates have caused them to back away from controversy. The situation has caused more Black families to leave public schools, opting for homeschooling or private schools that embrace their identity and culture. Public school enrollment of Black students between pre-K and 12th grade has declined each year measured in federal data since 2007.

“I think it is important to teach those harsh moments in slavery and segregation, but tell the whole story,” said Salihah Hasan, a teaching assistant at Kilombo Institute. “Things have changed drastically, but there are still people in this world who hate Black people, who think we are still beneath them, and younger children today don’t understand that. But that is why it is important to talk about it.”

Kilombo goes further, focusing on the students’ rich heritage, from both Africa and Black America. “I want him to know his existence doesn’t start with slavery,” Salim said of her son.

The private, K-8 school occupies the basement of Hillside Presbyterian Church just outside Decatur, an affluent, predominantly white suburb. Families pay tuition on a sliding scale, supplemented by donations.

Classrooms feature maps of Africa and brown paper figures wearing dashikis, a garment worn mostly in West Africa. In one class, the students learn how sound travels by playing African drums.

The 18-year-old school has 53 students, up a third since the start of the pandemic. Initially, more parents chose the school because it returned to in-person learning earlier than nearby public schools. Lately, the enrollment growth has reflected parents’ increasing urgency to find a school that won’t shy away from Black history.

“This country is signaling to us that we have no place here,” said Mary Hooks, whose daughter attends Kilombo. “It also raises a smoke signal for people to come home to the places where we can be nourished.”

Notably, the student body includes multiple children of public school teachers.

Simone Sills, a middle school science teacher at Atlanta Public Schools, chose the school for her daughter in part because of its smaller size, along with factors such as safety and curriculum. Plus, she said, she was looking for a school where “all students can feel affirmed in who they are.”

Before Psalm Barreto, 10, enrolled in Kilombo, her family was living in Washington, D.C. She said she was one of a few Black children in her school.

“I felt uncomfortable in public school because it was just me and another boy in my class, and we stood out,” she said.

Racial differences are evident to babies as young as three months, research has shown, and racial biases show up in preschoolers. Kilombo provides a space for kids to talk about their race.

“I’m Blackity, Black, Black!” said Robyn Jean, 9, while spinning in a circle. Her sister, Amelya, 11, said their parents taught them about their Haitian American heritage — knowledge she thinks all children should have. “I want them to know who they are and where they come from, like we do,” Amelya said. “But in some schools, they can’t.”

Last year, Georgia passed a bill known as the Protect Students First Act, which prohibits schools from promoting and teaching divisive concepts about race. Elsewhere, bills that restrict or prohibit teaching about race- and gender-related topics passed in states including Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In other states, such as Arkansas, restrictions have come via executive orders.

Proponents say the restrictions aim to eliminate classroom discussions that make students feel shame or guilt about their race and the history and actions of their ancestors.

The bills have had a chilling effect. One-quarter of K-12 teachers in the U.S. say these laws have influenced their choice of curriculum or instructional practices, according to a report by the RAND Corporation, a global policy think tank.

At Kilombo, daily instruction includes conversations about race and culture. Founder Aminata Umoja uses a Black puppet named Swahili to welcome her students, ask how they are doing and start the day with morals and values rooted in their African heritage.

The puppet might say: “‘Let’s talk about iwa pele. What does that mean?’ and then one of the children will tell us that it means good character,” said Umoja, who teaches kindergarteners through second graders.

Teaching life skills and values, Umoja said, has its roots in freedom schools started during the Civil Rights Movement, in response to the inferior “sharecropper’s education” Black Americans were receiving in the South.

The school follows academic standards from Common Core for math and language arts and uses Georgia’s social studies standards to measure student success. But the curriculum is culturally relevant. It centers Black people, featuring many figures excluded in traditional public schools, said Tashiya Umoja, the school’s co-director and math teacher.

“We are giving children of color the same curriculum that white children are getting. They get to hear about their heroes, she-roes and forefathers,” she said.

The curriculum also focuses on the children’s African heritage. A math lesson, for instance, might feature hieroglyphic numerals. Social studies courses discuss events in Africa or on other continents alongside U.S. history.

When she was in public school, Psalm said she only learned about mainstream Black figures in history, such as Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Now, she said, she is learning about civil rights activist Ella Baker, journalist Ida B. Wells and pilot Bessie Coleman.

Said Psalm: “Honestly, I feel bad for any kids who don’t know about Black history. It’s part of who we are.”

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Why China is Trying to Mediate in Russia’s War With Ukraine

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Wednesday that Beijing will send an envoy to Ukraine to discuss a possible “political settlement” to Russia’s war with the country.

Beijing has previously avoided involvement in conflicts between other countries but appears to be trying to assert itself as a global diplomatic force after arranging talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March that led them to restore diplomatic relations after a seven-year break.

Xi told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a phone call that a Chinese envoy, a former Chinese ambassador to Russia, would visit Ukraine and “other countries” to discuss a possible political settlement, according to a government statement.

It made no mention of Russia or last year’s invasion of Ukraine and didn’t indicate whether the Chinese envoy might visit Moscow.

The Xi-Zelenskyy phone call was long anticipated after Beijing said it wanted to serve as a mediator in the war.


China is the only major government that has friendly relations with Moscow as well as economic leverage as the biggest buyer of Russian oil and gas after the United States and its allies cut off most purchases.

Beijing, which sees Moscow as a diplomatic partner in opposing U.S. domination of global affairs, has refused to criticize the invasion and used its status as one of five permanent U.N. Security Council members to deflect diplomatic attacks on Russia.

Zelenskyy earlier said he welcomed a Chinese offer to mediate.


Xi’s government has pursued a bigger role in global diplomacy as part of a campaign to restore China to what the ruling Communist Party sees as its rightful status as a political and economic leader and to build an international order that favors Beijing’s interests.

That is a sharp reversal after decades of avoiding involvement in other countries’ conflicts and most international affairs while it focused on economic development at home.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran issued a surprise announcement, following talks in Beijing, that they would reopen embassies in each other’s capitals following a seven-year break. China has good relations with both as a big oil buyer.

Last week, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts that his country is ready to help facilitate peace talks.

Wednesday’s statement warned against the dangers of nuclear war, suggesting Beijing might also have been motivated by what it sees as the growing danger of a more destructive conflict.

Mediating between Ukraine and Russia would increase China’s presence in Eastern Europe, where Beijing has tried to build ties with other governments. That has prompted complaints by some European officials that China is trying to gain leverage over the European Union.

Political science professor Kimberly Marten of Barnard College at Columbia University in New York doubted China would succeed in a peacemaker role.

“I have a hard time believing that China can act as peacemaker,” she said, adding that Beijing has been “too close to Russia.”


China is the closest thing President Vladimir Putin’s isolated government has to a major ally.

Xi and Putin issued a joint statement ahead of the February 2022 invasion that said their governments had a “no limits friendship.”

Beijing has tried to appear neutral but has repeated Russian justifications for the invasion.

Xi received a warm welcome from Putin during a visit to Moscow in March. The Chinese defense minister visited Russia this month.

China has stepped up purchases of Russian oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy, helping to offset lost revenue resulting from Western sanctions. In exchange, China gets lower prices, though details haven’t been disclosed.

Marten said the Xi-Zelenskyy call was “kind of a slap at Russia, because Russia has been very keen to portray China as its ally.” She said the direct China-Ukraine contact “indicates China is taking at least a step away from Russia.”


China was Ukraine’s biggest trading partner before the invasion, though on a smaller scale than Chinese-Russian trade.

In 2021, Ukraine announced plans for Chinese companies to build trade-related infrastructure.

Zelenskyy’s government was more ambivalent toward Beijing after it was clear Xi wouldn’t try to stop Putin’s war, but the two sides have remained amicable.

“Before the full-scale Russian invasion, China was Ukraine’s number one trading partner. I believe that our conversation today will give a powerful impetus to the return, preservation and development of this dynamic at all levels,” an official Ukrainian readout of the call reported.

Qin, the foreign minister, promised this month China wouldn’t provide arms to either side, a pledge that benefits Ukraine, which has received tanks, rockets and other armaments from the United States and European governments.

The Chinese ambassador to France set off an uproar in Europe when he suggested former Soviet republics — a group that includes Ukraine — might not be sovereign nations. That was in line with Putin’s comments denying Ukrainian sovereignty.

Beijing then reassured former Soviet states it respected their sovereignty and said the ambassador’s comments were a personal opinion, not official policy.

Elizabeth Wishnick, of the U.S.-based think tank CNA and Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute, said in an email: “I wonder if Xi’s call was set up quickly to deflect attention” from the uproar over the Chinese ambassador’s remarks.

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Через обстріл Чернігівщини троє поліцейських отримали поранення – Нацполіція

Правоохоронців госпіталізували, травми не загрожують їхньому життю

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Табурець: серед загиблих в Умані – п’ятеро дітей, ще одну жінку шукають

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Місцева влада: за добу на Донеччині загинув один цивільний, на Харківщині – без жертв

Обстріл Вовчанська Харківської області пошкодив дитячий садочок, у селі Нестерне постраждала аграрна фірма

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US Army Aviation Units Grounded After Fatal Accidents

The U.S. Army on Friday said it was grounding its aviation units until they receive further training.

All Army aviators are grounded “except for those participating in critical missions,” the Army said in a statement.

The move comes after two helicopters collided in Alaska earlier this week, killing three soldiers and injuring a fourth.

In March, nine soldiers were killed in Kentucky when two Army Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters crashed during a nighttime training exercise.

The Associated Press reports that all the training will take place during the month of May.

Army Chief of Staff James McConville said, “The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel.”

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Причетні до дестабілізації в Молдові особи можуть потрапити під санкції ЄС

У ЄС кажуть: зусилля з дестабілізації Молдови значно зросли з початку російського вторгнення в Україну

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Зеленський привітав першу велику інвестицію в Україну з початку повномасштабного вторгнення РФ

«Саме зараз, коли ми ще боремося з російським терором, великий світовий бізнес не лише вірить у нашу перемогу, але й підтверджує цю віру своїми багатомільйонними інвестиціями»

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Experts: Declaration May Not Ease SKorea’s Concern Over US Nuclear Commitment

An unprecedented bilateral nuclear declaration that Washington and Seoul just announced may not be enough to assuage South Koreans’ worries about a U.S. pledge to protect them from North Korea’s nuclear attacks as it was designed to do, according to experts.

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol presented the Washington Declaration on Wednesday at a post-summit news conference.

With it, the U.S. agreed to “make every effort to consult with the ROK on any possible nuclear weapons employment on the Korean Peninsula” and reassured “the U.S. commitment to extended deterrence” using “the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear.” The ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

Extended deterrence is described by the U.S. military as the American commitment “to deter and, if necessary, to respond” to attacks on its allies and partners “across the spectrum of potential nuclear and non-nuclear scenarios.” This commitment is often described as providing a “nuclear umbrella” to those allies and partners.

Washington also agreed in the declaration to regularly deploy strategic assets such as nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to South Korea.

Biden and Yoon also agreed to establish the Nuclear Consultation Group (NCG), a joint body that will meet regularly to discuss nuclear and strategic planning for contingencies in and around the divided Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. has a similar nuclear planning group within the multilateral body of NATO. But South Korea’s participation in U.S. nuclear planning through the newly announced NCG would be the first agreement Washington has made with a single non-nuclear state to let it in on its nuclear decision-making process.

At the press conference, Yoon said the NCG would raise extended deterrence to a new level.

He said, “Under the nuclear umbrella, our extended deterrence was a lot lower.” He continued, “Now it’s an unprecedented expansion and strengthening of the extended deterrence strategy under the Washington Declaration, which will create the NCG. The implementation and the response at this level has never thus far been this strong.”

Unresolved issues

The Washington Declaration and the NCG are “useful and productive steps,” according to Elbridge Colby, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Strategy and Force Development and the cofounder of The Marathon Initiative, a Washington-based institution focused on providing foreign and defense policy recommendations.

However, he continued, these developments “do not appear sufficient to address the fundamental quandary facing the alliance — the growth of North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile program.” He added, “Washington and Seoul should be prepared to work together to come up with more dramatic measures to meet this very real and indeed growing challenge.”

The measures, while designed to deter North Korean attacks, do not address how the alliance aims to reduce North Korea’s provocations that have been increasing anxiety among South Koreans.

North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests last year and continued its launches this year, including three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). In February it conducted what it said was a drill of a super-large multiple rocket launcher able to attack South Korea with tactical nuclear weapons.

In January, Yoon floated the idea of Seoul having nuclear weapons only to dismiss his remarks later, even though polls suggested that more than 70% of South Koreans would support their nation developing its own nuclear weapons or the return of nuclear weapons to the county. The U.S. withdrew nuclear weapons in 1991.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said, “In the minds of Washington and Seoul, [the declaration] will mean they are strengthening deterrence and therefore security.”

He continued, “But seen from Pyongyang, this will likely be another sign that the United States and South Korea are a growing threat, and that North Korea will have to continue to develop more nuclear weapons to defend itself.”

He added, “This is a big dilemma — the dynamics of the two sides continuing to strengthen their capabilities to improve security also drives the decisions that will be seen to increase the risks. The deterrence wheel continues to turn and turn with no solution to the underlying problem.”

Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of the North Korean leader, vowed on Saturday local time to enhance Pyongyang’s “nuclear war deterrent” in response to the Washington Declaration. Referring to Biden as “an old man with no future,” without naming him, and naming Yoon while calling him “a fool,” Kim said the declaration “fabricated by the U.S. and south Korean authorities” will “expose” the “peace and security of Northeast Asia and the world … to more serious danger.”

Experts said the U.S.-South Korean alliance must consider greater regional threats from China as well as draw up bigger trilateral defense plans with Japan.

“The NCG is mainly focused on the Korean Peninsula, but it is important to understand that security coordination has to look at the broader regional picture to include coordination with Tokyo,” said Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“It would be natural in that context to look broadly at perceived threats in the Indo-Pacific, to include those from China, and to discuss plans and capabilities,” he said.

Nuclear assurance and reliance

Dalton added the NCG “is largely about alliance cohesion and being responsive to ROK interests for stronger coordination on nuclear matters.”

Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction during the Obama administration, said the same about the Washington Declaration establishing the NCG.

He said, “The main purpose was to reassure the South Korean government and the South Korean public that the U.S. is committed to extended deterrence to protect South Korea against North Korean nuclear and missile threats.”

He continued, “Deterrence is already very strong. [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un knows that any attack on the South, whether conventional or nuclear, would be met with a very strong response from the ROK and from the U.S.”

At the press conference, Biden said, “A nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies or partners — is unacceptable and will result in the end of [the] regime, were it to take such an action.”

Under the renewed U.S. pledge to protect, South Korea agreed to have “full confidence in U.S. extended deterrence commitment” and “enduring reliance on the U.S. nuclear deterrent.” Seoul also agreed to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Kristensen said, “The most important goal for the United States has probably been to try to dampen South Korean ideas about developing its own nuclear weapons.”

No nukes

By agreeing to rely on U.S. nuclear deterrence and follow its obligations under the NPT, Seoul effectively has renounced pursuing its own nuclear weapons program, according to experts.

At the same time, by reassuring its extended deterrence commitment, Washington dismissed a possibility of stationing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea.

“The Biden administration has made clear that nuclear weapons will not be deployed to South Korea, but that Seoul will be closely tied to planning efforts as well as how South Korean conventional capabilities will be integrated into any U.S. nuclear operation,” said Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security and Korea expert at the U.S. Naval War College.

“The big question is whether the Washington Declaration will quell the calls in South Korea for its own nuclear weapons, and that remains to be seen.”

Kristensen said, “The South might feel better for a while but will probably continue to express doubts about the security commitment.”

Joint nuclear body

In place of its own nuclear program, South Korea opted to participate in U.S. nuclear planning through the NCG, which experts said is a significant development that will increase Seoul’s say in American nuclear planning for contingences on the peninsula.

However, Scott Snyder, director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said a challenge is “the ability of the envisioned NCG to stay ahead of future North Korean military developments.”

He continued, “The U.S.-South Korea nuclear consultation group must demonstrate a capability to stay ahead of North Korea’s capability as they continue to expand.”

The scope of South Korea’s role in U.S. nuclear planning decisions would depend on how NCG agreements are implemented, including which agencies and who will be in charge, according to experts.

How much say South Korea has on U.S. decisions is “a question that can only be answered in the implementation of the agreement,” said Samore.

“We have the commitment from the U.S. to consult, jointly plan, exchange information. But we don’t know exactly how that will be translated into action until this consulting group is set up and begins to operate.”

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Turkey’s Erdogan Cancels Third Day of Election Appearances

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled his election appearances for a third day Friday after falling ill with what officials described as an intestinal infection.

Erdogan, who has governed Turkey for two decades as prime minister and then president, is seeking a third presidential term in Turkey’s May 14 elections. He had been due to appear at a bridge opening and a political rally in the southern city of Adana, but his schedule changed to show he would attend the opening ceremony via video link.

Erdogan spoke by phone Friday with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on several matters, including the Ukraine-Russia grain and fertilizer deal they helped arrange, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. He said they discussed “how to guarantee the improvement, expansion and extension” of the deal, which expires May 18.

Erdogan became ill during a TV interview on Tuesday evening with what Health Minister Fahrettin Koca later said was a “gastrointestinal infection.” His election rallies planned for Wednesday and Thursday were canceled.

He looked pale Thursday as he inaugurated a nuclear power plant via video in his first public appearance since his illness. During his Friday video address Erdogan seemed well as he spoke for about 10 minutes from behind a desk.

Other officials sought to dispel concerns about the 69-year-old leader’s health ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections. Recent polls showed a slight lead for Erdogan’s main challenger amid an economic downturn and a February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.

Erdogan, who underwent intestinal surgery in 2011, has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and as president since 2014. He campaigned hard in recent weeks, attending several events across the country every day.

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US Intelligence Surveillance of Americans Drops Sharply

U.S. intelligence agencies pushing lawmakers to reauthorize a controversial set of surveillance tools are hoping to get a boost from a new report showing fewer U.S. citizens and residents are getting swept up in the agencies’ collection efforts.

The just-released report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that even as U.S. intelligence agencies are making greater use of collection authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the number of U.S. persons — citizens or legal residents — being targeted has declined steadily.

Friday’s transparency report said there were only 49 court-approved surveillance or search orders for U.S. persons in 2022, down from 67 in 2021 and from 102 in 2020.

Additionally, the number of U.S. persons subject to law enforcement queries after they were swept up in foreign electronic surveillance, under what is known as FISA Section 702, also saw a “significant decline,” according to the report, despite an overall increase in the use of the authorities.

FBI abused access, say some

FISA Section 702 allows for the National Security Agency and the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance and data collection of non-Americans. But such efforts sometimes pick up information on U.S. persons, and that has been a point of contention for some lawmakers and civil liberties groups who argue the FBI has abused its access to the data.

According to the report, the number of non-Americans targeted under FISA Section 702 jumped to 246,000 in 2022, an increase of more than 13,600 from the previous year.

However, the ODNI’s records indicated the FBI searches of the data for information on U.S. persons dropped by almost 96%.

“This reduction occurred following a number of changes FBI made to its systems, processes and training relating to U.S. person queries,” the report said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has similarly touted internal reforms, telling lawmakers last month that the bureau’s own data showed searches for U.S. citizens or their information under Section 702 had dropped 93% from 2021 to 2022.

“We are absolutely committed to making sure that we show you, the rest of the members of Congress and the American people that we’re worthy of these incredibly valuable authorities,” he said at the time.

Yet the FBI’s assurances, and the new report from ODNI, have done little to assuage lawmakers charged with reauthorizing the FISA Section 702 authorities before they expire at the end of the year.

“We need to pass substantive and meaningful reforms to help deter abusive behavior by the FBI in the FISA process,” Representative Mike Turner, House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Representative Darin LaHood, both Republicans, said in a statement Friday.

“We must protect the American people’s privacy and civil liberties,” they said. “Without additional safeguards, a clean reauthorization of 702 is a nonstarter.”

LaHood, who said last month that the FBI searched for his name in foreign data multiple times under FISA Section 702, has been leading a bipartisan working group charged with proposing meaningful reforms.

Lawmakers have also been joined by human rights groups, who argue the latest data show problems remain.

“While the new statistics show a decline, the total number of searches is huge even now, and the intrusion on Americans’ privacy is undeniable,” Patrick Toomey, deputy director with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

“FBI agents are sitting at their computers and subjecting Americans to warrantless ‘backdoor searches’ hundreds of times per day,” Toomey said. “After years of FBI surveillance abuses, it’s time for Congress to step in and require the constitutional gold standard: a warrant.”

‘A vital source of intelligence’

Despite such concerns, U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly urged lawmakers to renew the collection authorities, arguing they are critical to protecting Americans at home and U.S. interests abroad.

NSA Cybersecurity Director Rob Joyce earlier this month called FISA Section 702 “a vital source of intelligence.”

“I can’t do cybersecurity at the scope and scale we do it today without that authority,” he told an audience in Washington.

A day later, CIA Director William Burns told an audience at Rice University in Texas that FISA Section 702 has become an indispensable tool in combating drug cartels sending fentanyl into the U.S.

U.S. intelligence officials have previously credited FISA Section 702 warrantless surveillance authorities with providing information crucial in launching the strike that killed al-Qaida terror leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.