Pope Meets Suu Kyi, Urges Myanmar to Respect Rights of all People

Pope Francis shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. (Reuters)
Pope Francis shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. (Reuters)
TT

Pope Meets Suu Kyi, Urges Myanmar to Respect Rights of all People

Pope Francis shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. (Reuters)
Pope Francis shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. (Reuters)

Pope Francis met on Tuesday with Myanmar State Counsellor leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she and authorities in his country faced international condemnation for the government crackdown against the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The pope avoided a diplomatic backlash by refraining from using the term “Rohingya,” but told Suu Kyi and other government authorities that the country's future lay in respecting the rights of all its people — “none excluded.”

The leaders of majority-Buddhist Myanmar must commit themselves to justice, human rights and respect for “each ethnic group and its identity”, he continued.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh - where the pope heads on Thursday - since the end of August, escaping from a military crackdown that Washington has said included “horrendous atrocities” aimed at “ethnic cleansing”.

Scores of Rohingya villages were burnt to the ground, and refugees told of killings and rapes.

Myanmar’s military has denied all accusations of murder, rape and forced displacement.

“The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good,” the Pope continued.

Myanmar rejects the term “Rohingya” and its use, with most people instead referring to the Muslim minority in Rakhine state as illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The pope had used the word Rohingya in two appeals from the Vatican this year.

But before the diplomatically risky trip, the pope’s own advisers recommended that he not use it in Myanmar, lest he set off a diplomatic incident that could turn the country’s military and government against minority Christians.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International, which has accused the army of “crimes against humanity”, had urged him to utter it.

A hardline group of Buddhist monks warned on Monday - without elaborating - that there would be “a response” if he spoke openly about the Rohingya.

Francis has said his aim in coming to Myanmar is to minister to its Catholic community, which numbers around 660,000 people, or just over 1 percent of the population of about 52 million.

In his homily Wednesday, Francis referred to the suffering that Myanmar's ethnic and religious groups have endured, a reference to the decades of conflicts between Myanmar's ethnic minorities and the military that continue today in parts of the country.

Myanmar recently emerged from nearly half a century of military dictatorship, but minorities including the Kachin and Karen are still subject to discrimination and other forms of violence.

"I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," Francis told the crowd in Italian that was translated into Burmese. Although he said the temptation is to respond with revenge, he urged a response of "forgiveness and compassion."

Suu Kyi's civilian government, which came to power in 2015 after decades of military rule, has been negotiating with 17 of Myanmar's 20 major ethnic groups that have staged decades of insurgencies against the central government demanding greater autonomy. The conflicts involving the Karen, Kachin, Sha and Wa — who are 40 percent of the country's population — have claimed thousands of lives.

When she came to power in 2016, Nobel peace laureate and longtime champion of democracy Suu Kyi said her number one priority was ending multiple ethnic conflicts that have kept Myanmar in a state of near-perpetual civil war since independence in 1948.

That goal remains elusive and, although Suu Kyi remains popular at home, she has faced a barrage of international criticism in recent weeks for expressing doubts about the reports of rights abuses against the Rohingya and failing to condemn the military.

Although Suu Kyi formed Myanmar’s first civilian government in half a century, her defenders say she is hamstrung by a constitution written by the military that left the army in control of security and much of the apparatus of the state.

Vatican sources say some in the Holy See believe the pope’s trip to Myanmar was decided too hastily after full diplomatic ties were established in May during a visit by Suu Kyi.

Francis leaves on Thursday for Bangladesh, where he will meet a group of Rohingya refugees in the capital, Dhaka.



Pakistan's Khan Gets Bail on New Charge of Abetting Violence

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo
TT

Pakistan's Khan Gets Bail on New Charge of Abetting Violence

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo

Pakistani former prime minister Imran Khan was on Tuesday granted bail on a new charge of abetting violence against the military by his protesting supporters after he was arrested and detained on May 9 in a corruption case, his lawyer said.

The embattled Khan, who says the corruption charges have been concocted, is embroiled in a confrontation with the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan directly or overseen civilian governments throughout its history, Reuters said.

His May 9 arrest sparked widespread protests by his supporters who ransacked various military facilities, raising new worries about the stability of the nuclear-armed country as it struggles with its worst economic crisis in decades.

Khan, 70, was later freed on the orders of a court.

His lawyer, Intezar Hussain Punjotha, said an anti-terrorism court confirmed the bail on the new charge after the former premier appeared before it and submitted surety bonds.

Khan has denied the charge saying he was in detention when the violence took place.

The bail until June 2 on the new charge means he will not be detained on that charge.

The former international cricket star became prime minister in 2018 with the tacit support of the military, though both sides denied it at the time.

He later fell out with generals and was ousted as prime minister after losing a confidence vote in 2022.

Khan has since then been campaigning for a snap election, with rallies with his supporters across the country, but the prime minister who replaced him, Shahbaz Sharif, has rejected the call for an election before it is due late this year.

The turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan's economic crisis with inflation at record highs, growth is anaemic amid fears of a sovereign default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unlocks delayed disbursements.

Dozens of Khan's supporters have been handed over to army authorities for trial in military courts.

A team of investigators looking into the May 9 violence summoned Khan on Tuesday for questioning but Punjotha said a member of his legal team would go instead.

Khan has appealed for talks to end the crisis. The government has rejected his call.


IAEA Resolves Nuclear Issues with Iran

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency is seen at IAEA headquarters during a board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021.   REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency is seen at IAEA headquarters during a board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
TT

IAEA Resolves Nuclear Issues with Iran

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency is seen at IAEA headquarters during a board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021.   REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency is seen at IAEA headquarters during a board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has resolved nuclear issues with Iran relating to one of three sites being investigated over the presence of uranium particles, Iranian media reported on Tuesday.

The agency’s alleged case regarding the findings of uranium particles with 83.7 purity has also been closed, a source told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The IAEA is due to issue quarterly reports on Iran this week, ahead of a regular meeting of its 35-nation Board of Governors next week, said Reuters.


Ukraine Strikes Moscow with Eight Drones, Russia Says

A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2023. (Reuters)
A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Ukraine Strikes Moscow with Eight Drones, Russia Says

A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2023. (Reuters)
A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Moscow, Russia, May 30, 2023. (Reuters)

Ukraine launched its biggest ever drone attack on Moscow on Tuesday but air defenses destroyed all eight of the drones, Russia said, bringing the 15-month war in Ukraine to the heart of the capital. 

Drone attacks deep inside Russia have intensified in recent weeks ahead of an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive, with strikes on oil pipelines and even the Kremlin earlier this month that Moscow has blamed on Ukraine. 

Drone debris hit some of Moscow most prestigious areas including Leninsky Prospekt, a grand avenue crafted under Josef Stalin, and the area of western Moscow where the Russian elite - including President Vladimir Putin - have their residences. 

Residents in south-western Moscow said they heard loud bangs at around 0200 to 0300 GMT, followed by the smell of petrol. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke rising over the Moscow skyline. 

Putin was briefed early in the morning on the drone attacks, the Kremlin said, adding that Russia's air defenses and military had worked well so there was no threat to the Moscow residents. 

"It is, of course, obvious that this is an attack by the Kyiv regime," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "And this must be absolutely clearly understood." 

The Russian president does not at present have any plans to make a special address to the Russian people, Peskov said, adding that Putin was working in the Kremlin. 

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said two people were injured, one of whom was hospitalized, in the early morning attack. Moscow's airports remained open. No deaths were reported. 

The defense ministry said electronic counter-drone technology was used to divert three of the Ukrainian drones while five more were shot down, including by Pantsir missile systems which help defend Moscow. 

A Ukrainian presidential aide denied Kyiv was directly involved in the Moscow attack, but said Ukraine was enjoying watching events and forecast more to come. 

"Of course, we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But of course, we have nothing directly to do with this," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said. 

Kyiv denied that it was behind the drone raid on the Kremlin earlier this month, though The New York Times reported that US intelligence believes Ukraine was responsible. 

There is little sign of peace in one of the deadliest wars in Europe since World War Two, and Moscow has repeatedly warned that the West is escalating the war by supplying Kyiv with so much weaponry. 

Moscow under attack 

It was unclear how Putin will react to the drone attack, which brings the war in Ukraine to the capital of the world's biggest nuclear power. 

So far Putin has kept the war in Ukraine far from Moscow, where life has continued relatively normally despite the biggest crisis in Russia's ties with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Russia began attacking the Ukrainian capital with swarms of cheaply produced loitering munitions often known as “kamikaze drones” last October and uses them extensively during its regular air strikes across Ukraine. 

Prosecutors said incidents occurred in the Odintsovsky District of western Moscow region - where Putin has his Novo-Ogaryovo state residence. The area, the most expensive in Russia, is the home to the country's elite. 

Russian state television gave the attacks some coverage, but it was not extensive. 

Putin has repeatedly cast the conflict in Ukraine as a struggle with what he says is an arrogant and aggressive West which is risking a global war by supporting Ukraine. 

Thus far, the war has been described by the Kremlin as a "special military operation". The United States has repeatedly said it does not want a war with Russia and has said Ukraine should not use Western weapons to attack inside Russia. 

Russian lawmaker Alexander Khinshtein, from the ruling United Russia bloc, said the attacks on Moscow were likely to increase. 

"The sabotage and terrorist attacks of Ukraine will only increase," Khinshtein said. "It is necessary to radically strengthen defense and security measures, especially in terms of countering drones. This includes finally passing the necessary laws." 


Iran Arrests ‘Assassination Cell’ Linked to Israel

Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib (left) and head of the judiciary's security department Ali Abdollahi. (Mizan)
Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib (left) and head of the judiciary's security department Ali Abdollahi. (Mizan)
TT

Iran Arrests ‘Assassination Cell’ Linked to Israel

Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib (left) and head of the judiciary's security department Ali Abdollahi. (Mizan)
Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib (left) and head of the judiciary's security department Ali Abdollahi. (Mizan)

Iranian security forces arrested a terrorist cell linked to Israel in the northwestern region of the country, said an official at the security department in the Iranian judiciary.

Fourteen members of the cell were arrested in West Azerbaijan province, said head of the security department Ali Abdollahi, according to the Mizan agency that is affiliated with the judiciary.

Abdollahi revealed that the terrorist cell had plotted to assassinate several figures.

Last week, the intelligence ministry said it had arrested members of an "espionage" network on charges of collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency to obtain information about Iranians traveling abroad.

Tensions between Tehran and Tel Aviv escalated after Iran made progress in its program to enrich uranium by 60 percent, at a rate close to weapons-grade.

Iran accused Israel of carrying out assassinations of scientists and officials in its nuclear program, as well as targeting its atomic facilities.

On May 21, Iranian Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib said the security services arrested a "terrorist" group linked to Israel on the western border with Iraq, calling on the Iraqi government to cooperate.

Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) ground forces Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour threatened to resume bombing Iraqi Kurdistan if Baghdad did not implement a security agreement both countries signed in March.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) secretary Ali Akbar Ahmadian received Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji in Tehran.

Ahmadian called for the urgent need to activate the agreement.


North Korea Says it Will Launch its First Military Spy Satellite in June

FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test of a rocket with the test satellite at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea on Dec. 18, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test of a rocket with the test satellite at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea on Dec. 18, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
TT

North Korea Says it Will Launch its First Military Spy Satellite in June

FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test of a rocket with the test satellite at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea on Dec. 18, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test of a rocket with the test satellite at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea on Dec. 18, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

North Korea said Tuesday it would launch its first military spy satellite in June and described space-based reconnaissance as crucial for monitoring the United States’ “reckless” military exercises with rival South Korea.

The statement came a day after North Korea notified Japan's coast guard that the launch, sometime between May 31 and June 11, might affect waters in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and east of the Philippines’ Luzon Island. Japan's defense minister warned its forces to shoot down the satellite or debris, if any entered Japanese territory.

While North Korea’s rivals have condemned the country’s planned launch as a banned test of ballistic missile technology, it’s less clear whether the satellite itself is advanced enough to support the North’s stated goals of tracking and monitoring US and South Korean military activities in real time.

The pace of both North Korea’s weapons testing and the US-South Korean joint military exercises increased in past months in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

In comments published by North Korean state media, senior military official Ri Pyong Chol criticized the combined US-South Korean military exercises, which Pyongyang has long described as invasion rehearsals. He said North Korea considers space-based reconnaissance “indispensable” to monitor the military exercises.

Last week, the South Korean and US militaries conducted large-scale live-fire drills near the border with North Korea — the first of five rounds of exercises marking 70 years since the establishment of their alliance. Washington and Seoul describe their regular military exercises as defensive and have expanded their training since 2022 to cope with the North’s evolving threats.

Ri said the expanding US-South Korean drills and other military activities underline their “sinister intention” to prepare for preemptive military action against North Korea. He said the “dangerous military acts by the US” and its forces created a concerning security environment that makes it necessary for Pyongyang to gather real-time, reliable information on military movements in the region.

South Korea has warned that North Korea will face consequences if it goes ahead with the satellite launch in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which ban the North from conducting any launch using ballistic technology. Space-launch vehicles for satellites share core technologies with long-range missiles that are built to deliver warheads aimed at destroying intercontinental targets.

Japan’s coast guard issued a safety warning for ships that would be in the affected seas during the expected launch, citing a risk of falling debris.

Last week, South Korea launched its first commercial-grade satellite, which experts say could provide Seoul with key technology and expertise to place its first military spy satellite into orbit later this year and build more powerful missiles.

Han Sung Geun, spokesperson of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing that the South Korean and US militaries were closely watching North Korea over the possible satellite launch and other provocative military moves. He did not provide specific assessments about the potential capabilities of the North Korean satellite and refused to say whether the South Korean military was preparing for the possibility that debris could fall in nearby waters.

Spy satellites are among an array of high-tech weapons systems North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly vowed to develop. Other weapons systems on his wish list include solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles and multi-warhead missiles.

North Korea placed Earth-observation satellites in orbit in 2012 and 2016, though their capabilities have been questioned.

Foreign experts say the earlier satellites never transmitted imagery back to North Korea, and analysts say the new device displayed in state media in recent weeks appeared too small and crudely designed to process and transfer high-resolution imagery.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-fired about 100 missiles, including ICBMs designed to reach the US mainland and a slew of launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks on targets in South Korea. North Korea has said its intensified testing activity is meant to counter its rivals’ joint military exercises as it continues to use those drills as a pretext to advance its arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons.


Biden Says He and Erdogan Talked about F-16s, Sweden's NATO Bid

US President Joe Biden and Türkiye's President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo as they attend a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
US President Joe Biden and Türkiye's President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo as they attend a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
TT

Biden Says He and Erdogan Talked about F-16s, Sweden's NATO Bid

US President Joe Biden and Türkiye's President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo as they attend a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
US President Joe Biden and Türkiye's President Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo as they attend a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit in Rome, Italy October 31, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

US President Joe Biden said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a call on Monday repeated Ankara's desire to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States, while Biden told him Washington wanted Ankara to drop its objection to Sweden's joining NATO.

The exchange took place when Biden called Erdogan to congratulate him on his victory in Türkiye’s presidential election on Sunday, said Reuters.

"I spoke to Erdogan. I congratulated Erdogan. He still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden, so let's get that done. And so we'll be back in touch with one another," Biden told reporters before departing the White House for Delaware.

Asked if he expected any movement from Erdogan on Sweden's NATO membership, Biden said: "I raised that issue with him. We're going to talk more about it next week."

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership last year, ditching long-held policies of military non-alignment following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Bids for membership must be approved by all NATO members. Türkiye and Hungary have yet to approve Sweden's bid.

Türkiye has sought to buy $20 billion worth of F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits from the United States. But the sale has been stalled due to objections from the U.S. Congress over Ankara's refusal to green light to NATO enlargement, its human rights record and Syria policy, even though the Biden administration has repeatedly said it supports the sale.

A much smaller $259 million package including avionics software upgrades for Türkiye’s current fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft was cleared by US Congress earlier this year, days after Türkiye ratified Finland's NATO accession.

The Biden administration has repeatedly rejected any assertion of any "quid pro quo" between the sale and the NATO enlargement, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in January said the US side made it clear that an approval of NATO bids would be viewed positively by the Congress.

A bipartisan group of senators in a February letter to Biden said Türkiye’s failure to ratify the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland, which was still waiting at the time, would "call into question this pending sale", referring to the F-16s.

A source familiar with the discussions said the United States had previously told Türkiye it would be hard to get Congress to approve the F-16 deal if Ankara doesn't green light Sweden.

Türkiye ratified Finland's NATO accession in late March, but has continued to object to Sweden, saying Stockholm harbors members of militant groups it considers to be terrorists. Hungary has also not yet approved Sweden's bid.

Seeing Sweden join NATO by mid-July when the alliance is due to hold a leaders summit in Lithuania is among the top priorities for Washington.

The Turkish Presidency in a statement on the call between Biden and Erdogan said the two leaders agreed to deepen cooperation on all aspects of their bilateral ties, which have grown in importance in the face of regional and global challenges.


One Killed in Fresh Wave of Russian Attacks on Ukraine

 Firefighters work near cars damaged during a massive Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 30, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Firefighters work near cars damaged during a massive Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 30, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
TT

One Killed in Fresh Wave of Russian Attacks on Ukraine

 Firefighters work near cars damaged during a massive Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 30, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Firefighters work near cars damaged during a massive Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 30, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukrainian defense forces said they shot down more than 20 drones during a fresh wave of Russian air attacks on Kyiv early Tuesday which killed at least one person and injured four others when their apartment building was hit and caught fire.

Kyiv's military administration said the latest attack involved only Iranian-made Shahed drones, and no missiles as has been the case in most previous raids, Reuters said.

"A massive attack!" Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging app. "Do not leave shelters."

One person died and four were injured when debris from a destroyed Russian projectile hit a high-rise apartment building sparking a fire, Ukrainian officials said.

Two upper floors of the building were destroyed and there could still be people under the rubble, Kyiv's military administration officials said on the Telegram messaging app.

Photos from Kyiv officials and Reuters witnesses showed flames engulfing the top floors of the building and smoke rising from the roof.

"The attack was massive, came from different directions, in several waves," Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, said on the Telegram.

Debris hit several other districts of the capital including the historic Podil and Pecherskyi neighbourhoods. It was not immediately known how many drones Russia launched and there was no immediate comment from Moscow.

Russia has repeatedly attacked the Ukrainian capital in May using a combination of drones and missiles, mostly at night, in an apparent attempt to undermine Ukrainians' will to fight after more than 15 months of war.

Tuesday's strikes were Russia's 17th air assault on the capital this month and came after the city was attacked twice on Monday, including an unusual daytime strike.

In a rare acknowledgement of damage to a military "target", Ukraine said a runway was damaged and five aircraft were taken out of service on Monday in western Khmelnitskiy region.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited the defense ministry as saying more than one air base had been hit. There was no confirmation from Ukraine of damage to other air bases.

Ukrainian officials said most of the drones and missiles fired on Sunday and Monday had been shot down and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised US-supplied Patriot anti-missile defenses.

"When Patriots in the hands of Ukrainians ensure a 100% interception rate of any Russian missile, terror will be defeated," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Monday.

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE

The air attacks come as Ukraine prepares a counter-offensive backed with Western weapons to try to drive Russian occupiers out of territory seized since Moscow launched what it calls its "special military operation" in February 2022.

"With these constant attacks, the enemy seeks to keep the civilian population in deep psychological tension," said Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv's military administration.

On the eastern frontlines, Russian paratroops and motorized units were replacing Wagner mercenary units in the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the eastern group of Ukrainian Forces.

Wagner began handing over positions to regular troops this week after declaring full control of Bakhmut following the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

Moscow said it invaded Ukraine to "denazify" its neighbor and protect Russian speakers. Western opponents say the invasion is an imperialist land grab in which tens of thousands have been killed, millions uprooted and cities reduced to ruins.

Russia says it is open to resuming stalled peace talks with Kyiv and has welcomed mediation efforts from Brazil and China.

But a top aide to Zelenskiy said Kyiv's peace plan, envisaging the full withdrawal of Russian troops, was the only way to end the war.

"There cannot be a Brazilian peace plan, a Chinese peace plan, a South African peace plan when you are talking about the war in Ukraine," chief diplomatic adviser Ihor Zhovkva told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.

CALL FOR A DMZ

Another Zelenskiy aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, wrote on Twitter that any post-war settlement should include a demilitarized zone of 100-120 km (62-75 miles) inside Russia along the border.

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said he believed Russia would not want to negotiate while it was still trying to win the war.

Ukraine's military said an attack on Odesa port had caused a fire and damaged infrastructure but did not specify whether the damage threatened grain exports.

Ukraine is an key global grain supplier and the port is vital for shipping. It is also one of three countries in a UN-brokered deal on the safe export of grain via the Black Sea.

Russia said on Monday the grain deal would no longer be operational unless a UN agreement with Moscow to overcome obstacles to Russian grain and fertilizer exports was fulfilled.

This month, Moscow reluctantly agreed to extend the grain deal until July 17.


Iranian Female Journalist Goes on Trial on Charges Linked to Amini Protests

An Iranian woman walks in a street in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2023. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
An Iranian woman walks in a street in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2023. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
TT

Iranian Female Journalist Goes on Trial on Charges Linked to Amini Protests

An Iranian woman walks in a street in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2023. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
An Iranian woman walks in a street in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2023. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

An Iranian journalist went on trial behind closed doors on Monday on charges linked to her coverage of the funeral of a Kurdish-Iranian woman whose death in custody last year triggered months of unrest, her lawyer told ILNA news agency.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police for allegedly violating the religious dress code unleashed a wave of mass protests across Iran for months, marking the biggest challenge to Iran's clerical leaders in decades.

Elaheh Mohammadi covered Amini's funeral in her Kurdish hometown Saqez, where the protests began. Tehran accused its foreign foes of igniting the protests to destabilize the country.

"The trial of Elaheh Mohammadi went well. The date of the next session will be announced by the court," her lawyer, Shahabeddin Mirlohi, told ILNA. He was not immediately available for comment.

Mohammadi, a reporter for the pro-reform Hammihan newspaper who is on trial in Tehran, and another journalist, Niloofar Hamedi, of the Sharq newspaper, have been accused of "colluding with hostile powers" for their coverage of Amini's death.

The charge potentially carries the death penalty under Iranian law.

A joint statement released by Iran’s intelligence ministry in October accused Mohammadi and Hamedi of being CIA foreign agents.

Hamedi took a photo of Amini's parents hugging each other in a Tehran hospital where their daughter was lying in a coma.

The image, which Hamedi posted on Twitter, was the first signal to the world that all was not well with Amini, who had been detained three days earlier by Iran's morality police.

The two journalists, who have been held in Iran's notorious Evin prison since last September, will be tried separately. Hamedi's trial will begin on Tuesday, according to the judiciary.

Tehran has ignored repeated calls by rights groups for a public trial for the two journalists.


Lavrov Warns West: Black Sea Grain Deal Is in Danger of Collapse

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with the media in Nairobi on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Handout / Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with the media in Nairobi on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Handout / Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP)
TT

Lavrov Warns West: Black Sea Grain Deal Is in Danger of Collapse

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with the media in Nairobi on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Handout / Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with the media in Nairobi on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Handout / Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP)

Russia warned the West on Monday that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported from the Black Sea would cease unless a United Nations agreement aimed at overcoming obstacles to Russian grain and fertilizer exports was fulfilled.

The United Nations and Türkiye brokered the Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days in July last year to help tackle a global food crisis that has been aggravated by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, one of the world's leading grain exporters.

Russia has repeatedly warned it will allow the deal to expire because of obstacles to its own exports of grain and fertilizer caused by Western sanctions, but on May 17 Moscow agreed to extend for two more months.

"If everything remains as it is, and apparently it will, then it will be necessary to proceed from the fact that it [the deal] is no longer functioning," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Nairobi when asked if the Black Sea deal should be extended again.

Lavrov, whose visit to Kenya is the first step of a tour of Africa, said the United Nations-Russia memorandum had not been fulfilled "at all". The UN-Russia agreement was reached at the same time as the Black Sea deal.

While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions, Moscow says they are hampered by restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance.

Grains and fertilizers

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets. Russia is also dominant in the fertilizer market.

Lavrov, who has visited the African continent at least three times this year, said that less than 3% of the 30 million tons of grain exported under the Black Sea deal had reached the world's poorest countries.

He said that Russia had agreed to give away around 300,000 tons of Russian fertilizer stuck in European ports.

Russia's Uralchem-Uralkali Group said on Monday that a consignment of 34,000 tons of fertilizers for Kenya had reached the port of Mombasa. The shipment, comprising potash, urea and NPKS, is currently being unloaded, it said.

It was Uralchem's second donation from fertilizer stuck in European ports and warehouses. A 20,000 ton load of complex fertilizer was handed over to Malawi in early March.

"The disruptions in international supply of crop nutrients that we all witnessed lately have severely increased the risks of famine in many parts of the planet and put hundreds of millions of people at the brink of starvation," Uralchem CEO Dmitry Konyaev said.


Russia Launches 16th Air Strike on Kyiv This Month

Police officers walk next to a part of a missile which landed on a street during a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Police officers walk next to a part of a missile which landed on a street during a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Russia Launches 16th Air Strike on Kyiv This Month

Police officers walk next to a part of a missile which landed on a street during a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Police officers walk next to a part of a missile which landed on a street during a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 29, 2023. (Reuters)

Explosions rang out across Kyiv on Monday as Russia launched its 16th air attack on the Ukrainian capital this month, hours after unleashing dozens of missiles and drones overnight.

 

Panicked residents, some of whom initially ignored the air raid siren as they ate breakfast in cafes, rushed for cover when the sky filled with smoke trails and blast clouds.

 

All the Russian missiles were shot down, but one person in the central Podil district was taken to hospital, authorities said. No major damage was reported.

 

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said explosions sounded in the capital's central districts and emergency services were dispatched.

 

"The attack on Kyiv continues. Don't leave the shelters!" he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

 

Ukraine shot down 11 cruise and ballistic missiles fired in the second of Monday's attacks on Kyiv, said Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

 

Heavy air strikes about six hours earlier had targeted the capital, put five Ukrainian aircraft out of action in the west of the country and caused a fire in the Black Sea port of Odesa.

 

"I would say there has been an activisation, a serious activisation...there are fewer missiles flying, but the regularity of strikes has increased," said air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat.

 

Russia's main targets are typically stocks of Western weapons, energy facilities and government buildings, but the fact the missiles over Kyiv were shot down made it difficult to establish their target on Monday, he said.

 

Russia has increased the frequency of air attacks as Ukraine prepares to launch a counteroffensive.

 

Kyiv metro stations were packed with people taking shelter although many residents ignored the air raid alarm until they heard loud blasts in city center.

 

A local television report from a junction on a busy highway showed missile wreckage that appeared to have hit a traffic light.