Peru President Pardons Former Authoritarian Leader, Sparking Protests

Supporters celebrate after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former President Alberto Fujimori who was serving a 25-year prison sentence. (Reuters)
Supporters celebrate after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former President Alberto Fujimori who was serving a 25-year prison sentence. (Reuters)
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Peru President Pardons Former Authoritarian Leader, Sparking Protests

Supporters celebrate after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former President Alberto Fujimori who was serving a 25-year prison sentence. (Reuters)
Supporters celebrate after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former President Alberto Fujimori who was serving a 25-year prison sentence. (Reuters)

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to pardon former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori sparked clashes as protested the move as a crude political deal.

At least two ministers in Kuczynski’s cabinet who objected to the pardon, issued late on Sunday, told him they wanted to resign, and Kuczynski might reshuffle the cabinet as early as this week, a government source said.

Two ruling party lawmakers quit his party as his political group planned next steps.

The decision clears Fujimori of convictions for human rights crimes and graft when his right-wing government was in power from 1990 to 2000, and could define Kuczynski’s legacy and rewrite political alliances.

Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker who vowed as a candidate not to pardon Fujimori, based his decision on a medical review that found Fujimori suffered from “a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease”, according to a statement from the president’s office.

Peruvian law provides that no person convicted of murder or kidnapping can receive a presidential pardon except in the case of a terminal illness. Three previous requests from Fujimori for pardons since 2013 were rejected after doctors said he did not suffer from incurable illness or severe mental disorder.

Fujimori filed a request seeking a medical pardon more than a year ago, citing deteriorating health. He has said on his Twitter account that he suffers from arrhythmia, for which he has been hospitalized several times this year. He remained at a clinic Sunday night where he was taken from prison a day earlier after suffering a drop in blood pressure.

Many in Peru saw the pardon as part of a quid pro quo. Three days earlier, Fujimori’s loyalists - led by his lawmaker son Kenji - unexpectedly saved Kuczynski from a vote in Congress that nearly removed him from office.

In a video Kenji shared on social media, a gray-haired Fujimori, connected to tubes in hospital, was seen smiling after reading Kuczynski’s announcement of the pardon on a cellphone with Kenji.

“To save his own skin he cut a deal with Fujimori’s supporters to infamously pardon a corrupt killer,” said Veronika Mendoza, a leftist leader who competed against Kuczynski in last year’s presidential election.

Kuczynski’s center-right government has repeatedly denied that a pardon for Fujimori was part of political negotiations.

Fujimori is a deeply divisive figure in Peru. While many consider him a corrupt dictator, others credit him with ending an economic crisis and bloody leftist insurgency when in power.

“He’s the best president Peru ever had,” said Maria Luisa Cuculiza, a friend and former minister of Fujimori, adding that he no longer had any political ambitions.

“He doesn’t want to return to politics. He just wants to be a good grandfather,” Cuculiza told Reuters by telephone.

Police fired teargas at scores of Fujimori’s opponents in downtown Lima, who waved pictures of the victims of a bloody counterinsurgency campaign during his term.

Officers in riot gear stood guard at Kuczynski’s house in the capital’s San Isidro financial district as protesters called for the march to make its way there.

Fujimori’s family and supporters cheered the pardon as a long-overdue vindication for a misunderstood hero.

But the pardon was a blow to the relatives of victims, prosecutors and human rights activists who helped put Fujimori behind bars in a lengthy judicial process that earned Peru global plaudits for fighting impunity.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on this Twitter account that the pardon "was a vulgar political negotiation in exchange for Kuczynski's stay in power." Amnesty International demanded that Kuczynski "clarify the doubts about the lack of transparency and respect for due process."

Kuczynski, “you’ve betrayed justice, democracy and victims. History will never forgive you,” said Indira Huilca, a leftist lawmaker whose union leader father was shot dead in 1992 in what the Inter-American Court of Human Rights deemed an extrajudicial killing.

Kuczynski, who like Fujimori is 79, ran for office to cap a prestigious career in finance and public administration.

The pardon might also prompt one of the biggest political realignments in Peru since Fujimori fled to his parents’ homeland of Japan in 2000 as a corruption scandal brought his decade in power to an end.

Fujimori was extradited back to Peru in 2007. He was first convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the killings of 25 people, including an 8-year-old boy, during his administration. He was later drew four more convictions, the most serious one charging him with knowledge of the existence of death squads financed with public money that killed civilians accused of being Shining Path members.

A former university president and mathematics professor, Fujimori was a political outsider when he emerged from obscurity to win Peru's 1990 presidential election over writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

Peru was being ravaged by runaway inflation and guerrilla violence when he took office. He quickly rebuilt the economy with mass privatizations of state industries. Defeating the fanatical Shining Path rebels took longer but his fight won him broad-based support.

His presidency collapsed just as dramatically as his rise to power.

After briefly shutting down Congress and putting himself into a third term, Fujimori fled the country in disgrace in 2000 after leaked videotapes showed his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, bribing lawmakers. Fujimori went to Japan, his parents' homeland, and famously sent in his resignation by fax.

Five years later, he stunned supporters and enemies alike when he flew to neighboring Chile, where he was arrested and extradited to Peru. Fujimori's goal was run for Peru's presidency again in 2006, but instead he went to trial and was convicted of abuse of power.

His eldest daughter, Keiko, leads the opposition party Popular Force that controls Congress, while Kenji has courted ties with Kuczynski’s government as he challenges his sister’s past decade of leadership of their father’s populist following.



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
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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 Launches Major Drone Attack on Moscow, Russia Says All Shot Down

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)
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Ukraine Launches Major Drone Attack on Moscow, Russia Says All Shot Down

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 one of its biggest drone attacks on Moscow on Tuesday, according to Russia, whose defense ministry said all were destroyed approaching the city.

There were no reports of deaths.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said two people were injured, one of whom was hospitalized, in the early morning attack. The residents of several parts of two apartment blocks had been evacuated but later returned.

"Early this morning, as a result of the drone attack, minor damage occurred in several buildings," Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. "No one has been seriously injured."

Video posted on social media showed what appeared to be a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke rising over the Moscow skyline.

Moscow's airports remained open.

Russia's defense ministry said the drones were sent by Kyiv but were all destroyed, according to Russian news agencies.

Russian lawmaker Maxim Ivanov said it was the most serious attack on Moscow since Nazi attacks during World War Two, saying no citizen could now avoid what he said was "the new reality".

"You will either defeat the enemy as a single fist with our Motherland, or the indelible shame of cowardice, collaboration and betrayal will engulf your family," he said.

Ukrainian drone attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks. The New York Times reported that US intelligence believes Ukraine was behind a drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month.

Ukraine has not publicly acknowledged launching attacks against targets inside Russia.

Russia's investigative committee said a number of drones were shot down and that there was minor damage due to the falling wreckage, but did not say how many drones attacked.

The Telegram channel Baza, which has good sources among Russia's security services, said around 25 drones attacked Moscow. Russia's RBK cited an unidentified interior ministry source as saying that more than 10 drones were shot down.

Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region, said on the Telegram channel that several drones were shot down on their approach to Moscow.


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)
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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)
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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)
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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
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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
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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)
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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)
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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.


Belarus’s Lukashenko Says There Can Be ‘Nuclear Weapons for Everyone'

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
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Belarus’s Lukashenko Says There Can Be ‘Nuclear Weapons for Everyone'

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 25, 2023. (AFP)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that if any other country wanted to join a Russia-Belarus union there could be "nuclear weapons for everyone".

Russia moved ahead last week with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in the Kremlin's first deployment of such warheads outside Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, spurring concerns in the West.

In an interview on Russia's state television late on Sunday, Lukashenko, President Vladimir Putin's staunchest ally among Russia's neighbors, said that it must be "strategically understood" that Minsk and Moscow have a unique chance to unite.

"No one is against Kazakhstan and other countries having the same close relations that we have with the Russian Federation," Lukashenko said. "If someone is worried ... (then) it is very simple: join in the Union State of Belarus and Russia. That's all: there will be nuclear weapons for everyone."

He added that it was his own view - not the view of Russia.

Russia and Belarus are formally part of a Union State, a borderless union and alliance between the two former Soviet republics.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, whose nation of 20 million people has close historical ties with Moscow but has refused to recognize Russia's annexation of parts of Ukraine, dismissed Lukashenko's invitation to join the union.

"I appreciated his joke," Tokayev's office quoted him as saying on Telegram, adding that Kazakhstan was already a member of a broader Russian-led trade bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union, so no further integration was necessary.

"As for nuclear weapons, we do not need them because we have joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty," he said in a remark which could be interpreted as a sting to Moscow and Minsk.

"We remain committed to our obligations under those international documents."

Russia used the territory of Belarus as a launchpad for its invasion of their common neighbor Ukraine in February last year, and since then their military cooperation has intensified, with joint training exercises on Belarusian soil.

On Sunday, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said that another unit of the S-400 mobile, surface-to-air missile systems arrived from Moscow, with the systems to be ready for combat duty soon.