Macron, Scholz Urge Putin to Accept Direct Exchange with Zelenskiy

Russian President Vladimir Putin. EPA photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin. EPA photo
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Macron, Scholz Urge Putin to Accept Direct Exchange with Zelenskiy

Russian President Vladimir Putin. EPA photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin. EPA photo

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to release the 2,500 Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant detained by Russian forces, the Elysee palace said.

The two European leaders, in a joint call, also urged Putin to accept a direct exchange with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Reuters quoted the palace as saying.

Russia said this month that almost 2,000 Ukrainians had surrendered after making a last stand in the ruins of Mariupol, where they had held out for weeks in bunkers and tunnels beneath the vast Azovstal steelworks.

Macron and Scholz also insisted on the urgency of lifting the Russian blockade of the port of Odesa to allow Ukrainian grain exports, the palace said.

The Kremlin said Putin told Macron and Scholz in the call that Russia was willing to discuss ways to make it possible for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from Black Sea ports.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a "special operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.



Trump Blasts Immigrants for Taking Jobs

Former US President Donald Trump (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump (AFP)
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Trump Blasts Immigrants for Taking Jobs

Former US President Donald Trump (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump (AFP)

Donald Trump blamed immigrants for stealing jobs and government resources as he courted separate groups of Black voters and hardcore conservatives in battleground Michigan on Saturday.

The Republican former president also made several new baseless claims attacking the nation's voting system.

But Trump's fiery comments on illegal immigration, long a staple in his unapologetic message, marked a connecting theme in downtown Detroit as he sought to stitch together a delicate political coalition at both a Black church and a group known to attract white supremacists.

"The people coming across the border — all those millions of people — they're inflicting tremendous harm to our Black population and to our Hispanic population," Trump told a cheering crowd of thousands of conservative activists packed into a vast convention hall, The AP reported.

“They're not human beings. They're animals,” he said later in referencing members of violent immigrant gangs.

Trump’s diverse weekend schedule underscores the evolving political forces shaping the presidential election this fall as he tries to deny Democratic President Joe Biden a second term.

Few states may matter more in November than Michigan, which Biden carried by less than 3 percentage points four years ago. And few voting groups matter more to Democrats than African Americans, who made up the backbone of Biden’s political base in 2020. But now, less than five months before Election Day, Black voters are expressing modest signs of disappointment with the 81-year-old Democrat.

Trump, who turned 78 on Friday, is fighting to take advantage of his apparent opening.

His crowd was far smaller, but also warmly receptive, when he visited the 180 Church earlier in the day. Derelict vehicles sat outside the modest brick building with “Black Americans for Trump” signs affixed. Rap music and barbecue smoke wafted from a pre-event gathering organized by the Black Conservative Federation group.

“It’s a very important area for us,” Trump told the church crowd, which included a significant number of white people. He promised to return “some Sunday” for a sermon.

He argued that the Black community “is being hurt” by immigrants in the country illegally.

“They’re invading your jobs,” he said.

Trump offered a similar message later in the day while addressing the “People's Convention” of Turning Point Action, a group that the Anti-Defamation League says has been linked to a variety of extremists.

Roughly 24 hours before the former president spoke, well-known white supremacist Nick Fuentes entered the hall surrounded by a group of cheering supporters. Security quickly escorted him out, but Fuentes created political problems for Trump after attending a private lunch with the former president and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West at Trump’s Florida estate in 2022.

Turning Point has emerged as a force in GOP politics in the Trump era, particularly among his “Make America Great Again” movement, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s warning that the group “continues to attract racists.”

“Numerous individuals associated with the group have made bigoted statements about the Black community, the LGBTQ community and other groups,” the ADL, an international anti-hate group, wrote in a background memo. “While TPUSA (Turning Point USA) leaders say they reject white supremacist ideology, known white nationalists have attended their events.”

Turning Point spokesperson Andrew Kolvet dismissed the ADL’s characterization as “smears and lies.” He added that Turning Point has been blocking Fuentes from attending its events for “years.”

“The ADL is a scourge on America, which sows poison and division. They’ve completely lost the plot,” Kolvet said, describing the ADL’s criticism as “a badge of honor.”