West Denounces Death Sentences for 3 Who Fought for Ukraine

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP)
Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP)
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West Denounces Death Sentences for 3 Who Fought for Ukraine

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP)
Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP)

Two British citizens and a Moroccan were sentenced to death Thursday for fighting on Ukraine's side, in a punishment handed down by the country's pro-Moscow rebels.

The proceedings against the three captured fighters were denounced by Ukraine and the West as a sham and a violation of the rules of war.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine found the three fighters guilty of seeking the violent overthrow of power, an offense punishable by death in the unrecognized eastern republic. The men were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the defendants - identified as Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saadoun - will face a firing squad. They have a month to appeal.

The separatist side argued that the three were "mercenaries" not entitled to the usual protections accorded prisoners of war. They are the first foreign fighters sentenced by Ukraine’s Russian-backed rebels.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko condemned the proceedings as legally invalid, saying, "Such show trials put the interests of propaganda above the law and morality." He said that all foreign citizens fighting as part of Ukraine’s armed forces should be considered Ukrainian military personnel and protected as such.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that the foreigners had committed crimes on the territory of the self-proclaimed state trying to break away from Ukraine.

Lavrov said: "At the moment, the trials you mentioned are being held on the basis of the legislation of the Donetsk People's Republic, because the crimes in question were committed on the DPR's territory."

British Foreign Secretary Luz Truss pronounced the sentencing a "sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy." Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman Jamie Davies said that under the Geneva Conventions, POWs are entitled to immunity as combatants.

Saadoun's father, Taher Saadoun, told the Moroccan online Arab-language newspaper Madar 21 that his son is not a mercenary and that he holds Ukrainian citizenship.

Aslin’s and Pinner’s families have said that the two men were long-serving members of the Ukrainian military. Both are said to have lived in Ukraine since 2018.

The three men fought alongside Ukrainian troops before Pinner and Aslin surrendered to pro-Russian forces in the southern port of Mariupol in mid-April and Saadoun was captured in mid-March in the eastern city of Volnovakha.

Another British fighter taken prisoner by the pro-Russian forces, Andrew Hill, is awaiting trial.

The Russian military has argued that foreign mercenaries fighting on Ukraine’s side are not combatants and should expect long prison terms, at best, if captured.



Zelenskiy, from Kharkiv, Urges Biden, Xi to Join Peace Summit

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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Zelenskiy, from Kharkiv, Urges Biden, Xi to Join Peace Summit

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during an interview with Reuters, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 20, 2024. (Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday to join an upcoming peace summit as his country struggles to stave off unrelenting attacks by Russia in its 27-month-old invasion.

Moscow's forces have in recent weeks advanced on the battlefield and stepped up air strikes on cities, and Kyiv hopes the June meeting in Switzerland will help pile international pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In English-language video recorded inside the charred remains of a printing press destroyed on Thursday in a Russian air strike, Zelenskiy said the summit would "show who in the world really wants to end the war".

"I am appealing to the leaders of the world who are still aside from the global efforts of the Global Peace Summit – to President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China," he said.

"Please, show your leadership in advancing the peace – the real peace and not just a pause between the strikes.

Russia has said it sees no point in the conference to which Moscow is not currently invited.

Zelenskiy's comments came two days after Russian sources told Reuters that Putin was ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines.

Zelenskiy and Ukraine's supporters say a ceasefire will only help Russia rearm and regroup.

Russia has in recent months made slow but steady gains along several parts of the sprawling eastern front and is attempting to push deeper into the northeastern Kharkiv region after a ground incursion launched earlier this month.

In an interview with Reuters last week, Zelenskiy said it was crucial to get as many countries around the table at the peace talks as possible. Putin has said he believes the talks may convert Ukrainian demands for a Russian withdrawal into an ultimatum for Russia.


Trump Trial Reaches Its End Game

Former US President Donald Trump talking with former Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a Security Council session in September 2018 (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump talking with former Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a Security Council session in September 2018 (AFP)
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Trump Trial Reaches Its End Game

Former US President Donald Trump talking with former Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a Security Council session in September 2018 (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump talking with former Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during a Security Council session in September 2018 (AFP)

The historic trial of Donald Trump enters its final act Tuesday, with closing arguments to the jury who must then decide whether to hand down the first ever criminal conviction of a former US president.
Less than six months before American voters choose whether to return Trump to the White House, the stakes riding on the verdict are hard to overstate -- for the 77-year-old personally, but also for the country as a whole, AFP said.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels about a 2006 sexual encounter between them that could have damaged his 2016 presidential bid.
If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison on each of 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.
Crucially, a conviction would not bar Trump from appearing on the ballot in November as the Republican presidential challenger to Democrat Joe Biden.
It has taken nearly five weeks, the testimony of more than 20 witnesses and a few courtroom fireworks to reach closing arguments -- the last chance for the prosecution and defense to impress their case on the anonymous, 12-member jury.
As expected, Trump chose not to testify in his defense -- a move that would have exposed him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination.
For a man who has always prided himself on being in charge and in control, the role of silent, passive defendant did not come easily.
At times it has been downright excruciating, especially when Trump was forced to sit and listen while Daniels recounted their alleged encounter in sometimes graphic detail.
Speaking to reporters before and after each day in court, Trump launched regular tirades against Judge Juan Merchan -- calling him "corrupt" and a "tyrant" -- and condemned the whole trial as "election interference" by Democrats intent on keeping him off the campaign trail.
The politics of the case were in full view in the final days when a coterie of leading Republicans -- including several vice-presidential hopefuls -- came to the court and stood behind Trump in a gesture of support as he spoke to the press.
In all, he was cited 10 times for contempt of court and fined $10,000 by Merchant for failing to heed a gag order prohibiting him from publicly attacking witnesses, the jury, court staff or their relatives.
The judge has said he expects closing arguments to take up all of Tuesday.
He will then give his final instructions to the jury, who will likely begin their deliberations on Wednesday.
To return a guilty or not guilty verdict requires unanimity. Just one holdout means a hung jury and a mistrial.
- Other cases -
Aside from Daniels, the key prosecution witness was Michael Cohen, Trump's former "fixer" turned bitter foe who arranged the $130,000 hush money payment.
Walking jurors through the reasoning behind the payments, Cohen said they were made "to ensure that the story would not come out, would not affect Mr. Trump's chances of becoming president of the United States."
Trump's defense team devoted most of their questioning trying to discredit Cohen, recalling that he had admitted lying to Congress and spent time in prison for tax fraud.
The defense called only two witnesses of their own before resting.
In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He also faces charges in Florida of allegedly mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House.
None of those trials are expected to take place before the November election.


Tornado Overturns Trucks, Damages Homes as Texas and Oklahoma Residents Told to Seek Shelter

A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
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Tornado Overturns Trucks, Damages Homes as Texas and Oklahoma Residents Told to Seek Shelter

A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)
A tornado damaged car sits in a pile of debris, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Greenfield, Iowa. (AP)

A tornado touched down and crossed an interstate in Texas, causing damage and possible injuries as scattered severe storms moved through Texas and Oklahoma Saturday night.

Forecasters issued tornado and severe thunder storm warnings for parts of both states, as some heat records were broken during the day in South Texas and residents received triple-digit temperature warnings over the long holiday weekend.

A tornado crossed into northern Denton County in Texas late Saturday and overturned tractor-trailer trucks, stopping traffic on Interstate 35, Denton County Community Relations Director Dawn Cobb said in a statement.

The tornado was confirmed near Valley View, moving east at 40 mph (64 kph), prompting the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning for northern Denton County, Cobb said.

The storm damaged homes, overturned motorhomes and knocked down power lines and trees throughout the area including points in Sanger, Pilot Point, Ray Roberts Lake and Isle du Bois State Park, Cobb said, adding that the number of injuries in the county was not immediately known.

The fire department in the city of Denton, about 37 miles (59.5 kilometers) north of Fort Worth, Texas, posted on X that emergency personnel were responding to a marina “for multiple victims, some reported trapped.”

Earlier Saturday night, the National Weather Service's office in Norman, Oklahoma, said via the social platform X that the warning was for northern Noble and far southern Kay counties, an area located to the north of Oklahoma City. “If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!” it said.

A following post at 10:05 p.m. said storms had exited the area but warned of a storm moving across north Texas that could affect portions of south central Oklahoma.

At 10:24 p.m., the weather service office in Fort Worth posted a message warning residents in Era and Valley View they were in the direct path of a possible tornado and to immediately seek shelter. The Forth Worth office continued to post notices and shelter warnings tracking the movement of the storm through midnight and separately issued a severe thunderstorm warning with “golf ball sized hail” possible.

The weather service office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, warned on X of a dangerous storm moving across the northeast part of the state through 2 a.m. and issued severe thunderstorm notices for communities including Hugo, Boswell, Fort Towson, Grainola, Foraker and Herd.

The Norman office had compared conditions Saturday to “a gasoline-soaked brush pile.” Forecasters said any storms that form could explode with large hail, dangerous winds and tornadoes.

“There’s a small chance most of the matches are duds and we only see a few storms today. Still, that’s not a match I would want to play with. It only takes one storm to be impactful,” it said via Facebook.

Excessive heat, especially for May, was the danger in South Texas, where the heat index was forecast to approach 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) in some spots during the weekend. Actual temperatures will be lower, although still in triple-digit territory, but the humidity will make it feel that much hotter.

The region is on the north end of a heat dome stretching from Mexico to South America, National Weather Service meteorologist Zack Taylor said.

Sunday looks like the hottest day with record highs for late May forecast for Austin, Brownsville, Dallas and San Antonio, Taylor said.

Brownsville and Harlingen near the Texas-Mexico border already set new records Saturday for the May 25 calendar date — 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), respectively — according to the weather service.

Red Flag fire warnings were also in place in West Texas, all of New Mexico and parts of Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado. Humidity was very low, under 10%, and wind gusts of up to 60 mph (97 kph) were recorded.

“We’ve got very dry air, warm temperatures and strong winds creating a high fire danger over a wide area ... that can lead to rapidly spreading or uncontrollable fires,” Taylor said.

Meanwhile, several inches of snow fell Friday into early Saturday in Rolla, North Dakota, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Canadian border.

April and May have been a busy month for tornadoes, especially in the Midwest. Climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world.

April saw the United States' second-highest number of tornadoes on record. So far for 2024, the country is already 25% ahead of the average number of twisters, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

Iowa was hit hard this week, when a deadly twister devastated Greenfield. And other storms brought flooding and wind damage elsewhere in the state.

The storm system causing the severe weather was expected to move east as the Memorial Day weekend continues, bringing rain that could delay the Indianapolis 500 auto race Sunday in Indiana and more severe storms in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky.

The risk of severe weather moves into North Carolina and Virginia on Monday, forecasters said.


UN Migration Agency Estimates More than 670 Killed in Papua New Guinea Landslide

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. (Emmanuel Eralia via Reuters)
View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. (Emmanuel Eralia via Reuters)
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UN Migration Agency Estimates More than 670 Killed in Papua New Guinea Landslide

View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. (Emmanuel Eralia via Reuters)
View of the damage after a landslide in Maip Mulitaka, Enga province, Papua New Guinea May 24, 2024 in this obtained image. (Emmanuel Eralia via Reuters)

The International Organization for Migration on Sunday increased its estimate of the death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea to more than 670.

Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency's mission in the South Pacific island nation, said the revised death toll was based on calculations by Yambali village and Enga provincial officials that more than 150 homes had been buried by Friday's landslide. The previous estimate had been 60 homes.

“They are estimating that more than 670 people (are) under the soil at the moment,” Aktoprak told The Associated Press.

Local officials had initially put the death toll on Friday at 100 or more. Only five bodies and a leg of a sixth victim had been recovered by Sunday.

Emergency responders in Papua New Guinea were moving survivors to safer ground on Sunday as tons of unstable earth and tribal warfare, which is rife in the country's Highlands, threatened the rescue effort.

The South Pacific island’s government meanwhile is considering whether it needs to officially request more international support.

Crews have given up hope of finding survivors under earth and rubble 6 to 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) deep, Aktoprak said.

“People are coming to terms with this so there is a serious level of grieving and mourning,” he said.

Government authorities were establishing evacuation centers on safer ground on either side of the massive swath of debris that covers an area the size of three to four football fields and has cut the main highway through the province.

“Working across the debris is very dangerous and the land is still sliding,” Aktoprak said.

Beside the blocked highway, convoys that have transported food, water and other essential supplies since Saturday to the devastated village 60 kilometers (35 miles) from the provincial capital, Wabag, have faced risks related to tribal fighting in Tambitanis village, about halfway along the route. Papua New Guinea soldiers were providing security for the convoys.

Eight locals were killed in a clash between two rival clans on Saturday in a longstanding dispute unrelated to the landslide. Around 30 homes and five retail businesses were burned down in the fighting, local officials said.

Aktoprak said he did not expect tribal combatants would target the convoys but noted that opportunistic criminals might take advantage of the mayhem to do so.

“This could basically end up in carjacking or robbery,” Aktoprak said. “There is not only concern for the safety and security of the personnel, but also the goods because they may use this chaos as a means to steal.”

Longtime tribal warfare has cast doubt on the official estimate that almost 4,000 people were living in the village when a side of Mount Mungalo fell away.

Justine McMahon, country director of the humanitarian agency CARE International, said moving survivors to “more stable ground” was an immediate priority along with providing them with food, water and shelter. The military was leading those efforts.

The numbers of injured and missing were still being assessed on Sunday. Seven people including a child had received medical treatment by Saturday, but officials had no details on their conditions.

Medical facilities were buried along with houses, several small businesses, a guest house, school and gas station, officials said.

McMahon said there were other health facilities in the region, the provincial government was sending health workers and the World Health Organization was mobilizing staff.

“There will be some support, but it's such a spread-out area that I think it will be quite a challenging situation,” McMahon said. “The scale of this disaster is quite immense.”

While Papua New Guinea is in the tropics, the village is 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) above sea level where temperatures are substantially cooler.

Papua New Guinea Defense Minister Billy Joseph and the government’s National Disaster Center director Laso Mana were flying from Port Moresby by helicopter to Wabag on Sunday to gain a firsthand perspective of what is needed.

Aktoprak expected the government would decide by Tuesday whether it would officially request more international help.

The United States and Australia, a near neighbor and Papua New Guinea’s most generous provider of foreign aid, are among governments that have publicly stated their readiness to do more to help responders.

Papua New Guinea is a diverse, developing nation with 800 languages and 10 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers.


US Announces $275Mln in New Military Aid for Ukraine

Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
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US Announces $275Mln in New Military Aid for Ukraine

Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country will provide a new $275 million military aid package for Ukraine to help the beleaguered country repel Russia’s assault on Kharkiv.

His announcement came while US media reports highlighted the Ukrainian ongoing shortages of artillery ammunition and air defense interceptors against Russia’s offensive since May 10.

According to Blinken, the new package includes ammunition for HIMARS, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery rounds, missiles, anti-armor systems and precision aerial munitions.

“Assistance from previous packages has already made it to the front lines, and we will move this new assistance as quickly as possible so the Ukrainian military can use it to defend their territory and protect the Ukrainian people,” the State Department said.

Although the new package is an urgent response to Kyiv's needs, several reports have suggested that Russia's recent advances on the battlefronts, both in Kharkiv and the Donetsk region, are due to its success in using new jamming techniques to cut off Ukraine's access to the Starlink satellite Internet network and the ability of its forces to use advanced Western weapons.

Many US-made satellite-guided munitions in Ukraine have failed to withstand Russian jamming technology, prompting Kyiv to stop using certain types of Western-provided armaments after effectiveness rates plummeted, according to senior Ukrainian military officials and confidential internal Ukrainian assessments obtained by The Washington Post.

It said this development has far-reaching implications for Ukraine and its Western allies, potentially providing a blueprint for adversaries such as China and Iran. It is a key factor in Moscow’s forces regaining the initiative and advancing on the battlefield.

The documents obtained by the Post also reveal that the success rate for the US-designed Excalibur shells, for example, fell sharply over a period of months — to less than 10 percent hitting their targets — before Ukraine’s military abandoned them last year.

Russia’s jamming tactics have compromised Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory, as it has failed to use high-tech Western weapons, such as the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery shells and the of High Mobility Artillery Rockets (HIMARS), forcing Ukrainian officials to request improvements from the Pentagon and arms manufacturers urgently, the Post said.

Russia “has continued to expand their use of electronic warfare,” a senior US official, who was not named, told the Post. “And we continue to evolve and make sure that Ukraine has the capabilities they need to be effective.”

In addition to the jamming difficulties, the Ukrainian army has been barred to use long-range missiles to Russian territories near the border.

The United States and other Western allies have permitted only the firing of Western weapons into Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine, not into Russia itself, for fear of escalating the war.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ukraine hit a Russian military complex in Crimea with US-provided long-range missiles Thursday night.

The missile strike hit a communications center of Russian air-defense forces in the city of Alushta, according to a Ukrainian defense official.

In return, the Russian air defenses have downed three ATACMS missiles over the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement published by TASS.

On Friday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces have secured “combat control” of areas where Russian troops entered the northeastern Kharkiv region earlier this month.

“Our soldiers have now managed to take combat control of the border area where the Russian occupiers entered,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Friday evening.

Also, Ihor Prokhorenko, a representative of the Main Operational Directorate of Ukraine's General Staff, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Friday that Ukrainian forces halted Russian troops in the Kharkiv sector and are conducting counterattacks.

Prokhorenko described the situation on the battlefield as “difficult,” saying Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold the line in the country's east and south.


Russian Attack on Ukraine's Kharkiv Kills Twelve, Injures Dozens

Firefighters work at the site of a household item shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
Firefighters work at the site of a household item shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
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Russian Attack on Ukraine's Kharkiv Kills Twelve, Injures Dozens

Firefighters work at the site of a household item shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
Firefighters work at the site of a household item shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

A Russian strike on a crowded DIY hardware store in Kharkiv killed 12 people and wounded dozens more, Ukrainian prosecutors said on Sunday morning, the death toll rising as the country's second-largest city reeled from two attacks a day earlier.
Two guided bombs hit the Epicentr DIY hypermarket in a residential area of the city on Saturday afternoon, Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on national television, Reuters said.
The strikes caused a massive fire which sent a column of thick, black smoke billowing hundreds of meters into the air.
Forty-three people were injured, the local prosecutors' office said, adding that ten of the twelve dead had still not been identified.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said about 120 people had been in the hardware store when the bombs struck.
"The attack targeted the shopping center, where there were many people - this is clearly terrorism," Terekhov said.
In a post on the Telegram app, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said 16 people were still missing after the strike.
The past week has seen an uptick in strikes on the city after Russian troops stormed across the border, opening a new front north of the city.
Russia has bombarded Kharkiv, which lies less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from its border, throughout the war, having reached its outskirts in a failed bid to capture it in 2022.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a plea to Ukraine's Western allies to help boost air defenses to keep the country's cities safe. French President Emmanuel Macron, writing on social media platform X, denounced the attack on the store as "unacceptable."
A separate early evening missile strike hit a residential building in the center of the city of 1.3 million. The number of people wounded by that strike had climbed to 25 by Sunday morning.
The missile left a crater several meters deep in the pavement at the foot of the building, which also housed a post office, a beauty salon and a cafe.
Emergency workers ushered away residents of nearby apartment buildings. Some of the injured had blood on their faces.
Just over the border, in Russia's Belgorod region, the regional governor said four residents died in Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.
FIREFIGHTERS BATTLE BLAZE
Andriy Kudinov, director of the suburban shopping center, told local media the hardware store was full of shoppers buying items for their summer cottages.
It took 16 hours to fully extinguish the fire at the center, which had raged over an area of 13,000 square meters (15,548 square yards), Interior Minister Klymenko said.
Rescuers, medics and journalists occasionally had to rush away from the scene of both strikes on the city and take cover on the ground, fearing another strike, as has occurred during several recent Russian attacks.
Dmytro Syrotenko, a 26-year-old employee of the DIY center, described panicked scenes.
"I was at my workplace. I heard the first hit and ... with my colleague, we fell to the ground. There was a second hit and we were covered with debris. Then we started to crawl to the higher ground," said Syrotenko, who had a large gash on his face.
Syrotenko told Reuters he was taken to safety by a rescue worker who helped him, several colleagues, and shoppers.
Zelenskiy, in his nightly video address, denounced the strike as "yet another example of Russian madness. There is no other way to describe it."
"When we tell world leaders that Ukraine needs sufficient air defenses, when we say we need real decisive measures to enable us to protect our people, so that Russian terrorists cannot even approach our border, we are talking about not allowing strikes like this to happen," he said.
Writing later on Telegram, Zelenskiy noted air raid alerts had been in effect in Kharkiv for more than 12 hours and 200 emergency workers and 400 policemen remained at the scene dealing with the aftermath of the attacks.
Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, but thousands have been killed and injured during its 27-month invasion of Ukraine.


China Ends Military Drills Around Taiwan, Taipei Labels Them as ‘Provocative’ to Int’l Order

An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
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China Ends Military Drills Around Taiwan, Taipei Labels Them as ‘Provocative’ to Int’l Order

An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.
An outdoor screen shows news coverage of China’s military drills around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024. Photo: Jade Gao/AFP.

China has ended the large-scale military drills it kicked off on Thursday morning around Taiwan and which were accompanied by a tightening of Beijing's tone towards Taipei.
The Chinese army has “successfully completed” the “Joint Sword-2024A” drills directed against Taiwan, a presenter for CCTV-7, China's state-run military news channel, said in a broadcast late Friday.
Punishing Separatists
China said the drills would serve as “strong punishment for the separatist acts of 'Taiwan independence' forces,” according to AFP.
The drills were launched three days after Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te took office. Beijing regards Lai as a “dangerous separatist.”
On Friday, Beijing's defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said that Lai was pushing Taiwan “into a perilous situation of war and danger.”
China called the drills a test of its ability to seize the self-ruled island.
The exercises took place all around the main island, and for the first time also targeted the Taipei-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin which lie close to the Chinese coast, according to maps released by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).
On Friday evening, China's army published images of the drills' highlights, featuring missile-launching trucks ready to fire, fighter jets taking off and naval officers looking through binoculars at Taiwanese ships.
Blatant Provocation
China's two-day military drills around Taiwan were a “blatant provocation to the international order,” Taipei said in a statement Saturday after the war games encircling the self-ruled island ended.
In a statement, Lai's presidential spokesperson Karen Kuo reiterated that ensuring peace and stability across the region was “related to the common interests of the international community.”
“However, China's recent unilateral provocation not only undermines the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait but it is also a blatant provocation to the international order, triggering serious concern and condemnation from the international community,” she said.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, when nationalists fled to the island following their defeat by the Chinese Communist Party in a civil war on the mainland.
Beijing considers the democratic island part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to bring it under its control.
It has also amped up its rhetoric, with its foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying “Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great... trend of China achieving complete unification.”
Chinese Threats
On Monday, Taiwan's President said in his inauguration speech that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other,” which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries.
Beijing's defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian said Friday that Lai was pushing Taiwan “into a perilous situation of war and danger.”
“Every time 'Taiwan independence' provokes us, we will push our countermeasures one step further, until the complete reunification of the motherland is achieved,” he said.
Political analyst Wen-Ti Sung from The Atlantic Council's Global China Hub told AFP that “Beijing is trying to use this very high-profile show of force to not only show displeasure against Taiwan, but also... to deter and dissuade other countries and partners from contemplating further cooperation or engagement of Taiwan.”
“That furthers isolation of Taiwan, which allows Beijing to negotiate with Taiwan going forward from a position of strength,” he added.
Calls for Self-Restraint
The United States, Taiwan’s strongest ally and military backer, on Thursday “strongly” urged China to act with restraint. The United Nations called for all sides to avoid escalation.
The Pentagon announced on Friday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would meet his Chinese counterpart Dong Jun at the end of the month at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of defense officials from around the world.
It will be the first meeting between the two defense leaders following a phone call in April.

 


Iraqi Officials Feature Prominently at Raisi’s Memorial Service in Iran

A photo released by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office shows him seated with Iranian and Iraqi officials at the memorial service.
A photo released by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office shows him seated with Iranian and Iraqi officials at the memorial service.
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Iraqi Officials Feature Prominently at Raisi’s Memorial Service in Iran

A photo released by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office shows him seated with Iranian and Iraqi officials at the memorial service.
A photo released by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's office shows him seated with Iranian and Iraqi officials at the memorial service.

Tehran held on Saturday a memorial service for late President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials who died in a helicopter crash last Sunday.

Iraqi officials featured prominently at the event as shown in photos released by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office.

Khamenei was seen seated among Iraqi religious clerics and politicians. Other foreign officials were not seated among them but elsewhere at the service.

Seated in the same row as Khamenei were head of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council Judge Faiq Zidan and major Iranian officials.

Iraq had said Zidan was traveling to Tehran to offer his condolences. President Abdul Latif Rashid had also headed to Iran with former Prime Ministers Adel Abdul Mehdi and Haidar al-Abadi and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Bafel Talabani.

Talabani enjoys strong ties with Iraq’s pro-Iran Coordination Framework and Iran itself.

Other Iraqi officials at the service were head of the Popular Mobilization Forces Faleh al-Fayyad, head of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Hikma movement Ammar al-Hakim, and Kurdish politician Adham Barzani, known for his controversial stances,

Barzani has stirred controversy for backing Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s traditional rival.


Macron Heads to Germany in First French Presidential State Visit in 24 Years

France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) await the arrival of Ecuador's President and his wife during his European tour at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) await the arrival of Ecuador's President and his wife during his European tour at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
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Macron Heads to Germany in First French Presidential State Visit in 24 Years

France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) await the arrival of Ecuador's President and his wife during his European tour at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) await the arrival of Ecuador's President and his wife during his European tour at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

French President Emanuel Macron lands in Germany on Sunday for a three-day state visit followed by a bilateral cabinet meeting as the European Union's two biggest powers seek to show unity ahead of next month's EU parliamentary elections.
Macron's trip to the capital Berlin, Dresden in the east and Muenster in the west is the first French presidential state visit to Germany in 24 years, said Reuters.
The visit will be watched as a checkup on the health of the German-French relationship that drives EU policymaking, at a time of major challenges for Europe: from the Ukraine war to the possible election of Donald Trump as US president in November.
Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have very different leadership styles and have publicly clashed on issues from defense to nuclear energy since the latter took power in late 2021. However, they have reached compromises on various fronts of late, from fiscal reform to changes to power market subsidies, allowing the EU to strike deals, and put on a more united front.
"There are tensions in the German-French relationship but in part precisely because they have dealt with some difficult topics," said Yann Wernert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, noting the two countries had also converged on the need to expand the EU eastwards.
The visit is "an attempt at the highest political level to demonstrate that the relationship is working," said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group think tank. "But there are still fundamental gaps on major questions that are looming over the EU."
One key such gap is on European defense, in particular if Trump wins the Nov. 5 US presidential election. Defense experts view him as a much less predictably reliable ally for Europe than his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.
Earlier this year the Republican former president not only said he would not protect NATO members from a future attack by Russia if those countries' contributions to the defense alliance were lagging, but that he would encourage Russia "to do whatever the hell they want."
France, which has nuclear weapons, has pushed for a more self-reliant Europe on defense matters and has been aggrieved by Germany’s decision to buy mostly American gear for its European Sky Shield Initiative air defense umbrella.
Germany says there is no credible alternative to the US military umbrella and that Europe does not have time to wait for a homegrown defense industry to be prepared for threats such as Russian hostility.
POMP AND BUSINESS
Macron, accompanied on his trip by his wife Brigitte, will start his visit on Sunday meeting in Berlin with the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before walking through the landmark Brandenburg Gate with the city's mayor, Kai Wegner.
On Monday, he will head to Dresden, where he will make a speech in front of the Frauenkirche which was destroyed by Western allies during the Second World War, before heading on Tuesday to Muenster.
But perhaps the most significant part of his trip will be the cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Meseberg, just outside Berlin, where the two governments will then get down to business seeking to find common ground on the two main issues they have struggled to see eye-to-eye on, namely defense and competitiveness.
The two countries will also try to find common ground on the EU agenda for the next five years, in view of the expected strong showing for the far-right in the parliamentary elections on June 6-9, making EU decision-making more difficult.
Rahman said the EU would have a clear window to push forward with more ambitious plans -- between the parliamentary elections and establishment of the new leadership, and next summer before the German elections. This would be especially important if Trump won the election, he said.


At Least 24 Dead in Amusement Park Fire in Western India

Mangled and burnt ceiling of a fun park is seen after a fire in Rajkot in the Indian state of Gujarat, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Chirag Chotaliya)
Mangled and burnt ceiling of a fun park is seen after a fire in Rajkot in the Indian state of Gujarat, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Chirag Chotaliya)
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At Least 24 Dead in Amusement Park Fire in Western India

Mangled and burnt ceiling of a fun park is seen after a fire in Rajkot in the Indian state of Gujarat, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Chirag Chotaliya)
Mangled and burnt ceiling of a fun park is seen after a fire in Rajkot in the Indian state of Gujarat, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Chirag Chotaliya)

A massive fire broke out Saturday in an amusement park in Gujarat state in western India, leaving at least 24 people dead, police said.
The fire erupted at the park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state. 
The park is usually packed with families with children enjoying the school summer vacation over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.
Footage showed firefighters clearing debris around collapsed tin roof structures that media report said were used for bowling, go-karting and trampoline attractions.
The amusement park was privately owned by Yuvraj Singh Solanki and Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava said that police would file a case of negligence against him.
"We will be registering an offense for negligence and the deaths which have occurred. Further investigation will take place once we complete the rescue operation," he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X that he was “extremely distressed by the fire ... in Rajkot. My thoughts are with all those who have lost their loved ones. Prayers for the injured."
Fires are common in India, where builders and residents often flout building laws and safety codes.