Japan Adopts New Sanctions on Russia, Criticizes its Deal to Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

FILE - Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Monday, May 30, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP, File)
FILE - Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Monday, May 30, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP, File)
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Japan Adopts New Sanctions on Russia, Criticizes its Deal to Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

FILE - Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Monday, May 30, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP, File)
FILE - Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Monday, May 30, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

Japan on Friday approved additional sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine, including freezing the assets of dozens of individuals and groups and banning exports to Russian military-related organizations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters the Cabinet approval shows Japan is in step with the rest of the Group of Seven countries that agreed during their summit in Hiroshima last week to maintain and strengthen sanctions against Russia, The Associated Press said.

He said Japan is committed to working with other G7 countries and the broader international community “to improve the situation” for Ukraine.

Matsuno also sharply criticized the signing of a deal between Russia and Belarus on Thursday formalizing the deployment of Moscow’s tactical nuclear weapons in its ally’s territory as a move that “further escalate tensions.”

“As the world’s only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, Japan finds Russia’s threats of nuclear weapons and their use absolutely impermissible,” Matsuno said. “Japan’s government demands Russia and Belarus stop actions that further escalate tensions as we continue to watch the development with strong concern.”

Japan’s additional sanctions and export restrictions reflect the G7's aim to prevent the evasion of sanctions by third countries and include a ban on exporting materials that would help strengthen Russia's industrial base, Matsuno said.

According to a statement jointly issued by the foreign, trade and finance ministries, 24 individuals and 78 organizations were added to a list of those subject to asset freezes, including those who allegedly helped to divert and evade sanctions.

Japan also imposed an export ban on 80 Russian military-related organizations, including machinery makers. The provision of construction, engineering and other services for Russia will also be banned.

Japan has been closely cooperating with the G7 to impose sanctions against Russia over its war on Ukraine amid growing concern about the conflict's impact in Asia, where China has been expanding its military presence and threatening to use force to exert its control over self-governed Taiwan.



Fate of Israel’s Judicial Plan May Hang on June Parliament Vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday June 4, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday June 4, 2023. (AP)
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Fate of Israel’s Judicial Plan May Hang on June Parliament Vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday June 4, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday June 4, 2023. (AP)

Israel's Knesset will hold a vote next week that could tip the scales against a drive by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right coalition to curb the Supreme Court, a move that set off one of the country's worst political crises in years.

Parliament on June 14 is set to elect two lawmakers to join a panel that will select judges, including to the Supreme Court, one of the few checks and balances in Israel's political system.

The make up of the nine-member panel of lawmakers, senior judges, ministers and lawyers has been at the heart of a battle over the nature of Israel's democracy, which began in January when the government announced a plan to overhaul the judiciary.

This touched off protests and Western powers voiced concern about what it meant for Israel's democratic health.

If one of the two lawmakers chosen is from the opposition - keeping the status quo - it would be a sign of compromise by Netanyahu after weeks of talks with his opponents and a setback for hardliners in his religious-nationalist government who want more control over judicial appointments.

It could affect the Supreme Court, which must replace the chief justice and another judge, in coming months.

"There are no guarantees with someone you don't trust," opposition head Yair Lapid told Army Radio, although he and other lawmakers have indicated over the past week that agreements on candidates for the panel have been reached.

But Netanyahu's Likud party has kept the opposition guessing, saying on Monday a decision would be made next week.

The possibility that an opposition lawmaker would be named to the panel has pushed the shekel up some 3% this week, with a 1.1% gain to a two-week high of 3.644 per dollar.

Critics denounce the judicial plan pushed by Netanyahu, who is on trial on graft charges that he denies. They say the move to let parliament override many Supreme Court decisions threatens the independence of the courts and endangers democracy.

The court acts as a check in Israel's political system which has few other balances, given it has just one chamber of parliament.

Washington wants consensus

Until now, Netanyahu's talks with the opposition to defuse the crisis have yielded little. He has also sent mixed messages about the overhaul's fate, compounding uncertainty that has hit the economy and the shekel.

The vote on the panel makeup could provide clarity for Israelis and Western allies, including Washington which has urged Netanyahu to reach a consensus over legal reforms.

If parliament adheres to a custom in the confidential vote by electing an opposition member, it would signal to opponents that Netanyahu was serious about a compromise and was ready to adjust his judicial plan.

Facing dissension from within his party, Netanyahu told Likud on May 29: "The reform is not dead, but we are making every effort in talks in order to reach broad agreements."

Likud Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a driving force behind the overhaul plan, says he and his allies want to give elected politicians more sway over what they see as a left-leaning and over-reaching Supreme Court.

Critics say it will politicize the judiciary.

Lawmaker Keti Shitrit, who is on the Likud team that is in negotiations with the opposition, said: "The reform will happen, just not in its original form."

The Prime Minister's Office Director-General Yossi Shelly played down questions about the judicial discussion. "I think that ultimately it will end positively," he told Kan radio.


Russia and Ukraine Say Ammonia Pipeline Was Damaged, in Potential Blow to Grain Deal

Communal employees work on a site of an overnight explosion in the center of Kharkiv on June 6, 2023, following missile strike, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
Communal employees work on a site of an overnight explosion in the center of Kharkiv on June 6, 2023, following missile strike, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
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Russia and Ukraine Say Ammonia Pipeline Was Damaged, in Potential Blow to Grain Deal

Communal employees work on a site of an overnight explosion in the center of Kharkiv on June 6, 2023, following missile strike, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
Communal employees work on a site of an overnight explosion in the center of Kharkiv on June 6, 2023, following missile strike, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

A pipeline used to transport ammonia fertilizer from Russia via Ukraine which may be central to the future of the Black Sea grain deal has been damaged, according to both Kyiv and Moscow, potentially complicating talks around the accord.

Russia's defense ministry said a "Ukrainian sabotage group" had blown up a section of the pipeline on Monday night near the village of Masyutivka in Kharkiv region. The village is on the frontline between Russian and Ukrainian troops.

"As a result of this terrorist act, there were civilian casualties. They have been provided with necessary medical assistance," the Russian ministry said in a statement.

"At present ammonia residues are being blown out of the damaged sections of the pipeline from Ukrainian territory. There are no casualties among Russian servicemen."

Oleh Sinehubov, the governor of Ukraine's Kharkiv region gave a different version of events. He said in a statement posted on Telegram that Russian troops had shelled the pipeline.

Six Russian shells had landed near a pumping station near Masyutivka at around 5.45 pm (1445 GMT) on Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after Moscow alleged Ukraine had blown up the same pipeline, he said.

Reuters could not independently verify the Russian and Ukrainian assertions.

Resumption of supplies via the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world's longest ammonia pipeline, may be key to the renewal of the Black Sea grain export deal. The pipeline has been closed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in what it called a "special military operation".

Russia has repeatedly cast doubt on whether it will continue to renew the grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, which facilitates agricultural exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea.

Among the conditions for renewal that Moscow has put forward is resumption of the Togliatti-Odesa pipeline.

Moscow has said it will limit the number of ships allowed to travel to Ukraine's Pivdennyi port near Odesa under the deal until the pipeline is restarted.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it would take between one and three months to repair the damaged section of the pipeline.

"The ammonia pipeline was one of the linchpins of the implementation of the agreements made in Istanbul on July 22. The (pipeline) was key to global food security," Zakharova said.


Pence Says ‘Different Times Call for Different Leadership’ in Video Launching 2024 Presidential Bid 

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)
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Pence Says ‘Different Times Call for Different Leadership’ in Video Launching 2024 Presidential Bid 

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

Former Vice President Mike Pence promised "the best days of the greatest nation on earth are yet to come" in a video released Wednesday formally launching his campaign for the Republican nomination for president.

"Different times call for different leadership," Pence says in the video, released via Fox News and Twitter hours ahead of a kickoff event in Des Moines. "Today our party and our country need a leader that’ll appeal, as Lincoln said, to the better angels of our nature."

While it would be "easy to stay on the sidelines," he adds, "that’s not how I was raised. That’s why today, before God and my family, I’m announcing I'm running for president of the United States."

Pence is staking his presidential hopes on Iowa as he launches a campaign that will make him the first vice president in modern history to take on his former running mate.

Pence's campaign will also test the party's appetite for a socially conservative, mild-mannered and deeply religious candidate who has denounced the populist tide that has swept through his party under former President Donald Trump. And it will show whether Pence still has a political future after Jan. 6, 2021, with a large portion of GOP voters still believing Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen and that Pence had the power to reject the results.

Pence and his advisers see Iowa — the state that will cast the first votes of the GOP nominating calendar — as key to his potential pathway to the nomination. Its caucus-goers include a large portion of evangelical Christian voters, whom they see as a natural constituency for Pence. They also think Pence, who represented Indiana in Congress and as governor, is a good personality fit with the Midwestern state.

"We believe the path to victory runs through Iowa and all of its 99 counties," said Scott Reed, co-chair of a super PAC that launched last month to support Pence's candidacy.

Iowa has typically been seen as a launching pad for presidential candidates, delivering momentum, money and attention to hopefuls who win or defy expectations. But recent past winners including Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have failed to ultimately win the nomination.

And Pence faces steep challenges. He enters the race as among the best-known Republican candidates in a crowded GOP field that now includes Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

But Pence — seen by Trump critics as complicit with his most indefensible actions and maligned by Trump loyalists as a traitor — is also saddled with high unfavorable ratings.

A CNN poll conducted last month found 45% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would not support Pence under any circumstance. Only 16% said the same about Trump.

Pence’s favorability has also slipped in Iowa, according to The Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Shortly after leaving office, in June 2021, 86% of Iowa Republicans said they had a favorable view of Pence. But the Register’s March Iowa Poll showed that figure had dropped to 66%. The poll also found Pence with higher unfavorable ratings than all of the other candidates it asked about, including Trump and DeSantis, with 26% of Republicans polled saying they have a "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable view of him.

And just 58% of Iowa evangelicals said they had favorable feelings toward Pence — a particularly disappointing number, given his campaign's strategy.

But Pence, who has already visited Iowa more than a dozen times since leaving office, has also received a warm welcome from voters during his trips. During a "Roast and Ride" event over the weekend that drew a long list of 2024 candidates, Pence stood out as the only candidate to actually mount a Harley and participate in the event’s annual motorcycle ride. When he arrived at a barbecue at the state fairgrounds, he moved easily from table to table, warmly greeting and chatting with attendees.

But there remains lingering skepticism of Pence among many Republican voters who adhere to the baseless but persistent conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen. Many who cling to the falsehood believe Pence was complicit in the plot to deny Trump a second term because he refused Trump’s pressure campaign to reject the Electoral College vote when he presided over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump's supporters violently stormed the building.

Pence advisers say they recognize the challenge and intend to explain to voters directly that Pence was adhering to his constitutional duty and never had the power to impact the vote in his ceremonial role.

"I think it’s something you have to walk straight through," said his longtime adviser Marc Short.

Beyond Jan. 6, his team sees their primary goal as reintroducing Pence to a country that largely knows him as Trump's second-in-command. They want to remind voters of his time in congressional leadership and as governor and are planning a campaign heavy with town halls, house parties and visits to local diners and Pizza Ranch restaurants — more intimate settings that will help voters get to know him personally.

"People have seen Mike Pence the vice president. I think what people are going to see is Mike Pence the person," said Todd Hudson, the speaker of the House in Indiana and a longtime Pence friend who has signed on to help with outreach to state legislators. "I’m super excited for people to get to know the Mike Pence that I know, who's funny, who's just a wonderful person... the more relaxed Mike Pence."

Reed believes there is a strong desire in the party for a candidate like Pence who espouses Reagan-style conservatism, including traditional social values, hawkish foreign policy and small government economics.

"We think this nomination fight is going to be an epic battle for the heart and soul of the conservative, traditional wing of the Republican Party. And Pence is going to campaign as a classic conservative. His credentials are unmatched," he said.

Unlike Trump and DeSantis, Pence has argued that cuts to Social Security and Medicare must be on the table and has blasted those who have questioned why the US should continue to send aid to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression.

"We are not going to try to out-Trump Pence. Everybody else is," Reed said. "Pence is the only candidate running not to be Trump’s VP."


Western Countries Warn Iran against Lack of Cooperation with IAEA

Photo distributed by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the opening session of its quarterly meeting on Tuesday.
Photo distributed by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the opening session of its quarterly meeting on Tuesday.
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Western Countries Warn Iran against Lack of Cooperation with IAEA

Photo distributed by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the opening session of its quarterly meeting on Tuesday.
Photo distributed by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the opening session of its quarterly meeting on Tuesday.

Western powers have warned Tehran that its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency is “significantly lacking” and “far short of the expectations”, following an agreement between the UN agency and Tehran last March.

The European Union expressed its concerns about the increasing risk of a nuclear proliferation crisis in the Middle East as a result of Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program.

Laura Holgate, US Ambassador to the Vienna Office of the United Nations and to the IAEA, told the Board of Governors of the IAEA meeting this week: “Iran’s level of cooperation remains significantly lacking overall, and far short of the expectations outlined by the Board in November.

Holgate pointed to a resolution passed by the Board of Governors in November condemning Iran’s behavior and calling for “immediate and urgent” cooperation.

In March, the Director of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, announced that an agreement was reached with Iran for cooperation and the re-installation of surveillance cameras. But since then, Tehran has only allowed the agency to install surveillance cameras at one site and surveillance equipment at two, which Grossi described as “slow progress.”

The US ambassador also expressed her concern about the increase in Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 60 percent, saying: “No other country in the world today utilizes uranium enriched to 60 percent for the purpose Iran claims. We again call on Iran to end this deeply troubling activity that runs counter to the behavior of all other states worldwide. Iran argues it is unfairly targeted by others. The reality remains that Iran continues to single itself out through its own actions. Iran should cease its nuclear provocations that pose grave proliferation risks.”

France, Britain and Germany, issued a statement expressing similar concern, and stressed that there was no “civilian justification” for enriching uranium at such a high rate.

“The risk of a nuclear proliferation crisis in the region has further increased as a result of Iran’s escalating nuclear trajectory. The EU remains committed to the JCPOA. We regret that Iran has not made the necessary decisions and not taken the necessary steps. On the contrary, it continues to significantly escalate its nuclear program,” the statement read.

It added: “Iran’s actions, which have no credible civilian justification in Iran’s declared nuclear program, carry very significant proliferation-related risks. These actions, which raise grave concerns about Iran’s intentions, include continued and accelerated accumulation of enriched uranium, far beyond JCPOA thresholds for quantity and level of enrichment, including a sharp rise of material at 20%, as well as at 60% which is of particular proliferation concern. The stockpile of HEU enriched at up to 60 per cent has increased by almost 30% since the last quarterly report.”

For his part, the European Union ambassador in Vienna, Stephan Klement, warned of the increasing risk of a nuclear proliferation crisis in the Middle East as a result of Iran’s escalation of its nuclear program.

He said on Twitter that the EU “strongly urges Iran to reverse its alarming nuclear trajectory. We call on Iran to return immediately to its non-proliferation commitments...”


Kakhovka Dam’s Destruction Leaves Many Without Normal Access to Drinking Water, Says Zelenskiy

A woman cries as she is evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 after the Kakhovka dam was blown up. (AP)
A woman cries as she is evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 after the Kakhovka dam was blown up. (AP)
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Kakhovka Dam’s Destruction Leaves Many Without Normal Access to Drinking Water, Says Zelenskiy

A woman cries as she is evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 after the Kakhovka dam was blown up. (AP)
A woman cries as she is evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 after the Kakhovka dam was blown up. (AP)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine had left hundreds of thousands of people without normal access to drinking water.

Floodwaters in southern Ukraine were expected to crest on Wednesday and tens of thousands of civilians were fleeing areas affected by the dam's collapse on Tuesday, which Zelenskiy blamed on Russia. Moscow blamed it on Ukraine.

"The destruction of one of the largest water reservoirs in Ukraine is absolutely deliberate ... Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without normal access to drinking water," Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Officials said that parts of the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions in the south and southeast of Ukraine would suffer from disrupted water supplies.

"The top priority now is to provide water to the regions affected by the Russian terrorist attack", Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine's Agency for Restoration and Development of Infrastructure said the government had decided to provide 1.5 billion hryvnias ($41 million) for construction of a pipeline with a capacity of about 300,000 cubic meters of water per day.

The total length of the new water pipeline would be 87 km (54 miles), the agency said.

The health ministry warned of potential health hazards because of chemicals in the water, and urged residents to drink only bottled and safe water, and to use safe water when cooking.


Russian-Installed Official Accuses Ukraine of Shelling Region Affected by Flooding 

A local resident stands with his bicycle in a flooded street in the town of Kherson, following flooding caused by damage sustained at the Kakhovka HPP dam, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
A local resident stands with his bicycle in a flooded street in the town of Kherson, following flooding caused by damage sustained at the Kakhovka HPP dam, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
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Russian-Installed Official Accuses Ukraine of Shelling Region Affected by Flooding 

A local resident stands with his bicycle in a flooded street in the town of Kherson, following flooding caused by damage sustained at the Kakhovka HPP dam, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
A local resident stands with his bicycle in a flooded street in the town of Kherson, following flooding caused by damage sustained at the Kakhovka HPP dam, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

The Russian-installed governor of part of Ukraine's Kherson region controlled by Moscow said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces were still shelling it despite widespread flooding caused by the destruction of the area's huge Nova Kakhovka dam.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the claim by Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed governor. There was no immediate response to the allegation from Ukraine.

"Ukrainian armed forces continue shelling. The shelling is more chaotic than targeted. Sometimes infrastructure is damaged," Saldo told Russia's Rossiya 24 state TV channel.

He said Russia should respond by "maximizing the destruction" of Ukrainian military hardware deployed on the right (west) bank of the Dnipro river, which Ukraine controls.

Moscow controls the left (east) bank.

Kherson is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia claimed to have unilaterally annexed last year, a move rejected as illegal by Kyiv and the West. Russia does not fully control any of the four regions and was forced to retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro last November.

About 42,000 people are at risk from flooding in Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled areas along the Dnipro after the Nova Kakhovka dam collapsed.

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the destruction of the dam, which has sent floodwaters across a war zone and forced thousands to flee. Some independent experts say the dam may have collapsed due to earlier damage and intense pressure on it.


Ukrainians Face Homelessness, Disease Risk as Floods Crest from Destroyed Dam

Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
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Ukrainians Face Homelessness, Disease Risk as Floods Crest from Destroyed Dam

Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)
Streets are flooded in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 after the walls of the Kakhovka dam collapsed overnight. (AP)

Ukrainians abandoned inundated homes as floodwaters crested across a swathe of the south on Wednesday after the destruction of a vast hydro-electric dam on the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces that each blamed on the other.

Residents waded through flooded streets carrying children on their shoulders, dogs in their arms and belongings in plastic bags while rescuers used rubber boats to search areas where the waters reached above head height.

Ukraine said the flood would leave hundreds of thousands of people without access to drinking water, swamp tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land and leave more barren.

"If the water rises for another meter, we will lose our house," said Oleksandr Reva, in a village on the bank, who was moving family belongings into the abandoned home of a neighbor on higher ground. A roof of a house could be seen being swept down the swollen Dnipro River.

The Nova Kakhovka dam disaster coincides with a looming, long-vaunted counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces against Russia's invasion, seen as the next major phase of the war. The sides traded blame for continued shelling across the flood zone and warned of drifting landmines unearthed by the flooding.

Kyiv said on Wednesday its troops in the east had advanced by more than a kilometer around the ruined city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, its most explicit claim of progress since Russia reported the start of the Ukrainian offensive this week. Russia said it had fought off the attack.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's national security council, said assaults under way were still localized, and the full-scale offensive had yet to begin. "When we start (it), everyone will know about it, they will see it," he told Reuters.

Kyiv said several months ago the dam had been mined by Russian forces that have controlled it since early in the 15-month-old invasion, and has suggested Moscow blew it up to try to stop Ukrainian forces crossing the Dnipro in their counteroffensive.

Residents in the flood zone in the country's south, which stretches to the Dnipro estuary on the Black Sea, blamed the bursting of the dam on Russian troops who controlled it from their positions on the opposite bank.

"They hate us," Reva said. "They want to destroy a Ukrainian nation and Ukraine itself. And they don't care by what means because nothing is sacred for them."

Russia imposed a state of emergency in the parts of Kherson province it controls, where many towns and villages lie in lowlands below the dam.

In the town of Nova Kakhovka right next to the dam, brown water submerged main streets largely empty of residents.

Valery Melnik, 53, said he had hoped for help from local authorities to pump out the water from his swamped home, but so far "they are not doing anything".

Over 30,000 cubic meters of water were gushing out of the dam's reservoir every second and the town was at risk of contamination from the torrent, Russia's TASS news agency quoted the Russian-installed mayor, Vladimir Leontyev, as saying.

Ukraine expects the floodwaters will stop rising by the end of Wednesday after reaching around five meters (16.5 feet) overnight, presidential deputy chief Oleksiy Kuleba said.

Two thousand people have been evacuated from the Ukrainian-controlled part of the flood zone and waters had reached their highest level in 17 settlements with a combined population of 16,000 people.

TASS said water levels could remain elevated in places for up to 10 days.

Counterattack

The mighty Dnipro River that bisects Ukraine forms the front line across the south. The huge reservoir behind the dam was one of Ukraine's main geographic features, and its waters irrigated large areas of one of the world's biggest grain-exporting nations, including Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014.

"The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will only become fully realized in the coming days," United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council.

Targeting dams in war is explicitly banned by the Geneva Conventions. Neither side has presented public evidence demonstrating who was responsible.

"The whole world will know about this Russian war crime," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address, calling it "an environmental bomb of mass destruction". Earlier he said Russia blew up the hydro-electric power plant from within.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday Ukraine had sabotaged the dam to distract attention from a new counteroffensive he said was "faltering".

The United States said it was still gathering evidence about who was to blame, but that Ukraine would have had no reason to inflict such devastation on itself.

Even with the evacuation under way, Russia shelled Ukrainian-held territory across the river. Crumps of incoming artillery sent people trying to flee running for cover in Kherson. Reuters reporters heard four incoming artillery blasts near a residential neighborhood that civilians were vacating on Tuesday evening. The governor said one person was killed.

For its part, Russia said a Ukrainian drone had struck a town on the opposite bank during evacuations there and accused the Ukrainian side of continuing shelling despite the flooding.

The emptying reservoir supplies water that cools Europe's biggest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia upstream. The UN nuclear watchdog said the plant should have enough water from a separate pond to cool its reactors for "some months".


Milley Says Fighting in Ukraine Has Increased, Will Continue for Lengthy Time

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
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Milley Says Fighting in Ukraine Has Increased, Will Continue for Lengthy Time

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff US General Mark A Milley attends a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as part of the 79th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Normandy landings, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

US Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday that fighting in Ukraine has increased, but he cautioned against reading too much into each day’s operations.

“There’s activity throughout Russian-occupied Ukraine and fighting has picked up a bit,” Milley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France — the final resting place of almost 9,400 troops who died 79 years ago during the allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

Milley said it was up to Ukraine to announce whether its counteroffensive campaign has formally begun, but he said Ukrainian troops are ready for this fight.

“It’s our estimation that the Ukrainian military is well prepared for whatever they do — they choose to fight in the offensive fight or in the defense,” he said. "They’re well-prepared.”

But he also warned that as time goes on the fighting will vary.

“Like the Battle of Normandy or any other major battle, warfare is a give and take,” Milley said. “There will be days you see a lot of activity and there will be days you may see very little activity. There will be offensive actions and defense actions. So, this will be a back-and-forth fight for a considerable length of time.”

The US and allies and partners have been pouring billions of dollars in military weapons into Ukraine and have set up a wide range of combat training so Kyiv's forces can maintain that equipment and prepare for the long-anticipated counteroffensive.

Milley spoke as Ukrainian forces are widely seen to be moving forward with a new surge of fighting in patches along more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of front line in the east and south. The troops were moving to end what has been a winter-long battlefield stalemate and punch through Russian defensive lines in southeast Ukraine after 15 months of war.

Punctuating that fighting was the stunning collapse Tuesday of a dam in southern Ukraine, triggering floods, endangering crops in the country’s breadbasket and threatening drinking water supplies. Both sides blamed the other, as they scrambled to evacuate residents.

The surge in fighting comes after a long winter of preparation. Nearly weekly at times, the US and allies pumped millions of rounds of artillery and other ammunition into Ukraine, along with increasingly lethal air defense systems, including Patriot missile batteries, tanks, drones and other weapons.

Looking back over the past year, Milley said Ukrainian forces defended their country well from the start of the invasion in February through the middle of the summer, and then did two successful offensive operations in Kharkiv and Kherson. Milley said he believes the training and weapons supplied by the allies over the winter have prepared Ukraine for the coming fight.

“A lot of training went into that, a lot of supplies, a lot of ammunition was provided by other countries to include the United States,” said Milley. “They’ve been training now we think pretty well in combined arms operations. So I think they’re prepared for what they think they need to do, no matter what type of operation they run.”

Standing in front of rows of white crosses at the cemetery, Milley spoke just a few minutes after he and other top US and allied military leaders laid wreaths and saluted the gathering of the last surviving World War II veterans attending the ceremony. The veterans, some of whom had stormed Omaha Beach, were almost all in their late 90s. But as Taps played, many rose from their wheelchairs to stand for the tribute.

Reflecting on their fight, Milley said there is a thread of similarity in the wars.

“You can’t really compare that campaign to what’s happening in size and scale and scope ... in Ukraine. But the purpose is very similar, which is the Ukrainians, obviously, their objective is to liberate the Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley said.


US Slaps Sanctions on Iranian Targets in Action over Tehran’s Missile, Military Programs

The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
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US Slaps Sanctions on Iranian Targets in Action over Tehran’s Missile, Military Programs

The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)
The Department of the Treasury's seal outside the Treasury Department building in Washington on May 4, 2021. (AP)

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on over a dozen people and entities in Iran, China and Hong Kong, accusing the procurement network of supporting Iran's missile and military programs as Washington ramps up pressure on Tehran.

The US Treasury Department in a statement said the network conducted transactions and facilitated the procurement of sensitive and critical parts and technology for key actors in Iran’s ballistic missile development, including Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which is under US sanctions.

Among those hit with sanctions was Iran's defense attaché in Beijing, Davoud Damghani, whom the Treasury accused of coordinating military-related procurements from China for Iranian end-users.

“The United States will continue to target illicit transnational procurement networks that covertly support Iran’s ballistic missile production and other military programs,” Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.


Fire in the Area of Tehran’s Bazaar Contained, No Casualties Reported 

A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
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Fire in the Area of Tehran’s Bazaar Contained, No Casualties Reported 

A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)
A fire broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. (ISNA)

A fire that broke out in a glue warehouse in the Seyed Vali bazaar, located in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, has been contained, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday.

No casualties have been reported so far or further details given.