Russian Air Strike Damages Ukraine’s Izmail Port, Injures Two 

Firefighters work near damaged trucks following a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a location given as Odesa region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 26, 2023. (Odesa Regional Military Administration/Handout via Reuters)
Firefighters work near damaged trucks following a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a location given as Odesa region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 26, 2023. (Odesa Regional Military Administration/Handout via Reuters)
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Russian Air Strike Damages Ukraine’s Izmail Port, Injures Two 

Firefighters work near damaged trucks following a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a location given as Odesa region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 26, 2023. (Odesa Regional Military Administration/Handout via Reuters)
Firefighters work near damaged trucks following a Russian strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a location given as Odesa region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released September 26, 2023. (Odesa Regional Military Administration/Handout via Reuters)

An overnight Russian air strike on the key Ukrainian grain exporting port of Izmail injured two people and damaged infrastructure, the governor of the Odesa region said on Tuesday.

A port building, storage facilities and more than 30 trucks and cars were damaged in the attack, which lasted more than two hours, Oleh Kiper said on the Telegram messaging app.

The Ukrainian military reported shooting down 26 of the 38 Iranian-made attack drones it said were launched by Russia.

Moscow has intensified its air attacks on Ukrainian ports on the Danube River, including Izmail and Reni, after it quit a grain deal in July that ensured the safe export of Ukrainian grains.

Separately on Tuesday, a Russian missile strike also damaged a local enterprise in the southern Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Reuters could not independently verify the report. There was no immediate comment from Russia.

A Ukraine drone attack on Russia's Kursk resulted in power being cut off to about seven settlements in the region, the region's governor Roman Starovoyt said on Tuesday. He said there were no reports of injuries.

Earlier, Russia's defense ministry said its air defense systems had destroyed one Ukraine-launched drone over the Kursk at around 5:30 a.m. (0230 GMT). That followed reports of multiple drones being shot down over the region that borders Ukraine on Monday.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.



UK to Help Replenish Ukraine’s Artillery Reserves with $311 Mln Package

 Local women stand next to their house heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, February 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Local women stand next to their house heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, February 24, 2024. (Reuters)
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UK to Help Replenish Ukraine’s Artillery Reserves with $311 Mln Package

 Local women stand next to their house heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, February 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Local women stand next to their house heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, February 24, 2024. (Reuters)

Britain will spend 245 million pounds ($311 million) over the next year to boost Ukraine’s artillery ammunition reserves, the defense ministry said on Saturday - the two year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Ukraine faces acute ammunition shortages and is seeking more military assistance from Western countries as it battles to hold off Russia. The prospect of further military aid from the United States, its largest donor, hinges on a congressional vote.

KEY QUOTE

"They cannot win this fight without the support of the international community – and that’s why we continue to do what it takes to ensure Ukraine can continue to fight towards victory." British defense minister Grant Shapps said in a statement.

BY THE NUMBERS

Britain has pledged more than $8.8 billion (7 billion pounds) of military assistance to Ukraine since February 2022.

US President Joe Biden's administration has so far provided $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and is currently awaiting congressional approval to secure $60 billion.

Germany, the second-largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine, says it has provided and committed to some 28 billion euros ($30.2 billion) of military aid so far.

The European Union has committed around 6 billion euros in military aid through the European Peace Facility.

Several individual Western countries have pledged military aid since February 2022, including Canada committing $2.4 billion.


Australian Authorities Urge Hundreds to Flee Uncontained Bushfire

A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma. (AFP file photo)
A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma. (AFP file photo)
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Australian Authorities Urge Hundreds to Flee Uncontained Bushfire

A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma. (AFP file photo)
A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma. (AFP file photo)

A bushfire in Australia's Victoria state raged out of control on Saturday, with authorities issuing a fresh evacuation alert at the highest danger rating for hundreds of residents in the state's west.
The emergency warning followed the downgrading on Saturday of another bushfire, sparked earlier this week, that has killed livestock, destroyed properties and forced more than 2,000 people to leave western towns and head to the city of Ballarat, 95 km (59 miles) west of state capital Melbourne.
The new blaze was threatening the rural town of Amphitheatre, population 223.
"Leaving immediately is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous," Vic Emergency said on its website, adding that the fire was "not yet under control".
The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported on Saturday that three homes and several outbuildings had been destroyed this week in Victoria's bushfire emergency.
Around 1,000 firefighters supported by more than 50 aircraft have battled the fires since they started.
Australia is currently in the grips of an El Nino weather pattern, which is typically associated with extreme phenomena such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.
The last two bushfire seasons in Australia have been subdued compared with the 2019-2020 "Black Summer" when bushfires destroyed an area the size of Turkey and killed 33 people and 3 billion animals.


Ukraine’s Top Diplomat Tells Skeptics at UN His Country Will Win the War

Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting on the "temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine" marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, at the UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (AFP)
Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting on the "temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine" marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, at the UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (AFP)
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Ukraine’s Top Diplomat Tells Skeptics at UN His Country Will Win the War

Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting on the "temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine" marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, at the UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (AFP)
Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting on the "temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine" marking the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, at the UN Headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024. (AFP)

Ukraine’s foreign minister on Friday told skeptics who believe Ukraine can’t win the war with Russia that they will be proven wrong: “Ukraine will win the war.”

Dmytro Kuleba, speaking at the United Nations on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia's invasion, urged the world's nations to stand behind Ukraine. If they do, he said, victory will come “sooner rather than later.”

Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, countered by repeating Moscow's claim that it didn't start the conflict. He blamed the West for fomenting it, accused Ukraine of being a tool of Western geopolitical ambitions, and vowed that Russia's “special military operation” won’t end until its goals are achieved.

Those goals — stated on Feb. 24, 2022, the day Russian troops crossed the border — include the de-militarization of Ukraine and ensuring its “neutral status.”

The UN General Assembly and the Security Council are marking the anniversary with ministerial meetings as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleads for more US military aid and Russian forces make new gains in eastern Ukraine.

The General Assembly has become the most important UN body dealing with Ukraine because the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, is paralyzed by Russia’s veto power. Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, unlike Security Council resolutions, but they serve as a barometer of world opinion.

Addressing the 193-member assembly, Kuleba recalled that over 140 nations supported resolutions backing Ukraine and calling for Russian forces to withdraw. But, he said, “Moscow’s aim is to destroy Ukraine and they’re quite outspoken about it.”

He said countries now saying Ukraine should negotiate with Russia and end the war are either “ill-informed” or didn't follow events after 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and backed an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine. The two countries, he said, held approximately 200 rounds of negotiations and made 20 cease-fire agreements.

“All of these peace efforts ended two years ago, when Russia tore apart the Minsk process and launched its full-scale invasion,” Kuleba said. “Why would anyone suggest today that following the same logic will bring us to a different result?”

Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan is “the only serious peace proposal on the table,” Kuleba said, calling on other countries to add their diplomatic weight to it. The plan calls for expelling Russian forces, establishing a special tribunal to prosecute alleged Russian war crimes and building a European-Atlantic security architecture with guarantees for Ukraine.

When Russia invaded, diplomats and experts didn’t believe Ukraine would survive. Speaking to reporters, Kuleba said he wanted to make one point clear.

“Today, the same people do not believe that Ukraine can win this war,” he said. “They turned wrong once, and they will turn wrong again. Ukraine survived the invasion. Ukraine will win the war. And if we act collectively and jointly this will happen ... sooner rather than later.”

Nebenzia slammed Zelenskyy's plan.

“It is nothing other than an ultimatum to Russia and an attempt to lure as many countries as possible into endless meetings on this utopian project at any price possible,” he said.

At the General Assembly, where representatives of 64 countries are scheduled to speak, there was strong support for Ukraine.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he recognized that there is a sense of fatigue with the war and a compromise might seem attractive, but he said Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't seeking compromise.

“Rather, this is a neo-imperialist bully who believes might is right,” he said. “If Putin were to eke out some kind of win, the rest of the world would suffer, too. What starts in Ukraine would not end there.”

Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told the assembly: “Only our resolve can deter the neo-imperial delusions that may arise in any part of the world.”

“We need to stay the course until Mr. Putin understands that the days of European imperialism are gone for good,” he said.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said at Ukraine’s request his government will organize a high-level peace conference by the summer. He invited all nations to attend and work “to find common ground for peace” based on the UN Charter, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Neither the assembly nor the council took any action to mark the anniversary. But before the council meeting, Kuleba read a statement from more than 50 countries, while surrounded by their ministers and ambassadors, condemning Russia’s aggression, its “flagrant violation of international law,” and its attacks on civilians and the infrastructure they need to survive, “which may constitute war crimes.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefed the council, saying Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine violated the UN Charter and international law and, two years later, “the war in Ukraine remains an open wound at the heart of Europe.”

He called the invasion “a dangerous precedent,” stressing that newly independent countries in Africa didn't change borders established by colonial powers “with the stroke of a pen” because they knew it would open “a Pandora's box.”

The UN chief said the path to peace is respect for the UN Charter's underlying principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, warning that the war is deepening geopolitical divides.

“The danger of the conflict escalating and expanding is very real,” he said.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, whose country is a Russian ally, said Beijing respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all other countries, and urged stepped-up peace efforts. He also stressed that “the legitimate security concerns of all countries” must be respected, and criticized NATO’s eastward expansion — which Moscow has strongly opposed.

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the Security Council: “Putin is making clear every day, every hour ... that he does not want to negotiate peace. He wants to complete his conquest.”

And US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that through all of Russia's “lies, Putin has tried to rewrite history, to justify the unjustifiable, to break the will of the Ukrainian people, and to break the will of the international community.”

“We cannot let that happen,” she said.


Angry French Farmers Storm into Agriculture Fair in Paris

French farmers scuffle with gendarmes (bottom) during a farmers' protest at the Porte Versailles exhibition center, prior to the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris, on February 24, 2024. (AFP)
French farmers scuffle with gendarmes (bottom) during a farmers' protest at the Porte Versailles exhibition center, prior to the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris, on February 24, 2024. (AFP)
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Angry French Farmers Storm into Agriculture Fair in Paris

French farmers scuffle with gendarmes (bottom) during a farmers' protest at the Porte Versailles exhibition center, prior to the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris, on February 24, 2024. (AFP)
French farmers scuffle with gendarmes (bottom) during a farmers' protest at the Porte Versailles exhibition center, prior to the opening of the 60th International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture), in Paris, on February 24, 2024. (AFP)

A group of French farmers stormed into a major Paris farm fair on Saturday ahead of a planned visit by President Emmanuel Macron amid anger over costs, red tape and green regulations.

Facing dozens of police officers inside the trade fair, the farmers were shouting and booing, calling for the resignation of Macron and using expletives aimed at the French leader.

"This is our home!" they shouted, as lines of French CRS riot police sought to contain the demonstration. There were some clashes with demonstrators and the police arrested at least one of them, a Reuters witness saw.

Macron, who had breakfast with French farmers' union leaders, was scheduled to walk within the alleys of the trade fair afterwards.

"I'm saying this for all farmers: you're not helping any of your colleagues by smashing up stands, you're not helping any of your colleagues by making the show impossible, and in a way scaring families away from coming," Macron told reporters after his meeting with union leaders.

The Paris farm show - a major event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over nine days - was scheduled to open at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT). The doors were still closed at 0838 GMT, following the storming by angry farmers.

In a sign of tensions between French farmers and the government, Macron canceled a debate he wanted to hold at the fair on Saturday with farmers, food processors and retailers, after farmers unions said they would not take part.

Farmers have been protesting across Europe, calling for better income, less bureaucracy and denouncing unfair competition from cheap Ukrainian goods imported to help Kyiv's war effort.

Farmers' protests, which have spread across Europe, come as the far right, for which farmers represent a growing constituency, is expected to make gains in European Parliament elections in June.

French farmers earlier this month largely suspended protests that included blocking highways and dumping manure in front of public buildings after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised new measures worth 400 million euros ($433 million).

But protests resumed this week to put pressure on the government to provide more help and deliver on promises, ahead of the Paris farm show.


Many in Myanmar Consider Fleeing to Thailand to Escape Conscription into an Army they Despise

People queue to receive a token to apply for a visa outside the Royal Thai embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 February 2024. EPA/STRINGER
People queue to receive a token to apply for a visa outside the Royal Thai embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 February 2024. EPA/STRINGER
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Many in Myanmar Consider Fleeing to Thailand to Escape Conscription into an Army they Despise

People queue to receive a token to apply for a visa outside the Royal Thai embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 February 2024. EPA/STRINGER
People queue to receive a token to apply for a visa outside the Royal Thai embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 February 2024. EPA/STRINGER

Thwel, a 25-year-old schoolteacher, saw very few options left to her after Myanmar’s military announced it is implementing conscription to fill its ranks.
“As a person living in this country, I only have two options: to go abroad illegally or die here,” Thwel told The Associated Press by phone while traveling to a border area to try crossing into Thailand with a small group of like-minded people.
Some observers believe a mass exodus of young talent is taking place and could become a social problem, with their exit heightening the instability that followed the military takeover that now amounts to a civil war.
Thwel, whose home in Myanmar’s southern Mon state is the scene of occasional combat between the army and resistance forces, spoke on condition she be called by only one name as protection from the military authorities. Like many professionals, she joined the Civil Disobedience Movement that was formed to oppose military rule after the army’s 2021 seizure of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since then, the army's manpower has been stretched thin by increasing pressure from surprisingly durable pro-democracy resistance forces and ethnic minority armed organizations,
Over the past four months, opposition groups scored significant victories and seized strategically important territory in northern Shan state where Myanmar borders China, and in Rakhine state in the west.
On Feb. 10, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, chair of Myanmar’s ruling military council, ordered the 2010 conscription law be activated to replenish the ranks that have been depleted by the struggle to quash a nationwide pro-democracy insurgency. All healthy men ages 18-35 and women 18-27 are required to register for two years of military service.
Evading conscription is punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine.
Of Myanmar's 56 million people, about 14 million — 6.3 million men and 7.7 million women — are eligible for military service, according to Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson for the military government. The government will draft 60,000 people a year, with an initial batch of 5,000 to be called up soon after the traditional Thingyan New Year celebration in mid-April, he said.
After an uproar over the initial announcement, Zaw Min Tun said there is no plan to call women into military service yet — meaning schoolteacher Thwel might actually be in the clear for the time being.
But many people are actively looking for ways to escape.
The street in front of Thailand’s embassy in Yangon has been filled with visa applicants queued up to get numbered appointment tickets. Overwhelmed, the embassy announced it would accept only 400 visa appointments per day, and they must be made online. According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, some 7,000 Myanmar nationals have applied for visas, Thailand’s Bangkok Post newspaper reported Thursday.
Each day at the state passport office in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, 4,000-5000 people were lining up to get one of the 200-250 daily appointment tickets. Two women died and one was injured after they fell into a ditch in a pre-dawn rush to get a coveted early place in line.
A 32-year-old news translator from Yangon said he made a snap decision to leave the country after the conscription announcement, and flew to Thailand a few days later. Like almost all persons willing to discuss their plans, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of the legal consequences.
He said he was very concerned because serving in the military is like entering a labyrinth with no way back out, giving the example of his uncle, who joined the army for a five-year enlistment but was not allowed to leave for more than 40 years.
A 26-year-old journalist who has been working covertly in Mandalay, said the conscription law made his situation untenable. He also spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of the legal consequences; more than 150 journalists were arrested after the army sized power, and more than one-third remain locked up, according to the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
“I tried my best to stay inside the country in the past few years while other journalists were fleeing abroad or to areas controlled by ethnic minority armed groups," he said. "But, this time, we can’t hide anywhere. We can’t stay out of sight. There is no choice.”
He is also planning to flee to Thailand.
The Institute for Strategy and Policy, an independent think tank, said conscription could trigger a mass exodus, more widespread violations of human rights and increase corruption and extortion at all levels. It anticipates that young people close to areas where armed conflict is active could join the ethnic minority armed forces and pro-democracy resistance groups.
There were around 160,000 soldiers before the army takeover, the institute said, and there are now fewer than 100,000 due to casualties, desertions and defection.
Like schoolteacher Thwel, a 35-year old doctor from Yangon had joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. He was consequently restricted from treating patients, since activist medical workers are boycotting government hospitals, while private clinics and hospitals risk closure if they hire them. They are also blacklisted by immigration authorities, making them unable to get passports to legally leave the country.
Professionals such as medical doctors and engineers face a higher age limit for conscription — 45 for men and 35 for women — and their term of service is three years.
"For me, the announcement of the law was the impetus to make a decision to go abroad,” said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for his safety.
The doctor said he was exploring the best ways flee abroad or to border areas controlled by the ethnic armed groups.
Ethnic resistance groups such as the Arakan Army from Rakhine state and the Shan State Progress Party have invited people to take refuge in territory they control. The Karen National Union in Kayin state in the southeast has similarly promised help.
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government, the leading political body of the pro-democracy resistance, declared that the public is not required to comply with the conscription law, urging them instead to intensify their participation in the fight against army rule.
The Yangon region branch of its armed wing, the People’s Defense Force, announced a recruitment drive and said they received about 1,000 online applications within 12 hours.
More than 1,000 working-age Myanmar nationals are believed to be crossing into Thailand every day since conscription was announced, said Moe Kyaw of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association-Thailand, an aid association for Myanmar migrant workers.
“It is not a good sign that human resources and intellectuals leave a country,” he said.
He echoed other aid workers in predicting that with new waves of people entering Thailand, generally illegally, there will be increased human trafficking and related crimes, and there will be friction as the new entrants compete for jobs with as many as 3 million already employed Myanmar migrant workers.


White House Escalates Criticism of US House Speaker

US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (AFP)
US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (AFP)
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White House Escalates Criticism of US House Speaker

US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (AFP)
US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (AFP)

The White House escalated its criticism of Republican US House Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday, accusing him of benefitting Iran and Russia by not putting a national security bill that gives aid to Ukraine up for a vote.
Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters this week, deepening the military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries.
Iran is “actively enabling Russia's war in Ukraine and its attacks against Ukrainian cities,” deputy press secretary and senior communications adviser Andrew Bates said in a memo viewed by Reuters.
“President Biden is standing up to Iran. But where is Speaker Johnson's supposed commitment not to 'appease Iran' in all this? Nowhere. Instead, his inaction is benefiting Putin and the Ayatollah,” the memo says.
Top Biden administration officials spent last weekend in Europe trying to soothe jitters over the prospect of US military aid to Ukraine ending, assuring counterparts from Paris, Berlin and Kyiv as the war enters its third year that Washington will somehow come through.
The Senate last week approved a $95 billion bill providing assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan by an overwhelming 70-30 vote, with 22 Republicans joining most Democrats in voting in favor.
But Johnson sent the House home for a two-week recess without bringing the measure up for a vote, saying “we're not going to be forced into action by the Senate.”
Johnson says any package of international military and humanitarian assistance must also include measures to address security at the US border with Mexico after Republicans blocked a version of the bill that provided for the biggest overhaul of US immigration policy in decades.
Many senators and White House officials believe the bill would pass the House with bipartisan support if Johnson would allow the chamber to vote.


British Union of Journalists Condemns Iran for Trials against Journalists in Absentia

Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded on Friday action against Iran after documents revealed secret trials of journalists working for Persian language media abroad. (BBC)
Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded on Friday action against Iran after documents revealed secret trials of journalists working for Persian language media abroad. (BBC)
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British Union of Journalists Condemns Iran for Trials against Journalists in Absentia

Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded on Friday action against Iran after documents revealed secret trials of journalists working for Persian language media abroad. (BBC)
Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded on Friday action against Iran after documents revealed secret trials of journalists working for Persian language media abroad. (BBC)

Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) demanded on Friday action against Iran after documents revealed secret trials of journalists working for Persian language media abroad.

In a statement, NUJ said Iran has sentenced ten journalists affiliated with BBC Persian in London, along with others associated with Iran International, Manoto TV, Gem TV, Voice of America, and Prague-based Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).

“Journalists were tried and convicted in absentia, and no one was even aware that the secret proceedings had taken place,” the Union noted.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This is yet more evidence of the all-out war on Iranian journalists inside the country and abroad by the Iranian government.”

She said it was deeply shocking that a state can act in this abhorrent way, putting journalists and their families in real danger in a flagrant abuse of press freedom.

Stanistreet affirmed that the Union we will be contacting the UK’s government and the UN and “ask that the wider international community speak out against this outrageous weaponizing of journalists.”

“Particularly worrying is the use by the regime of red notices through Interpol which can inhibit the movement of these journalists, as they travel abroad for work or to meet with family in third countries,” she added.

The secret trials were revealed after the hacking group, Edalat-e Ali, published a database of Tehran Judiciary's criminal cases, which includes some details of three million public and secret cases.

None of those “convicted” journalists knew about this case until the documents were hacked and published which showed they were tried in absentia, without legal representation or access to the indictment, according to NUJ.

Earlier this week, on the eve of the launch of campaigning for Iran’s legislative elections, hackers from Edalat-e Ali announced they confiscated millions of files and documents after breaching the servers of the Iranian judiciary.

Weeks prior, the group had hacked the website of the Iranian parliament.

Edalat-e Ali had previously hacked the surveillance cameras of Iranian prisons, as well as government websites, including the website of the Iranian President.


European Leaders Arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine Marks 2 Years since Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion

Ukrainian servicemen operate a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Gepard near the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, Ukraine, 22 February 2024 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/IGOR TKACHENKO
Ukrainian servicemen operate a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Gepard near the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, Ukraine, 22 February 2024 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/IGOR TKACHENKO
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European Leaders Arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine Marks 2 Years since Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion

Ukrainian servicemen operate a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Gepard near the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, Ukraine, 22 February 2024 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/IGOR TKACHENKO
Ukrainian servicemen operate a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Gepard near the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, Ukraine, 22 February 2024 amid the Russian invasion. EPA/IGOR TKACHENKO

Western leaders descended on Kyiv Saturday to mark the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled overnight to Kyiv by train along with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person. Three women also sustained severe burns in the attack Friday evening on a residential building, regional Governor Oleh Kiper said on his social media account. Rescue services are still combing rubble looking for survivors.

The foreign leaders are in Ukraine to express solidarity as Ukrainian forces run low on ammunition and weaponry and Western aid hangs in the balance.

“More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” von der Leyen said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, after she arrived in Kyiv.

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven leading economies, announced that the group's heads of state and government will meet virtually on Saturday, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy participating as well, and would adopt a joint statement on Ukraine.

Under Meloni, Italy has been a strong supporter of Ukraine. Saturday’s virtual meeting marks the first top-level G7 gathering of the Italian presidency; G7 heads of state and government are expected to meet in person in southern Puglia in June for their annual summit.

A somber mood hangs over Ukraine as the war against Russia enters its third year and Kyiv's troops face mounting challenges on the front line amid dwindling ammunition supplies and personnel challenges. Its troops recently withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its biggest victories.

Earlier this month, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired top military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi, replacing him with Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, marking the most significant shakeup of top brass since the full-scale invasion.

Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make any major breakthroughs with its summertime counteroffensive. Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians continue to live in precarious circumstances in the crossfire of battles, and many others face constant struggles under Russian occupation. Most are waiting for a Ukrainian liberation that hasn't come.

Foreign officials are expected to descend on the capital to meet with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials and express their continued support for the country as it fights Moscow's troops and prepares for European Union membership.

In the US Congress, Republicans have stalled $60 billion in military aid for Kyiv, desperately needed in the short term. The EU recently approved a 50 billion-euro (about $54 billion) aid package for Ukraine meant to support Ukraine's economy, despite resistance from Hungary.

US President Joe Biden tied the loss of the defensive stronghold of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region after months of grueling battles to the stalled US aid.  

Fears have since spiked that Ukrainian forces will face similar difficulties across other parts of the 1000-kilometer (620-mile) front line as they come under mounting pressure from Russian assaults.


Iran Denies Providing Ballistic Missiles to Russia

Iranian ballistic missiles are displayed during the ceremony of joining the Armed Forces, in Tehran, Iran, August 22, 2023. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters
Iranian ballistic missiles are displayed during the ceremony of joining the Armed Forces, in Tehran, Iran, August 22, 2023. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters
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Iran Denies Providing Ballistic Missiles to Russia

Iranian ballistic missiles are displayed during the ceremony of joining the Armed Forces, in Tehran, Iran, August 22, 2023. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters
Iranian ballistic missiles are displayed during the ceremony of joining the Armed Forces, in Tehran, Iran, August 22, 2023. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters

Iran denied on Friday that it had provided ballistic missiles to Russia, after the United States said there would be a severe international response to any such move.

Earlier this week Reuters, citing six sources, reported that Iran had provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic weapons to Russia, deepening military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned nations.

The Biden administration warned Iran on Thursday of a "swift and severe" response from the international community if Tehran had provided ballistic missiles to Russia.

"Despite no legal restrictions on ballistic missile sales, Iran is morally obligated to refrain from weapon transactions during the Russia-Ukraine conflict to prevent fueling the war," Iran's mission to the United Nations said on the X platform.

"(That) is rooted in Iran's adherence to international law and the UN Charter," it added.

UN Security Council restrictions on Iran's export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October.

However, the United States and the European Union retained sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

Iran initially denied supplying drones to Russia but months later said it had provided a small number before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.


Somalia Will Defend Itself if Ethiopia Seals ‘Illegal’ Port Deal, President Says 

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addresses the media inside his office in Mogadishu, Somalia February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addresses the media inside his office in Mogadishu, Somalia February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Somalia Will Defend Itself if Ethiopia Seals ‘Illegal’ Port Deal, President Says 

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addresses the media inside his office in Mogadishu, Somalia February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addresses the media inside his office in Mogadishu, Somalia February 21, 2024. (Reuters)

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said his country would "defend itself" if Ethiopia goes ahead with a deal to set up a naval base in the breakaway region of Somaliland and possibly recognize the territory as an independent state.

Landlocked Ethiopia agreed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 1 to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland - a territory that Somalia says it owns, even though the northern region has enjoyed effective autonomy since 1991.

Ethiopia said it wants to set up a naval base there and offered possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange - prompting a defiant response from Somalia and fears the deal could further destabilize the Horn of Africa.

"If Ethiopia insists, Somalia will resist and will refuse," Mohamud told Reuters on Tuesday in an interview at the heavily fortified presidential palace in Mogadishu.

"If they come into the country, Somalia will do everything that it can to defend itself."

He did not go into further detail on what action Somalia might take. The Horn of Africa has experienced repeated conflicts, feeding humanitarian crises in areas prone to drought. Neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia fought over territory in 1977-1978 and 1982.

Mohamud said he would only agree to discuss the matter with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when the government in Addis Ababa renounces its intention "to take part of our country".

Ethiopia's government spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Abiy has previously said Ethiopia has no plans to start a conflict with Somalia and is merely trying to address its need for sea access.

Mohamud said he was not considering kicking out the nearly 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers stationed in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting militants from al Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Analysts and diplomats fear a withdrawal of Ethiopian troops would further destabilize Somalia, where al Shabaab attacks have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers since 2006.

Somalia and several Western countries, including the United States, which regularly carries out strikes against militants in Somalia, have said Ethiopia's port deal has boosted al Shabaab's recruitment efforts.

Mohamud said his government's estimates showed al Shabaab had recruited between 6,000 and 8,000 new fighters in January alone.

Analysts and diplomats interviewed by Reuters were skeptical of that number, estimating the number of new recruits in the hundreds.