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Russia-Ukraine war: Joe Biden expresses support for right of Finland and Sweden to join Nato– as it happened – The Guardian

Ukraine has “likely won the battle of Kharkiv”, the country’s second largest city, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv.

Russian units had “generally not attempted to hold ground against counterattacking Ukrainian forces over the past several days, with a few exceptions.”

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians back home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia rather than trying to hold its positions near the city.

The US-based think tank said Ukraine would now likely “attempt to disrupt ground lines of communication (GLOCs) between Belgorod [in Russia] and Russian forces concentrated around [the Russian-occupied city of] Izyum, although Russia is using several GLOCs, including some further away from current Ukrainian positions than any Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely to reach soon.”

Russian troops had “made no progress” with an attempted ground offensive from Izyum, it continued, adding: “We had previously hypothesized that Russia might give up on attempts to advance from Izyum, but the Russians have either not made such a decision or have not fully committed to it yet.”

Meanwhile, it said, the main Russian effort was aimed at encircling the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Luhansk.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Russian troops attacking from Popasna to the north made no significant progress in the last 24 hours. Russian forces coming north-to-south have failed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River and taken devastating losses in their attempts.

The Russians may not have enough additional fresh combat power to offset those losses and continue the offensive on a large enough scale to complete the encirclement, although they will likely continue to try to do so.

Other key takeaways included:

  • Russian forces have likely secured the highway near the western entrance to the Azovstal Steel Plant but fighting for the facility continues.
  • Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are likely attempting to reach artillery range outside Zaporizhia City.
  • Ukrainian forces are reportedly attempting to regain control of Snake Island off the Romanian coast or at least disrupt Russia’s ability to use it.

It’s just after 7am in Kyiv, here’s a round up of the latest developments.

  • Ukraine has “likely won the battle of Kharkiv”, the country’s second largest city, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict. “Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv,” the US-based thinktank said.
  • Ukrainians have also repelled multiple attempts by the Russians to cross a strategically significant river in the Donbas, inflicting heavy losses in the process, according to local officials and British intelligence. British defence intelligence said Russia had lost “significant armoured manoeuvre elements” from a battalion tactical group – a formation with about 800 personnel at full strength – from the failed effort to cross the Siversky Donets River, 12 miles (20km) west of Severodonetsk.
  • Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato.
  • That news came as US president Joe Biden expressed his support for the right of Finland and Sweden “to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements” in a call with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, and Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson.
  • The White House also said it was ‘working to clarify Turkey’s position’ after president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey would not welcome either Sweden or Finland joining Nato. The comments appeared directed at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey regards as a terrorist organisation. Sweden has a large Kurdish diaspora.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says “very difficult negotiations are underway” on the evacuation of the seriously wounded and medics from Mariupol and the Azovstal steel plant, which Russian forces continue to bombard. “Of course, we are doing everything to evacuate everyone else, each of our defenders,” the president added.
  • Earlier, the Ukrainian president reiterated an offer to hold direct talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in his fullest public comments on the prospect of peace talks in weeks. “I am ready to talk to Putin, but only to him. Without any of his intermediaries. And in the framework of dialogue, not ultimatums,” he told Italy’s RAI 1 television.
  • A Russian soldier has appeared in court accused of murdering an unarmed man on a bicycle, at the start of the first war crime trial in Ukraine since the invasion began. Vadim Shysimarin, a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, is charged with the premeditated murder of a 62-year-old man. The case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
  • Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia will hold a referendum on joining Russia on 17 July, the region’s leader, Anatoly Bibilov, has announced. South Ossetia was at the centre of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 after which the Kremlin recognised the territory – along with another separatist region, Abkhazia – as an independent state and stationed military bases there.
  • Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”. He warned that “extremely tough weeks are ahead” and that Ukraine needed “unity, cohesion, will and patience” during this difficult period.
  • The UK has issued sanctions against a dozen members of Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle including his long-rumoured girlfriend. The Foreign Office argued that the Russian president officially owns only modest assets, and has sanctioned the people who help support his lavish lifestyle.
  • The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time since before the invasion began, the Pentagon said. Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasised the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said.
  • The EU could agree on a phased embargo on Russian oil next week, despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe, according to diplomats and officials. A senior EU diplomat told Reuters an agreement could come as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels. A third diplomat said there was a chance of an agreement later in the week.
  • The lawyer for the US professional basketball player Brittney Griner said her pre-trial detention has been extended by one month. The two-time Olympic medallist was arrested in February at Moscow’s airport, allegedly in possession of vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis. If found guilty, she could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Russian soldiers were captured on CCTV shooting unarmed civilians in the back, according to footage obtained by the BBC.

The film shows Russian soldiers trying to enter commercial premises neaar Kyiv in the early stages of the war before they appear to shoot a security guard and another man in the back.

The alleged shootings are being investigated by Ukrainian prosecutors as a war crime.

While the war rages in Ukraine, its deaf athletes have been doing the country proud in Brazil, which is currently hosting the Deaflympics. Ukraine is currently leading the medal table by a significant margin, according to this dispatch by AFP:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}When Rymma Filimoshkina practiced the hammer throw in the yard near her house in Mariupol at the start of the Ukraine war, her neighbours thought she was throwing a bomb.

But her “weapon” isn’t one of destruction: it just won the 33-year-old deaf athlete a gold medal at the Deaflympics in Brazil.

Thousands of kilometres from the conflict at home, the Ukrainian team is raking in the medals at the Olympics for the deaf, which opened on 1 May and wrap up Sunday in the southern city of Caxias do Sul.

With two days left to go in the Games, Ukraine had a commanding lead in the medal table, with a total of 116 – more than double the second-place United States.

“In this event, we show the world we exist: we are Ukraine, a real powerful, independent and democratic country,” said Valeriy Sushkevych, president of the Ukraine Paralympic committee.

“One soldier called us and said: in between battles, we support you on TV. Your fighting spirit in sports is very important for us,” he told AFP.

Ukranian hammer thrower Rymma Filimoshkina shows off her gold medal during the 24th Summer Deaflympics, in Caxias do Sul, Brazil.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Ukraine has a history of punching above its weight in disabled sport.

Its Paralympic program owes its success to two and a half decades of specialized schools in every region of the country for children with disabilities, who start participating in sporting programs at an early age, Sushkevych says.

Ukraine finished sixth in the medal table at the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo last year, and second at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing in March, just after Russia launched its invasion.

The team’s success at the Deaflympics is symbolically charged: Ukraine had finished second in the medal table at the last three editions of the event – behind Russia, which was banned from all international competitions over the invasion.

“I dedicate these medals to Ukraine. I’m very proud to represent my country,” said a smiling Dmytro Levin, a 24-year-old native of Kharkiv, speaking in sign language after winning two golds and a bronze in orienteering.

Ukranian orienteerer Dmytro Levin with his medals at the 24th Summer Deaflympics, in Caxias do Sul, Brazil.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}“I’m happy to have won this medal for Ukraine. But all I really want is peace,” said 15-year-old Sofia Chernomorova, who won bronze in badminton.

Filimoshkina said she still remembers the vibrations she felt with every bomb that exploded in Mariupol, the port city devastated by relentless Russian strikes.

“A lot of deaf people died because they didn’t hear the air raid sirens and went outside at the wrong time,” she said.

Her teammate Julia Kysylova, who won silver in the hammer throw, said that for a long time, she was sure they would have to cancel their trip for the Games.

“When the war erupted, it was impossible to train. I spent a month sheltering at home,” said the 25-year-old athlete from Nova Kakhovka, in the hard-hit southern region of Kherson.

She finally managed to flee to Spain, leaving her husband behind.

“It was a miracle we managed to cross the border. The trip took more than two days,” she said.

“After the Games, I hope to go back home and be with my husband,” she added.

“But I don’t know if that will be possible.”

Russia’s annual inflation jumped to a two-decade high of 17.8% in April, fuelled by Western sanctions over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, the statistics agency said on Friday, AFP reports.

Since president Vladimir Putin moved troops into Ukraine on 24 February, Russia has been hit with a barrage of international sanctions, including embargoes on key exports, accelerating already high inflation.

The deli counter at a Moscow supermarket.

Inflation of food prices, a huge concern for Russians on low incomes, has reached 20.5% year-on-year, according to Rosstat.

Pasta has gone up by 29.6%, butter by 26.1%, and fruit and vegetables by 33%.

Annual inflation could reach 23% this year before slowing down next year and returning to the target of 4% in 2024, according to the Central Bank.

“Looking ahead, we expect monthly increases in prices to ease further from May,” Capital Economics said.

Inflation has been speeding up for months due to a number of factors including the post-pandemic recovery and high prices for raw materials. Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine has added sanctions and the resulting logistical difficulties as factors.

Putin on Thursday said Western countries were worse hit by sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine than Russia, which he insists has been resilient in the face of “external challenges”.

Washington is “working to clarify Turkey’s position” after president Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed opposition to Finland and Sweden joining Nato, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said according to Reuters.

The idea of the two nations becoming members of the transatlantic alliance had received “broad support from NATO member countries,” Psaki said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby likewise said the United States is working to “better understand” Ankara’s stance.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Turkey is a valued NATO ally; that has not changed. They have been involved and helpful in trying to get dialogue going between Russia and Ukraine ,and they have provided assistance to Ukraine. So nothing changes about their standing in the NATO alliance.

Erdogan told journalists on Friday that “we do not have a positive opinion” about the two countries joining the alliance, and said they shelter “terrorist organizations.”

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

The leaders of the US and the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine and the creation of “an enabling environment for peaceful resolution”, following a summit in Washington.

US vice president Kamala Harris (C), with deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman (C L) and national security advisor to the vice president Philip Gordon (C R), at a working lunch with the leaders of ASEAN countries in Washington.

“We continue to reaffirm our respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity. We reiterate our call for compliance with the UN Charter and international law,” the group said in a statement.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in the search for a peaceful solution.

We also call for the facilitation of rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, and for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel, and persons in vulnerable situations.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is likely to annex the occupied parts of southern and eastern Ukraine into Russia “in the coming months”, according to Katherine Lawlor and Mason Clark, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, warning that the move could then be used to threaten Ukraine and its allies with nuclear attack.

After annexation,

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}He [Putin] will likely then state, directly or obliquely, that Russian doctrine permitting the use of nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory applies to those newly annexed territories.

Such actions would threaten Ukraine and its partners with nuclear attack if Ukrainian counteroffensives to liberate Russian-occupied territory continue. Putin may believe that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would restore Russian deterrence after his disastrous invasion shattered Russia’s conventional deterrent capabilities.

Putin’s timeline for annexation is likely contingent on the extent to which he understands the degraded state of the Russian military in Ukraine.

The Russian military has not yet achieved Putin’s stated territorial objectives of securing all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and is unlikely to do so.

If Putin understands his military weakness, he will likely rush annexation and introduce the nuclear deterrent quickly in an attempt to retain control of the Ukrainian territory that Russia currently occupies.

If Putin believes that Russian forces are capable of additional advances, he will likely delay the annexation in hopes of covering more territory with it.

In that case, his poor leadership and Ukrainian counteroffensives could drive the Russian military toward a state of collapse.

Putin could also attempt to maintain Russian attacks while mobilizing additional forces. He might delay announcing annexation for far longer in this case, waiting until reinforcements could arrive to gain more territory to annex.

Ukraine and its allies therefore “likely have a narrow window of opportunity to support a Ukrainian counteroffensive into occupied Ukrainian territory before the Kremlin annexes that territory,”Lawlor and Clark write.

As reports suggest that Ukrainian forces have successfully pushed back Russian forces from around the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv, near the country’s north-eastern border with Russia, here are some images showing the destruction left behind:

A local man with his destroyed tractor on a farm in the village of Mala Rohan, near Kharkiv.
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a burning natural gas terminal on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv.
A destroyed vehicle lies in the middle of a road in north Kharkiv.
Goats cross a street between burned vehicles in the village of Vilkhivka near Kharkiv.
A Ukrainian policeman stands inside a school sport hall in the village of Vilkhivka, where, according to residents, Russian soldiers were based, after it was retaken by Ukrainian army.
A man tries to collect usable wares from his house which was destroyed by Russian attacks on Kharkiv.
A destroyed Russian helicopter near the village of Mala Rohan, near Kharkiv, Ukraine.

An interesting thread here on Russia’s failed Donbas river crossing from retired Australian major general Mick Ryan.

In it, he notes that:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} This Russian river crossing has gained attention because it resulted in the loss of (probably) a battalion tactical group and some critical engineer equipment. The reality is, it is worse than that.

He also says:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} An important aspect of assault river crossings is that they are only undertaken if absolutely necessary. The resources needed – engineers, bridges, artillery – are closely husbanded by commanders. As I already mentioned, they are really hard, especially when being shot at.

Therefore, such operations normally only occur on an axis of advance that is a main effort (or about to become the main effort). This has been missed by many commentators – the Russians clearly intended to invest in this axis and throw a lot of combat power down it.

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I was going to do a thread today on the implications of Ukraine’s offensive around Kharkiv. Instead, I have pushed that to tomorrow in order to discuss the Russian river crossing operation over the Severskyi Donets this week in #Ukraine. 1/ https://t.co/NPSQdN98WG

&mdash; Mick Ryan, AM (@WarintheFuture) May 13, 2022

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I was going to do a thread today on the implications of Ukraine’s offensive around Kharkiv. Instead, I have pushed that to tomorrow in order to discuss the Russian river crossing operation over the Severskyi Donets this week in #Ukraine. 1/ https://t.co/NPSQdN98WG

— Mick Ryan, AM (@WarintheFuture) May 13, 2022

Ukraine has “likely won the battle of Kharkiv”, the country’s second largest city, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city, as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv.

Russian units had “generally not attempted to hold ground against counterattacking Ukrainian forces over the past several days, with a few exceptions.”

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Reports from Western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians back home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia rather than trying to hold its positions near the city.

The US-based think tank said Ukraine would now likely “attempt to disrupt ground lines of communication (GLOCs) between Belgorod [in Russia] and Russian forces concentrated around [the Russian-occupied city of] Izyum, although Russia is using several GLOCs, including some further away from current Ukrainian positions than any Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely to reach soon.”

Russian troops had “made no progress” with an attempted ground offensive from Izyum, it continued, adding: “We had previously hypothesized that Russia might give up on attempts to advance from Izyum, but the Russians have either not made such a decision or have not fully committed to it yet.”

Meanwhile, it said, the main Russian effort was aimed at encircling the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Luhansk.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Russian troops attacking from Popasna to the north made no significant progress in the last 24 hours. Russian forces coming north-to-south have failed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River and taken devastating losses in their attempts.

The Russians may not have enough additional fresh combat power to offset those losses and continue the offensive on a large enough scale to complete the encirclement, although they will likely continue to try to do so.

Other key takeaways included:

  • Russian forces have likely secured the highway near the western entrance to the Azovstal Steel Plant but fighting for the facility continues.
  • Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are likely attempting to reach artillery range outside Zaporizhia City.
  • Ukrainian forces are reportedly attempting to regain control of Snake Island off the Romanian coast or at least disrupt Russia’s ability to use it.

Hello, this is Helen Livingstone taking over from my colleague Sam Levin.

First, a bit more from Zelenskiy’s latest nightly address, in which he warned that the war and Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports were “provoking a large-scale food crisis”.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Russian officials are also openly threatening the world that there will be famine in dozens of countries. And what could be the consequences of such a famine? What political instability and migration flows will this lead to? How much will you have to spend then to overcome the consequences?

These are the questions that need to be answered by those who are delaying sanctions on Russia or trying to postpone aid to Ukraine.

His warning came as G7 foreign and agriculture ministers were meeting in Germany to discuss ways of breaking the Russian blockade of grain exports.

Zelenskiy also claimed that Russia had lost almost 27,000 soldiers, “many of them young conscripts”, and that Ukraine had downed a 200th Russian military aircraft.

Russia had also “lost more than three thousand tanks, armored combat vehicles, a large number of conventional military vehicles, helicopters, drones and all its prospects as a state.”

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}And why all this? For a monument to Lenin to stand in the temporarily occupied Henichesk for a little longer? There is no other result for Russia and there will not be any.

The Guardian is not able to verify Ukraine’s claims regarding Russian losses and Moscow has provided very little detail.

  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that Turkey would not welcome either Sweden or Finland joining the Nato.
  • Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”.
  • Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato.
  • The US is sending 10,500 new troops to Europe to replace soldiers who were earlier deployed, the Pentagon said on Friday.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said talks with Russia on getting wounded defenders out of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol were very complex and that negotiations were underway.
  • Ukrainians have repelled multiple attempts by the Russians to cross a strategically significant river in the Donbas, inflicting heavy losses in the process, according to local officials and British intelligence.
  • Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia will hold a referendum on joining Russia on 17 July, the region’s leader announced on Friday.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said talks with Russia on getting wounded defenders out of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol were very complex, adding Kyiv was using influential intermediaries, Reuters reported, citing his late night address:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Russian forces have been constantly bombarding the steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, the last bastion of hundreds of Ukrainian defenders in a city almost completely controlled by Russia after more than two months of a siege.

Ukraine, saying there is no military solution to the standoff, has proposed evacuating 38 of the most severely wounded defenders. If Moscow allows them out, Kyiv says it will release a number of Russian prisoners of war.

“At the moment very complex negotiations are under way on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the removal of the badly wounded, medics. We are talking about a large number of people,” Zelenskiy said in his address. “Of course, we are doing everything to evacuate all the others, every one of our defenders. We’ve already involved everyone around the world who could be the most influential intermediaries,” he added, without giving details.

Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, spoke to reporters in Washington DC today and said the crisis on the battlefield was now “far worse” than it was at the start of the war, CNN reports.

Ustinova said “it is hell” on the frontlines, the news network reported: “We keep losing many more men now than it was at the beginning of the war.” She was speaking at a German Marshall Fund roundtable.

She also called on the US to supply fighter jets and air defense systems, saying, according to CNN:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}If we had howitzers two months ago, Mariupol would not happen because they wouldn’t be able to surround like they did, to surround the city and literally destroy it … For us, time means lives, thousands of lives. We’ve been hearing that it has been unprecedented how fast everything is moving and how fast the decisions are taking. But there has never been a war since World War Two like that. And unfortunately, we keep asking here to take the decisions faster.”

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.@SashaUstinovaUA called on the US to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to Ukraine, telling reporters at a @gmfus roundtable that the situation on the battlefield is far worse than it was at the beginning of the war.

“It is hell” on the frontlines right now, she said

&mdash; Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) May 13, 2022

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.@SashaUstinovaUA called on the US to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to Ukraine, telling reporters at a @gmfus roundtable that the situation on the battlefield is far worse than it was at the beginning of the war.

“It is hell” on the frontlines right now, she said

— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) May 13, 2022

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WHO chief Tedros reappointed to second five-year term – India Today

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was reappointed to a second five-year term on Tuesday by the UN health agency’s member countries.

No other candidate challenged Tedros for the post amid the ongoing difficulties of responding to the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

“This is overwhelming,” Tedros said, after another World Health Organisation official asked everyone in the room to stand and applaud him.

Fighting back tears, Tedros described himself as “a child of war” after signing the contract for his extension. He said that after witnessing his younger brother’s death at an early age, it was “luck (that) brought me all the way here.”

Tedros, a former government minister from Ethiopia, has directed WHO throughout its management of the global response to COVID-19 and withstood occasionally withering criticism over its multiple missteps.

He is the first African to lead the agency and the only director-general not qualified as a medical doctor.

He is also the first WHO leader not to be supported by their home country; Ethiopia has previously accused Tedros of “ misconduct ” after his sharp criticism of the war and humanitarian crisis there and raised concerns about his leadership on Tuesday.

Under Tedros, the U.N. health agency failed to call out countries including China for blunders that WHO officials grumbled about privately, advised against mask-wearing for months, and said initially that the coronavirus wasn’t likely to mutate rapidly.

Scientists drafted by WHO to investigate the coronavirus’ origins in China said the critical probe was “ stalled ” last year, after issuing a report that even Tedros acknowledged had prematurely ruled out the possibility of a laboratory leak.

“There have been some mishaps, but Tedros has also been a steady voice throughout the pandemic, advocating for an equitable response,” said Javier Guzman, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development in Washington.

He said despite reservations about Tedros’ leadership, some countries weren’t willing to push for change.

“We are in the middle of the pandemic and there is some pressure for consistent leadership to take us through this difficult moment,” Guzman said.

Tedros has frequently railed against rich countries for hoarding the world’s limited supply of vaccines and insisted that pharmaceuticals aren’t doing enough to make their medicines available to the poor.

Amid the near-universal focus on Ukraine after the Russian invasion, Tedros slammed the global community for not doing enough to solve crises elsewhere, including Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, arguing that it was possibly because those suffering weren’t white.

Still, critics say Tedros has failed on some fundamental issues, like holding staff accountable after allegations that dozens of outbreak workers managed by WHO sexually abused young women in Congo during an Ebola outbreak that began in 2018, in one of the biggest sex scandals in UN history.

None of the senior WHO managers alerted to the abuse allegations and who did little to stop the exploitation, have been fired.

In January, The Associated Press reported that staffers in WHO’s Western Pacific office filed an internal complaint accusing regional director Dr. Takeshi Kasai of abusive, racist and other misconduct, undermining efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. In response, Tedros said an investigation into the allegations had been launched and promised to act “with urgency.”

But last week, several WHO staffers wrote to the agency’s Executive Board complaining that Kasai “has been able to continue his unethical, abusive and racist conduct without any form of restriction.” In an email to staff, Kasai disputed the charges.

Public health expert Guzman said the apparent culture of impunity at WHO was problematic.

“We do need to see a stronger (WHO) director-general going forward, where misconduct is not tolerated,” he said, calling for extensive reforms to make the agency accountable.

As Tedros begins his second term, some experts have also raised concerns that WHO isn’t fulfilling its primary role as a technical agency providing science-based guidance to countries.

Dr. David Tomlinson, a cardiologist who has campaigned for better protective equipment for health workers in Britain’s health system, says he has been appalled by WHO advice, most notably their reluctance to acknowledge that COVID-19 is widely spread in the air.

In July 2020, more than 230 scientists published a paper appealing to WHO to recognise the coronavirus was airborne; that later prompted the organisation to alter some of its recommendations.

Tomlinson and others say Tedros should ensure WHO’s top priority during future health emergencies is evaluating the science.

“They have perpetuated untruths that have ultimately led to the deaths of millions of people,” he said, citing the estimated 15 million people who have died during the pandemic.

“We need an agency that’s unafraid to tell the truth, but that’s unfortunately not what we have.”

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Russia's war in Ukraine: Live Updates – CNN

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23.
David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, during a panel session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on May 23. (Hollie Adams/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The head of the UN World Food Programme called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to prevent children around the world from starving.

Speaking to CNN’s Julia Chatterley at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, David Beasley called on the Russian leader to “have a heart.”

The growing food crisis has been a major issue at the forum, with Beasley being one of the leading voices calling for action. He warned that the Ukraine war has meant that “the breadbasket of the world was becoming the bread line of the world.”

Some background: Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. 

Beasley said that 325 million people around the world are facing starvation, with 49 million people in 43 countries now “knocking on famine’s door.”

“The world is facing a food security crisis. It is immediate and long term. If we are struggling now to feed 7.7 billion, what is going to happen when we have 10, 12, 13 billion? That is on top of climate impact. It’s going to be resonating around the world,” he added.

He also said that renewed focus on the food crisis was a good thing, with world leaders recognizing the size of the problem, with solutions to solve issues.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier today accused Putin of “weaponizing” food supplies in his invasion of Ukraine. The Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in areas of Ukraine and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea, von der Leyen said.

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Ukraine should give up territory to reach peace deal with Russia, says former US secretary of state – India Today

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has said it would be ‘fatal’ for the West to get swept up in the ‘mood of the moment’ and forget Russia’s position of power within Europe and suggested Ukraine should give up territory, reported Daily Mail.

Kissinger, 98, was speaking during the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

Kissinger said Ukraine should begin negotiations before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easy to overcome.

“Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point will not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself,” he told the conference on Monday.

These statements come after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s opening speech at this week’s Davos summit.

Zelensky had said that brute force will once again rule the world if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is allowed to go unanswered.

He told delegates that their summit would become pointless if Putin was allowed to win the war.

According to The Telegraph, he explained that Russia was an ‘essential part of Europe’ for over 400 years, noting that European leaders must ‘not lose sight of the longer-term relationship’ or otherwise risk putting Russia in a permanent alliance with China.

He also said, “I hope the Ukrainians will match the heroism they have shown with wisdom.”

Zelensky’s speech came at the start of the four days of talks during which Ukraine is expected to launch a global charm offensive to secure economic and military backing to ensure survival.

This year, Russia will take part in the Davos meeting as the organisers had banned Moscow from sending a delegation.

“The theme for this year’s summit is, ‘history at a turning point’,” Zelensky told a packed auditorium on Monday morning.

“This year, the words, turning, and point, are more than a rhetorical talking point. This year is the year when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world,” he said.

“If so, the powerful are not interested in our thoughts and there is no further use for meeting in Davos,” he said.

Zelensky said, “The Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those who it seeks to subdue and it does not talk, it kills, as Russia does in Ukraine, just as we speak today.”

Recalling the horrors of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky said, “Instead of peaceful cities there are only black ruins, instead of normal trade, seas full of mines and blocked ports, instead of tourists, closed skies and the sound of Russian bombs and cruise missiles.”

“This is what the world will look like if that turning moment does not have a proper response from humanity, it would resemble a large set of war crimes,” he said.

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