Category: Думки

New Czech President Vows to Boost Ties with Taiwan

Czech President-elect Petr Pavel vowed Monday to boost his country’s ties with Taiwan after holding a phone call with the island’s president and foreign minister. 

President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Pavel on his win in Saturday’s presidential run-off over the populist billionaire Andrej Babis. 

“I thanked her for her congratulations, and I assured her that Taiwan and the Czech Republic share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” Pavel said on Twitter. 

“We agreed on strengthening our partnership,” added the former general, who served as head of NATO’s military committee in 2015-2018. 

He said he “expressed hope to have the opportunity to meet President Tsai in person in the future.” 

The call is likely to anger China, which is trying to keep Taipei isolated on the world stage and prevents any sign of international legitimacy for the island. 

Beijing claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary. 

The Taiwanese presidential office said the call, which Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also joined, lasted almost 15 minutes. 

“The president… acknowledged that President-elect Pavel carries on the spirit of former Czech President (Vaclav) Havel who respected democracy, freedom and human rights, under which the republic was founded, and is like-minded with Taiwan,” Tsai’s office said in a statement. 

Havel was the Czech Republic’s first president in 1993-2003. 

Before Havel became head of state, the anti-communist dissident playwright had in 1989 led the so-called Velvet Revolution, which toppled communism in former Czechoslovakia. 

As the Czech Republic’s fourth president, Pavel will replace pro-Chinese and pro-Russian incumbent Milos Zeman, whose final term expires in March.  

Zeman is currently visiting Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia, which has not joined Western sanctions against Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. 

In a sign that his foreign policy would vastly differ from Zeman’s, Pavel spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the phone Sunday.  

Belarusian President Arrives in Zimbabwe

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday for talks with his counterpart, Emmerson Mnangagwa, aimed at boosting “strong cooperation” in several areas between the two countries.    

Lukashenko landed in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, for a two-day visit and was greeted by Mnangagwa and thousands of ruling party supporters.    

The two countries are close allies of Russia. Belarus has backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, while Zimbabwe has claimed neutrality and refused to condemn Moscow. 

The two leaders plan to meet on Tuesday. The talks are aimed at strengthening “existing excellent relations” in areas such as politics, mining and agriculture, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

“The visit is historic, as it is the first such undertaking to a sub-Saharan African nation, by President Lukashenko,” the ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse.    

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. He was reelected in 2020 in a highly contested vote that was widely denounced as a sham, resulting in mass protests. Lukashenko’s government cracked down violently on demonstrators, arresting more than 35,000 people and brutally beating thousands, according to The Associated Press.    

Mnangagwa’s reign has been shorter, coming into power in 2017 after the leader of the previous 37 years, Robert Mugabe, was forced to resign because of numerous human rights violations. Mnangagwa has faced similar controversies.    

Both leaders have been accused by rivals and the West of being corrupt and limiting free speech by stifling dissent, accusations that Lukashenko and Mnangagwa have denied.    

Some information from this report came from Agence France-Presse and The Associated Press. 

Президент Хорватії розкритикував постачання танків Україні західними країнами

Зоран Міланович критикує політику Заходу щодо Росії, виступає проти прийому Фінляндії та Швеції в НАТО, а також проти навчання українських військ у Хорватії

Turkish Migrant Death in Greece Prompts Accusations of Torture

The death of a Turkish migrant after he traveled to a Greek island has prompted demands for Ankara to take up the case with Athens, amid accusations of torture and the illegal “push-back” of migrant boats.

Barış Büyüksu

Despite graduating from university, 30-year-old Barış Büyüksu was struggling to find a well-paid job. At the end of September, he left his home in the Turkish city of Izmir for what he hoped would be a new life in western Europe. It was the last time his family would see him alive.

Büyüksu paid people smugglers for a place on a migrant boat, which took him from the Turkish coastline around Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos, a journey of just a few kilometers.

The smuggling gang gave him a fake Bulgarian identity card. Büyüksu planned to reach Athens and then travel to France, a journey several of his friends had already successfully made. He hoped to find a job and save money before returning to Turkey.

Detention

On October 21, as he was waiting on the dockside in Kos to board a ferry to Athens, a friend told the family he witnessed Büyüksu being detained by police and then bundled into an unmarked black van. VOA has not been able to verify this account.

The following day, back in Büyüksu’s hometown of Izmir, his family received a call from Turkish police, who told them their son was dead – and that his body bore signs of torture.

The Turkish coast guard says it found Büyüksu, badly injured but still alive, in an inflatable boat that had been pushed back into Turkish waters by Greece. The police report says 15 Palestinian asylum-seekers were also on board, including three women and three children. Turkish authorities say Büyüksu died before a medical team could reach him.

Baris’ father, Reyis Büyüksu, spoke to VOA at the family home in Izmir.

“A policeman from Bodrum central police station … said your son has been killed by Greeks and said that I need to be at the police station at 8:00 in the morning. We picked up the body from the forensic medicine institute and brought it here and buried him,” he said.

“My son being killed is not only a problem of Turkey, but it is also a problem for humanity, this is a crime against humanity. We don’t want any other family to experience this,” Reyis Büyüksu told VOA.

Baris’ mother, Saime Büyüksu, said her son’s death has devastated the family.

“He wanted to marry, he had a girlfriend, he had dreams, and he was saying ‘Mother, we should build a house, I will buy gold and I will have a wedding when I come back.’ He went with his dreams to work there. But his dead body came back to me,” she said.

Torture

A full autopsy is being carried out in Istanbul and the family is yet to receive the results. The initial autopsy, carried out immediately after Büyüksu’s death and seen by VOA, recorded injuries consistent with torture: cuts and bruises covering his face and body, and internal bleeding.

Büyüksu’s injuries included cuts across his face and neck, together with bruising (ecchymosis) around his eyes and mouth; large bruises across his chest some 25 centimeters wide; and several cuts across his back, including some half-a-meter across.

VOA also obtained copies of statements given to Turkish police by some of the other refugees on the boat, who say they were detained in Greece alongside Büyüksu. The refugees say they were stripped naked and beaten. They claim they heard Büyüksu being tortured in an adjacent room, including by what they believed to be electrocution. It is impossible for VOA to verify these claims.

Witnesses

Abdurrahman Zekud, a Palestinian asylum-seeker, gave the following account to Turkish police:

“We could hear the sound of that person in pain. As we could understand they were torturing him with electricity. I could hear sound of a machine that I thought it was electrical torture machine. The torture took all night long, and at around 5:00 a.m. they took us out of the room. They took that Turkish citizen out too and brought him next to us. They put all of us in a vehicle and took us next to the sea. First, they opened the handcuffs on our hands and then the blindfolds on our eyes,” Zekud said.

“The Turkish citizen was half unconscious because of the torture. They laid him face down by the sea. Then they put us in a Greek coast guard boat, and they did not return anything they took from us,” he said “After travelling out to sea for a while, they threw a life raft into the ocean from the coast guard boat and they threw us into that raft one by one, and they threw the Turkish citizen too into that raft. Because the Turkish citizen was half unconscious, he was almost falling into the sea, and I held him and made him sleep on the floor.”

“After around 30 minutes, the Turkish coast guards rescued us. I helped the Turkish citizen to get into the Turkish coast guard boat. As I remember he asked the coast guard for water, but he could hardly talk, and he hardly could drink the water. And later on, we realized he had died,” Zekud told Turkish police.

Investigation

Turkish authorities told VOA that they are still investigating Büyüksu’s death and did not confirm whether the issue had been raised with Greece.

An official statement from the Turkish Interior Ministry, dated October 22, states that: “Fifteen irregular migrants in the life raft, which were detected by the assigned coast guard boat, were rescued alive. There was one unconscious person among the migrants. It was determined that there were signs of assault on the body of the person… Autopsy studies are continuing in order to determine the cause of death of the person in question. An investigation has been initiated by the Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the incident.”

Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups are calling on Turkey and Greece to launch wider investigations into Büyüksu’s death. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an MP from the opposition HDP party, raised the incident in parliament last November.

“The Greek authorities committed murder. [The family] want this matter to be considered and followed up by the foreign ministry,” Gergerlioğlu said.

Greek response

Greek police have not responded to repeated VOA requests for comment.

VOA asked the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum what happened to Barış Büyüksu. The ministry gave the following statement to VOA:

“The ministry… and the Asylum Service has no such name recorded in their database. As a consequence, there can’t be any comment from our side. It is also noted again that there is no such name in the Police list either, although we are not fully competent to respond on behalf of the Hellenic Police… Therefore, we can make no further comment on the case,” the statement said.

Büyüksu’s family say he did not register for asylum as he wanted to leave Greece to reach France.

U.N. response

Stella Nanou, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, told VOA it was “another worrying example not just of the fact that pushbacks, an illegal practice, were continuing, but that the violence and brutality linked to them is rising dramatically.”

“It is not the first death we have documented linked to pushbacks,” Nanou said. “But the brutality of the abuse, from beatings to chucking refugees into the sea without many of them knowing how to swim, is terribly concerning.”

The Greek coast guard denies pushing migrant boats back into Turkish waters, despite widespread evidence documented by non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. In the past, Greek authorities have told VOA that while they do not engage in pushbacks, they will continue to do whatever it takes to shield Greece’s frontiers, and the rest of Europe, from illegal entries of migrants.

Justice

Barış Büyüksu was the eldest of four children. His younger brother Umut Büyüksu told VOA he would not rest until he had discovered the truth.

“I want my brother’s killers prosecuted. I want to find out who they are. I don’t want this case to be covered up like this,” he said.

The Büyüksu family is left searching for answers: Who killed a beloved son and brother? Who will deliver justice?

His death also raises questions over the policing of Europe’s frontiers and the human rights of those seeking a better life.

Death of Turkish Migrant in Greece Prompts Accusations of Torture

The death of a Turkish migrant after he traveled to a Greek island late last year has prompted demands for Turkey’s foreign ministry to take up the case. As Henry Ridgwell reports, a Turkish lawmaker has accused the Greek government of committing murder — but Greece denies any knowledge. Camera: Memet Aksakal

Експрезидент Бразилії Болсонару просить піврічну візу, щоб залишитися в США

Як повідомила юридична фірма AG Immigration, Болсонару, який прилетів до Флориди наприкінці грудня після закінчення терміну його повноважень, попросив шестимісячну візу, оскільки термін його офіційної візи закінчується

Франція та Австралія домовилися про спільне виробництво снарядів для України

Міністр оборони Франції Себастьєн Лекорню каже, що перші поставки снарядів в Україну можуть бути здійснені вже у першому кварталі поточного року

У Кремлі заперечують, що перед вторгненням в Україну Путін погрожував Джонсону ракетним ударом

Борис Джонсон розповів, що Путін погрожував йому ракетним ударом під час телефонної розмови у лютому 2022 року

Turkey Now Willing to Back Finland’s NATO Membership but Ruling Out Sweden 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday his country would consider evaluating Finland’s NATO membership bid separately from Sweden’s. Until now, Turkey threatened to veto both countries’ bids after the burning of a Quran in Stockholm sparked outrage in Ankara.

The Turkish foreign minister told reporters in Ankara that Turkey is ready to assess Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership individually.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey can evaluate the Finnish and Swedish NATO applications separately.

Cavusoglu added that such an approach made sense, given one country’s application was more problematic than the other. The Turkish foreign minister’s comments echo President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement on Sunday, suggesting Finland would face little difficulty joining.

Erdogan also repeated his demand that Stockholm extradite 120 people whom Turkey considers terrorists.

Erdogan accuses the Swedish government of allowing its country to become a sanctuary for terrorists’ organizations that are fighting Turkey. Swedish officials insist the extradition demands are a matter for the courts.

Turkish-Swedish relations deteriorated further in January after far-right protesters were allowed to burn a Quran in Stockholm, causing outrage in Ankara. But Finnish-Turkish relations got a boost this month, with Helsinki allowing the sale of specialized steel to Turkey’s defense industry, ending Finland’s military embargo on Ankara over human rights concerns.

Ilhan Uzgel, a political analyst at the Kisa Dalga news portal, says Erdogan is seeking to maximize the concessions from NATO to allow its enlargement, given the upcoming presidential elections expected to be held in May.

“It’s not like a strategic decision, but it’s more like leverage that Erdogan needs in domestic politics. But this can be solvable. Under pressure, Erdogan makes concessions, that’s for sure. But he has to get something. He has learned this over the years that anything can be turned into a bargaining chip. An issue of transnationalism that he is very good at it. So, he knows how to make bargains. I mean, he has learned it in 20 years [in power],” said Uzgel.

Until now, Finland and Sweden have been committed to joining NATO together. But earlier this month, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Helsinki could review that stance if Sweden became permanently blocked from the military alliance.

Asli Aydintasbas of the Brookings Institution says Washington’s role may be critical to ending the impasse.

“The U.S. holds important cards. The question has been whether some of its policy goals can be achieved by actually keeping the relationship relatively frozen until the Turkish elections and then considering a reset. What we are seeing is that Turkey is frustrated, feeling it is not getting enough attention from Washington,” said Aydintasbas.

Ankara has numerous demands from Washington and ongoing disputes. Still, analysts suggest with only a few months until elections, which opinion polls indicate Erdogan is far from assured of winning, Sweden and Finland, along with NATO, will likely be closely following the forthcoming elections.

Boris Johnson Says Putin Threatened Missile Strike in Call 

In a new BBC documentary, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Britain with a missile strike. Johnson says the conversation took place during a phone call in the run up to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.

Johnson recalled the Russian leader saying, “It would only take a minute… Jolly.”

Johnson, however, said he did not take the threat seriously in their “extraordinary” call. “He was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate,” Johnson said of Putin.

“It’s a lie,” a Kremlin spokesman told reporters about Johnson’s interpretation of the telephone conversation. “There were no threats of missiles.”

Johnson also told the BBC he tried to dissuade Putin from war, telling him Ukraine would not be joining NATO for the “foreseeable future.” Johnson also said he told the Russian leader that an invasion of Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions.

Johnson, who stepped down last year in the wake of a series of scandals, sought to position London as Ukraine’s top ally in the West.

While in office he visited Kyiv several times and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy frequently.

Росія каже, що перекинула додаткові сили до кордону з Україною

Йдеться про Курську область, яка межує з Сумською областю України

ЗМІ: Іран викликав українського дипломата через коментарі про удар безпілотника

Іран викликав у понеділок тимчасового повіреного у справах України в Тегерані через коментарі щодо удару безпілотника по військовому заводу в центральній іранській провінції Ісфахан, повідомляє агенція Reuters з посиланням на напівофіційне місцеве інформаційне агентство Tasnim.

Напередодні в Україні, яка звинувачує Іран у постачанні Росії сотень безпілотників, радник Офісу президента Михайло Подоляк пов’язав інцидент з війною.

«Логіка війни невблаганна та вбивча. І виставляє жорсткі рахунки авторам та співучасникам… Вибухова ніч в Ірані: виробництва дронів й ракет, нафтопереробка. Україна ж попереджала», – написав у неділю Михайло Подоляк у Twitter.

Офіційний представник США сказав Reuters, що за нападом, схоже, стоїть Ізраїль.

Іран визнав відправку безпілотників до Росії, але каже, що вони були відправлені до вторгнення Москви в Україну минулого року.

Вночі 29 січня в іранському місті Ісфахан у центральній частині країни пролунав вибух. Міністерство оборони Ірану заявило, що його причиною стала атака за допомогою безпілотників. Пізніше стало відомо про вибухи і на інших об’єктах. 

Міноборони Ірану заявило, що країна зазнала нападу з використанням безпілотників. Стверджується, що атака була невдалою – один БПЛА збила система протиповітряної оборони, два інших «потрапили до оборонних пасток і вибухнули».

За словами речника командування Повітряних сил ЗСУ Юрія Ігната, нічні вибухи в Ірані демонструють наслідки політики керівництва країни.

Генсек НАТО закликає Південну Корею дозволити прямий експорт зброї в Україну

Єнс Столтенберґ нагадав, що кілька союзників по НАТО, політика яких не передбачала експорт зброї в країни конфлікту, зараз змінили цю політику

Ердоган заявив, що Анкара погодить заявку Фінляндії на вступ до НАТО раніше, ніж Швеції – Reuters

Він заявив, що турецька влада передала Стокгольму перелік членів Робітничої партії Курдистану, які нібито переховуються в Швеції

Russians Gone From Ukraine Village, Fear and Hardship Remain

When night falls in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she pours sunflower oil that aid groups gave her into a jar and seals it with a wick-fitted lid. A flick of a match, and the make-do candle is lit.

“This is our electricity,” Trofimenko, 68, says.

It has been over 11 weeks since Ukrainian forces wrested back her village in Kherson province from Russian occupation. But liberation has not diminished the hardship for residents of Kalynivske, both those returning home and the ones who never left. In the peak of winter, the remote area not far from an active front line has no power or water. The sounds of war are never far.

Russian forces withdrew from the western side of the Dnieper River, which bisects the province, but remain in control of the eastern side. A near constant barrage of fire from only a few kilometers away, and the danger of leftover mines leaving many Ukrainians too scared to venture out, has rendered normalcy an elusive dream and cast a pall over their military’s strategic victory.

Still, residents have slowly trickled back to Kalynivske, preferring to live without basic services, dependent on humanitarian aid and under the constant threat of bombardment than as displaced people elsewhere in their country. Staying is an act of defiance against the relentless Russian attacks intended to make the area unlivable, they say.

“This territory is liberated. I feel it,” Trofimenko says. “Before, there were no people on the streets. They were empty. Some people evacuated, some people hid in their houses.”

“When you go out on the street now, you see happy people walking around,” she says.

The Associated Press followed a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy into the village on Saturday, when blankets, solar lamps, jerrycans, bed linens and warm clothes were delivered to the local warehouse of a distribution center.

Russian forces captured Kherson province in the early days of the war. The majority of the nearly 1,000 residents in Kalynivske remained in their homes throughout the occupation. Most were too fragile or ill to leave, others did not have the means to escape.

Gennadiy Shaposhnikov lies on the sofa in a dark room, plates piled up beside him.

The 83-year old’s advanced cancer is so painful it is hard for him to speak. When a mortar destroyed the back of his house, neighbors rushed to his rescue and patched it up with tarps. They still come by every day, to make sure he is fed and taken care of.

“Visit again, soon,” is all he can muster to say to them.

Oleksandra Hryhoryna, 75, moved in with a neighbor when the missiles devastated her small house near the village center. Her frail figure steps over the spent shells and shrapnel that cover her front yard. She struggles up the pile of bricks, what remains of the stairs, leading to her front door.

She came to the aid distribution center pulling her bicycle and left with a bag full of tinned food, her main source of sustenance these days.

But it’s the lack of electricity that is the major problem, Hryhoryna explains. “We are using handmade candles with oil and survive that way,” she says.

The main road that leads to her home is littered with the remnants of the war, an eerie museum of what was and what everyone here hopes will never return. Destroyed Russian tanks rust away in the fields. Cylindrical anti-tank missiles gleam, embedded in grassy patches. Occasionally, there is the tail end of a cluster munition lodged into the earth.

Bright red signs emblazoned with a skull warn passersby not to get too close.

The Russians left empty ammunition boxes, trenches and tarp-covered tents during their rapid retreat. A jacket and, some kilometers away, men’s underwear hangs on the bare branches. And with the Russians waging ongoing attacks to win back the lost ground in Kherson, it is sometimes hard for terrorized residents to feel as if the occupying forces ever left.

“I’m very afraid,” says Trofimenko. “Even sometimes I’m screaming. I’m very, very scared. And I’m worried about us getting shelled again and for (the fighting) to start again. This is the most terrible thing that exists.”

The deprivation suffered in the village is mirrored all over Kherson, from the provincial capital of the same name to the constellation of villages divided by tracts of farmland that surround it. Ukrainian troops reclaimed the territory west of the Dnieper River in November after a major counteroffensive led to a Russian troop withdrawal, hailed as one of the greatest Ukrainian victories of the war that’s now in its 12th month..

The U.N. ramped up assistance, supporting 133,000 individuals in Kherson with cash assistance, and 150,000 with food. Many villagers in Kalynivske say the food aid is the only reason they have something to eat.

“One of the biggest challenges is that the people who are there are the most vulnerable. It’s mainly the elderly, many who have a certain kind of disability, people who could not leave the area, and are really reliant on aid organizations and local authorities who are working around the clock,” says Saviano Abreu, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The shelling is constant.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reports near daily incidents of shelling in Kherson city and surrounding villages, including rocket, artillery and mortar attacks. Most fall closer to the river banks nearer to the front line, but, that doesn’t mean those living further away feel any safer. On Friday, a missile fell in the village of Kochubeivka, north of Kalynivske, killing one person.

“Kherson managed to resume most of the essential services, but the problem is the hostilities keep creating challenges to ensure they are sustained,” Abreu says. “Since December, it’s getting worse and worse. The number of attacks and hostilities there is only increasing.”

Without electricity, there is no means to pump piped drinking water. Many line up to fetch well water, but a lot is needed to perform daily functions, residents complain.

To keep warm, many forage around the village for firewood, a task that presents danger post-occupation.

Everyone in Kalynivske knows the story of Nina Zvarech. She went looking for firewood in the nearby forest and was killed when she stepped on a mine.

Her body lay there for over a month because her relatives were too afraid to go and find her.

Friends Mourn Foreign Volunteers Killed Helping Civilians in Ukraine

Friends and volunteers gathered Sunday at Kyiv’s St. Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine with another volunteer while they were trying to evacuate people from a front-line town.

Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer Christopher Parry, 28, went missing this month while heading to the town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, where heavy fighting was taking place.

Volunteers spoke of their memories of Bagshaw and read tributes from his family.

Nikolletta Stoyanova, a friend in Ukraine, shared memories of his bravery.

“Even if no one wanted to go to Soledar, they can do that. Because if he understood that someone needs help, they need to do this help for these people,” Stoyanova said, speaking in English.

Bagshaw’s father, Phil, told reporters in New Zealand that his son wanted to do something to help.

“He was a very intelligent man, and a very independent thinker,” he said. “And he thought a long time about the situation in Ukraine, and he believed it to be immoral. He felt the only thing he could do of a constructive nature was to go there and help people.”

Ukrainian police said Jan. 9 that they lost contact with Bagshaw and Parry after the two headed for Soledar. Their bodies were later recovered. A Ukrainian official reported Wednesday that the defending forces made an organized retreat from the salt-mining town.

In a Jan. 24 statement, Parry’s family said he was “drawn to Ukraine in March in its darkest hour.” They said he’d “helped those most in need, saving over 400 lives plus many abandoned animals.”

Friends said the men’s bodies would be handed over to relatives in the U.K.

In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces Sunday heavily shelled the city of Kherson, killing three people and wounding six others, the regional administration said. It said the shelling damaged a hospital, school, bus station, post office, bank and residential buildings.

Among those reported injured were two women in the hospital at the time: a nurse and a cafeteria worker. Russian forces retreated across the Dnieper River from Kherson in November, but still hold much of the province of the same name.

On Sunday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine and its Western allies of war crimes in connection with the shelling of two hospitals in Russian-held parts of Ukraine.

Russian officials said 14 people died Saturday when a hospital in the eastern Luhansk province settlement of Novoaidar was struck. They said shells also fell on the territory of a hospital in Nova Kakhovka, a Russian-occupied city in Kherson province where a strategically vital bridge across the lower reaches of the Dnieper is located.

“The deliberate shelling of active civilian medical facilities and the targeted killing of civilians are grave war crimes of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The lack of reaction from the United States and other NATO countries to this, yet another monstrous trampling of international humanitarian law by Kyiv, once again confirms their direct involvement in the conflict and involvement in the crimes being committed.”

Russian forces have shelled hundreds of hospitals and other medical facilities in Ukraine since the war began, reducing more than 100 of them to rubble, according to the Ukrainian Health Ministry.

Russian state TV aired footage of what it said was the damaged hospital in Novoaidar. It said rockets hit the pediatric department of the two-story building.

“There are no military factories here. There are no military vehicles, no tanks. Who did you shoot at?” Olga Ryasnaya said in an interview on Russian TV, which identified her as a pediatric nurse.

Luhansk province, where Novoaidar is located, is almost entirely under the control of Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists. Russian and separatist officials alleged the hospital was deliberately targeted. The movements of journalists are restricted in areas of Ukraine under Russian control.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Ukrainian forces were likely increasing strikes on Russian positions deep inside Luhansk province, closer to the Russian border, in an effort “to disrupt Russian logistics and ground lines of communication.” It said the strikes could be part of preparations for a future counteroffensive.

In another development, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday that Ukrainian tank crews have arrived in the U.K. to begin training on the Challenger 2 battle tank. The U.K. government has said it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine, which also was promised advanced battle tanks from the U.S., Germany and other European allies.

Джокович в 10-й раз переміг на Australian Open

У фіналі сербський тенісист переміг четверту ракетку світу – грека Стефаноса Ціціпаса

Environmentalists Protest Airport Project Near Albanian Bird Sanctuary

Environmentalists protested over the weekend at the building site of a new airport in Albania’s south meant to boost tourism but which they say will endanger sanctuaries for some 200 bird species including flamingos and pelicans.

The picturesque Vjose-Narte lagoon close to Albania’s Adriatic seaside is a crucial stop for flocks of birds in their annual migration between Europe and Africa.

The government is building the airport just 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the Adriatic coast with pristine sandy beaches which the poor Balkan nation hopes will attract more foreign tourists.

“For those who think this airport will bring development, in reality this airport will bring only destruction,” tourist guide Alben Kola told Reuters on Saturday as he and more than 100 environmentalists and ornithologists held their protest.

The European Union, which Albania aims to join one day, has said the airport project, launched in December 2021 and due for completion at the end of 2024, was undertaken in contradiction with national and international laws on protecting biodiversity.

The committee of the Bern Convention that works to protect European wildlife and natural habitats has said Albania should suspend the construction of the airport.

“This shows that this nature wealth belongs not only to us but to the whole of Europe and foreign governments are doing more to protect it than we do,” said Joni Vorpsi, from the NGO Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) that has been fighting for years to protect the lagoon.

In November an Albanian court rejected a lawsuit filed by local NGOs against the construction of the airport but they plan to appeal.

Vorpsi said the airport, which would serve the southern coastal city of Vlore, not only would destroy avian habitats but raise the risk of aircraft collisions with big birds.

The Swiss firm leading the project, Mabetex, has said the take-off and landing paths of planes there would not affect bird routes. It said the runway would be 3.5 kilometres from the bird sanctuary and 5 km away from major bird migration routes.

Щольц вкотре відмовився передавати Україні винищувачі, аби не «підвищувати ставки»

Берлін бажає уникнути можливої конфронтації між Росією та НАТО, наголосив канцлер