World

- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday said Russian forces had "completely destroyed" the industrial Donbas region and accused Moscow of carrying out senseless bombardments as it intensified its offensive. Zelenskiy also accused Russian forces of attempting to kill as many Ukrainians and do as much damage as possible, repeating his charge that Russia was carrying out a genocide. Zelenskiy said that while Ukrainian forces were continuing to liberate the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, Russia was trying to exert even more pressure in the Donbas, which lies in the southeastern part of Ukraine. "It is hell there - and that is not an exaggeration," he said in a late night video address, adding that 12 people had been killed in the "brutal and absolutely senseless bombardment" of Severodonetsk on Thursday. "(There are) constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine. The Donbas is complete...
By Trevor Hunnicutt ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE - President Joe Biden is likely to get a warm welcome from South Korea's leadership on his first trip to Asia, but he may face a less friendly greeting from North Korea's Kim Jong Un. Biden lands in South Korea on Friday evening, where he meets new President Yoon Suk-yeol, a relative newcomer to politics, for the first time in person. The two will tour a Samsung Electronics plant together Friday ahead of a full day of events on Saturday. Biden and Yoon may quickly move from formalities to dealing with a weighty issue with North Korea at the top of the agenda. Leader Kim Jong Un abandoned a freeze on intercontinental ballistic missile testing and appears poised to resume testing of nuclear bombs, perhaps while Biden is in the region. U.S. cooperation with South Korea and Japan "will only strengthen in the face of further provocations" by North Korea, Biden national security adviser Jak...
BERLIN - The European Union is looking into ways of using the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday. "Our lawyers are working intensively on finding possible ways of using frozen assets of the oligarchs for the rebuilding of Ukraine. I think Russia should also make its contribution," she told ZDF television. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Chris Reese)...
By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Thursday he would like to pivot away from single-issue transactional relationship with the United States as he seeks to repair frayed ties with Washington. "Our relationship with the United States has been colored too much by the geopolitical context in our region, and particularly by the events and circumstances in Afghanistan," Bhutto-Zardari told reporters at the United Nations during his first visit to the United States as foreign minister. "We would like to pivot away from a transactory relationship, a one point agenda relationship, to a more broad-based relationship with a particular emphasis on trade," he said a day after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Bhutto-Zardari, son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, three weeks ago. Sharif took over l...
By Daphne Psaledakis WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Thursday that would provide some $40 billion in additional military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine following Russia's invasion as the Biden administration predicts a prolonged conflict. The war has reduced cities to rubble, forced millions from their homes and, according to the U.N. human rights body, killed an estimated 3,500 civilians. Russia has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in southern Ukraine and marginal gains in the eastern part of the country. The United States has rushed $3.9 billion worth of armaments to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, including howitzers, anti-aircraft Stinger systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, ammunition and armed drones. The following are some of the main elements in the funding package: HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE The legislation includes more than $4 billion in...
TUNIS - At least 4 migrants died and another 10 were missing after a boat sank off Tunisia on Thursday, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, a security official said. The coastguard rescued 44 migrants aboard the overcrowded boat which sank off the coast of Louza in Sfax governerate. (Reporting By Tarek Amara)...
HELSINKI - Finland wants to remain flexible about joint exercises with NATO following its formal application to join the alliance and about bringing in any new military equipment on its territory to avoid overreactions, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Thursday. Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border and a difficult past with Russia, which has invaded neighbouring Ukraine in what it calls a "special operation" and which opposes Finland and Sweden's plans to join the Western military alliance NATO. "Flexibility is most important now. To keep an eye on the situation, to not overreact or give anyone reason to overreact while still being able to react immediately," Niinisto told reporters after meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington together with his Swedish counterpart. Biden met with the Nordic leaders to offer robust U.S. support for their applications to join NATO, while Turkey threatened to block the Nordic na...
By Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir KHARTOUM - A leading Sudanese politician was arrested on Thursday as protests raged in the capital Khartoum for the seventh month against military rule, with tear gas and heavy security force deployment. A military coup in October effectively ended a 2019 power-sharing deal between generals who overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, and political parties that opposed him. One of those parties, the Sudanese Communist Party, said its leader Mohamed Mukhtar Al-Khatib had been arrested on Thursday, following a visit to Juba where he met with leading Sudanese rebel leaders. The party, which has been the most hardline against the coup and any future deal, was pursuing a unified front against the coup, it said. Sudan's economy has spiralled as its government has gone without a prime minister since January. Businesses are stagnating while citizens face steep increases in the prices o...
WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department has determined that Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the movie "Hotel Rwanda" sheltering hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide, was "wrongfully detained," a spokesperson said on Thursday. Rusesabagina, 67, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison over eight terrorism charges tied to an organization opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame's rule. He has denied all the charges and refused to take part in the trial that he and his supporters have denounced as a political sham. (Reporting by Washington newsroom)...
WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he has authorized $100 million in additional U.S. arms, equipment, and supplies for Ukraine for its defense against Russia's invasion. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington)...
By Anna Mehler Paperny TORONTO - Canada's federal government introduced a bill on Thursday to establish an oversight body for its border police and its national police service after two previous bills died when Parliament was dissolved. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) "Canada’s front line" and said he hoped to maintain that trust through independent review and accountability mechanisms. The Public Complaints and Review Commission would have the power to conduct investigations and make recommendations, including for disciplinary actions, but they would not be binding. The CBSA is the only major law enforcement body in the country with no independent oversight. The RCMP has been under fire for allegations by civilians and its own members of systemic racism. People will be able to complain directly to the commission but...
MANAGUA - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his government was "not interested" in attending the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas next month, which some leaders have criticized for reports it may exclude the Central American country along with Cuba and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government. Nicaragua was previously informed that it would be excluded from the summit, which will take place in Los Angeles, according to a person in Washington familiar with the matter. "We are not interested in being at that summit," Ortega said at a public event late on Wednesday. "This summit does not dignify anyone, rather, it dirties them, it sullies them. We Latin Americans have to defend ourselves so that they respect us." Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals and cracking down on critical media, triggering international criticism. He has frequently accused the United States of being interv...
By Philip Pullella ROME - They didn't sing together but U2 frontman Bono and Pope Francis were in harmony about their concern for the planet and the power of women to change the world when they met in Rome on Thursday. Bono, 62, and the 85-year-pope shared star billing at an event organised by Scholas Occurrentes, a worldwide network of schools that promotes virtual and in-person encounters and aims to boost educational opportunities. The movement was founded in the pope's native Argentina when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires and has since spread to more than 70 countries, many in the developing world. In a question-and-answer session at a Rome university, Irishman Bono asked the pope: "Girls' education is a superpower in fighting extreme poverty and I would like to ask His Holiness if he thinks that women and girls play the same powerful role in tackling the climate crisis." The pope, who...
NEW YORK - Benin has decided to terminate its military and police unit contributions to a United Nations peacekeeping mission in regional neighbour Mali, the U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday. "The units are planned to be repatriated at the end of their respective tours in November 2022 and November 2023, as requested," Haq said. Earlier, Benin's government spokesman told he had not been informed of the decision. The West African country faces a growing spillover of militant activity from the Sahel region, where Islamist insurgents have escalated attacks and seized territory over the past decade. Benin has contributed 250 troops, 136 police units and other personnel to the U.N.'s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali, where the Sahel insurgency took root after at 2012 coup. Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have moved beyond the tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger wher...
WASHINGTON - The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, spoke by telephone with Russia's Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the Pentagon said on Thursday, the first conversation between the two since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. "The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open," said a spokesman for Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. "In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private," the spokesman added. The U.S. military readout did not mention any specific issues that were discussed. RIA news agency, citing the Russian defense ministry, said the two military leaders discussed issues of "mutual interest," including Ukraine. The call took place after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart last week, and...
By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia on Thursday of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding "hostage" the food supply for not just millions of Ukrainians, but also millions around the world who rely on Ukrainian exports. Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Blinken appealed to Russia to stop blockading Ukrainian ports. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 to carry out what Moscow calls a "special military operation." "The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not - to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people," he said. "The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage by the Russian military." The war in Ukraine has caused global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer to soar. Russia and Ukraine t...
- Eight people have been arrested on charges that they were involved in forcibly recruiting Ecuadoreans for armed groups, the country's prosecutor's office said on Thursday. The prosecution said on its Twitter account the eight were arrested during simultaneous raids in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha and El Oro. It accused them of "human trafficking and recruitment for guerrilla groups outside the law." They said the groups approached communities in the Andean provinces of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo and in Ecuador's Amazon region to recruit members under false pretenses. "According to the charge sheets, Ecuadoreans were recruited with the offer of going to enroll in [study] courses in Argentina and Mexico," said the prosecution. "They ended up in the armed camps." The objective was "to train them on the Colombian-Venezuelan borders," authorities added, without giving further details. Crime rates have grown i...
THE HAGUE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday he was confident that Sweden and Finland would succeed in joining the NATO defence alliance and that Germany was doing everything possible to make that happen. At a news conference with his Dutch counterpart, Scholz reiterated that Germany welcomed the Nordic countries' bids and said he had the impression many other countries shared his view. "If you identify a general will, then it is that Sweden and Finland should quickly become members so I am confident that the many efforts that are underway to enable a joint decision will be successful," Scholz said. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Chris Reese)...
BELGRADE - European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday the European Union would support a speedier accession of Serbia into the wealthy bloc and help the Balkan country dependent on Russian gas and oil to diversify its energy supplies. "We need to speed up EU integration and we must create incentive for reforms," Michel said in Belgrade, his first stop on a tour of western Balkan countries, at a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Until the accession procedure is finalised, western Balkan countries should cooperate with the 27-member bloc as part of a new geopolitical community, a transitional political platform that Michel has proposed for the EU aspirant countries. He said the new platform would not replace EU membership but would be a useful tool for the EU to discuss common challenges with Balkan countries, such as the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia,...
By Mike Stone WASHINGTON - The White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters to help defeat Russia's naval blockade, officials said, amid concerns more powerful weapons that could sink Russian warships would intensify the conflict. Ukraine has made no secret it wants more advanced U.S. capabilities beyond its current inventory of artillery, Javelin and Stinger missiles, and other arms. Kyiv's list, for example, includes missiles that could push the Russian navy away from its Black Sea ports, allowing the restart of shipments of grain and other agricultural products worldwide. Current and former U.S. officials and congressional sources have cited roadblocks to sending longer range, more powerful weapons to Ukraine that include lengthy training requirements, difficulties maintaining equipment, or concerns U.S. weaponry could be captured by Russian forces, in addition to the fear of escalation....