Global Review – 17th June

European leaders back up EU candidate status for Ukraine

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy travelled overnight by train to Kyiv and were accompanied by Romania’s president in a show of solidarity ahead of an expected recommendation later today from the European Commission that Ukraine be granted candidate status. The discussions sought to soothe strained relations after their governments faced criticism for engaging too closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin and being slow to deliver the heavy weapons that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says are needed to defeat the invasion.

Germany, France, Italy offer support to Ukraine’s EU candidacy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi backed Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union, adding momentum and a show of support for the country’s efforts to fend off Russia’s invasion. The leaders of the EU’s three biggest economies condemned Moscow’s attacks and called for investigations into alleged war crimes. They were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, as a representative of the bloc’s east, in the highest-profile delegation to visit Kyiv since Russia invaded. “All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for membership,” Macron said. He added that France will deliver six additional Caesar cannons in addition to the 12 already transferred to Ukraine’s military.

Draghi decries Russian gas cuts as political

Italian Prime Minister Draghi joined Germany in rejecting Russian statements that gas cuts to Europe were “not deliberate”, saying, “We think this is a lie. There is a political use of gas, as there is a political use of wheat,” Draghi said at a news conference in Kyiv following the meetings with Zelensky and other European leaders. He added that Italian gas stockpiles were at 52%  and that “we are feeling safe now and for the winter” with those levels.

Ukraine, Romania seek to double Danube grain shipments

Transit of Ukrainian grain via Danube ports increased fourfold in the past month and the goal now is to further boost transit and to double it, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said at a joint press conference in Kyiv. Ukraine has started a pilot project with Poland on joint custom areas and has proposed the same thing to its Romanian partners, Zelensky added.

US commits to technical aid for Ukraine agriculture 

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a three-year agreement with Ukraine to share information and expertise to improve the nation’s farm productivity and supply-chain strength.

“Russia is using food as a weapon and a tool of war to threaten the livelihoods of those around the world, and that is something the agriculture community cannot and will not stand for,” Vilsack said in a statement on the agreement, announced after a series of meetings on Ukraine he held at the United Nations.

Ukrainians still holding out in Sievierodonetsk

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, and described new progress in a counter-offensive in the south. But they said battles on both main fronts depended on receiving more aid from the West, especially artillery to counter Russia’s big advantage in firepower. “We appreciate the support already provided by partners, we expect new deliveries, primarily heavy weapons, modern rocket artillery, anti-missile defence systems,” Zelenskyy said after the talks with his European counterparts. “There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we get, the faster we can liberate our people, our land,” he said.

Medvedev insults Draghi-Macron-Scholz meeting

The vice-president of the Russian Security Council, Dimitry Medvedev wrote a vitriolic comment on Twitter about the Macron-Shultz-Draghi visit to Kiev. He said: “They toasted vodka, old artillery pieces, but all this does not bring Ukraine closer to peace. This is what European connoisseurs of frogs, liver and spaghetti love: visiting Kiev.” Putin’s hawk writes, in no uncertain terms: “Europeans love to visit Kiev but it is useless because it does not bring Ukraine closer to peace”. And then he adds to the dose: “They toasted gorilka (or vodka, but Medvedev used the word that the Ukrainian parliament urged to use instead of vodka) and went home by train, like a hundred years ago. And everything is alright.” But for the former Russian President, the benefits of this trip are nil. “They once again promised entry into the EU, old howitzers,” and concludes with a distressing “time is running out”! The conflict in Ukraine which has now reached its 113th day.

 Russia is not immaculate but not ashamed’ – Lavrov

Russia has once again rejected the West’s accusations of “fake news” about what is happening in Ukraine, and has happened “in past years”. But at the same time, Serghei Lavrov, interviewed by the BBC, acknowledges he is not immaculate in the scene of a bloody military confrontation that Vladimir Putin’s foreign minister insists on defining “not an invasion, but a special operation” to which his country was forced: and he is not ashamed of it. He ridiculed the claim attributed to the hardline of Boris Johnson’s government to humiliate Russia and bring her “to her knees”.

Europe’s central banks incease interest rates

Central banks across Europe raised interest rates on Thursday, some by amounts that shocked markets, and hinted at even higher borrowing costs to come to tame soaring inflation that is eroding savings and squeezing corporate profits. Fuelled initially by soaring oil prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation has broadened out to everything from food to services with double-digit readings in parts of the continent. Such levels have not been seen in some places since the aftermath of the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Trump threatened Pence to overturn election

Former US President Donald Trump pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn his 2020 election defeat despite being told repeatedly it was illegal to do so, aides to Pence told the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. Members of the Democratic-led House of Representatives select committee said on Thursday Trump continued his pressure even though he knew a violent mob of his supporters was threatening the Capitol as Pence and lawmakers met to formally certify President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.Marc Short, who was Pence’s chief of staff, said in videotaped testimony that Pence told Trump “many times” that he did not have the authority to stop the vote certification in Congress as the Republican president sought.

Vatican discloses uses of Pope’s fund

The Vatican has issued the first detailed disclosure of his main fund. Reuters quotes the “Annual Disclosure” for 2021, which shows that contributions amounted to €46.9 million – down more than 15% over 2020, which was down 18% over 2019. That followed a 23% reduction between 2015 and 2019. The Vatican’s economy minister, Fr Antonio Guerrero, has said the slump in 2020-2021 was due at least in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, when many churches were closed. Disbursements from the fund totalled €65.3 million, leaving a deficit of €18.4 million which was covered by other Vatican income.  

2 dead, 1 wounded in Alabama church shooting

At least two people died in a shooting outside a church in Vestavia Hills in Alabama, while a third person was injured. The suspect was apprehended by the police. “Three people in the episcopal church of Santo Stefano were shot at,” police from Vestavia Hills said on their Facebook page. The shooting took place in front of the church shortly after 6:00 pm local time, during a “potluck”, a community meal in which everyone brings a plate. Police said the assailant entered the church on his own and started shooting, hitting three people in all.

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