Biden offers new $800 million fresh aid to Ukraine
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday the United States will provide another $800 million in weapons and military aid to Ukraine, hailing the courage of Ukrainians since Russia invaded in February. Speaking after a NATO summit that saw the alliance also agree to take in Finland and Sweden, Biden said the United States and its NATO allies were united in standing up to President Putin.“I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it will not end with Russia defeating Ukraine,” Biden told a media conference. “Ukraine has already dealt a severe blow to Russia.” Biden, who appeared to be readying allies for a long conflict in Ukraine despite talk in March of a possible victory, added: “We are going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.” He declined to give more details. The pending formal announcement of more weapons would come on top of the more than $6.1 billion already announced by the United States since Russia forces rolled into Ukraine on February 24 and brought full-scale war back to Europe. The plans for fresh aid, as NATO repositions itself again on a Cold War footing with a massive forces build-up, came as Ukrainians used Howitzers to retake the strategic outpost of Snake Island. Biden had earlier pledged more American troops, warplanes and warships for Europe as NATO agreed to strengthen its deterrents, putting more than 300,000 troops on high alert from the middle of next year. “The US is doing exactly what I said we would do if Russia invaded: enhance our force posture in Europe,” Biden said. “The United States is rallying the world to stand with Ukraine.”
‘Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive’ – Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Sweden and Finland that he could still block their drives to join NATO if they fail to implement a new accession deal with Ankara. He issued his blunt warning at the end of a NATO summit at which the US-led alliance formally invited the Nordic countries to join the 30-nation bloc. He said the memorandum did not mean Turkey would automatically approve the two countries’ membership. New countries’ applications must be approved by all members and ratified by their respective parliaments. Erdogan warned Sweden and Finland’s future behaviour would decide whether he forwarded their application to the Turkish parliament. Turkey is seeking the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden. A Western diplomatic source accused Erdogan of engaging in “blackmail”. Sweden and Finland will sign on Tuesday the NATO accession protocol to formally join the alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
10 killed in Russian missile strike in Odesa
A Russian missile struck a multi-story apartment building in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa early on Friday, killing at least 10 people, a local official said. Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional administration said on his Telegram channel that a rescue operation was under way as some people remained buried under the rubble after a section of the building collapsed. The missile was launched from a plane coming from the Black Sea.
Ukraine exports electricity to EU
Ukraine has started exporting electricity to the European Union, via Romania, President Zelensky said, as Russia reduces gas supplies to the bloc which is supporting Kyiv in resisting Moscow’s invasion. Several European countries, including Italy and Germany, are highly reliant upon Russian gas for their energy needs but have been forced to look for alternatives as Moscow slashes deliveries. Speaking Thursday, Zelensky said this was only the first stage. “We are preparing to increase supply.”
Poland completes 186-kilometre border wall with Belarus
Poland has completed construction on a new 186-kilometre border wall in an attempt to deter migrants entering from Belarus. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and top security officials visited the border area on Thursday to mark the completion of a new 5.5-metre-high steel wall.
UK fails to tackle Russian ‘dirty money’ despite sanctions
A British parliamentary report on Thursday criticised the government’s failure to tackle the influx of Russian “dirty money” into the UK, despite sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. An all-party committee of MPs says that although ministers had boasted “about the need to clamp down on kleptocrats, rhetoric has not been matched by constructive action”. Russian funds have “continued to flow into the UK”, they claim. Even before Moscow’s full-scale invasion, Boris Johnson’s government claimed it was acting robustly to deal with dubious Russian money. But the Foreign Affairs Committee said tough talk had not been followed up by sufficiently strong and concrete measures. The UK has long been accused of complacency towards Russian elites and their millions, earning some of the capital’s upmarket districts the nickname “Londongrad”.
Europe to see ‘high levels’ of Covid-19 this summer – WHO
The World Health Organisation said Thursday it expected “high levels” of Covid-19 in Europe this summer and called on countries to monitor the spread as cases tripled in the past month. “As countries across the European region have lifted the social measures that were previously in place, the virus will transmit at high levels over the summer”, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge told AFP. “This virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still taking lives.” With the milder but more contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5 spreading across the continent, the 53 countries in the WHO European region are currently registering just under 500,000 cases daily, according to the organisation’s data. That is up from around 150,000 cases daily at the end of May. Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal were the countries with the highest incidence rates, with almost all countries in the region seeing a rise in cases. Europe is currently seeing around 500 deaths per day, about the same level as during the summer of 2020.
World Bank fund to prevent, respond to pandemics
The World Bank has approved the creation of a fund meant to finance investments in strengthening the fight against pandemics. The fund will support prevention, preparedness and response (PPR), with a focus on low- and middle-income countries, the bank said in a statement. “The devastating human, economic, and social cost of Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need for coordinated action to build stronger health systems and mobilise additional resources,” it said. The World Bank added that the fund will be used in a number of areas, including disease surveillance, with more than $1billion in commitments already announced.
Tunisia’s president pushes for new broad powers constitution
Tunisian President Kais Saied published a draft new constitution on Thursday that he will put to a referendum next month, expanding his own powers and limiting the role of parliament in a vote that most political parties have already rejected. Saied has ruled by decree since July last year, when he brushed aside parliament and the democratic 2014 constitution in a step his foes called a coup, moving towards one-man rule and vowing to remake the political system. Voters will be asked to approve the new constitution in a July 25 referendum.
DR Congo inters independence hero Lumumba’s remains
The scant remains of DR Congo’s fiery independence hero Patrice Lumumba were interred on Thursday after a nine-day homage that stirred traumatic memories and national pride. “Sleep in peace now,” President Felix Tshisekedi said. Hailing Lumumba as “our national hero,” Tshisekedi declared: “May the land of our ancestors be sweet and mild to you.” A single gold-crowned tooth, returned by Belgium, is all that remains of the young nationalist. He was murdered in January 1961 at the age of 35, just months after becoming Congo’s first post-colonial prime minister. In a solemn ceremony coinciding with the country’s 62nd anniversary, the remains were interred in a mausoleum beneath a statue of Lumumba on an avenue in the capital Kinshasa that also bears his name.