G7 pledges billions for Ukraine
The Group of Seven has agreed to provide Ukraine with $18.4 billion to pay its bills – funds that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said would speed up Kyiv’s victory over Russia and which were just as important as “the weapons you provide”. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters at the G7 finance leaders’ meeting in Germany: “The message was, ‘We stand behind Ukraine. We’re going to pull together with the resources that they need to get through this’.” The European Commission has said it would pledge up to €9 billion of “macro-financial assistance in the form of loans”. German Finance Minister Christian Lindner announced a contribution of €1 billion for Ukraine’s budget. Further pledges of weapons also came on Thursday, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has authorised $100 million in additional US arms, equipment, and supplies for Ukraine.
‘Easing Ukraine ports blockade dependent on sanctions review’
Russia’s foreign ministry has said it would only consider opening up Ukraine’s Black Sea ports – and so alleviate pressure on global food supplies – if sanctions against it were reviewed. Moscow’s comments followed an appeal by the United Nations to President Putin that millions would die around the world because of the Russian blockade. International authorities are warning of a global food shortage crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. The country, along with Russia, is one of the largest cereal producers in the world. But Moscow’s blockade of Black Sea ports means exports are stuck in port. At a meeting of the UN Security Council, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of taking hostage “the food supply of millions of Ukrainians and millions of other people around the world”. Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzya, rejected the Western accusations, saying it was Kiev that was blocking 75 foreign ships from 17 different countries in the ports of Nikolaev, Kherson, Chernomorsk, Mariupol, Ochakov, Odessa and Yuzhny. “It is Ukraine that undermines the Black Sea,” he said. The World Bank has increased its allocation to finance projects capable of tackling the global food crisis by an additional $12 billion to $30 billion.
Russian pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow
Vadim Shishimarin, the Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has pleaded for his victim’s widow to forgive him. During his testimony at a court in Kyiv, Shishimarin, 21, told the court that he was ordered by two officers to shoot Ukrainian civilian Oleksandr Shelipov. He claimed that he had initially disobeyed the order, but that he shot the 62-year-old because one of the officers insisted that Shelipov, who was speaking on his mobile phone at the time, could pass on their exact location to Ukrainian fighters. On Thursday, he asked the victim’s widow Kateryna Shelipova – who attended the trial – to forgive him.
North Korea’s COVID-19 cases surpass 2 million
North Korea reported over 260,000 new suspected COVID-19 cases Friday, with the total number of such cases surpassing two million – eight days after it first confirmed the virus outbreak. More than 263,370 people showed symptoms of fever and two deaths were reported over a 24-hour period the previous day, raising the total number of fatalities to 65, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The total number of fever cases since late April in the country stood at more than 2.24 million, of which more than 1.48 million have recovered and at least 754,810 are being treated, it added. The daily number of fever cases has remained under 300,000 for the fourth day after reaching 392,920 on Sunday.
Monkeypox cases investigated in Europe, US and Canada
Cases of suspected and confirmed Monkeypox are being investigated in a number of European countries, the US, Canada and the UK, according to health authorities and local media reports. The latest new cases were reported in France, Italy and Sweden. It follows the confirmation of cases in the US, Spain and Portugal on Wednesday, as well as the investigation of 13 suspected cases in Canada. Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which is usually mild and from which most people recover in a few weeks. The virus does not spread easily between people and the risk to the wider public is said to be very low.
Canada bans Huawei and ZTE from 5G networks
Canada will ban Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE from its 5G wireless networks due to national security concerns, officials said Thursday. The long-awaited move follows the United States and other key allies. The US has warned of the security implications of giving Chinese tech companies access to telecommunications infrastructure that could be used for state espionage. Both Huawei and Beijing have rejected the allegations, while Beijing warned of repercussions for nations placing restrictions on the telecoms equipment provider.
Israel’s Bennett in minority after Arab deputy defection
Naftali Bennett’s government is in a crisis after a left-wing Arab MP, Jida Rinawi Zoabi of the Meretz party, announced she no longer considered herself part of the coalition. As a result, Bennett now heads a minority government, with only 59 out of 120 MPs backing in the Knesset. According to the media, Zoabi’s move came as a total surprise not only to Bennett but also to the Meretz party itself. In an open letter, Zoabi said: “The images seen on the Temple Mount of violent policemen against praying faithful and the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh led me to one conclusion: that’s enough. I can no longer support a government that mistreats the society I come from.”
Musk accused of sexual harassment
‘Business Insider’ quotes allegations of harassment by Elon Musk from a former flight attendant who worked for SpaceX’s private aircraft fleet. She accused Musk of showing her his private parts, touching her without consent, and offering her a horse as a gift in exchange for an erotic massage. According to sources quoted by the American financial and business news website, Musk would then have offered the woman $250,000 in 2018 for her silence.
Tributes pour in for Vangelis
Greek composer Vangelis, who was known for his celebrated film themes for ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Blade Runner’, has died at the age of 79. His demise was announced by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Vangelis first tasted fame as the keyboardist in the band Aphrodite’s Child with singer Demis Roussos in the late 1960s. He won an Oscar for the stirring score to 1981’s Chariots of Fire. Paying tribute, Lord Puttnam, who produced the film, told the BBC Vangelis had created “a new musical landscape”. US composer Austin Wintory wrote on Twitter that Vangelis “changed an entire era of music”. Oscar-nominated British musician Daniel Pemberton said it was hard to underestimate the colossal impact of Vangelis on modern film music. “It is also hard to understand how groundbreaking Chariots of Fire was. A period British film with a phenomenal synth score,” he added.
60 million internally-displaced people in 2021
Conflicts and natural disasters forced around 60 million people to flee their homes last year, remaining in their respective countries, with a consequent sharp increase in the number of internally-displaced people worldwide. A joint report by the NGOs Internal Displacement Monitoring Center and Norwegian Refugee Council notes the historic record should be broken again this year due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
UK asylum seekers to arrive in Rwanda ‘in next few weeks’
The first batch of asylum seekers sent to Rwanda from the UK under a controversial new deal will likely arrive in Kigali “in the next few weeks”, according to government officials. The British government will provide up to £120 million (€144 million) to Kigali and migrants will be “integrated into communities across the country”.