Orban urges new EU strategy on Ukraine
The European Union needs a new strategy on the war in Ukraine as sanctions against Moscow have not worked, Reuters quotes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying on Saturday. “A new strategy is needed which should focus peace talks and drafting a good peace proposal… instead of winning the war,” Orban said in a speech in Romania. Orban reiterated Hungary would stay out of the war in neighbouring Ukraine. He had already said he was unwilling to support EU embargoes or limitations on Russian gas imports as that would undermine its economy. He said in his speech in Romania that the Western strategy has been built on four pillars: the first that Ukraine can win a war against Russia with NATO weapons, that sanctions would weaken Russia and destabilise its leadership, that sanctions would hurt Russia more than Europe and that the world would line up in support of Europe. Orban said this strategy had failed, as governments in Europe were collapsing “like dominoes”, energy prices have surged and a new strategy was needed now. “We are sitting in a car that has a puncture in all four tyres: it is absolutely clear that the war cannot be won in this way,” Orban told his supporters. He said Ukraine will never win the war this way “quite simply because the Russian army has assymetrical dominance”.
Russian strikes on Odessa port cast doubt over grain deal
Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s port of Odessa yesterday, in what Kiev called a “spit in the face” of a day-old deal between the warring sides to resume cereal exports blocked by the conflict. The Ukrainian military said its air defences had shot down two cruise missiles but two more hit the port, threatening the landmark agreement hammered out over months of negotiations aimed at relieving a global food crisis. The Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman said the strike was “a spit in the face” by Russian leader Vladimir Putin against the deal brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres. Ukrainian President Zelensky claimed the strikes on Odessa showed Moscow could not keep its promises. Odessa is one of three export hubs designated in the agreement and Ukrainian officials said grain was being stored in the port at the time of the strike, although the food stocks did not appear to have been hit. Guterres – who presided over the signing ceremony on Friday – “unequivocally” condemned the attack and urged all sides to stick to the deal. EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell directly blamed Russia for the strikes while UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the attack was “absolutely appalling” and “completely unwarranted”. The United States also “strongly condemned” the attack, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it “casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal”. There was no official comment from Moscow, but Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia had denied carrying out the attack. “The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and they were looking into the issue very closely,” Akar said in comments to state news agency Anadolu. Meanwhile, Russian air defense systems have repelled an attack by the Ukrainian armed forces on Melitopol, according to Vladimir Rogov, head of the self-proclaimed Russian administration in the occupied Ukrainian region of Zaporozhzhia.
Lavrov to visit Africa seeking non-Western ties
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will begin an African tour in Egypt Sunday, seeking to draw on demand for non-Western alliances as Moscow pushes back against international censure over the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports. In Egypt, Lavrov will meet officials trying to square deep links to Russia with their close relationship to the United States, which along with other Western powers sought to isolate Russia with tough sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine. This week, Russian state-owned energy corporation Rosatom started long-delayed construction on Egypt’s first nuclear plant, the largest Russian-Egyptian project since the Aswan High Dam on the Nile was completed in 1970. Egypt has significant strategic and economic ties with Russia, which has been a key source in recent years of wheat, weaponry and, until the war complicated travel, tourists. After meeting Arab League members in Cairo, he will travel to Ethiopia and Uganda, two countries whose relations with the West have come under strain, as well as Congo Republic.
The Pope’s ‘pilgrimage of penance’ to Canada
The Pope will start an 11-hour flight today for a five-day historic visit to Canada to offer a formal apology on Canadian soil for the harms done by Catholic-run residential schools across the country.Pope Francis, 85, has called the visit a “pilgrimage of penance”, and has said he hopes it will help heal the wrongs done to indigenous people in Canada by the Roman Catholic Church. His ability to make such a trip had been questioned after the cancellation of another trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which had been scheduled from July 2 to 7. The Pontiff recently explained that he had suffered a “small fracture” in his knee that is significantly affecting his mobility. The pain in his knee forces him to appear regularly in public in a wheelchair or with a cane. The Pope’s trip has been limited to three stops – Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit – because of his health. Absent from the Pope’s visit, however, is a stop in British Columbia, where the discovery last summer of evidence of some 200 unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school led to nationwide calls for reconciliation.
Tory leadership hopefuls revealed latest pledges
As the contest to replace British Prime Minister Boris Johnson heats up, former chancellor Rishi Sunak set out his plans to tackle NHS backlogs on Saturday, in his first major speech since reaching the final stage of the race. He pledged to create a so-called “vaccines style” taskforce on day one of his premiership dedicated to tackling NHS backlogs, warning that such delays were creating a “back door” to privatisation. Foreign secretary Liz Truss, who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, is pitching herself as the “best candidate to deliver on the opportunities of Brexit”. She said that if elected she would set a “sunset” deadline for every piece of EU-derived business regulation and assess whether it stimulates domestic growth or investment by the end of 2023. Industry experts would be tasked to create “better home-grown laws” to replace those that fail the test, if they are not ditched altogether. Critics have warned her proposal could damage workers’ rights.
WHO declares monkeypox to be a global health emergency
WHO has declared monkeypox a global health emergency, signalling a greater global response to an outbreak that has spread to at least 75 countries in a few weeks. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, took the unprecedented step of overruling a panel of advisers to make the decision. “We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria”, he said. However he added it was still mostly of concern to homosexual men.
France reach women’s Euro 2022 semis
France will face Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2022 after ending the Netherlands’ reign as European champions thanks to Eve Perisset’s penalty in a 1-0 win after extra-time on Saturday. The scoreline did not do justice to the gulf in class between the sides as France were frustrated for 90 minutes by the brilliance of young Dutch goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar. However, the FC Twente stopper was finally beaten from the penalty spot 12 minutes into extra-time when Kadidiatou Diani was tripped by Dominique Janssen. Defeat rounded off a difficult tournament for the Dutch, who had been weakened by injuries to key players and coronavirus cases. There will be no matches between today and Monday. The first match will be on Tuesday, the first semi-final between England and Sweden (kick-off 9pm) to be followed by the second between Germany and France on the morrow.