Guterres laments ‘sad and tragic’ Ukraine war milestone
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called the six-month anniversary of the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine a “sad and tragic milestone”. During a special meeting of the UN Security Council to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN chief described the six months of conflict as “devastating”, adding that he remained “gravely concerned” about military activity around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest atomic power plant. “The security of the plant must be ensured, and the plant must be re-established as purely civilian infrastructure,” he added. The plant is occupied by Russian troops and threatened by shelling, which Moscow blames on Kiev.
Addressing the meeting via video link, Ukrainian President Zelensky told the UN that Russia “should unconditionally stop nuclear blackmail” and “completely withdraw” from the plant. “Europe and neighbouring regions face the threat of the radiation pollution. This is a fact,” Zelensky told the session, which had been requested by the United States, France and Britain. Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, objected to Zelensky being allowed to speak. The 15-member council voted 13 to one in favour of allowing Zelensky to speak, with China abstaining. After the meeting, some 50 countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain and France released a joint statement repeating their demand for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
22 killed, 50 injured in Independence Day attack in Ukraine
Russian forces Wednesday launched a rocket attack on a Ukrainian train station on the embattled country’s Independence Day, killing 22 people and injuring another 22, President Zelenskyy said after warning for days that Moscow might attempt “something particularly cruel” this week. The lethal attack took place in Chaplyne, a town of about 3,500 people in the central Dnipropetrovsk region. The president’s office also reported that an 11-year-old child was killed by rocket fire earlier in the day in the settlement. Ukraine had been bracing for especially heavy attacks around the national holiday that commemorates Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Wednesday also marked the six-month point in the war.
Days ahead of Independence Day, Kyiv authorities banned large gatherings in the capital through Thursday for fear of missile strikes. Nevertheless, a festive atmosphere prevailed during the day at Kiev’s Maidan square as thousands of residents posed for pictures next to burned-out Russian tanks put on display. Folk singers set up, and many revelers, ignoring the sirens, were out and about in traditionally-embroidered dresses and shirts.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the holiday with a visit to Kiev – his third since the war broke out – promising another package of military support for Ukraine, Reuters reported. The £54 million (€64 million) package will include 2,000 drones and ammunition, Johnson’s office said in a statement. Other European leaders used the occasion to pledge unwavering support for Ukraine, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Ukrainians on Wednesday, Germany will support Ukraine financially, militarily and politically as long as it takes. US President Joe Biden announced a new military aid package of nearly $3 billion to help Ukrainian forces fight for years to come.
Macron warns France of tough times ahead
French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a stark speech on Wednesday at the first cabinet meeting following the summer holiday break, warning of tough months ahead as the world faces a possible “end of abundance”. Analysts said the speech appeared designed to prepare the country for what promises to be a difficult winter ahead, with energy prices rising sharply and many families struggling with inflation. “The moment we are living … may seem to be structured by a series of crises, each more serious than the other,” Macron said, referring to the drought, fires and storms that have hit France during the summer as well as the Ukraine war and disruptions to global trade. Gas prices in France are currently frozen and there is a cap on energy price hikes. The price of gas in Europe yesterday broke the €300-mark: after opening €272 euros, the intra-day maximum reached €302.995 per megawatt hour before returning below €290.
345 million people worldwide face acute food insecurity
The number of people facing acute food insecurity worldwide has more than doubled to 345 million since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change, the World Food Programme said Wednesday. Before the coronavirus crisis, 135 million suffered from acute hunger worldwide, Corinne Fleischer, the WFP’s regional director, told Reuters. The numbers have climbed since and are expected to soar further because of climate change and conflict.
‘Italy has accumulated 80% of its gas reserves’
Italy’s drive to quickly reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas has made the country less vulnerable to supply disruptions, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Wednesday, noting that the country has accumulated 80 percent of its gas reserves before winter and is on track to reach 90 percent by October. The premier is convinced that Italy will succeed “whatever the political colour of the next government”. He said he leaves a country with “solid foundations”: the public debt in relation to GDP fell by 4.5 percentage points in 2021 and the government expects to continue to decline by another 3.8 points this year. On foreign policy, Draghi underlined “Italy’s place is at the centre of the European Union and anchored to the Atlantic Pact, to the values of democracy, freedom, social and civil progress.” Draghi resigned in July after key right-wing parties withdrew their support for his government. He remains in office until a new government is formed after the September 25 parliamentary elections.
Pavarotti honored with star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame
Legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti was honoured posthumously Wednesday as he received a star on the Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. LA Opera music director James Conlon and movie producer Cinzia Salvioli spoke at the ceremony at 7065 Hollywood Blvd. Pavarotti’s daughter Cristina Pavarotti accepted the star on behalf of the family. Excited, with a faint voice, she said, “I can’t tell you how much I would like him to be here with us, but this is not given to the stars either.” Pavarotti died in 2007 at the age of 71. His 43-year career included 15 Grammy nominations, five wins and two Guinness world records.
Churchill photograph stolen from Canada hotel
The heist of a famed portrait of a scowling Winston Churchill has gripped Canada’s capital since it was discovered the photograph hanging at an Ottawa hotel for decades had been swapped for a fake. Police were called in after staff at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa last Friday noticed the picture of the late British prime minister was askew and didn’t match those of other portraits gifted by the late Armenian-born Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh. The “Roaring Lion” portrait was taken by Karsh after the wartime leader addressed the Canadian parliament in 1941, becoming a symbol of British defiance in World War II. The portrait is estimated to be worth more than €100 million but Genevieve Dumas, general manager at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, told AFP it was priceless.
Champions League draw in Istanbul
Title holders Real Madrid and the rest of Europe’s elite clubs will be able to start plotting their route to Champions League glory when the draw for this season’s group stage is made in Istanbul this evening. All going to plan, the journey will end back in the Turkish city on June 10 next year for the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium. Real are in Pot One along with the champions of Europe’s other leading leagues in the shape of City, Bayern Munich, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Porto and Ajax, as well as Europa League winners Frankfurt. Liverpool will be in Pot Two, meaning there is a possibility that they could get a rematch with Real. Chelsea, winners in 2021, and Tottenham Hotspur are the other English representatives. The draw for the Europa League, featuring the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Roma, takes place on Friday, with the Europa Conference League draw just after.