Monthly: April 2022

Усі тимчасово окуповані військами РФ території будуть звільнені – Зеленський

«Ця війна вже послабила Росію так, що вони змушені планувати навіть меншу кількість військової техніки для участі в параді в Москві»

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Розмови з переселенцями, волонтерами та підтримка дітей – Анджеліна Джолі у Львові провела низку зустрічей

Анджеліна Джолі у Львові заявила про важливість показувати дітям із охоплених бойовими діями територій, що «їхнє життя має значення»

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‘A Huge Demand’: Ukrainian Women Train to Clear Landmines

Learning to identify and defuse explosives is something Anastasiia Minchukova never thought she would have to do as an English teacher in Ukraine. Yet there she was wearing a face shield, armed with a landmine detector and venturing into a field dotted with danger warnings.

Russia’s war in Ukraine took Minchukova, 20, and five other women to Kosovo, where they are attending a hands-on course in clearing landmines and other dangers that may remain hidden across their country once combat ends.

“There is a huge demand on people who know how to do demining because the war will be over soon,” Minchukova said. “We believe there is so much work to be done.”

The 18-day training camp takes place at a range in the western town of Peja where a Malta-based company regularly offers courses for job-seekers, firms working in former war zones, humanitarian organizations and government agencies.

Kosovo was the site of a devastating 1998-99 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian forces that killed about 13,000 people and left thousands of unexploded mines in need of clearing. Praedium Consulting Malta’s range includes bombed and derelict buildings as well as expanses of vegetation.

Instructor Artur Tigani, who tailored the curriculum to reflect Ukraine’s environment, said he was glad to share his small Balkan nation’s experience with the Ukrainian women. Though 23 years have passed, “it’s still fresh in our memories, the difficulties we met when we started clearance in Kosovo,” Tigani said.

Tigani is a highly trained and experienced mine operations officer who served as an engineer in the former Yugoslav army during the 1980s. He has been deployed in his native Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Kenya, and conducted training missions in Syria and Iraq.

During a class last week, he took his trainees through a makeshift minefield before moving to an improvised outdoor classroom featuring a huge board with various samples of explosives and mines.

While it is impossible to assess how littered with mines and unexploded ordnance Ukraine is at the moment, the aftermaths of other conflicts suggest the problem will be huge.

“In many parts of the world, explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim thousands of civilians each year during and long after active hostilities have ended. The majority of victims are children,” the International Committee of the Red Cross testified at a December U.N. conference.

“Locating (unexploded ordnance) in the midst of rubble and picking them out from among a wide array of everyday objects, many of which are made of similar material is a dangerous, onerous and often extremely time-consuming task,” the Red Cross said.

Mine Action Review, a Norwegian organization that monitors clearance efforts worldwide, reported that 56 countries were contaminated with unexploded ordnance as of October, with Afghanistan, Cambodia and Iraq carrying the heaviest burdens, followed by Angola, Bosnia, Thailand, Turkey and Yemen.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have died in Ukraine since Russia invaded Feb. 24. Russian forces have bombed cities and towns across the country, reducing many to rubble.

Military analysts say it appears Russian forces have employed anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, while Ukraine has used anti-tank mines to try to prevent the Russians from gaining ground.

With Ukrainian men from 18 to 60 years old prohibited from leaving their country and most engaged in defending it, the women wanted to help any way they could despite the risks involved in mine clearing.

“It’s dangerous all over Ukraine, even if you are in a relatively safe region,” said Minchukova, who is from central Ukraine.

Another Ukrainian student, Yuliia Katelik, 38, took her three children to safety in Poland early in the war. She went back to Ukraine and then joined the demining training to help make sure it’s safe for her children when they return home to the eastern city of Kramatorsk, where a rocket attack on a crowded train station killed more than 50 people this month.

Katelik said her only wish is to reunite with her family and see “the end of this nightmare.” Knowing how to spot booby-traps that could shatter their lives again is a necessary skill, she said.

“Acutely, probably as a mother, I do understand that there is a problem and it’s quite serious, especially for the children,” Katelik said.

Minchukova, wearing military-style clothes, said she was doubtful that normal life, as they all knew it before the war, would ever fully return.

“What am I missing? Peace,” she said. “I’m dreaming about peace, about sleeping in my bed not worried about going to bomb shelters all the time. I miss the people I lost.”

The Kosovo training center plans to work with more groups of Ukrainian women, both in Peja and in Ukraine.

“We’re planning as well to go to Ukraine very soon and start with delivery of courses there, on the theater” of war, Tigani said.

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Despite Payment, Investors Brace for Russia to Default

Prices for Russian credit default swaps — insurance contracts that protect an investor against a default — plunged sharply overnight after Moscow used its precious foreign currency reserves to make a last-minute debt payment Friday.

The cost for a five-year credit default swap on Russian debt was $5.84 million to protect $10 million in debt. That price was nearly half the one on Thursday, which at roughly $11 million for $10 million in debt protection was a signal that investors were certain of an eventual Russian default.

Russia used its foreign currency reserves sitting outside of the country to make the payment, backing down from the Kremlin’s earlier threats that it would use rubles to pay these obligations. In a statement, the Russia Finance Ministry did not say whether future payments would be made in rubles.

Despite the insurance contract plunge, investors remain largely convinced that Russia will eventually default on its debts for the first time since 1917. The major ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have declared Russia is in “selective default” on its obligations.

Russia has been hit with extensive sanctions by the United States, the EU and others in response to its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and its continuing military operation to take over Ukrainian territory.

The Credit Default Determination Committee — an industry group of 14 banks and investors that determines whether to pay on these swaps — said Friday that they “continue to monitor the situation” after Russia’s payment. Their next meeting is May 3.

At the beginning of April, Russia’s finance ministry said it tried to make a $649 million payment due April 6 toward two bonds to an unnamed U.S. bank — previously reported as JPMorgan Chase.

At that time, tightened sanctions imposed for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prevented the payment from being accepted, so Moscow attempted to make the debt payment in rubles. The Kremlin, which repeatedly said it was financially able and willing to continue to pay on its debts, had argued that extraordinary events gave them the legal footing to pay in rubles, instead of dollars or euros.

Investors and rating agencies, however, disagreed and did not expect Russia to be able to convert the rubles into dollars before a 30-day grace period expired next week.

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ОГП: повідомлено про підозру секретарю Ради безпеки РФ

Секретарем Ради безпеки Російської Федерації нині є Микола Патрушев

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Генштаб ЗСУ прозвітував про відновлення контролю над кількома населеними пунктами Харківщини

Як йдеться у повідомленні Генштабу, це відбулося у результаті наступу підрозділів Сил оборони України

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Верещук повідомила про новий обмін полоненими – 7 військових та 7 цивільних

Останній обмін полоненими відбувся днями – 28 квітня, тоді українській стороні вдалося визволити 45 українців

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Подоляк назвав дві причини, які заважають швидким результатам переговорів із Росією

Наразі, за його словами, переговорний процес між Україною та Росією іде більш повільно, ніж міг би

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Пентагон: американські військові навчають українців у Німеччині

Міністр оборони України Олексій Резніков раніше повідомляв, що українські військові «вже деякий час» опановують західну зброю

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Росія: у Пензі затримали волонтерку, яка допомагала українцям

Адвокат розповідав, що вони з Гурською збирали речі для українців із Маріуполя, вивезених в Росію, деяким допомагали купити квитки з Росії до країн Європи

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In Scandinavia, Wooden Buildings Reach New Heights

A sandy-colored tower glints in the sunlight and dominates the skyline of the Swedish town of Skelleftea as Scandinavia harnesses its wood resources to lead a global trend towards erecting eco-friendly high-rises.

The Sara Cultural Center is one of the world’s tallest timber buildings, made primarily from spruce and towering 75 meters over rows of snow-dusted houses and surrounding forest.

The 20-story timber structure, which houses a hotel, a library, an exhibition hall and theater stages, opened at the end of 2021 in the northern town of 35,000 people.

Forests cover much of Sweden’s northern regions, most of it spruce, and building timber homes is a longstanding tradition.

Swedish architects now want to spearhead a revolution and steer the industry towards more sustainable construction methods as large wooden buildings sprout up in Sweden and neighboring Nordic nations thanks to advancing industry techniques.

“The pillars together with the beams, the interaction with the steel and wood, that is what carries the 20 stories of the hotel,” Therese Kreisel, a Skelleftea urban planning official, tells AFP during a tour of the cultural center.

Even the lift shafts are made entirely of wood. “There is no plaster, no seal, no isolation on the wood,” she says, adding that this “is unique when it comes to a 20-story building.”

Building materials go green

The main advantage of working with wood is that it is more environmentally friendly, proponents say.

Cement — used to make concrete — and steel, two of the most common construction materials, are among the most polluting industries because they emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.

But wood emits little CO2 during its production and retains the carbon absorbed by the tree even when it is cut and used in a building structure. It is also lighter in weight, requiring less of a foundation.

According to the U.N.’s IPCC climate panel, wood as a construction material can be up to 30 times less carbon intensive than concrete, and hundreds or even thousands of times less than steel.

Global efforts to cut emissions have sparked an upswing in interest for timber structures, according to Jessica Becker, the coordinator of Trastad (City of Wood), an organization lobbying for more timber construction.

Skelleftea’s tower “showcases that is it possible to build this high and complex in timber,” says Robert Schmitz, one of the project’s two architects.

“When you have this as a backdrop for discussions, you can always say, ‘We did this, so how can you say it’s not possible?'”

Only an 85-meter tower recently erected in Brumunddal in neighboring Norway and an 84-meter structure in Vienna are taller than the Sara Cultural Centre.

A building under construction in the U.S. city of Milwaukee and due to be completed soon is expected to clinch the title of the world’s tallest, at a little more than 86 meters.

‘Stacked like Lego’

Building the cultural center in spruce was “much more challenging” but “has also opened doors to really think in new ways,” explains Schmitz’s co-architect Oskar Norelius.

For example, the hotel rooms were made as prefabricated modules that were then “stacked like Lego pieces on site,” he says.

The building has won several wood architecture prizes.

Anders Berensson, another Stockholm architect whose material of choice is wood, says timber has many advantages.

“If you missed something in the cutting you just take the knife and the saw and sort of adjust it on site. So it’s both high tech and low tech at the same time,” he says.

In Stockholm, an apartment complex made of wood, called Cederhusen and featuring distinctive yellow and red cedar shingles on the facade, is in the final stages of completion.

It has already been named the Construction of the Year by Swedish construction industry magazine Byggindustrin. 

“I think we can see things shifting in just the past few years actually,” says Becker.

“We are seeing a huge change right now, it’s kind of the tipping point. And I’m hoping that other countries are going to catch on, we see examples even in England and Canada and other parts of the world.” 

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Для перших вироків щодо воєнних злочинів Росії знадобиться щонайменше 1-2 роки – Малюська

«Якщо це вироки, які виноситимуться МКС більшість країн світу не зважатиме навіть на дипломатичний захист»

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Zelenskyy’s Invite to G20 Not Enough for Biden

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who holds this year’s G-20 presidency, has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the group’s summit in Bali later this year, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to attend. However, Zelenskyy’s invitation may not be enough to secure the attendance of U.S. and other Western leaders keen on isolating Moscow. White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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Київ «залишається метою агресора» – Кличко про обстріл, через який загинула журналістка Радіо Свобода

Загибель Віри Гирич також прокоментували речник Держдепартаменту США та представник МЗС України

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Media Watchdog RSF Puts French News Sites Back Online in Mali

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has put the websites of two major French broadcasters back online in Mali, after the country’s military government pulled the broadcasters off the air in March and officially banned them from the Malian airwaves this week.

RSF put the sites back online Thursday, creating mirrors of the sites that can be accessed in Mali and are updated in real time.

Using a virtual private network had previously been the only way to access those websites in Mali since the military government blocked them and took their corresponding TV and radio stations off the air March 17. 

Arnaud Froger, head of the RSF Africa desk, said that the action is part of the organization’s work toward media freedom.

He said RSF has been getting banned media websites back online since 2015, so far having put 47 websites back online in 24 countries, most recently in Russia. 

“It’s basically restoring your right to access to information that has been wrongfully denied by this censorship,” Froger said.

On Wednesday, France Medias Monde, the parent company of RFI and France 24, said it was notified of the decision of Mali’s High Communication Authority to definitively ban the two stations in the country.

The High Communication Authority is the communication regulatory body in Mali, whose website says its primary mission is to protect “freedom of information and communication” and “freedom of the press.”

RFI and France 24 were taken off the air in March after RFI reported on alleged human rights abuses by Mali’s army around the town of Diabaly. Mali’s government said the report contained false allegations aimed at “destabilizing” the government. 

In late March, after the French broadcast ban, Human Rights Watch and several media outlets reported on a Mali army operation in the town of Moura, where witnesses said 300 civilians were killed. 

Tensions have been running high between the Malian and French governments.  This month, France accused Russian mercenaries of staging a mass grave in Gossi, Mali, in order to blame it on French forces who had recently handed over a military base in Gossi to the Malian army. 

Mali’s government then accused France of spying, but did not mention or refute the claim that Russian mercenaries are working with the Malian army.

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Президент Індонезії заявив, що Путін відвідає саміт G20 – раніше він запросив Зеленського

Свою згоду Володимир Путін нібито озвучив під час телефонної розмови з Відодо

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Chilling Calls, Legal Action as Russia Seeks to Silence Dissent

First came a court summons alleging Mikhail Samin had discredited the Russian army. Then came the threatening calls.

Samin, a 22-year-old from Moscow who has been posting commentary about the war in Ukraine on social media, shared details of those chilling calls with VOA.

In one expletive-laden call, a man warned that Samin had 24 hours to delete his posts, saying that only then, “you may sleep peacefully.”

When Samin tried to reason with the caller, saying that people, children, were dying in Ukraine, the caller replied, “If you don’t stop being stupid, we will throw you off the balcony.”

The legal action and threats are becoming the new normal for those in Russia who defy the strict censorship around the war in Ukraine. Moscow in March passed a law to limit coverage of the military and invasion, and a mix of fines and website blocks has resulted in most independent news outlets being forced out.

Risky work

With traditional media limited, citizen journalists and activists like Samin are filling the void, but at great personal risk. Samin and student Ilya Kursov have both faced legal action for posts about the war and protests.

That new law was cited by authorities when Samin was summoned to court for “discrediting” the Russian army.

He had condemned the invasion in a March 6 Facebook post.

“A terrible thing is happening right now on behalf of [Russian] people,” Samin had posted. “My compatriots — brainwashed or following criminal orders — have invaded the territory of a foreign country, destroying houses and killing people. Thousands of people are dying and suffering needlessly. There can be no justification for this. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who started this war, cannot be justified.”

For Samin, the death threats were more concerning than the threat of prison.

The door to his apartment was defaced with the letter Z, a pro-Kremlin symbol of war against Ukraine. Samin’s sister was scared when she saw the mark as she left to walk the dog.

Samin was at a loss for words when describing his view of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“Nothing discredits the armed forces of the Russian Federation more than the war crimes they commit, like torturing people, killing civilians,” he told VOA.

“There was a feeling of some unreality of what was happening because, before that, I was convinced that Putin would not do this,” said Samin. “It was apparent that this [war] would immediately destroy the future of Russia.”

Police pressure

When Ilya Kursov heard details of an anti-war protest in Barnaul, a city in the Altai Krai region of Siberia, at the end of February, the 24-year-old student shared the information on Instagram.

His post quickly came to the attention of police.

“I was abducted at 8 a.m. by [Russian police], right from my bed in the dormitory,” said Kursov, who was studying at the Altai State Pedagogical University.

At the police station he was questioned about the social media post. The police officers pressured him, threatening him with a prison term, Kursov said. He wasn’t allowed to call either his parents or lawyer and his laptop was confiscated.

The student believes the authorities are reacting so aggressively to any protest activity because, despite what the propaganda suggests, many Russians disapprove of the war.

Although many residents were afraid to join the protest openly, people approached the anti-war activists and spoke out for peace with Ukraine, he said.

Like Samin, Kursov is accused of “discrediting” the Russian army. Under the law, if the offense is repeated within a year, it can result in criminal prosecution, with a maximum punishment of up to 15 years in prison.

But the posts cited by police in Kursov’s case were published before the law was enacted.

“I have two fines for 50,000 rubles [approximately $700],”said Kursov.

The fine is about 1½ times the median monthly income for his city, according to the Federal Service for State Statistics in Russia.

The student said that in court documents he saw, authorities had flagged more of his social media posts on the war.

“I am afraid the prosecutors would have an opportunity to use it against me, which leads to a criminal case,” he said.

Both he and Samin have since left Russia, fearing for their safety.

‘Next to be targeted’

With independent media blocked off in Russia, ordinary citizens like Samin and Kursov have become a key source of war information in Russia, media freedom experts said.

“After this huge blow against independent media, the next to be targeted are the citizen journalists,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders.

“We can draw a parallel with what happened in Belarus, because when all major independent media were blocked and journalists were in prison or exile, the Belarusian authorities started to target citizen journalists,” Cavelier told VOA.

Another factor is the chilling effect. As well as making arrests and blocking platforms, Russia wants to extend its foreign agents law to citizens as well as media.

“It frightens people; it makes them think twice before sharing any information, even if they feel very strong in their opinions or their criticism of the Russian authorities, so that’s always a downside of any crackdown and repressive measures,” said Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

But while Kursov and Samin have been forced to leave their homes, both are adamant they will keep using social media to inform Russians about the war.

This story originated in VOA’s Russian Service.

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Скіфське золото не в окупантів, його вдалося врятувати – Запорізька ОВА

«Те, що вони там «врятували», ну успіху їм. Є різні музейні експонати: копії, муляжі, ще щось»

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«Так добре бути знову у Києві» – посол Британії повернулася в столицю України

Сьогодні також були повідомлення про відновлення роботи від посольств Нідерландів та Азербайджану

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Польща передала Україні понад 200 танків Т-72 – ЗМІ

Раніше такі танки Україні відправила Чехія

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