Western nations and Ukraine say voting is a sham that began Friday on Russian referendums aimed at annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine. Some local officials said voters were being intimidated and threatened.
In the balloting, scheduled to run from Friday to Tuesday in the provinces of Luhansk, Kherson and the partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, voters are being asked if they want their areas to become part of Russia.
Polls also opened in Russia, where refugees and other residents from those areas could vote.
The West and Ukraine said the voting is illegal under international law.
“Any elections or referenda on the territory of Ukraine can only be announced and conducted by legitimate authorities in compliance with national legislation and international standards,” the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe a said in a statement. “Therefore, the planned ‘referenda’ will be illegal.”
Ukrainian officials said people were banned from leaving some occupied areas until the vote was over, armed groups were going to homes to force people to cast ballots, and employees were told they could be fired if they did not participate.
Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine’s Luhansk governor, said in the town of Starobilsk, the population was banned from leaving and people were being forced out of their homes to vote.
“Today, the best thing for the people of Kherson would be not to open their doors,” said Yuriy Sobolevsky, the displaced first deputy council chairman of Kherson region.
The results of the referendums, expected soon after the voting, are almost certain to support joining Russia.
“We are returning home,” said the Russian-backed leader of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin. “Donbas is Russia.”
“All of us have been waiting for a referendum on joining Russia for eight long years,” said Leonid Pasechnik, the Russian-backed leader of Luhansk. “We have already become part of Russia. There remains only a small matter – to win [the war].”
Ukraine says it will never accept Russian control of any of its territory.
The referendums were quickly organized after Ukraine earlier this month recaptured large swaths of the northeast in a counteroffensive.
By incorporating the four areas, Moscow could portray attacks to retake them as an attack on Russia itself – potentially even using that to justify a nuclear response.
In a televised address this week, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said the West is trying to weaken and destroy Russia and that his country will “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
With Putin’s announcement that he intends to call up 300,000 more troops for his “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Kremlin appears to be trying to regain the upper hand in the grinding conflict.
Russia’s mobilization campaign is not likely to generate effective soldiers and is creating a public backlash, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
“Russian authorities are forcibly recruiting Russian citizens to fight in Ukraine on flimsy pretexts, violating the Kremlin’s promise to recruit only those with military experience,” the institute reported. “Russian authorities are also demonstrably mobilizing personnel [such as protesters] who will enter the war in Ukraine with abysmal morale,” it said.
Meanwhile, United Nations experts and Ukrainian officials have pointed to new evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.
The head of a U.N.-mandated investigation body said Friday war crimes including rape, torture and confinement of children have been committed in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, who heads the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He did not specify who was to blame but the commission has focused on areas previously occupied by Russian forces, such as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Investigators from the commission, created by the rights council in March, visited 27 places and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
They found evidence of a large number of executions, including bodies with tied hands, slit throats and gunshot wounds to the head, Mose said.
He also noted investigators had identified victims of sexual violence who were between the ages of four and 82. While some Russian soldiers had used sexual violence as a strategy, the commission “has not established any general pattern to that effect,” Mose added.
A U.S. envoy told the council, “Numerous sources indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained and forcible deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens.”
U.S. Ambassador Michele Taylor, U.S. permanent representative to the council added, “We urge the commissioners to continue to examine the growing evidence of Russia’s filtration operations, forced deportations and disappearances.”
Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians.
Russia was called on to respond to the allegations at the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting but its seat was left empty. There was no immediate official reaction from Moscow.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country to escape conscription into the military. President Vladimir Putin announced the move in a televised address Wednesday, as Russian armed forces have been suffering significant losses in the invasion of Ukraine in recent weeks. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Публічно керівництво Ірану неодноразово заявляло про свою нейтральність та готовність бути посередником у припиненні російської агресії проти України
Влада Узбекистану та Киргизстану застерегла своїх громадян, які тимчасово перебувають у Росії, від участі в бойових діях на території іноземних держав.
Вони закликали трудових мігрантів не втягуватися у протистояння між Росією та Україною та не вступати на службу до збройних сил ні тієї, ні іншої сторони.
І в Узбекистані, і в Киргизстані зарахування до армії та інших силових структур іноземних держав є кримінальним злочином. Агентство із зовнішньої трудової міграції Узбекистану нагадало, що, згідно зі статтею 154 Кримінального кодексу країни, «заклик на військову службу, до органів безпеки, поліції, органів військової юстиції або інших аналогічних органів іноземних держав карається позбавленням волі від трьох до п’яти років».
Подібне звернення до співвітчизників опублікувало і посольство Киргизстану в Росії: там за аналогічний злочин може загрожувати до 10 років позбавлення волі з конфіскацією майна.
Ініціативу влади підтримало і Духовне управління мусульман Узбекистану. Воно видало фетву, що забороняє узбецьким мусульманам участь у бойових діях за кордоном. У фетві вказано, що мусульманам дозволяється брати в руки зброю лише для захисту своєї батьківщини. «Не дозволено мусульманам об’єднуватися з іновірцями і воювати проти іншої громади іновірців», – посилається узбецька духовна влада на книгу «Ас-Сіярул-Кабір».
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Раніше цього місяця українські ЗМІ повідомляли, що під час контрнаступу в Харківській області українські збройні сили захопили двох чоловіків із Центральної Азії в російській військовій формі, які заявили, що є громадянами Узбекистану, які жили в Москві до того, як приєдналися до приватного воєнізованого формування в Росії.
Минулого тижня посольство Узбекистану в Києві звернулося до української влади з проханням надати детальну інформацію про двох полонених узбеків.
Узбекистан не визнає подвійного громадянства, але багато хто з приблизно 1,2 мільйона узбецьких мігрантів у Росії прагне отримати російське громадянство, зокрема, деякі намагаються отримати громадянство, служачи в російських збройних силах.
Водночас він додав, що наразі вдячний Китаю бодай за те, що він «не продає зброю Росії»
Наразі Олексій Макеєв є спецпредставником МЗС України щодо санкційної політики, а також членом міжнародної експертної групи Єрмака-Макфола
Russia’s war on Ukraine is taking a brutal toll on its people. VOA recently met two young brothers, ages 8 and 14, at a Lviv hospital. The two lost their parents and were severely injured in a Russian missile strike. Omelyan Oshchudlyak has the story. VOA footage by Yuriy Dankevych.
The 25-year-old translator by day and trans drag performer by night felt overwhelming panic and anxiety when several thousand demonstrators gathered and marched Sunday in Turkey to demand a ban on what they consider gay propaganda and to outlaw LGBTQ organizations.
The Big Family Gathering march in the conservative heart of Istanbul attracted parents with children, nationalists, hard-line Islamists and conspiracy theorists. Turkey’s media watchdog gave the event the government’s blessing by including a promotional video that called LGBTQ people a “virus” in its list of public service announcements for broadcasters.
“We need to make all our defense against this LGBT. We need to get rid of it,” said construction worker Mehmet Yalcin, 21, who attended the event wearing a black headband printed with Islam’s testimony of faith. “We are sick of and truly uncomfortable that our children are being encouraged and pulled to this.
Seeing images from the gathering terrified Willie Ray, the drag performer who identifies as nonbinary, and Willie Ray’s mother, who was in tears after talking to her child. The fear wasn’t misplaced. The Europe branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ranked Turkey second to last, ahead of only Azerbaijan, in its most recent 49-country legal equality index, saying LGBTQ people endured “countless hate crimes.”
“I feel like I can be publicly lynched,” Willie Ray said, describing the daily sense of dread that comes with living in Istanbul. The performer recalls leaving a nightclub still in makeup on New Year’s Eve and hurrying to get to a taxi as strangers on the street called out slurs and “tried to hunt me, basically.”
Sunday’s march was the biggest anti-LGBTQ demonstration of its kind in Turkey, where civil rights for a community more commonly referred to here as LGBTI+ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and other gender identities and sexual orientations — have been under assault in the years since an estimated 100,000 people celebrated Pride in Istanbul in 2014.
In a visible sign of the shift, the anti-LGBTQ march went ahead without any police interference. Conversely, LGBTQ groups have had their freedom to assemble severely curtailed since 2015, with officials citing both security and morality grounds.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the Pride march planned for that year. Government officials have since banned the event. Activists have tried to gather anyway, and more than 370 people were detained in Istanbul in June.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s views also have grown more stridently anti-LGBTQ over time. Before the 2002 election that brought the Justice and Development Party (AKP) he co-founded to power, a younger Erdogan said at a televised campaign event that he found mistreatment of gay people inhumane and legal protections for them in Turkey a “must.”
“And now, 20 years into this, you have an entirely different president that seems to be mobilizing based on these dehumanizing, criminal approaches to the LGBTQ movement itself,” said Mine Eder, a political science professor at Bogazici University in Istanbul.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has called LGBTQ people “perverts.” In 2020, Erdogan defended the head of religious affairs after he claimed homosexuality “brings disease and causes the generation to decay.” While championing his long-held belief that the identities of women are rooted in motherhood and family, the Turkish leader last year urged people to dismiss what “lesbians schmesbians” say.
Turkey also withdrew from a European treaty protecting women against violence, after lobbying from conservative groups that claimed the treaty promoted homosexuality.
The country could become more unwelcoming for the LGBTQ community. The Unity in Ideas and Struggle Platform, the organizer of Sunday’s event, said it plans to push for a law that would ban the alleged LGBTQ “propaganda” that the group maintains is pervasive on Netflix and social media, as well as in arts and sports.
The platform’s website states it also favors a ban on LGBTQ organizations.
“We are a Muslim country and we say no to this. Our statesmen and the other parties should all support this,” said Betul Colak, who attended Sunday’s gathering wearing a scarf with the Turkish flag.
Haunted by “the feeling that you can be attacked anytime,” Willie Ray thinks it would be a “total catastrophe” if a ban on the LGBTQ organizations that provide visibility, psychological support and safe spaces were enacted.
Eder, the professor, said it would be “simply illegal” to close down LGBTQ civil society based on ideological, Islamic and conservative norms — even if Turkey’s norms have indeed shifted to “using violent language, violent strategies and legalizing them.”
The Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, a nongovernmental LGBTQ advocacy and outreach organization in Istanbul commonly known as SPoD, is among the LGBTQ groups that stopped posting their addresses online after receiving threatening calls.
“It’s easy for a maniac to try and hurt us after all the hate speech from state officials,” said SPoD lobbyist Ogulcan Yediveren, 27. “But these security concerns, this atmosphere of fear, doesn’t stop us from work and instead reminds us every time how much we need to work.”
Gay activist Umut Rojda Yildirim, who works as SPoD’s lawyer, thinks the anti-LGBTQ sentiments on view Sunday aren’t dominant across Turkish society, but that the minority expressing them seem “louder when they have government funds, when they’re supported by the government watchdog.”
“You can just shut down an office, but I’m not going to disappear. My other colleagues aren’t going to disappear. We’ll be here no matter what,” Yildirim said.
За дві доби від початку мобілізації росіян на війну проти України скоєно щонайменше дев’ять подібних підпалів
«Наразі підозрювані переховуються від органів досудового розслідування за межами території України та оголошені у розшук»
Лісін, на відміну від десятків інших найбагатших російських олігархів, досі не потрапив до санкційних списків США, ЄС і Британії
Russian-orchestrated voting has begun in occupied regions of Ukraine in referendums that ask voters if they want their regions to become part of Russia.
The voting began Friday in Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
The voting, widely viewed as a way for Russia to justify the annexation of the regions, has been widely condemned by the West.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the referendums are illegal.
“Any elections or referenda on the territory of Ukraine can only be announced and conducted by legitimate authorities in compliance with national legislation and international standards,” the OSCE said in a statement. “Therefore the planned ‘referenda’ will be illegal.”
Friday’s voting follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he intends to call up 300,000 more troops for his “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Putin said in a televised address this week the mobilization of reserves, which followed Ukrainian gains in a counteroffensive in northeastern Ukraine, is necessary to protect Russia’s homeland and sovereignty.
Putin said the West is trying to weaken and destroy Russia, and that his country will “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
Street protests against the mobilization erupted in Moscow and other Russian cities, with police arresting 1,300 demonstrators.
The British Defense Ministry said in its intelligence report Friday: “In the last three days, Ukrainian forces have secured bridgeheads on the east bank of the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast. … To the south, in Donetsk Oblast, fighting is ongoing as Ukrainian forces assault the town of Lyman, east of the Siverskyy Donets River, which Russia captured in May. The battlefield situation remains complex, but Ukraine is now putting pressure on territory Russia considers essential to its war aims.”
Акції пройдуть 24 вересня
«Жорсткий підхід Кремля до мобілізації викликає громадський гнів і недовіру по всій Росії»
«Там, де Росія діє, використовуючи пропаганду та дезінформацію, правосуддя має спиратися на фактах та доказах»
Italy goes to the polls Sunday after the collapse of the ruling coalition in July. As Henry Ridgwell reports, a right-wing party with past links to fascism looks set to win the most votes, raising concerns in the European Union.
Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, spoke about Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine and Iranian cyberattacks on Albania with VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara on Thursday.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: Anne Nueberger, thank you so much for joining me all today. I’m going to start with Russia. President Vladimir Putin has significantly increased his war efforts. He’s announced mobilization, referendums, threatening nuclear attacks. Are we also expecting an increase in cyberattacks?
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY ANNE NEUBERGER: So first, thank you so much for having me here. It’s really great to be here. Throughout the conflict, beginning when Russia first did its further invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen Russia use destructive cyberattacks as well as intelligence collection to advance its war mission. We saw the initial destructive attacks on satellite systems, then later on Ukrainian government systems and additional critical infrastructures systems. So one would expect that as Russia further redouble its efforts, that will include cyberattacks as well.
VOA: Have you actually seen indications of it starting?
NEUBERGER: Of additional cyberattacks?
VOA: Of cyberattack, yes?
NEUBERGER: It’s been a consistent part of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. So it’s something we expect. Do we have particular indications of an increase in that way at this time? We don’t.
VOA: How are you helping the Ukrainians defend themselves?
NEUBERGER: Such a great question. So beginning back when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2015-16 and conducted disruptive cyberattacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, we began to work with Ukraine to really strengthen the resilience of its critical infrastructure. That partnership continued up through the months as we were concerned about heightened war activity, and that included work on cybersecurity resilience of critical infrastructure, included our sending in a team from the U.S. Cyber Command, again to work on cybersecurity, teams from the Department of Energy working closely to improve resilience, and ongoing information sharing regarding tactics and techniques used to conduct malicious cyberattacks. So that remains an ongoing partnership all the way from resilience efforts to practical information sharing to help defense systems.
VOA: Are you also working in terms of strengthening their counterdefense systems?
NEUBERGER: We’re very focused on cybersecurity resilience systems.
VOA: In that sense, whether it’s a terrorist offense or counterattacks, we’re hearing a lot about this volunteer hackers called the Ukrainian IT army, and I want to hear what your sense of how good and how successful they have been in deterring or hurting or even stopping Russian attacks. And what kind of support is the administration providing them?
NEUBERGER: We’ve seen quite a bit of volunteer hacking activity with regard to Ukrainian activity to defend accounts. I don’t think we have really good insights in terms of understanding what’s Ukrainian government versus volunteer hacking activity. And, of course, our assistance is government to government. With regard to, as I mentioned earlier, some of the cybersecurity activities assisting the Ukrainian government to build and strengthen its resilience and its defense.
VOA: So just to be clear, your support and your interaction is with the direct government, not with groups outside who are also supporting, like the Ukrainian IT army.
NEUBERGER: Yes, our support is really, along with all of our security systems, government to government.
VOA: You mentioned earlier that, you know, the Russian attack has been consistent. And we also hear that there’s been warnings of major Russian cyberattacks on Ukrainian infrastructure – critical infrastructure, at the beginning or before the start of the war. We heard warnings that that’s how the war is going to start. I’m not quite sure that actually did happen. And in fact, throughout the war, we haven’t really heard any kind of major cyberattack that’s actually crippling Ukrainian critical infrastructure. Is that the case or are we just not hearing about it? What are your thoughts on this?
NEUBERGER: It’s a good question. So first, as Russia began its further invasion of Ukraine, we did see Russia conduct a destructive attack on Ukrainian communication systems, satellite communications systems, the ground parts, as well as on Ukrainian government websites and government systems. That initial attack, the Ukrainians were able to quickly recover and bring back up those systems. The U.S. government, because there was a ripple effect across Europe from their first Russian destructive attack on communication systems, the U.S. government and the European Union called out that activity and said this is irresponsible activity, but the Ukrainian government was able to quickly recover those websites and quickly recover from those destructive attacks, which is really a tribute to all the cybersecurity resilience and focus they put on improving the security of their systems, disconnecting their energy grid from the Russian grid, reconnecting to the European grid and the work they had done to really harden that. So that preparedness and frankly that partnership between various countries assisting the Ukrainians on that work, although the Ukrainians really led that work, was key to their defense. There have been ongoing Russian cyberattacks. The Ukrainians have been very successful at, you know, catching those, and really remediating and addressing them quickly so that they didn’t have significant impact.
VOA: Is the support given to them, government to government, U.S. to Ukraine, or is it also through NATO?
NEUBERGER: The support is from individual governments, the U.S. government, the European individual governments are providing various cybersecurity assistance.
VOA: OK, on the flipside, what do we know about the Russian cyber operations support? I mean to what extent is Russia getting support from other countries? Do we see a strategic alignment in terms of cyber warfare between Russia, China, North Korea, Iran?
NEUBERGER: Russia has a very capable cyber program and one of our focus areas both for the U.S. and for the Europeans has been to really improve our own preparedness, to ensure we lock our doors, lock our digital windows so that we can prepare in case there are heightened Russian cyberattacks as well. So it’s clearly been a focus for us on the U.S. side.
VOA: Have we seen so far that there are strategic alignments or at least tactical alignments between these adversaries in cyber warfare?
NEUBERGER: In the cyber context, no, we haven’t.
VOA: The war in Ukraine is the first conflict where we see some sort of coordination between cyberattacks and kinetic military assault. So in that sense, what are we learning about this hybrid warfare and what are we learning about the Russian capabilities in that realm?
NEUBERGER: I think we’re fundamentally learning that as countries think about their national defense for crisis or conflict, the digital systems they operate at, whether they’re individuals, whether they’re companies, whether they’re governments … need as much to be defended, and the preparation work to understand what are the most important components of your power systems, your water systems, your oil and gas pipelines, and ensuring that they’re up to snuff. The cybersecurity is capable to defend against a capable adversary. And that’s the core message. That doesn’t happen in a moment because these elements of critical infrastructure were digitized in many countries without necessarily considering security baked in at the beginning. And that’s one of the reasons in the U.S. and with partners around the world we’re working to quickly improve the security of critical infrastructure, recognizing that it’s a component of adversaries work in crisis and conflict to either coerce a population, or coerce the government by potentially destabilizing or disrupting digital systems.
VOA: I want to talk some more about what the U.S. is doing in terms of building this responsible state behavior in the cyber realm, but first I just want to talk a little bit on this Iranian cyberattack on Albania. The administration has slapped fresh sanctions on Iran as punishment, yet that didn’t stop them from launching a second attack. Are we not doing enough? Is there nothing else that we can do to deter them and how are we helping the Albanians?
NEUBERGER: It’s such an interesting question. So cyber deterrence is a very new field, and it draws on lessons and the approach we’ve used in other domains, sea, air. How do we build coalitions among countries regarding what’s responsible state behavior in cyberspace and what’s irresponsible because it’s one global commons at the end of the day. Many countries signed up for the United Nations voluntary norms for peacetime, which include a number of norms, and that was signed in both 2015 and 2019. One of those includes not disrupting critical services. And as such, in order to make forms actually be enforced, it requires countries and as big of a coalition as possible to call out behavior that’s not in alignment with those norms, and when possible to impose consequences. So that’s the reason that when we saw the Iranian government’s attack on the Albanian government, really disrupting Albanian government services for quite a period of time to their citizens, we and other countries came together to call out that activity, to say to the Iranians – to attribute it to the Iranians, and then to impose consequences. The Albanian government imposed consequences, we, the U.S., sanctioned the chief and deputy of an Iranian entity as well. And we do that as part of building cyber deterrence. It won’t happen in one or two cases. It happens if repeatedly, quickly, we did this far more quickly than in the past. Also, to achieve those strategic goals of enforcing international cyber norms. But if we do this repeatedly, as a community of countries, we believe that can build cyber deterrence.
VOA: The fact of the matter is, as you’re trying to build these international cyber regimes, there is no consensus at the U.N. Security Council, obviously Russia and China are a part of it. There are U.N. frameworks that cannot be enforced. So under these circumstances, how do you move forward?
NEUBERGER: So Russia is one of the countries who signed the 2015/2019 Governmental Group of Experts norms. So countries that have agreed to those norms, the key we believe is enforcing those norms. And we believe, as I mentioned, that it’s each time, time by time, pointing to countries when they conduct behavior that’s not aligned with those norms, and then continuing to deepen that coalition so that more countries join it, we do it more quickly, and then we eventually mature to also impose consequences. So we believe it will take some time, but those are the steady steps we’re taking along with partners and allies.
VOA: And so that is behind the strategy of this name and shame that you’re applying?
NEUBERGER: It’s part of a broader strategic effort of moving to where we say, in this global shared space, that is cyberspace, where we need collective defense. One key aspect is, as you noted, improving cybersecurity resilience, locking our digital doors, one key aspect is gaining agreement among countries of what is not appropriate behavior – the framework for responsible state behavior in cyberspace and gaining agreement among more countries to enforce those.
VOA: Beyond your Western allies, is there an understanding of the need to do this from, you know, the rest of the world?
NEUBERGER: We believe so, because in many ways, the weaker countries are the ones who are most vulnerable to being coerced via cyberattacks on their government systems, cyberattacks on companies or theft of intellectual property in that way. So we believe it’s in all countries’ interests, whether large or small, because we’ve all digitized. Clearly, some of us have digitized more than others, but we’ve all digitized to where there’s risk to our citizens if critical services are disrupted or if governments are disrupted in moments of crisis.
VOA: I’m going to go back to Iran and Armenia real quick. Groups associated with Iran penetrated various systems in Armenia, including the prime minister’s emails. Are you concerned that Iran may have gained access to sensitive NATO data via this breach? I mean we also heard about Portugal recently where hundreds of NATO documents may have been stolen as well.
NEUBERGER: So clearly, good cybersecurity practices are needed among all NATO members, right? Every member of NATO has to recognize that they bring risks to the broader member if they don’t put in place adequate cybersecurity practices. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve been working very closely in the NATO context in terms of cybersecurity, and to build incident response capability at NATO to mature NATO cyber capabilities, because, as I mentioned earlier, clearly more work needs to be done. You’ve cited a couple of examples that highlight the need for it. I think there’s now a much deeper recognition at NATO and a much deeper recognition to bring allies together to have in place common thresholds of cybersecurity, for important information.
VOA: And still on NATO, as a NATO ally both Albania and Portugal are technically protected under the collective defense principle. So can you explain what the administration’s view of NATO’s principle, an attack on one is an attack on all, in terms of cyber warfare? At what point does a cyberattack merit a counterattack? Are there any criteria? Is there a red line?
NEUBERGER: So this is an area of evolving policy. It’s a very new area. You’ve seen NATO’s policy that one or more cyberattacks could rise to the level of an armed attack. Clearly, that’s a very high threshold of what that is. The work we’re doing at NATO is focused on, first, cybersecurity resilience. There’ll be a NATO Cyber Defense Pledge conference in Rome that will focus both on what are the standards that NATO members have in place for their critical systems, building an incident response capability at NATO so if an ally is attacked, there is a NATO capability that countries can come together and virtually offer support, as well as then using that as an alliance to enforce international norms…
NEUBERGER: … but that’s an area we’re still working to evolve.
VOA: One last question on behalf of the VOA audience who may live in countries where there’s not a lot of internet penetration. Why should they care about cybersecurity?
NEUBERGER: In each of our lives, there’s data that’s really important to us, and there is information related to our work, and our country’s economies that are important to the continued growth of our economies and jobs. So there’s easy steps we can take to ensure that our data is safe and, frankly, our families and our children are safe online as well. And that’s really the core reason: that there’s really more – there is connectivity. Countries want to be connected because of the opportunities, the jobs, the commerce that it enables, so building security in from the beginning is the best way to be safe online.
U.N. Security Council members on Thursday condemned Russia for escalating the war in Ukraine, criticizing its mobilization of more troops and President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons.
“Every council member should send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a special session of the council’s foreign ministers held on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s annual gathering.
“This is a war of annexation. A war of conquest,” Britain’s new Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “to which President Putin now wants to send even more of Russia’s young men and women, making peace even less likely.”
Putin announced Wednesday that he is calling up 300,000 more troops for his “special military operation” in Ukraine.
“Yesterday, Putin announced mobilization. But what he really announced before the whole world was his defeat,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “You can draft 300,000 or 500,000 people, but he will never win this war. Today, every Ukrainian is a weapon, ready to defend Ukraine and the principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter.”
The Russian president has also announced plans to hold referenda in four occupied parts of Ukraine in an apparent attempt to annex them.
“It is an attempt to change internationally recognized borders by use of force — and no sham referendums can change that basic fact,” Ireland’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister Simon Coveney said. “It cannot be allowed to stand.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council that the latest developments are “dangerous and disturbing.”
“The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a subject of debate,” he said. “This in itself is totally unacceptable.”
Even Russia’s allies expressed their growing unease with the war’s direction.
“The trajectory of the Ukraine conflict is a matter of profound concern for the entire international community,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said. “The future outlook appears even more disturbing. The nuclear issue is a particular anxiety.”
China’s foreign minister urged the parties to resume talks without preconditions.
“Include reasonable concerns into negotiations and put feasible options on the table so that talks can produce results and bring about peace,” Wang Yi said. He also urged the parties to “exercise restraint and avoid escalating tensions.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not listen to the criticism of his counterparts, leaving his deputy and a junior ambassador to fill his seat during most of the three-hour meeting. He showed up only to deliver his remarks.
Lavrov did not address the military mobilization or Putin’s latest nuclear threats. Of the referenda, he said they are the consequence of “Russo-phobic” statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who he said told people who feel they are Russian to go to Russia.
“I think the decisions that have been adopted by a whole range of regions of Ukraine about conducting referendums are the result of his advice,” Lavrov said of the planned votes in the south and east of Ukraine.
“We have no doubt that Ukraine has become a completely totalitarian, Nazi-like state where the norms of international humanitarian law are trampled on,” he added.
Thursday’s meeting was originally called to discuss the atrocities that have come to light in Ukrainian cities after Russian troop withdrawals.
Mass graves have been found in several cities, including Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and most recently Izium.
In April, Russian troops were driven out of Bucha, leading to the discovery of mass graves with hundreds of bodies.
Lavrov told council members that Bucha was a “propaganda operation,” and there is “no doubt in anyone’s mind” that it was staged.
The International Criminal Court has been mandated to investigate possible mass crimes in Ukraine. Chief prosecutor Karim Khan has conducted three field visits.
“When I went to Bucha and went behind St. Andrews Church, the bodies I saw were not fake,” he told the council.
In May, the ICC deployed teams of investigators to the country. He said the picture is troubling.
“One has seen a variety of destruction, of suffering and harm that fortifies my determination and my previous finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe the crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed,” he said.
“Morally and politically, Russia has already lost the war,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the council. “And increasingly, it is losing on the battlefield, as well. Ukraine will prevail.”
Speaking at another event about accountability, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said his office is investigating more than 35,000 war-related crimes, including attacks on civilian infrastructure, indiscriminate shelling, murders, torture, sexual violence and forced mobilization.
“These numbers will increase as we de-occupy towns and cities in the east and south of the country and new crimes are revealed,” Andriy Kostin said.
In his video speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Zelenskyy called for a special tribunal to be established to punish Russia and demanded financial compensation for the destruction its invasion has caused.
In March, the International Court of Justice ruled that Russia had wrongfully claimed a genocide in Ukraine to justify its invasion and ordered it to suspend its military operation. Russia has rejected the court’s jurisdiction.
The U.N. General Assembly also overwhelmingly demanded on March 2 that Russia immediately and unconditionally stop its military operations and withdraw its troops from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.
At the Security Council, Mexico’s foreign minister offered a proposal from his president to form a committee of nations to support U.N. mediation efforts to end the war. Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon said it would include several leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis.
“The objective would be very clear: generating new mechanisms for dialogue and creating additional spaces for mediation that foster trust, reduce tensions and open the path to lasting peace,” he said.
After the council meeting, Ukraine’s foreign minister said he would discuss the proposal with Ebrard at a meeting later in the day.
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