Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s address to the nation usually is rather anodyne and backed with a soothing view of a snowy Kremlin. This year, with soldiers in the background, he lashed out at the West and Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine cast a long shadow as Russia entered 2023. Cities curtailed festivities and fireworks. Moscow announced special performances for soldiers’ children featuring the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus. An exiled Russian news outlet unearthed a video of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, now the Ukrainian president despised by the Kremlin, telling jokes on a Russian state television station’s New Year’s show just a decade ago.
Putin, in a nine-minute video shown on TV as each Russian time zone region counted down the final minutes of 2022 on Saturday, denounced the West for aggression and accused the countries of trying to use the conflict in Ukraine to undermine Russia.
“It was a year of difficult, necessary decisions, the most important steps toward gaining full sovereignty of Russia and powerful consolidation of our society,” he said, echoing his repeated contention that Moscow had no choice but to send troops into Ukraine because it threatened Russia’s security.
“The West lied about peace, but was preparing for aggression, and today it admits it openly, no longer embarrassed. And they cynically use Ukraine and its people to weaken and split Russia,” Putin said. “We have never allowed anyone and will not allow anyone to do this.”
The Kremlin has muzzled any criticism of its actions in Ukraine, shut independent media outlets, and criminalized the spread of any information that differs from the official view — including diverging from calling the campaign a special military operation. But the government has faced increasingly vocal criticism from Russian hardliners who have denounced the president as weak and indecisive and called for ramping up strikes on Ukraine.
‘Sanctions war was declared on us’
Russia has justified the conflict by saying that Ukraine persecuted Russian speakers in the eastern Donbas region, which had been partly under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Ukraine and the West says these accusations are untrue.
“For years, the Western elites hypocritically assured all of us of their peaceful intentions, including the resolution of the most difficult conflict in the Donbas,” Putin said.
Western countries have imposed wide sanctions against Russia, and many foreign companies pulled out of the country or froze operations after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.
“This year, a real sanctions war was declared on us. Those who started it expected the complete destruction of our industry, finances, and transport. This did not happen, because together we created a reliable margin of safety,” Putin said.
Year-end celebrations tempered
Despite such reassurances, New Year’s celebrations this year were toned down, with the usual fireworks and concert on Red Square canceled.
Some of Moscow’s elaborate holiday lighting displays made cryptic reference to the conflict. At the entrance to Gorky Park stand large lighted letters of V, Z and O – symbols that the Russian military have used from the first days of the military operation to identify themselves.
“Will it make me a patriot and go to the front against my Slavic brothers? No, it will not,” park visitor Vladimir Ivaniy said.
Moscow also announced plans to hold special pageant performances for the children of soldiers serving in Ukraine.
The Russian news outlet Meduza, declared a foreign agent in Russia and which now operates from Latvia, on Saturday posted a video of Zelenskyy, who was a hugely popular comedian before becoming Ukraine’s president in 2019, performing in a New Year’s Day show on Russian state television in 2013.
Zelenskyy jokes that the inexpensive sparkling wine Sovietskoe Shampanskoye, a popular tipple on New Year’s, is in the record books as a paradox because “the drink exists but the country doesn’t.”
Adding to the irony, the show’s host was Maxim Galkin, a comedian who fled the country in 2022 after criticizing the military operation in Ukraine.
Pope Emeritus Benedict served for just eight years before making history by stepping down in 2013, saying he didn’t have the mental or physical strength to run the church. VOA’s Laurel Bowman has more.
Поки невідомо, чи російські військові самі збили свою ракету, чи вона впала через технічні несправності
Начальник військової розвідки вважає, що українці зможуть порадіти хорошим новинам у середині чи другій половині 2023 року
Починаючи з лютого допомога надається з 1 числа місяця, що настає за місяцем, в якому був оновлений перелік територій, на яких ведуться бойові дії
As the old year gives way to the new, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a heartfelt appeal to the citizens of the world to put peace at the center of their words and actions in 2023.
Every new year is a moment of rebirth and hope. It is a time for reflection and for resolve to make things better in the year to come than they were in the year gone by.
In reviewing the events of 2022, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres considered the difficulties and the heartbreak of the past year. In his New Year’s message, he said millions of people around the world have literally swept out the ashes of the old year.
He said they are preparing for a new dawn and a brighter day in the year ahead.
“From Ukraine to Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond, people left the ruins of their homes and lives in search of something better. Around the world, one hundred million people were on the move, fleeing wars, wildfires, droughts, poverty, and hunger. In 2023, we need peace, now more than ever,” said Guterres.
He said conflicts can end and peace can be assured through dialogue. He said a more sustainable world can be achieved by making peace with nature and climate. He appeals for peace in the home, so women and girls can live in dignity and safety.
Guterres said peace on the streets and communities, peace in places of worship, and freedom from hate speech and abuse online depend upon the full protection of human rights.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Tuerk echoes those sentiments. He said the shape of the New Year will be determined by the individual and collective actions people take.
His hope for the next year, he said, is for people to lead their lives with kindness, empathy, unity, and protection of human rights.
“We must ensure women’s rights, for example, are respected at home and in public, that women and girls have full equality and freedom from discrimination. We must open our children’s eyes to the mistakes of the past, we can inspire them to write a story of hope and unity and instill in them a commitment to creating a better world,” said Guterres.
The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated in 2023. The core message inherent in this document – that there cannot be progress and peace without human rights – is as relevant now as it was in 1948.
U.N. rights chief Tuerk appeals to all nations and peoples to strive to make the world more dignified, to create a world where everyone’s rights are respected.
When Pope Benedict shocked the Roman Catholic Church in 2013 by announcing he would resign instead of ruling for life, he promised to stay in the Vatican “hidden from the world.”
He kept only half that promise. Benedict may not have been seen much, but he certainly was heard.
Benedict wrote, gave interviews and, unwittingly or not, became a lightning rod for opponents of Pope Francis, either for doctrinal reasons or because they were loath to relinquish the clerical privileges the new pope wanted to dismantle.
Despite Francis’ insistence that Benedict was like a “grandfather living in the house,” and that an emeritus pope was now an institution in the Church, the result was a sometimes cumbersome co-habitation that caused more than one headache.
Between the time he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013, and the time it took effect on Feb. 28, Benedict and his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, unilaterally decided that he would be called “pope emeritus” and continue to wear a white cassock, albeit a slightly modified one.
There was no broad consultation with canon lawyers and no real precedent to go by – the last pope to abdicate was Gregory XII, who stepped aside in a political deal to end a schism in 1415 and spent the rest of his days in obscurity 300 kilometers away from the Vatican.
Celestine V was pope for five months in 1294 before he quit, concluding there was far more holiness in his previous life as a mountain hermit than in the Vatican with its clerical and political intrigue.
Church law says a pope can resign if he does so with no outside pressure, but it lacks specific rules on his status, title and prerogatives.
It was last updated in 1983, when Pope John Paul was a robust, globe-trotting 63-year-old and a papal resignation was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Visitors, books, interviews
Benedict received visitors, many from Germany, who were eager to have their picture taken with him. They sometimes disclosed what he said, feeding a conservative, nostalgic Catholic faction bent on weaponizing his words.
In 2016, he published a memoir “The Last Conversations,” the first time a former pope had judged his own pontificate after it was over.
In a 2019 article for a Catholic magazine in Germany, Benedict linked the Church’s child sexual abuse scandal to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which he said had spawned a general collapse in morality.
Many theologians called his reasoning deeply flawed and accused him of trying to blame society in general for what was a structural problem within the Church.
The situation became so ideologically polarized that he once had to tell those who pined for his pontificate there was only one pope and it was Francis.
Leaked letters showed Benedict told a German cardinal who was part of a public assault on Francis’ legitimacy to sheathe his ideological sword.
As late as 2021, eight years after he resigned, Benedict still had to chide “some of my more fanatical friends” who never accepted his decision to step aside and who rejected the legitimacy of Francis.
The biggest imbroglio revolved around a book about priestly celibacy in early 2020 written primarily by Cardinal Robert Sarah, a conservative African who holds a senior Vatican post.
The book defended priestly celibacy in what some saw as an appeal to Francis not to change the rules after a proposal that he allow older married men to be ordained on a limited basis in the Amazon to deal with a shortage of priests.
Sarah said Benedict was co-author. Benedict demanded that his name be removed from the cover, saying he was a contributor not a co-author. The American publisher refused and Sarah rejected media accusations that he had taken advantage of the frail ex-pope.
EX-popes need rules
Commentators said Benedict was being used by the Church’s right wing in a power play against Francis to influence the election of the next pope.
“The emeritus papacy has proved a disorderly institution, one vulnerable to manipulation,” wrote papal biographer Austen Ivereigh.
Ganswein, a conservative, was widely seen as having mismanaged the book episode. Pope Francis later removed him from a top job in the Vatican. No explanation was given.
The episode brought calls for clear rules.
“In the Catholic Church, symbols are important,” said Father Tom Reese, a Washington-based Catholic author and commentator for Religion News Service.
“Symbols communicate, they teach. If you are not the pope, you should not be wearing white. Having two men wearing white sitting next to each other makes them look like they are equals, when they are not,” he wrote.
Reese said an ex-pontiff should not be called pope, should wear either the red or black garb of a cardinal or priest and should return to using his own name – in Benedict’s case, Joseph Ratzinger.
Reese, a Church liberal, found agreement from an unusual source – conservative Australian Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican treasurer and close associate of Benedict in his retirement.
“The protocols on the situation of a pope who has resigned need to be clarified, to strengthen the forces for unity,” Pell wrote in a book in 2020.
“While the retired pope could retain the title of ‘pope emeritus’, he should be re-nominated to the College of Cardinals so that he is known as ‘Cardinal X, Pope Emeritus’, he should not wear the white papal soutane (cassock) and should not teach publicly,” Pell wrote.
A pope is also bishop of Rome. Reese and others have suggested that a former pontiff be called “bishop emeritus of Rome” and be subject to the rules that cover retired bishops.
Those rules say any bishop emeritus “will want to avoid every attitude and relationship that could even hint at some kind of parallel authority to that of the diocesan bishop, with damaging consequences for the pastoral life and unity of the diocesan community.”
Francis, 86, has said several times he would readily resign instead of ruling for life if his health made it impossible to run the Church. He has said he would want to be called Bishop Emeritus of Rome and live not in the Vatican but in a home for retired priests in the Italian capital “because its my diocese.”
Національна комісія, що здійснює державне регулювання у сферах енергетики та комунальних послуг (НКРЕКП), скасувала рішення щодо підвищення тарифів на водопостачання з 1 січня 2023 року на 10-30%, йдеться в рішенні, котре було схвалене 30 грудня.
Відомо також, що проєкт постанови направлений на доопрацювання.
Голова НКРЕКП Костянтин Ущаповський зазначив, що під час ухвалення рішення 27 грудня члени комісії по-різному зрозуміли зміст постанови та «голосували за різні проекти рішення».
«Крім того, рішення, запропоноване з голосу, суттєво відрізняється від проєктів, які були оприлюднені на сайті. Тому при їх оформленні виникли непорозуміння щодо розмірів та структури тарифів. Тому пропоную направити проекти рішень про встановлення тарифів на централізоване водопостачання та водовідведення на доопрацювання», – сказав він.
У травні уряд схвалив законопроєкти, які пропонують ввести на період воєнного стану та 6 місяців після його завершення мораторій на підвищення тарифів на тепло та гарячу воду, а також на газ та його розподіл для усіх категорій споживачів.
Після деокупації Кремінної відкривається шлях до інших великих міст Луганської області – Сєвєродонецька та Лисичанська
ЗМІ оцінюють контракт Роналду в понад 200 мільйонів доларів. Саме стільки, як припускають, він зароблятиме за рік у саудівському клубі
Трамп звинуватив демократів у тому, що вони оприлюднили його податки, сподіваючись використати їх як політичну зброю
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that Ukraine continues to endure and repel waves of Russian air attacks and that Ukrainian air defenses have been made “stronger than ever.”
“In the new year,” he added, “Ukrainian air defense will become even stronger, even more effective.”
The Ukrainian leader said Ukrainian air defense “can become the most powerful in Europe,” a guarantee of security “not only for our country, but for the entire continent.”
The United States last week announced nearly $2 billion in additional military aid, including the Patriot Air Defense System, which offers protection against aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine.
“I call on allies to do more. It is in all our security interests to make sure Ukraine prevails and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin does not win,” Stoltenberg told German news agency DPA on Friday.
Stoltenberg said the need for ammunition and spare parts was “enormous.” He told DPA that military support for Ukraine was the fastest way to peace, Reuters reports.
“We know that most wars end at the negotiating table — probably this war too — but we know that what Ukraine can achieve in these negotiations depends inextricably on the military situation,” he said.
Russia’s ongoing offensive
Russia shelled Ukrainian towns across a long stretch of the front line from north to south, Ukrainian officials said Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of missiles in its latest barrage against critical infrastructure.
In an evening report Friday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russian forces had tried to advance near Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the east, while firing on several towns and villages, and shelled settlements further west in the Donetsk region, including the town of Vuhledar.
Zelenskyy said the nation’s forces were holding their positions in the eastern Donbas region.
“There are also some areas of the front where we are advancing a bit,” he noted.
Russian forces shelled several towns near Kupiansk, in the northeast Kharkiv region recaptured by Ukraine in September, the General Staff report said, as well as settlements in the Luhansk region, where Ukrainian forces hope to advance after the gains of recent weeks.
Areas of the Zaporizhzhia region, to the south, also came under heavy Russian shelling, including the contested town of Hulyaipole. Additionally, there was also shelling in and around Ukrainian-held Nikopol, on the opposite side of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.
On the southern front, there were renewed Russian strikes targeting infrastructure in the city of Kherson, which Russian forces abandoned last month, and Kachkarivka, further north on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
Air attack sirens blared overnight into Friday in the capital, Kyiv, and Reuters reported several explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire south of the city, as Russian forces launched 16 Iranian-made Shahed drones, the officials said.
The Ukrainian military said all of the drones had been destroyed. Seven had targeted Kyiv, where an administrative building was damaged, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Putin-Xi deepen ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed Friday to strengthen their bilateral cooperation. During their opening remarks on a publicly broadcast videoconference, the two leaders welcomed strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing amid what they called “geopolitical tensions” and a “difficult international situation,” with Putin expressing his wish to extend military collaboration.
“In the face of increasing geopolitical tensions, the significance of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is growing as a stabilizing factor,” he said.
Putin added that he expected Xi to visit Moscow in the spring. Such a trip “will demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties on key issues, will become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations,” he said.
Xi said through a translator that “in the face of a difficult and far from straightforward international situation,” Beijing was ready “to increase strategic cooperation with Russia, provide each other with development opportunities, be global partners for the benefit of the peoples of our countries and in the interests of stability around the world.”
But an official Chinese transcript of the video summit between the two leaders highlighted differences in their approach to their developing alliance, making no mention of Xi’s visit to Moscow and stressing that Beijing, which has declined to back or condemn the invasion, would maintain its “objective and fair” stance.
The U.S. expressed concern about the Russian-China rapprochement.
“We are monitoring Beijing’s activity closely,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Beijing claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes it clear, it is still investing in close ties to Russia.”
U.S. officials have repeatedly said they have yet to see Beijing provide material support to Russia on its invasion on Ukraine, a move that could provoke sanctions against China.
Some material for this article came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.your ad here
Behind the frontline near Kreminna, a strategically located Russian-controlled city in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv’s troops say they are facing a tough enemy.
“We fight them every day, in any weather. We attack in the direction of Kreminna, but they are not easy to defeat,” said a 24-year-old Ukrainian soldier who goes by the call sign “Kulak” or “Fist.”
“They are good, they are tough,” he told Agence France-Presse in Yampil, a village some 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Kreminna and recaptured by Ukrainian forces in late September.
The city in the eastern Luhansk region — which Moscow claimed to have annexed along with three other Ukrainian regions — has been the scene of intense fighting in recent days.
“We had some successes on the Ukrainian side, but nothing huge. The enemy is not giving up,” Kulak said with a smile.
For the past few days, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, has been posting encouraging — if slightly contradictory — messages on social media.
On Thursday, he wrote that Ukraine’s troops advanced 2.5 kilometers in the direction of Kreminna in a week.
A day earlier, he said Russians had sent reinforcements to the area, while adding that the city could be retaken early next year.
According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces “appear to be preparing for a decisive effort” in the Luhansk region.
‘Get it over with’
Yampil looks like a hive of wartime activity.
Military vehicles crisscross the main street of this largely destroyed village. There are nearly as many soldiers as there are civilians.
In a field behind several half-abandoned houses, soldiers are busy keeping two tanks — nicknamed Natalya and Salvador — in fighting shape. The tanks were captured during the Russian army’s retreat.
“If we liberate Kreminna, we will cut off the Russians’ supply route in Rubizhne, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk,” said one of the soldiers, Vlad, referring to other occupied towns in the region.
“We don’t want the situation to be put on ice. We want to push them back, get it over with,” said Vlad, who hails from Kyiv.
‘Nowhere better than home’
Although Yampil was liberated by Ukrainian forces during a sweeping counteroffensive in the fall, it is still within reach of Russian artillery.
A few kilometers up north, battles are raging in the village of Torske, and the shelling has intensified in recent days.
“It’s more or less fine. It would be better if it weren’t for these deafening noises,” said Olga, a 69-year-old retired teacher, declining to give her last name.
Every day, she meets with other residents of Yampil outside the only operating store.
The convenience store is both a collection point for humanitarian aid and a place to gather for a chat.
Despite the cold, they sit around a table in front of the store, talking and arguing as military vehicles drive by.
“We come here to talk; it’s our living room,” Olga said, smiling while a woman sitting next to her lamented the power cuts and lack of aid in the village.
“They don’t care about us!” she said.
Humanitarian aid dominates conversations here.
Not far away, an 84-year-old woman wearing a blue head scarf bursts into tears as she points to the people gathered round the table.
“When help arrives, they take everything, they don’t share anything. Why?” she asked tearfully, standing in front of her heavily damaged home.
But local official Yulia Rybalko insists that “nobody is starving” in Yampil.
She said she organizes the distribution of food, clothing and firewood delivered by NGOs.
Only some 600 civilians remain in the village that used to have a population of 2,500 people before Russia invaded on February 24.
But according to Olga, the former math teacher, many of those who leave choose to eventually return.
“Nowhere is better than home,” she said.
Раніше Путін заявив, що чекає на Сі Цзіньпіна з візитом до Москви навесні
Про масштаб пошкодження поки невідомо, ремонтні роботи тривають
31 березня Путін підписав указ про торгівлю газом із «недружніми» державами лише за рублі
The condition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI remains stable, the Vatican said Friday, as Catholics prayed for the 95-year-old former pontiff whose health has seriously deteriorated.
The German, who in 2013 was the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign as head of the worldwide Catholic Church, has become increasingly frail over the years.
Pope Francis said Wednesday his predecessor, whose birth name is Joseph Ratzinger, was “very ill.”
On Friday, the Vatican said his condition was “stable,” adding that Benedict had rested well overnight and taken part in a mass held in his bedroom.
Benedict moved out of the papal palace and into a former convent within the Vatican when he retired.
Francis called Wednesday for people to pray for him, before visiting him at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery.
The Vatican later confirmed the former pope’s health had worsened “due to advancing age,” while a Vatican source told Agence France-Presse it had begun deteriorating “about three days ago.”
“It is his vital functions that are failing, including his heart,” the source said, adding that no hospital admission was planned, as he has the “necessary medical equipment” at home.
The Rome diocese celebrated a special mass for Benedict at the Basilica of St. John Lateran Friday. In his homily, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis said as “priest, theologian, bishop, pope,” Benedict “expressed at the same time, the strength and the sweetness of faith.”
In Germany, in the church of St. Oswald in Marktl am Inn, where the former pope was baptized, a photo of Benedict was set up on a tripod next to a baptistery.
Photos from his 2006 trip to the town line the walls. A red candle burns on the floor of the white building, which is topped by a black bell tower.
One visitor, Tobias Ferstl, 43, prayed with his eyes closed for several minutes in front of the photograph of Benedict.
“I was passing through, so I decided to stop by the birthplace of the Pope Emeritus,” the devout Catholic, an altar server at Regensburg Cathedral, told AFP.
“I don’t feel any great sadness or astonishment, but rather gratitude,” he said, despite a few tears filling his eyes. Benedict was “a gentle person,” he said.
At Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, tourists and pilgrims taking selfies in front of the Christmas tree and Nativity scene contrasted with the few journalists on standby in case of a death announcement.
“He was a great pope,” Italian Carmelo Dellisanti told AFP. “Perhaps misunderstood by some in the Catholic world, but he served the Church. He produced extraordinary homilies and writings.”
A difficult time
Benedict was 78 when he succeeded the long-reigning and popular John Paul II in April 2005.
His eight-year pontificate was marked by multiple crises, including the global clerical sex abuse scandal, which has dogged him in retirement as well.
A damning report for the German church in January 2022 accused him of personally having failed to stop four predatory priests in the 1980s, when he was archbishop of Munich.
Benedict has denied wrongdoing, but in a letter released after the report, asked “for forgiveness.”
“I think he had a difficult time as pope, because of the pedophilia scandal, and he never really wanted to be pope, so it would be nice if he went to heaven,” said 30-year-old German Annika Hafner.
Benedict has appeared increasingly frail in recent months, using a wheelchair, but was still receiving visitors. He appears frail in photos taken December 1.
The last public video of him, released by the Vatican in August, shows a thin man with a hearing aid who can no longer speak, but whose eyes are still bright.
Бенедикт провів спокійну ніч, а вдень 29 грудня взяв участь у месі, яку відслужили в його кімнаті, сказав прессекретар Ватикану Маттео Бруні, повідомляє агентство Reuters