Monthly: September 2023

У Москві активістам відмовили у вшануванні жертв політичних репресій

Акцію «Повернення імен» «Меморіал» проводить щороку з 2007 року 29 жовтня – напередодні Дня памʼяті жертв політичних репресій

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Угорщина не розблоковує допомогу ЄС Україні після нового рішення щодо OTP Bank

Навесні 2023 року НАЗК включило до переліку міжнародних спонсорів війни угорський OTP Bank. Тепер агентство оголосило про тимчасове виключення банку з цього списку

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США повідомили про захоплення під час рейду координатора угруповання «Ісламська держава» в Сирії

У заявах американського командування йдеться, що під час операцій ніхто з цивільних осіб не постраждав

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У МЗС кажуть, що до Альянсу оборонних індустрій вже долучилося 38 компаній

У відомстві зазначили, що участь у форумі взяли виробники танків, артилерії, дронів, боєприпасів, розробники інноваційного програмного забезпечення

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Азербайджан арештував «ексміністра закордонних справ» Карабаху

Про намір здатися азербайджанській владі Давид Бабаян заявив 28 вересня

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As Alpine Glaciers Disappear, New Landscapes Take Their Place

In pockets of Europe’s Alpine mountains, glaciers are abundant enough that ski resorts operate above the snow and ice.

Ski lifts, resorts, cabins and huts dot the landscape — and have done so for decades. But glaciers are also one of the most obvious and early victims of human-caused climate change, and as they shrink year by year, the future of the mountain ecosystems and the people who enjoy them will look starkly different.

Glaciers — centuries of compacted snow and ice — are disappearing at an alarming rate. Swiss glaciers have lost 10% of their volume since 2021, and some glaciers are predicted to disappear entirely in the next few years.

At the Freigerferner glacier in Austria, melting means the glacier has split into two and hollowed out as warm air streamed through the glacier base, exacerbating the thaw.

Gaisskarferner, another glacier that forms part of a ski resort, is only connected to the rest of the snow and ice by sections of glacier that were saved over the summer with protective sheets to shield them from the sun.

But the losses go beyond a shorter ski season and glacier mass.

Andrea Fischer, a glaciologist with the Austrian Academy of Sciences, said the rate of glacier loss can tell the world more about the state of the climate globally and how urgent curbing human-caused warming is.

“The loss of glaciers is not the most dangerous thing about climate change,” said Fischer. “The most dangerous thing about climate change is the effect on ecosystems, on natural hazards, and those processes are much harder to see. The glaciers just teach us how to see climate change.”

From a vantage point above the mountains in a light aircraft, the changing landscape is obvious. The glaciers are noticeably smaller and fewer, and bare rock lies in their place.

Much of the thawing is already locked in, so that even immediate and drastic cuts to planet-warming emissions can’t save the glaciers from disappearing or shrinking in the short term.

While the extent of glacier melt can create awareness and concern for the climate, “being only concerned does not change anything,” Fischer said.

She urged instead that concern should be channeled into “a positive attitude toward designing a new future,” where warming can successfully be curbed to stop the most detrimental effects of climate change.

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Медведєв погрожує анексією нових територій, Путін каже українцям в окупації, що «ми – один народ»

28 вересня президент Росії Володимир Путін підписав закон, згідно з яким 30 вересня оголошене «днем воззʼєднання» окупованих територій із Росією

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VOA Immigration Weekly Recap, Sept. 24-30

Editor’s note: Here is a look at immigration-related news around the U.S. this week. Questions? Tips? Comments? Email the VOA immigration team:

What Happens to Immigration if US Government Shuts Down?

With congressional leaders gridlocked over the nation’s budget and the deadline to pass spending bills fast approaching, the federal government could shut down on October 1. And that could affect some immigration services and visa programs. If the federal government closes, only essential personnel will be working. All other federal workers will not be allowed to work. So how will that affect immigration in the U.S.? VOA’s Immigration reporter Aline Barros.

Why Immigrants Are More Optimistic Than US-Born Americans

Despite any hardships they might face, immigrants in America are more optimistic than U.S.-born Americans, according to a new survey of 3,358 immigrant adults. “They said, ‘You know, I face challenges here in the U.S., but it’s far better than where I came from. And I have this belief that things will be better for my children,’” says Shannon Schumacher, a senior survey analyst at KFF, a nonprofit organization focused on health policy formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Whether that’s their education, their safety, their economic opportunities — on a number of measures, they think that they’re better off and their children are better off.” Produced by Dora Mekouar.

After Lull, Asylum-Seekers Adapt to US Immigration Changes

A group of migrants from China surrendered to a Border Patrol agent in remote Southern California as gusts of wind drowned the hum of high-voltage power lines. They joined others from Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere in a desert campsite with shelters made from tree branches. The Associated Press reports.

Second Texas City at ‘Breaking Point’ as Migrants Flood Border, Mayor Says

The surge of migrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico has pushed the city of El Paso, Texas, to “a breaking point,” with more than 2,000 people per day seeking asylum, exceeding shelter capacity and straining resources, its mayor said Saturday. “The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to … a breaking point right now,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said. Reuters reports.

Eagle Pass, Texas, Sees Continuing Influx of Migrants

The Eagle Pass area in Texas continues to experience an influx of migrants — the majority from Venezuela, the largest displacement in the Western Hemisphere and the second-largest globally, trailing only behind the Syrian refugee crisis, per the U.N. refugee agency. U.S. border authorities said they are managing the situation, but the noticeable rise in migrant arrivals in Eagle Pass has strained local resources and overwhelmed already crowded facilities. VOA’s Immigration reporter Aline Barros.

VOA Day in Photos: Asylum-Seekers Journey through Mexico to Eagle Pass, Texas

Asylum-seekers waiting on the banks of the Rio Bravo River after crossing during their journey through Mexico to Eagle Pass, Texas, in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Sept. 26, 2023.

Immigration around the world

Illegal Migration to Greece Surges, Sparking Measures to Shield Borders

Thousands of migrants have made their way illegally into Greece from Turkey, using rickety rafts to cross the Aegean Sea, the narrow waterway between the two countries. United Nations data in September shows sea arrivals have already more than doubled the roughly 12,000 migrants who were caught trying to illegally enter Greece last year. Illegal entries along the land border and the massive Evros River, which snakes along the rugged frontiers of the two countries in the northeast, also count record increases of more than 65% in the last two months alone, police said. Produced by Anthee Carassava.

Australian Lawmakers Urge Outside Help for Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Refugees

Seven Australian lawmakers have toured a refugee camp in Armenia, as thousands of ethnic Armenians flee their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. Forces from Azerbaijan took control of the contested region last week. The delegation of Australian lawmakers visited Armenia this week and toured a camp for those fleeing the unrest. Produced by Phil Mercer.

Pakistani Vocational School Helps Afghan Women Refugees Build Businesses

In a small workshop in the bustling northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, a dozen Afghan women sit watching a teacher show them how to make clothes on a sewing machine. Reuters reports.

Charity Urges Court to Force Australia to Repatriate Detainees in Syrian Refugee Camp

Australia’s decision not to repatriate more than 30 women and children from a detention camp in northeast Syria is facing a legal challenge. The women are the wives and widows of Islamic State fighters and have been held in custody for the past four years. Produced by Phil Mercer.

Medics: Hundreds Dead From Dengue Fever in War-Torn Sudan

Outbreaks of dengue fever and acute watery diarrhea have “killed hundreds” in war-torn Sudan, medics reported Monday, warning of “catastrophic spreads” that could overwhelm the country’s decimated health system. In a statement, the Sudanese doctors’ union warned that the health situation in the southeastern state of Gedaref, on the border with Ethiopia, “is deteriorating at a horrific rate,” with thousands infected with dengue fever. Produced by Agence France-Presse.

Violence, Human Rights Violations Risk Future Stability of Syria

United Nations investigators say that human rights violations and abuse in Syria are sowing the seeds for further violence and radicalization, despite diplomatic efforts to stabilize the situation in the country, including through its readmission to the League of Arab States. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Senior US Officials Travel to Armenia as Karabakh’s Armenians Start to Leave

Senior Biden administration officials arrived Monday in Armenia, a day after ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh began fleeing following Azerbaijan’s defeat of the breakaway region’s fighters in a conflict dating from the Soviet era. Reuters reports.

Spain Turns to Tractors to Tackle Migrant Unemployment, Farm Labor Shortage

Spain’s agricultural sector is threatened by an aging population and a shortage of farm labor. Now a program in Catalonia is training migrants, largely from Africa, to operate tractors to help them gain meaningful employment. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report from Alfonso Beato in Barcelona. Videographer and Video Editor: Alfonso Beato.

News brief

— A government shutdown would affect the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ability to respond to cyberattacks; protect and save lives on land, at sea, and in the air; secure the nation’s borders and critical infrastructure; deploy across the country to help Americans recover from disasters, among others.

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«Зв’язки набагато міцніші»: словацький міністр оборони про те, чи вплинуть вибори у Словаччині на військову допомогу Україні

Зв’язки між Україною та Словаччиною набагато міцніші, ніж просто політичні. Таку думку висловив міністр оборони Словаччини Мартін Скленар під час Міжнародного форуму оборонних індустрій у Києві.

Про це він сказав, відповідаючи на запитання журналістки Радіо Свобода, як парламентські вибори у Словаччині можуть вплинути на військову допомогу Україні.

У суботу, 30 вересня, у Словаччині проходять парламентські вибори і до влади може повернутися Роберт Фіцо, словацький експрем’єр із проросійськими поглядами. Його партія має високий рівень підтримки.

Як раніше повідомляло Радіо Свобода, під час передвиборчої кампанії Фіцо виключив збільшення поставок словацьких озброєнь Україні, відкинув нові санкції ЄС проти Росії, поставив під сумнів можливість вступу України до НАТО і повторив кремлівські наративи про війну, наприклад, про те, що НАТО спровокувало конфлікт і що він почався, коли, як він нещодавно висловився: «українські нацисти і фашисти почали вбивати російських громадян на Донбасі та в Луганську».

Мартін Скленар висловив сподівання, що словаки таки оберуть євроатлантичну орієнтацію Словаччини.

«Подивимося, як усе складеться, звичайно. Але я впевнений, що словацький народ віддасть свої голоси на користь євроатлантичної орієнтації Словаччини, як це було в минулі роки, власне, в останні 20, а то й 30 років. Це була наша орієнтація відколи Словаччина стала незалежною. Ми мали мету бути в Європейському союзі й НАТО та використовувати ті переваги та можливості, які це нам дає. Я впевнений, що люди це розуміють, і за це проголосують», – зазначив словацький міністр оборони.

Щодо підтримки України він заявив – буде продовжуватися. Оскільки з Україною Словаччину пов’язує, зокрема, промислова співпраця.

«У будь-якому випадку та підтримка, яку ми вже надали Україні, тут є конкретна допомога, але є також промислова співпраця, яка буде продовжуватися, тому що зв’язки набагато міцніші, ніж просто політичні», – висловив переконання Мартін Скленар.

Зокрема, у липні на спільній пресконференції з президенткою Словаччини Зюзаною Чапутовою, президент України Володимир Зеленський повідомив, що Україна і Словаччина підписали контракт на постачання 16 САУ Zuzana 2.

Дві самохідні гаубиці Zuzana 2 Словаччина передала Україні у серпні, повідомляло українське посольство у цій країні.

«Ми вже передали перші дві з 16 одиниць Susanna 2, які мають бути доставлені в Україну. Над рештою компанія працює, і в міру виходу з виробництва вони будуть передаватися траншами за контрактом», – пояснив словацький міністр оборони.


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В Україні створять оборонний спецфонд, його наповнять грошима з російських активів – Зеленський

«Ресурси фонду – це плюс до державних видатків на сферу оборони, оборонне виробництво та приватні інвестиції»

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Від атак армії РФ постраждало майже 40 оборонних підприємств України –Шмигаль

Як розповів Шмигаль, Україна також співпрацює з країнами-партнерами щодо відновлення західної військової техніки

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Food Prices Rising Due to Climate Change, El Nino, and Russia’s War

How do you cook a meal when a staple ingredient is unaffordable? 

This question is playing out in households around the world as they face shortages of essential foods like rice, cooking oil and onions. That is because countries have imposed restrictions on the food they export to protect their own supplies from the combined effect of the war in Ukraine, El Nino’s threat to food production and increasing damage from climate change. 

For Caroline Kyalo, a 28-year-old who works in a salon in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, it was a question of trying to figure out how to cook for her two children without onions. Restrictions on the export of the vegetable by neighboring Tanzania has led prices to triple. 

Kyalo initially tried to use spring onions instead, but those also got too expensive. As did the prices of other necessities, like cooking oil and corn flour. 

“I just decided to be cooking once a day,” she said. 

Despite the East African country’s fertile lands and large workforce, the high cost of growing and transporting produce and the worst drought in decades led to a drop in local production. Plus, people preferred red onions from Tanzania because they were cheaper and lasted longer. By 2014, Kenya was getting half of its onions from its neighbor, according to a U.N. Food Agriculture Organization report. 

At Nairobi’s major food market, Wakulima, the prices for onions from Tanzania were the highest in seven years, seller Timothy Kinyua said. 

Some traders have adjusted by getting produce from Ethiopia, and others have switched to selling other vegetables, but Kinyua is sticking to onions. 

“It’s something we can’t cook without,” he said. 

Tanzania’s onion limits this year are part of the “contagion” of food restrictions from countries spooked by supply shortages and increased demand for their produce, said Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. 

Globally, 41 food export restrictions from 19 countries are in effect, ranging from outright bans to taxes, according to the institute. 

India banned shipments of some rice earlier this year, resulting in a shortfall of roughly a fifth of global exports. Neighboring Myanmar, the world’s fifth-biggest rice supplier, responded by stopping some exports of the grain. 

India also restricted shipments of onions after erratic rainfall — fueled by climate change — damaged crops. This sent prices in neighboring Bangladesh soaring, and authorities are scrambling to find new sources for the vegetable. 

Elsewhere, a drought in Spain took its toll on olive oil production. As European buyers turned to Turkey, olive oil prices soared in the Mediterranean country, prompting authorities there to restrict exports. Morocco, also coping with a drought ahead of its recent deadly earthquake, stopped exporting onions, potatoes and tomatoes in February. 

This isn’t the first time food prices have been in a tumult. Prices for staples like rice and wheat more than doubled in 2007-2008, but the world had ample food stocks it could draw on and was able to replenish those in subsequent years. 

But that cushion has shrunk in the past two years, and climate change means food supplies could very quickly run short of demand and spike prices, said Glauber, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“I think increased volatility is certainly the new normal,” he said. 

Food prices worldwide, experts say, will be determined by the interplay of three factors: how El Nino plays out and how long it lasts, whether bad weather damages crops and prompts more export restrictions, and the future of Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

The warring nations are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food, especially to developing nations where food prices have risen and people are going hungry. 

An El Nino is a natural phenomenon that shifts global weather patterns and can result in extreme weather, ranging from drought to flooding. While scientists believe climate change is making this El Nino stronger, its exact impact on food production is impossible to glean until after it’s occurred. 

The early signs are worrying. 

India experienced its driest August in a century, and Thailand is facing a drought that has sparked fears about the world’s sugar supplies. The two are the largest exporters of sugar after Brazil. 

Less rainfall in India also dashed food exporters’ hopes that the new rice harvest in October would end the trade restrictions and stabilize prices. 

“It doesn’t look like [rice] prices will be coming down anytime soon,” said Aman Julka, director of Wesderby India Private Limited. 

Most at risk are nations that rely heavily on food imports. The Philippines, for instance, imports 14% of its food, according to the World Bank, and storm damage to crops could mean further shortfalls. Rice prices surged 8.7% in August from a year earlier, more than doubling from 4.2% in July. 

Food store owners in the capital of Manila are losing money, with prices increasing rapidly since September 1 and customers who used to snap up supplies in bulk buying smaller quantities. 

“We cannot save money anymore. It is like we just work so that we can have food daily,” said Charina Em, 32, who owns a store in the Trabajo market. 

Cynthia Esguerra, 66, has had to choose between food or medicine for her high cholesterol, gallstones and urinary issues. Even then, she can only buy half a kilo of rice at a time — insufficient for her and her husband. 

“I just don’t worry about my sickness. I leave it up to God. I don’t buy medicines anymore, I just put it there to buy food, our loans,” she said. 

The climate risks aren’t limited to rice but apply to anything that needs stable rainfall to thrive, including livestock, said Elyssa Kaur Ludher, a food security researcher at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. Vegetables, fruit trees and chickens will all face heat stress, raising the risk that food will spoil, she said. 

This constricts food supplies further, and if grain exports from Ukraine aren’t resolved, there will be additional shortages in feed for livestock and fertilizer, Ludher said. 

Russia’s July withdrawal from a wartime agreement that ensured ships could safely transport Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea was a blow to global food security, largely leaving only expensive and divisive routes through Europe for the war-torn country’s exports. 

The conflict also has hurt Ukraine’s agricultural production, with analysts saying farmers aren’t planting nearly as much corn and wheat. 

“This will affect those who already feel food affordability stresses,” Ludher said. 

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Shelters for Migrants Fill Up Across Germany as Attitudes Toward Newcomers Harden

Dozens of people from around the world lined up on a sunny morning this week in front of a former mental health hospital in Berlin to apply for asylum in Germany.

There were two older women from Moldova. A young man from Somalia sat next to them on a bench. A group of five young Pakistanis chatted loudly, standing behind two pregnant women from Vietnam.

The newcomers are among more than 10,000 migrants who have applied for asylum in the German capital this year, and are coming at a time when Berlin is running out of space to accommodate them.

“The situation is not very good at the moment,” Sascha Langenbach, the spokesperson for the state office for refugee affairs in Berlin, said in an interview this week. “This is much more than we expected last year.”

The former mental health hospital in Berlin’s Reinickendorf neighborhood was turned into the city’s registration center for asylum-seekers in 2019 and can house up to 1,000 migrants.

But it’s full.

Officials have put an additional 80 beds in a church on the premises. Beyond that, there are another 100 asylum shelters in Berlin, but those are at capacity too.

Berlin’s state government says it will open a hangar at the former Tempelhof airport to make space for migrants, put up a big tent at the asylum seekers’ registration center, and open a former hardware store and hotels and hostels in the city to provide another 5,500 beds for more migrants the city is expecting will come through the end of the year.

There are also not enough places in kindergartens and schools. In addition to the asylum seekers, Berlin has also taken in another 11,000 Ukrainian refugees this year who fled Russia’s war.

The lack of space and money for migrants and Ukrainian refugees isn’t unique to Berlin. It’s a problem across Germany, where local and state officials have been demanding more funds from the federal government without success.

More than 220,000 people applied for asylum in Germany between January and August — most of them from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Moldova and Georgia. In all of 2022, 240,000 people applied for asylum in Germany.

That’s a far cry from the more than 1 million people who arrived in Germany in 2015-16. But Germany has also taken in more than 1 million Ukrainians since the outbreak of the war in 2022. Unlike others who arrive, Ukrainians immediately receive residency status in Germany and the 26 other European Union countries.

While Germans welcomed asylum seekers with flowers, chocolates and toys when they first arrived in 2015, and many opened their homes to house Ukrainians in 2022, the mood toward new arrivals has profoundly changed since then.

“After two years of the (coronavirus) crisis, then the Ukraine war with its increasing prices for basically everything — heating, gas, also food — it’s sometimes pretty tough to convince people that they have to share places and capacities with people who just arrived,” Langenbach said.

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has been successfully exploiting Germans’ hardening attitudes toward migrants. Polling now puts it in second place nationally with around 21%, far above the 10.3% it won during the last federal election in 2021.

AfD’s rise in the polls and the party leaders’ relentless anti-migrant rhetoric, including calls to close Germany’s borders to prevent migrants from entering, have put pressure on the national and state governments and other mainstream parties to toughen their approach toward migrants.

On Wednesday, Germany’s interior minister announced the country would increase border controls along “smuggling routes” with Poland and the Czech Republic to prevent irregular migrants from entering.

In June, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended plans to stop migrants from entering the EU altogether until their chances of getting asylum have been reviewed, arguing that the bloc’s existing arrangements on sharing the burden of asylum seekers among the different European countries is “completely dysfunctional.”

Germany has been taking in more migrants than most other European countries, but other countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, which shelter millions of migrants from Syria, have taken in more refugees as a percentage of their population.

Despite the changing sentiment toward migrants in Germany, those who make it and apply for asylum are generally grateful to be here.

Abdullah al-Shweiti, from Homs, Syria, recently arrived in Berlin and was waiting for the results of his medical checkup at the asylum welcome center. He said he was relieved to be “in a safe place.”

The 29-year-old said he had run away from home because his family’s house had been bombed in the war and he didn’t want to fight in the army. He said he’d paid 3,000 euros ($3,180) to smugglers who helped him get from Lebanon to Europe. He took the Balkans route, trekking with other young Syrians north via Bulgaria through forests. They traveled on foot, by taxi and by bus until smugglers dropped them off in the German capital.

Mirbeycan Gurhan, a Kurdish man from Bingol in eastern Turkey, said he’d fled suppression by Turkish authorities. He paid 6,000 euros ($6,360) for smugglers to arrange a flight from Ankara to Belgrade, Serbia, and then a car to Germany.

“I hope I will have a better future here. I hope I can find work,” the 24-year-old said with a shy smile as his uncle, who applied for asylum in Berlin four years ago, stood next to him and translated.

Michael Elias, head of the Tamaja company that runs the asylum registration center in Berlin, said the arrival of migrants from all over the world is simply a reflection of the many crises around the globe, such as climate change and wars, and that Germany needs to be prepared for even more people to arrive.

“Yes, a lot of people are coming here, but look at what’s going on in the world,” Elias said. “We must simply anticipate that we’re not an island of the fortunate here, that things will reach us too.”

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US Warns of Large Serbian Military Buildup Near Kosovo

The United States called on Belgrade to pull its forces back from the border with Kosovo on Friday after detecting what it called an unprecedented Serbian military buildup.

Serbia deployed sophisticated tanks and artillery on the frontier after deadly clashes erupted at a monastery in northern Kosovo last week, the White House said.

The violence in which a Kosovo policeman and three Serb gunmen were killed marked one of the gravest escalations for years in Kosovo, a former Serbian breakaway province.

“We are monitoring a large Serbian military deployment along the border with Kosovo,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “That includes an unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, mechanized infantry units.”

“We believe that this is a very destabilizing development,” he said. “We are calling on Serbia to withdraw those forces from the border.”

The buildup happened within the past week, but its purpose was not yet clear, Kirby said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had telephoned Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to urge an “immediate de-escalation and a return to dialogue.”

And White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to Kosovo’s prime minister.

Serbia’s Vucic did not directly deny there had been a recent buildup but rejected claims that his country’s forces were on alert.

“I have denied untruths where they talk about the highest level of combat readiness of our forces, because I simply did not sign that and it is not accurate,” Vucic told reporters. “We don’t even have half the troops we had two or three months ago.”


Serbia said on Wednesday that the defense minister and head of the armed forces had gone to visit a “deployment zone” but gave no further details.

The clashes on Sunday began when heavily armed Serb gunmen ambushed a patrol a few kilometers from the Serbian border, killing a Kosovo police officer.

Several dozen assailants then barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery, sparking an hourlong firefight in which three gunmen were killed and three were arrested.

Kosovo’s government has accused Belgrade of backing the entire operation. A member of a major Kosovo Serb political party admitted to leading the gunmen, his lawyer said Friday.

Kirby said the attack had a “very high level of sophistication,” involving around 20 vehicles, “military-grade” weapons, equipment and training.

“It’s worrisome,” he said. “It doesn’t look like just a bunch of guys who got together to do this.”

Peacekeeping force expected to grow

NATO would be “increasing its presence” of its peacekeeping force known as KFOR following the attack, Kirby added.

In Brussels, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the U.S.-led alliance was ready to boost the force to deal with the situation.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in a bloody war in 1998-99 and declared independence in 2008 — a status Belgrade and Moscow have refused to recognize.

It has long seen strained relations between its ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, which have escalated in recent months in northern Kosovo.

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US Senators Call on Russia to Free American Captives

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced Friday a bipartisan resolution calling for the immediate release by Russia of two American detainees, Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 27 senators, focuses on the continuing detention of Gershkovich, 32, a Wall Street Journal reporter, who was arrested on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on espionage charges that carry up to 20 years in prison.

A Moscow court declined Gershkovich’s latest appeal Tuesday of his pre-trial detention.

Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have called baseless. He was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to serve 16 years.

“We believe Paul continues to show tremendous courage in the face of his wrongful detention. Ambassador [Lynne] Tracy reiterated to him that President [Joe] Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken are committed to bring him home,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters at a mid-September briefing.

“Evan Gershkovich, a journalist with The Wall Street Journal, has been wrongfully detained in Russia for merely for doing his job: reporting facts and shedding light on President [Vladimir] Putin’s bogus rationale for his illegal war against Ukraine,” said Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s Democratic chairman.

“Freedom of the press is critical to holding governments accountable around the world,” said Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s top Republican.

During a news briefing Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called Russia’s accusations baseless and called for Russia “to immediately release Evan and also to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan. Our efforts to secure their release are ongoing, and we will not stop until they are home.”

“It is clear that Evan is being held for leverage because he is an American,” she said, adding that Biden “has been clear that we have no higher priority than securing the release of Evan, Paul Whelan and all Americans wrongfully detained abroad.”

Russia has said the reporter was caught “red-handed” in Yekaterinburg, where the FSB security service said he was trying to obtain military secrets. It has not provided any details to support that assertion.

The U.S. has accused Russia of using Gershkovich to conduct hostage diplomacy, at a time when relations between the two countries have broken down at their worst point in more than 60 years because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

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У США заарештували підозрюваного у вбивстві 1996 року репера Тупака Шакура

Тупак Шакур – один із найвпливовіших реп-виконавців в історії, чия творчість вплинула на розвиток і популяризацію гіп-гопу

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Сенатори США вимагають від Росії звільнити журналіста Гершковича

Сполучені Штати визнали Евана Гершковича «несправедливо затриманим» і вважають звинувачення проти нього політично вмотивованими та сфальсифікованими

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US Supreme Court Will Decide if State Laws Limiting Social Media Platforms Violate Constitution

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether state laws that seek to regulate Facebook, TikTok, X and other social media platforms violate the Constitution.

The justices will review laws enacted by Republican-dominated legislatures and signed by Republican governors in Florida and Texas. While the details vary, both laws aim to prevent social media companies from censoring users based on their viewpoints.

The court’s announcement, three days before the start of its new term, comes as the justices continue to grapple with how laws written at the dawn of the digital age, or earlier, apply to the online world.

The justices had already agreed to decide whether public officials can block critics from commenting on their social media accounts, an issue that previously came up in a case involving then-President Donald Trump. The court dismissed the Trump case when his presidential term ended in January 2021.

Separately, the high court also could consider a lower-court order limiting executive branch officials’ communications with social media companies about controversial online posts.

The new case follows conflicting rulings by two appeals courts, one of which upheld the Texas law, while the other struck down Florida’s statute. By a 5-4 vote, the justices kept the Texas law on hold while litigation over it continues.

But the alignment was unusual. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voted to grant the emergency request from two technology industry groups that challenged the law in federal court.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed the law to remain in effect. In dissent, Alito wrote, “Social media platforms have transformed the way people communicate with each other and obtain news.”

Proponents of the laws, including Republican elected officials in several states that have similar measures, have sought to portray social media companies as generally liberal in outlook and hostile to ideas outside of that viewpoint, especially from the political right.

The tech sector warned that the laws would prevent platforms from removing extremism and hate speech.

Without offering any explanation, the justices had put off consideration of the case even though both sides agreed the high court should step in.

The justices had other social media issues before them last year, including a plea the court did not embrace to soften legal protections tech companies have for posts by their users.

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Humanitarian Operations in Armenia Gather Speed as Exodus Continues

Emergency aid efforts for tens of thousands of refugees who have fled to Armenia from the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan are gathering speed as the exodus from the disputed region shows no signs of letting up.

Since Azerbaijan launched an attack on Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19, the United Nations refugee agency says, more than 88,700 refugees have arrived in Armenia, mainly in the country’s southern Syunik region.

“The numbers are increasing as we speak, and the needs are also really increasing,” said Kavita Belani, UNHCR representative in Armenia, speaking in the capital, Yerevan, Friday.

She said the government has registered more than 63,000 of the 88,700 refugees.

“There are huge crowds at the registration centers,” Belani said. “There is congestion simply because the sheer numbers are so high.”

She said the government, United Nations and international and nongovernmental agencies were setting up tents, providing mattresses, blankets, hot meals and other essential items to the growing community.

One of the most urgent needs, she said, was for psycho-social support as people were arriving exhausted, hungry, frightened and not knowing what to expect.

“When they come, they are full of anxiety. … They want answers as to what is going to happen next,” she said. “They have questions about compensation, about the houses they have left behind, including whether they will be able to return to their houses, at least to pick up their goods, because many arrive with very little luggage.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has activated contingency plans to protect and provide for vulnerable communities affected by the escalating hostilities.

The IFRC launched an emergency appeal Friday for nearly $22 million to provide immediate relief and long-term support to tens of thousands of people who have recently crossed into Armenia via the Lachin corridor.

“As we confront the growing humanitarian needs, we must also look ahead,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, regional director of IFRC Europe. “They will need further support as they navigate the many questions of settling somewhere new.”

Her colleague, Hicham Diab, IFRC operations manager in Armenia, is on the ground in Yerevan and is witness to the dire situation facing the new arrivals that Diab says “often involves families arriving with children so weak that they have fainted in their parents’ arms.”

“It feels like the people affected reached the finish line of a marathon and crashed on the spot, which I have never seen before,” said Diab.

Diab noted that more than 100 staff and volunteers have been mobilized and positioned at the registration points to help the refugees as they arrive. He said that the conflict has worsened existing vulnerabilities and that the affected regions face severe challenges.

Essential goods and services are scarce, and hospitals are stretched.

“There is a massive need for mental health and psychosocial support. … As the weather is getting colder, shelter is becoming the most critical need for vulnerable families,” he said.

UNICEF reports that children account for about 30% of the arrivals and that many have been separated from their families while making their escape.

“We are working to provide psychosocial support and working with the ministries and local authorities to ensure that family tracing is done immediately and that families can reunite,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF regional director for Europe and Central Asia.

She added that UNICEF was working with Armenia’s Ministry of Education to set up child-friendly spaces in the town of Goris and was providing educational supplies for the arriving children.

Carlos Morazzani, operations manager at the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, said his agency was working to reunite separated families in the region. He said that was especially important now because “when mass movements of people take place, people get separated, leading to real emotional distress.”

However, given the critical developments following the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, he said, the priority for the ICRC was on life-saving activities in the region, “including the transfer of wounded to hospitals into Armenia for treatment and bringing in medical supplies.”

“Over the past week, we have transferred around 130 people for medical care,” said Morazzani. “Another important element of our work right now is working to ensure the dignified management of the dead.”

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Putin Orders Former Wagner Commander to Take Charge of ‘Volunteer Units’ in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered one of the top commanders of the Wagner military contractor to take charge of “volunteer units” fighting in Ukraine, signaling the Kremlin’s effort to keep using the mercenaries after the death of their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In remarks released by the Kremlin on Friday, Putin told Andrei Troshev that his task is to “deal with forming volunteer units that could perform various combat tasks, primarily in the zone of the special military operation” — a term the Kremlin uses for its war in Ukraine.

Wagner fighters have had no significant role on the battlefield since the mercenary company withdrew after capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle and then staged a brief insurrection when they marched toward Moscow.

After the aborted mutiny, speculation has been rife about the future of the mercenary group that was one of the most capable elements of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine. Many observers expected it to be folded into the Defense Ministry, and Putin’s comments appeared to confirm that process was underway.

Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was also present at the meeting late Thursday, a sign that Wagner mercenaries will likely serve under the Defense Ministry’s command. Speaking in a conference call with reporters on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Troshev now works for the Defense Ministry and referred questions about Wagner’s possible return to Ukraine to the military.

The meeting appeared to reflect the Kremlin’s plan to redeploy some Wagner mercenaries to the front line in Ukraine following their brief mutiny in June and the suspicious deaths of Prigozhin and the group’s senior leadership in a plane crash August 23. The private army that once counted tens of thousands of troops is a precious asset the Kremlin wants to exploit.

The June 23-24 rebellion aimed to oust the Russian Defense Ministry’s leadership that Prigozhin blamed for mishandling the war in Ukraine and trying to place Wagner under its control. His mercenaries took over Russia’s southern military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and then rolled toward Moscow before abruptly halting the mutiny.

Putin denounced them as “traitors,” but the Kremlin quickly negotiated a deal ending the uprising in exchange for amnesty from prosecution. The mercenaries were offered a choice to retire from the service, move to Belarus or sign new contracts with the Defense Ministry.

Putin said in July that five days after the mutiny he had a meeting with 35 Wagner commanders, including Prigozhin, and suggested they keep serving under Troshev, who goes by the call sign “Gray Hair,” but Prigozhin refused the offer then.

Troshev is a retired military officer who has played a leading role in Wagner since its creation in 2014 and faced European Union sanctions over his role in Syria as the group’s executive director.

Wagner mercenaries have played a key role in Moscow’s war in Ukraine, spearheading the capture of Bakhmut in May after months of fierce fighting. Kyiv’s troops are now seeking to reclaim it as part of their summer counteroffensive that has slowly recaptured some of its lands but now faces the prospect of wet and cold weather that could further delay progress.

The U.K. Defense Ministry said in its intelligence briefing on Friday that hundreds of former Wagner troops had likely begun to redeploy to Ukraine to fight for either the Russian military or pro-Russia private military companies.

Wagner veterans reportedly were concentrated around Bakhmut, where the British said their experience would be in demand because they are familiar with the front line and Ukrainian tactics after fighting there last winter.

New sanctions

The U.K. has announced new sanctions aimed at officials behind Russia’s illegal annexation of territories in Ukraine and elections held there earlier this month by Moscow to try to legitimize their hold on the occupied regions.

Western countries denounced the elections in the four Ukrainian regions that Moscow annexed in 2022 — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia — and on the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014, as a violation of international law.

The new sanctions come on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia laying claim to the territory and will freeze assets and ban travel for officials in those regions and those behind the vote.

“Russia’s sham elections are a transparent, futile attempt to legitimize its illegal control of sovereign Ukrainian territory,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said. “You can’t hold ‘elections’ in someone else’s country.” 

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