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Biden apologizes to Zelenskyy for monthslong congressional holdup to weapons that let Russia gain

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Biden warns against Trump reelection after Jan. 6 Capitol riot

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday for the first time publicly apologized to Ukraine for a monthslong congressional holdup in American military assistance that let Russia make gains on the battlefield.

The apology came as Biden met in Paris with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who appealed for bipartisan U.S. support going forward “like it was during World War II.”

A day earlier, the two had attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, where Biden had drawn common cause between the allied forces that helped free Europe from Nazi Germany and today’s effort to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion and Zelenskyy had been greeted with a rapt ovation.

“I apologize for those weeks of not knowing what’s going to happen in terms of funding,” Biden said, referring to the six-month holdup by conservative Republicans in Congress to a $61 billion military aid package for Ukraine. Still, the Democratic president insisted that the American people were standing by Ukraine for the long haul. “We’re still in. Completely. Thoroughly,” he said.

The apology — and Zelenskyy’s plea for rock-solid support akin to the allied coalition in WWII — served as a reminder that for all of Biden’s talk of an unflagging U.S commitment to Ukraine, recalcitrance among congressional Republicans and an isolationist strain in American politics have exposed its fragility. And, although unremarked upon, the specter of Donald Trump’s candidacy loomed over the discussion, as the Republican former president and the presumptive nominee has spoken positively of Russian President Vladimir Putin and sparked Ukrainian concerns that he would call for it to cede territory to end the conflict.

Zelenskyy pressed for all Americans to support his country’s defense against Russia’s invasion, and he thanked lawmakers for eventually coming together to approve the weapons package, which has allowed Ukraine to stem Russian advances in recent weeks.

“It’s very important that in this unity, United States of America, all American people stay with Ukraine like it was during World War II,” Zelenskyy said. “How the United States helped to save human lives, to save Europe. And we count on your continuing support in standing with us shoulder to shoulder.”

The United States is by far Kyiv’s biggest supplier of wartime support, and Ukraine is trying to fend off an intense Russian offensive in eastern areas of the country. The push is focused on the Ukrainian border regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, but Ukrainian officials say it could spread as Russia’s bigger army seeks to make its advantage tell.

The offensive is seeking to exploit Kyiv’s shortages of ammunition and troops along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line.

The slow pace of delivery of pledged Western weaponry has long frustrated Zelenskyy, as has Biden’s hesitation over supplying more hardware for fear of provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin. That has caused tension in their relationship.

The U.S. will send about $225 million in military aid to Ukraine, Biden announced Friday. The latest package includes munitions for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, as well as mortar systems and an array of artillery rounds, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Biden cast the additional aid in his meeting with Zelenskyy as money to “reconstruct the electric grid” in Ukraine, a reference aides said was to additional air defense and missile defense systems in the new package.

Easing their stance amid Russia’s most recent onslaught and with Ukraine’s army reeling, some NATO allies including the U.S. said last week they would allow Ukraine to use weapons they deliver to Kyiv to carry out limited attacks inside Russia.

That step brought a furious response from the Kremlin, which warned that Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II could spin out of control.

Biden and Zelenskyy attended the anniversary events of D-Day in Normandy, northern France, on Thursday, along with European leaders who have supported Kyiv’s efforts in the war. Biden pledged “we will not walk away” from Ukraine, drawing a direct line from the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination to today’s war against Russian aggression.

Ukraine depicts its fight against the Kremlin’s forces as a clash between Western democratic freedom and Russian tyranny. Russia says it is defending itself against a menacing eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.

In a 20-minute speech Friday at the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, Zelenskyy drew a parallel with the sacrifices made during World War II and his country’s current fight.

“This battle is a crossroads,” Zelenskyy said. “A moment where we can now write history the way we need it. Or we can become victims of history as it suits … our enemy.”

Zelenskyy, who spoke in Ukrainian, was frequently interrupted by lawmakers’ applause and cheers. He prompted a standing ovation when he said in French: “Dear France, I thank you for standing by our side as we defend life.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, announced late Thursday that France will provide Ukraine with its Mirage combat aircraft.

Macron has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine. He said in February that putting Western troops on the ground in Ukraine is not “ruled out.”

Zelenskyy began a day of meetings in Paris with an official welcome ceremony at the golden-domed Invalides monument, site of Napoleon’s tomb.

During the day, Zelenskyy was due to visit the Nexter arms manufacturer in Versailles, which makes the Caesar self-propelled howitzers that are among the weapons provided by France to Kyiv’s forces.

He was also to meet with Macron at the Élysée Palace.

Zelenskyy’s foreign trips aim to keep Ukraine’s plight in the public eye, secure more military help for its fight against Russia’s invasion and lock in long-term Western support through bilateral alliances.

France and Ukraine in February signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement. Zelenskyy has since signed similar bilateral agreements with many European countries.

Source: AOL

 

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

The number of foreign workers and students moving to the United Kingdom has plummeted by nearly 30 per cent this year, according to new figures released by the Home Office.

The drop, from 121,000 to 85,200 in the first five months of this year, aligns with both the Conservative and Labour parties’ promises to reduce net migration.

This marks the largest decline since the pandemic, with skilled workers, students, and health and care visa holders comprising the bulk of migration to the UK.

These three groups, along with their dependents, accounted for a total of 1.13 million visas issued last year.

The Telegraph reports that the decline is largely attributed to measures implemented by the government, including restrictions on foreign workers and students bringing dependants, increased salary thresholds for skilled workers, and curbs on the shortage of occupation visa schemes.

According to the data, net migration stands at 685,000 for the year ending December 2023, down from a record high of 764,000 in the previous year.

The Conservative government aims to reduce immigration by 300,000, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowing to “halve” migration and reduce it further each year if re-elected.

Labour’s manifesto also pledges to reduce net migration, although the party has not specified a target or timeline. The party proposes to link training to immigration, requiring sectors applying for foreign worker visas to first train British citizens.

Home Secretary James Cleverly attributed the decline to his actions, stating, “I took action to drive down legal migration.

“Data released this week show visa applications have dropped 30 per cent amongst key routes. Labour opposed these actions at every opportunity. If you want to reduce migration, vote Conservative on 4th July,” he said in a tweet on his X handle.

The Migration Advisory Committee chairman, Prof Brian Bell, believes the Prime Minister has a “fighting chance” of reducing net migration to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.

The figures indicate a significant drop in visa applications across various categories, including a 25.4 per cent overall decrease in visas for foreign workers, students, and their dependants.

The number of dependents brought in by students fell by nearly 80 per cent, while health and care worker visa applications decreased by 75.6 per cent.

This development comes ahead of the July 4 election, with immigration policy playing a crucial role in the campaigns of both major parties.

Source: The Punch

 

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Biden pledges not to pardon son or reduce his sentence

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US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction on charges of lying about his drug addiction while buying a handgun.

“No,” Biden replied when reporters at a G7 summit press conference in Italy asked if he would commute any sentence that 54-year-old Hunter faces.

“I’m extremely proud of my son Hunter. He has overcome an addiction, he’s one of the brightest, most decent men I know,” Biden said.

“I said I’d abide by the jury decision. I will do that. I will not pardon him,” he said.

In the historic first criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child, a jury on Tuesday found Hunter Biden guilty on three felony counts stemming from his 2018 purchase of a handgun while addicted to crack cocaine.

He could face up to 25 years in prison, though as a first-time offender jail time is unlikely. A date was not set for sentencing but it is expected to take place in the next few months.

Biden said in a statement after the verdict that he loved his sole surviving son — his eldest son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 — and would respect the jury’s conclusion.

But his comments in Italy on Thursday were his first public statement on the verdict.

The day before his Italy trip, Biden, 81, changed his schedule to fly to Wilmington, Delaware, the family hometown where the trial was held.

Hunter Biden was waiting on the tarmac when Marine One landed and was given a warm hug by his father before they left in a motorcade.

The verdict came as Biden faces a tough re-election battle against Donald Trump, who himself recently became the first former president to become a convicted felon.

Trump was found guilty by a New York jury of breaching election law by lying about hush money payments to a porn star.

 

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

The United States said yesterday it was imposing sanctions on more than 300 individuals and entities connected to Russia’s war on Ukraine, including financial institutions, the Moscow Stock Exchange, and Chinese companies.

The announcement came a day before U.S. President Joe Biden joins other Group of Seven (G7) leaders for a summit in the Italian city of Bari, in which the war in Ukraine is set to feature prominently.

The sweeping set of sanctions is chiefly focused on trade, finance, and industry.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions hit “across multiple sectors essential to Russia’s war effort,” including energy, metals, and mining production.

China was singled out for its support of Moscow.

“The United States remains concerned by the scale and breadth of exports from the People’s Republic of China that supply Russia’s military-industrial base,” Blinken’s statement said.

To that end, the U.S. is sanctioning Chinese companies that provide dual-use goods that “fill critical gaps in Russia’s defence production cycle,” he said.

It is not just China, however. Individuals and organisations in countries elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean are also subject to new restrictive measures.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Russia “is deeply isolated from the international financial system, leaving the Kremlin’s military desperate for access to the outside world.”

She said the sanctions go after critical supplies Russia needs from other countries.

Several Russian banks also saw their foreign locations put on blacklists to make it harder for financial transactions to be fulfilled.

Other corners of Russia’s financial infrastructure were hit, including the Moscow Stock Exchange and two subsidiaries, and insurance and reinsurance providers.

Source: The Nation

 

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Hezbollah bombs Israel after top commander killed

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Hezbollah bombs Israel after top commander killed

Hezbollah launched nearly 200 rockets at northern occupied Palestinian territories yesterday, igniting fires in retaliation to the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in southeastern Lebanon in a strike the previous evening.

The attacks raise concern that the military confrontation between the Israeli regime and Hezbollah is escalating, with both saying they are prepared for war.

Read Also: Ex-Senate president Lawan charges Military to stamp out insecurity across Nigeria
The Israeli military confirmed yesterday it had killed Taleb Abdullah as well as three other Hezbollah fighters in the strike.

It also said at least 90 rockets were fired from Lebanese territory as sirens sounded in dozens of settlements across the north of the occupied territories.

Source: The Nation

 

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U.S. push for Gaza ceasefire, peace deal in Israel visit

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U.S. push for Gaza ceasefire, peace deal in Israel visit

U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken met the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog on Tuesday to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The negotiation was part of the efforts by the U.S. Qatar and Egypt on Gaza, the meeting was delayed for months.

Antony Blinken’s trip to the Middle East aimed to garner support for the latest proposal for a ceasefire in three phases.

The UN Security Council clarified the multi-stage plan presented by U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday in New York.

According to the U.S. only the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement had not agreed to the plan.

However, the government of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has not given its clear and public approval to the plan either.

Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt on Monday for the first leg of the tour and later held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

According to a statement by the U.S. State Department, Blinken told Netanyahu that “the United States and other world leaders will stand behind the comprehensive proposal outlined by President Biden”.

Blinken in the statement also “updated the prime minister on ongoing diplomatic efforts to plan for the post-conflict period”.

He also met opposition leader Yair Lapid on Tuesday and is due to hold talks with Israeli lawmaker Benny Gantz.

Benny Gantz had just quit the Israeli emergency government formed following the Oct. 7 attacks.

Antony Blinken’s Middle East tour is expected to last until Wednesday and also includes a stop in Qatar.

Source: Vanguard

 

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President Biden’s son convicted, faces 25 years jail over gun case

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A jury found Hunter Biden guilty on Tuesday of federal gun charges in a historic first criminal prosecution of the child of a sitting

A jury found Hunter Biden guilty on Tuesday of federal gun charges in a historic first criminal prosecution of the child of a sitting US president.

The 54-year-old son of President Joe Biden was convicted on all three of the felony counts stemming from his 2018 purchase of a handgun while addicted to drugs.

The verdict comes as his father is seeking reelection and on a day when the Democratic president is scheduled to give a speech in Washington about gun violence.

The president expressed his “love and support” for his son in a statement released by the White House following the conclusion of the trial held in the Biden hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

“I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” Biden said. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today.”

“So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery,” he said.

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” Biden added.

The 12-member jury deliberated for about three hours over two days before reaching a verdict.

Hunter Biden did not take the stand during the one-week trial. First Lady Jill Biden attended several days.

Hunter Biden could face up to 25 years in prison, although as a first-time offender jail time is unlikely.

The verdict comes less than two weeks after the conviction on business fraud charges of Donald Trump, Joe Biden’s likely Republican opponent in the November presidential election.

The proceedings, along with another case in which Hunter Biden faces tax evasion charges in California, have complicated Democrats’ efforts to keep the election focus on Trump, the first former president ever to be convicted of a crime.

Drug addiction
In addition to being a political distraction, Hunter Biden’s legal woes have reopened painful emotional wounds for the family from his time as a drug addict.

His brother Beau died from cancer in 2015, and his sister Naomi died as an infant in a 1972 car crash that also killed their mother, Neilia, Joe Biden’s first wife.

The Yale-trained lawyer and lobbyist-turned-artist was charged with falsely stating when buying a .38 caliber revolver in 2018 that he was not using drugs illegally.

He was also charged with illegal possession of the firearm, which he had for just 11 days in October of that year.

The president’s son, who has written unsparingly about his addiction, claimed that at the time he bought the revolver he did not consider himself to be an addict.

He has long been the target of hard-right Republicans, and Trump allies have investigated him at length in Congress on allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. No charges have ever been brought.

Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine have also formed the basis for attempts by Republican lawmakers to initiate impeachment proceedings against his father. Those efforts too have gone nowhere.

The White House has said there would be no presidential pardon for Hunter Biden.

AFP

 

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