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Russia's President Vladimir Putin says his country will continue its yearlong "special military operation" in Ukraine, and he accused the US-led NATO alliance of fanning the flames.

Russia-Ukraine conflict would have cost world economy $1.6 trillion in 2022, according to a study published by the German Economic Institute.

09:25 2023-06-01
African nations courted by Russia, Ukraine for support
By Otiato Opali in Nairobi
Kenya's National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula (right) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their talks in Nairobi on Monday. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE/AP

Days after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba left Africa last week, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov made a surprise visit to Kenya on Monday for a series of meetings with local leaders.

Lavrov who was on his maiden trip to Kenya, but his fourth to Africa since the war in Ukraine began, met with Kenya's parliamentary leaders led by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula. During the meeting, Lavrov reiterated the importance of Africa-Russia relations and said that his country is looking forward to the Russia-Africa Summit, which will take place at the end of July in St Petersburg.

"During the summit, we will discuss our cooperation in security, trade, investment and economy, as well as cultural and humanitarian issues, education, cooperation within the UN, and many other matters. This is a wonderful opportunity to coordinate our steps and outline plans for the future," Lavrov said.

Later that day Kenyan President William Ruto hosted the Russian foreign minister at Nairobi's state house and said that Kenya and Africa are calling for the Ukraine conflict to be resolved in a manner that respects both parties.

Ruto also said the United Nations Security Council needs to be reformed to make it more representative and responsive to the needs of the 21st century, adding that Africa should be represented at the UN's top-decision making organ.

Lavrov's trip reflects the latest effort by both Russia and Ukraine in their ongoing campaign to win support in Africa, after Ukraine's foreign minister visited Ethiopia, Morocco and Rwanda last week.

After his trip to Kenya, Lavrov is expected to attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China in South Africa.

Early this month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said a delegation of African leaders will soon travel to Russia and Ukraine to present a peace plan. Ramaphosa added that Africa wants to be involved because the conflict has an impact on the lives of many Africans with regard to food security, the rising prices of fertilizers, cereals and fuel.

Gilbert Khadiagala, a professor of international relations at South Africa's Witwatersrand University, said Africa's offer to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict has elicited varied reactions on the continent and globally.

Some observers have lauded the African initiative, while others have derided it. "To supporters of Africa's proposal, it is about growing African agency and African voices would bring a measure of neutrality required to unlock the stalemate," Khadiagala said.

09:47 2023-05-31
Situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant fragile, dangerous: IAEA chief

UNITED NATIONS -- The nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine remains extremely fragile and dangerous, said the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday.

"Military activities continue in the region and may well increase very considerably in the near future," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told a UN Security Council briefing.

The plant has been operating on significantly reduced staff, which despite being in temporary shut-down is not sustainable, he said.

There have been seven occasions when the site lost all off-site power and had to rely on emergency diesel generators, the last line of defence against a nuclear accident, to provide essential cooling of the reactor and spent fuel. The last one, the seventh, occurred just one week ago, Grossi said.

"We are fortunate that a nuclear accident has not yet happened... we are rolling a dice and if this continues then one day our luck will run out," he warned.

"So we must all do everything in our power to minimize the chance that it does," said Grossi.

The IAEA chief laid out new "concrete principles" which he said are essential to avoid the danger of a catastrophic incident at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

There should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant, in particular targeting the reactors, spent fuel storage, other critical infrastructure or personnel, he said.

Zaporizhzhia should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons or military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant, and off-site power to the plant should not be put at risk, he added.

All structures, systems and components essential to the safe and secure operation of the Zaporizhzhia plant should be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage, Grossi said.

09:33 2023-05-31
Russia shoots down eight drones near Moscow
By Ren Qi in Moscow
A damaged multistory apartment block is seen following reported drone attacks in Moscow on Tuesday. Maxim Shemetov/REUTERS

Russia's Defense Ministry accused Ukraine on Tuesday of a "terrorist attack", saying it had intercepted all of the eight Ukrainian drones aimed at Moscow.

"This morning the Kyiv regime carried out a terrorist attack with drones on targets in the city of Moscow," the ministry said on social media. "Eight drones were used in the attack. All of the enemy drones were downed."

There were no reports of deaths.

The drone attack was the biggest on the Russian capital since President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 2022 special military operation in Ukraine. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said two people were injured, one of whom was hospitalized, in the early morning attack. Residents of several parts of two apartment blocks had been evacuated but later returned.

"Early this morning, as a result of the drone attack, minor damage occurred in several buildings," Sobyanin said. "No one has been seriously injured."

Some residents of a building on Profsoyuznaya Street in the city's south were being evacuated, Russia's state RIA news agency reported.

A video posted on social media showed what appeared to be a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke rising over the city skyline.

Moscow's airports remained open.

It was the most serious attack on Moscow since Nazi attacks during World War II, Russian lawmaker Maxim Ivanov said, adding no citizen could now avoid what he said was "the new reality".

Russia's investigative committee said a number of drones were shot down and that there was minor damage due to the falling wreckage, but did not specify the number (of drones).

The Telegram channel Baza, which has good sources among Russia's security services, said about 25 drones attacked the capital. Moscow business daily RBK cited an unidentified interior ministry source as saying that more than 10 drones were shot down.

Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region, said on Telegram that several drones were shot down on their approach to Moscow.

The attack on Moscow came after two drones exploded over the Kremlin on May 3 in an attack that Russian officials blamed on Ukraine, which denied involvement.

Ukrainian drone attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks. The United States intelligence believes Ukraine was behind the drone attack on the Kremlin, The New York Times reported.

Russian territories close to Ukraine have come under repeated attack in recent months and the Defense Ministry in Moscow said last week that troops defeated an incursion by attackers who crossed the border into the Belgorod region.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

19:57 2023-05-27
Ukraine admits involvement in Crimean Bridge explosion in 2022
This file aerial picture taken on Nov 8, 2022 and released by the Russian federal road agency Rosavtodor shows restoring works on damaged parts of the Kerch Bridge that links Crimea to Russia, which was hit by a blast on Oct 8, 2022. AFP PHOTO / Russian federal road agency Rosavtodor / handout

KYIV -- The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) admitted on Saturday that it implemented "certain measures" linked to the explosion on the Crimean Bridge in October 2022.

"According to our legislation, international legislation and the customs and traditions of warfare, taking into account the fact that it was a logistical route that we were obliged to cut off the enemy, certain measures were taken," Vasyl Malyuk, head of the SSU, said in a statement published on the agency's website.

Still, it is too early to make public the details of the "special operation," Malyuk said.

On Oct 8, 2022, a deadly blast hit the 19-km Crimean Bridge, which consists of two parallel routes for automobiles and trains over the Kerch Strait.

A truck exploded on the road bridge, causing seven fuel tanks of a train heading to the Crimean Peninsula to catch fire. Three people were killed in the blast, which also led to the partial collapse of two spans of the road bridge.

09:29 2023-05-24
EU defense ministers fail to agree on new military aid to Ukraine
Delegates attend a ceremony for Finland's accession to NATO at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 4, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

BRUSSELS - The defense ministers of the European Union (EU) member states have failed to reach an agreement on new military aid to Ukraine, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said here on Tuesday.

Borrell said after Tuesday's EU defense ministers' meeting that the overwhelming majority of member states had backed a proposal to increase the European Peace Facility budget by 3.5 billion euros ($3.77 billion), although he stressed that not all of it will be used to assist Ukraine.

"I still don't have unanimity on this, and it's still being discussed," he said, adding that he expected the remaining "hurdles" to be surmounted soon. He recalled that more than 10 billion euros in military support have already been provided to Ukraine.

Borrell said EU countries had already provided Ukraine with 220,000 artillery shells and 1,300 missiles since March. These alone were worth 800 million euros and the EU was on track to provide 1 billion euros worth of ammunition.

"Our aim is to provide one million projectiles over the next 12 months," Borrell said, adding that the EU had already trained 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers and was on track to train 30,000 by the end of the year.

He explained that as part of a three-pronged strategy, member states are being asked to provide ammunition from their own stocks. There is also an effort for the joint procurement of 155 mm caliber ammunition and to boost the capability of European industry to manufacture the necessary ammunition.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, attended the meeting and briefed ministers on the latest developments in the conflict in Ukraine.

Borrell welcomed the decision to initiate training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. He said the training created a positive momentum that will eventually lead to the deployment of these jets in Ukraine.

"I am glad that pilot training has already started, and I hope that soon we will be able to provide this weapon to Ukraine," he said prior to the start of the meeting in Brussels.

08:14 2023-05-18
UN chief welcomes decision to extend Black Sea grain deal
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a press conference on the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 17, 2023. Guterres on Wednesday welcomed Russia's decision that would allow the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports. [Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday welcomed Russia's decision that would allow the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports.

"We have some positive and significant developments: confirmation by the Russian Federation to continue its participation in the Black Sea Initiative for another 60 days. I welcome this decision," said Guterres. "The continuation is good news for the world."

Outstanding issues remain, but representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the United Nations will keep discussing them, he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York. "I hope we will reach a comprehensive agreement to improve, expand and extend the initiative, as I proposed in a recent letter to the presidents of the three countries."

The importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative -- and the parallel memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and Russia on the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer -- is clear. These agreements matter for global food security. Ukrainian and Russian products feed the world, said Guterres.

Under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, more than 30 million tons of food have been exported. Vital food supplies are reaching some of the world's most vulnerable people and places, including 30,000 tons of wheat that just left Ukraine to feed hungry people in Sudan, said the UN chief.

The agreements matter because the world is still in the throes of a record-breaking cost-of-living crisis. And they matter because they demonstrate that, even in the darkest hours, there is always a beacon of hope and an opportunity to find solutions that benefit everyone, he said.

Guterres noted that over the last year, global food markets have stabilized, volatility has been reduced and global food prices fell by 20 percent.

"Looking ahead, we hope that exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from the Russian Federation and Ukraine will be able to reach global supply chains safely and predictably -- as foreseen in both the Black Sea Initiative and the memorandum of understanding on Russian food and fertilizer exports, the implementation of which the United Nations is fully committed to support," he said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Türkiye and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. The deal, initially in effect for 120 days, was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days till March 18, 2023. At that point, Russia only agreed to extend the deal for a further 60 days, till May 18, 2023.

As a parallel agreement, Russia and the United Nations signed the memorandum of understanding on the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer. But the parallel agreement has not made much progress. ■

10:30 2023-05-16
Envoy calls for peace effort on Ukraine
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations
Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN [Photo/Xinhua]

The top Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Monday urged the international community to promote a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, noting that everything China has been doing is to facilitate peace talks.

A political solution to the Ukraine crisis must be promoted with the utmost urgency, Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting Monday on the maintenance of peace and security in Ukraine.

"There are no easy answers to complex issues, and the first step must always be taken to comprehensively solve them," said Zhang.

"The restart of dialogue and negotiation cannot wait any longer. All parties should create conditions for promoting dialogue and negotiation, instead of adding fuel to the flames, intensifying conflicts and trying to profit from it," he said.

"China has always stood on the side of peace on the Ukraine issue, and everything we do is to promote peace and talks," said Zhang.

Zhang said all efforts must be made to alleviate the harm and suffering by civilians. He said international humanitarian law sets out the rules of conduct that must be observed in conflict situations.

"Parties to the conflict should do their utmost to protect the safety of civilians and civilian facilities," said Zhang. "Women and children are the most vulnerable groups in armed conflict and should be given special care.

"We welcome the international community, including humanitarian agencies, to expand assistance to all affected people and advance the restoration of civilian infrastructure on the basis of the principles of neutrality and impartiality," he said.

China supports the balanced, comprehensive and effective implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the memorandum of understanding on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world. China supports the UN in playing an important role in eliminating the practical obstacles to Russia's grain and fertilizer exports, said Zhang.

"We must keep the red line of nuclear safety," said Zhang.

Zhang reiterated that a nuclear war must never be fought and cannot be won, adding that the safety and security of nuclear power plant facilities in Ukraine is related to the safety and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, and any accident may have immeasurable humanitarian and ecological consequences.

"We call for maximum rational restraint and refrain from words and deeds that may intensify confrontation and lead to misjudgment," he said.

Zhang emphasized that the world must pay attention to and manage the spillover effects of conflict response.

"The world economy is facing new risks of recession, and countries need to coordinate their actions to jointly maintain the stability of the global food, energy, and financial markets," said Zhang.

However, Zhang said, round after round of unilateral sanctions and the extension of the "long-arm jurisdiction" have not only "caused serious humanitarian consequences, but also disrupted the global industrial and supply chains", he said.

"The US and other relevant countries should seriously reflect on it, make immediate reforms, and create conditions for developing countries to develop their economies and improve their people's livelihood," said Zhang. "They should not engage in economic coercion while fabricating narratives that accuse other countries of engaging in economic coercion.

"Unilateral sanctions have no basis in international law and are causing resentment and opposition from more and more countries," he said, adding that the so-called "rules-based international order" also has "serious problems in law and practice".

"It cannot be used as an excuse for the US and other relevant countries to impose unilateral sanctions indiscriminately, nor has it received wide support and recognition from the international community," said Zhang.

Li Hui, special representative of the Chinese government on Eurasian affairs, is visiting Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia for communication, aiming at promoting a political settlement to the Ukraine crisis, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

17:49 2023-05-12
Extraterritoriality of EU sanctions on Russia won't end Ukraine crisis
By Chen Weihua

When the Donald Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, he also threatened to punish European Union companies if they carried out normal trade with Iran.

The EU condemned the extraterritoriality of the US sanctions for violating international laws and succeeded in establishing a payment mechanism known as INSTEX to help EU companies bypass US sanctions and continue trading with Iran. And despite the EU imposing 10 rounds of sanctions on Russia over the past 14 months, it has been saying that its sanctions do not carry extraterritoriality. But that does not seem to be the case when the EU weighs measures to sanction companies from China and other countries for their alleged sanction violations.

China has warned the EU against such long-arm jurisdiction and vowed to take resolute measures to protect the interests and rights of its companies in case the European bloc chooses to do so.

When I raised the question of the EU's contradictory stance on extraterritoriality at the daily briefing on Monday, the EU spokesman said he will not comment on any proposals. He also dodged the question on whether the EU might sanction Indian companies for buying oil from Russia, refining it and reselling it to EU member states.

Some 150 countries have refused to join the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on Russia by continuing normal trade relations with Moscow. Are they all now subject to the EU's new "extraterritorial" sanctions?

The EU's 10 rounds of sanctions have indeed hurt the Russian economy, but they have also boomeranged on the EU, dampening its economic growth prospects, especially its industrial competitiveness and ambitious green and digital transitions.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that the eurozone economy will grow only 0.8 percent in 2023 and 1.4 percent in 2024, much lower than the global average of 2.8 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.

There is no doubt that an early end to the Russia-Ukraine conflict would help the EU's economic recovery, and secondary sanctions proposed by some EU politicians won't help the bloc achieve that goal.

The sanctions against Chinese companies are clearly aimed at undermining China's efforts to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine, including its recent 12-point peace proposal to help end the conflict.

EU officials, from foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, have been questioning China's "neutrality" in the conflict by claiming that neutrality for China means being on the side of the aggressor. Yet they have never used such remarks to describe the role of India, South Africa, Indonesia and many other countries, which, like China, refuse to take sides in the conflict.

Haggling now over whether neutrality still exists is such a distraction and waste of time when diplomacy and negotiation are badly needed, especially just days before the bloody offensives and counteroffensives which both sides have been preparing for the past months.

Recent history shows that many European states didn't shy away from taking the side of the aggressor during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya by sending their own troops to join the invaders and occupiers.

The fact that China and India are among the few countries that can talk with both Russia and Ukraine show that they are in a better position to promote peace. The EU and the US-led NATO are apparently incapable of doing this, simply because Russia won't talk to them.

If the EU truly wants China to play an instrumental role in helping end the conflict, it should stop spreading rumors about China's position in the conflict and its 12-point position document which is aimed at ending the Ukraine crisis, let alone applying extraterritoriality to its sanctions.

The longer this conflict in Europe lasts, the more damage it will inflict on Ukraine, Russia, the EU and indeed the rest of the world.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

09:30 2023-05-12
Russia makes stand clear on grain deal
FILE PHOTO: A worker collects wheat at the Benha grain silos, in Al Qalyubia Governorate, Egypt, May 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV — The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia's stance on the Black Sea grain deal — that its own interests must be taken into account in talks aimed at extending it beyond May 18 — was understood by all relevant parties.

"Work is underway. Our position is well known … and consistent," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"So, let's wait for the outcome of the negotiations."

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday he thought the Black Sea grain deal could be extended for at least two more months. Cavusoglu was speaking to reporters on his return from a trip to Moscow.

He said the grain deal was among the issues he discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the visit and that he hoped a positive result could be achieved in Istanbul, where talks were set to continue on Thursday.

"I think we can get a result to extend it for at least two more months," Cavusoglu said.

Officials from the parties involved held the first day of talks on Thursday on an extension in Istanbul.

The United Nations and Turkiye brokered the Black Sea export agreement in July to help tackle a global food crisis that has been worsened by the Ukraine conflict.

A three-year pact was also struck in July in which the UN agreed to help Moscow facilitate its own agricultural exports, something it complains hasn't happened at scale.

Both Ukraine and Russia say the Black Sea grain deal, which allowed Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea, is in danger of collapsing, Reuters reported.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets. Russia is also dominant in the fertilizer market.

Barrier to shipments

Russia has said curbs on payments, logistics and insurance are a significant barrier to shipments.

Ukraine's foodstuff export through the Black Sea ports last week hit its lowest level since August due to the disruptions of the work of the "grain corridor," data from an industry body showed on Tuesday.

Between May 1 and 7, Ukraine's ports shipped 404,000 tons of agricultural products, down 10 percent from the previous week, the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club said in a report.

Since the "grain corridor" started its work on Aug 1 last year, Ukraine had exported some 29.7 million tons of foodstuffs via its seaports, according to the report.

Meanwhile, some 118,000 people have been evacuated from conflict-affected regions in Ukraine since August 2022, the government press service said in a statement on Wednesday.

In particular, about 70,000 people have moved from the eastern Donetsk region to safer areas within the country under the mandatory evacuation. Among them are some 8,000 children and more than 3,000 people with reduced mobility.

Besides, about 25,000 people have been evacuated from the eastern Kharkiv region and 23,000 others left the southern Kherson region.

Last month, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that an estimated 7 million Ukrainians had been internally displaced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and about 4.8 million of them were officially registered within government agencies as internally displaced persons.

Agencies - Xinhua

10:33 2023-05-10
Peace efforts falter while US sends more military aid to Ukraine
By HENG WEILI in New York
A demonstrator holds a slogan during the anti-war rally in Washington, DC, the United States, Feb 19, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

While China and Brazil have offered to mediate a cease-fire in the Russia-Ukraine military conflict, the flow of Western arms to Ukraine continued on Tuesday.

The United States announced a new $1.2 billion military aid package for Ukraine that will include air defense systems, ammunition and funds for training, the Pentagon said.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, expressed skepticism Tuesday over efforts to halt the conflict, which started in February 2022.

"Peace negotiations are not possible at this time," Guterres told Spain's El País newspaper in an interview, adding that the efforts were "doomed to fail".

"I already said that peace negotiations at this time are not going to happen. I hope in the future, yes. There was talk of a Russian offensive in the winter and a Ukrainian one in the spring. It is evident that the parties are fully involved into the war," Guterres said.

China unveiled a 12-point peace road map earlier this year to halt the hostilities. The initiative got a positive response in Moscow, with Russia's top leadership signaling a willingness to discuss it.

However, the proposal was rejected by Kyiv and its Western allies, who accused Beijing of siding with Russia and therefore having no standing in peace talks.

In late April, Brazilian President Lula da Silva said: "There is no use now in saying who is right, who is wrong. What we have to do now is stop the war."

Meanwhile, in Moscow on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Western "arrogance" is driving a "real war" against Russia, and the West's "superiority ideology is, by definition, repulsive, deadly, and criminal".

Putin, who made the comments Tuesday during a Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square, said Western leaders "still talk about their exclusivity, put people against each other and divide society, provoke bloody conflicts and coups, sow hatred, Russophobia, aggressive nationalism, destroy those family, traditional values that make humans human".

Victory Day marks the anniversary of Germany's unconditional surrender in World War II on the night of May 8, 1945.

The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds from Washington will be used to purchase the weapons, allowing US President Joe Biden's administration to buy arms from industry instead of pulling them from US stocks. Delivery of the weapons and systems depends on their availability and production timeline.

The Pentagon said it will fund air-defense munitions and drones for air defense and provide equipment to help modify Western air-defense launchers, missiles and radars so they can be used with Ukraine's systems. It will also buy artillery rounds, howitzer ammunition, satellite imagery assistance and funding for ongoing maintenance and spare parts for a variety of systems.

US officials said the weapons include HAWK air-defense systems. They spoke on condition of anonymity because that has not yet been formally announced.

So far in fiscal 2023, the US Department of Defense has provided $5 billion in military aid to Ukraine under the USAI in four separate tranches. In fiscal 2022, the US spent $6.3 billion worth in USAI funds for Ukraine's defense.

The US has also rushed more than $35 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine using presidential drawdown authority, which authorizes the president to transfer articles and services from US stocks without congressional approval during an emergency.

Tuesday's military aid announcement came as Congress and the White House debated ways to avoid a default on the nation's $31.4 trillion debt, with many Republicans demanding sharp cuts in domestic spending in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.

Members of both parties, however, maintain that they support continued aid for Ukraine including top Republicans House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate.

Including Tuesday's package, the US has provided Ukraine nearly $37 billion in military aid since the start of the conflict. Ukraine says it is preparing to launch a spring offensive against Russian forces, with air defense a challenge for Kyiv.

The announcement of the latest aid package sparked criticism on social media, with some questioning the continued aid to Ukraine while Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction on migration to the US, is set to expire Thursday.

"Today the US approved another $1 Billion plus in aid to a foreign nation thousands of miles away to help secure their border," tweeted "Alejandro Miguelsky". "In 2 days the US will begin to lose whatever border we still have allowing Millions to pour in."

Eddie Tarazona, an Army veteran, wrote on Twitter: "The US is set to announce a $1.2b aid package to @Ukraine … Not for our Southern Border, not for our Veterans and Troops, not for our decaying infrastructure but for a proxy war we're fighting against @Russia. This must end."

Twitter user "Working Dawg" in South Carolina, in a message to Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wrote: "@LindseyGrahamSC STOP sending my hard earned money to Ukraine's winless war. Protect OUR border."

Agencies contributed to this story.

09:29 2023-05-06
UN urges parties to work on extension of Black Sea grain deal
A team of representatives from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) inspects the first grain-laden ship leaving Ukraine on the northwestern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkiye, Aug 3, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - The world body is working toward the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and asks all parties concerned to engage constructively, said a UN spokesman on Friday.

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) has not reached agreement to authorize new vessels to participate in the initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports. The JCC continues its daily inspection work on the previously authorized vessels, said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The UN chief has communicated to all parties his proposal on the way forward aimed at the improvement, extension and expansion of the initiative, taking into account positions expressed by the parties, said the spokesman. "We urge all parties to continue their discussions, overcome operational challenges and work toward the full implementation and continuation of the initiative."

UN representatives will be participating in a technical meeting convened by the Turkish government on the initiative, in preparation for a senior-level meeting taking place next week in Istanbul, said Haq. "So we're looking forward to constructive and frank discussions with all sides, with the aim to overcome challenges and work toward the continuation and full implementation of the initiative."

All the parties -- Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations, and Turkiye -- will be represented at next week's senior-level meeting. But the names of the participants are still to be determined, he told a daily press briefing.

Head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Rebeca Grynspan, traveled to Moscow on Friday as part of the ongoing consultations with senior Russian officials regarding the world body's engagement to facilitate the unimpeded export of Russian food and fertilizer, including ammonia, to global markets, said Haq.

The memorandum of understanding between Russia and the United Nations on the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer is a parallel agreement with the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

While the exports of Ukrainian grain have made strides, Russia has constantly expressed displeasure with the lack of progress in the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer.

Grynspan met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin, relaying the strong commitment of the UN secretary-general to the full implementation of the memorandum of understanding, said Haq.

Last week, Guterres presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, outlining his proposal for the improvement, extension and expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Haq said Friday that Guterres has not received any formal response from Putin.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Turkiye and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. The deal, initially in effect for 120 days, was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days till March 18, 2023. At that point, Russia only agreed to extend the deal for a further 60 days, till May 18.

03:21 2023-05-04
Russia says Ukraine tried to strike Kremlin with drones while Kyiv denies involvement
People gather on the dome of the Kremlin Senate building in central Moscow, Russia, May 3, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV - Ukraine attempted to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night by using two drones to attack his Kremlin residence, Russia's presidential press service said Wednesday.

The Kremlin said the military and special services used radar warfare to put the unmanned aerial vehicles out of action.

Despite the attempted attack, no casualties or material damage were reported from the downing of the drones and the resulting scattering of fragments, the Kremlin said.

"We regard the action as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the Russian president, which was carried out on the eve of the May 9 Victory Day parade, where foreign guests also plan to be present," the Kremlin said.

Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the attack and was working at the Novo-Ogaryovo presidential residence in a Moscow suburb on Wednesday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak told the government-run Ukrinform news agency that Ukraine was not involved in the alleged drone attack on the Kremlin.

"Ukraine did not attack the Kremlin or any other facilities on the territory of the Russian Federation," Podolyak said, noting that Ukrainian military forces are targeting solely military facilities in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

He explained that attacks on facilities in Russia, including the Kremlin, do not serve any military purpose or contribute to Ukraine's preparations for any counteroffensive operation.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Wednesday announced a ban on launching drones in the Russian capital. The Kremlin said Russia reserves the right to respond appropriately.

02:50 2023-05-04
Russia says Ukraine tried to strike Kremlin with drones while Kyiv denies involvement
People gather on the dome of the Kremlin Senate building in central Moscow, Russia, May 3, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW/KYIV - Ukraine attempted to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night by using two drones to attack his Kremlin residence, Russia's presidential press service said Wednesday.

The Kremlin said the military and special services used radar warfare to put the unmanned aerial vehicles out of action.

Despite the attempted attack, no casualties or material damage were reported from the downing of the drones and the resulting scattering of fragments, the Kremlin said.

"We regard the action as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the Russian president, which was carried out on the eve of the May 9 Victory Day parade, where foreign guests also plan to be present," the Kremlin said.

Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the attack and was working at the Novo-Ogaryovo presidential residence in a Moscow suburb on Wednesday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak told the government-run Ukrinform news agency that Ukraine was not involved in the alleged drone attack on the Kremlin.

"Ukraine did not attack the Kremlin or any other facilities on the territory of the Russian Federation," Podolyak said, noting that Ukrainian military forces are targeting solely military facilities in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

He explained that attacks on facilities in Russia, including the Kremlin, do not serve any military purpose or contribute to Ukraine's preparations for any counteroffensive operation.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Wednesday announced a ban on launching drones in the Russian capital. The Kremlin said Russia reserves the right to respond appropriately.

15:26 2023-04-27
FM: China ready to work with all parties to resolve Ukraine crisis
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. [Photo/]

China is willing to work with all parties including Central Asian countries to continue to build consensus and push for the international community to find the largest possible common ground for solving the Ukraine crisis, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang said on Thursday.

Qin made the remarks as he elaborated China's position on the crisis in exchanges of views on global and regional hotspot issues with his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The foreign ministers are in China for the fourth China-Central Asia foreign ministers' meeting.

Qin said the Ukraine crisis is the result of both historical and realistic reasons. But no matter how complicated it is, political settlement is the only viable way out of the crisis, he said.

He mentioned President Xi Jinping's telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, saying that the leaders' direct communication is an important step taken by China as part of its efforts to push for political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

This once again showed China's consistent position of promoting peace talks, Qin said.

Noting that China and Central Asian countries share the similar view and position on the Ukraine crisis, Qin said China is ready to continue to work with all parties to find "the greatest common divisor" for solving the Ukraine crisis.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang poses for photos with foreign ministers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan before the 4th China-Central Asia Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, April 27, 2023. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/]


09:20 2023-04-27
Toxic friendship -- How Washington exploits Ukraine crisis to shackle Europe

BEIJING -- A report published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicated that military expenditure in Europe shot up by 13 percent in 2022 -- its steepest year-on-year increase in at least 30 years.

The United States provoked a conflict in Ukraine to "turn Europe into a vassal" and has managed to use the Ukraine crisis to "destabilise Europe," economist Pierre de Gaulle, grandson of former French President Charles de Gaulle, told French newspaper Le Parisien.

In fact, a self-serving United States never truly treats its "allies" as friends. The EU's strict sanctions against Russia, following America, have led to a tense energy supply, increased inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis across Europe. Meanwhile, American companies exporting energy are making a fortune.

Washington continues to fan the flame, seeking to prolong and expand the Ukraine crisis. Such a move will increase Europe's reliance on the United States for energy and security, and erode Europe's efforts towards strategic autonomy.


In the factory of the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Pennsylvania, the United States, the old rails on the ground remind people of the era when steam locomotives were assembled in this building boasting a history of over a hundred years old. However, the factory floor is now busy cranking out shells to be shipped to Ukraine.

Churning out roughly 11,000 artillery shells a month now, the plant is undergoing a massive expansion, funded by millions of dollars in new defense spending from the Pentagon. It's hiring a few dozen additional workers and will eventually shift to a 24/7 schedule of constant production, according to a CNN report.

"It's certainly ramped up over the last year. As we bring in more modern equipment, it'll be able to ramp up even further," Todd Smith, senior director of General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, which operates the plant for the Army, was quoted as saying by CNN.

The overtime work at the ammunition plant reflects the "prosperity" of the entire U.S. military industry. Since the escalation of the Ukraine crisis, the United States has constantly hyped up the "Russia threat" and incited European allies to continuously upgrade their military assistance to Ukraine and expand their own military capabilities.

Since late February 2022, EU countries have pledged to beef up their arsenals by some 230 billion U.S. dollars, with Germany alone planning to channel 100 billion euros this year to modernize its military, Yahoo News website reported in November 2022.

Military expenditure by states in Central and Western Europe in 2022 for the first time surpassed that in 1989, as the Cold War was ending, according to the SIPRI report.

American arms dealers benefit most from Europe's military expansion. European officials have accused the Americans of making a fortune from the conflict, while EU countries suffer. "The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons," one senior official complained to the American magazine Politico.

To seize the opportunity to rake in huge profits, the U.S. Department of Defense set up a working group in August last year, jointly led by the policy department and the acquisition and sustainment department, responsible for evaluating and accelerating the implementation of foreign military sales.

In the energy market, the United States is also ruthless in fleecing its European allies. "A big winner from the energy crisis in Europe: the U.S. economy," The Wall Street Journal bluntly stated.

The EU imported around 94.73 million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2022, compared to 57.27 million tons in 2021. The United States represented 41 percent of the supply in all of 2022 and stayed the EU's top LNG supplier, according to a report by the research firm Kpler.

Boosted by the surge in European demand, the performance of some U.S. energy companies has seen a turnaround. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, a U.S. shale oil and gas company, raked in up to 1.3 billion dollars of profit in the first nine months, while in 2020 the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused the United States of creating "a double standard" with Europe as resentment builds over the economic price the continent is paying over the Ukraine crisis, Bloomberg reported in October 2022.

"The North American economy is making choices for the sake of attractiveness, which I respect, but they create a double standard" with lower energy prices domestically while selling natural gas to Europe at record prices, Macron said at a news conference in Brussels following a meeting of EU leaders.

Furthermore, the United States has taken advantage of the situation by introducing the "Inflation Reduction Act" to revitalize its own economy. Under the guise of reducing inflation, discriminatory subsidies are used to encourage businesses to relocate their production bases from Europe to the United States.

This will seriously weaken Europe's competitiveness in industries such as automobiles, batteries, and clean energy, and has caused strong dissatisfaction in Europe. Olivier Joris, manager of EU Affairs at the Federation of Belgian Companies, denounced the U.S. subsidies as "a protectionist stab in the back from the Americans."

"What worries us is that the investments will be directed more towards the United States than to Europe because of these local content obligations," said Joris.


"I'm wearing an extra sweater, that's all," said Susan, a 102-year-old French woman.

Last year's winter in Europe was warmer than usual, but it has been particularly cold for the elderly at Cournot-Changey, a retirement home in downtown Gray, a commune in the Haute-Saone department in eastern France.

According to the French government's energy-saving regulations, the room temperature of the activity hall of this nursing home in Dijon cannot exceed 20 degrees Celsius, and the elderly have to add clothes to keep out the cold.

On the one hand, many people complain that it is not warm enough; On the other hand, energy costs are still rising, said Frederic Meunier, director of the retirement home. "I re-signed the electricity contract in July last year, and the electricity bill increased by 20 percent."

Since the escalation of the Ukraine crisis, the EU has followed the United States in imposing an embargo or price limit on Russian natural gas and petroleum products, which has obviously backfired.

The industrial chain and supply chain in energy and other fields were blocked, which pushed up the price level in an all-around way and shrank the real wages of the people.

Affected by the energy shortage, the energy bills of French enterprises once rose, and the aluminum, plastics and chemical industries were most seriously affected.

A textile factory in the French town of Luneville in the northeastern French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle worked only three days a week to save electricity.

Klaus Rudolph, who runs a restaurant in Lubmin, northern Germany, said that the local natural gas price had risen to about three times as much as usual, which led to an increase in operating costs.

Laura Ramoni, owner of the Big Mamy bar in Rome, Italy, told Xinhua that electricity bills at her bar soared during peak hours last year, forcing her to lay off two employees and raise coffee prices to stay afloat.

Senior Advisor to Ifri's Center for Energy & Climate, Cecile Maisonneuve, said energy prices in Europe have fallen as spring approaches, but external energy supplies remain tight. This situation, combined with uncertain developments of domestic nuclear and other new energy and OPEC's decision to reduce crude oil production, means Europe's energy woes will continue. She also noted that the gas and electricity meters could go back out of control.

The EU has time and time again followed the United States and increased sanctions against Russia. Fatih Birol, chief of the International Energy Agency, has warned that some parts of Europe could run out of diesel fuel this summer, with a crisis worse than the 1973 oil crisis looming. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's 2023 economic forecast says Europe could face a very difficult economic situation if the energy crisis worsens. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the European economy is slowly bleeding to death from a massive energy crisis.

Why is Europe caught in such a dilemma? Europeans know exactly what the answer is. The economic knock-on effects of the Ukraine crisis "are going to be felt throughout Europe," according to a recent report published by the Jacques Delors Centre, a Berlin-based think tank.

"Direct costs from sanctions and trade disruptions, rising inflation due to higher energy and commodity prices and mounting uncertainty will become a drag on Europe's economy," said the report.


"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" A comment by Donald Tusk, former president of the European Council, is gaining increasing resonance.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been pushing for NATO's continuous eastward expansion. While squeezing Russia's strategic living space, it also strengthened its political, military, and economic control over Europe. Today, the United States is capitalizing on the Ukraine crisis to further tie Europe to its own chariot, and by tightening control over Europe's strategic autonomy, it is continuously reaping benefits from its allies.

In fact, the United States has never wanted to see a united and autonomous Europe. Washington's politicians believe that a weak Europe permanently dependent on the United States best serves the U.S. interests.

Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs in Paris, believes that this goal of the United States is gradually becoming a reality with the escalation of the Ukraine crisis. He said that in the eyes of Americans, NATO is a tool to exert influence in Europe.

In 2019, Macron cautioned that NATO was in the throes of "brain death," and European countries can no longer rely on the United States to defend its allies. Now, as NATO is tightening its grip over Europe, the continent's strategic autonomy is brain-dead.

The United States wants to eliminate any impulse for strategic autonomy among EU states, Andrey Sushentsov, program director of the Russia-based think tank Valdai Club, commented on Russia Today. "The Ukraine crisis provides a golden opportunity for this, as the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe have managed to create 'a moment of moral panic' in the information space, preventing any reflection on the causes and consequences of the crisis," he said.

Leaders and elites who might have been able to reflect with detachment and sobriety on the consequences of the slide of EU-Russia relations into a deep crisis are outnumbered and essentially voiceless, Sushentsov added.

Experts and political insiders believe that it is thus all the more important for Europe to strengthen its strategic autonomy.

If the EU wants to be a viable actor in the emerging world order and not merely an appendage of a superpower, "it must be able to protect itself instead of relying on outside help for its security," and "force strategic independence from the United States to ensure its political survival," British political analyst Thomas O. Falk wrote in an opinion piece published by the South China Morning Post.

Vowing to fight Russia "to the last Ukrainian," the U.S.-led NATO has gone to all lengths to fool Ukrainians into acting as a bridgehead for suppressing its neighbor and has driven, step by step, its so-called ally Europe to the dangerous quagmire of warfares and crises.

With no end in sight to the fighting in Ukraine, the EU has become financially exhausted with the drawn-out conflict on its doorstep, Modern Diplomacy magazine commented on its website, stressing that it is certainly not the first time Washington has tricked the international community into a war.

"This is while the United States, sitting across the pond, watching on and observing, is making huge profits," it added.

09:58 2023-04-25
Ukraine conflict spurs record global military spending
By JULIAN SHEA in London

European countries now paying more for weapons than any time since 1989

A US Chinook tandem rotor helicopter transports a military vehicle on July 30 during a drill at Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase near Constanta, Romania, while military personnel play American football. DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The outbreak of conflict in Ukraine early last year has led to military expenditure in Europe experiencing its steepest rise in three decades, data released by the Stockholm International Peace Institute, or Sipri, has revealed.

Across the whole world, including Asia and the Middle East, outlay on weapons reached an all-time high of $2.24 trillion last year, but it is the figures for Europe that most catch the eye.

In 2022, states in central and western Europe spent $345 billion, 30 percent more than the figure for a decade earlier, and in real terms a figure that exceeded expenditure in 1989, the last year of the Cold War, before the break-up of the Eastern bloc began.

The conflict of Ukraine had an immediate impact on military spending decisions in central and western Europe, according to Diego Lopes da Silva, a senior researcher at Sipri.

"This included multi-year plans to boost spending from several governments," he said.

"As a result, we can reasonably expect military expenditure in central and western Europe to keep rising in the years ahead."

Of the top 10 heaviest spending nations in the world, three were from western Europe — the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The UK's total of $68.5 billion included an estimated $2.5 billion, or 3.6 percent, in the form of financial support for Ukraine, while Germany experienced its largest rearmament since World War II.

A whopping 640 percent increase in military expenditure by Ukraine saw it become the country with, by far, the largest share of its GDP, 34 percent, being spent on the military, as opposed to just 3.2 percent the year before, and other countries that sharply increased their military outlay included Finland with 36 percent, Lithuania on 27 percent, Sweden at 12 percent, and Poland with 11 percent.

Nan Tian, another senior researcher at Sipri, warned that the global signs are that the latest spending patterns are unlikely to stop soon.

"The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world," he said. "States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future."

Aside from Europe, the United States remains by far the world's biggest military spender as its military spending reached $877 billion in 2022, which was 39 percent of total global military spending and three times more than the amount spent by China, the report said.

The 0.7 percent real-terms increase in US spending in 2022 would have been even greater had it not been for the highest levels of inflation since 1981.

"The increase in the USA's military spending in 2022 was largely accounted for by the unprecedented level of financial military aid it provided to Ukraine," said Nan.

09:36 2023-04-20
US announces additional arms aid for Ukraine worth $325 mln
A US Air Force airman marshals a K-loader of cargo during a Ukraine security assistance mission in Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, the US, Feb 3, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - The United Sates on Wednesday announced an additional package of weapons for Ukraine worth $325 million.

According to a list from the Department of Defense (DoD), the new tranche of security assistance included additional ammunition for the US-provided HIMARS, artillery rounds, anti-armor systems, over 9 million rounds of small arms ammunition, four logistics support vehicles, among other items.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who received a delegation of authority from President Joe Biden to authorize the presidential drawdown of the weapons, said in a statement the assistance is "essential to strengthening Ukraine's defenders on the battlefield."

This is the 36th presidential drawdown of military equipment from the DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.

09:31 2023-04-11
7 mln people internally displaced in Ukraine by conflict
A train with refugees fleeing Ukraine crosses the border in Medyka, Poland, on March 7 last year. [VISAR KRYEZIU/ASSOCIATED PRESS]

KYIV - An estimated 7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Monday, citing a senior official.

Out of them, about 4.8 million people were officially registered within government agencies as internally displaced persons (IDPs), said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Some 1 million children were forced to leave their homes due to the conflict, but are residing inside Ukraine, Vereshchuk noted.

According to the latest UN estimates, more than 8.1 million people have fled Ukraine for European countries after the start of the conflict.

09:50 2023-03-28
Ukraine gets first batch of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany: media

KYIV -- Ukraine received the first batch of Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Monday, citing German news outlet Der Spiegel.

The German-made tanks were handed over to Ukraine two months after Berlin's decision to supply them, the news agency said.

It did not specify the number of tanks that were transferred to Ukraine.

In January, Germany decided to supply its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and green-lighted requests by other countries to do so.

Media outlets reported that Germany intended to send 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine.

09:25 2023-03-24
Russia-Ukraine conflict tops EU summit agenda
By EARLE GALE in London
European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 1, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Leaders from the 27 nations in the European Union convened in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday for a two-day summit that was to be dominated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Six weeks after their last gathering, the heads of state were set to rubber-stamp a 2-billion-euro ($2.18-billion) package of military aid for Ukraine agreed in principle earlier this week. And they were expected to begin talks on another 3.5 billion euros of financial aid for the coming months.

The Euronews website said the leaders were also likely to discuss the continent's beleaguered economy, ways to bolster trade, steps to control unregulated migration, and green energy.

France said before the meeting that it wanted the bloc to start looking more favorably upon nuclear energy, because of its potential to help with climate-change targets, and because it could reduce the bloc's reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

"What we are asking for… is not so much that nuclear energy be considered green," an unnamed source in the French government told Euronews. "It's that we apply technological neutrality."

Delegates were also set to hear from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was expected to make a speech via video link, and from Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, who was expected to attend in person.

The Independent website noted that Hungary stands alone among the EU's 27 member nations in insisting it will not contribute to the bloc's supply of armaments to Ukraine.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last month the bloc's willingness to send weapons may have helped prolong the conflict and that the bloc should instead attempt to sit down with Russia to seek a peaceful conclusion.

The Reuters news agency noted that, while the Russia-Ukraine conflict was set to loom large over the two-day summit, delegates were also likely to talk about proposed free-trade agreements with regions, including South America, and with nations, including Australia, India, Indonesia, and Kenya.

National leaders were also expected to find time to discuss the so-called Windsor Framework and Stormont Brake agreed recently between the United Kingdom and the EU.

The mechanisms are aimed at making it possible to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU. The border was a flashpoint in the past for sectarian violence and the issue has been a sticking point ever since the UK left the bloc in 2020.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland's premier, said as he left for the meeting: "We will discuss recent developments regarding the Windsor Framework and there will be an important discussion on economic issues, including how to ensure Europe's future prosperity."

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