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Biden announces new $1 bln in weapons for Ukraine, Kyiv seeks more heavy arms

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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2022)

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a fresh U.S. infusion of $1 billion in weapons for Ukraine that includes anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, howitzers and ammunition.

In a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Biden said he told the embattled leader about the new weaponry.

“The United States is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems,” Biden said in a statement after the 41-minute call.

The president also announced an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance to help people in Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and healthcare, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items.

The latest weapons packages for Ukraine include 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds of ammunition for them, two Harpoon coastal defense systems, artillery rockets, secure radios, thousands of night vision devices and funding for training, the Pentagon said.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had talked to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to thank him for the “crucial military assistance” from the United States.

“(I) emphasized that we urgently need more heavy weapons delivered more regularly,” he said on Twitter. 

The aid packages, which come as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is meeting with allies in Brussels, were split into two categories: transfer of excess defense articles from U.S. stocks and other weapons being funded by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), a separate congressionally authorized program.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday accused Western countries of “fighting a proxy war with Russia,” telling reporters: “I would like to say to the Western countries supplying weaponry to Ukraine – the blood of civilians is on your hands.”

Ukraine is pressing the United States and other Western nations for speedy deliveries of weapons in the face of increased pressure from Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, told reporters at an event organized by the German Marshall Fund: “We need all these weapons to be concentrated in a moment to defeat the Russians, not just keep coming every two or three weeks.”

In May, the Biden administration announced a plan to give Ukraine M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside Russian territory. Biden imposed the condition to try to avoid escalating the Ukraine war.

The rocket artillery in this aid package would have the same range as previous U.S. rocket shipments and is funded using Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the first time, the United States is sending ground-based Harpoon launchers. In May, Reuters reported the U.S. was working on potential solutions that included pulling a launcher off of a U.S. ship to help provide Harpoon missile launch capability to Ukraine. 

Harpoons made by Boeing Co (BA.N) cost about $1.5 million per missile, according to experts and industry executives.

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Dozens of migrants die in truck in Texas

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

More than 40 migrants were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in Texas State of the United States on Monday, reports said.

Sixteen other people found inside the trailer were taken to hospital for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, Reuters reported citing the fire department of the San Antonio city where the truck was found.

Officials also said three people were arrested following the incident.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter and said the local consulate was en route to the scene, though the nationalities of the victims had not been confirmed.

There have been a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, which has sparked criticism of the immigration policies of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 250 km from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 39.4 degrees Celsius on Monday with high humidity.

In July 2017, ten migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The driver was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.

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G-7 leaders set to commit to long haul in backing Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers are set to commit themselves to the long haul in supporting Ukraine as they meet in the German Alps and confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The G-7 leaders will begin Monday’s session of their three-day summit with a focus on Ukraine. Later, they will be joined by the leaders of five democratic emerging economies — India, Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina — for a discussion on climate change, energy and other issues, AP reported.

The war in Ukraine was already at the forefront of the G-7 leaders’ minds as they opened their summit at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel on Sunday — just as Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time in weeks.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G-7 would splinter, but we haven’t and we’re not going to.” Britain’s Boris Johnson warned the leaders not to give in to “fatigue.”

On Monday, they have the opportunity to demonstrate that unity to Zelenskyy and reaffirm their commitment to supporting Kyiv financially and otherwise, AP reported.

Biden hopes to use his trip to Europe to proclaim the unity of the coalition pressing to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as much as he is urging allies to do even more — seeking to counter doubts about its endurance as the war grinds into its fifth month.

The summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said last week that he wants to discuss the outlines of a “Marshall plan for Ukraine” with his G-7 counterparts, referring to the U.S.-sponsored plan that helped revive European economies after World War II.

With the war still in progress and destruction mounting by the day, it’s unlikely to be a detailed plan at this stage. Scholz has said that “rebuilding Ukraine will be a task for generations.”

The G-7 already is committed to help finance Ukraine’s immediate needs. Finance ministers from the group last month agreed to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to help Kyiv keep basic services functioning and prevent tight finances from hindering its defense against Russian forces, AP reported.

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G7 nations announce Russia gold ban as summit starts under shadow of war

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Members of the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Sunday announced a ban on imports of Russian gold as the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps kicked off under the shadow of the war in Ukraine and consequences ranging from energy shortages to a food crisis.

The move by Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada is part of efforts to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine more than four months into a conflict Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a special military operation, Reuters reported.

“The measures we have announced today will directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

“We need to starve the Putin regime of its funding. The UK and our allies are doing just that.”

A senior U.S. administration representative said the G7 would make an official announcement on the gold import ban on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

“This is a key export, a key source of revenue for Russia in terms of their ability to transact with the global financial system,” the U.S. official said.

Russian gold exports were worth $15.45 billion last year and wealthy Russians have been buying bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions, the British government said.

As well as the gold import ban, G7 leaders were also having “really constructive” talks on a possible price cap on Russian oil imports, a German government source said.

The three-day summit takes place against an even darker backdrop than last year, when British, Canadian, French, German, Italian, Japanese and U.S. leaders met for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soaring global energy and food prices are hitting economic growth in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, with the United Nations warning of an “unprecedented global hunger crisis”.

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