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U.S. gives Ukraine $800 million more in military aid, adds heavy weapons

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2022)

U.S. President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, expanding the scope of the systems provided to include heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The package, which brings the total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5 billion, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armored personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defense boats, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying equipment provided to Ukraine “has been critical” as it confronts the invasion.

“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden said in a written statement.

According to Reuters the new package includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had been earmarked for Afghanistan before the U.S.-backed government collapsed last year. It also includes 18 155mm howitzers, along with 40,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, 200 armored personnel carriers and 300 additional “Switchblade” drones.

This was the first time howitzers have been provided to Ukraine by the United States, read the report.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the systems, like the howitzers and radars, will require additional training for Ukrainian forces not accustomed to using American military equipment.

“We’re aware of the clock and we know time is not our friend,” Kirby said when asked about the speed of deliveries.

The new aid – first reported by Reuters on Tuesday – will be 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.

John Spencer, a retired U.S. Army major and expert on urban warfare at the Madison Policy Forum, said he was excited to see that the United States was sending artillery and artillery rounds.

“You need these bigger, more powerful weapons … to match what Russia is bringing to try to take eastern Ukraine,” Spencer said.

As news of the latest security assistance came out, executives from the top U.S. weapons makers met with Pentagon officials to discuss the industrial challenges in the event of a protracted Ukraine conflict, Reuters reported.

These included executives from BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L), General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII.N), L3Harris Technologies (LHX.N), Boeing Co (BA.N), Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said the discussion “focused primarily on accelerating production and building more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be exported rapidly, deployed with minimal training, and prove effective in the battlefield.”

Zelenskiy has been pleading with U.S. and European leaders to provide heavier arms and equipment. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the seven-week-long invasion, Reuters reported.

Russia has been unable to achieve most of its military goals as Ukrainians have put up a fiercer-than-expected resistance, read the report.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it views as dangerous nationalists, but Ukraine and the West say Russia began an unprovoked war of aggression.

According to Reuters on Wednesday, Russia said it had taken control of the southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol and that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered.

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Voters in many countries sceptical of democracy, poll shows

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(Last Updated On: April 12, 2024)

Voters in many countries are suffering a crisis of faith in their democracies and institutions, a survey by a governance watchdog showed, painting a bleak picture in a year in which more than half of the world’s population holds elections.

With the United States, India, Britain and the European Union going to the polls in 2024, the report published on Thursday by the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) offers a sombre snapshot of the perceived health of many democracies.

The results show that voters in 11 of the 19 countries surveyed, which included the U.S. and India, fewer than half of the people believed the most recent election was free and fair.

Only voters in Denmark believed courts ‘always’ or ‘often’ provide access to justice, while in 8 of 19 countries, more people had favourable views of “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament or elections” than had unfavourable views.”Democracies must respond to the scepticism of their public, both by improving governance and by combating the growing culture of disinformation that has fostered false accusations against credible elections,” International IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said in a statement.

This year’s presidential election in the United States is likely to see incumbent Democrat Joe Biden face off again against ex-president Donald Trump, who falsely claimed widespread voter fraud when he lost the presidency in 2020.

The survey showed that only 47 per cent of respondents in the United States expressed faith that the country had credible electoral processes.

Elections for Europe’s parliament which take place in June could see big gains for the far-right and impact policy from support for Ukraine in its war against Russia’s full-scale invasion to measures to address climate change.

In February, the parliament condemned what it called Russian attempts to undermine European democracy.

The survey, conducted between July 2023 and January 2024, polled about 1,500 people in each of 19 countries including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, The Gambia, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Korea and Tanzania.

 

(Reuters)

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One dead, five wounded in Washington shooting

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2024)

A man has been killed and five others, including two children, injured after a shooting in Washington.

The shooting happened in the Carver Langston neighborhood on Wednesday night, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Pamela Smith said.

Investigators believe the suspects got out of a vehicle and began shooting into a crowd of people on the street.

One man was killed while two men, a woman and a nine-year-old were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.

A 12-year-old later arrived at a hospital with a gunshot wound and is also believed to be a victim in the shooting, Smith said.

The District of Columbia is struggling with a sharp increase in violent crime, which went up 39 percent in 2023.

The increase was largely fuelled by a 35 percent rise in homicides and growth in carjackings, which nearly doubled.

Smith has pushed US politicians to pass legislation that would strengthen penalties for gun offenses in Washington.

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Three sons of Hamas leader Haniyeh killed in Israeli airstrike

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2024)

Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Palestinian Islamist group and Haniyeh’s family said.

The Israeli military confirmed carrying out the attack, describing the three sons as operatives in the Hamas armed wing, Reuters reported.

The three sons – Hazem, Amir and Mohammad – were killed when the car they were driving in was bombed in Gaza’s Al-Shati camp, Hamas said. Four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren, three girls and a boy, were also killed in the attack, Hamas said.

Asked about the four grandchildren killed in the airstrike, the Israeli military said there was “no information on that right now.”

Haniyeh, based abroad in Qatar, has been the tough-talking face of Hamas’ international diplomacy as war with Israel has raged on in Gaza, where his family home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike back in November.

“The blood of my sons is not dearer than the blood of our people,” Haniyeh, 61, who has 13 sons and daughters according to Hamas sources, told pan-Arab Al Jazeera TV.

The three sons and four grandchildren were making family visits during the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Shati, their home refugee camp in Gaza City, according to relatives.

Hamas said on Tuesday it was studying an Israeli ceasefire proposal in the more than six-month-old Gaza war but that it was “intransigent” and met none of the Palestinian demands.

“Our demands are clear and specific and we will not make concessions on them. The enemy will be delusional if it thinks that targeting my sons, at the climax of the negotiations and before the movement sends its response, will push Hamas to change its position,” Haniyeh said.

In the seventh month of a war in which Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated Gaza, Hamas wants an end to Israeli military operations and a withdrawal from the enclave, and permission for displaced Palestinians to return home, Reuters reported.

Haniyeh’s eldest son confirmed in a Facebook post that his three brothers were killed. “Thanks to God who honoured us by the martyrdom of my brothers, Hazem, Amir and Mohammad and their children,” wrote Abdel-Salam Haniyeh.

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