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UN to set up inquiry into possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: May 13, 2022)

The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Thursday to set up an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond, a move that Russia said amounted to political score-settling.

Members passed by an overwhelming majority (33 for, 2 against) a resolution to order a Commission of Inquiry to investigate events in the regions around Kyiv and other areas such as Sumy that were temporarily held by Russian troops.

“The areas … which have been under Russian occupation in late February and March have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades,” Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzhaparova, told the Council.

As she spoke by video link, she held up a drawing that she said was made by an 11-year-old boy who was raped in front of his mother. “He actually lost the ability to speak after and the only way he communicates is with black lines,” she said.

Reuters was unable to verify Dzhaparova’s account of what happened to the boy. A spokesperson for Russia’s diplomatic mission did not respond to a request for comment on her account.

Russia, which has denied carrying out abuses in what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, left its seat at the Geneva-based Council empty in protest.

“Instead of discussing the true causes that led to the crisis in this country and looking for ways to resolve them, the ‘collective West’ is organising another political rout to demonize Russia,” Moscow’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said in an emailed statement before the vote.

In a shift from its former position of abstaining on Ukraine, China voted against the decision alongside Eritrea.

“We have noted that in recent years the politicization and confrontation at the (Council)..has been on the rise which has severely impacted the credibility, impartiality and the solidarity,” said ambassador Chen Xu.

Russia says it went into Ukraine on Feb. 24 to disarm the country and rid it of what the Kremlin calls anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Russia was suspended from the 47-member Council last month over allegations of violations in Ukraine, although Moscow says it quit.

At the same session on Thursday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said there were many examples of possible war crimes since the Russian invasion, saying that 1,000 bodies had been recovered so far in the Kyiv region.

“The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking,” she said.

The Kremlin has said images of dead bodies on the streets of towns such as Bucha were staged to discredit its forces.

The resolution also requests Bachelet to provide an update at the Council’s June session on violations in the Russian-besieged port city of Mariupol. Protesters outside the building formed a ‘SAVE MARIUPOL’ sign in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag.

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US, South Korea, Japan hold missile defense exercise with eye on North Korea, China

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(Last Updated On: August 16, 2022)

The United States, South Korea and Japan participated in a ballistic missile defense exercise off Hawaii’s coast last week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, reviving combined drills with an eye on North Korea as well as China.

It was the first time the three countries have held such drills since 2017, after relations between Seoul and Tokyo hit their lowest in years in 2019 amid renewed historical disputes dating to Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to improve relations with Japan and deepen the U.S. alliance to better deter North Korea, including by expanding or resuming joint drills.

The missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercise took place Aug. 8-14 during the multinational Pacific Dragon drills, and demonstrated the three countries’ commitment to respond to challenges posed by North Korea, protect shared security and bolster the rules-based international order, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The participants shared tactical data link information in accordance with a trilateral information sharing agreement, the statement said.

U.S.-led joint missile defence measures have been a sore point with China, which retaliated economically against South Korea’s 2016 decision to host a U.S. military Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

Beijing says the THAAD radar can penetrate its territory and has called on Yoon to honour assurances made by his predecessor to not to increase THAAD deployments, participate in a U.S.-led global missile shield or create a trilateral military alliance involving Japan.

Yoon has said those do not represent formal agreements and that Seoul is not bound by them.

South Korea’s ministry of defense also confirmed on Tuesday that its troops would resume long-suspended live field training during their joint military drills with the United States to be held from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.

The two sides have scaled back combined military drills in recent years due to COVID-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North, which has accused the exercises of being a rehearsal for invasion.

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Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.

In a letter to Kim for Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.

Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in World War II with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.

The “strategic and tactical co-operation, support and solidarity” between the two countries has since reached a new level is their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies.

Kim predicted co-operation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.

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Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator after stabbing in New York

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author of a controversial book titled “The Satanic Verses” was stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in New York on Friday.

Police said Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer just as he was being introduced to the audience.

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery. On Friday evening, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak.

“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.

Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told The Associated Press that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.

“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.

Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in several countries, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous.

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