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Blinken authorizes $200M in defense aid for Ukraine following Biden request

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday announced that he had authorized $200 million in defensive assistance for Ukraine following a request from President Biden.

“I have immediately authorized today, pursuant to a delegation by the President, a fourth Presidential Drawdown of up to $200 million for additional military assistance for Ukraine’s defense,” said in a statement.

“This package will include further defensive assistance to help Ukraine meet the armored, airborne, and other threats it is facing,” he continued.

Blinken noted that the additional funds would bring the total amount of U.S. security assistance provided to Ukraine since Jan. 2021 to $1.2 billion, saying in a post on Twitter that the fourth drawdown in less than a year was “unprecedented.”

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Earlier on Saturday, Biden directed Blinken to provide the defense aid, saying the secretary of state could use the funds for military training and to provide general “assistance to Ukraine and to make the determinations required.”

This comes after Congress on Thursday approved a massive government funding package that included $13.6 billion in aid tied to Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now extending into its third week, has met with condemnation and multiple waves of sanctions targeting Moscow from the U.S. and its allies.

“We are committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to provide Ukraine the support it needs,” Blinken said.

“We will also continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need and to back the people of Ukraine in their fight for their country through security and economic assistance,” he continued. “The international community is united and determined to hold Putin accountable.”

THE WILL

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Kenya’s Presidential Race: Early Results Put Odinga Slightly Ahead

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Raila Odinga

Official results provided by the Kenyan election commission have shown that veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kenya’s presidential race.

The results, which were displayed on a large screen at a national tallying centre in the capital, Nairobi, also pushed Deputy President William Ruto into second place.

The results, with just over 26 % of votes counted, Odinga had 54% and Ruto had 45%.

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Ruto and Odinga are in a tight race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has reached his two-term limit. Kenyatta fell out with Ruto after the last election and has endorsed Odinga.

Official vote tallying has been proceeding slowly, fueling public anxiety.

Election commission chairman Wafula Chebukati blamed party agents, who are allowed to scrutinise results forms before they are added to the final tally.

The winning candidate must receive 50% of the national vote plus one, and at least 25% of the vote from 24 of 47 counties.

The commission has until Tuesday to declare a winner.

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Massive explosions rock Russian base in Crimea in major blow to Putin

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Huge columns of smoke were seen rising above the Crimean air base (Picture: Reuters)

Huge explosions have rocked an air base in occupied Crimea, a symbolic blow to Vladimir Putin’s war effort.

Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of formally confirming its missiles hit the target but an advisor to Volodymyr Zelensky strongly hinted this was the case.

It would mark the first major strike on a Russian asset in the peninsula since the February invasion began.

At more than 200km away from any territory held by Ukraine, it will also be seen as a vindication of the West’s strategy to provide Kyiv with long range missiles.

Kremlin troops have occupied the area since 2014 and have used it as a staging ground for its assault on the south of Ukraine.

Tourists at nearby resorts were reportedly evacuated as huge pillars of black smoke rose over the skyline.

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Russian authorities said at least one person was killed when munitions blew up at Saki air base.

The defence ministry insisted the installation had not been shelled, a similar approach to denials issued in the wake of the sinking of the Moskva ship by a Ukrainian missile.

TASS, a Russian news agency, reported a military source claiming it was caused ‘only [by the] violation of fire safety standards.

The Kremlin has consistently claimed a fire which spread to munitions sunk the Moskva, the Black Sea fleet flagship which went down in April and gave Ukrainians a major morale boost.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to the Ukrainian president, wrote on Twitter after the Crimea blast: ‘Demilitarization of the Russian Federation — an integral part of global security ensuring.

‘The future of the Crimea is to be a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique nature and a world resort. Not a military base for terrorists. It is just the beginning.’

Crimea’s head Sergei Aksyonov said ambulances and medical helicopters were sent to the Saki air base and the area was sealed off within a radius of three miles.

It remains to be seen how the Kremlin will response after it previously threatened to strike ‘decision-making centres’ in Kyiv if Crimea was targeted.

Ukrainian officials earlier confirmed three people were killed and 23 more wounded in various shelling incidents, including near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Metro

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Kenya Elections 2022: Raila Odinga and William Ruto in Tight Race for President

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Kenyans are choosing their next president after an intense campaign dominated by debates about living costs, unemployment and corruption.

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, having served the constitutionally limited two terms, is backing one-time foe Raila Odinga, 77, to succeed him.

His decision followed a falling out with Deputy President William Ruto, 55, who had expected to be endorsed.

More than 22 million Kenyans have registered to vote.

There are several other elections happening at the same time and a mix-up of ballot papers in some areas for some of those votes has again raised questions about the organisation of the general election.

Polls are open for 11 hours from 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT). Anyone still in the queue at closing time will be allowed to vote.

The results of the last presidential election in 2017 were annulled after the Supreme Court ruled that the electoral commission had not followed the law when it came to the electronic transmission of the vote tallies from the polling stations.

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Judges ruled that “illegalities and irregularities” had taken place.

A re-run was won by Mr Kenyatta, but boycotted by Mr Odinga – the main opposition candidate at the time.

The chairman of the electoral commission, Wafula Chebukati, who was also in charge of the 2017 vote, has frequently tried to reassure Kenyans that his team will be up to the task this time.

But Monday’s logistical problems have increased the pressure on him.

Baba v Hustler

This election looks like it will be a tight race between frontrunners Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto.

Mr Odinga – a long-serving opposition leader, nicknamed Baba (“father”) by his supporters, is running for president for a fifth time. Mr Ruto, who has tried to emphasise his connection with ordinary Kenyans by calling himself a “hustler”, will be taking his first stab at the presidency.

Two other candidates – David Mwaure and George Wajackoya – are also in the race.

Despite the campaign being dominated by issues, ethnic loyalty may also play a part in determining how people vote.

For the first time in the multi-party era none of the main candidates are from the country’s largest ethnic group – Kikuyu.

But knowing that those votes are vital, both have chosen Kikuyu running mates.

Voting process

To win the presidential race in the first round, a candidate needs:

  • more than half of all the votes cast across the country
  • at least 25% of the votes cast in a minimum of 24 counties.
Voters will also be choosing MPs and senators to go to the national parliament, county governors and county assembly members, as well as 47 women’s representatives to sit in the National Assembly.

On election day, voters will have their fingerprint scanned to check their identity but a printed register can also be used if the machines fail.

Each voter will then be given colour-coded ballot papers for each of the elections, which they will mark in a private booth and drop in the relevant ballot boxes.

Counting will start at the polling stations shortly after voting ends. Officials will then take a photo of the final tally and send the image to both the constituency and national tallying centres.

To ensure transparency the media, political parties and civil society groups have been urged to run their own tallies using final results declared at the more than 40,000 polling stations.

But only the electoral commission can declare the winner of the presidential election after verifying the physical and digital forms sent to the national tallying centre.

The main presidential candidates have vowed to respect the result of the elections.

NPO

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