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Johnson calls on China to speak out over Ukraine war

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has urged China to get off the fence and join in global condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Prime Minister said he believed some in Xi Jinping’s administration were having “second thoughts” about the neutral stance adopted by Beijing following Russia’s actions against its neighbour.

Despite Mr Johnson’s suggestion of a possible shift in attitude, there was fresh criticism of Nato on Saturday from China as Russian forces continued their bombardment of Ukrainian towns and cities.

Mr Johnson used a Sunday Times interview to urge China and other neutral nations to line up against Russia.

He said: “As time goes on, and as the number of Russian atrocities mounts up, I think it becomes steadily more difficult and politically embarrassing for people either actively or passively to condone Putin’s invasion.

“There are considerable dilemmas now for people who thought they could sit this one out, who thought they could sit on the fence.

“And, yes, I think that in Beijing you are starting to see some second thoughts.”

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US President Joe Biden had a two-hour video call with Chinese President Xi on Friday but there was little evidence of any shift in Beijing’s stance.

On Saturday China’s vice foreign Le Yucheng blamed Nato – a “Cold War vestige” – for the war and criticised sanctions against Russia.

Leaders from the Nato alliance – including Mr Biden – will meet in Brussels on Thursday, with Mr Johnson suggesting it would be “extremely significant”, with the possibility of more pledges of support for Ukraine and its president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“People will want to do more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves,” Mr Johnson said.

“But I’ve got to stress it is very important that we don’t fall into the trap of seeming to stack up Putin’s argument to his own country that this is effectively a war between Russia and Nato; between Russia and the West. That’s not what is going on here.”

The Prime Minister used a speech at the Tory spring conference on Saturday to claim Mr Putin’s invasion was not motivated by a fear of Ukraine joining an expanded Nato, but rather because he was terrified of a successful democracy in the former Soviet republic.

He said Mr Zelensky – with whom he has regular conversations despite the constant threat of attacks on Kyiv – was an “absolutely charming guy but he’s also proved to be an inspiration and a heroic war leader”.

The possibility of offering Mr Zelensky and his family refuge in the UK had been discussed but Mr Johnson told the Sunday Times: “I’ve got to tell you that Volodymyr has always been clear, his duty is to the Ukrainian people; he’s going to stay there, he’s going to look after them. I have to say I admire him.”

In his conference speech in Blackpool on Saturday, Mr Johnson said Mr Putin was in a “total panic” about the prospect of a popular uprising if freedom was allowed to flourish in Kyiv.

The war was a “turning point for the world”, forcing countries to stand up to Russia rather than “making accommodations with tyranny”.

“He (Mr Putin) has been in a total panic about a so-called colour revolution in Moscow itself and that is why he is trying so brutally to snuff out the flame of freedom in Ukraine, and that’s why it is so vital that he fails,” Mr Johnson said.

“A victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine, and the end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the extinction of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova, it will mean the beginning of a new age of intimidation across eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”

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Mr Johnson used his Sunday Times interview to acknowledge that sanctions and the shift away from Russian oil and gas could have a “terrible” impact on consumers and motorists.

But he said the West had to cut dependency on Russian hydrocarbons, suggesting it should have been done earlier following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“The West is paying something like USD 700 million (£531 million) a day to Putin in oil and gas revenues. And he’s using that money to finance his barbaric aggression in Ukraine.”

In other developments:

– UN organisations confirmed there have been more than 847 civilian deaths since the war began, though they concede the actual toll is likely much higher.

– Former prime minister David Cameron travelled to Poland to deliver supplies to refugees fleeing the fighting.

– Transport Secretary Grant Shapps banned a Cessna jet from leaving London Biggin Hill Airport because of suspected links to Russia.

Evening Standard

International

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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