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Zelensky calls for ‘firm global response’ to train station bombing

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “firm global response” Friday after a missile strike killed 52 people at a train station in eastern Ukraine where civilians had gathered to flee a feared Russian offensive.

“This is another Russian war crime for which everyone involved will be held accountable,” Zelensky said in a video message, referring to Friday’s missile strike, whose victims included five children.

“World powers have already condemned Russia’s attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a firm global response to this war crime,” he continued.

World leaders condemned the attack in the Donetsk capital, with US President Joe Biden accusing Russia of being behind a “horrific atrocity” that the French condemned as a “crime against humanity.”

At least 52 people including five children were killed, the regional government said, while Zelensky reported 300 wounded, saying the strike showed “evil with no limits”.

Zelensky said the bombing had been reported in Russia before the missiles had even landed and called for more weaponry to counter Moscow’s aggression.

“I am sure that the victory of Ukraine is just a matter of time, and I will do everything to reduce this time,” he added.

AFP journalists saw the bodies of at least 30 people under plastic sheets next to the station.

Body parts, packed bags and stuffed animals were flung across the floor.

On the station forecourt, the remains of a missile were still visible.

It was tagged with white paint with the words “for our children” in Russian, an expression frequently used by pro-Russian separatists in reference to their losses since the start of the first Donbas war in 2014.

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“I was in the station. I heard, like, a double explosion. I rushed to the wall for protection,” said Natalia, searching for her passport among the abandoned belongings.

The remains of one rocket in the aftermath of the attack on the railway station

Another woman in a state of shock told AFP: “I saw people covered in blood entering the station and bodies everywhere on the ground.”

Russia denied being behind the missile strike, which came with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Kyiv for talks with Zelensky and to visit the scene of civilian killings in the town of Bucha.

Russia faces “decay” because of ever tougher sanctions and Ukraine had a “European future”, Von der Leyen said at a news conference with Zelensky.

Six weeks into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Moscow has shifted its focus to eastern and southern Ukraine after stiff resistance ended plans to swiftly capture the capital Kyiv.

– ‘All this horror’ –

Russian troops appear set on creating a long-sought land link between occupied Crimea and the Moscow-backed separatist statelets of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region, where civilians have been urged to flee heavy shelling that has laid waste to towns and complicated evacuation efforts.

“There is no secret — the battle for Donbas will be decisive. What we have already experienced — all this horror — it can multiply,” warned Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday.

In the city of Lozova west of Kramatorsk, more than 15,000 people have fled, Oleg Sinegubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said on Telegram.

“There are still about 50 thousand [people]. A large number of people will leave. Departures are organized both by rail and own vehicles,” he said, adding that fighting was taking place nearby.

In the south, the Black Sea port city of Odessa girded for rocket attacks, imposing a weekend curfew.

Residents and Ukrainian officials returning after a Russian withdrawal from an area near Kyiv, meanwhile, were taking stock of the scale of the devastation.

Bucha, where authorities say hundreds were killed — some with their hands bound — has become a byword for the brutality allegedly inflicted under Russian occupation.

But Zelensky warned worse was being uncovered.

“They have started sorting through the ruins in Borodianka,” northwest of Kyiv, he said in his nightly address. “It is much more horrific there. There are even more victims of Russian occupiers.”

Conflict in the area has wrought massive destruction and bodies are only now being retrieved, with 27 recovered from two destroyed buildings, according to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

Fresh allegations also emerged from Obukhovychi, northwest of Kyiv, where villagers told AFP they were used as human shields.

– ‘Help us now’ –

Moscow has denied targeting civilians, but growing evidence of atrocities has galvanised Ukraine’s allies in the EU, which has approved an embargo on Russian coal and the closure of its ports to Russian vessels.

The bloc has frozen 30 billion euros ($32.6 billion) in assets from blacklisted Russian and Belarusian individuals and companies, it said Friday.

It also blacklisted Putin’s two adult daughters and more than 200 others as part of its latest sanctions package, according to an official list published late Friday.

The United States and Britain had already sanctioned the Russian leader’s daughters.

En route to Kyiv, Borrell told journalists the EU would supply 7.5 million euros to train Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate war crimes, which Russia is accused of committing.

At the United Nations General Assembly, 93 nations voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the body’s human rights council, prompting accusations from Moscow that the move was “illegal and politically motivated.”

“Russia’s lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine,” Biden said, calling the invasion “an outrage to our common humanity”.

Ukraine has welcomed new pressure on Moscow, but it continues to push for harsher sanctions and more heavy weaponry.

“Either you help us now — and I’m speaking about days, not weeks — or your help will come too late and many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed,” foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said after meeting NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

Britain said Friday it was sending Ukraine more “high-grade military equipment” including Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles, while Slovakia said it had given Ukraine an S-300 air defence system.

AFP

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Comoros ex-president Sambi jailed for life for ‘high treason’

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Former Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi (2nd R), escorted by Gendarmes, arrives at the courthouse in Moroni on November 21, 2022. – Sambi, who served as president from 2006-2011 and is the main opponent of current leader Azali Assoumani, has been held under house arrest since May 2018.
Sambi was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.
Three months later he was placed under pre-trial detention for embezzlement, corruption and forgery, over a scandal involving the sale of Comorian passports to stateless people living in Gulf nations. (Photo by Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP)

A court in the Comoros on Monday handed down a life sentence for high treason to ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who was convicted of selling passports to stateless people living in the Gulf.

Sambi, 64, an arch-rival of President Azali Assoumani, was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose rulings cannot be appealed.

“He betrayed the mission entrusted to him by the Comorians,” public prosecutor Ali Mohamed Djounaid told the court last week as he requested a life sentence.

Sambi, who led the small Indian Ocean archipelago between 2006 and 2011, pushed through a law in 2008 allowing the sale of passports for high fees.

The scheme aimed at the so-called bidoon — an Arab minority numbering in the tens of thousands who cannot obtain citizenship.

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The former president was accused of embezzling millions of dollars under the scheme.

The prosecution said the cost was more than $1.8 billion — more than the impoverished nation’s GDP.

“They gave thugs the right to sell Comorian nationality as if they were selling peanuts,” said Eric Emmanuel Sossa, a lawyer for civilian plaintiffs.

But Sambi’s French lawyer Jean-Gilles Halimi said “no evidence” of missing money or bank accounts had been put forward to suggest a crime.

Sambi refused to attend the trial after a brief appearance at the first hearing, as his lawyers said there were no guarantees he would be judged fairly.

He was originally prosecuted for corruption, but the charges were reclassified as high treason, a crime that “does not exist in Comorian law,” Halimi said.

Sambi had already spent four years behind bars before he faced trial, far exceeding the maximum eight months. He was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.

Guardian

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UK university workers begin strike over ‘falling pay, brutal workloads’

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Thousands of university and college staff in the United Kingdom, including lecturers, librarians and researchers, have declared a strike to demand pay increase and improved working conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU), the UK trade union for university staff, said the strike, referred to as the biggest in decades, is to improve quality in the education sector.

The UCU “represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians, technicians, professional staff and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK”.

“This is the biggest week in our history. Every single university takes strike action on Thursday and Friday. We need every member, student and supporter on our picket lines on Thursday to show the employers that this time is different,” the union said in a statement.

Announcing the strike on Wednesday, Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, warned of a “bigger action” unless employers improved their offers.

“Staff are burnt out but they are fighting back and they will bring the whole sector to a standstill,” she said.

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“Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector. Students are standing with staff because they know this can’t go on.”

The strike, which began on Thursday, will also hold on November 25 and November 30.

Commenting on the development on Thursday, Grady expressed satisfaction with the turnout of university staff.

“Today’s picket lines are huge. 70,000 university staff have turned out like never before, defying bullying tactics from management to show they will no longer accept falling pay, pension cuts, brutal workloads and gig-economy working conditions,” she was quoted as saying, according to UCL.

“If vice-chancellors doubted the determination of university staff to save our sector, then today has been a rude awakening for them.”

The strike has affected over 2.5 million students, some of who are standing in solidarity with their lecturers.

Lawyers, nurses, postal workers and many others have also protested to seek pay rises that match the soaring inflation in the country.

The latest protests come after the UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers announced on Tuesday that more than 40,000 rail workers will stage strikes in December and January, disrupting travel for scores of people during the festive season.

The union said members will have demonstrations for four days from December 13 and in the first week of January.

The UK has been battling difficult economic situations due to surging energy costs arising from the Russia-Ukraine war.

Earlier in August, the Bank of England warned that inflation would climb to just over 13 percent in 2022.

It also projected that the country would enter a recession from the fourth quarter of 2022 until late 2023.

In November, the country’s inflation rate jumped in the last 12 months to 11.1 percent in October — up by one percent from August’s inflation rate.

The Cable

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Gunman kills 10 in US Walmart store

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A gunman has killed up to 10 people in a Walmart superstore in Chesapeake, in the US state of Virginia, police say.

Reports say the man, a store manager, opened fire then turned the gun on himself and is now dead.

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The City of Chesapeake tweeted “police confirm an active shooter incident with fatalities at the Walmart”.

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