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The EU has proposed some of its toughest measures yet against Russia, including a total ban on oil imports and sanctions on war crimes suspects.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the package was aimed at maximising pressure on Russia while minimising damage to Europe.
Russian crude oil would be phased out within six months, she said.
Military officers involved in suspected war crimes in Bucha and Mariupol would also face new sanctions.
“This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable,” Ms von der Leyen told the European Parliament on Wednesday.
The EU has been focusing for weeks on how to wean itself off Russian oil and gas. It has already pledged to reduce gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and now plans to phase out crude oil over six months and refined products by the end of 2022.
“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion,” the Commission president said.
The package first has to be approved by EU ambassadors and is set to be signed off in the next few days.
Slovakia and Hungary, which currently rely on Russian oil, would be given an extra year to find alternative suppliers. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Budapest could not support the package in its current form, while Slovakia’s economy minister said his country wanted a three-year transition period.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he would also seek a two-to-three year exemption to tackle problems with pipeline capacity.
Image source, Getty Images
Last year, Russia supplied the EU with a quarter of its oil imports, and Germany was the biggest buyer. However, Germany has dramatically reduced its reliance on Russian oil imports, down from 35% to 12%. The UK, which is no longer in the EU, is already phasing out Russian oil, which accounts for 8% of its imports.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was working on various options in response to the planned embargo. Sanctions were a double-edged sword for the Europeans and others, as the cost for European citizens would increase every day.
Targeting Russian banks and TV
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU suspended broadcasts of two networks, RT and Sputnik, that broadcast in English, German and Spanish. It has now targeted three of the biggest Russian state-run broadcasters, by cable, satellite, smartphone or online.
“We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively,” Ms von der Leyen said. Although the three networks were not named, they are thought to include the widely watched Russian-language Rossiya and RTR Planeta channels of state-owned operator VGTRK.
A ban would also be imposed on providing European services to Russian companies through accountants, lawyers and spin-doctors, she said.
Earlier sanctions have already hit Russian banks but the biggest bank of all, Sberbank, has been left off the list because it was considered necessary for paying for Russian gas. Sberbank makes up over a third of Russia’s banking sector and is now set to be removed from the SWIFT global financial messaging system. Two other Russian banks are included in the proposals.
Previous sanctions packages have also targeted a number of individuals linked to the Kremlin and the invasion, and unconfirmed reports suggested the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, would be on the latest list, along with the family of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
War in Ukraine: More coverage
‘We want Ukraine to win’
The Commission president also gave details of plans to help Ukraine tackle the vast costs of the war and the impact on its economy.
Explaining Europe’s “very special responsibility towards Ukraine”, she said Ukraine needed to fund the dramatic fall in its economic output and wider reconstruction.
A recovery package would be drawn up that could tackle weaknesses in the Ukrainian economy and help fight corruption, she said.
“We want Ukraine to win this war, but we also want to set the conditions for Ukraine’s success in the aftermath of the war.”
In a separate move, the EU also promised to increase military aid to neighbouring Moldova, which is under threat from Russian soldiers based in the breakaway Moldova region of Transnistria. “We will continue to deepen our partnership with you to bring your country closer to the EU,” European Council President Charles Michel told Moldova’s pro-EU president, Maia Sandu, in Chisinau.
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Source Here: bbc.co.uk
Pennsylvania Primary: Trump-backed ‘Dr Oz’ in Cliffhanger Vote Count
Image source, Reuters
A Trump-backed celebrity doctor’s campaign to run as the next Republican senator for Pennsylvania has come down to a nail-biting conclusion.
Mehmet Oz, a surgeon best known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, is facing a cliffhanger vote count after the party primary.
He was neck and neck with former hedge fund executive David McCormick.
The race is being closely watched as a test of former President Donald Trump’s hold over the Republican party.
The contest in this key presidential swing state is one of a number taking place across the country to determine who will stand for office in the midterm elections in November.
The midterms fall halfway through a president’s term in office. They decide who controls the two chambers which make up Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
At present, the Democratic Party controls both chambers, but by very slim majorities. And historically, the party that holds the White House has tended to suffer losses in the midterms.
The primaries decide which party’s candidates will run against each other in the midterms, and their election will play an important part in determining the rest of US President Joe Biden’s presidency.
Five states held primary elections on Tuesday, making it the busiest date on the 2022 midterms calendar so far. Here are some of the projected results:
Earlier this month, Mr Trump’s pick for the Ohio Senate primary cruised to victory against his opponents. But Pennsylvania’s primary has gone down to the wire.
Despite Mr Trump’s endorsement of Mehmet Oz, the race stayed in a three-way dead heat until polls closed.
The Republican contest was shaken up by a late surge from right-wing commentator Kathy Barnette.
But Mr McCormick came from behind, with the race narrow enough to be in recount territory.
Pennsylvania primary marks test of Trump’s strength
By Nomia Iqbal, BBC News
Dr Oz arrived at the venue and did a thumbs up to us and said he was feeling good. Taking to the stage he thanked everyone who supported him and made it clear he wasn’t conceding.
He said victory would be his in the end. But his closest rival Dave McCormick – who wasn’t backed by Mr Trump – said the same thing.
The results are still being counted but at the moment it’s within the margins for a recount. The full count of the actual ballots could take days.
It feels a lot like 2020 when we were here for the presidential race. In the end Pennsylvania projected for Biden taking him over the threshold.
Tonight was a critical test of the former President Trump’s ability to back winners… He wants to use the Primaries to prove his dominance over the Republican Party.
Mr Trump really got behind Dr Oz – whether his base did is yet to be decided.
The eventual Republican winner will take on Lt Gov John Fetterman, who easily won the Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday night – two days after announcing he had suffered a stroke.
On Monday, the left-wing Democrat’s team said he had undergone surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.
Mr Fetterman, a Harvard-educated former mayor who sported hoodie sweatshirts instead of suits on the campaign trail, remained in hospital on the night of his election victory, with his wife speaking at a campaign event in his place.
Image source, Twitter/@JohnFetterman
In a White House statement on Tuesday night, Mr Biden congratulated Mr Fetterman and argued that the Republican candidates were “too extreme”.
But a controversy that dogged Mr Fetterman in his primary campaign is certain to be raised by Republicans during the general election.
In 2013, during Mr Fetterman’s second term as mayor of Braddock, a town of around 2,000 outside Pittsburgh, he pursued an innocent black jogger who he wrongly thought had been firing a gun near his home.
Mr Fetterman, who is a hulking 6ft 8in and was armed with a shotgun during the confrontation, has refused to apologise for the incident.
Original Article: bbc.co.uk
Ukraine War: Snake Island and Battle for Control in Black Sea
Image source, PLANET LABS PBC
Right from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island was given a vital and almost mythical status in the war. This unremarkable, rocky outcrop in the Black Sea was seized by Russia and has become a battleground of strategic value.
Russia claims Ukraine has sustained disastrous losses in a failed bid to recapture the island, including special forces, warplanes, helicopters and drones. Ukraine insists it has limited its campaign to attacking facilities on the island and boats.
The battle is not over and Russia is repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison, says UK defence ministry intelligence.
Snake or Zmiinyi Island is a fraction of a square kilometre in size and there are no more snakes to speak of. But there can be no doubt of its importance for control of the western Black Sea.
“If Russian troops succeed in occupying Snake Island and set up their long-range air-defence systems, they will control the sea, land and air in the north-west part of the Black Sea and in the south of Ukraine,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov told the BBC.
Image source, UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES
That is why Russia’s flagship Moskva sailed there within hours of the start of the war, telling Ukrainian soldiers on the island to give themselves up: “I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed,” said a Russian officer.
“Russian warship get lost,” came the now legendary response, although in far cruder language. The island was seized but weeks later the Moskva was sunk.
Losing the Moskva means Russia’s supply ships to the island now have minimal protection, says the UK, although, if it can consolidate its position, then it could dominate a large part of the Black Sea.
Threat to Ukraine, its neighbours and Nato
A reinforced Russian presence could be disastrous for Ukraine, strategically as well as economically.
Ukraine has already had to close its port at Odesa, suspending vital grain exports, but Mr Zhdanov fears the island could also be used as a second frontline.
“If the Russians succeed in installing long-range air defence systems then they will be able to defend their squadron, which can reach Ukraine’s coastline.”
It would also give Russian troops the chance to break into Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway territory under Russian control that lies next-door to Ukraine and not far from Odesa.
However, Snake Island is a mere 45km (28 miles) away from the coast of Romania, which is part of the West’s Nato alliance.
UK naval analyst Jonathan Bentham believes a Russian S-400 air missile system on the island would be a “big game-changer”. If Russia were able to deploy a missile system, not only would Odesa come under threat, but Nato’s southern flank would be endangered, too, warns Romanian historian Dorin Dobrincu.
“This is very important for the Romanian government and people but also for the entire alliance. Russia would have the capacity to destroy cities and military capability in the east of our territory.”
Nato reinforced Romania’s borders from the start of the war, sending in Belgian and French forces.
But there are major economic risks, too, for Romania. Snake Island lies close to the mouth of the River Danube, which delineates Romania’s border with Ukraine. Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta is not far south and has been taking in container ships that are no longer able to sail to Odesa.
War in Ukraine: More coverage
Russian military-political analyst Alexander Mikhailov said troops on Snake Island could be in a position to control traffic into the north-western Black Sea and the Danube delta – the gateway to south-eastern Europe. “If there’s a military base or military infrastructure, it would be possible to block ships that enter the river as well as leave,” he told Russian media.
Romania’s Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre believes Russia may decide to annex the island and control as many Black Sea shipping routes as possible towards the Bosphorus in Turkey.
Historically, Snake Island was Romanian territory until it was ceded in 1948 to the Soviet Union, which used it as a radar base. As Romania came under Soviet influence until 1989, Bucharest accepted the arrangement.
Ukraine took control with the fall of the communism and eventually in 2009 the International Court of Justice drew up the island’s territorial limits, giving Romania almost 80% of the Black Sea continental shelf near the island, and Ukraine the rest.
Snake Island is not just of strategic use, because this part of the Black Sea is rich in hydrocarbon resources – so The Hague ruling means both countries possess reserves of petroleum and gas.
It may seem to be a small clump of rock with little obvious value, but its fate is a major element of Russia’s war.
Image source, Ukraine Postal Service
Original Source: bbc.co.uk
Disabled Children ‘dumped’ in Ukrainian Institutions
There are claims that thousands of disabled Ukrainian children have been forgotten and abandoned in institutions that can’t look after them.
The human rights organisation, Disability Rights International, has carried out an investigation and found children with severe disabilities tied to beds in overrun children’s homes unable to cope.
The BBC has been given exclusive access to an institution in western Ukraine, where disabled children from the east have been left by their carers who fled to neighbouring countries.
Reporting by Dan Johnson
Filmed by Jonathan Dunstan
Produced by Ruth Clegg and Natalie Higgins
Original Post: bbc.co.uk
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