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Russia absent at UN court hearing on Ukrainian ‘genocide’



Russia absent at UN court hearing on Ukrainian ‘genocide’

… As New Zealand to ramp up Russia sanctions with ‘first of its kind’ law***

Ukraine on Monday sought an emergency order from the United Nations’ highest court to halt hostilities on its territory.

It argued that Russia which boycotted the hearing had falsely applied genocide law to justify its invasion.

The hearing was held at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) without legal representation for Russia.

“The fact that Russia’s seats are empty speaks loudly.

They are not here in this court of law: they are on a battlefield waging an aggressive war against my country,’’ Ukrainian envoy Anton Korynevych said.

The court said it regretted Russia’s non-attendance.

After Ukraine presented its arguments on Monday the court said it would start deliberations and rule “as soon as possible’’.

Countries usually, but not always, follow the court’s orders, which are legally binding.

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands did not reply to a request for comment.

After the hearing, Korynevych stressed that Russia’s absence would not impact the proceedings and Moscow would have to heed any court orders.

“They need to listen and they must listen to the court, under international law,’’ he told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s “special military action is needed to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide’’, meaning those whose first or only language is Russian in Eastern Ukraine.

Russian-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in two eastern breakaway regions of the country since 2014, with some 15,000 people killed, according to the government in Kyiv.

A leading association of genocide scholars has backed Ukraine and Western powers’ view that Russia was misappropriating the term genocide to describe the treatment of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

“There is absolutely no evidence that there is a genocide going on in Ukraine,’’ Melanie O’Brien, president of international Association of Genocide Scholars, told Reuters.

Russia’s new invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, while Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the assault.

The official UN civilian death toll is 406, including 27 children, although officials say the true toll is probably higher.

The case centres on the interpretation of a 1948 treaty on the prevention of genocide, signed by both countries.

The treaty names the ICJ as the forum for resolving disputes between signatories.

Kyiv’s legal team stressed that Moscow was violating and abusing the treaty by using it as a justification for war.

The world was witnessing Russia kill civilians with indiscriminate attacks, Oksana Zolotaryova of the Ukrainian foreign ministry, told the court.

“We don’t know yet the true number of Ukrainians that Russia has murdered in the past 11 days.

“We can only guess how many more will be murdered in the next 11 days if this senseless aggression does not stop,’’ she said, as she asked the court to grant the provisional measures.

The ICJ is the highest court for resolving disputes between states, and while cases there usually take years, it has a fast-track procedure to look at requests for provisional measures, to prevent a situation from worsening.

In another development, New Zealand will rush a bill through parliament this week that will significantly ramp up its sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs, in line with its western allies.

The Russia Sanctions Bill is the “first of its kind” in New Zealand, which has no legal framework for passing broader, unilateral sanctions and usually only does so when called on by the UN security council. As a permanent member of the body, Moscow has vetoed any action against it.

“A bill of this nature has never been brought before our parliament, but with Russia vetoing UN sanctions we must act ourselves to support Ukraine and our partners in opposition to this invasion,” the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said.

The country initially responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with targeted travel bans, prohibiting exports to the military and suspending bilateral ministry consultations.

“We have said throughout our response that no options were off the table, and that we’d continue to do more in line with New Zealand’s unequivocal opposition to Russia’s actions,” Ardern said.

“Despite international condemnation and the resilience and resistance of the Ukrainian people, Russia’s assault continues, and so must our pressure.”

The new sanctions would enable the government to freeze assets located in New Zealand and prevent those sanctioned from moving assets to the country or using its financial system as “a back door to get around sanctions” imposed by other countries, Ardern said.

The new law would also allow for sanctions to be imposed on states that were complicit with Russia, including Belarus.

Sanctions could also apply to trade, and financial institutions, as well as stopping the likes of Russian super yachts, ships and aircraft from entering New Zealand waters or airspace.

The minister of foreign affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, said New Zealand had decided that a targeted sanctions bill is required “to show condemnation in the strongest possible terms”.

“New Zealand continues to call on Russia to do what is right and immediately cease military operations in Ukraine and permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic loss of innocent life.”

The government’s media release included a list of more than 100 individuals who would be affected by the government’s travel bans.

The prime minister also said she would continue to consider a broader autonomous sanctions law, which would allow the country to unilaterally impose sanctions.

That would be a turnaround for the government, which has twice shot down such a bill put forward by the opposition National party over concerns that the bill failed to adequately cover cybersecurity and human rights abuses.

“Fast forward to this situation, that bill as it stood was not fit for purpose for what we needed to do, so we’ve created our own bespoke response, and now we’ll continue the wider autonomous sanctions work,” Ardern said.

New Zealand has been under increasing pressure to increase its response, as other western nations draw on powers in Magnitsky laws, which, like the sanctions announced on Monday, target corrupt officials and human rights offenders.

The architect of the US’s Magnitsky Act, Bill Browder, told RNZ on Monday that he was “surprised” New Zealand had not yet stepped up its response.


– Reuters, with additional report from Guardian UK


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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’



The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin



Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel



A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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