Thursday, December 08, 2022

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Ukraine says Russia shelled mosque; fighting rages near Kyiv

LVIV, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Russian forces pounding the port city of Mariupol shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 people, including children, the Ukrainian government said Saturday as fighting also raged on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the shelling of the mosque. Mariupol has seen some of the greatest misery from Russia’s war in Ukraine as unceasing barrages have thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and to evacuate trapped civilians.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said that a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, were among the people who had sought safety in the mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roksolana.

Elsewhere, air raid sirens rang out across the capital region and artillery barrages sent residents scurrying for shelter. Fighting erupted in multiple areas around Kyiv.

Russia’s slow, grinding apparent attempt to encircle the city and the bombardment of other population centers with artillery and air strikes mirror tactics that Russian forces have previously used in other campaigns, notably in Syria and Chechnya, to crush armed resistance.

Live updates: Italy seizes Russian billionaire’s $578M yacht

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

MILAN — Italian financial police has seized a Russian-owned superyacht valued at 530 million euros ($578 million) in the port of Trieste as part of seizures of oligarch wealth to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war on Ukraine.

The “Sy A” yacht was identified by Italian police as belonging to belonging to billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, who made a fortune in fertilizer production and coal energy. It was seized Friday evening.

Video shows police in cars with flashing lights approaching the triple-mast yacht and officers boarding it.

Italian authorities last week seized some 143 million euros ($156 million) in luxury yachts and villas belonging to Russian billionaires in such picturesque retreats as Sardinia, the Ligurian coast and Lake Como.

Oil, sanctions, jets: How Congress pushes Biden on Ukraine

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — At first, the White House resisted calls from Congress to ban Russian oil imports to the US And then, it did just that.

The administration hit the brakes on legislation that would have revoked Russia’s normal trade status, until President Joe Biden announced the move Friday. The administration persuaded senators to hold off on imposing Russian sanctions, then slapped stiff sanctions itself. It rejected efforts in Congress to stop the Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline, then led allies in halting it.

“What do all those things have in common?” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, asked after reciting a similar list.

“In each of those cases, the administration said no,” until lawmakers from both political parties put pressure on the White House to change course. “And in each case, the administration did a 180.”

It’s an emerging pattern that has not gone unnoticed during the escalating war in Ukraine: A remarkably unified Congress is out front on foreign policy, pressing Biden to go further and faster with a US response to a devastating conflict that has no clear endgame in sight.

Concern grows over traffickers targeting Ukrainian refugees

SIRET, Romania ( Associated Press) — One man was detained in Poland suspected of raping a 19-year-old refugee he’d lured with offers of shelter after she fled war-torn Ukraine. Another was overheard promising work and a room to a 16-year-old girl before authorities intervened.

Another case inside a refugee camp at Poland’s Medyka border, raised suspicions when a man was offering help only to women and children. When questioned by police, he changed his story.

As millions of women and children flee across Ukraine’s borders in the face of Russian aggression, concerns are growing over how to protect the most vulnerable refugees from being targeted by human traffickers or becoming victims of other forms of exploitation.

“Obviously all the refugees are women and children,” said Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, the UNHCR’s head of global communications, who has visited borders in Romania, Poland and Moldova.

“You have to worry about any potential risks for trafficking — but also exploitation, and sexual exploitation and abuse. These are the kinds of situations that people like traffickers … look to take advantage of,” she said.

Agenda languishing, Democrats press Biden to go it alone

PHILADELPHIA ( Associated Press) — Top Democrats are pleading for President Joe Biden to act alone on some of the party’s core legislative priorities, viewing executive action as their best hope of delivering on their promises and energizing liberal voters they worry are going to sit out the elections in November.

In areas like voting rights, police reform and immigration where Democratic bills have been thwarted by GOP opposition in the Senate, the leaders of the influential Black and Asian American caucuses made their requests directly to Biden during a recent meeting at the White House, urging him to issue executive orders that could push their proposals forward without votes in the House and Senate.

The pleas come at a particularly desperate moment for House Democrats, who are heading into a difficult midterm election season where the loss of only a handful of seats will end their majority. Biden’s flagging poll numbers are adding to the steep headwinds Democrats are facing in a midterm election year that historically has been unfavorable to the party in power.

“I don’t want anyone to think that we believe that executive action is better than legislation,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, during the House Democratic issues conference in Philadelphia.

“But certainly, there are a lot of areas where if we don’t get legislation, the administration can take action to help move us more quickly towards the goals that we’re working on.”

As Cairo transforms, Egyptians fight to save their trees

CAIRO ( Associated Press) — A few months ago, Choucri Asmar decided he wasn’t ready to give up hope. So he led a group of residents in “a peaceful demonstration to protect the trees” of his Cairo neighborhood.

Egyptian authorities were planning to clear out a large avenue of ficus, acacia and palm trees — part of sweeping urban redevelopment projects that are transforming much of historic Cairo.

“It was like a war on green,” Asmar said.

Asmar and other residents of Heliopolis — an old neighborhood that boasts some of the city’s most important early 20th-century buildings — numbered the trees lining Nehru Street, labeling each of them after famous Egyptian figures. Five days later, police took the signs down and Asmar got a warning from security officials. The trees have survived, for now, while many others nearby have not, their wood sawed into pieces and towed away in trucks.

Part of the adjoining park was razed to erect a stone monument commemorating Cairo’s road and highways development, while a nearby public garden dating from the early 20th century was demolished to make way for a new street and state-owned gas station.

As companies leave Russia, their assets could be seized

The “Evropeisky” mall in Moscow was once a symbol of a Russia integrated into the global consumer economy, with atriums named after cities like London, Paris and Rome.

But now large parts of the seven-story shopping center have gone quiet after Western brands from Apple to Victoria’s Secret closed their Russian operations in the two weeks since the country invaded Ukraine.

Hundreds of companies have similarly plans to curtail ties to Russia, with the pace accelerating over the past week as the deadly violence and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine worsens, and as Western governments ratchet up economic sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded Thursday by saying that if foreign companies shut down production in Russia, he favored a plan to “bring in outside management and then transfer these companies to those who want to work.”

A draft law could allow Russian courts to appoint external administrators for companies that cease operations and are at least 25% foreign-owned. If the owners refuse to resume operations or to sell, the company’s shares could be auctioned off, the ruling United Russia party has said, calling it “the first step toward nationalization.”

2 years into pandemic, world takes cautious steps forward

PORTLAND, Ore. ( Associated Press) — With COVID-19 case numbers plummeting, Emily Safrin did something she hadn’t done since the pandemic began two years ago: She put her fears aside and went to a concert.

The fully vaccinated and boosted restaurant server planned to keep her mask on, but as the reggaeton star Bad Bunny took the stage and the energy in the crowd soared, she ripped it off. Soon after, she was strolling unmasked in a trendy Portland neighborhood with friends.

Two years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, changing the world overnight, relief and hope are creeping back in after a long, dark period of loss, fear and deep uncertainty about the future.

“Everyone was supposed to be vaccinated or have a negative test, and I said, ‘What the heck, I’m just gonna live my life,'” Safrin said of her concert experience. “It was overwhelming, to be honest, but it also felt great to be able to just feel a little bit normal again.”

The world is finally emerging from a brutal stretch of winter dominated by the highly contagious omicron variant, bringing a sense of relief on the two-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic.

Crossing Trump: 2 SC Republicans take different approaches

FLORENCE, SC ( Associated Press) — Under pressure recently to prove her loyalty to Donald Trump, Rep. Nancy Mace traveled to New York to film a social media video outside Trump Tower reminding her South Carolina components that she was one of the former president’s “earliest supporters.”

Facing similar scrutiny, Rep. Tom Rice has taken a different approach, quietly winding through rural stretches of his congressional district to remind voters of his work securing federal relief for frequent — often disastrous — flooding, and of his advocacy for agricultural improvements.

Lifelong Republicans representing neighboring congressional districts in one of the most reliably GOP states in the US, Mace and Rice are unlikely players in the fierce debate over the future of their party. But they’re both facing spirited primary challenges this summer from Trump-backed rivals that could signal the former president’s grip on the party as he weighs another White House bid. The primary is June 14.

The focus on Mace and Rice could intensify Saturday when Trump holds a rally in Florence, South Carolina, with their primary rivals. He’s almost certain to revive his criticism of the incumbents as insufficiently loyal.

For Rice, the sin was his support for Trump’s second impeachment in the aftermath of the violent Jan. 6 insurrection ignited by the then-president. Mace, meanwhile, drew the ire of Trump and his backers by voting to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election, as well as his support for holding Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and her frequent television appearances blaming Trump for the insurrection.

Associated Press Week in Pictures: Global

From March 5-11, 2022

From the devastation of Russia’s war with Ukraine, and the global support of the besieged country during the invasion, to the worldwide celebration of International Women’s Day, to athletes competing in the 2022 Winter Paralympics, in Beijing, this photo gallery highlights some of the most compelling images from around the world made or published by The Associated Press in the past week.

The selection was curated by Associated Press photo editor Pamela Hassell in New York.

Follow Associated Press visual journalism:



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