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US and NATO allies pledge more arms to Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war News

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The United States will send new weapon systems to Ukraine, Washington’s top diplomat has said after NATO foreign ministers agreed to accelerate arms deliveries in response to Russia’s invasion.

Urged by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to end bureaucracy-driven delays, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US and 30 other countries were sending weapons to Ukraine and that that process would intensify.

“We’re not going to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need, and what we believe, to be effective,” Blinken said on Thursday.

He spoke of “new systems” that have so far not been provided by NATO allies, but declined to go into details.

NATO diplomats said that meant, in part, helping Ukraine transition from its Soviet-era arsenal to more modern weapons.

Blinken said the US had already agreed to send Kyiv anti-aircraft systems, shoulder-held anti-tank weapons and armoured vehicles.

Ukrainian serviceman
A member of the Ukrainian military forces holds a Javelin anti-tank missile at a checkpoint near Kharkiv [File: Sergey Bobok/AFP]

Kyiv renews call for energy embargo

Asking for planes, land-based anti-ship missiles, armoured vehicles and air defence systems, Kuleba made his plea to a special session at NATO headquarters.

He addressed his counterparts from NATO’s 30 members plus the European Union, Finland, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, urging Germany, in particular, to speed up deliveries, saying procedures were taking too long in Berlin.

“I think the deal that Ukraine is offering is fair. You give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives, and the war is contained in Ukraine,” Kuleba said.

After six weeks of a war that Moscow describes as a “special military operation”, Ukraine said Russia continues to shell eastern cities following its forces’ withdrawal from around Kyiv.

Kuleba also reiterated a demand that the EU stop buying Russian oil and gas, as the bloc promised a fifth round of sanctions against Moscow by Friday.

“We will continue to insist on a full oil and gas embargo,” Kuleba said.

Outrage about the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha near Kyiv – where Russia has denied any wrongdoing and said evidence was fabricated – appears to have galvanised Western support.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said a fifth package of sanctions, including a ban on coal, would be agreed on Thursday or Friday, while EU lawmakers voted in a non-binding resolution for “an immediate full embargo” on Russian energy imports.

But Blinken, while saying he had a strong sense that Europeans were committed to ending their dependency on Russian energy, also conceded that that could not be as quick as “flipping a light switch”.

The bloc’s high level of dependency on Russian oil and particularly gas makes a broader energy embargo – which would cut off a significant source of revenue for Moscow’s war – unlikely for the time being.

Blinken said reports of rape and executions in Bucha would not impact peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia as much as whether Moscow thought peace was worth pursuing.

“I don’t think in a sense, Bucha has anything to do with that. It has everything to do with what President [Vladimir] Putin’s calculus is, what he decides,” Blinken said.



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Germany school shooting injures one, suspect arrested | Crime News

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The shooting in a secondary school in Bremerhaven injured one person, who is not a pupil, police say.

Police in Germany’s northern city of Bremerhaven have arrested a suspected attacker after a shooting in a school injured one person.

The incident happened on Thursday at the Lloyd Gymnasium, a secondary school in the centre of Bremerhaven, local police said in a statement.

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” they said, adding the injured person, who has been taken to hospital, was not a pupil.

“Students are in their classrooms with their teachers. The police have the situation on the ground under control,” the statement said.

German paper Bild said the injured person was a woman.

It also reported that a second suspect appeared to be on the run. It earlier reported they were armed with a crossbow.

Police said they were ascertaining whether more than one person was involved.

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Bremerhaven police said on Twitter that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Previous incidents

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passersby in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The attacker then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people, including 12 teachers and two students, at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone below 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.



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How much do Australian voters care about climate change? | TV Shows

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On Thursday, May 19 at 19:30GMT:
More than 17.2 million Australians are set to vote during this week’s elections – and for the first time, climate change could shape the outcome in a major way.

Massive deadly bushfires in 2019 and destructive flooding in 2021 have changed many Australians’ outlook on climate action. Polls show an increasing number of citizens believe that global warming “is a serious and pressing problem” and that “we should begin taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs.”

Despite this growing support for stronger climate policy, neither major party has pledged ambitious reform. Both Liberal Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese support a net zero carbons emissions policy by 2050, which analysts say isn’t bold enough. And though 29 percent of Australians cite climate change as their most important issue, most candidates are not talking about it, for fear of alienating voters in coal mining towns.

That’s one big reason why so-called “teal independent” candidates are gaining traction around the nation. This group of nearly two dozen, mostly female candidates are running on an anti-corruption, pro-climate action platform. Political experts say that if a major party fails to secure a majority in Parliament, these independents could tip the balance of power after negotiating more climate-friendly policy outcomes.

Other issues at stake in this year’s elections include the soaring cost of living, government corruption and tackling gender and racial inequality.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll talk about the major issues sending Australians to the polls, and what it could mean for the country’s climate policy. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Kishor Napier-Raman, @kishor_nr
Federal Politics Reporter, Crikey

Intifar Chowdhury, @intifar2210
Associate Lecturer & Youth Researcher, Australia National University (ANU)

Kate Crowley, @Kate__Crowley
Associate Professor, University of Tasmania





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Sri Lankans honour Tamil victims of civil war after 13 years | Tamils News

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Sri Lankan protesters have lit flames and offered prayers remembering thousands – including ethnic Tamil civilians – killed in the final stages of the country’s decades-long civil war.

It was the first-ever event in the island nation where mostly majority ethnic Sinhalese openly memorialised the minority group.

Protesters gathered outside the president’s office in the main city of Colombo on Wednesday, floated flowers in the nearby sea and prayed for all those who died in the 26-year civil war, including Tamil civilians, Tamil rebels and government soldiers.

The head of the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was shot dead by security forces on May 18, 2009, bringing a formal end to the bloody ethnic war.

‘Highly welcome’

“This is highly symbolic and very important for Tamils,” said legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a parliamentarian from the northern Tamil heartland of Jaffna.

“In previous years, there were private memorials held in secret, but this public event is highly welcome.”

A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Clergy from Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities offered prayers in Colombo and lit a clay lamp for those who perished in the civil war.

“I am a Sinhalese by birth. Today we held a memorial for all those who were killed 13 years ago, Sinhala, Muslim, Hindu and everybody as a result of state terrorism and terrorism by non-state groups,” said Sumeera Gunasekara, a social media activist who participated in the event.

“There are still those who are grieving because of these events and as a Sinhalese I have a right to share in their grief, because I believe in the religion of humanity more than any other.”

Actress Kaushalya Fernando said she came to remember the victims of a war created and mishandled by politicians.

“The significance of this place is that we are not here as different ethnic groups but as Sri Lankans.”

The protesters also shared rice porridge, the only food the people could have in the final stages of the fighting because of the heavy blockade of supplies.

The country’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said the commemoration showed the majority Sinhalese were willing to support reconciliation after decades of ethnic war.

“This gives us a lot of hope and I hope that Tamil people will also reciprocate,” said TNA spokesman M A Sumanthiran.

“There may be pitfalls along the way, but this is a very good start.”

Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

The civil war killed 100,000 people, according to the United Nations estimates. The actual number is believed to be much higher. A report from a UN panel of experts said at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the fighting alone.

Since Sri Lankan troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, Sri Lankan authorities had widely prohibited Tamils from publicly remembering their family members and have denied allegations that Tamil civilians were killed.

Human rights groups have since accused the country’s military of killing civilians towards the end of the war, in which the rebels fought for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, make up nearly 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people. Tamils, mostly Hindu, represent 15 percent of the population.

UK Tamils seek justice at London vigil

Tamils who resettled in the United Kingdom after fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war also held a vigil in London on Wednesday, with some likening the island nation’s current economic crisis to the conditions they faced during the decades-long conflict.

The gathering of Tamils seeking justice for those from their community who were killed in the South Asian country during the war, coincided with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 that has forced out its prime minister.

Sri Lanka vigil in London, UK
People attend a demonstration to remember those who died in the Sri Lankan civil war on the 13th anniversary of its end, in London, UK, May 18, 2022  [REUTERS/Muvija M]

“The current crisis in Colombo reminds me of our struggles during the war. Shortage of fuel, food, medicine – the Tamil-dominated parts of Sri Lanka faced the same issues then as what the entire nation is facing today,” said Thanikai, 42, who came to the UK eight years ago.

“We need justice for all the people who were killed.”

The UN has accused both sides of war crimes and has been given a mandate to collect evidence. The UN has also warned the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.

“My parents and friends are still in Sri Lanka but I have been too scared to go back,” said Elilarasi Manoharan, who attended the peaceful demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark the 13th anniversary of the end of the war.

“But now with the economic crisis and the changes we are seeing, maybe if the Sri Lankan system changes it will open up doors for us to be able to visit our loved ones.”

Sri Lankans have been protesting for more than a month, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and holding him responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa played a key role as a top defence strategist to his brother, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is credited with leading a military campaign to defeat the rebels.

The two leaders were hailed as heroes by the Sinhalese but allegations of mishandling the economy and corruption have led to their fall from grace.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister last week amid violent protests, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been staying in his fortified residence for more than a month. He has been forced to take a backseat, having appointed a new prime minister to handle the economy.

Sri Lanka, near bankruptcy, has suspended up to $7bn of foreign loan payments due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis. The country must repay $25bn as foreign debt by 2026 out of a total of $51bn.

It has led to limited imports with no petrol in filling stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply, forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.



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