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‘Not G19’: Why Indonesia won’t bar Russia from the G20 | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Medan, Indonesia – Indonesia is “in consultation” with other members of the G20 amid growing calls for Russia to be barred from the economic forum’s November summit in Bali.

Some members of the intergovernmental group of 19 countries and the European Union have been threatening to boycott the event if Russian President Vladimir Putin and delegates from Moscow are allowed to attend, leaving Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is better known as Jokowi and holds the annual presidency this year, in a potentially fraught position.

“Sadly, this is President Jokowi’s fate,” Kosman Samosir, a lecturer in international law and vice dean of the law faculty at Santo Thomas Catholic University in Medan, Indonesia, told Al Jazeera. “Of course this had to happen now, when Indonesia has the presidency, and has to face the prospect of expelling Russia or risk members boycotting and the whole forum failing.”

According to Angelo Abil Wijaya, the head of project management and research at Y20 Indonesia, the official youth engagement group to the G20 Leaders Summit, the stakes could not be higher.

“Indonesia has invested a lot in its presidency at the G20, and has prepared for this presidency for years,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Indonesia wants its presidency to be successful. In order to be successful, the G20 should be attended by 20 of its members. Of course we want to see the success of the G20 Indonesia, not G19, or other combinations of Gs that include less than 20 members.”

The G20 not only includes the developed economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, which have moved to impose tough sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but also countries such as China that have taken a more ambivalent approach.

“It appears an unavoidable reality that the presence of Putin at the G20 will result in numerous countries boycotting the event. It’s hard to imagine any degree of diplomacy changing this, short of a radical change in the situation in Russia and Ukraine itself,” Ian Wilson, a lecturer in politics and security studies at Murdoch University in Perth, told Al Jazeera.

This week’s G20 finance ministers’ meeting gave some indication of what might lie ahead when representatives from the US, UK and Canada walked out of the closed-door session in Washington as the Russian delegates began to speak.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who was the meeting’s chair, said the walkout was “not a total surprise” and that it had not prevented discussion from continuing.

China, which has not condemned the Russian invasion despite friendly relations with Ukraine and as the world’s number 2 economy is a leading member of the G20, did not join the boycott. On Thursday, President Xi Jinping, who has developed close ties with Putin, again condemned developed nations’ sanctions on Russia.

“The focus of the G20, and why it was created, was to discuss economics and business. If you want to discuss issues of war and national security, then you need to go to the United Nations,” said law lecturer Samosir.

‘Independent’ spirit

Indonesia was a founding member along with countries including India and Egypt of the 1961 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – a forum of 120 nations that were not formally aligned with or against any main power bloc during the Cold War.

The spirit of NAM continues to inform Indonesian foreign policy, which maintains what it calls a “bebas-aktif” approach to international affairs – an “independent” stance and an “active” role in global governance.

Jakarta has so far maintained that it still plans to invite the leaders of all 20 members to the summit.

On Thursday, former Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told Australia’s The Age newspaper that Indonesia should invite Ukraine to the summit not only to appease the concerns of those who have threatened to boycott the event, but also to make the most of a “precious opportunity” to bring an end to the conflict and address its economic consequences.

The Indonesian government has said that it will continue to consult with G20 members and other stakeholders on the issue.

Sukarno lounges across on the back seat of an open top car next to John F Kennedy on a visit to the US
Indonesia’s founding President Sukarno was one of the architects of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1960s, aiming to steer a middle path during the Cold War [File: AP Photo]

Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi is currently drafting a report for President Widodo with recommendations on how to proceed.

Indonesia was initially slow to address the conflict in Ukraine publicly but was among 141 countries that last month backed a UN resolution condemning the invasion.

But Indonesia’s reticence around Russia is also part of a more complex political picture that reflects Jakarta’s own relationship with Moscow, as well as the role it sees for itself within the region.

“Indonesia decided to purchase advanced fighter jets from Russia, notably the Sukhoi SU-27 and SU-30 and was in negotiations to purchase SU-35 fighter jets before the plan was abandoned due to fears of US sanctions,” Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer in International Relations at Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yani in Bandung, told Al Jazeera.

“Indonesia needs Russia as an alternative weapon supplier, so it won’t be completely reliant on the US.”

Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, and Sulaiman added that, in terms of the geopolitical landscape, the country was also concerned about a growing Chinese or US presence in an area it sees as its own back yard.

“Due to its sheer size, Indonesia sees itself as a natural leader in Southeast Asia. Indonesia distrusts both China and the United States as there is a long history of the two countries interfering in Indonesian internal affairs,” he said.

“Indonesia doesn’t want a completely isolated Russia that would be too close to China.”

Learning from the past

This is not the first time tensions have flared between Russia and other G20 members.

In 2014, when Australia held the G20 presidency, Putin left the November summit in Brisbane two days early after being reprimanded by members of the forum for his support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

He was also taken to task over the deaths of 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which had been shot down by a Russian-made missile in the skies above an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists in July 2014. Moscow has denied any involvement in shooting down the plane.

At the time of his walkout, Putin said that he needed to catch up on sleep and accused Western countries of “switching off their brains” by imposing economic sanctions on Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Indonesian president Joko Widodo in the presidential palace in Jakarta
In December, Indonesian President Joko Widodo met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jakarta [File: Agus Suparto/Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP Photo]
Indonesian president Joko Widodo meets a senior Russian official at the presidential palace in Jakarta
Widodo also met a top Russian official the same month. Indonesia looks to Russia as a weapons supplier but also because it is wary of US and Chinese influence in Southeast Asia [File: Lukas/Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP Photo]

This February’s invasion has triggered even tougher sanctions.

“The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had more impact and there is a greater possibility of a prolonged crisis as well,” Dandy Rafitrandi, a researcher at the department of economics at the think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Al Jazeera.

He added that Indonesia should learn from the 2014 fiasco, but also focus on the importance of the forum for all stakeholders as a way to avoid a boycott.

“The narrative could perhaps be that the interests of middle and lower income countries, which are still in the process of economic recovery, could become very costly if G20 agendas are hampered, such as Special Drawing Rights, the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, and plans to establish a Global Health Fund. These issues certainly need a lot of input from developed countries as owners of resources,” he said.

In addition to the boycott pressure, the region also has its share of domestic struggles, including the ongoing conflict in Myanmar. Diplomatic efforts by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which also includes Indonesia, have so far failed to make headway with the military government.

The failure may leave some wondering whether a similar softball approach to Russia is the best strategy.

“Indonesia’s position is, in part, made difficult by its desire to maintain diplomatic relations with a country currently engaged in a brutal war of invasion of a sovereign state, a war almost universally condemned,” Wilson said.

“The challenge and risk with an inclusive approach to diplomacy is that it can serve to legitimise the worst of behaviour while undermining international efforts, such as in ASEAN’s inability to effectively censure Myanmar’s post-coup regime.”



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US panel recommends COVID booster jab for children aged 5 to 11 | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Just more than 29 percent of US children in the age group have received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to date.

An advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs for children aged five to 11, at least five months after completing their primary vaccination course.

The committee on Thursday voted 11 to one in favour of recommending the boosters, with one doctor abstaining.

The advisers considered data from the CDC that showed protection from two doses starts to wane over time, and that boosters in older age groups improved efficacy against severe COVID-19 and hospitalisations.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky still needs to sign off on the committee’s recommendation but signalled at the meeting that she was likely to back the additional jabs.

“We know immunity wanes over time, and we need to do all we can now to protect those most vulnerable,” Walensky said.

A child getting a covid shot.
A COVID-19 vaccine is not yet authorised for children younger than five years old [File: Jon Cherry/Reuters]

“It’s important for us to anticipate where this pandemic is moving and deploy the tools we have where they will have the greatest impact.”

The development comes amid uncertainty over how many parents will opt to have their children in that age group receive a third dose.

According to CDC data, just more than 29 percent of US children aged five to 11 are considered fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That represents the lowest vaccination coverage out of all groups.

The vaccine is not yet authorised for children younger than five.

The US government has been pushing for eligible Americans to get boosters in the face of data that shows vaccine immunity wanes over time, and it recently authorised a second booster for people aged 50 and older.

The move also comes after the nation on Tuesday surpassed the sombre milestone of one million deaths due to COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Children getting covid shots
Recommendation comes days after the US hit a sombre mark of one million COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began [File: Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters]

Dr Helen Keipp Talbot, the lone committee member to vote against recommending the boosters for children on Thursday, argued that the focus should be on increasing the vaccination rate in the age group.

“Boosters are great once we’ve gotten everyone their first round,” she said.

On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised Pfizer’s booster shot for children aged five to 11.

Dr Paul Offit, a paediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said booster shots in that age group would have a limited effect on the pandemic, even with evidence that the additional shots will protect against mild illness for three to six months.

“What is the goal of this vaccine? Are we trying to protect against all symptomatic infection for a limited period of time? Or are we trying to protect against serious illness, in which case all the evidence is that we are preventing serious illness” with the two-dose vaccine regimen, Offit said.



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What might happen to Ukraine’s Azovstal prisoners of war? | News

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Breaking its recent silence on prisoners of war (POWs), the Red Cross said it has registered “hundreds” of Ukrainian POWs who have left the giant Azovstal steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol after holding out for weeks against besieging Russian forces.

The announcement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday, which acts as a guardian of the Geneva Conventions and its stated aim to limit “the barbarity of war”, came shortly after Russia’s military said 1,730 Ukrainian troops at the steel plant had surrendered.

Attention now is turning to how those prisoners of war might be treated and what rights they have.

Here is a look at some key questions about POWs in Russia’s nearly three-month-old war on Ukraine:

Who is a prisoner of war?

Article 4 of the third Geneva Convention, which focuses on POWs, defines them as any member of armed forces or militias – including organised resistance movements – in a conflict who “who have fallen into the power of the enemy”.

It also includes non-combatant crew members, war correspondents, and even “inhabitants of a non-occupied territory who, on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces”.

What rights do POWS have?

The Geneva Conventions set out requirements to ensure that POWs are treated humanely. They include issues such as where they can be held; the relief they should receive, including medical help for wounded ex-fighters; and legal proceedings they might face.

“In this case, the Russian Federation has an entire list of obligations: To treat them humanely, to let the ICRC (have) access to them, to inform the ICRC of their names, to allow them to write to their families, to care for them if they are wounded and sick, to feed them and so on,” said Marco Sassoli, a professor of international law at the University of Geneva.

“But obviously, the detaining power may deprive them of their liberty until the end of the international armed conflict and may hold them – unlike civilians – on their own territories. So they may be brought to Russia,” he said.

Can POWs be put on trial?

Only under certain conditions, notably if an individual fighter is accused of committing one or more war crimes. Such an accusation must be based on published evidence, Sassoli said.

“They can certainly not be punished for having participated in the hostilities, because that’s the privilege of combatants and of prisoners of war,” he said.

Could POWs become part of prisoner exchanges?

The Geneva Conventions do not set rules for prisoner exchanges. In the past, Red Cross intermediaries have helped carry out agreed-upon POW exchanges. Still, much has been made of the insistence by some Russian officials that detained Ukrainian ex-fighters should face trial and should not be included in any prisoner exchanges.

People and relatives of Azov battalion soldiers
People and relatives of Azov battalion soldiers take part in a rally called ‘Save military of Mariupol’ in Kyiv on May 3, 2022 [Sergei Supinsky/ AFP]

Could Russia claim the Azovstal fighters are not entitled to POWs status?

Some countries have tried to sidestep their Geneva Conventions obligations – or simply argue that they are not bound by them. A prominent case was when the US detained hundreds of fighters allegedly linked to groups like al-Qaeda. They were detained as “enemy combatants” at a US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent US-led military invasion to topple the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.

Sassoli said there are “all kinds of reasons” why an individual might lose their prisoner of war status. For example, if the fighter “didn’t distinguish themselves from the civilian population” during combat.

“But here, to the best of my knowledge, no one claims that these people [detainees from the Azov Regiment in Mariupol] didn’t wear a uniform, or if they don’t belong to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Sassoli said.

“It’s basically Ukraine who decides who belongs to their armed forces.”

Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly touted the regiment’s role in the armed forces and have celebrated what they call its members’ “heroism” for holding out so long against far-larger Russian forces.

The Azov regiment is part of the national guard – does that matter?

Ukraine and Russia have both accepted an important annex to the Geneva Conventions that broadens the definition of what fighters – militia or otherwise – might be considered as part of the national military force, based in part on whether they follow military commands. As for the Azov Regiment fighters, “there’s no doubt” they are part of Ukraine’s military force, said Sassoli, who was on a three-person team commissioned by the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe that travelled to Ukraine in March.

However, Russia has not been fully clear about who is detaining the former Azovstal fighters – Russia itself, or the breakaway pro-Russian areas in Ukraine such as the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” or the “Luhansk People’s Republic,” which could blur such distinctions.

What is the significance of the Red Cross Statement on POWs?

Thursday’s statement was the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 that the ICRC – which plays an often-confidential role to check on prisoners of war – has said anything officially about POWs in the conflict.

“Normally, the ICRC will not tell you how these people are treated, but the ICRC will say whom they visited,” Sassoli said.

“But the ICRC – to the best of my knowledge, until this media release – did not clarify how many people it had access to, on both sides.”

Beyond its communication about the Azovstal fighters, the ICRC has not said whether it has registered other POWs or carried out any visits with POWs on either side of the war.



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Grand jury indicts Buffalo man accused of killing 10 Black people | Gun Violence News

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Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old white man, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera, 13 people in total were shot.

Payton Gendron, the white man charged with murdering 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York has appeared briefly in court after a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge.

Gendron, 18, wore an orange jail uniform and a mask, and was silent throughout the one-minute proceeding on Thursday, attended by some relatives of the victims.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush said the indictment of Payton Gendron was handed down on Wednesday.

Someone shouted “Payton, you’re a coward!” as he was led out. He is being held in jail without bail.

The latest US racist mass shooting – at a supermarket on Saturday – has revived a national debate about guns, domestic terrorism, hate and the internet’s role in spreading it.

Thirteen people in all were shot at the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo. Authorities are continuing to investigate the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges.

Gendron, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before surrendering to police outside the store. Shortly before the attack, he posted hundreds of pages of writings to online discussion groups where he detailed his plans for the assault and his racist motivation.

Investigators have been examining those documents, which included a private diary he kept on the chat platform Discord.

In New York, prosecutors can charge a defendant with first-degree murder only under special circumstances, including when multiple people are killed in a single incident, like in the Buffalo shooting. The single count against Gendron covered all 10 deaths at the supermarket.

At his initial court appearance last week, Gendron’s court-appointed lawyer entered a plea of “not guilty” on his behalf. Gendron is due back in court on June 9.

The massacre at the Tops supermarket was unsettling even in a nation that has become almost numb to mass shootings. All but two of the 13 people shot during the attack were Black. Gendron’s online writings said he planned the assault after becoming infatuated with white supremacist ideology that he encountered online.

The diary said Gendron planned his attack in secret, with no outside help, but Discord confirmed Wednesday that an invitation to access his private writings was sent to a small group of people about 30 minutes before the assault began.

Some of them accepted the invitation. It was unclear how many read what he had written or logged on to view the assault live. It also was not clear whether anyone tried to alert law enforcement.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has said investigators were working to obtain, verify and review Gendron’s online postings.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorised the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate social media platforms used by Gendron to determine if they were liable for “providing a platform to plan and promote violence”.

President Joe Biden, in a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, condemned white nationalists, as well as online platforms, media outlets and political rhetoric he criticised for spreading racist conspiracy theories.

“What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism,” Biden said.



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