An art exhibit in Warsaw, Poland, brings together the works of Ukrainian artists who aim to document the brutality of Russian aggression. The exhibition is entitled “Ukraine. Under a Different Sky.” For VOA, Lesia Bakalets reports on the display at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates. Camera – Daniil Batushchak.

your ad here

Russia’s armed forces have committed “numerous war crimes and other atrocities” since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, said a U.S. Department of State report that documents human rights practices around the world.

“There were credible reports of summary execution, torture, rape, indiscriminate attacks, and attacks deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure by Russia’s forces in Ukraine, all of which constitute war crimes,” the State Department said in its 2022 annual human rights report, released Monday.

The annual report also underscored cases of forced deportation of civilians and children from Ukraine to Russia.

The report comes after the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a Russian children’s rights official for their roles in alleged war crimes relating to the illegal transfers and deportations of children from occupied Ukrainian territories to Russia.

Moscow said the arrest warrants are outrageous and has dismissed the prospect of Putin going to trial. Russia does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.

U.S. President Joe Biden and senior officials from his administration have accused Russia of committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine. In February, the State Department determined that members of the Russian forces and other Russian officials had committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.  

The report also highlighted concerns about continuing human rights abuses in Iran, China, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma,) Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria and other authoritarian nations.

On Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this year’s report documents in detail “the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown and its continued denial of the Iranian people’s universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression and religion or belief.”

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the so-called “morality police” last September for an alleged dress code violation triggered peaceful protests across Iran.

While the Iranian government launched an investigation after the death of Amini, it focused on the acts of the protesters whom the government called “rioters” with no indication it would investigate the conduct of security forces, said the State Department report.

On the People’s Republic of China, Blinken said, “Genocide and crimes against humanity” continued to occur against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in China’s Xinjiang province.

These crimes include the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, coerced abortions, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, and persecution including forced labor and draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, according to the human rights report.

On Myanmar, the report said the military regime continues to use violence to brutalize civilians and consolidate its control, killing more than 2,900 people and detaining more than 17,000 since a military coup in February 2021.  

The new report documents the status of respect for human rights and worker rights in 198 countries and territories.  The State Department has issued its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for more than 40 years.

your ad here

European Union foreign and defense ministers are meeting Monday in Brussels as they work to finalize a multi-prong plan to supply Ukraine with ammunition and replenish their own ammunition stocks. 

The $2 billion proposal also includes working to increase the EU’s production of ammunition in order to better secure long-term supplies. 

Ukrainian officials have stressed the need for more ammunition aid from Western partners as Ukraine battles against a full-scale Russian invasion that began more than a year ago. 

EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell has encouraged members to approve the plan, saying Ukraine needs deliveries of more artillery ammunition to happen faster. 

Putin in Ukraine 

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Russian-occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol late Saturday after a stopover in the Crimean Peninsula to mark the ninth anniversary of Moscow’s illegal annexation of the territory in 2014.     

Video showed Putin chatting with residents after earlier visiting an art school and a children’s center in Crimea.     

The visits came after the International Criminal Court Friday issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on war crimes charges for Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian children during its 13-month invasion. Putin has not commented on the charges and the Kremlin has called the allegations “legally null and void.”       

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded Russia’s withdrawal from Crimea and all areas it has occupied in the eastern regions of Ukraine, but the ground war in Ukraine’s eastern regions has to a large degree stalemated, with neither side gaining much territory.  

Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday that the warrant represented a turning point in the conflict, and that Russia would be held responsible “for every strike on Ukraine, for every destroyed life, for every deported Ukrainian child… And, of course, for every manifestation of destabilization of the world caused by Russian aggression.”    

Putin’s visit to war-torn Ukraine was his first since the February 2022 invasion. Numerous Western leaders supporting Ukraine, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have visited Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital that Putin tried — and failed — to capture in the earliest weeks of the war.     

Mariupol was one of the centers of fighting in the first months of the war, although when Russia took full control last May, only about 100,000 residents remained of the city’s prewar population of 450,000.      

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. 

your ad here

UBS is set to take over its troubled Swiss rival Credit Suisse for $3.25 billion following weekend crunch talks aimed at preventing a wider international banking crisis, but Asian equities sank Monday on lingering worries about the sector.   

The deal, in which Switzerland’s biggest bank will take over the second largest, was vital to prevent economic turmoil from spreading throughout the country and beyond, the Swiss government said.   

The move was welcomed in Washington, Frankfurt and London as one that would support financial stability, after a week of turbulence following the collapse of two U.S. banks.   

After a dramatic day of talks at the finance ministry in Bern — and with the clock ticking towards the markets reopening on Monday — the takeover was announced at a news conference.   

Swiss President Alain Berset was flanked by UBS chairman Colm Kelleher and his Credit Suisse counterpart Axel Lehmann, along with the Swiss finance minister and the heads of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and the financial regulator FINMA.   

The wealthy Alpine nation is famed for its banking prominence and Berset said the takeover was the “best solution for restoring the confidence that has been lacking in the financial markets recently”.   

If Credit Suisse went into freefall, it would have had “incalculable consequences for the country and for international financial stability”, he said.   

Credit Suisse said in a statement that UBS would take it over for “a merger consideration of three billion Swiss francs ($3.25 billion)”.   

After suffering heavy falls on the stock market last week, Credit Suisse’s share price closed Friday at 1.86 Swiss francs, with the bank worth just over $8.7 billion.   

UBS said Credit Suisse shareholders would get 0.76 Swiss francs per share.   

“Given recent extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, the announced merger represents the best available outcome,” Lehmann said.   

Asian equities still fell in early trade Monday, with Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul and Singapore all in the red.   

Hong Kong’s monetary authority sought to calm jitters Monday morning, saying that “exposures of the local banking sector to Credit Suisse are insignificant”, as the bank’s assets make up “less than 0.5 percent” of the city’s banking sector.    

Despite that, the city’s banking stocks tumbled: HSBC dropped six percent, Standard Chartered shed five percent and Hang Seng Bank gave up nearly two percent, in line with a global sell-off in the sector on worries about lenders’ exposure to bonds linked to Credit Suisse.   

“Uncertainty could remain high for quite some time, even if recent bank support measures succeed,” said analyst Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.     

‘Huge collateral damage’ risk    

Swiss Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said that bankruptcy for Credit Suisse could have caused “huge collateral damage”.    

With the “risk of contagion” for other banks, including UBS itself, the takeover has “laid the foundation for greater stability both in Switzerland and internationally”, she said.   

The deal was warmly received internationally.   

The decisions taken in Bern “are instrumental for restoring orderly market conditions and ensuring financial stability,” said European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde.   

“The euro area banking sector is resilient, with strong capital and liquidity positions.”   

U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a joint statement: “We welcome the announcements by the Swiss authorities today to support financial stability.”   

The sentiment was echoed by British Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt.   

The Fed and the central banks of Canada, Britain, Japan, the EU and Switzerland announced they would launch a coordinated effort Monday to improve banks’ access to liquidity.   

The SNB announced 100 billion Swiss francs of liquidity would be available for the UBS-Credit Suisse takeover.   

Keller-Sutter insisted the deal was “a commercial solution and not a bailout”.  

UBS chairman Kelleher said: “We are committed to making this deal a great success. UBS will remain rock solid.”   

Job worries   

The takeover creates a banking giant such as Switzerland has never seen before — and raises concerns about possible layoffs.   

The Swiss Bank Employees Association said there was “a great deal at stake” for the 17,000 Credit Suisse staff, plus tens of thousands of jobs outside of the banking industry potentially at risk.   

Like UBS, Credit Suisse was one of 30 worldwide Global Systemically Important Banks — deemed of such importance to the international banking system that they are colloquially called “too big to fail”.   

But the markets saw the bank as a weak link in the chain.   

Amid fears of contagion after the collapse of two U.S. banks, Credit Suisse’s share price plunged by more than 30% on Wednesday to a record low of 1.55 Swiss francs. That saw the SNB step in overnight with a $54-billion lifeline.   

After recovering some ground Thursday, its shares closed down 8% on Friday at 1.86 Swiss francs, as it struggled to retain investor confidence.   

In 2022, the bank suffered a net loss of $7.9 billion and expects a “substantial” pre-tax loss this year.   

Credit Suisse’s share price has tumbled from 12.78 Swiss francs in February 2021 due to a string of scandals that it has been unable to shake off. 

your ad here

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) continued to pave the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to qualify for next year’s Paris Summer Games through events in the region when its Athletes Forum endorsed the principles behind it. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is coming under immense pressure from 35 governments, including the United States, Britain and France, to exclude athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine. 

The IOC said in January it was open to including the athletes from the countries in the Olympics as neutrals and suggested Asia as a possible qualifying pathway to circumvent bans from European regional competitions. 

The OCA has already offered to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete at the Asian Games in China later this year and, according to the regional body, a gathering of 88 athletes at a closed meeting in Bangkok on Saturday agreed. 

An OCA statement said the forum had agreed that athletes “should not be punished for the actions of their governments” and “should have access to international competitions (including the Asian Games) without any form of discrimination.” 

The forum also endorsed conditions under which Russians and Belarusians could compete, including a ban on government officials from the two countries, a ban on flags or national symbols being displayed, and full compliance with doping rules. 

The forum insisted on “fairness to Asian athletes in any qualification pathway,” an indication that any spots in Paris granted to Russians and Belarusians should not be at the expense of athletes from the most populous continent. 

The arguments reflected the position of the IOC, which is desperate to prevent the ongoing conflict from tearing apart the Olympic movement, on the issue. 

Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics should Russians and Belarusians be allowed to compete. No final decision has been taken yet. 

The 35 “like-minded” governments expressed concerns about the athletes competing as neutrals in a statement last month given that they were directly funded by their governments and often had close links to the military. 

The Asian Games take place in Hangzhou from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, having been delayed from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

your ad here

China’s embassy in Britain on Sunday condemned a visit this week by British lawmakers to Taiwan, saying they were insisting on visiting the island despite China’s strong opposition.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office said the group of six lawmakers from the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group would meet President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Monday.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has been ramping up military, political and economic pressure to assert those claims.

A statement from China’s embassy in London said that the lawmakers have “insisted on visiting the Taiwan region of China despite China’s resolute opposition.”

This is a “gross interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious wrong signal to Taiwan independence separatist forces,” the embassy said.

“We want to tell the relevant British politicians that any act that harms China’s interests will definitely be vigorously countered by China,” it added, without elaborating.

Taiwan regularly hosts visiting foreign lawmakers, which China routinely condemns.

Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

your ad here

Britain’s government said Sunday that it could start deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda in the next few months — but only if U.K. courts rule that the controversial policy is legal. 

The Home Office said it was aiming to start flights “before the summer,” as Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited the east African country to reinforce the Conservative government’s commitment to the plan. 

In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, she met with President Paul Kagame and Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, visited accommodations intended to house deportees from the U.K. and laid a brick at another housing development for migrants. The project is expected to build more than 1,000 houses. 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing firsthand the rich opportunities this country can provide to relocated people through our partnership,” Braverman said. 

Biruta said Rwanda would offer migrants “the opportunity to build new lives in a safe, secure place through accommodation, education and vocational training.” 

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told reporters the country is ready to receive thousands of migrants from the U.K., saying she doesn’t consider living in Rwanda “a punishment.” She said Rwanda is determined to make the agreement a success. 

The U.K. and Rwanda struck a deal almost a year ago under which some migrants who arrive in the U.K. in small boats would be flown to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in Rwanda rather than return to Britain. 

The U.K. government argues the policy will smash the business model of people-smuggling gangs and deter migrants from taking risky journeys across the English Channel. 

More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, compared with 8,500 in 2020. 

But the 140 million-pound ($170 million) plan is mired in legal challenges, and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. In December, the High Court ruled the policy was legal, but a group of asylum-seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria has been granted permission to appeal. 

Human rights groups cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record, and argue it’s inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) to a country they don’t want to live in. 

The government also has drafted legislation barring anyone who arrives in the U.K. in small boats or by other unauthorized means from applying for asylum. If passed by Parliament, the Illegal Migration Bill would compel the government to detain all such arrivals and deport them to their homeland or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda. 

The U.N. refugee agency says the law breaches U.K. commitments under the international refugee convention. 

Braverman faces criticism for inviting only selected media on her taxpayer-funded trip to Rwanda. Journalists from right-leaning outlets including The Times and The Telegraph newspapers and television channel GB News were invited, while the BBC and the left-leaning Guardian newspaper weren’t.  

your ad here

While American support for Ukraine is still strong, there are some fractures among members of the Republican and Democratic parties that are beginning to surface. And as VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias explains, those splits could deepen as other important policy decisions compete for attention with Ukraine. VOA footage by Saqib Ul Islam. Video editing by Marcus Harton.

your ad here