Category : Europe

(W Post) Beijing chafes at Moscow’s requests for support, Chinese officials say

Russian officials have raised increasingly frustrated requests for greater support during discussions with Beijing in recent weeks, calling on China to live up to its affirmation of a “no limits” partnership made weeks before the war in Ukraine began. But China’s leadership wants to expand assistance for Russia without running afoul of Western sanctions and has set limits on what it will do, according to Chinese and U.S. officials.

Moscow has on at least two occasions pressed Beijing to offer new forms of economic support — exchanges that one Chinese official described as “tense.” The officials familiar with the talks spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

They declined to share specifics of Russia’s requests, but one official said it included maintaining “trade commitments” predating the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, and financial and technological support now sanctioned by the United States and other countries.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) In Chernobyl’s delicate nuclear labs, Russians looted safety systems

In the days before the invasion, all but a few hundred employees were evacuated. Those who stayed worked shifts lasting hundreds of hours under Russian supervision, often not resting for days while trying to keep the station safe and systems running.

Meanwhile, the station’s equipment and information were being systematically stolen or destroyed, said Kramarenko. Now that he’s back in charge, he’s been checking on some of the stolen equipment that had been fitted with GPS trackers. Some are still transmitting location data.

“We see that part of it is located on the territory of Belarus, along the border. And part moves around the territory of Belarus — Gomel, Minsk, other places,” [Yevhen Kramarenko] said.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(RNS) Ukrainian Orthodox primate: ‘We are called to stop this evil’

You invited all Orthodox Christians to reject Moscow’s spiritual yoke. Are you specifically addressing those 400 Russian Orthodox priests in Ukraine who have called for a church tribunal against Patriarch Kirill?

It doesn’t relate only to those priests. This is for all those in the Russian Orthodox Church. In Ukraine, it is the one state institution that has a connection to Moscow. That’s why I call all Orthodox people to unite around Kyiv, because the spiritual part of it is very important. Putin very successfully uses the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. But we see that gradually Ukrainian people understand all this.

According to the latest poll taken at the beginning of March, before the atrocities in Bucha were revealed, 70% of Ukraine was Orthodox Christian. Among them, 52% support (the Orthodox Church) of Ukraine. Only 4% support the Russian Orthodox Church. Last year in December, they had the support of 15%.

That’s why I am convinced that eventually we will all be in one local Orthodox Church of Ukraine. As long as we have the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, it creates some illusion for Putin. He had an illusion before the full-scale invasion that in three, four days he will capture all Ukraine. He thought Ukraine would accept him, meet him with flowers, but it didn’t happen. Every parish in Ukraine has to have a free choice.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

More Poetry for Memorial Day: Tomas Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven

From here:

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.
Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature, Sweden

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Joan of Arc

Holy God, whose power is made perfect in weakness: we honor thy calling of Jeanne d’Arc, who, though young, rose up in valor to bear thy standard for her country, and endured with grace and fortitude both victory and defeat; and we pray that we, like Jeanne, may bear witness to the truth that is in us to friends and enemies alike, and, encouraged by the companionship of thy saints, give ourselves bravely to the struggle for justice in our time; through Christ our Savior, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, France, Spirituality/Prayer

Congratulations to Real Madrid, 2022 Champions League Winners

Posted in England / UK, France, Spain, Sports

(W Post) U.S. intelligence document shows Russian naval blockade of Ukraine

Newly declassified U.S. intelligence shows that a Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, in what world leaders call a deliberate attack on the global food supply chain that has raised fears of political instability and shortages unless grain and other essential agricultural products are allowed to flow freely from Ukraine.

Russia’s navy now effectively controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, making it unsafe for commercial shipping, according to a U.S. government document obtained by The Washington Post.

The document, based on recently declassified intelligence, analyzed the density of Russian naval activity along portions of Ukraine’s southern coast and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014. The blockade that ensued following Russia’s invasion in February halted civil maritime traffic, “entrapping Ukrainian agricultural exports and jeopardizing global food supplies,” according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence.

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ front page) Ukraine War’s New Phase Shifts Outlook for its End

Nobody knows how or when the war will end in Ukraine, but it’s clear that right now Russia isn’t winning. According to Western governments and private analysts, Moscow failed to achieve its initial goal of a lightning strike into Kyiv to take down the government. And success for its Plan B, a scaled-down offensive to push Ukrainian forces back in the east and southeast of the country, looks increasingly difficult.

Some things that seemed highly probable at the start of the war, such as the collapse of the Ukrainian state, now are seen as unlikely. Ukraine is in an existential fight, said the chief of the British defense staff, Adm. Tony Radakin in a speech in London on Monday, “and it is going to survive.”

In this latest phase of the war, tank battles are being supplanted by artillery-dominated exchanges. The Russians are undertaking offensives in some places, including in the eastern region of Luhansk. They finally overcame the last remaining Ukrainian holdouts in the southern port city of Mariupol. Elsewhere, the Ukrainians are counterattacking, most notably in the north beyond Kharkiv.

“The war is entering a protracted phase,” Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov told European Union defense ministers on Tuesday. He said there were “many indications of Russia preparing for a long-term military operation,” including engineering and fortification works in the Kherson and Zaporizhya areas.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist Cover story) The coming food catastrophe

Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.

Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.

Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.

All this will have a grievous effect on the poor. Households in emerging economies spend 25% of their budgets on food—and in sub-Saharan Africa as much as 40%. In Egypt bread provides 30% of all calories. In many importing countries, governments cannot afford subsidies to increase the help to the poor, especially if they also import energy—another market in turmoil.

The crisis threatens to get worse.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is running out of steam, again

Eighty years ago the second Battle of Kharkov was raging in what was then the western Soviet Union. The Red Army had heroically driven the Nazi Wehrmacht back from the gates of Moscow. It gathered in a bulge west of Izyum, a town to the south of Kharkov, as Ukraine’s second city was then known. The subsequent Soviet offensive, launched on May 12th, was a disaster. Soviet armies were driven back and encircled. Over 170,000 Soviet troops were killed. Nikita Khrushchev later focused on the battle when denouncing his predecessor as Soviet leader, Stalin. “This is Stalin’s military ‘genius’,” he sneered, citing the crude tactics of frontal assault. “This is what it cost us.”

The Russian army is once again gathered around Izyum. And once more it is on the retreat from Kharkiv, as the city is now called, after another underwhelming campaign. It has been a month since Russia, having abandoned its assault on Kyiv, launched a fresh offensive in the eastern Donbas region. The idea was to encircle Ukrainian troops in a large salient stretching from Izyum in the north to the city of Donetsk in the south, in part by driving south from Izyum.

There have been minor successes. Russia has taken almost all of Luhansk province—it held only the southern part before the war—bar a salient around the well-defended city of Severodonetsk. It has also pushed south of Izyum, taking villages towards Barvinkove, an important rail junction, and the industrial cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Yet progress has been achingly slow—one or two kilometres a day—and casualties heavy. The war is now dominated by grinding artillery duels, rather than swift mechanised offensives. Much of Donetsk province is still in Ukrainian hands.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) The war in Ukraine is spurring transatlantic co-operation in technology

A command centre to scan the digital realm for global disinformation campaigns. Standardised plugs for electric cars that will work both in America and in the European Union (eu) and so lower the cost of building the infrastructure needed to decarbonise. A transatlantic team to scout for attempts by China and others to manipulate global technical standards in their favour. These sorts of initiatives sound like common sense, but they are difficult in a world where even allies have competing regulators, vying for technological dominion. Happily, a transatlantic diplomatic undertaking that most people have never heard of is trying to change all that.

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The group in question, called the “Trade and Technology Council” (ttc), will convene in Saclay, a suburb of Paris, on May 15th and 16th. A constellation of grand officials from either side of the Atlantic—including America’s secretary of state, commerce secretary and top trade negotiator, and the eu’s commissioners for trade and competition—will be meeting for the second time. Whereas their first meeting in September in Pittsburgh was mainly meant for participants to get to know each other, the gathering in France will assess progress on their work so far and set goals for the next two years.

It is a momentous task. The ttc is the West’s response to efforts by China and others (notably Russia after its invasion of Ukraine) to build an autocratic digital world and bring the physical supply-chains that underpin it under their control. “The big question is whether democratic governments can develop a meaningful alternative,” explains Marietje Schaake of the Cyber Policy Centre at Stanford University. If America and the eu resolve their differences in tech, other countries are bound to follow their lead: the pair account for 55% of the global market for information technology, whose value is expected to reach a staggering $4.4trn this year, according to Gartner, a consultancy.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(Washington Post front page) Oil Sales Remain Russia’s Lifeline

Despite the European Union’s drastic measures to wind down imports of Russian oil, Moscow still has plenty of buyers — and at prices steep enough to keep government revenue high and its coffers flush.

Before the war with Ukraine, Russia sold about half of its 7.85 million barrels a day of crude and refined oil to Europe. But with the war and the E.U.’s vow to abruptly end its reliance on Russian oil and gas, the Kremlin has been benefiting from high world prices while looking for new customers and reorienting its export strategy toward Asia.

The windfall shows how hard it is to punish a major oil and gas power such as Russia when so much of the world — especially developing countries — depends on fossil fuels.

Even with “severe oil production cuts” expected this year, Russia’s tax revenue “will increase significantly to more than $180 billion due to the spike in oil prices,” according to Rystad Energy, an independent research firm advising investors. The figure is 45 percent higher than in 2021.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Irish Times) Real Madrid stun Manchester City late to book final date with Liverpool in the Champions League Final

It was not just that Manchester City had led by two goals with 90 minutes on the clock, a place in the Champions League final against Liverpool basically theirs – although that was plainly the greatest, deepest agony.

It was not even that this semi-final should have long since have been over. After the first leg, which City had dominated. Or before Real’s stoppage-time magic, in which the substitute, Rodrygo, cast the spells, scoring two scarcely believable goals to force extra time.

The City substitute, Jack Grealish, had seen a shot miraculously hacked off the line by Ferland Mendy in the 87th minute and then watched Thibaut Courtois stick out a toe to divert a shot from him just past the far post.

It was the way that the footballing gods, with whom Real Madrid appear to have a deal with options, tormented them. Rodrygo had almost completed a stoppage-time hat-trick at the end of normal time, stealing in to extend Ederson, when Phil Foden received a quick free-kick and saw glory beckon. His shot flew high.

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Posted in England / UK, Men, Spain, Sports

(Economist) Why weapons crucial to the war in Ukraine are in short supply

Of all the assistance America has provided to Ukraine, the gift of 5,500 or so Javelins has been perhaps the most welcome. Armed with these light anti-tank missiles, Ukrainian forces managed to stall, and eventually reverse, the Russian advance on their capital, Kyiv. Little wonder, then, that the Javelin has acquired exalted status among Ukrainians, celebrated in music and paintings (an image of the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin has gone viral).

The Javelin features a fearsome combination of power and precision. It is a “fire-and-forget” weapon, allowing soldiers to take cover quickly after firing. It can strike targets more than 3km away and hit the top of the tank—its most vulnerable part.

In all, America and its allies have provided more than 60,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. These include not just the Javelin but also the Panzerfaust from Germany and Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs) from Britain and Sweden. All have helped (along with other types of weapons). More than 3,000 Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles in Ukraine have been destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured, according to Oryx, an open-source intelligence blog. With Russian forces narrowing their focus on Donbas, however, still more weapons are needed. More than 10,000 Russian armoured vehicles remain in operation (with thousands more in storage), according to Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for a whopping $20bn more in military aid. But assistance in the form of Javelins and other anti-tank systems could soon dry up.

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Posted in Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(Economist 1843 Magazine) Elena Kostyuchenko–I lost my job for telling the truth about Ukraine

I meant to stay for two days, but on the third day we couldn’t get out because there was active combat on the road we’d been planning to take. The next day, we tried getting out on a different road. We went through two checkpoints but at the third one they told us that if they let us through, troops at the next checkpoint would gun us down. They said there were orders to shoot at all oncoming cars. We turned around and tried going through a neighbouring village instead, but locals told us that there were landmines up ahead. We tried yet another route. At a certain point, we were forced to go around a checkpoint because soldiers refused to let us through. We thought they might shoot at us from behind, but they didn’t.

From Kherson, I headed to Mariupol. As I was travelling, I suddenly started getting texts from colleagues from other publications with messages like, “We feel for you, but hang in there. Everything’s going to be ok, don’t be scared.” That’s how I found out Novaya Gazeta was stopping publication, at least until the war was over.

I was deeply shaken. That might sound strange, considering everything that had happened over the years. Six journalists had been killed, four of them during my tenure. Our deputy editor had been abducted and severed sheep heads left in front of our offices. There were constant attacks on our journalists, and we prevented many more by getting people out of the country or hiding them. The government was always trying to shut us down or have us declared foreign agents. We had survived it all. I thought that even though they’d shut down everyone else, we would prevail.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Looming ground battle is crucial phase in Ukraine, U.S. officials say

U.S. military officials assess that a crucial, and perhaps decisive, phase of the Ukraine war is shaping up in the eastern part of the country, where Russian troops may surround Ukrainian forces in hopes of pummeling them in an epic, long-distance ground battle reminiscent of the last century.

New U.S. shipments of heavy artillery and counter-artillery radar, tactical drones, armored vehicles and other equipment are being rushed to Ukraine before tens of thousands of troops, amounting to up to half of the Ukrainian army, are caught in what is known as a “double envelopment” maneuver that would bring them under simultaneous attack from two sides.

The Ukrainians are located in a north-south crescent between deep Russian lines in the southeastern Donbas region, and a potential pincer movement to their west.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) Putin abandons hopes of Ukraine deal and shifts to land-grab strategy

Vladimir Putin has lost interest in diplomatic efforts to end his war with Ukraine and instead appears set on seizing as much Ukrainian territory as possible, according to three people briefed on conversations with the Russian president.

Putin, who was seriously considering a peace deal with Ukraine after Russia suffered battlefield setbacks last month, has told people involved in trying to end the conflict that he sees no prospects for a settlement.

“Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big,” said a person briefed on the talks.

Though Moscow and Kyiv agreed their first draft communique at a meeting in Istanbul in late March, talks stalled after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing war crimes against civilians in cities such as Bucha and Mariupol.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Commander hints at Russian ambitions beyond Ukraine

A Russian commander said Friday that Moscow wants to take “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine, in part so it could have a path to neighboring Moldova — raising fears that the nearly two-month war could spill outside of Ukrainian borders.

The comments from Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, seemed to hint that the Kremlin — which has been stymied in its bid to take over the Ukrainian capital — still wants to conquer wide swaths of its neighbor’s land, and potentially threaten the nations that lie beyond. They drew swift condemnation from Moldova, where residents have worried since the beginning of the war they could be next in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Minnekayev said capturing Ukraine’s east and south would create a “land corridor” to the Crimean Peninsula — which the Kremlin annexed in 2014 — and give Moscow influence over “vital objects of the Ukrainian economy,” according to the Russia state media outlet Tass. It would also provide “another way out to Transnistria,” Minnekayev said, referring to a thin strip of land that runs along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that functions as a separate nation, though it is not recognized as such, even by Russia.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Conflict likely to get worse, say Ukrainian church leaders

Churches in Ukraine have advised citizens to be ready for an intensification of Russia’s invasion, as representatives of the Council of Europe condemned the destruction of religious sites, and pressure continued for Russian Orthodox leaders to call for a ceasefire in the two-month war.

“The war that Russia has imposed on us and on the whole world did not begin with missiles and bombs — it began with deception, untruth, and lies,” the head of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said in a Sunday homily.

“The Lord is now showing us how we must resist with the testimony of truth. Evil is evil, not just an alternative viewpoint, and war is war, not just some conflict. Rapists, looters, and murderers are criminals, and what they are perpetrating is a genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

Metropolitan Epiphany was speaking as evidence emerged that Russian forces had launched a new offensive along a 300-mile front line in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Moscow confirmed on Monday that its shells and missiles had struck more than 1000 targets.

The Metropolitan said that Ukrainians knew from experience that Russia had long concealed “evil plans to restore the tyranny of a rotten, overthrown empire”, and that the divine commandment to love neighbours did not mean “loving the evil they do”.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(Atlantic) Eliot A. Cohen–This Is the War’s Decisive Moment:The United States and its allies can tip the balance between a costly success and a calamity.

The relatively brief but bloody war in Ukraine is entering its fourth phase. In the first, Russia tried to depose Volodymyr Zelensky’s government and sweep the country into its embrace in a three-day campaign; in the second, it attempted to conquer Ukraine—or at least its eastern half, including the capital, Kyiv—with armored assaults; in the third, defeated in the north, Russia withdrew its battered forces, massing instead in the southeastern and southern areas for the conquest of those parts of Ukraine. Now the fourth, and possibly decisive, phase is about to begin.

For those of us born after World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime. Upon its outcome rests the future of European stability and prosperity. If Ukraine succeeds in preserving its freedom and territorial integrity, a diminished Russia will be contained; if it fails, the chances of war between NATO and Russia go up, as does the prospect of Russian intervention in other areas on its western and southern peripheries. A Russian win would encourage a China coolly observing and assessing Western mettle and military capacity; a Russian defeat would induce a salutary caution in Beijing. Russia’s sheer brutality and utterly unwarranted aggression, compounded by lies at once sinister and ludicrous, have endangered what remains of the global order and the norms of interstate conduct. If such behavior leads to humiliation on the battlefield and economic chaos at home, those norms may be rebuilt to some degree; if Vladimir Putin’s government gets away with it, restoring them will take a generation or longer….

Upon what the United States and its allies do in the next few weeks hangs more than the American people realize. The evidence suggests that Russia’s armies can, if met by a well-equipped Ukrainian force, be thoroughly wrecked and defeated. While Russia itself will likely remain a paranoid and isolated dictatorship after this war, it can be defanged, even as its own folly reduces it to the ranks of a third-rate power. But war is war, and the future is always uncertain. All that is clear right now is that a failure to adequately support Ukraine will have terrible consequences, and not just for that heroic and suffering nation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Africans starve while the world watches Ukraine

Humanitarian organisations have warned that the huge response to the war in Ukraine is overshadowing other crises around the world that are in need of urgent attention.

Charities and NGOs have begun urging governments and individuals not to forget the millions who are suffering in other countries.

The United Nations has warned that the situation in Somalia, where 4.5 million people are at risk of starvation owing to the worst drought in a decade, is deteriorating rapidly. The focus of the international community on Ukraine was sucking all the oxygen out of the room, Adam Abdelmoula, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said last week.

The UN has said that $1.46 billion (£1.1 billion) is required to meet the immediate needs of Somalis. Only three per cent of that has been secured.

“The outlook was already grim prior to the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis,” Mr Abdelmoula said. “We have been overshadowed by the crisis in Tigray, Yemen, Afghanistan — and now Ukraine seems to suck all the oxygen that is in the room. . .

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Posted in Africa, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Globalization, Poverty, Ukraine

We meet online to pray for Ukraine: Kyiv’s Anglicans spread across Europe continue to meet

Before Russia’s invasion, Kyiv had a small but thriving community of Anglicans. Today, members of Christ Church, which used to meet in the German Lutheran church Kyiv’s centre, come together to pray for peace online.

“We try to keep in touch via [the messaging apps] Viber or WhatsApp,” explained church warden Christina Laschenko-Stafiychuk.

“We also try to join Zoom vigil services on Wednesday evenings held by the Diocese in Europe during Lent to pray for Ukraine.”

Since the Russian invasion which began on February 24th, the once vibrant community has been scattered across Europe.

Christina said: “My daughter and I left Kyiv on March 4th. We left on an evacuation train going towards Lviv.

“We then took a train to Chełm in Poland, then on to Warsaw, and finally to Zurich

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer, Ukraine

(RNS) World Council of Churches faces calls to expel Russian Orthodox Church

The World Council of Churches is under pressure to oust the Russian Orthodox Church from its ranks, with detractors arguing the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, invalidated its membership by backing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and involving the church in the global political machinations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The debate garnered a response on Monday (April 11) from the Rev. Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC, which claims 352 member churches representing roughly 580 million Christians around the world.

Sauca, a priest in the Romanian Orthodox Church who has visited Ukrainian refugees and publicly criticized Kirill’s response to the invasion, pushed back on the suggestion of expelling the ROC, arguing doing so would deviate from the WCC’s historic mission to enhance ecumenical dialogue.

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Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NBC) Russia appoints general with cruel history to oversee Ukraine offensive

Russia’s reported appointment of Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, a man with a history of targeting civilians, to take over operations in Ukraine marks what some military analysts see as an indication that Russia intends to terrorize civilians as the war progresses.

Dvornikov, who most recently oversaw Russian troops in Syria, was chosen as the new ground commander in Ukraine, a U.S. official and a Western official confirmed.

The decision to bring in Dvornikov could be an acknowledgment of what U.S. intelligence officials have described as a failure to achieve the quick takeover Russian President Vladimir Putin envisioned, retired Adm. James Stavridis said Sunday on “NBC Nightly News.”

“The appointment of this new general indicates Vladimir Putin’s intent to continue this conflict for months, if not years,” Stavridis said.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(BBC) French elections: Macron and Le Pen to fight for presidency

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French election and far-right rival Marine Le Pen will fight him for the presidency for a second time.

“Make no mistake, nothing is decided,” he told cheering supporters.

In the end, he won a convincing first-round victory, but opinion polls suggest the run-off could be much closer.

Ms Le Pen called on every non-Macron voter to join her and “put France back in order”.

With 97% of results counted, Emmanuel Macron had 27.6% of the vote, Marine Le Pen 23.41% and Jean-Luc Mélenchon 21.95%.

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Posted in France, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, who gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Germany, Spirituality/Prayer

(Church Times) Parishes navigate obstacles to help refugees arriving in UK

Churches across the UK are continuing their efforts to assist refugees from the war in Ukraine.

The latest figures from the United Nations show that almost 4.3 million people have left Ukraine since the outbreak of war. The International Organization for Migration says that 7.1 million are displaced within the country.

In rural North Yorkshire, the Rector of the Whorlton Benefice, the Revd Dr Robert Opala, has been involved in helping several Ukrainian families find sanctuary.

Dr Opala, who is originally from Poland, has been working with the Middlesbrough-based charity Investing in People and Culture, which has facilitated the connections needed for refugees to apply for a visa under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The application process, Dr Opala said, has proved “difficult and complicated”, and has created “a lot of frustration and even anger”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Uncategorized

(Church Times) Russian atrocities denounced by Ukrainian church leaders

Ukranian church leaders have hardened their tone amid growing evidence of Russian army atrocities in their country.

“As we received good news that the Kyiv region was liberated, we also received horrific footage of civilian killings: it is difficult to explain and understand how the murder of innocent people and children can be justified,” the leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Dumenko, said.

“Today, we heard that the peoples of Holy Russia are peaceful, while we see the ideology of the ‘Russian world’ justifying murder, violence, and war. This ideology must be rejected and condemned, as was the ideology of Nazism.”

The message was published before a speech on Tuesday by President Zelensky to the United Nations Security Council, describing how civilians were shot in the streets, thrown into wells, and crushed by tanks in a list of alleged Russian war crimes.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Parish Ministry, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(WSJ) A Quarter of Africans Face Food-Security Crisis Partly Due to Ukraine War, Red Cross Says

A quarter of Africa’s population is facing a food-security crisis driven by severe drought, raging wars and a rise in world food prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Tuesday.

Some 346 million people, from Mauritania in the west to the Horn of Africa in the east, are affected by food insecurity, Dominik Stillhart, the agency’s global operations director, told reporters in Nairobi.

“What we don’t want to see is the response that comes too late, and that is why it is so important to draw attention to the situation now,” Mr. Stillhart said.

Russia and Ukraine were major grain suppliers before the war, and the conflict is causing pain across the developing world, spurring price shocks, constraining imports of basic commodities and causing food shortages, with poorer nations in Africa especially affected.

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Posted in Africa, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Poverty, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT front page) The End of the (Pipe)line? Germany Scrambles to Wean Itself Off Russian Gas

Past a nudist beach and a sleepy marina, a gigantic mesh of metallic pipes rises from the pine forest behind the tiny village of Lubmin on Germany’s Baltic coast.

If few people have heard of Lubmin, from Berlin to Washington almost everyone seems to know the name of the two gas pipelines arriving here directly from Russia: Nord Stream 1, which carries almost 60 million cubic meters of natural gas per year to keep Europe’s biggest economy humming. And Nord Stream 2, built to increase that flow but abruptly shuttered in the run-up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The pair of pipelines has become a twin symbol of Germany’s dangerous dependence on Russian gas — and the country’s belated and frenzied effort to wean itself off it — with calls growing for the European Union to hit Moscow with tougher sanctions as atrocities come to light in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, proposed banning imports of Russian coal and soon, possibly, its oil. But Russian gas — far more critical to Germany and much of the rest of Europe — was off the table. At least for now.

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Posted in Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Germany, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine