Ukraine Hit by Deadly Wave of Russian Missile Strikes as Zelenskyy Calls for Aircraft, Missiles

Russia launched new missile attacks on several locations in Ukraine on Thursday, killing 11 people and wounding 11 others, authorities reported. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said the attacks hit 11 regions across the country. Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia fired 55 missiles, with Ukraine shooting down most of them. Thirty-five buildings were damaged in the attacks. Moscow’s forces continued to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the depth of winter, an effort to demoralize Ukrainians. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a post on Telegram, “The main goal is energy facilities, providing Ukrainians with light and heat.” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed in the Ukrainian capital and two more were wounded when a missile hit a building. The state prosecutor general’s office said three people were …

US to Sanction Russia’s Wagner Paramilitary Group

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Thursday a series of sanctions targeting individuals associated with Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group, including its leader and associated front companies, for waging war in Ukraine, including battlefield activities and the targeting of civilians. In a statement, Blinken said the sanctions will target five entities and one individual linked to the Wagner Group and its head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, as well as several other individuals and entities, for their status as government officials and for being part of Russia’s military industrial complex. Blinken’s statement said the State Department also is designating three individuals for their roles as heads of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, which has been reported to facilitate the recruitment of Russian prisoners into the Wagner Group, and subsequently sent to the front …

Burkina Faso Protesters Call for Russians to Help Fight Islamist Militants

After a recent military pullout, only about 400 French troops remain in Burkina Faso to help the government fight Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State. But now many in the country want Russia to help and the government has ordered all French troops to leave within the month. Reporter Kader Traore has more from Ouagadougou in this report narrated by Vincent Makori. …

France Demands Release of Citizen in Iran as Health Worsens

France’s foreign ministry demanded on Thursday the immediate release of Bernard Phelan, a Franco-Irish citizen detained in Iran, whose health situation has worsened, with Paris saying he has been denied urgent medical care. Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months with Tehran detaining seven of its nationals in what Paris has said are arbitrary arrests that are equivalent to state hostage taking. Phelan, 64, a tourism consultant was detained in early October as anti-government protests spread across the country. Diplomats said he had recently ended a hunger strike that had harmed his health, and he remains fragile. “We are extremely concerned given the extreme fragility of his health situation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters at a news conference, demanding that he be released immediately along …

EU Migration Officials Review Migration Policies

European Union migration ministers are meeting in Stockholm to review migration policies, especially on returning migrants with no right to asylum back to their home countries. The gathering is considered an informal meeting ahead of the meeting of all 27 EU heads of state February 10, where migration is expected to top the agenda. Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the EU saw “irregular” arrivals by migrants increase to 300,000 last year. The block also saw 924,000 asylum applications. She said, “that means we have three times more asylum applications than irregular arrivals, and these are overloading the reception capacities and many of those [migrants] are not in need of international protection.”  Johansson stressed the need for the EU member nations to …

Air Raid Alert in Ukraine as Zelenskyy Calls for Aircraft, Missiles

Russia launched a fresh wave of missile strikes on Ukraine in the morning Thursday, killing at least one person, hours after an overnight drone attack, while heavy fighting continues unabated in the east, where Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure on Ukrainian defenders. The new missile attacks came after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking just hours after Germany and the United States pledged to provide Kyiv with advanced battle tanks, called on Kyiv’s Western allies to deliver long-range missiles and military aircraft to beef up Ukraine’s air defense. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person was killed and two others were wounded in a strike on the capital and urged residents to stay in shelters. “As a result of a rocket hitting a nonresidential building in the Holosiyiv district, we have …

Experts: Arming Ukraine Via US Could Worsen South Korea’s Ties with Russia

South Korea, with a world-class arms industry, is facing mounting pressure to find a way to get needed arms and munitions to Ukraine without unduly angering Russia, which has hinted that it could resume military cooperation with North Korea. Experts interviewed by VOA say the most likely solution under consideration in Seoul is for the nation’s commercial arms manufacturers to make private sales to the United States, allowing the U.S to ship more of its own armaments to Ukraine without depleting its stockpiles. A spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VOA Korean Service on Wednesday that the administration in Seoul “has been providing humanitarian support to the people of Ukraine” but “there has not been a change” in its position that it “will not send lethal …

France to Pull Troops From Burkina Faso Within a Month: Ministry

France has received a request from junta-ruled Burkina Faso to withdraw its troops from the Sahel country and will do so within a month, the foreign ministry said Wednesday. “On Tuesday … we formally received notice from the Burkinabe government of the termination of the 2018 agreement on the status of French armed forces present in the country,” a ministry spokeswoman said. “According to the terms of the accord, the termination takes effect a month after reception of written notification. We will respect the terms of the agreement by honoring this request.” About 400 French special forces are currently based in Burkina Faso in a deployment dubbed “Sabre,” part of a broader military presence to fight jihadists across the Sahel region. But the country has followed a similar course to …

Russia, Pakistan Discuss ‘Practical Engagement’ With Afghan Taliban

Russia and Pakistan emphasized in bilateral talks Wednesday the need for “practical engagement” with Afghanistan’s Taliban but ruled out formal recognition of the Islamist rulers until they address international concerns over women’s rights and inclusive governance. The Russian presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, led his delegation in the talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad and briefed them on his meetings earlier this month with the Taliban in Kabul.   Kabulov said Moscow was continuing to engage with the Taliban but was not considering granting legitimacy to the de facto Afghan rulers “for the time being,” official Pakistani sources privy to Wednesday’s meetings told VOA. The sources quoted the Russian envoy as saying he “advised” the Islamist Taliban to move toward creating a politically inclusive government and easing curbs on …

Iran Responds to EU, UK Sanctions With Some of Its Own

Iran imposed sanctions Wednesday on 34 individuals and entities from the European Union and Britain in reaction to similar measures they have taken over Tehran’s response to months-long protests.  Tehran’s move comes two days after the EU and Britain placed another round of sanctions on the Islamic republic, which has been rocked by protests since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini.  Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women.  The sanctions imposed by Tehran include the blocking of accounts and transactions in Iran’s banks and the “prohibition of visa issuance and entry” to Iran, the foreign ministry said.  Iran accuses the people and organizations of “supporting terrorism and terrorist groups, instigating and encouragement to terrorist …

UK Reviews Rules After Row Over Wagner Lawsuit Against Journalist

The U.K. said Wednesday it was reviewing how sanctioned individuals are permitted to use the country’s legal services, after reports the government helped the head of Russian mercenary group Wagner sue a British journalist. The finance ministry currently grants licenses allowing sanctioned people to circumvent restrictions so as to hire U.K. lawyers and pay their fees for lawsuits filed in British courts. It reportedly allowed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin — who was sanctioned by Britain and others in 2020 — to launch a libel suit against Eliot Higgins, a journalist for investigative outlet Bellingcat. The Netherlands-based site had reported extensively on Wagner’s previously shadowy operations, which have been on more public display in the war in Ukraine. U.K.-based investigative website openDemocracy reported this week that the ministry’s Office of Financial …

Ukraine’s Odesa Wins UNESCO Status Despite Russian Opposition

UNESCO on Wednesday added the historic center of Ukraine’s port city of Odesa, often described as “the pearl of the Black Sea,” to its World Heritage List, overcoming opposition from Russia. The 21 member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s world heritage committee approved inscribing designated areas of the city with six votes in favor, one against and 14 abstentions. Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February last year, tried repeatedly to delay the vote to recognize the site’s “outstanding universal value” and “the duty of all humanity to protect it.” “While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction,” said UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay after the decision. Ukraine’s President …

UN Economists Project Lowest Global Growth Rates in Decades

The 2023 World Economic Situation and Prospects report has just been issued, and U.N. economists present a gloomy and uncertain outlook for the coming year, with the global economy projected to grow at a particularly sluggish rate. Multiple crises have converged to batter the world economy. The U.N. report cites a series of multiple and severe shocks for unleashing one of the lowest global economic outputs in recent decades. It says the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, surging inflation and the climate emergency, among other crises, are setting back short-term growth prospects and threatening to undermine longer-term sustainable development in the poorer countries. The report projects world output growth to drop from an estimated 3 percent in 2022 to 1.9 percent in 2023. Ingo Pitterle, senior economist at the …

European Rights Court Rules Dutch, Ukraine Cases Against Russia Are Admissible

The European Court of Human Rights said cases brought by Ukraine and the Netherlands against Russia over human rights violations in the two breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and the shooting down of Flight MH-17, were admissible.  The decision is procedural and does not rule on the merits of the cases, but it does show the Strasbourg-based court considers Russia can be held liable for alleged human rights violations in the separatist regions.  “Among other things, the Court found that areas in eastern Ukraine in separatist hands were, from 11 May 2014 and up to at least 26 January 2022, under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation,” the court said in a ruling on Wednesday.  The cases will now move on to the merits stage, expected to …

Pope Francis: Homosexuality Not a Crime 

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church. “Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone. “These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has …

US-Made Tanks Likely Headed to Ukraine; Timing Uncertain

Pleas by Ukrainian officials for more tanks, and more advanced tanks, to use in their fight against Russia have begun to resonate in Washington with the United States now preparing to send Kyiv dozens of its top-of-the-line battle tank. A U.S. official familiar with the deliberations told VOA on Tuesday that the White House is working to finalize a plan to get Ukraine the coveted M1 Abrams tanks, though it could be some time before Ukraine would be able to take delivery and insert them onto the battlefield. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the plans, said the tanks would likely be provided through the Pentagon’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The fund allows the Defense Department to purchase weapons and systems …