Ukraine Court Sentences 2 Russian Soldiers for Shelling Civilians

A Ukrainian court sentenced two Russian soldiers to 11½-year prison terms on Tuesday after they had pleaded guilty last week to indiscriminately shelling civilian targets in the Kharkiv region, from across the border in Russia.  Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov heard the verdict as they stood in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelva district court in northeastern Ukraine. “The guilt of Bobikin and Ivanov has been proven in full,” Judge Evhen Bolybok said, standing in front of a Ukrainian flag. Prosecutors had asked for 12-year terms for the Russian soldiers in the second war crimes case Ukrainian officials have brought. Defense lawyers said the sentences should be eight years because the pair had pleaded guilty, expressed remorse and contended that they were following orders when they fired Grad missiles …

Soccer Body Investigating Pre-Game Chaos at Paris Champions League Final

International soccer officials are investigating the chaos outside Paris’s Stade de France stadium for last Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. The highly anticipated game was uncharacteristically delayed for 37 minutes because many fans, mostly Liverpool fans, were unable to get in. Some fans reportedly were mugged. Tear gas also reportedly was used. The French government is blaming Liverpool fans, while Liverpool says that is an “irresponsible, unprofessional” rush to judgment and cites heavy-handed policing. Some potential causes of the problems include only having three months to prepare for the event because the game was originally going to be hosted in Russia. Some are pointing to a lack of signage to guide fans to the game in an orderly way. Some also are wondering why Liverpool fans …

Kremlin Critic Navalny Says He Is Facing New Charges

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who is in prison in Russia, could face 15 more years under a new charge, he said Tuesday. Navalny took to social media to say now has been charged with starting an extremist organization. “Not even eight days have passed since my nine-year, high-security sentence came into force, and today the investigator showed up again and formally charged me with a new case,” Navalny said on Twitter. “It turns out that I created an extremist group in order to incite hatred toward officials and oligarchs. And when they put me in jail, I dared to be disgruntled about it and called for rallies. For that, they’re supposed to add up to 15 more years to my sentence,” he said. There has been no official announcement …

In Commonwealth, Queen’s Jubilee Draws Protests, Apathy

After seven decades on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is widely viewed in the U.K. as a rock in turbulent times. But in Britain’s former colonies, many see her as an anchor to an imperial past whose damage still lingers. So while the U.K. is celebrating the queen’s Platinum Jubilee — 70 years on the throne — with pageantry and parties, some in the Commonwealth are using the occasion to push for a formal break with the monarchy and the colonial history it represents. “When I think about the queen, I think about a sweet old lady,” said Jamaican academic Rosalea Hamilton, who campaigns for her country to become a republic. “It’s not about her. It’s about her family’s wealth, built on the backs of our ancestors. We’re grappling with …

After Oil Deal, EU Turns to Defense – and Ukraine Aid 

European Union leaders are wrapping up a two-day summit Tuesday with discussions on energy, defense, and food security — key issues with the war in Ukraine— after striking a groundbreaking, if watered-down deal on a Russian oil ban. Europe will also be sending nearly $10 billion in much-needed aid to Ukraine. It’s now up to European Union ambassadors to hammer out the details of the latest and toughest EU sanctions package. In the short term, it would cut three-quarters of European oil imports from Russia — those arriving by sea — and 90% of all imports by year’s end, after Germany and Poland agreed to phase out their pipeline deliveries. “This is an important step forward,” said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. “The remaining 10% on this one, …

Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 31

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine. The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT. 5:00 a.m.: A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 and a half years in jail on Tuesday for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, the second war crimes verdict since the start of Russia’s invasion in February, Reuters reported.  Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, who listened to the verdict standing in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelevska district court in central Ukraine, both pleaded “guilty” last week.  4:45 a.m.: Helga Maria Schmid, the secretary-general of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, said Tuesday she is “very relieved” following news about the release of a national mission member …

EU Agrees to Ban Majority of Russian Oil

European Union leaders agreed late Monday to ban two-thirds of Russian oil imports as part of a compromise deal to increase pressure on Russia while accounting for the economic effects on some EU nations that are more reliant on Russian oil supplies. The embargo cuts off Russian oil delivered by sea, while exempting oil imported through pipelines. Landlocked Hungary had threatened to oppose restrictions on oil imports, a move that would have scuttled the effort that requires consensus of all EU members. European Council President Charles Michel said he expects EU ambassadors to formally endorse the embargo, which is part of a larger sanctions package, on Wednesday. Ukrainian leaders have long called for banning Russian oil imports in order to deny Russia income it can use to fuel its war …

Russia Sanctions Seen Loosening Moscow’s Grip on Central Asia

Russia’s influence in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia is expected to decline as its overstretched military struggles in Ukraine and its economy suffers shocks from the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, according to experts. Russia has long enjoyed leverage over the region’s five countries – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan – because of their reliance on remittances from migrant laborers employed in Russia, says Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, head of the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh. World Bank data published in March laid out the importance of the remittances, which it said in some cases “were comparable to or even larger than the countries’ exports of goods and services.” “In the past, Central Asian states were wary of Russia …

Erdogan Discusses Turkey’s Syria Incursion Plans With Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed Ankara’s planned military operation in northern Syria and the war in Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s office said Monday. In recent days Erdogan has said Turkey will launch a cross-border incursion against Kurdish militants in Syria to create a 30-kilometer-deep buffer zone. He told Putin in a phone call that the frontier zone was agreed to in 2019 but had not been implemented, the Turkish presidency said. Ankara carried out an operation against the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in October 2019. Russia, the Syrian regime and the United States also have troops in the border region. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has waged an insurgency against …

France Blames Ticket Fraud for Champions League Final Chaos

French authorities defended police on Monday for indiscriminately firing tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters at the Champions League final, while blaming industrial levels of fraud that saw 30,000 to 40,000 people try to enter the Stade de France with fake tickets or none at all.  UEFA ordered an independent report that it said would “examine decision-making, responsibility and behaviors of all entities involved in the final” and be made public.  After a meeting into Saturday’s chaos, the French ministers of the sport and the interior shifted responsibility onto the Liverpool fans while not providing details on how they were sure so many fake tickets were in circulation. People with legitimate tickets bought through Liverpool and UEFA reported struggling to access the stadium.  “There was massive fraud at …

Greece Planning Major Wall Extension on Border With Turkey 

Greek authorities say they are planning a major extension of a wall along the country’s border with Turkey and are seeking European Union financial support for the additional construction.  Notis Mitarachi, the migration affairs minister, said the steel wall would be extended from 40 to 120 kilometers (25 to 75 miles), with construction work due to start later this year. “It is a government decision to extend the border wall further and we have requested European funding,” Mitarachi said, speaking in an interview Sunday with a radio station near Athens. The minister posted the audio of the interview on social media Monday. He gave no details on the projected cost of the project.  Greece has accused neighbor and fellow-NATO ally Turkey of “instrumentalizing” migration as a means of exerting pressure …

COVID-Hit Archbishop of Canterbury to Miss Queen’s Service

The Archbishop of Canterbury said Monday he would miss a national service of thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee after testing positive for COVID. Justin Welby, who leads the worldwide Anglican communion, said he was “deeply saddened” at missing Friday’s service in St Paul’s Cathedral, central London. He was diagnosed with mild pneumonia on Thursday and developed coronavirus symptoms over the weekend, and has cancelled all engagements this week. “However, I will be praying for the queen and giving thanks for her extraordinary 70 years of service to us all,” the archbishop said. “I will also be praying for our nation at this time of celebration and thanksgiving. May the queen’s example bring us together in unity and care for one another.” The Church of England’s second-highest ranking cleric, …

EU Leaders Try to Break Deadlock on Russian Oil Sanctions at Summit 

The European Union heads of state meeting in Brussels Monday remain deadlocked over an oil embargo against Russia, with Hungary the key holdout.  The summit will continues Tuesday. European Union leaders are reportedly considering a draft proposal that would temporarily exempt crude pipeline deliveries from any oil embargo against Russia, focusing for now on oil shipments. If agreed, the ban would be part of a sixth EU sanctions package against Moscow over the war in Ukraine. Arriving at the summit, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen played down hopes for a quick breakthrough. “We’ve now basically solved all the issues but one, and this is the question of crude oil by pipeline. And here the discussions are still ongoing. I have not too high expectations that we’re going to …

French Journalist Killed in Ukraine

The French news broadcaster BFM TV said a 32-year-old French journalist was killed Monday in eastern Ukraine, fatally hit by shell shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation. BFM TV said its journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was killed as he was “covering a humanitarian operation in an armored vehicle” near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the Donbas region that is being hotly contested by Russian and Ukrainian forces. He had worked for six years for the French television channel. French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Leclerc-Imhoff on Twitter. He “was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war. Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” Macron tweeted. Macron expressed condolences to his family, relatives and colleagues and spoke of …

Fierce Fighting Erupts on Streets of Sievierodonetsk in Eastern Ukraine

Fierce fighting has erupted on the streets of the eastern Ukraine city of Sievierodonetsk, with Kyiv’s forces trying desperately to fight off the Russian onslaught. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy characterized the situation as “indescribably difficult.” In a televised speech, he described capturing Sievierodonetsk as “a fundamental task for the occupiers” and said Ukraine was doing all it could to protect the city from a Russian takeover. Russian troops have entered the city, power and communications have been knocked out and “the city has been completely ruined,” Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “The number of victims is rising every hour, but we are unable to count the dead and the wounded amid the street fighting,” the mayor said. Striuk said 12,000 to 13,000 civilians …

Man Arrested After Smearing Mona Lisa with Cake at Louvre

A 36-year-old man has been arrested and placed in psychiatric care after he smeared a glass screen encasing the Mona Lisa with cake, prosecutors said Monday, in a purported protest against artists not focusing enough on “the planet.” Officials at the Louvre Museum in Paris, where the enigmatic portrait holds pride of place, declined to comment on the bizarre incident on Sunday, which was captured on several phones and circulated widely on social media. The treasured work by Leonardo da Vinci, which has been the target of vandalism attempts in the past, was unharmed thanks to its bulletproof glass case. A Twitter user identified as Lukeee posted a video showing a museum employee wiping a mess off the glass and another showing a man dressed in white being escorted away …

Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 30

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine. The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT: 3:55 a.m.: The latest intelligence report from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense says that the lack of “experienced and credible” platoon and company commanders will likely result in continued “poor discipline,” and further erosion of moral.   3:00 a.m.: The New York Times looks at challenges Western leaders have had over the years reaching consensus with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The West would like to see Finland and Sweden join NATO; this month, Erdogan said “it is not possible for us to be in favor.” 1:45 a.m.: The European Council prepares for its May 30-31 meeting in Brussels during which council members will …

Zelenskyy Seeking More Help from Europe

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address the European Council Monday as he pushes for more help for Ukraine and more pressure on Russia to end its invasion. European Council President Charles Michel said in a letter ahead of a two-day session that Ukraine is “showing incredible courage and dignity in the face of the Russian aggression and atrocities.” “One of our most pressing concerns is assisting the Ukrainian state, along with our international partners, with its liquidity needs,” Michel said. “We will also discuss how best to organize our support for Ukraine’s reconstruction, as a major global effort will be required to rebuild the country.” Michel said the meetings would include addressing high energy prices linked to the conflict and a need to “accelerate our energy transition” in …

EU Seeks to Break Deadlock on Russian Oil Ban Before Summit

Ambassadors from the 27 European Union member states on Sunday examined a compromise that could enable them to break the deadlock on a Russian oil embargo ahead of an emergency summit in Brussels this week. The bloc’s officials fear the absence of an agreement will cast a shadow over the two-day meeting starting Monday between European leaders. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the gathering by video link to press the bloc to “kill Russian exports” three months after the invasion of Ukraine. The latest round of proposed sanctions by the EU has been blocked by landlocked Hungary, which has no access to seafaring oil cargo ships. Hungary is dependent for 65% of its oil needs on Russian crude supplied via the Druzhba pipeline, which runs from Russia to various …