Ukraine Pushes for Fast-Tracked NATO Membership; US Pushes Back

Ukraine’s bid to fast-track its efforts to join NATO, following Russia’s annexation of four more Ukrainian territories, is being met with caution in Brussels and Washington, where top officials are trying to shift the focus to their unwavering support for Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted video to social media Friday that shows him signing a formal bid for an accelerated membership with the Western alliance. “De facto, we have already made our way to NATO,” Zelenskyy said in a statement that accompanied the video. “Today, Ukraine is applying to make it de jure.” But when asked during a briefing whether the alliance would move quickly on the application, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg demurred. “Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself …

Turkey-Greece Relations Tense Over Cyprus, Aegean Islands

Tensions between Greece and Turkey over the divided island of Cyprus appear to be escalating. Turkey says it’s increasing its military presence on the island in response to Washington’s lifting of an arms embargo against the Greek Cypriot administration. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized the United States Friday for its stance toward Greece, saying it has become a toy of Athens in the Cyprus dispute. He said the ones standing with the Greeks just for the sake of pleasing the Greeks should not expect friendship from Turkey. Earlier this week, Cavusoglu announced that Turkey will increase its military presence on Cyprus after Washington lifted its military arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration. The Mediterranean Island has been divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities since 1974. The Greek …

US Hits Russia with Sanctions for Annexing Ukrainian Regions

The U.S. on Friday sanctioned more than 1,000 people and firms connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including its Central Bank governor and families of Security Council members, after President Vladimir Putin signed treaties absorbing occupied regions of Ukraine into Russia, in defiance of international law. The Treasury Department named hundreds of members of Russia’s legislature, leaders of the country’s financial and military infrastructure and suppliers for sanctions designations. The Commerce Department added 57 companies to its list of export control violators, and the State Department added more than 900 people to its visa restriction list. President Joe Biden said of Putin’s steps: “Make no mistake: These actions have no legitimacy.” He said the new financial penalties will impose costs on people and companies inside and outside of Russia “that …

Uzbekistan Says Won’t Deport Russians Fleeing Conscription

Uzbekistan has no plans to deport Russians who are fleeing en masse to Central Asia to evade conscription amid Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, the Tashkent government said on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of men, some with families, have left Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization last week; many headed to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian former Soviet republics. Some draft dodgers, however, remain concerned about their safety in those countries since their governments have close ties with Moscow. Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement it remained committed to principles such as respecting other states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and supported a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian conflict. “…Foreign citizens who have not broken the law are not subject to forced deportation,” it said. Uzbekistan …

Russia Scheduled to Celebrate Annexation of Ukrainian Territories

On the day that Russia is set to celebrate its annexation of four Ukranian territories, a humanitarian convoy was hit by Russian shelling near the town of Zaporizhzhia. Officials say at least 23 people were killed in the incident and 28 people were wounded.  The convoy was headed to the area to rescue family members from the occupied territory. Russia is set to formally announce annexation of four Ukrainian territories — Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — on Friday. The Kremlin is to mark what many view as an illegal move with celebratory concerts and rallies in Moscow. Meanwhile, Finland is the latest country to close its border to Russians. The Finland closing comes as hordes of Russian men are leaving the country to escape Russia’s military mobilization for continuing …

US Charges Russian Oligarch Deripaska with Sanctions Evasion

The Justice Department on Thursday unsealed an indictment charging Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and three associates with violating U.S. sanctions. The indictment grew out of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement group formed in the wake of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion to enforce the sweeping economic sanctions, export restrictions and other measures the United States and its Western allies imposed on Moscow. “In the wake of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I promised the American people that the Justice Department would work to hold accountable those who break our laws and threaten our national security. Today’s charges demonstrate we are keeping that promise,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. Along with Deripaska, 52, the indictment charged two other Russian nationals — Natalia Mikhaylovna Bardakova, …

Azerbaijan President Signs Off on Media Registry Rules

Azerbaijan’s president this week approved the rules that will govern a media registry that the country’s journalists warn could further stifle press freedom.  President Ilham Aliyev on Monday signed off on the “rules for maintaining a media registry” — a set of regulations around media credentials and official recognition that would provide approved media with privileges and benefits, such as accreditation to state and other bodies.   The rules lay out how the registry will work, the requirements journalists must meet to be eligible for inclusion, what data will be publicly available, and what conditions can result in being excluded or removed from the database.   The government-run Media Development Agency will oversee the registry and legal entities, and each individual included in it will be issued a certificate and journalistic license.   …

Italy’s New Government to Take Different Position on China

Italy has elected its most right-wing government since the end of World War II, and China watchers are anticipating a different type of relationship between Giorgia Meloni, in position to become Italy’s next prime minister, and Beijing based on her comments about Taiwan during her campaign. Diplomatic issues in Asia are not usually the focus of political debate in Italian elections, but analysts noted that before the election, Meloni made a rare statement on Taiwan, voicing opposition to China’s military threats to the island. She also said she would promote bilateral contacts between Italy and Taiwan, something Beijing strongly opposes. In July, Meloni posted on Twitter a pre-election statement on Taiwan. The post showed a photo of her and Taiwan’s representative in Italy, Andrea Lee Sing-ying. Meloni called Lee an …

Several People Try to Enter Iranian Embassy in Oslo

Several people in a violent crowd attempted to enter the Iranian Embassy in Oslo, police said Thursday, with scuffles breaking out and rocks being thrown at officers. Authorities said 90 people had been detained. A crowd had gathered outside the diplomatic mission in Oslo to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by Iran’s morality police. Several were shouting, others had Kurdish flags around their shoulders. Some called for freedom for Kurdistan, women’s freedom and shouted the name of Amini. Police in the Norwegian capital said “many people were behaving violently.” Amini was arrested for allegedly breaking headscarf rules and died on Sept. 16. The Iranian police said she died of a heart attack and wasn’t mistreated, but her family has cast …

Izium Resolved to Recover After 6 Months of Russian Occupation

Residents of the Ukrainian city of Izium say they’re determined to rebuild their lives after six months of Russian occupation. Ukrainian officials say 90% of the recaptured city has been destroyed after enduring nearly 500 airstrikes. For VOA, Anna Chernikova has more from the eastern city, which is only 20 kilometers from the front line. Camera: Eugene Shynkar, Stephen Boitano    …

New Warnings from Ukraine About Looming Russian Cyberattacks

Ukraine is again urging its companies and private organizations to immediately bolster their cybersecurity ahead of what could be a new wave of Russian attacks. The Ukrainian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) published new recommendations Thursday, warning that its experts had identified software vulnerabilities that could allow Russian cyber actors to get deep inside a computer network. The advisory further warned that the vulnerabilities could allow Russia to launch a renewed series of targeted cyberattacks on Ukraine aimed at disabling communication and information systems or designed to compromise and alter the information being processed. “The risk of new attacks remains very high,” Volodymyr Kondrashov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, said in a statement, adding that for security purposes, “every single PC, every …

Queen Elizabeth’s Death Attributed to ‘Old Age’

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died September 8 of “old age,” according to a death certificate published Thursday by the National Records of Scotland. The official time of death was listed as 3:10 p.m.    The queen, 96, was at Balmoral Castle in Ballater, Scotland, at the time of her death. Buckingham Palace announced her death at 6:30 p.m., September 8, indicating that King Charles III and his sister, Princess Anne, were the only children with her in her final moments.    The death certificate was certified by Dr. Douglas James Allan Glass and was authorized by Paul Lowe, registrar general of Scotland. Anne registered the death certificate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.    Elizabeth had been struggling with sporadic mobility problems during the final months of her life, which often …

Vatican Sanctions Nobel Laureate After Timor Accusations

The Vatican said Thursday it had imposed disciplinary sanctions on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo in the past two years, following allegations that he sexually abused boys in East Timor during the 1990s. The Vatican admission came a day after a Dutch magazine, De Groene Amsterdammer, exposed the claims against the revered East Timor independence hero, citing two of Belo’s alleged victims and reporting there were others who hadn’t come forward in East Timor, where the Catholic Church wields enormous influence. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases received allegations “concerning the bishop’s behavior” in 2019 and within a year had imposed the restrictions. They included limitations on Belo’s movements and his exercise of ministry, and prohibited him from having voluntary contact with …

Finland Bars Russian Tourists After Thousands Enter Country

The Finnish government announced it is closing its borders to Russians with European tourist visas effective at midnight Thursday night, after thousands of people streamed over their shared border with Russia in recent days. At a news conference in Helsinki Thursday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters the government is taking the action because the current situation “endangers Finland’s international relations.” He said Finland had discussed the plan with Ukraine and other nations before making a decision. Since last week’s announcement Russian President Vladimir Putin was seeking to “mobilize” 300,000 reservists for his war in Ukraine, nations sharing borders with Russia have seen thousands of Russian citizens entering their countries. Reuters news service reports Finland saw an 80 percent increase in border crossings. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer land border …

Report Calls Switzerland, US, Sweden World’s Most Innovative Economies

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) cites top-ranked Switzerland, followed by the United States and Sweden, as the world’s most innovative economies.  WIPO uses some 80 indicators to rank the innovative performance of 132 economies. These include measures on the political environment, education, infrastructure, business sophistication and knowledge creation of each economy. The latest annual report shows some interesting moves in the rankings and the emergence of new powerhouses. Switzerland, once again, comes out on top. The United States moves up one position in the rankings to second place, followed by Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. A co-editor of the Global Index, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, said 11th-ranked China is the only middle-income country to have made it this far. He said other emerging economies, such as Turkey and India, …

Russia Plans Annexation Ceremony as Ukrainian Allies Ready Sanctions

The Kremlin said Russia will hold a ceremony Friday to officially incorporate four areas of Ukraine into Russia, a process that Ukraine and its allies have dismissed as illegitimate while promising retaliation in the form of new sanctions. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday the ceremony will include Russian President Vladimir Putin along with the Russian-appointed heads of the four regions where Russia orchestrated referendums that ended earlier this week. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Thursday that he assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Germany will never recognize the “so-called results.” “The sham referendums carried out by Putin in the illegally occupied areas of Ukraine are worthless,” Scholz said. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that the United States expected Russian “to use these sham referenda …