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Tag: ukraine crisis

Trump’s Ohio Senate Candidate Vance In Trouble Over Ukraine Remarks

On Friday, April 15, former President Donald Trump endorsed Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in Ohio’s 2022 GOP U.S. primary — much to the chagrin of former State Treasurer Josh Mandel and his supporters, who had been imploring Trump not to make that endorsement.

Vance, Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and businessman Mike Gibbons have been engaged in a bitter, mudslinging battle to show who is the most MAGA, and the tensions between Vance and Mandel have been especially ugly. Vance has been drawing a great deal of criticism for his comments about Ukraine, and journalist Joshua Jamerson — in an article published by the Wall Street Journal on April 16 — reports that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to be a topic in the Ohio U.S. Senate race.

In mid-February — prior to the invasion that Russia forces launched on February 24 — Vance told “War Room” host Steve Bannon, “I got to be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.” Since then, thousands of people have been killed in that war; millions of Ukrainians have fled their country. And Vance, according to Jamerson, has tweaked his messaging on Ukraine a bit by trying to sound more sympathetic to Ukrainians while maintaining an “America First” tone.


Vance, Jamerson notes, has described recent images of the violence in Ukraine as “disgusting” but is also describing the crisis as a distraction.

When Vance was campaigning in Troy, Ohio, a voter asked him if he thought Ukraine was a “smokescreen to cover the disasters” in the United States — and he responded, “So, I do actually.” And in a Columbus suburb, the Hillbilly Elegy author said, “At the end of the day, the tragedies that we have to care most about as policy makers…. is not what’s going on 6000 miles away.”

Then, at a campaign stop in Troy, Ohio, Vance declared, “I think it is a huge — a catastrophic — mistake for us to get more and more involved in what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine, especially when we have our own problems right here at home.”

Republican voters in Ohio, however, aren’t necessarily indifferent to the war in Ukraine. North Canton, Ohio resident Dee Braden, who is supporting Timken in the primary, told the Journal, “America has to continue to be a leader in supporting democracy and freedom.” And Shannon Wannemacher, a Republican voter in Lima, Ohio who is undecided in the primary, told the Journal, “Of course we need to be involved…. I wish we would do more. I wish we were seen as more of a leader. I’m concerned about Russia’s presence in the world.”

Ohio State Sen. Matt Dolan, another Republican who is running against Vance in Ohio’s GOP U.S. Senate primary, has been vehemently critical of Vance’s comments about Ukraine — saying, “I asked him to apologize on a human level because there’s so many Ukrainians who live in the state.

”Vance, Mandel, Dolan, Timken, and Gibbons are competing for the U.S. Senate seat presently held by Sen. Rob Portman, who is not seeking reelection. The GOP primary election will be held on May 3.

The fact that Trump has endorsed Vance over Mandel and the other candidates is ironic in light of how critical Vance was of him in 2016. Vance was vehemently critical of Trump during the 2016 election, calling him a racist and warning that he would be terrible for the U.S. if elected president. But Vance has since flip-flopped and now fully embraces the MAGA movement.

Published with permission from Alternet.

UN General Assembly Suspends Russia From Human Rights Council

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from its 47-- member Human Rights Council amid widespread reports of war crimes in Ukraine. The vote was 93 to 24 with 58 nations – including China India, Brazil, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates – abstaining.

The body expressed “grave concern” over Russia's “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights," according to The Washington Post.

Russian troops are facing accusations of brutally massacring civilians, particularly in Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where hundreds of victims have been found shot in the head with their hands bound behind their backs. In some instances, piles of corpses were burned or dumped into mass graves as if to cover up the atrocities.

Russia's Deputy United Nations Ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, said that the move was “an attempt by the US to maintain its domination and total control” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations.” Kuzmin maintained that the allegations are “based on staged events and widely circulated fakes.”

The Russian delegation on Wednesday had threatened to retaliate against nations that vote to boot it from the HRC.

"It is worth mentioning that not only support for such an initiative, but also an equidistant position in the vote (abstention or non -- participation) will be considered as an unfriendly gesture," the note read, according to reporting by Reuters. "In addition, the position of each country will be taken into account both in the development of bilateral relations and in the work on the issues important for it within the framework of the UN."

Russia's bluster notwithstanding, the evidence is mounting that Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces are intentionally unleashing hell onto the Ukrainian population.

In addition to the flood of photographic and video documentation that has circulated on social media and international news outlets, "Germany’s foreign intelligence service claims to have intercepted radio communications in which Russian soldiers discuss indiscriminate killings in Ukraine," the Post reported. "In two communications, Russian troops described how they question soldiers as well as civilians, and proceed to shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the findings who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity."

Last month, the HRC established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate Russia's genocidal actions in Ukraine. On Saturday, ex -- United Nations prosecutor Carla Del Ponte called for Putin to be arrested and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Joe Biden has for weeks designated Putin as a war criminal. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to strip Russia of its preferential trade status and ban imports of its oil and natural gas.

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Is It Really Racist To Help Ukraine — And Ukrainians?

"Many in Mideast See Hypocrisy in Western Embrace of Ukraine," read an Associated Press headline this week. Salon asked: "Whose Lives Really Matter?" and answered its own question in the next breath — "How Racism Colors Coverage of the Crisis in Ukraine."

On social media, a tweet by Ayo Sogunro, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, has been shared tens of thousands of times: "Can't get it out of my head that Europe cried about a 'migrant crisis' in 2015 against 1.4 million refugees fleeing war in Syria and yet quickly absorbed some two million Ukrainians within days, complete with flags and piano music. Europe never had a migrant crisis. It has a racism crisis."

I beg to differ. In fact, Americans and Europeans have expended quite a lot of blood and treasure over the past several decades to defend or help non-whites and non-Christians. The most directly analogous case to Russia's invasion of Ukraine was Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The coverage of Kuwait's suffering at the time was heartrending, including stories about hospitals being plundered and civilians imprisoned, raped and tortured. Far from countenancing this assault on a non-white nation, the U.S. assembled an international coalition of 35 nations to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in what became the First Gulf War.

In 1992 and 1993, a civil war had devastated Somalia. A U.N. relief operation had run aground. President George H.W. Bush offered to send 25,000 U.S. troops to keep order so that the humanitarian aid could be distributed. What followed under the Clinton administration was the infamous "Black Hawk Down" episode in which 19 Americans were killed and 70 injured by al-Qaida-trained militants.

The U.S. took military action on behalf of Muslims six times in the past 30 years — in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and participated (if only from behind) in the military operation that removed Moammar Gadhafi from power when he seemed poised to destroy the city of Benghazi. So call it seven. Say what you will about the wisdom of the Iraq invasion (or the other interventions), there is no doubt that they were undertaken with the goal of freeing people from a dictator, not imposing one. Those who make facile comparisons between our wars and the Russian invasion might want to reflect that no Ukrainians are mobbing the Russian embassy in hopes of visas and no Ukrainians are hanging onto Russian jets. You don't have to agree that the Iraq war was good policy or the long occupation of Afghanistan a wise use of resources to concede that we tried awfully hard to help both countries.

As for the different treatment of Ukrainian versus Mideast refugees, let's remember that Europe accepted more than 1 million refugees from Syria and the U.S. accepted several thousand, despite non-trivial fears that ISIS and al-Qaida elements might be among those asking for asylum. Arguably, the strain those immigrants placed on European societies — because they did include some terrorists — led directly to the rise of far-right parties. And while we're thinking of Syria, let's not forget that Russia also intervened in the conflict — on the side of Bashar al-Assad, helping to reduce Aleppo and other cities to rubble and further immiserating that nation.

"Whose Lives Really Matter?" asks Salon. Well, African lives do. That's why the United States launched PEPFAR under George W. Bush's presidency, the largest commitment by any nation to fight a disease in history. The fund has already spent $100 billion and saved an estimated 20 million lives that would have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

So what has triggered this rash of commentary about Ukraine proving the racism of the West? On the BBC, a former Ukrainian official confessed that "It's very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair ... being killed every day." An Al Jazeera anchor said, "These are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East."

Those comments were stupid, but the reason I recited the history above is that you can't write whole nations off for the stray remarks of a few. In fact, identification with those most like us — in appearance, culture, religion, nation, whatever — is part of human nature, and no one of any color is completely immune. Arabs are more concerned about Palestinians than about the Rohingya or Sudanese. That's not racism, it's just fellow feeling.

Europeans and Americans have responded to Ukraine's plight with empathy and anger and admiration and love. And so have Kenyans and Japanese and Mexicans and Egyptians and billions more. We all have our tribal tendencies and must strive to recognize that all God's children are of equal moral worth. But looking at our recent history, we've done pretty well on that score. So let's not tar this moment of moral clarity with the racism brush.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Ukrainian Official Praises Biden, Takes Veiled Shot At Trump(VIDEO)

A top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is praising President Joe Biden just one day after the American President committed to hundreds of millions of dollars more in military aid. And he’s throwing Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, under the bus.

Andriy Yermak, officially the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, also known as Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff, took to Twitter today to say he’s “grateful” to America. He also called the U.S. Ukraine’s “reliable partner.”

And he added that President Biden does more for Ukraine “than any of his predecessors.”

Yermak made similar remarks Thursday morning on CNN, saying that President Biden has done more than any other President of the United States.

In 2019 Trump infamously told President Zelenskyy, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” as he blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, hoping for “dirt” on then-candidate Biden. He was later impeached over those actions.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Hillary Clinton Hilariously Trolls Putin After Sanctions On Her

After Russian dictator Vladimir Putin decided to invade the sovereign country of Ukraine, Russia has been hit with extraordinary sanctions by the United States and NATO allies around the world, including a ban on Russian oil imports.

Although the severe sanctions have yet to stop Russian attacks, Russia recently announced its own sanctions on several American officials, which prohibit them from traveling to Russia. According to the outlet, the list includes President Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Director William Burns, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh, USAID Director Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Adewale Adeyemo, and U.S. Export-Import Bank President Reta Jo Lewis. But there are also people outside of the government on the ban list, including Hunter Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Well, it seems Hillary had the best response to this silly posturing that has no merit whatsoever.

" I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award," Tweeted Hillary.



Now that is some world-class trolling!

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok

Kremlin Sanctions Hillary And US Officials, Triggering Psaki Bomb

There was devastation at the White House Tuesday morning as Russia announced its own set of sanctions, these against individuals including President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and others. It must really be a bitter pill for them to swallow, having their Russian assets frozen and personal travel to the country banned.

Sanctions against Russian oligarchs have led to the seizure of multiple yachts and one Premier League football team in countries like Italy and the United Kingdom. Russia’s sanctions against Biden and other U.S. officials mean that … their property in Russia could be seized? That yacht Joe Biden was definitely keeping in Sochi? Seized. The dacha Psaki surely retreated to on vacation? Seized, and Psaki banned from entering Russia.

In addition to Biden, Blinken, and Psaki, the list includes Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Adviser Jacob Sullivan, CIA Director William Burns, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics Daleep Singh, United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, and Reta Jo Lewis, president and chairwoman of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank.

Russia’s statement announcing the sanctions said that “we do not refuse to maintain official relations if they meet our national interests, and, if necessary, we will solve problems arising from the status of persons who appear on the 'black list' in order to organize high-level contacts,” so it’s not a total severing of relations with the highest-ranking U.S. officials.

Also on the list are Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, both of whom are private citizens with no say in U.S. policy on Russia. At first it seems kind of silly for that reason, but then it gives the game away: This is a move aimed at right-wing conspiracy theorists in the U.S. and elsewhere who will take the sanctions on Clinton and the younger Biden as a sign that they do have relevant property and relevant influence.

Notably not on the list is Donald Trump, the guy who would—at some moments, at least—have us believe he was much tougher on Russia than Biden.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Mainstream Outlets Echo GOP Snark On Rising Gas Prices

Mother Jones, MSNBC, The Nation and Salon are among the mainstream media outlets that often do an excellent job debunking the lies and distortions that come from Fox News, Newsmax TV, Breitbart News and other right-wing media outlets. But there are other times when mainstream media outlets echo false claims that come from the far right. Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, in her March 13 column, cites Fox News’ claims blaming President Joe Biden for rising gas prices as a false narrative that mainstream media outlets have picked up when they should know better.

“It’s increasingly obvious to those outside the right-wing bubble that the ‘news’ side of Fox often serves as a content provider for the MAGA propaganda machine,” Rubin explains. “But the rest of the White House press corps and cable TV news outlets also habitually repeat GOP talking points on energy, even as reliable print media debunks them.”

Rubin continues, “Headlines such as ‘GOP Blames Biden for Gas Prices After Pushing For Russian Oil Ban’ on ABC News’ website serve to amplify false claims. Politico’s ‘Biden Blames Putin for Inflation. GOP Blames Biden’ might be the perfect distillation of bothsidesism. And NBC’s ‘Republicans Cheer Russian Oil Ban snd Jeer Biden For Rising Gas Prices’ epitomizes coverage that treats the topic as a contest of partisan claims.”

The Post columnist, herself a Never Trump conservative who has voted Republican in many presidential elections but supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020, cites the New York Times as an outlet that has debunked the false claim that Biden’s policies are to blame for rising gas prices in the United States.

“The pandemic brought the economy to a halt, reduced energy demand and slowed production; when demand popped back, supply was low and prices increased,” Rubin explains. “Moreover, the (Biden) Administration has not reduced domestic production since the Trump Administration…. As for the (Biden) Administration’s cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, another go-to GOP attack, our imports from Canada increased 70% without it…. So, if GOP talking points are factually incorrect, why does the White House press corps repeat them, giving them the air of legitimacy?”

Rubin elaborates, “It is part of a familiar pattern in which mainstream TV reporters and White House press equalize the two political parties. Republicans say X; the White House says Y. That is the prevalent notion of ‘balance’ and being tough on an administration, even though the current one does not routinely lie the way its predecessor did. When facts are verifiable, the media’s pretense of balance is misleading.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Ukrainian Refugees Near 1.5 Million As Russian Invasion Enters 11th Day

By Pavel Polityuk and Aleksandar Vasovic

LVIV/KYIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - The number of Ukrainian refugees was expected to reach 1.5 million on Sunday as Russia continued its attack 11 days after invading Ukraine and Kyiv pressed for further Western action, including more sanctions and weapons.

Moscow and Kyiv traded blame over a failed ceasefire plan that would have let civilians flee Mariupol and Volnovakha, two southern cities besieged by Russian forces. Another round of talks was tentatively planned for Monday as Ukrainians who could escape spilled into neighboring Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and elsewhere.

In a televised address on Saturday night, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on people in areas occupied by Russian troops to go on the offensive and fight.

"We must go outside and drive this evil out of our cities," he said, vowing to rebuild his nation. "My confidence in this is reinforced by the energy of our resistance, our protest."

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier reiterated that he wanted a neutral Ukraine that had been "demilitarised" and "denazified," and likened Western sanctions "to a declaration of war," adding: "Thank God it has not come to that."

Ukraine and Western countries have decried Putin's reasons as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on Feb. 24 and have imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow and crippling its economy.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Ukraine-Poland border, said he expected new sanctions and weapons for Ukraine in coming days.

The United States has said it would give Ukraine more weapons and has repeatedly warned it could escalate sanctions, with President Joe Biden seeking $10 billion in emergency funding to respond to the crisis.

Washington is working with Poland as Warsaw considers whether to provide fighter jets to Ukraine, a White House spokesperson said late on Saturday, adding that the United States could replenish Poland's supply of jets if they did, although challenges remain given the contested airspace.

Zelensky had asked for help securing aircraft from European allies in a video call with U.S. lawmakers earlier on Saturday. He also called again for more lethal aid, a ban on Russian oil, a no-fly zone and an end to Visa Inc and MasterCard Inc privileges in Russia, U.S. media reported.

Biden spoke with Zelenski for about 30 minutes on Saturday evening in Washington as Sunday dawned in Ukraine, the White House said. They discussed security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia, Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

NATO, which Ukraine wants to join, has resisted Zelenskiy's appeals to impose a no-fly zone over his country, saying it would escalate the conflict outside Ukraine.

Seeking to mediate, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday and later spoke to Zelensky, Bennett's spokesperson said.

"We continue dialogue," Zelensky tweeted after the call.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a six-point plan to respond to Russia's invasion ahead of meetings with leaders from Canada, the Netherlands and Central Europe in London next week.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to talk with Putin on Sunday. Turkey, a NATO member, shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian negotiators said a third round of talks with Russia on a ceasefire would go ahead on Monday, although Moscow was less definitive.

Fierce Fighting

Russia's Defense Ministry said its forces were carrying out a wide-ranging offensive in Ukraine and had taken several towns and villages, Russian news agency Interfax said.

Ukraine's military said armed forces "are fighting fiercely to liberate Ukrainian cities from Russian occupiers," counter-attacking in some areas and disrupting communications.

The general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said the military shot down two Russian planes and five helicopters on Saturday and also carried out air strikes against 15 motorized brigades. Reuters had no way to corroborate the claim.

In Kherson, southern Ukraine, the only regional capital to have changed hands since the invasion, several thousand people demonstrated on its main square on Saturday, chanting "Kherson is Ukraine" and demanding Russian forces withdraw.

Eyewitnesses cited by Interfax said Russian troops fired automatic rifles into the air in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse the crowd and later left.

Concerns over nuclear dangers remained after Russia seized Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with a top U.S. official saying on Friday that Russian troops were 20 miles (32 km) from Ukraine's second largest nuclear facility.

Russia was warning the EU and NATO again to stop the "pumping of state-of-the-art weapons systems" into Kyiv, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA.

Putin, in one of several decrees signed on Saturday, also gave his government two days to draw up a list of nations engaged in "unfriendly acts" towards Russia, its news agencies reported.

Visa, Mastercard Exit Russia

The International Monetary Fund warned the conflict would have a "severe impact" on the global economy, driving up energy and grain prices. It said it would weigh Kyiv's request for $1.4 billion in emergency financing as early as next week.

Many Russians, reeling from a 30% fall in the rouble's value, money transfer curbs and the exit of a growing number of Western companies, have expressed fear for their economic future.

Both Visa and Mastercard on Saturday said their credit card operations would be suspended in Russia.

Elon Musk promised to deliver more Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine next week, Zelenskiy said on Saturday, adding he had spoken to the SpaceX chief executive. That could help shore up Ukraine's internet access but also poses potential security risks, experts say.

'Help Us If You Can'

Heavy shelling was heard in the background as residents of Volnovakha tried to flee the fighting.

"Help us if you can, we all want to live, we have kids, husbands, we are mothers and fathers, we are also people," said one local, Larisa. "Where shall I go? What's on me and a bag of things is all I got. That's all I have."

Blinken, following a meeting in Brussels of counterparts from NATO, the G7 and the European Union, met refugees staying in a disused shopping mall in Poland, which has taken in the vast majority of the Ukrainians forced to flee their country.

Ksenia Tymofeeva, 41, worked in a bank in Kyiv until she fled two days ago, leaving behind her husband, also a bank worker, who stayed to fight the Russian invaders.

"He doesn't have any military experience, but it's our homeland," she said at the site near the Poland-Ukraine border.

More refugees crossed into Moldova, Blinken's next stop.

The World Health Organization said 249 civilians had been killed so far and 553 injured as of March 3. It put the number of refugees at 1.2 million and said another 160,000 people had been internally displaced.

"The human cost is likely much higher as access and security challenges make it difficult to verify the actual number of deaths and injuries," it said in a statement.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Aleksandar Vasovic in Ukraine, Simon Lewis at the Polish-Ukraine border; Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty, Matthias Williams in Medyka, Guy Faulconbridge and William Schomberg in London, John Irish in Paris, Francois Murphy in Vienna, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Jarret Renshaw, Idrees Ali and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington and other Reuters bureaus; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Daniel Wallis)