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Ukraine’s first lady calls for unceasing global unity against Russia’s aggression

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Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska made an emphatic appeal on Thursday for unflagging global solidarity behind her country’s struggle against Russia’s aggression, stressing the “democratic values of the entire world” are at stake in the prolonged conflict.

In an exclusive written interview with Yonhap news agency, Zelenska cautioned against any apathy toward the war touched off by Russia’s February 24 invasion and delivered an impassioned message: “Do not get used to the war.”

“I would like to emphasise that there is no place for a neutral position in this war,” the wife of President Volodymyr Zelensky said. “You cannot dismiss it as something distant and irrelevant, because this war threatens not only Ukraine but also the democratic values of the whole world.”

She then stressed Ukraine is in need of “everything,” ranging from humanitarian aid and weapons to assistance for its post-war reconstruction.

The interview came as global attention appears to have relatively diminished compared with the initial stage of the war when the entire world was acutely aghast at the biggest conflict on European soil since the end of World War II in 1945.

Zelenska accentuated the importance of media attention, saying, “Indifference kills (people) indirectly.”

“This is my message to the media — give Ukraine maximum coverage and do not stop,” she said.

As part of her plea for Seoul’s support, Zelenska drew a comparison between South Korea’s experience of the 1950-53 war and the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, saying the two countries have “a lot in common.”

“You, like us, know what it’s like to live next door to a neighbor who constantly threatens not only you, but the entire world with nuclear weapons,” she said.

“In the 1950s, the Western world came together to help South Korea win its war for freedom. Now the Western world has also united around Ukraine.”

Since the outbreak of the war, Zelenska has been at the vanguard of efforts to spread information about the devastating repercussions of Russia’s invasion and drum up global backing for Ukraine’s grueling fight against an invading Russia and for its post-war rehabilitation.

Her current role marked a shift from the traditional first-lady activities centering on humanitarian and cultural realms, she said.

“Before the war, we worked to improve food at schools to make it healthier and more balanced, but now we have to think about how to protect our children from famine,” she said. “Who would have thought that in the 21st century a first lady in a country in the center of Europe would face such tasks?”

“Humanitarian crises” are serious in Ukrainian cities occupied by Russia, she pointed out.

“I am simply scared to even imagine what is happening now in the occupied Ukrainian cities,” she said. “The Russians create humanitarian crises … so that people are forced to collect rainwater so that they don’t die of thirst, so that people simply stop feeling like people.”

Those crises have obviously taken a significant toll on children. Zelenska cited instances of a girl with gunshot wounds getting behind the wheel to drive four adults to safety and a women’s youngest son taking care of his mother and older sister in the hospital.

“This is what we see every day in our news. All Ukrainian children instantly became adults on Feb. 24,” she said.

Watching such ordeals, the first lady, a mother of two children herself, vowed to “fight for every child” and help the young generations overcome their “enormous trauma” inflicted by the ongoing tragedy.

“I would tell the children that we fight this war for the right to live in our own home, to speak our own language, to invite whoever we want as a guest,” she said. “This is a fight for the right to be a free person.”

Zelenska plans to host the virtual “First Ladies and Gentlemen Summit” on July 23 to discuss a wide range of issues related to the conflict, such as displaced people, education, children and women.

The transcript of her interview was written in Ukrainian and translated unofficially into English.

International News

China protects four key 26/11 perpetrators from UN sanctions

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 China continues to defy the other members of the Security Council and the overwhelming anti-terrorism sentiments by protecting from UN sanctions four key leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that carried out the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

Fourteen years after the attack that killed at least 166 people, Beijing works with Islamabad to undermine anti-terrorism measures against Pakistan-based terrorists behind the carnage.

The four from LeT who got China’s umbrella this year were the group’s commander Sajid Mir, who orchestrated the 26/11 attack; deputy chief Abdur Rehman Makki; deputy chief of the LeT front Falah-I-Insaniyat Foundation Shahid Mahmood, and LeT commander Hafiz Talha Saeed, who is LeT chief Hafiz Muhammed Saeed’s son.

China also put a hold on sanctions on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group’s deputy leader Abdul Rauf.

China had initially allowed eight LeT leaders to be sanctioned, four in the month after the 26/11 attack, and four later, before taking a hardline in support of other LeT leaders in a show of solidarity with Pakistan.

“Our efforts to sanction the perpetrators and facilitators of these terror attacks were blocked in the past for political reasons,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said last week at the Security Council.

“These actors continue to walk free and have been organising further cross-border attacks against my country,” she said.

US Permanent Mission’s Political Coordinator John Kelley at the same meeting regretted that only one entity was added to the sanctions list this year and said, “The important work of this committee must remain free from politicisation that only benefits the terrorists.”

The committee paralysed by China’s intransigence was only able to add Khatiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a terror group operating in Syria to the sanctions list this year, while the LeT leaders and another Pakistan-based terrorist have been spared.

The Security Council’s panel, known as the 1267 Sanctions Committee for the resolution setting it up, places individuals and groups under sanctions that include travel bans and financial restrictions for terrorist activities involving the al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and affiliated organisations like the LeT.

The committee includes all the 15 members of the Security Council and gives every one of them the right to place a hold on sanctions, which amounts to a veto.

When the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) met in Mumbai last month, an audio clip of Mir directing the 26/11 terrorists at the Jewish centre was played to focus on the role of the terrorist under Beijing protection at the UN.

At the CTC’s special session in the terrorists’ killing field, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, “The key conspirators and planners of the 26/11 attacks continue to remain protected and unpunished.”

This, he said, “undermines our collective credibility and our collective interests” and until “the masterminds and perpetrators of this attack” are brought “to justice, this task remains unfinished”.

In a video message to the meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “That is what the US has been working to do, together with India and other partners for the last 14 years because when we allow the architects of these attacks to go unpunished, we send a message to terrorists everywhere that their heinous crimes will be tolerated.”

In the first flush of global fury against the horror of the 26/11 attack, China in December 2008 did not stand in the way of sanctioning LeT boss Saeed, operations head Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, finance chief Haji Muhammad Ashraf and financier Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq.

Later, four others from the LeT were added to the list: Muhammad Arif Qasmani and Mohammad Yahya Aziz in 2009, and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhattvi and Malik Zafar Iqbal Shahbaz in 2012.

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International News

Lt Gen Asim Munir named Pakistan’s new army chief

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The Pakistan government on Thursday announced that Lieutenant General Asim Munir will replace General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the country’s new Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, using his Constitutional right, has also appointed Lt Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), reports Geo News.

Aurangzeb added that the summary of the appointments has been sent to President Arif Alvi for ratification.

The decision was announced after the Prime Minister held a federal cabinet meeting to mull over the appointments after the allied parties authorised him to pick the officers for the top slots, Geo News reported.

Both the officers picked for the slots were the senior-most military officials.

Although the summary has been sent to the president, who belongs to the PTI, the coalition allies had warned him beforehand that he should avoid being loyal to his party and work in the interests of the state.

In his conversation with reporters after the meeting of the federal cabinet, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also confirmed that the summary has been sent to the president.

“All the matters have been settled in line with the Constitution of Pakistan and hopefully the president will not create a controversy,” Asif said.

The minister added that he expects President Alvi to approve the premier’s advice.

He also expressed hope that the said appointments would not be viewed politically.

The minister refused to comment on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s consultation with President Alvi over the matter.

He said that the Pakistan Air Force, navy, and army shouldn’t be made controversial.

Asif said that a detailed press release regarding the development will be issued.

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International News

Turkey plans to produce flour from Russian wheat to supply poor nations: Erdogan

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 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country planned to produce flour from Russian wheat for free delivery to the least developed countries.

Erdogan said he had agreed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on such a plan, in an effort to tackle the global food crisis, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Putin made the following offer to me, ‘Let’s send this grain to the least developed countries, that is, to the poor countries for free’. We agreed too,” the President was quoted as saying on Monday on his flight back from Qatar.

“We even made such a plan that we will buy the wheat if necessary, make it flour in Turkey, and then send it to the least developed countries,” he added.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine separately signed a document in Istanbul with Turkey and the US to ensure grain and fertilizer supplies to the global market amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Kiev.

The deal was extended last week for another 120 days.

Since July, nearly 11.2 million tonnes of essential foodstuffs have been shipped.

However, 300,000 tonnes of Russian fertilizer remain stranded in various European ports, according to UN Conference on Trade and Development Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan.

Ankara says it has been making efforts to pave the way for the resumption of Russian grain and fertilizer export to world markets as well.

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