Україна консультується з регуляторами ЄС і США щодо відкриття авіапростору – Кубраков

Кубраков зауважив, що «терміни ніхто називати точно не буде»

Половина західної підтримки не надходить до України вчасно – Умєров

«Те, що виділяється, якщо воно не приходить своєчасно, ми втрачаємо особовий склад, ми втрачаємо території» – Умєров

Belarusians Vote in Tightly Controlled Election; Opposition Calls for Boycott

TALLINN, Estonia — Polls opened Sunday in Belarus’ tightly controlled parliamentary and local elections that are set to cement the steely rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, despite calls for a boycott from the opposition, which dismissed the balloting as a “senseless farce.”

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron hand for nearly 30 years, accuses the West of trying to use the vote to undermine his government and “destabilize” the nation of 9.5 million people.

Most candidates belong to the four officially registered parties: Belaya Rus, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Labor and Justice. Those parties all support Lukashenko’s policies. About a dozen other parties were denied registration last year.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in exile in neighboring Lithuania after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, urged voters to boycott the elections.

“There are no people on the ballot who would offer real changes because the regime only has allowed puppets convenient for it to take part,” Tsikhanouskaya said in a video statement. “We are calling to boycott this senseless farce, to ignore this election without choice.”

Sunday’s balloting is the first election in Belarus since the contentious 2020 vote that handed Lukashenko his sixth term in office and triggered an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations.

Protests swept the country for months, bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets. More than 35,000 people were arrested. Thousands were beaten in police custody, and hundreds of independent media outlets and nongovernmental organizations were shut down and outlawed.

Lukashenko has relied on subsidies and political support from his main ally, Russia, to survive the protests. He allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

The election takes place amid a relentless crackdown on dissent. Over 1,400 political prisoners remain behind bars, including leaders of opposition parties and renowned human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

The opposition says the early balloting that began Tuesday offers fertile ground for the vote to be manipulated, with ballot boxes unprotected for five days. Election officials said Sunday that over 40% of the country’s voters cast ballots during the five days of early voting. Turnout stood at 43.64% by 9 a.m. on Sunday, an hour after polls formally opened, according to the Belarusian Central Election Commission.

The Viasna Human Rights Center said students, soldiers, teachers and other civil servants were forced to participate in early voting.

“Authorities are using all available means to ensure the result they need — from airing TV propaganda to forcing voters to cast ballots early,” said Viasna representative Pavel Sapelka. “Detentions, arrests and searches are taking place during the vote.”

Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting with top Belarusian law enforcement officials, Lukashenko alleged without offering evidence that Western countries were pondering plans to stage a coup in the country or to try to seize power by force. He ordered police to beef up armed patrols across Belarus, declaring that “it’s the most important element of ensuring law and order.”

After the vote, Belarus is set to form a new state body — the 1,200-seat All-Belarus Popular Assembly that will include top officials, local legislators, union members, pro-government activists and others. It will have broad powers, including the authority to consider constitutional amendments and to appoint election officials and judges.

Lukashenko was believed a few years ago to be considering whether to lead the new body after stepping down, but his calculus has apparently changed, and now few observers expect him to step down after his current term ends next year.

For the first time, curtains were removed from voting booths at polling stations, and voters were banned from taking pictures of their ballots. During the 2020 election, activists encouraged voters to photograph their ballots in a bid to prevent authorities from manipulating the vote in Lukashenko’s favor.

Belarusian state TV aired footage of Interior Ministry drills in which police detained a purported offender who was photographing his ballot and others who created an artificial queue outside a polling station.

Belarus for the first time also refused to invite observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the election. Belarus is a member of the OSCE, a top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, and its monitors have been the only international observers at Belarusian elections for decades.

Since 1995, not a single election in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the OSCE.

The OSCE said the decision not to allow the agency’s monitors deprived the country of a “comprehensive assessment by an international body.”

“The human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate as those who voice dissent or stand up for the human rights of others are subject to investigation, persecution and frequently prosecution,” it said in a statement.

Observers noted that authorities have not even tried to pretend that the vote is democratic.

The election offers the government an opportunity to run a “systems test after massive protests and a serious shock of the last presidential election and see whether it works,” said Artyom Shraibman, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center. “The parliament will be sterile after the opposition and all alternative voices were barred from campaigning. It’s important for authorities to erase any memory of the protests.”

Police Find 10th Body in Charred Spanish Apartment Block

VALENCIA, Spain — The death toll from a dramatic fire that left two residential buildings charred in the Spanish city of Valencia rose to 10 Saturday after authorities announced they had located the remains of what they believed was the last missing person.

Forensic police found the 10th victim inside the scorched building, national government delegate in Valencia Pilar Bernabé told journalists. Police will proceed with DNA testing to confirm the identities of all the victims, she said.

While there were no other missing persons reported, Bernabé stressed that police and firefighters would continue the “complex” work of combing through the building debris in search of any other possible victim.

It was not immediately known how many people were in the two buildings when the fire broke out, but the complex had some 140 apartments.

The blaze that appeared to begin in one home Thursday afternoon engulfed the rest of the 14-story apartment block in less than an hour, raising questions about whether construction materials used on the façade may have contributed to the fire spreading so furiously.

Neighbors described seeing the rapid evolution of the flames, with residents stuck on balconies and children screaming. Those left homeless from the fire, including many Ukrainian refugees who lived in the large residential complex, were initially given refuge in city hotels but were expected to be moved to other accommodation over the weekend.

Experts suggested that a type of cladding might have made the blaze spread faster. However, Valencia Mayor María José Catalá said the fire’s cause was still unknown and that it was too early to comment on whether some materials used in the construction of the modern complex might have worsened it.

Protesters Rally All Over World To Demand Putin End War in Ukraine

UK Lawmaker Suspended After Accusing London Mayor of Being Controlled by Islamists

london — The U.K.’s governing Conservative Party has suspended ties with one if its lawmakers after he accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of being controlled by Islamists, as tensions over the Israel-Hamas war roil British politics. 

The party said Saturday that Lee Anderson was suspended after he refused to apologize for remarks made about Khan in a television interview Friday. The action means that Anderson, a deputy chairman of the Conservatives until last month, will sit in Parliament as an independent. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and other senior Conservative leaders had come under increasing pressure to reject the comments, which the chairwoman of the opposition Labor Party called “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic.” 

The controversy comes as the Israel-Hamas war fuels tensions in British society. Pro-Palestinian marches in London have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of demonstrators calling for an immediate cease-fire, even as critics describe the events as “antisemitic hate marches.” Figures released over the last week show that both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents have risen sharply since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. 

That anger has spilled over into Parliament, where some lawmakers say they fear for their safety after receiving threats over their positions on the conflict in Gaza. 

In his interview with GB News, Anderson criticized the police response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London, leveling the blame on Khan. 

Anderson said he didn’t “actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London.” 

Khan flatly rejected the allegations, telling the BBC that all forms of hatred need to be rejected, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and misogyny. 

“My concern is there’ll be people across the country, people who are Muslim, or look like Muslims, who’ll be really concerned about entering into politics because they know if these are the sorts of comments that are said against me by a senior Conservative, what chance do they have?” he said. 

Mother Receives Body of Russian Opposition Leader Navalny, Aide Says

Зеленський звернувся до «Групи семи»: «ви знаєте, що нам потрібно, і розумієте, що потрібно вчасно»

Президент закликав лідерів країн «Групи семи» «не забувати, що імперські амбіції та реваншизм зникають лише від програшу того, хто ними заражений»

Eiffel Tower Staff Strike Ends; Site to Reopen Sunday

PARIS — A strike by staff at the Eiffel Tower has ended, the company that runs one of the most visited tourist sites in the world said in a statement Saturday. 

The tower will reopen Sunday, the Societe d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, or SETE, which is owned by Paris City Hall, said. 

Workers at the Eiffel Tower went on strike on Feb. 19 in protest over the way the Paris monument is managed. 

It came as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which begin on July 26 and will feature metal from the tower in the winners’ medals. 

SETE and trade unions “reached an end-of-strike agreement stipulating that the parties will regularly review the company’s business model, maintenance costs and sales through a body that will meet every six months,” the company said. 

SETE said visitors who bought tickets between Feb. 19-24 will get refunds. 

Unions claim Paris City Hall, which owns 99% of SETE, is underestimating the cost of the planned maintenance and repairs to the monument ahead of the Olympics. 

WWII-Era Bomb Prompts One of Largest Peacetime Evacuations in UK History

LONDON — A World War II-era bomb whose discovery prompted one of the largest peacetime evacuations in British history has been detonated at sea, the Ministry of Defense said Saturday.

The 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) explosive was discovered Tuesday in the backyard of a home in Plymouth, a port city on the southwestern coast of Britain. More than 10,000 residents were evacuated to ensure their safety as a military convoy transported the unexploded bomb through a densely populated residential area to a ferry slipway, from which it was taken out to sea.

“I think it is fair to say that the last few days will go down in history for Plymouth,” said Tudor Evans, the leader of Plymouth City Council.

Plymouth, home to major naval bases for centuries, was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Britain during World War II. Fifty-nine separate air raids killed 1,174 civilians, according to local officials. The raids destroyed almost 3,800 homes, and heavily damaged another 18,000.

Україна підписала угоду про співробітництво у сфері безпеки з Канадою – Зеленський

Президент наголосив, що «це потужне і вчасне рішення, яке є важливим внеском у посилення української стійкості»

Друга річниця великого вторгнення Росії. В Україні вшановують загиблих і нагадують про полонених

Акції на підтримку України також відбуваються за кордоном. У Брюсселі перед Європарламентом вивісили українські прапори

У Дніпрі завершили аварійно-рятувальні роботи на місці влучання дрона в багатоповерхівку

Мешканців близько двох десятків квартир будинку відселять. З міського бюджету їм виділять гроші на тимчасову оренду житла, пообіцяв міський голова

«Найтемніша година». Прем’єри Італії, Бельгії, Канади та голова Єврокомісії відвідали аеропорт Гостомеля

У Гостомелі «плани Путіна скинути демократично обраний уряд провалилися», заявила прем’єрка Італії

Велика Британія пообіцяла виділити 245 мільйонів фунтів на виробництво боєприпасів для України

Як зазначено, ці кошти допоможуть збільшити виробництво «вкрай необхідних артилерійських боєприпасів для України»

Russian Drone Hits Odesa, Kills 1, on War’s Anniversary

Kremlin Weaponizes Russian History To Justify War in Ukraine

TALLINN, Estonia — Earlier this month, when Tucker Carlson asked Vladimir Putin about his reasons for invading Ukraine two years ago, Putin gave him a lecture on Russian history. The 71-year-old Russian leader spent more than 20 minutes showering a baffled Carlson with dates and names going back to the ninth century.

Putin even gave him a folder containing what he said were copies of historical documents proving his points: that Ukrainians and Russians historically have always been one people, and that Ukraine’s sovereignty is merely an illegitimate holdover from the Soviet era.

Carlson said he was “shocked” at being on the receiving end of the history lesson. But for those familiar with Putin’s government, it was not surprising in the least: In Russia, history has long been a propaganda tool used to advance the Kremlin’s political goals. And the last two years have been entirely in keeping with that ethos.

In an effort to rally people around their world view, Russian authorities have tried to magnify the country’s past victories while glossing over the more sordid chapters of its history. They have rewritten textbooks, funded sprawling historical exhibitions and suppressed — sometimes harshly — voices that contradict their narrative.

Russian officials have also regularly bristled at Ukraine and other European countries for pulling down Soviet monuments, widely seen there as an unwanted legacy of past oppression, and even put scores of European officials on a wanted list over that in a move that made headlines this month.

“In the hands of the authorities,” says Oleg Orlov, co-founder of Memorial, Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights group, “history has become a hammer — or even an axe.”

The glorifying

From the early years of his quarter-century rule, Putin has repeatedly contended that studying their history should make Russians proud. Even controversial figures, such as Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, contributed to Russia’s greatness, Putin argues. (Russian media have counted over 100 monuments to Stalin in Russia, most of which were installed during Putin’s rule.)

The Russian president has said that there should be one “fundamental state narrative” instead of different textbooks that contradict each other. And he has called for a “universal” history textbook that would convey that narrative. But that idea, criticized heavily by historians, didn’t gain much traction for quite a while — until Russia invaded Ukraine.

Last year, the government rolled out a series of four new “universal” history textbooks for 10th- and 11th-graders. One featured a chapter on Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, blamed the West for the Cold War and described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Some historians derided it as blatant propaganda. “The Soviet Union, and later Russia, is (depicted in the textbook as) always a besieged fortress, which constantly lives surrounded by enemies. These hostile circles are trying to weaken Russia in every conceivable way and seize its resources,” says historian Nikita Sokolov.

The Kremlin-friendly vision of Russian history is also dominating a chain of sprawling, state-funded “history parks” – venues that host history-themed exhibitions in 24 cities across the country.

Those venues were opened after a series of historical exhibitions in the early 2010s drew hundreds of thousands of Russians and received praise from Putin. Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov), a Russian Orthodox bishop reported to be Putin’s personal confessor, was the driving force behind them.

Packed with animations, touch-screen displays and other flashy elements, those widely popular expositions were criticized by historians for inaccurate claims and deliberate glorification of Russian rulers and their conquests.

One exhibition described Ivan the Terrible, a 16th-century Russian czar known for his violent purges of Russian nobility, as a victim of “an information war.” Another was widely advertised with a quote falsely attributed to Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the German Empire in the 19th century, that was removed swiftly after sparking outcry: “It is impossible to defeat the Russians. We have seen this ourselves over hundreds of years. But Russians can be instilled with false values, and then they will defeat themselves.”

Central to this narrative of an invincible Russia is the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Marked on May 9 — Germany officially capitulated after midnight Moscow time on May 9, 1945 — the Soviet victory has become integral to Russian identity.

The Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million people in the war, pushing German forces from Stalingrad, deep inside Russia, all the way to Berlin. The suffering and valor that went into the German defeat have been touchstones ever since, and under Putin Victory Day has become the country’s primary secular holiday.

For the authorities, “Russia’s history is a road from one victory to the next,” sums up Orlov, whose group won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. “And more beautiful victories lie ahead. And (the Kremlin says that) we must be proud of our history; history is a means of instilling patriotism. Of course in their view, patriotism is appreciation of the leadership – be it the leadership of the czarist Russia, the leadership of the Soviet Russia or the current leadership.”

The silencing

As celebrations of Victory Day over the years grew more imperious, Putin’s government grew less tolerant of any questioning or criticism of the Soviet Union’s actions in that war — or generally.

In 2014, Russian cable networks dropped Dozhd, the county’s sole independent TV channel, after it hosted a history program on the 1941-44 Siege of Leningrad and asked viewers to vote on whether Soviet authorities should have surrendered Leningrad to save lives. Famine in the city, now called St. Petersburg, killed more than 500,000 people during the siege. The question caused an uproar, with officials accusing the channel of crossing moral and ethical lines. 

That same year, the Russian government adopted a law that made “rehabilitating Nazism” – or “spreading knowingly false information about the actions of the USSR during World War II” – a criminal offense.

The first conviction on those charges was reported in 2016. A man was fined 200,000 rubles (about $3,000 at the time) for a social media post saying that “the Communists and Germany attacked Poland together, unleashing World War II.” In the years that followed, the number of convictions on the charge only grew.

Research and public debate about mass repressions by Stalin also have faced significant resistance in recent years. Historians and rights advocates cite the inevitable parallels to the current crackdown against dissent that has already landed hundreds of people behind bars.

Two historians involved in researching Stalin’s mass executions in northwestern Russia were jailed in recent years – prosecutions on unrelated charges many link to their work. Memorial, Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights group that drew international acclaim for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union, has been shut down. It continues to work, but its activities in Russia have been significantly curtailed.

And a queue of people waiting for their turn to read out the names of victims of Soviet repressions no longer snakes through central Moscow streets in late October. The tradition to read them aloud once a year in front of a monument to victims of Soviet repressions — called “Returning the Names” — was started in 2007 and once attracted thousands of people. In 2020, Moscow authorities stopped authorizing it, citing COVID-19.

The authorities are threatened by efforts to preserve historical memory, and it has gotten worse since the war in Ukraine began, says Natalya Baryshnikova, producer of last year’s “Returning the Names,” which in 2023 went ahead in dozens of cities abroad and online.

“We see this very clearly” since the Ukraine war began, says Baryshnikova. “Any grassroots civil movement or statement about the memory of Soviet terror is inconvenient.”

The justifying

According to prominent history teacher Tamara Eidelman, the historical narrative the Kremlin is trying to impose on society contains several main elements: the primacy of the state, the affairs of which are always more important than individual lives; the cult of self-sacrifice and readiness to give up one’s life for a greater cause; and the cult of war.

“Of course, (the latter) is never explicitly spelled out,” Eidelman says. Instead, the narrative is: “`We have always strived for peace … We have always been attacked and merely fought back.'”

That laid the perfect ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine, she says, and points out how the “Never again!” sentiment about World War II for some in Russia in recent years became “We can do it again” — a popular slogan after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 as the Kremlin adopted increasingly aggressive rhetoric toward the West.

Indeed, in the years before the Ukraine war, Putin cited history increasingly often. In 2020, during a reform that reset the limits on his presidential terms, a reference to history was even added to the country’s constitution — a new clause that stipulated Russia is “united by a thousand-year history” and “enforces protection of the historical truth.”

In 2020-21, Putin published two lengthy articles on history — one criticizing the West for actions leading up to World War II, another arguing that Ukrainians and Russians have always been one people. In an address to the nation days before sending troops into Ukraine, he once again invoked history, claiming Ukraine as a state was created artificially by Soviet leaders.

History “has been used to legitimize the regime essentially since the beginning of Putin’s rule,” Ivan Kurilla, a historian at Wellesley College, said in a recent article. And with the war in Ukraine, it “finally took a central place in the state ideology next to geopolitical talk about sovereignty, the ‘decline of the West’ and the protection of traditional values.”

До Києва приїхали прем’єри Італії, Канади та Бельгії – Reuters

За даними агентства, троє політиків прибули до столиці України нічним поїздом із Польщі

Дії Росії в Україні «ставлять під загрозу всіх нас»: міжнародна заява до 10-ї річниці агресії РФ

Автори заяви підтверджують відданість ідеї «всеосяжного, справедливого та міцного миру в Україні відповідно до принципів Статуту ООН»

Генштаб: Сили оборони відбили 44 російські атаки на Мар’їнському напрямку

Українські війська відбили вісім атак біля Роботиного на Запоріжжі, ще вісім – на свій плацдарм на лівому березі Херсонщини

Дані Генштабу ЗСУ: втрати Росії за два роки повномасштабної війни перевищили 409 тисяч військових

Напередодні у Повітряних силах Збройних сил України повідомили про збиття російського літака далекого радіолокаційного виявлення А-50

Questions Abound on Whether Kyiv Can Sustain Fight Against Russia

KYIV, Ukraine — The future looks bleak for war-weary Ukraine: It is beset by shortages in soldiers and ammunition, as well as doubts about the supply of Western aid. Ukrainian forces also face a Russian enemy that has recently seized the initiative on the battlefield.

Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion captured nearly a quarter of the country, the stakes could not be higher for Kyiv. After a string of victories in the first year of the war, fortunes have turned for the Ukrainian military, which is dug in, outgunned and outnumbered against a more powerful opponent.

As the war enters its third year, here is a look at the situation on the ground, the challenges ahead and some of the potential consequences if Ukraine does not acquire the people, ammunition and assistance it needs to sustain the fight.

What is the state of play?

Triumphs have turned to attrition for Ukraine along the snaking front line in the country’s east. With Russia gaining advantages, shortages mounting and a major military shake-up still fresh, questions abound about whether Kyiv can keep going.

“As things stand, neither side has won. Neither side has lost. Neither side is anywhere near giving up. And both sides have pretty much exhausted the manpower and equipment that they started the war with,” said Gen. Richard Barrons, a British military officer who is co-chair of a defense consultancy.

Ukraine suffered setbacks after the much-anticipated summer counteroffensive failed to produce any breakthroughs. The armed forces switched to a defensive posture in the fall to repel new advances from Moscow.

On February 17, Russian forces took control of the embattled city of Avdiivka, where Kyiv’s troops were under constant fire with Russians approaching from three directions. Ukrainian commanders had complained for weeks of personnel and ammunition shortages. It was the biggest battlefield victory for Russia since the fight for Bakhmut, and it confirmed that Moscow’s offensive was gaining steam.

Away from the battlefield, Ukraine has proven successful in the Black Sea, where it has used long-range weapons to strike military installations in Crimea and maritime drones to sink Russian warships. Ukraine has disabled a third of the Black Sea Fleet, according to the Atlantic Council.

Ukraine is looking to acquire more long-range missiles to strike deep into Russian-occupied territory, a move that some European countries fear may spark escalation from Moscow.

How many people have been killed?

Both Russia and Ukraine have sought to keep casualty figures under wraps.

Few details about Ukrainian military deaths have emerged since the full-scale invasion began in 2022. But it’s clear that tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed.

In 2023, the first independent statistical analysis of Russia’s war dead concluded that nearly 50,000 Russian men had died in the war. Two independent Russian media outlets, Mediazona and Meduza, worked with a data scientist from Germany’s Tubingen University to analyze Russian government data.

What happens if Ukraine can’t find more troops?

Without more soldiers, Ukraine’s defensive lines will be overstretched and more vulnerable to Russian attack, especially if Moscow launches intense multi-pronged assaults along the 1,000-kilometer front line.

The Ukrainian military has an average personnel shortage of 25% across brigades, according to lawmakers. Military commanders are unable to give their soldiers enough rest, and Russia has recently increased the tempo of attacks. As a result, soldiers are tired — and more easily injured — exacerbating the effects of the shortage.

Ukraine’s military command has said 450,000 to 500,000 additional recruits are needed for the next phase of the war. Even if Ukraine succeeds in mobilizing that number, which is unlikely, it still would not be able to match the manpower of Russia, which has more than three times Ukraine’s population.

Lawmakers have spent months mulling over a controversial proposal to increase the conscription pool, as many Ukrainian men continue to evade the war in Ukrainian cities.

Commanders say they don’t have enough men to dig trenches or carry out offensive operations. Shortages have also required them to switch tactics and focus on preserving the lives of the soldiers they do have, sometimes at the expense of holding territory.

What about weapons and ammunition?

If they continue, ammunition shortages will jeopardize Ukraine’s ability to hold territory and keep soldiers alive.

Military leaders appear to be rationing shells, sending trickles of ammunition to firing positions to preserve stockpiles, while promises for more ammunition from Western allies have gone unfulfilled. The European Union failed on its promise to deliver 1 million rounds by the start of the year, delivering only a few hundred thousand.

At the same time, Russia is mobilizing its defense industry and may soon be able to fire 5,000 artillery rounds a day, Barrons said. Ukraine is building up its domestic arms production but will not be able to match Moscow in scale in the short-term.

Military commanders have complained for months of ammunition shortages for infantry fighting vehicles, machine guns, artillery and multiple rocket launch systems. Those shortages grew particularly acute by the end of 2023, with some artillery commanders saying they can meet only 10% of ammunition needs.

Commanders say long-range artillery in particular serves two important purposes: First, it acts as a protective umbrella to cover infantry, allowing them to hold territory and prepare for offensive operations. Second, by striking Russian troops and heavy weaponry from a distance, artillery prevents planned assaults by seriously degrading Moscow’s capabilities.

Without it, Ukraine will increasingly come under the pressure of Russia’s relentless artillery barrages. Commanders say their soldiers have no choice but to dig in deeper to hold their lines.

Is Western support waning, and what if it does?

Ukraine is reliant on Western allies and international organizations not just for military aid but also for financial support and humanitarian help.

Without Western assistance, Ukraine will not have the weapons, ammunition and training it needs to sustain the war effort, nor will it be able to keep its battered economy afloat or reach Ukrainians trapped in the crossfire of battles.

Between divisions about the future of aid within the EU and $60 billion in military aid languishing in the United States Congress, Western countries have not been as forthcoming with money this year.

Kyiv breathed a sigh of relief in February when the EU approved extending a 50 billion-euro ($54 billion) aid package for Ukraine after resistance from Hungary. That money is meant to support the economy and rebuild the country, not to fight Russia.

But it’s the U.S. funding that many Ukrainian leaders are waiting for. The funds will enable Ukraine to purchase weapons and equipment from American firms, access more military training and intelligence sharing, and bolster air and sea defenses. The money will also provide direct budget support for Kyiv.

Ukrainian leaders also need Western help to cover the salaries of public servants and medical workers.

On the humanitarian side, the United Nations and its partner agencies said if an appeal for $3.1 billion in new funding for the year is not fulfilled, the U.N. won’t be able to meet the basic needs of 8.5 million Ukrainians living on the front line. 

Angry French Farmers With Tractors Hold Another Paris Protest

PARIS — Angry farmers were back in Paris on their tractors in a new protest Friday demanding more government support and simpler regulations, on the eve of a major agricultural fair in the French capital.

Dozens of tractors drove peacefully into Paris carrying flags from Rural Coordination, the farmers’ union that staged the protest. The protesters then posed with their tractors on a bridge over the Seine River with the Eiffel Tower in the background, before heading towards the Vauban plaza in central Paris, where they all gathered for the demonstration.

The latest protest comes three weeks after farmers lifted roadblocks around Paris and elsewhere in the country after the government offered over 400 million euros ($433 million) to address their grievances over low earnings, heavy regulation and what they describe as unfair competition from abroad.

“Save our agriculture,” the Rural Coordination said on X, formerly Twitter. One tractor was carrying a poster reading: “Death is in the field.”

The convoy temporarily slowed traffic on the A4 highway, east of the capital, and on the Paris ring-road earlier on Friday morning.

French farmers’ actions are part of a broader protest movement in Europe against EU agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall business conditions.

Farmers complain that the 27-nation bloc’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, which calls for limits on the use of chemicals and on greenhouse gas emissions, limit their business and make their products more expensive than non-EU imports.

Other protests are being staged across France as farmers seek to put pressure on the government to implement its promises.

Government officials have held a series of meetings with farmers unions in recent weeks to discuss a new bill meant to defend France’s “agricultural sovereignty,” and which will be debated in parliament this spring.

The government’s plan also includes hundreds of millions of euros in aid, tax breaks and a promise not to ban pesticides in France that are allowed elsewhere in Europe. French farmers say such bans put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Cyril Hoffman, a cereal producer in the Burgundy region and a member of the Rural Coordination, said farmers now want the government to “take action.”

He said his union is advocating for exempting the farming industry from free trade agreements.

“They can make free trade agreements but agriculture should not be part of them, so we can remain sovereign regarding our food,” Hoffman said. “Only in France do we let our farming disappear.”

French President Emmanuel Macron planned to visit the Paris Agricultural Fair on Saturday, though his office appeared to have removed from his agenda a previously scheduled “big debate” with farmers and members of environmental groups at the event.

The president will meet with farmers’ unions before the fair’s opening, his office said late Friday.

Yet France’s major farmer’s union, the FNSEA, said Friday its board decided not to participate in the debate because “conditions for a peaceful dialogue are not met.” The FNSEA staged another protest in Paris, near the site of the fair, on Friday afternoon.

The Paris Agricultural Fair is one of the world’s largest farm fairs, drawing crowds every year.

Hungary Buys Swedish Jets, Prepares to Approve Sweden’s NATO Bid

BUDAPEST, Hungary — The prime ministers of Hungary and Sweden concluded a defense industry agreement Friday that will expand Budapest’s fleet of Swedish-built fighter jets, paving the way for Hungary’s likely ratification of Sweden’s long-delayed NATO bid.

The meeting in Budapest between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Swedish counterpart, Ulf Kristersson, came after months of heightened tensions between the two countries over Hungary’s refusal to give its backing for Sweden to join NATO.

Kristersson made the trip to Hungary after repeated invitations to do so by the Hungarian government, something Orban had hinted would be a precondition for his government’s endorsement of Sweden’s NATO bid.

Friday’s defense agreement appeared to be a decisive point of reconciliation between the two governments, and Orban has indicated that his party is ready to approve Sweden’s bid Monday.

In a news conference following their bilateral meeting, Kristersson said Sweden would sell four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets to Hungary, expanding its current fleet of 14 jets. Sweden will also extend support systems and service provision for the jets.

“I strongly welcome this deepened cooperation on advanced fighting capabilities,” Kristersson said, adding that the Gripen jets are “a pride of Sweden.”

Orban said the additional fighters “will significantly increase our military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad,” and will expand Hungary’s ability to participate in joint NATO operations.

The agreement paved the way for Hungary’s likely ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid Monday, when a vote on the matter is scheduled in parliament. Unanimous support among all NATO members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members that has still not given its backing.

During Hungary’s more than 18 months of delays in scheduling a vote, Orban had said his government was in favor of bringing Sweden into NATO, but that lawmakers in his governing Fidesz party were unconvinced — offended by “blatant lies” from some Swedish politicians that he said had cast doubt on Hungary’s democratic credentials.

Hungary’s allies in NATO and the European Union had put increasing pressure on Budapest to drop its opposition to Sweden’s membership. Last weekend, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators visited Hungary and announced they would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning alleged democratic backsliding and urging Orban’s government to immediately lift its block on Sweden’s trans-Atlantic integration.

Orban’s critics in the EU have alleged that he has stalled on Sweden’s NATO bid to extract concessions from the bloc, which has frozen billions in funding to Hungary over alleged breaches of rule-of-law and democracy standards. The EU has demanded that Budapest take steps to safeguard judicial independence and human rights and tackle corruption.

Hungary’s government has railed against Swedish officials who supported freezing the funds and blamed them for a breakdown in trust between the two countries.

On Friday, Orban said that while Hungary and Sweden don’t agree on all issues, building trust was essential to his country’s support for Sweden’s admission to the alliance.

“To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” he said. “A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”

Biden Announces 500 New Sanctions on Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced 500 new sanctions on Russia as the world marks two years since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Biden said the sanctions will target Russia’s “war machine,” including weapons procurement, and will also target individuals involved in the imprisonment and death of prominent Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny one week ago. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Сенатори США під час візиту в Україну пообіцяли «тиснути» на спікера Палати представників для підтримки допомоги Києву

«Якщо Україна не отримає допомогу, Путін може бути прямо на польському кордоні рано чи пізно»