Ukraine has agreed to meet with a Russian delegation in Belarus, and Russians are heading to the place where the talks will be held, the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said on Sunday. Media reports said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office has confirmed that the Ukrainian side would be participating in the talks and that a delegation would be visiting the Belarus-Ukraine border in the Gomel region. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the Russian delegation is ready for the talks and waiting for their Ukrainian counterparts to arrive. “As you know, President [of Belarus Alexander] Lukashenko had a phone call with President [of Ukraine Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. After that, President Lukashenko turned to the Russian side, to President [Vladimir] Putin, asking him not to recall the Russian delegation, as Ukraine signalled its willingness to come to the talks in the Gomel region,” Peskov said. Earlier, President Zelenskyy had said in a video address released on his Telegram channel that he was ready for talks with Russia in any other country but Belarus, citing the involvement of Belarus with Russia in the ongoing conflict. “At the moment, we’re saying no to Minsk. Other cities can be a place to meet. Of course, we want peace, we want to meet, we want for the war to end. Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku, we have suggested all that to Russia. And any other city will do… in a country, from whose territory the rockets are not flying. This is the only way that the talks can be honest and can really put an end to the war,” Zelenskyy said. Responding to this Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Sunday, “Ukraine
named Bratislava as one of the places where Russian-Ukrainian talks could take place. Slovakia is ready to do everything possible to organize such talks if there is an actual proposal.”
Meanwhile, in a move that is likely to have far-reaching consequences, the United States and allies removed Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. “We commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the leaders of the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, said in a joint statement. “We commit to imposing restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of our sanctions,” read the statement.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the allies would stop Russia from “using its war chest,” by paralysing the assets of its central bank. They also agreed to freeze its transactions and prevent the central bank from liquidating its assets. She added there would be a crackdown on so-called “golden passports” that “let wealthy Russians connected to the Russian government become citizens of our countries and gain access to our financial systems”. “We commit to ensuring that a certain number of Russian banks are removed from SWIFT. We will paralyze the assets of Russia’s central bank. This will freeze its transactions,” said the president of the European Commission.
SWIFT is the acronym for the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The Belgian-based co-operative is used by thousands of financial institutions in over 200 countries, including Russia, and provides a secure messaging system to facilitate cross-border money transfers.
The leaders, in the statement, said that they are committed to launching a transatlantic task force this week that will ensure the effective implementation of their financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within their jurisdictions.
“As a part of this effort, we are committed to employing sanctions and other financial and enforcement measures on additional Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families, and their enablers to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions. We will also engage other governments and work to detect and disrupt the movement of ill-gotten gains, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world,” the statement said. The leaders further reiterated their support for the Ukrainian people in this “dark hour”.
The Biden administration has already sanctioned five Russian banks, including Sberbank and VTB Group, which collectively account for about half of the country’s banking assets. Russia had over 360 licensed banks at the start of the year. By targeting the central bank, the US could complicate the enactment of monetary policy while removing a potential source of cash for the government.
Also on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed the country’s nuclear deterrent forces on a “special” alert amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Putin announced the move during a meeting with Russia’s Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, reported RT News. “Western countries are not only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic area. I’m speaking about the illegitimate sanctions that everyone is well aware of. However, the top officials of the leading NATO countries also make aggressive statements against our country as well,” Putin stated.
Russian troops were reported to have entered Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, after Kiev, amid fierce fighting. A viral video on social media appears to show a number of Russian light military vehicles on the streets of the city, with some footage showing vehicles on fire. However, later in the day on Sunday, the Ukrainians claimed that Kharkiv was back in Ukrainian control. Ukrainian MP, Lesia Vasylenkog tweeted, “Kharkiv back under full Ukrainian control. Glory to the soldiers who bravely stood through all these never-ending hours”.
Ukraine also moved the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the Russian military operation that started in Ukraine on Thursday and urged the top court to order Russia to cease “hostilities”. Taking to Twitter, Zelenskyy said, “Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ. Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week.” “Ukraine has officially filed a lawsuit against Russia in the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague. We demand that Russia be held accountable for distorting the concept of genocide to justify aggression. We ask the court to immediately order Russia to cease hostilities and schedule a hearing next week,” he added.
The United States said that it was providing additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine of US$54 million. “The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State, is providing nearly USD 54 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified further invasion of Ukraine, which is expected to trigger increased needs,” said the US State Department in a press release on Sunday. This funding includes nearly US$26 million from the Department of State and US$28 million from the US Agency for International Development.
The State Department added that this additional assistance will support US partners to provide critically needed health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, and protection for vulnerable children.
Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the United Nations Security Council will convene Sunday at 3 pm (local time) to vote on a resolution calling for a special session of the General Assembly on the issue. Notably, the US and Albania requested a meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday for a procedural vote to appoint a special session of the General Assembly over the events in Ukraine. In the case of a procedural vote, the right of veto is not valid and 9 votes out of 15 members of the Security Council are required to make the decision, as per a source. The emergency special session of the UN General Assembly will be requested for Monday. As many as 50 countries have issued a joint statement saying that Russia “abused” its veto power by blocking a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning the Russian military action in Ukraine. This comes after Russia on Friday vetoed a draft UN resolution on Ukraine.
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CBI grills TMC leader Anubrata Mondal in cattle smuggling case
Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mondal on Thursday appeared before the Central Bureau of Investigation in its office at Nizam Palace in connection with the West Bengal cattle smuggling case.
Earlier, the Birbhum Trinamool district president had avoided six summons by the CBI in the case. Mondal left his house in Chinar Park with a convoy of two vehicles at 9:10 am on Thursday and reached Nizam Palace at 9.50 am. He was seen climbing the stairs of Nizam Palace holding the hands of his helpers. Mondal sent an email to his lawyer on Wednesday and expressed his desire to appear before the CBI.
According to CBI sources, Mohammad Enamul Haque, the alleged kingpin of the racket who was arrested from New Delhi in November 2020, has repeatedly named Mondal. After being questioned for nearly four hours on Thursday, the CBI officers had to cut short its investigation after Mondal complained of chest pain and was rushed to SSKM Hospital.
The Trinamool leader is under double pressure with post-poll violence on one hand and cattle smuggling on the other. In both the cases, the CBI summoned him repeated times. But Mondal avoided appearance every time due to physical reasons. He had sought time from CBI till May 21.
INDIA OFFERS NEW HOPE FOR WORLD AMID UNREST: PM
Highlighting India’s rising stature at the international forums, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that the country offers for the world a new hope amid global conflicts and unrest.
Addressing the ‘Yuva Shivir’ organised at Karelibaug, Vadodara, via video conferencing, Prime Minister Modi said: “From delivering vaccines and medicines to the world amid the COVID crisis and scattered supply chain to the role of a capable nation for peace in the midst of global unrest and conflicts, India is the new hope of the world today.”
“We are showing the path of Yoga to the entire humanity and the power of Ayurveda. We are emerging as a nation looking forward to a new future, from software to space. Today, the way of working of the government has changed in the country, the thinking of the society has changed and public participation has increased. The goals which were considered impossible for India once, today the world is also seeing how India is doing better in such areas,” PM said.
PM Modi while referring to Indian culture said ‘Sanskar’ means service, education, sensitivity, determination, strength and dedication.
Prime Minister added, “Our saints and scriptures have taught us that any society is formed by continuous character building through generations. Today we are taking a collective resolve, making efforts to build a new India. A new India with a forward-looking approach and ancient tradition! Such a new India, which moves ahead by taking both new thinking and age-old culture together, will give direction to the entire mankind.”
The ‘Yuva Shivir’ is being organised by ‘Shree Swaminarayan Temple Karelibaug, Shree Swaminarayan Temple, and Kundaldham, Vadodara.
As per the Prime Minister’s Office, reported by ANI, the Shivir aims to involve more youth in nation-building and social service.
REAPPEARANCE OF BODIES IN GANGA CONTRADICTS UNACCOUNTED COVID DEATH CLAIMS
The Phaphamau Ghat in the northern part of Prayagraj has become a graveyard of sorts and with yellow and saffron-coloured clothes on temporarily-erected poles indicating that bodies have been buried. This is not part of the traditional Hindu religious practice but people are resorting to it as they find it “convenient” while some even call it a custom.
Last year, during a severe phase of Delta variant of Covid-19, this place had got a bad name amid reports of bodies floating in Ganga. It was shown in sections of media, especially foreign media, that people who had died of Covid-19 had been buried or their bodies had been “dumped” in Ganga. Several restrictions were also imposed. But today when the Covid-19 situation is under control the practice of burying bodies continues showing the falsity of these reports. People continue to come to Ganga for “salvation” of their near and dear ones and are burying the bodies. Some are calling it a custom and others are citing “financial constraints”. But despite a ban, the burial continues for the bodies as people say Ganga will take these bodies when it expands its course.
International media did not apparently investigate the reason behind the open burial of bodies near the banks of Ganga and chose to link it with the Covid-19 deaths. It is pertinent to note that this year the international media has chosen not to report the open burial of bodies near the banks of the river. India has witnessed a sharp decline in Covid-19 cases this year with high vaccination coverage being a major contributing factor to the country’s success in battling the pandemic.
The banks of Ganga have bodies of people from several districts of Uttar Pradesh. “In Hinduism, the funeral is done by burning the pyre in which a lot of wood is used. Here, the body gets absorbed in the Ganga. There is nothing wrong with all this,” said Teerthraj Patel, a local resident, who was at the ghat attending a funeral of his relative. “The ghat is used by people from various districts. They are aware of the contraction of the river Ganga during the summer season. They know that when the river will expand in the rainy season, the bodies will be submerged in the river and their loved ones will get salvation. This is why there is temporary burial in sand,” he added.
Another local resident present on the ghat said that the bodies will ultimately go into the Ganga river. “In summers, the width of the Ganga gets reduced. When the water level will rise, the bodies will get absorbed in the Ganga’s flow and as per beliefs this helps to attain moksha. Burying the bodies in sand is simple and economical. Therefore, people from several districts come here to bury the bodies keeping aside the traditional rituals,” he said.
The restrictions imposed concerning burying of the dead bodies on the ghat has seemingly made little impact and the people continue to throng the ghats. Prayagraj Municipal Commissioner Ravi Ranjan said that an electric crematorium will be built at the ghat soon.
Assam floods hit 7 lakh people across 29 districts
Assam floods have affected more than seven lakh people across 29 districts leaving nine people dead. “Till now, 7,17,046 people across 29 districts have been affected due to the flood situation in the state. 9 people have died in floods and landslides so far,” Assam State Disaster Management Authority said on Thursday. Assam State Disaster Management Authority said that at present 1413 villages are underwater and Nagaon is the most affected district where 2.88 lakh people are reeling under the calamity. In Cachar nearly 1.2 lakh people and in Hojai more than 1.07 lakh people were affected, it said.
Heart-wrenching videos emerged from the flood-hit state. A portion of the Kampur-Kathiatali connecting road in the Nagaon district got washed away today morning in floods. Several parts of the state are reeling under flood. In another incident, a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Lumding Assembly, Sibu Misra was seen taking a piggyback ride to a boat, on the back of a flood rescue worker on Wednesday. He was in Hojai to review the flood situation in the area. Assam Rifles, National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army are carrying out rescue and relief operations in flood-hit areas of the state. Further, Assam Cabinet decided to introduce an emergency flight service between Silchar and Guwahati at the rate of Rs 3000, to mitigate the communication crisis due to floods and landslides in Dima Hasao and Barak Valley.
In view of the flood situation, the Cachar district administration has closed all educational institutions (government and private) and non-essential private establishments for 48 hours (May 19th and 20th) in the district. On 18 May, Assam forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya said, “Every year Kaziranga National Park faces floods. We are completely prepared including food materials for the officials who are on duty in the park. Our boats are ready, too. Work on 40 islands done for animals to take shelter.”In view of the damages to railway tracks in multiple locations, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has already suspended all trains through Lumding-Badarpur Hill Section to Barak Valley, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur, and restoration work is on in the damaged areas.
GYANVAPI MOSQUE SURVEY REPORT SUBMITTED IN COURT
The court-appointed special assistant commissioner on Thursday submitted a report on the Gyanvapi mosque survey to a Varanasi court. “The report has been submitted before the court. People from both sides were present before the court. It is a 10-15-page long report,” said Assistant Court Commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh on the Gyanvapi Mosque survey report. “We have filed a chip too in a sealed cover,” added Advocate Vishal Singh. On Thursday, court commissioner Vishal Singh handed over the report of the survey and videography conducted on 15, 16 and 17 May to the judge in the Civil Court of Varanasi.
“At 4.30 pm yesterday, Ajay Mishra (ex-court appointed commissioner) submitted his report. Today at 10.30 am, Vishal Singh and Ajay Pratap Singh filed their report with details of the three-day survey,” said Advocate Nityanand Rai.
“The Assistant Commissioners have also filed a chip that contains photos, videos. A copy will be made available to the other side. Once they get the copy, the court will invite their objections. After listening to them, the court will give a final decision if the report will be taken as evidence”, added Advocate Rai.
Former court commissioner Ajay Mishra had submitted his report to the Varanasi court on Wednesday itself.
This is the report of the survey conducted in Gyanvapi on 6-7 May. In this survey report, he has spoken of getting evidence of symbols and relics related to Hinduism. However, Ajay Mishra was later removed as court commissioner. The report said that moving from north to west, there was a snake-like artwork of Sheshnag on the central rock plate. The embossed vermilion coloured artwork was seen on the board. Round curved shape was engraved under the bow. All the stone plates seemed to be lying on the ground for a long time. All these at first glance appear to be fragmented parts of a big building.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the civil court in Varanasi not to proceed with the case related to the Gyanvapi mosque case till it takes up the case on Friday. The apex court further said that it will hear the case on Friday at 3 pm.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha adjourned the case before it till Friday at 3 pm after the Hindu side’s lawyer asked it to hear the case tomorrow. It then asked the trial court in Varanasi to desist from taking up the matter today. Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, appearing for Hindu petitioners before the trial court, sought adjournment for the day on account of the medical condition of leading counsel Hari Shankar Jain.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
NIA court convicts Kashmiri separatist Yasin Malik
Yasin Malik, a separatist leader from Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday was convicted by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court. He had pleaded guilty in the terror funding case on the last date of the hearing. The NIA has been asked to give an affidavit on the socio-economic status of convict Yasin Malik after taking the help of local authorities. Malik is also directed to file an affidavit disclosing all sources of his income and assets (movable and immovable). Special NIA Judge Praveen Singh on Thursday posted the matter for arguments on the quantum of sentence for 25 May.
Malik had told the court that he was not contesting the charges levelled against him that included Sections 16 (terrorist act), 17 (raising funds for terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy to commit terrorist act) and 20 (being member of terrorist gang or organisation) of the UAPA and Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 124-A (sedition) of the IPC. Recently, the court had ordered the framing of charges against several separatist leaders including Yasin Malik under UAPA and IPC.
Meanwhile, the court formally framed the charges against other Kashmiri separatist leaders who are accused in the case. Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Ka
rate, Shabbir Shah, Masarat Alam, Md Yusuf Shah, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Md Akbar Khanday, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Abdul Rashid Sheikh and Naval Kishore Kapoor on Tuesday formally signed the court order copy and said they are ready to face trial in the case.
The NIA Judge, while passing the order said, “The analysis reflects that the statements of witnesses and documentary evidence have connected almost all the accused with each other and to a common object of secession, to the commonality of means they were to use, their close association to terrorist/ terrorist organizations under the guiding hand and funding of Pakistani establishment.”
On 16 March, the NIA Court had ordered the framing of charges against Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, among others.
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