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Russia Watching NATO, As Path Cleared For Finland And Sweden To Join

As NATO leaders meet in Madrid, Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. It's yet another momentous change underway since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia Watching NATO, As Path Cleared For Finland And Sweden To Join

International leaders after having their photograph taken before the start of the NATO 2022

Anna Akage, Shaun Lavelle, and Emma Albright

A high-stakes NATO summit has kicked off in Madrid, as leaders of the world’s largest defense alliance discuss the war in Ukraine and key decisions that will shape the organization’s future direction. NATO Secretary-GeneralJens Stoltenberg said the Russian invasion of its neighbor had prompted a fundamental shift in its approach to defense.

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Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. The three countries released a joint memorandum that “extend[ed] their full support against threats to each other's security," FinnishPresident Sauli Niinistö said.


British Prime MinisterBoris Johnson reiterated his — and NATO’s — support for Ukraine. However, membership for Ukraineis not likely to be on the agenda. Instead, leaders will discuss increased defense expenditure and a unified message toward China.

Russia will be watching the summit closely. Russian daily Kommersant has already reacted with bemusement to the appearance of “Russian salad,” a common Spanish dish, on the menu.

Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden)

Svenska Dagbladet

Indonesian President Widodo Heads To Ukraine And Russia To Try To Stop The War

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is visiting Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, before traveling to Moscow later this week.

Ahead of his trip, Widodo said in a news conference on Sunday that his mission regarding Ukraine and Russia is to “build dialogue, stop war and build peace," Indonesian national news agency Antara reported.

The Indonesian leader has invited both Zelensky and Putin to the G20 Summit, scheduled in Bali in November of this year.

One Major World Leader Who Hasn’t Gone To Kyiv

Zelensky on the phone with Biden on June 15

Sarsenov Daniiar/Ukraine Preside/Planet Pix/ZUMA


U.S. President Joe Biden has been evasive when asked if he plans to follow European leaders by visiting Kyiv. This week, the war in Ukraine has loomed heavily over Biden’s trips to Germany and Spain for meetings with world leaders at the G7 and NATO summits.

Already on this side of the Atlantic, the staging would thus seem perfect for the U.S. president to reaffirm support for Ukraine by going to Kyiv, following in the footsteps of top European leaders, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN chief Antonio Guterres, who have paid recent visits to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

And yet, save a surprise detour this week, it appears that Biden will in fact not be making the much anticipated trip to Kyiv. What's holding him back? Cameron Manley looks further in this Worldcrunch piece.

In Occupied Kherson, Pro-Russian Leader Vows Referendum And Return To USSR

Kherson

Vladimir Bondarenko/TASS/Zuma


Almost simultaneously, Ukrainian and Russian media reported the declaration Wednesday by the pro-Russian head of the occupied Kherson region that a referendum on joining Russia will be held. And the leader, Kiril Stremousov, left little doubt of the result.

“We are preparing for the referendum, and we will hold it. The Kherson region will make a decision and join the Russian Federation, become a full-fledged subject,” Stremousov said in a video message published on his Telegram channel.

Stremousov said that the return to Moscow’s fold of Kherson, which was occupied by the Russian army in early March and is the closest region to the annexed Crimea, will “will build just that country that everyone dreamed of for a long, long time, in which we once lived, the very principle of the Soviet Union, where every woman on the street was a mother, where the friendship of peoples was not only announced, but also by default.”

Death Toll In Attack On Mall Rises To 20, Russia Continues to Deny Responsibility

Aftermath of Russian attack on mall

CoverImages/Zuma

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky released footage of the Russian strike on the mall in Kremenchuk during his nightly address on Wednesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry continues to deny the attack and claims the target was a factory with a stockpile of Western weapons and ammunition. The death toll has increased to 20.

Zelensky accused Russia of attacking innocent civilians "purposefully" by hitting the busy shopping center and "wanted to kill as many people as possible in a peaceful city."

Russia Refuses Prisoners Of War Exchange, Says Will Prosecute Captured Ukrainians

Ukrainian soldiers surrender to Russia

Cover Images via/ZUMA


A top Russian official said that Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered to the Russian army will not be exchanged with Ukraine. In an interview for the Russian news site Fontanka, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, said that a recent influx of more than 2000 Ukrainian soldiers would not be part of intermittent exchanges with Kyiv for captured Russian troops.

Rather than return to their families, the captured soldiers will go to pre-detention centers, and will face trials on charges that they are somehow responsible for the destruction of Donbas following the Russian invasion.

Since the second month of war, though there was no fixed agreement, yet the exchange of imprisoned soldiers was regularly carried out. This is the first time that Russia has refused not only to turn over prisoners (which they are obliged to do according to the Geneva Convention) but prosecute them.

Sean Penn Visits Zelensky For Upcoming Documentary

American actor and director Sean Penn visits Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine Presidency/ZUMA


Hollywood actor Sean Penn paid a visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the second time since the start of the Ukraine war. Penn visited Ukraine on February 24, the first day of the war, and shot footage for his upcoming documentary revealing the unfolding crisis, which he has been working on since last year.

When missiles started shelling Ukrainian cities, the Hollywood actor found himself among tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to Poland on foot. According to Variety, Penn is producing the movie for VICE studios. His charity CORE held a fundraiser in support of Ukraine.

Two Ukrainian Tennis Players Face Off At Wimbledon


Two Ukrainian tennis players, Anhelina Kalinina and Lesia Tsurenko, will face each other in a second-round match at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Both players hope they can draw attention to the ongoing war in their country.

After Kalinia defeated tennis player Anna Bondar, she used the prize money to help her family back in Ukraine. “If you go further, you earn more money. Then I’m able to help, and I’m helping as much as I can and not only to my family,” she said.

Tsurenko, like Kalinina, wants to continue to play tennis and use her platform to help her country. “We just want to remind [people] that Ukraine is in trouble and we need help," she said. Tsukenko added that it was great that the two Ukrainian players were meeting in the second round “and so it will be one Ukrainian in the third round.”

Meanwhile, another Ukrainian tennis star, Elina Svitolin, has decided not to participate at Wimbledon, after deciding to take a break from her career to focus on raising funds and awareness for the war in Ukraine.
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Society

In Africa, Witchcraft Delusions Spark Deadly Mob Violence

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where many people believe in witchcraft, allegations occasionally flare into violence and death.

Ogwang Ongoda prays for his mother, Albina Okoi, by her grave in Oyamdistrict. A mob accusing her of practicing witchcraft attacked and killed Okoi.

Patricia Lindrio

OYAM, UGANDA — On the morning of March 4, at the invitation of her grandchildren, Albina Okoi attended services at a makeshift church different from the one she usually attends. When the prayers continued for longer than she expected, Okoi, 71, excused herself and went home to have tea.

By the time it was ready, there was a mob at her doorstep, led by the pastor and two of her own grandchildren.

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