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Kyiv would hold peace talks with Russia immediately if Moscow withdrew from all Ukrainian territories, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Speaking at the conclusion of a peace summit in Switzerland, Zelensky expressed skepticism about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to end the conflict, emphasizing the need to stop him by any means necessary, whether military or diplomatic. He acknowledged that Western aid alone was insufficient to secure victory but noted that the summit demonstrated sustained international support for Ukraine.

The summit ended with many countries reaffirming their commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and adopting a document that attributed the war’s suffering and destruction to Russia. However, some attendees, including India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, did not sign the document. The summit aimed to gather broad backing for efforts to end the war, attracting over 90 countries and international organizations. Notably, Russia and its ally China were absent, casting doubt on the summit’s effectiveness. Some participants, like Saudi Arabia and Kenya, were not Ukraine’s staunchest supporters.

The final document called for Ukrainian control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently occupied by Russia, and referred to the conflict as a “war,” a term Moscow rejects. It also demanded the exchange of all prisoners and the return of children abducted by Russia. Contentious issues, such as the status of territories under Russian occupation, were deferred for future discussion.

After the summit, Zelensky thanked the attendees for their independence in attending despite Russian pressure. He reiterated that Ukraine had always sought peace and that Russia could start negotiations by withdrawing from Ukrainian territories. He also clarified that China was not Ukraine’s enemy and called on Beijing to engage seriously in peace efforts.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte highlighted the unity among attendees in seeking peace, despite differing opinions on achieving it. He emphasized shared principles, such as opposing invasions, child abductions, manipulation of food supplies, and threats to nuclear safety.

While there was an expectation for unanimous condemnation of Russia’s invasion, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer indicated that not all delegations supported the final statement. Zelensky stated that the summit’s results would be communicated to Moscow, aiming for a conclusive peace agreement at a subsequent summit.

Russia dismissed the Swiss event as unproductive. Putin proposed a ceasefire if Ukraine withdrew from four regions claimed by Russia, but this was strongly rejected by Western leaders, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni calling it propaganda and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accusing Putin of spinning a false narrative. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later mentioned that Putin did not rule out talks with Ukraine but insisted on guarantees for their credibility, excluding Zelensky as a participant.

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The G7 has agreed to utilize frozen Russian assets to raise $50 billion (£39 billion) for Ukraine to aid in its defense against Russian forces. President Joe Biden emphasized this decision as a signal to Russia that the support for Ukraine remains steadfast. However, Moscow has warned of “extremely painful” retaliatory actions. The funds, anticipated to be available by the end of the year, are intended to support Ukraine’s war effort and economic stability in the long term.

At the G7 summit in Italy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Biden signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement between the US and Ukraine, which Ukraine hailed as “historic.” This agreement involves US military and training aid but does not commit US troops to combat. It aims to enhance Ukraine’s defense capabilities, support its defense industry, and aid in economic and energy recovery. It also stipulates consultations at the highest levels in case of future Russian attacks on Ukraine to decide necessary support measures.

Separately, about $325 billion in Russian assets were frozen by the G7 and the EU following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. These assets generate approximately $3 billion annually in interest. The G7 plan involves using this interest to cover the annual interest on a $50 billion loan for Ukraine, sourced from international markets.

President Biden, at the summit in Puglia, Italy, reiterated that the $50 billion loan would support Ukraine and send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zelensky expressed gratitude for the continued support from the US and other allies, calling the security deal with the US the strongest since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Other G7 leaders, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, praised the loan deal as transformative.

The $50 billion loan compares significantly with the $61 billion in US military aid agreed upon in May. A senior White House official noted the loan would support various needs, including military, budget, humanitarian, and reconstruction efforts. While the frozen funds’ interest is seen as a symbolic victory for Ukraine, some in Kyiv had hoped for the release of the entire $300 billion frozen fund. However, the European Central Bank opposed this, citing risks to international order.

The funds from the loan will not immediately impact the war, as they are expected later in the year. Ukraine continues to seek more immediate military aid, such as air defense systems and F-16 fighter jets, which could start arriving in the summer. Zelensky mentioned that the new security agreement includes US shipments of these aircraft.

The loan arrangement symbolizes a significant move where Russia’s frozen assets are repurposed to support Ukraine’s defense. Although this marks a turning point, it is unlikely to change Russia’s stance on the war. Most of the frozen Russian central bank assets are in Belgium, and international law prevents their direct confiscation for Ukraine’s benefit. Russia has condemned the West’s actions as criminal and has hinted at severe retaliatory measures. European investors have around €33 billion stuck in Russia, complicating the situation further.

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Two contrasting accommodation options were presented for the G7 summit in Puglia, Italy: the luxurious Borgo Egnazia resort, known for hosting celebrities like Madonna and the Beckhams, and a deteriorating ship moored off Brindisi for the 2,600 police officers, criticized for its appalling conditions. The resort houses world leaders, while the ship, costing the Italian government €6m and now under fraud investigation, exemplifies the disparity in treatment.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, buoyed by her party’s success in the European elections, hosts the summit, highlighting Italy’s newfound political stability compared to other G7 nations facing political turmoil. Meloni’s government is portrayed as the strongest amidst leaders like Biden, Sunak, and Trudeau, who are struggling domestically.

Low expectations surround the summit due to the precarious political climate in many G7 countries. However, a significant plan to loan Ukraine $50bn from frozen Russian assets is anticipated. Additionally, Sunak will announce substantial support for Ukraine’s energy and humanitarian needs.

Sessions will address the climate crisis, investment in Africa, the Middle East ceasefire, and AI regulation, with Pope Francis attending for the first time. Efforts to broaden global consensus include inviting leaders from Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. Locals in Puglia, like ice-cream maker Vincenzo Iannacone, express pride and excitement for the summit, hoping it brings positive attention to their region.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a warning that Moscow may consider arming other countries to target Western interests in response to the West providing long-range weapons to Ukraine. He criticized Western nations, including the United States and Germany, for enabling Ukraine to strike targets within Russia, which he claimed could result in “very serious problems.”

Putin argued that if the West supplies weapons to attack Russian territory, Moscow has the right to reciprocate by supplying similar weapons to regions that could strike sensitive targets in those countries. He did not specify which countries Russia might arm but suggested the response would be asymmetric.

Germany was specifically mentioned by Putin, who said that Berlin’s decision to allow Ukraine to use German-made long-range weapons against Russia has definitively harmed Russian-German relations. He also noted that while U.S. President Joe Biden has permitted Ukraine to use American-supplied weapons in the Kharkiv region, the White House has restricted the use of long-range ATACMS missiles on Russian soil.

Recent reports indicate that Ukraine has used U.S. weapons to strike targets inside Russia. Meanwhile, intense fighting continues near Kharkiv, close to the Russian border.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron emphasized that it is Ukraine’s decision how to use British-supplied weapons, asserting Ukraine’s right to target Russian territory. Additionally, Ukraine claims North Korean missiles are being used against them, and Western intelligence suggests Russia is deploying Iranian-made drones in the conflict.

Putin reiterated Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that Moscow might use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty and territorial integrity are threatened. He criticized the West for assuming Russia would never resort to nuclear escalation and dismissed the notion that Russia intends to attack NATO territories as “complete nonsense.”

These statements were made at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Putin also underscored that portraying Russia as an enemy only harms those who do so.

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French intelligence officials believe Russia orchestrated a stunt involving five coffins draped in French flags, labeled “French soldiers of Ukraine,” placed near the Eiffel Tower. Three men, seen arriving in a van on Saturday morning, left the coffins, which contained plaster sacks. Police quickly apprehended the driver, a Bulgarian who claimed he was paid €40 by two others to transport the coffins. These two, a Ukrainian and a German, were later caught at Bercy coach station while attempting to board a bus to Berlin. They admitted to being paid €400 to deposit the coffins. All three were presented before a judge on Sunday as a judicial investigation began for “violence with premeditation.”

This incident is being investigated to determine if it was orchestrated from abroad, recalling two recent events where French police suspect Russian involvement. In October, Stars of David resembling the Israeli flag were stenciled in Paris after a Hamas attack on Israel. A Moldovan couple, believed to have been paid by Russian intelligence, was arrested. Last month, red hands were painted on a Holocaust memorial in Paris, with suspects fleeing abroad. One individual involved in the coffins incident had contact with a Bulgarian suspect linked to the red-hands affair, identified as Georgi F. by Le Monde.

Tensions between France and Russia have risen, partly due to President Emmanuel Macron’s stance on potentially sending French soldiers to Ukraine. Recently, discussions about sending French military instructors to Ukraine have intensified, which investigators think might have prompted Russian intelligence to stage the coffins stunt to demonstrate opposition to deeper French involvement in the Ukraine war. Previous incidents included teams with photographers whose images appeared on Russian propaganda websites.

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Ukrainian President Zelensky has accused Russia and China of trying to sabotage his upcoming global peace summit in Switzerland. He claims Russia is pressuring countries not to attend and alleges China is assisting in this effort. Zelensky made these statements at an Asian security forum, where he urged delegates to attend his summit focused on nuclear security, food security, and the release of prisoners of war and Ukrainian children held in Russia.

Despite 106 countries confirming attendance, Russia has not been invited and China is not participating. Zelensky criticized China for being an instrument in Putin’s hands and accused China of supplying elements for Russia’s weaponry. However, China denies supplying weapons to either side of the Ukraine conflict and asserts its commitment to peace.

Zelensky also discussed with US Secretary of Defense Austin the US decision to allow Ukraine to use American weapons on Russian territory, albeit with restrictions. This move by the US and other Western states has drawn warnings from Russia about serious consequences.

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US President Joe Biden has reportedly authorized Ukraine to utilize American-supplied weaponry to target specific sites within Russia, particularly in the vicinity of the Kharkiv region. This directive aims to enable Ukraine to retaliate against Russian forces attacking or preparing to attack them.

Recent advances by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, close to the Russian border, have prompted this decision. Despite this, the United States maintains its stance against allowing the use of long-range strikes or the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) within Russian territory.

Regarding the possibility of targeting Russian aircraft, US officials stated that Ukraine has not been prohibited from defending itself against Russian planes flying over Russian soil. While the UK and some European leaders have expressed openness to relaxing restrictions on the use of Western-supplied weapons by Ukraine, the US has previously been hesitant due to concerns about escalation.

However, recent events have prompted a shift in this approach, as indicated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a visit to Moldova. Russian forces have taken advantage of opportunities to advance further into Ukrainian territory, particularly in Kharkiv, amid delays in the arrival of additional Western weapons to Ukraine.

Recent attacks, including the bombing of a supermarket and a residential building, have resulted in civilian casualties and extensive damage, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces of targeting civilian infrastructure.

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Researchers studying the migration patterns of Greater Spotted Eagles have found that these birds altered their usual routes across Ukraine in response to the conflict and environmental damage caused by war. They believe the eagles avoided dangers such as artillery fire and troop buildups, likely due to damage to their habitats.

The study, published in Current Biology by researchers from the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the British Trust for Ornithology, reveals that the eagles deviated significantly from their usual paths, spent less time at refueling sites, and traveled longer distances. These changes resulted in delays and increased energy expenditure for the birds.

While all tracked birds survived, the researchers are concerned about the potential long-term effects on their breeding capabilities. As the Greater Spotted Eagle is classified as a vulnerable species, any disruption to their migratory patterns and breeding performance is considered a significant conservation concern.

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The G7 finance ministers are set to discuss whether Ukraine can receive an additional €30 billion loan from seized Russian assets totaling €270 billion. This proposal has sparked division within the G7, particularly between the US and Germany. While some advocate for full asset seizure, others, including Christine Lagarde, ECB president, raise legal and economic concerns.

The US and UK propose mobilizing the frozen assets to provide a substantial loan to Ukraine, with interest paid from the profits of the seized Russian assets. They argue this approach avoids the need for asset confiscation, which could disrupt the international legal order and financial stability.

Belgium, holding the largest share of Russia’s frozen assets within the G7, has already generated significant investment income from these assets. It has agreed to allocate a portion of this profit to a joint G7 fund for Ukraine.

Critics argue that using the assets as collateral for a loan effectively amounts to confiscation. However, some legal scholars suggest that under the doctrine of state countermeasures, seizure may be justified.

Overall, there is contention over whether to provide Ukraine with a substantial loan using the seized assets, with concerns about legal implications and potential repercussions for financial stability and international relations.

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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent surgery after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds during an attack in Handlova. Initially in critical condition, his health has since stabilized. The incident, deemed politically motivated, has drawn widespread condemnation and raised concerns about democratic stability. Despite the suspect’s detention, the motive behind the shooting remains uncertain.

Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba suggested that false narratives propagated by opposition parties may have fueled the attack, echoing previous concerns expressed by Fico about the potential consequences of such rhetoric. The shooting underscores simmering political tensions within Slovakia, sparking debates about the role of inflammatory discourse in shaping the country’s political climate.

The incident has ignited discussions about the broader implications of divisive language in Slovakian society. President Zuzana Caputova highlighted the serious ramifications of such rhetoric, emphasizing its potential to incite violence. The shooting serves as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by polarizing narratives and underscores the need for constructive dialogue and unity in the face of political differences.

Fico, known for his controversial policies, including calls to end military aid to Ukraine and efforts to abolish the public broadcaster RTVS, has faced significant opposition both domestically and within the EU since returning to power. The attack on him amplifies existing concerns about political stability and underscores the challenges facing Slovakian democracy in navigating polarized political landscapes.

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