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Britain to Extend COVID-19 Emergency Aid by $91 Billion

On March 4, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday the government is extending emergency economic aid by nearly $91 billion to boost economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In his annual budget speech to Parliament, Sunak said benefits to workers left unemployed by the pandemic will be extended until the end of September. He said the government will also allocate nearly $1 billion to support the arts, culture and sports impacted by the pandemic.  Sunak promised to do “whatever it takes” to support the British people and businesses through what he hopes will be the final months of pandemic restrictions. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain, March 3, 2021.To help begin to pay for some of these programs, Sunak also announced that corporation taxes would rise from 19% to 25% beginning in 2023, by which time the economy should be past the pandemic crisis, he said. “Even after this change, the U.K. will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G-7,” Sunak said. The government will also freeze personal income tax thresholds, increasing revenue as inflation boosts incomes. The finance minister also announced the British Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting the economy will return to its pre-pandemic strength by the middle of 2022, six months earlier than was forecast in November.  The bad news, he said, is that the impact of the pandemic will be felt long term, as the five-year forecast for economic growth is 3% smaller than it was pre-pandemic. 
 

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France Could Ease COVID-19 Restrictions Next Month 

On March 4, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

A French government spokesman said Wednesday officials are hoping to lift some of the nation’s COVID-19-related restrictions by the middle of next month, as vaccinations have, so far, proven effective at lowering infection rates. At a Paris news conference, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters that while the nation is still facing hard times, “For the first time in months, the return to more normal living conditions is in sight.”  Attal said infection rates are decreasing among groups that have been vaccinated — meaning the elderly. Attal said it is a sign the vaccination campaign is working, and that it should be sped up.  He said the goal of vaccinating the most fragile was to reduce hospitalizations and protect the health care system, which is key to easing restrictions. The spokesman said President Emmanuel Macron has asked government officials to submit proposals gearing up toward a “cautious reopening” of the country. FILE – A Nice resident and her dog go for a bike ride during virus-related confinement in Nice, southern France, Feb. 27, 2021.Earlier this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will retain its current measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks. Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants, museums, sports and music venues. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus. At more than 3.8 million infections, France has world’s sixth highest number of cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak. Reports say the number of new daily infections in France has been at more than 21,000 for six straight days. 
  

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Blast Damages Dutch COVID-19 Testing Site

On March 3, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

Dutch police say an explosive device detonated at a COVID-19 testing site before dawn Wednesday in the town of Bovenkarspel, north of Amsterdam, shattering windows but causing no reported injuries.Police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told reporters that forensic officers investigating the site found the metal remains of the explosive device outside a building, which was damaged. Hartenberg said “it was not possible” the blast was an accident.The northern area surrounding Bovenskarspel is suffering one of the Netherlands’ worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with about 27 per 100,000 nationally. At least one hospital has been forced to send patients to other provinces due to lack of space in its intensive care units.Forensic officers investigate the area at the scene of an explosion at a coronavirus testing location in Bovenkarspel, near Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 3, 2021.Resistance to COVID-19 restrictions in the Netherlands has turned violent in the past. In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s latest coronavirus lockdown.Attacks on health workers and facilities around the world have increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released this week by Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.Wednesday is the first day in several months when lockdown measures in the Netherlands have been slightly eased, with hairdressers reopening and non-essential stores accepting a small number of customers by appointment. 
 

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Strong Earthquake Shakes Central Greece, Felt in Balkans

On March 3, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.0 struck central Greece Wednesday and was also felt in neighboring Albania and North Macedonia, and as far as Kosovo and Montenegro.
One man was injured by falling debris but there were no other immediate reports of serious injury. Local officials reported structural damage, mainly to old houses and buildings that saw walls collapse or crack.  
The midday quake sent thousands of people rushing out of homes and office buildings into the streets in Larissa and Tyrnavos, the closest towns to the epicenter, which was 22 kilometers (14 miles) west-northwest of Larissa. Numerous aftershocks hit the area, the most powerful having a preliminary magnitude of over 5.0.
The quake struck at 12:16 p.m. (1015 GMT), according to the Athens Geodynamic Institute which put the preliminary magnitude at 6.0.
The United States Geological Survey and Global Seismic Monitor Geofon put the preliminary magnitude at 6.3, but it is common for magnitude estimates to vary soon after a quake.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu phoned his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, to convey solidarity and offer assistance if needed, according to officials from the two neighboring countries — which are longtime regional rivals.  
In Athens, seismologist Vassilis Karastathis told reporters that the quake originated in a fault line in the area that has historically not produced temblors of much larger magnitude than Wednesday’s. He said the post-quake activity appeared normal so far but experts were monitoring the situation.
“The earthquake had an estimated depth of just 8 kilometers (5 miles) and that was one of the reasons why it was felt so strongly in the region,” said Karastathis, who is the deputy director of the Athens Geodynamic Institute.  
Nikos Gatsas, mayor of the town of Elassona which lies north of the epicenter, told Greece’s state broadcaster ERT that walls of old houses had collapsed in nearby villages, and that one village school had sustained damage. All pupils had been evacuated from the building and there were no injuries.  
The fire department said it had received reports of damage to one home and school, while the fire service and police were patrolling the area. All local fire departments were put on alert.
The head of the National Defense General Staff and other civil defense, fire department and political officials were heading to the area.
Greece lies in a highly seismically active region. The vast majority of earthquakes cause no damage or injuries.  
Last October, an earthquake that struck the eastern Greek Aegean island of Samos and the nearby Turkish coast killed two high school students on Samos and at least 75 people in Turkey. In 1999, an earthquake near Athens killed 143 people.

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US Sanctions Russia for Poisoning Opposition

On March 3, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

The Biden administration announced sanctions Tuesday on senior Russian government officials for the poisoning of Alexey Navalny and reiterated a demand that the opposition leader be released from detention. The sanctions were not specifically directed at President Vladimir Putin or his inner circle. White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has the story.

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European Court of Justice Says New Polish Judicial Regulations Could Violate EU Law

On March 3, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) Tuesday ruled that new Polish regulations regarding the appointment of Supreme Court judges could violate European law, effectively striking down efforts to exert political influence over the judiciary in that country.The legislation in question regulates Poland’s strengthened political influence over a top judicial body, the National Council of the Judiciary, and the body’s procedure of appointments to the Supreme Court. It also curbed the right to appeal the council’s decisions, effectively leaving that body unchecked with its authority.In his ruling, ECJ Judge Marko Ilesic said the new regulations “are capable of giving legitimate doubts” in the minds of subjects of the law as to the neutrality of judges appointed by the president of Poland and whether they are influenced by politics.The ruling obliges Poland’s right-wing government to discontinue the regulations and observe the principles of judicial independence and the right to judicial protection. It also means Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court can now review appeals by the five judges, who are not government loyalists. In the process, it is likely to rule that the entire appointment procedure was flawed and ineffective.The EU has been strongly critical of Poland’s conservative government for the changes it has introduced to the judiciary since it won power in 2015, saying they undermine the country’s rule of law.
 

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US Sanctions Russians for Role in Navalny Attack    

On March 3, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

For the first time, the administration of President Joe Biden is taking punitive action against Russia.  Sanctions were imposed Tuesday on several senior Russian government officials — but not the country’s president, Vladimir Putin — for what the Biden administration says is their role in the attempted murder of Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny.  The sanctions, seen by some experts as largely symbolic, are being coordinated with the European Union, which already had taken action against some Russian officials in connection with the Navalny case.  Moscow will respond in kind to the U.S. sanctions, warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via Reuters)”We’re sending a clear signal to Russia that there are consequences for the use of chemical weapons,” a senior administration official said.  “I understand that the only thing that the administration could do is to send signals,” said University of Chicago Professor Konstantin Sonin, a Russian economist. “These are strong signals, but these are just signals, this is not something that has a material effect.” Among those sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department are Alexander Bortnikov, director of the FSB intelligence agency; Andrei Yarin, chief of the Kremlin’s domestic policy directorate; and deputy ministers of defense Alexey Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov. U.S. officials on Tuesday also declassified an intelligence finding putting blame for the poisoning on one of Russia’s leading intelligence agencies, the FSB.  “The tone and the tenor and the type of relationship that this president intends to have with President Putin will be quite different from the last administration,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. FILE – Then-Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2011.Tuesday’s actions are seen as stopping short of triggering a significantly wider diplomatic rift between Washington and Moscow.In response to a VOA question about cooperation between Biden and Putin concerning reducing nuclear missiles, proliferation by Iran and the war in Syria, Psaki said, “There are areas where we disagree, there are areas where there’s significant challenge, there are also areas where we are going to work with the Russians as we would with most global partners.”  The rhetoric expressed Tuesday by some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill was less diplomatic.  FILE – Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., speaks during a confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2021.”Putin is a coward who hires hitmen to keep his grip on power, but the Russian people are tired of living under a paranoid despot,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “These sanctions and the addition of Russian entities to the Commerce Department’s blacklist send a clear message to Moscow, but we can’t stop here.” Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, is calling for the United States and its allies to “invoke the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to demand inspections of Putin’s facilities that produced the nerve agents involved in Navalny’s poisoning. We need to kneecap all financial support to Putin’s corrupt regime.”  FILE – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2020.The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, Democratic of California, said, “Unless we impose meaningful costs, we cannot expect to curb behaviors from Russia that undermine both our national security and values.” Putin is unlikely to be chastened by the sanctions announced Tuesday, according to Cyrus Newlin, an associate fellow who focuses on Russia at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.  “I think the record shows that Vladimir Putin is relatively unconcerned about what the West thinks about him and his regime and increasingly how the West will respond,” Newlin told VOA.  Navalny was hospitalized in August after falling ill on a flight in Serbia. He was medically evacuated to Germany, where doctors determined he had been poisoned. Medical experts concluded the leader of the Russia of the Future party was exposed to the chemical nerve agent Novichok. Russia denied any involvement in the matter.  FILE – This handout picture posted Sept. 15, 2020, on the Instagram account of @navalny shows Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny with his family at Berlin’s Charite hospital.Upon recovery, Navalny returned home early this year and was immediately arrested. He was sent to a prison outside Moscow to serve a 2-and-a-half-year prison sentence for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany.  The Biden administration has called for his release.Other U.S. actionIn other action Tuesday, the State Department implemented measures “against multiple Russian individuals and entities associated with the Russian Federation’s chemical weapons program and defense and intelligence sectors.” Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said it was adding 14 entities in Russia, Germany and Switzerland to the Entity List — an international trade blacklist — “based on their proliferation activities in support of Russia’s weapons of mass destruction programs and chemical weapons activities.”  U.S. officials say they will soon announce sanctions as a response to a cyberattack linked to Russia on U.S. government computers, known as the SolarWinds hack.  VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.
 

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Pakistan-Iran-Turkey Cargo Train Service to Resume This Week  

On March 2, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

Pakistan said Tuesday a transnational cargo train connecting the South Asian nation to Turkey via neighboring Iran will resume service from this week after a gap of nine years. 
  
The train had its first trial run in 2009, with a mission to strengthen trade and communication links among the three countries.  
  
Logistical challenges, pending infrastructure developments and security concerns prompted the suspension of the service in late 2011, however, after an exchange of 14 freight trains between Turkey and Pakistan.  
  
Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to the Pakistani prime minister for commerce and investment, while announcing the revival of the cargo service, said the “Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad” train will complete the one-side trip in about 12 days. It will have a capacity of transporting 750 metric tons of commercial goods, he added.   
“This is a testament of friendship between the three countries … and will go a long way in facilitating movement of goods between Pakistan, Iran & Turkey,” Dawood wrote on Twitter.   We are glad to note that Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) Freight Train will resume operations from 4 Mar-2021 after nine years. It will complete the one-side trip in 12-days, with capacity to move 750 MT of goods. This is a testament of friendship between the three countries…1/2
— Abdul Razak Dawood (@razak_dawood) March 2, 2021
Traders and experts hailed the announcement, saying the 6,500-kilometer railway line will save money, expedite cargo and container transportation, and greatly reduce travel time. It takes up to 45 days for the goods to reach Pakistan from European countries via the seaway.  The train will run through Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan border province before entering or leaving Iran. The violence-hit Pakistani region is where Baluch separatists routinely stage attacks on government forces and installations. Militants linked to the Islamic State terror group also operate in the province and have taken credit for some of the recent deadly attacks.  
  
Officials say security operations dealing with the militants lately have helped to stabilize the situation in Baluchistan. They also cite construction of a robust fence on Pakistan’s more than 900-kilometer traditionally porous border with Iran, which until now has encouraged militants to move freely in either direction.  
  
Pakistani military officials say more than 45% of the Iranian border has been fenced off, and the rest will be completed by the end of this year.   
  
They expect the border management effort to also help in countering the smuggling of commercial goods across the Pakistan-Iran border, among other illegal movements.  FILE – A container is loaded on to the first Chinese container ship to depart after the inauguration of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar, Pakistan, Nov. 13, 2016.Baluchistan harbors major Chinese-funded infrastructure projects being undertaken as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The multibillion-dollar project is hailed as a center piece of Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative.   
  
The CPEC has upgraded and built new road networks and has operationalized the Pakistani deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. The two countries also are preparing to start work on upgrading Pakistan’s main railway line, which is estimated to cost $6.8 billion.  

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As Turkey Reopens, Restaurants Relieved But Doctors Worry

On March 2, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

Turkish restaurants reopened and many children returned to school on Tuesday after the government announced steps to ease COVID-19 curbs even as cases edged higher, raising concerns in the top medical association.On Monday evening, President Tayyip Erdogan lifted weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk cities and limited lockdowns to Sundays in those deemed higher risk under what he called a “controlled normalization.”Cafe and restaurant owners, limited to takeaway service for much of last year, have long urged a reopening of in-house dining after sector revenues dropped 65%. They also want relief from growing debt, and from social security and tax payments.”We were serving 4,000-5,000 people a week. Now with takeaway services we are serving only 500 people,” Istanbul-based Pideban restaurant owner Yusuf Kaptanoglu said before the easing measures were announced.”I did not benefit from any support including loan support,” he said.Across Turkey, pre- and primary schools as well as grades 8-12 resumed partial in-person education.Yet the moves come as new daily coronavirus cases rose to 9,891 on Monday, the highest since Jan. 11 and up from 8,424 a day earlier, according to official data. Cases were around 6,000 in late January.”The number of mutant virus cases is increasingly rising. We do not see conditions to return to an old ‘normal’,” the Turkish Medics’ Association said on Twitter, calling for higher rates of testing and inoculation.”Political and economic interests must not take precedence over human life and science,” it added.Turkey, with a population of 83 million, has administered 8.96 million vaccines in a campaign that began in mid-January. More than 7 million people have received a first shot and 1.89 million have received a second.

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France Reverses Course on Using AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine on Citizens Over 65  

On March 2, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

France will now vaccinate people aged 65 years and older with the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca.   The decision was announced Tuesday by Health Minister Olivier Veran during a televised interview.  Veran said anyone older than the age of 50 with pre-existing conditions can receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, “including those between 65 and 74.” France was among many European nations that refused to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca for its elderly citizens.  The developers did not enroll many people in those age groups for their large-scale clinical trials, leading to a lack of data about its potential efficacy.  French President Emmanuel Macron even went so far as describing the vaccine as “quasi-ineffective.”   FILE – A medical worker holds a vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a mass vaccination center at the Cecchignola military compound, in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2021.But health officials say further data from clinical trials has proved its efficacy among older people.  The reversal is sure to jumpstart France’s slow vaccination campaign, which has been hampered by a shortage of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.  France’s change of heart coincides with a real-world study conducted in Britain that found the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca are highly effective in protecting elderly people from the disease after receiving just one shot. Researchers at Public Health England say the respective two-dose vaccines are more than 80% effective at preventing people in their 80s from being hospitalized around three to four weeks after the first shot is administered.  FILE – A woman receives the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Pasteur Institute during a vaccination program, in Paris, Jan. 21, 2021.The study also found that the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was between 57% and 61% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections among people at least 70 years old, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was between 60% and 73% effective. The study, posted online Monday, has not undergone the customary peer-review process.  Britain was the first European country to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all of its citizens regardless of age.   US sticks to two-dose regimenIn the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post  Tuesday the United States will stick with the two-dose regimen of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines. A growing number of public health experts have urged government health officials to use millions of doses intended to be used as second shots instead be used as first doses, as millions of adult Americans have not been inoculated due to an acute shortage of vaccines. But Dr. Fauci warned that switching to a single-dose strategy could leave people less protected and enable the growing number of variants to spread.  FILE – Workers for the U.S. federal government prepare the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines at a new mass vaccination center in Oakland, California, Feb. 16, 2021.The nation’s leading infectious-disease expert tells the Post that “the gap between supply and demand is going to be diminished and then overcome” very soon as both Pfizer and Moderna fulfill their commitment to provide 220 million total doses by the end of March, along with Johnson & Johnson’s pledge to deliver 20 million doses of its one-shot COVID-19 vaccine this month.   New cases on the riseThe World Health Organization said new coronavirus cases increased globally for the first time in seven weeks, and officials expressed concern that cases could again rise significantly.      “We need to have a stern warning for all of us that this virus will rebound if we let it,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19, said Monday at a news briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.     WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the rise in cases occurred in four regions: the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, Europe and Southeast Asia. He said the development was “disappointing but not surprising” and said part of the spike appeared to be the result of the “relaxing of public health measures.”     FILE – Health staff attends to a patient at the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dedicated ICU unit of the Tras-Os-Montes E Alto Douro Hospital, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Vila Real, Portugal, Feb. 22, 2021.Michael Ryan, director of WHO’s emergencies program, said, “Right now, the virus is very much in control” and said it was “unrealistic” to think the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year.     The warnings come after a sharp fall of coronavirus cases and deaths in many parts of the world, which along with vaccine developments, had led to hopes that the spread of the coronavirus would continue on a downward trend.     In the United States, health officials are warning that another surge in cases could be on the horizon, as newer and more infectious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are growing more frequently.      The new upward trend in cases comes as most states are easing coronavirus restrictions.  

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US to Impose Sanctions Punishing Russia for Navalny’s Poisoning

On March 2, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

The United States is  expected to impose sanctions to punish Russia for the poisoning  of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as early as Tuesday, two  sources familiar with the matter said.President Joe Biden’s decision to impose sanctions for Navalny’s poisoning reflects a harder stance than taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who let the incident last August pass without punitive U.S. action.The Kremlin said on Tuesday that any new U.S. sanctions over the treatment of  Navalny would not achieve their goal and would merely worsen already strained relations.Navalny fell ill on a flight in Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it had seen no proof he was poisoned.The sources said on Monday on condition of anonymity that the United States was expected to act under two executive orders: 13661, which was issued after Russia’s invasion of Crimea but provides broad authority to target Russian officials, and 13382, issued in 2005 to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.Both orders let the United States freeze the U.S. assets of those targeted and effectively bar U.S. companies and individuals from dealing with them.The sources said the Biden administration also planned to act under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which provides a menu of punitive measures.The sources said some individuals would be targeted in the sanctions to be announced as early as Tuesday, but declined to name them or say what other sanctions may be imposed.
They added, however, that Washington would maintain waivers allowing foreign aid and certain export licenses for Russia.The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of sanctions.A third source said the U.S. action may be coordinated with sanctions the European Union could apply as soon as Tuesday.EU foreign ministers agreed on Feb. 22 to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in a mainly symbolic response to Navalny’s jailing. The EU was expected to formally approve those in early March.In the case of Navalny, Trump, whose term ended in January, did nothing to punish Russia. Top U.N. human rights experts said on Monday that Moscow was to blame for attempting to kill Navalny as part of a pattern of attacks on critics to quash dissent.After his medical treatment in Germany, Navalny, 44, returned to Russia in January. He was arrested and later sentenced to more than 2-1/2 years in jail for parole violations he said were trumped up.Biden last month called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated” and called for his release. He has pledged a new and tough approach toward Moscow, saying the United States would no longer be “rolling over” in the face of aggressive action by Russia.Washington and Moscow disagree on a wide range of issues on top of Navalny, such as Russia’s military ambitions in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as a cyberattack on U.S. government agencies last year that Washington blames on Russia. Moscow has denied responsibility for the hacking campaign.

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US Sending Patrol Boats, Equipment to Ukraine

On March 2, 2021, Posted by , in Новини, Світ, With No Comments

The Pentagon appears to be making good on Washington’s pledge to help Ukraine stand up to what the United States has described as “Russian aggression.” The Defense Department announced Monday a $125 million aid package for Kyiv as part of its ongoing Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. A Pentagon statement said the package includes two armed Mark VI patrol boats to help Ukraine “patrol and defend its territorial waters.”It also includes additional training, counter-artillery radars, medical support, and satellite imagery and analysis, and improvements that will allow Ukraine to improve interoperability with NATO. FILE – Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing, Feb. 17, 2021.”This action reaffirms the U.S. commitment to providing defensive lethal weapons to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday. The two patrol boats will give Kyiv a total of eight such vessels to operate in Ukrainian waters. According to the boat’s manufacturer, the vessels are designed to patrol in shallow waters, as well as around harbors and bays.  Last June, the State Department approved the sale of up to 16 of the patrol boats to Ukraine, along with gun systems and infrared radar, for an estimated cost of $600 million. The aid announced Monday is just the first part of a larger $275 million package approved by Congress for fiscal year 2021. The Defense Department said the final $150 million would be released once the State Department “certifies that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on key defense reforms.” “We obviously continue to encourage Ukraine to continue to enact reforms, to modernize the defense sector in line with NATO principles and standards,” Kirby said. Those reforms include an increased focus on civilian control of the military and continued modernization of Ukraine’s defense sector. During an address at the virtual Munich Security Conference last month, U.S. President Joe Biden called standing up for Ukraine’s territorial integrity a “vital concern.” 
 

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