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Biden sending more anti-aircraft systems, drones to Ukraine

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By Lisa Mascaro in Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy summoned the memory of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in appealing Wednesday to the U.S. Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia. President Joe Biden said the U.S. is sending more anti-aircraft, anti-armor weapons and drones.

Zelenskyy, livestreamed to a rapt audience of lawmakers on a giant screen, acknowledged the no-fly zone he has sought to “close the sky” to airstrikes on his country may not happen. Biden has resisted that, as well as approval for the U.S. or NATO to send MiG fighter jets from Poland.

Instead, Zelenskyy pleaded for other military aid to stop the Russian assault.

Biden, describing help he was already prepared to announce, said the U.S. will be sending an additional $800 million in military assistance, making a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since he took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in the past week. Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.

“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.

Biden spoke hours after Zelenskyy delivered a video address to members of U.S. Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the U.S. and West to provide more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.

For the first time in a public address to world leaders, he showed a packed auditorium of lawmakers a graphic video of the destruction and devastation his country has suffered in the war, along with heartbreaking scenes of civilian casualties.

“We need you right now,” Zelenskyy said. “I call on you to do more.”

Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his short remarks, which Zelenskyy began in Ukrainian through an interpreter but then switched to English in a heartfelt appeal to help end the bloodshed.

“I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths,” he said.

Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelenskyy has used the global stage to implore allied leaders to help stop the Russian invasion of his country. The young actor-turned-president often draws from history, giving weight to what have become powerful appearances.

Biden has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or the transfer of military jets from neighboring Poland as the U.S. seeks to avoid a direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

The White House has been weighing giving Ukraine access to U.S.-made Switchblade drones that can fly and strike Russian targets, according to a separate person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. It was not immediately clear if the new drones that Biden said would be delivered to Ukraine include the Switchblades.

Zelenskyy has emerged as a heroic figure at the center of what many view as the biggest security threat to Europe since World War II. Almost 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the fastest exodus in modern times.

Wearing his now trademark army green T-shirt, Zelinskyy began the remarks to his “American friends” by invoking the destruction the U.S. suffered in 1941 when Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by militants who commandeered passenger airplanes to crash into the symbols of Western democracy and economy.

“Remember Pearl Harbor? … Remember September 11?” Zelenzkyy asked. “Our countries experience the same every day right now.”

Biden said he listened to Zelenskyy’s “significant” speech but did not directly address the Ukrainian’s critique that the U.S. and West could be doing more. The U.S. president said Zelenskyy’s speech reflected Ukrainians “courage and strength” shown throughout the crisis.

“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”

Sen. Angus King, the Maine independent. said there was a “collective holding of the breath” in the room during Zelenskyy’s address. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said, “If you did not look at that video and feel there is an obligation for not only the United States but but the free countries of the world to come together in support of Ukraine, you had your eyes closed.” Majority Whip Dick Durbin called the address heartbreaking and said, “I’m on board with a blank check on sanctions, just whatever we can do to stop this Russian advance.”

Outside the Capitol demonstrators held a large sign lawmakers saw as they walked back to their offices. “No Fly Zone=World War 3.”

The Ukrainian president is no stranger to Congress, having played a central role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment. As president, Trump was accused of withholding security aid to Ukraine as he pressured Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on political rival Biden. Zelenskyy spoke Wednesday from a giant screen to many of the same Republican lawmakers who declined to impeach or convict Trump, but are among the bipartisan groundswell in Congress now clamoring for military aid to Ukraine.

He thanked the American people, saying Ukraine is grateful for the outpouring of support, even as he urged Biden to do more.

“You are the leader of the nation. I wish you be the leader of the world,” he said “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”

It was the latest visit as Zelenskky uses the West’s great legislative bodies in his appeals for help, invoking Shakespeare’s Hamlet last week at the British House of Commons asking whether Ukraine is “to be or not to be” and appealing Tuesday to “Dear Justin” as he addressed the Canadian Parliament and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He often pushes for more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.

To Congress, he drew on the image of Mount Rushmore and told the lawmakers that people in his country want to live their national dreams just as they do.

“Democracy, independence, freedom.”

Biden has insisted there will be no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine and has resisted Zelenskyy’s relentless pleas for warplanes as too risky, potentially escalating into a direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” Biden has said.

Zelenskyy appeared to acknowledge the political reality.

“Is this to too much to ask to create a no fly zone over Ukraine?” he asked, answering his own question. “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” he said, calling for weapons systems that would help fight Russian aircraft.

Already the Biden administration has sent Ukraine more than 600 Stinger missiles, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, unmanned aerial system tracking radars, grenade launchers, 200 shotguns, 200 machine guns and nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition, along with helicopters, patrol boats, satellite imagery and body armor, helmets, and other tactical gear, the U.S. official said.

Congress has already approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and the newly announced security aid will come from that allotment, which is part of a broader bill that Biden signed into law Tuesday.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Mary Clare Jalonick, Aamer Madhani, Ellen Knickmeyer, Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Alan Fram, Nomaan Merchant and Chris Megerian and Raf Casert in Brussels, Jill Lawless in London, Aritz Parra in Madrid and videojournalist Rick Gentilo contributed to this report.

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armed conflict

Quebecer Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, code name ‘Beaver,’ dies on front lines in Ukraine

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By Virginie Ann in Montreal

Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, a 31-year-old Quebecer who recently died in Ukraine fighting Russian forces, volunteered on the front lines because he wanted to protect innocent women and children, according to a soldier who fought with him.

Roy-Sirois “was an intellectual who cared about humanity,” said Blackhawk, a fighter who, for security reasons, would only use a code name in an interview Monday on Instagram.

“He was kind and never meant anyone harm. He listened to orders and was brave.”

Roy-Sirois died on July 18 after spending about four months fighting in Ukraine, said Blackhawk, who is from Idaho. “He died a hero beside his friends trying to transport a wounded American named Luke, code name Skywalker.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress issued a statement on Monday saying it was saddened to learn about the death of Roy-Sirois.

“Mr. Roy-Sirois will be remembered by the Ukrainian people and our community for his selflessness and commitment to the values of liberty and justice that Canada and Ukraine share,” the organization said.

The leader of Roy-Sirois’s team of fighters in Ukraine said the Quebecer and three other volunteers were killed by a Russian tank shell near Siversk, in the eastern part of the country. Angel — who also wouldn’t use his real name for security reasons — said he felt lucky to have Roy-Sirois as “a brother in battle.”

“We were the only two Canadians who made it to the front lines and stayed,” Angel, who is from Saskatchewan, said Monday in an interview on Facebook Messenger. “He had the option to leave the front line but stayed. Anyone would be proud of his bravery, and I was lucky enough to have him.”

Angel and Blackhawk both described Roy-Sirois as an easygoing, funny guy whose code name was “Beaver.”

“He said there were a lot of beavers in Canada,” Blackhawk said.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement it is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine but did not give details.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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armed conflict

Special meeting of House foreign affairs committee will discuss Russia turbine export

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OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee will hold a special meeting this morning to discuss Canada’s controversial decision to send repaired parts for a Russian natural gas pipeline back to Germany.

The Liberal government is facing mounting pressure over its move to exempt six Siemens Energy turbines, which were serviced in Montreal, from the economic sanctions it levied against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom reduced gas deliveries from its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which runs to northeastern Germany, by 60 per cent last month, citing turbine-related technical problems.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the decision to deliver the turbines was made so Canada could support European allies that are facing energy crises as Russia constricts access to its oil and gas supply.

Conservative and NDP MPs triggered the meeting of the House of Commons foreign affairs and international development committee to raise their request for a study on the exports.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress called for such a meeting earlier this week, and the Ukraine World Congress is petitioning the Federal Court to uphold the sanctions regime and stop the shipment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Ukraine criticizes Canada over return of turbines for Russia-Germany pipeline

The Ukrainian government is calling on Canada to reconsider its decision to allow the delivery of turbines from a Russia-Europe natural gas pipeline to Germany, saying it sets a “dangerous precedent” when it comes to sanctions against the Russian regime.

Natural Services Canada Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced on social media Saturday that turbines from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline—which supplies natural gas from Russia to Germany — that had been sent to Montreal for scheduled repairs would be allowed to be returned.

Back in June, Siemens Energy said Canadian sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine meant the company couldn’t return the turbines.

In his recent announcement, Wilkinson said turbine maker Siemens Canada would be granted a “time-limited and revocable permit” to return the equipment — essentially giving it an exemption.

He said delivery was necessary to support “Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy” as it tries to transition away from reliance on Russian oil and gas. The government says it plans to return six turbines.

In a statement Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Energy Ministry expressed their “deep disappointment” in Canada’s decision.

“This dangerous precedent violates international solidarity, goes against the principle of the rule of law and will have only one consequence: it will strengthen Moscow’s sense of impunity,” it read.

In the lead up to Canada’s decision, German vice chancellor Robert Habeck had voiced concerns Russia may shut off deliveries of natural gas to Europe after the planned maintenance.  The warning followed Russia’s previous reduction of natural gas flow to Germany, along with Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

While Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, has blamed the pipeline’s reduction of natural gas to Germany on the repairs in Canada, German leaders have cast doubt on the explanation of technical problems and characterized it instead as a political move.

The Ukrainian government voiced similar concerns in its statement, saying Russia’s threats amounted to “blackmail that has no technical justification.”

“Russia is able to continue to supply gas to Germany in full without this turbine,” it said.

Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, warned last month it was in a crisis over Russia’s decision to cut the amount of gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60 per cent.

Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, expressed disappointment in Canada’s decision, saying Ottawa is bowing to Russian threats to cut off the gas supply by fulfilling Germany’s request.

“Canada will not only contravene its policy of isolating Russia, it will set a dangerous precedent that will lead to the weakening of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia,” Chyczij said in a statement.

“This decision will ensure that the coffers of the Russian state budget will continue to be filled with European money which will be used to finance Russia’s genocide against the Ukrainian people. ”

Chyczij said Canada was put in the position of deciding whether to fulfill the request of an ally or “hold firm on the sanctions imposed on Gazprom and Nordstream 1.”

Three Conservative MPs also issued a statement on Sunday saying that allowing the equipment’s return undermines the sanctions Canada has imposed on Russia at a time when it should be stepping up as an alternative provider of gas to Europe instead.

“Allowing the return of the gas turbine sets a dangerous precedent of folding to Putin’s blackmail of Europe, and will negatively impact Canada’s standing on the world stage,” reads a joint statement by Tories Michael Chong,  James Bezan and Pierre Paul-Hus.

In light of the criticism over Canada’s decision, Wilkinson’s office pointed to the minister’s earlier statement. It said not only was Germany’s economy vulnerable, but “Germans themselves will be at risk of being unable to heat their homes as winter approaches.”

The statement also noted Canada has levied sanctions against more than 1,600 individuals since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

The same day Wilkinson announced the turbines would be returned, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Canada planned to apply a new set of sanctions targeting Russia’s land and pipeline transportation and manufacturing sectors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

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