Russia claims to have taken full control of Mariupol; Ukraine seeks compensation for destruction

International Muslim History Month returns to shed light on pioneers and sees quadrupled participation

LONDON: An annual initiative that celebrates Muslim accomplishments throughout history and confronts Islamophobia globally through education has grown significantly in popularity, with social media engagement quadrupling in just a year, organizers said.

International Muslim History Month, which was established by the New York-based World Hijab Day organization in 2021 and runs throughout May, aims to acknowledge and raise awareness of the Muslim trailblazers who helped to shape humanity.

The organization told Arab News that the event, which is geared toward schools, universities, workplaces, businesses, organizations, and social settings, is a celebration for everyone, irrespective of ethnicity or religious backgrounds.

BACKGROUND

International Muslim History Month, which was established by the New York-based World Hijab Day organization in 2021 and runs throughout May, aims to acknowledge and raise awareness of the Muslim trailblazers who helped to shape humanity.

More than 26 countries participated in the inaugural IMHM 12 months ago but this year the number has increased significantly, WHD said, with more individuals, organizations, businesses, and educational institutions taking part.

“In addition, we have seen a rise in awareness of IMHM on social media by individuals and academics, (and) our reach on social media has quadrupled from last year,” it added.

The organization — which founded World Hijab Day, held on Feb. 1 each year to spread awareness of the hijab and why it is worn — said its goal was for IMHM to be federally recognized nationwide within the US, and internationally, to help tackle Islamophobia worldwide.

New York adopted a resolution to recognize the month on May 4, 2021, “to pay tribute to those who foster ethnic pride and enhance the profile of cultural diversity which strengthens the fabrics of the communities of the New York State,” Andrew Cuomo, the governor at the time, said.

WHD has been calling on legislators worldwide to do the same. It is also urging individuals, organizations, and educational institutions to get involved and help raise awareness of the campaign.

The ways in which Muslims and non-Muslims can participate include social media engagement, petitioning government officials to recognize May as International Muslim History Month, supporting a Muslim business or donating to a Muslim organization, reading a biography of an influential Muslim figure and sharing their story, or calling out discrimination and prejudice against Muslims within their community.

The theme of this year’s event focuses on Muslim pioneers from the Golden Age to modern times in four categories: medicine; STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics); liberal arts; and discovery, including inventors, explorers, and innovators. Conferences have been organized each week to raise awareness of significant figures in these fields.

“In the first conference, the presenters discussed the examples of Ibn Sina, the father of early modern medicine, from the Golden Age, to Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci, the creators of BioNTech, a company focused on making personalized cancer vaccines,” WHD said. In partnership with Pfizer, BioNTech also developed a vaccine for COVID-19.

Other notable Muslims that were highlighted this year include 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, sixth-century Arab poet Imru’ Al-Qais, Pakistani-American neurosurgeon Dr. Ayub Ommaya, Palestinian-Jordanian molecular biologist Dr. Rana Dajani, Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta, Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, Turkish astronomer Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil, among dozens of others.

WHD has also partnered with different organizations including Majlis Ash-Shoura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York, an umbrella organization that represents more than 90 mosques and organizations.

“In the last two decades, Muslims in general have been painted negatively especially in the media,” the organization’s founder and chief executive officer, Nazma Khan, said.

Growing up in New York, she pointed out that her driving factor had been noticing the “minimal to no inclusion of Muslim-Islamic history across the general school curriculum.”

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Ukraine Says It Repelled Russian Attack As War Grinds In East

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities said Friday that their troops repelled a Russian attack in the east, as Moscow struggled to gain ground in the region that is now the focus of the war even while intensifying its campaign there.

Battered by their monthslong siege of the vital port city of Mariupol, Russian troops need time to regroup, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an assessment — but they may not get it. The city and the steelworks where Ukrainian fighters have held off the Russian assault for weeks have become a symbol of Ukraine’s stoic resistance and surprising ability to stymie a much larger force.

On Friday, a number of soldiers — just how many was unclear — were still holed up in the Azovstal plant, following the surrender of more than 1,900 soldiers in recent days, according to the latest figure from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Efforts to remove the dead from the battle were also underway, according to Denis Prokopenko, the commander of the Azov Regiment, which is among those defending the plant.

Speaking of the “fallen heroes,” Prokopenko said: “I hope soon relatives and the whole of Ukraine will be able to bury the fighters with honors.” The Red Cross, meanwhile, said it has visited prisoners of war from all sides of the conflict, amid international fears that the Russians may take reprisals against Ukrainian prisoners.

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after leaving Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, near a penal colony, in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, on May 20, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after leaving Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant, near a penal colony, in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, on May 20, 2022.

With the battle for the steel plant winding down, Russia has already started pulling troops back from the site. But the British assessment indicated Russian commanders are under pressure to quickly send them elsewhere in the Donbas.

“That means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition,” the ministry said.

The Donbas is now President Vladimir Putin’s focus after his troops failed to take the capital in the early days of the war. Pro-Moscow separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years in the region and held a considerable swath of it before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

But the effort to take more territory there has been slow-going. In a sign of Russia’s frustration with the war, some senior commanders have been fired in recent weeks, the British Defense Ministry said.

— Russia will cut off natural gas to Finland on Saturday, the Finnish state-owned energy company said. Poland and Bulgaria were cut off late last month, as Moscow tries to use its energy exports to hit back at Western countries that are helping Ukraine. The moves comes after Finland and Sweden applied for membership in the NATO alliance, driven by security concerns in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on May 16, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on May 16, 2022.

(Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via Associated Press

— A young Russian soldier, accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian, awaited his fate in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial. Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old soldier in a Russian tank unit, has pleaded guilty, but the prosecution still presented its evidence, in line with Ukrainian law. Shishimarin told the court Thursday that he shot 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov after he was ordered to — and apologized to the widow.

Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin stands in court during a hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 19, 2022.
Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin stands in court during a hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 19, 2022.

Roman Hrytsyna via Associated Press

— The Group of Seven leading economies and global financial institutions agreed this week to provide more money to bolster Ukraine’s public finances, bringing the total aid to $19.8 billion, Germany’s finance minister said Friday. Western financial and arms support have been critical to Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.

On Friday, a governor in the Donbas said Russian forces attacked the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Twelve people were killed, and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region, Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post.

But the attack on Severodonetsk was unsuccessful. Both Haidai and Ukraine’s General Staff of the military said Russia took losses and retreated. Their reports could not be independently verified.

Still, Russia’s struggles in the east only seemed to translate into an intensifying offensive that is inflicting increasing suffering.

“It is hell there, and that’s not an exaggeration,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of the campaign.

“The brutal and completely senseless bombardment of Severodonetsk. Twelve dead and dozens wounded there in just one day,” he said in his nightly video address Thursday night to the nation.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend the funeral of Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine's first president, at the International Convention Center Ukrainian House, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 17, 2022.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend the funeral of Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine’s first president, at the International Convention Center Ukrainian House, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 17, 2022.

Evgeniy Maloletka via Associated Press

While Mariupol was a target from the start of the invasion and has been under effective Russian control for some time, a group of Ukrainian fighters have held out in the sprawling steel plant — symbolic of the way Ukrainian forces have managed to grind down the Russian troops.

While hundreds of fighters have left, in a brief video message, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment said he and other fighters were still inside.

“An operation is underway, the details of which I will not announce,” Svyatoslav Palamar said.

An APC of Donetsk People's Republic militia stands not far from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, on May 19, 2022.
An APC of Donetsk People’s Republic militia stands not far from Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant, in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, on May 19, 2022.

While Ukraine has expressed hope for a prisoner exchange for those who have surrendered, Russian authorities have threatened to possibly try for war crimes some of the Azovstal fighters.

The far-right origins of the Azov Regiment have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast Russia’s invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.

The International Red Cross said this week that it has registered hundreds of fighters who left the plant as prisoners of war, as part of its role in ensuring their humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions. The organization revealed Friday that it has visited prisoners of war on “all sides” since the start of the fighting. That allows it to pass on information to families about their loved ones.

The organization did not say how many families had been informed about their relatives or where the visits took place.

McQuillan reported from Lviv. Associated Press journalists Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Jamey Keaten in Geneva and other AP staffers around the world contributed.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine


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Boeing’s astronaut capsule arrives at International Space Station in test do over – National

With only a test dummy aboard, Boeing’s astronaut capsule pulled up and parked at the International Space Station for the first time Friday, a huge achievement for the company after years of false starts.

The only other time Boeing’s Starliner flew in space, it never got anywhere near the station, ending up in the wrong orbit.


In this handout photo provided by NASA, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeings CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41 on May 19, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Boeings Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is Starliners second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 launched at 6:54 p.m. ET, and will serve as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities.


(Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)

This time, the overhauled spacecraft made it to the right spot following Thursday’s launch and docked at the station 25 hours later. The automated rendezvous went off without a major hitch, despite a pair of thrusters that failed during liftoff.

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Boeing’s flight comes three years after Elon Musk‘s Spacex pulled off the same test. SpaceX has since launched 18 astronauts to the space station for NASA, as well as tourists.

With Starliner’s arrival, NASA finally realized its longtime effort to have two crew capsules from competing U.S. companies flying to the space station. A SpaceX Dragon capsule was parked nearby.

If the rest of Starliner’s mission goes well, Boeing could be ready to launch its first crew by the end of this year. The astronauts likely to serve on the first Starliner crew joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston, as the action unfolded nearly 270 miles (435 kilometers) up.

NASA wants redundancy when it comes to the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s long road with Starliner underscores the importance of having two types of crew capsules. U.S. astronauts were stuck riding Russian rockets once the shuttle program ended, until SpaceX’s first crew flight in 2020.


A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner spacecraft lifts off from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission on May 19, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States on May 19, 2022.. This is the second un-crewed flight test for the Starliner capsule which will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA Commercial Crew Program.


(Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Boeing’s first Starliner test flight in 2019 was plagued by software errors that cut the mission short and could have doomed the spacecraft. Those were corrected, but when the new capsule awaited liftoff last summer, corroded valves halted the countdown. More repairs followed, as Boeing chalked up nearly $600 million in do-over costs.

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Before letting Starliner get close to the space station Friday, Boeing ground controllers practiced maneuvering the capsule and tested its robotic vision system. Everything checked out well, Boeing said, except for a cooling loop and the two failed thrusters. The capsule held a steady temperature, however, and had plenty of other thrusters for steering.

Once Starliner was within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of the space station, Boeing flight controllers in Houston could see the space station through the capsule’s cameras. “We’re waving. Can you see us?” joked station astronaut Bob Hines.


Click to play video: 'Boeing Starliner fails to reach proper orbit during test'







Boeing Starliner fails to reach proper orbit during test


Boeing Starliner fails to reach proper orbit during test – Dec 20, 2019

The gleaming white-with-blue-trim capsule hovered 33 feet (10 meters) from the station for close to two hours – considerably longer than planned – as flight controllers adjusted its docking ring and ensured everything else was in order. When the green light finally came, Starliner closed the gap in four minutes, eliciting cheers in Boeing’s control center.

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The space station’s seven astronauts will unload groceries and gear from Starliner and pack it up with experiments. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that splashes down off the Florida coast, Starliner will aim for a landing in New Mexico next Wednesday.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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Cannes screens last testament of filmmaker killed in Ukraine’s Mariupol

Issued on:

“Mariupolis 2”, a raw portrayal of Ukrainian civilians’ struggle for survival, was completed after the death of Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius. FRANCE 24 spoke to his partner and co-director, Hanna Bilobrova, about the film’s message and the importance of screening it in Cannes.

Russia’s war in Ukraine was once again in the spotlight at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday as an unidentified woman stormed a red carpet premiere, stripping off her clothes to reveal the words “Stop raping us” written across her torso, next to the blue and yellow colours of the Ukraine flag. It was the latest in a string of references to the plight of a war-torn country whose president opened the festival earlier this week with an emotional appeal to the power of cinema.

Films by and about Ukrainians feature prominently in this year’s line-up, directed by artists who spent the past decade chronicling war in the former Soviet bloc and warning the world about the threat of escalation. Among them was Lithuania’s Mantas Kvedaravičius, who paid with his own life for his efforts to document those of Ukrainian civilians in a time of war.

Friday's red-carpet protest against rapes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Friday’s red-carpet protest against rapes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. © Mehdi Chebil

By any measure, “Mariupolis 2” is an extraordinary feat, a real-life, real-time chronicle of a devastating war being fought right now, at the other end of Europe. The tragic disappearance of its director has given added urgency to its screening in Cannes – an emotional highlight for a festival that is unfolding in the shadow of war.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Kvedaravičius shot a documentary in Mariupol, released two years later, in which he recounted its citizens’ efforts to continue their lives against the backdrop of war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas. In March of this year, as Russian tanks rolled into the city itself, he returned to Mariupol to film “Part 2” of his documentary. But he did not live to see it completed. In early April, just over two weeks after his arrival, he was captured and killed by Russian forces.

The material Kvedaravičius shot was compiled by his fiancée and co-director, Hanna Bilobrova, and their editor Dounia Sichov, in a one-month race against the clock to ensure it could be submitted for selection in Cannes. It follows a group of around 30 survivors, women, children and men above 50, who have taken refuge in the basement of a Baptist church as bombs and Russian troops close in.

Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival © FRANCE24

“We didn’t choose the church; the church chose us,” said Bilobrova, who accompanied Kvedaravičius to Mariupol and retrieved the footage after his death. The original plan had been to reach the Mariupol theatre that served as the city’s main shelter until Russian bombs destroyed it, burying hundreds of civilians trapped inside. “The church was our second stop and after this stop we could not move,” she added. “We were literally stuck there with this community.”

At the film’s premiere in Cannes, Bilobrova fought back tears as she paid tribute to her late partner. Kvedaravičius was both a filmmaker and an anthropologist, she said, accounting for the film’s naturalistic and distinctly unspectacular take on the human experience of war.

Landscapes of destruction

“Mariupolis 2” was shot entirely on the grounds of the church and its immediate surroundings, following its temporary dwellers as they hide, wait, pray and endlessly sweep up the debris scattered around by relentless bombing. It is entirely devoid of storytelling, offering only landscapes of destruction interspersed with scenes of the everyday, in which community resilience – rather than individual characters – is the subject.

The film exposes the harrowing banality of war in a region scarred by almost a decade of conflict, in which hapless civilians discuss, in one breath, the sunny weather and the type of shell that just exploded nearby. As people scour the rubble looking for items of use, the camera reveals shocking adjacency between life and death – in one instance dwelling at length on two men as they labour to remove a generator while its owner’s dead body is in the frame.

A still from "Mariupolis 2".
A still from “Mariupolis 2”. © Festival de Cannes

“There’s my house,” says one man in his sixties, pointing at rubble scattered around an enormous crater, just across the road from the church. “I worked 30 years to build it, now I have nothing,” he adds. “We lived well in Soviet times,” sighs another, marvelling at the absurdity of a war fought by “morons on both sides”.

In the distance, seen through the shattered windows of bombed out buildings, columns of smoke rise in between huge factory chimneys, signs of the fierce battle raging around the Azovstal steel plant. In between the blasts and bursts of gunfire, an eerie silence prevails. There are none of the normal sounds of city life – just bombs, gunshots and dogs barking.

“We always experience war without the experience of war, because someone (tells) us that war looks like this,” said Bilobrova, reflecting on traditional portrayals of war both in fiction and in the news. “It’s a representation of war by someone else, (…) talking about war, not about people. No one is showing us people who live under war.”

“Mantas was always looking at us, at people, with great freedom and without preconceived ideas,” added Nadia Turincev, the film’s producer. “We’re happy that his vision can be seen and shared here, at the biggest film festival in the world,” she said. “It means his vision will now have a wider echo.”

‘Cinema is politics,’ Russian dissident director Kirill Serebrennikov tells FRANCE 24 in Cannes

Kirill Serebrennikov - Cannes 2022
Kirill Serebrennikov – Cannes 2022 © France 24

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Sexual misconduct allegation ‘utterly untrue’, says Elon Musk

News outlet Insider reported earlier in the day that Musk’s rocket company SpaceX paid a woman $250,000 in 2018 to settle a misconduct claim against him.

This handout image released by TED Conferences shows Tesla chief Elon Musk speaking during an interview with head of TED Chris Anderson (out of frame) at the TED2022: A New Era conference in Vancouver, Canada, 14 April 2022. Picture: Ryan Lash / TED Conferences, LLC / AFP

LOS ANGELES – Elon Musk rejected on Thursday allegations that he groped and exposed himself to a flight attendant six years ago.

“Those wild accusations are utterly untrue,” the world’s wealthiest person posted on Twitter, the platform he is currently in the stalled process of buying for $44 billion.

News outlet Insider reported earlier in the day that Musk’s rocket company SpaceX paid a woman $250,000 in 2018 to settle a misconduct claim against him.

The report said Musk, who was receiving a massage from the woman in question during a flight on a private jet to London, exposed his erect penis to her, touched her leg without consent, and asked her to perform a sex act.

It cited a woman who said she was a friend of the flight attendant in question.

“The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens – this is their standard (despicable) playbook,” Musk tweeted Thursday.

He did not specify who “their” referred to, but added: “I have a challenge to this liar who claims their friend saw me ‘exposed’ – describe just one thing, anything at all (scars, tattoos, …) that isn’t known by the public. She won’t be able to do so, because it never happened.”

The South Africa-born entrepreneur – who holds US, Canadian and South African citizenship – had earlier said he was switching his support from the US Democratic party to the Republicans.

“Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold …” he added.

This week, Musk – whose estimated net worth is $265 billion – put on hold his bid to buy Twitter, saying it would not proceed unless he got proof of the number of spam accounts plaguing the platform.

As well as his prolific tweeting, on-again-off-again relationship with pop star Grimes, sizeable wealth and SpaceX ventures, Musk is primarily known as the founder of electric vehicle company Tesla.

He has said he wants to make humans an “interplanetary species” by establishing a colony on Mars.

Musk has also made headlines of a less flattering kind: Tesla has faced a series of lawsuits alleging discrimination and harassment against Black workers, as well as sexual harassment.


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Russia claims Mariupol takeover, Ukraine ends defense: Reports

Russia claimed to have captured Mariupol Friday after a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the strategic port city to ruins, with over 20,000 civilians feared dead, as Ukraine on the same day ordered its last troops holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks to lay down their arms, reports indicate.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin the “complete liberation” of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol – the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance – and the city as a whole, spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the ministry as saying a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at the steelworks had surrendered since Monday, including over 500 on Friday.

A defense ministry video purporting to show the surrender showed a line of unarmed men approaching Russian soldiers outside the plant and giving their names. The Russians then carefully searched each man and their possessions and also appeared to be asking the defenders to show their tattoos

Ukraine’s Azov regiment commander Denys Prokopenko had earlier said only the dead remained.

“The higher military command has given the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison and to stop defending the city,” he said in a video on Telegram.

“I now hope that soon, the families and all of Ukraine will be able to bury their fighters with honors.”

Ukraine wants to exchange the surrendering Azovstal soldiers for Russian prisoners. But in Donetsk, the pro-Kremlin authorities are in turn threatening to put some of them on trial.

The International Committee of the Red Cross urged both sides to grant it access to prisoners of war and civilian internees, “wherever they are held.”

“Many more families need answers,” it said in a statement.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said all prisoners of war should “be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the law of war.”

Russian attacks on Mariupol, in southeast Ukraine, began shortly after the war started in late February.

As Russian troops gradually took control of the strategic city on the Sea of Azov through relentless aerial bombardments and a blockade, the last Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol took cover at the Azovstal site, which features an underground network of bunkers and tunnels. Water, food, medicine and ammunition were all in short supply.

In what amounted to an admission of defeat, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared the two-month-long battle for the last contested piece of Mariupol over at the start of the week, paving the way for the Ukrainian troops to be taken prisoner by the Russians.

On Monday, the first 264 soldiers surrendered, including more than 50 seriously injured. According to Russia, more were captured on Thursday, but commanders and some fighters had continued to hold their ground.

But earlier on Friday, the remaining Ukrainian defenders of the steel plant had decided that they saw no point in continuing on, according to a video message released by Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment.

“The army leadership has given the order to stop defending the city,” Prokopenko said, adding the decision was taken to protect the lives and health of the soldiers.

A total of 2,439 Ukrainian combatants have been taken into Russian captivity at the steelworks since May 16, according to the ministry.

Moscow had always said they it assumed there were about 2,500 Ukrainian fighters at the site. The government in Kyiv, on the other hand, had given their number as only 1,000.

The Kremlin has not clarified what comes next. Kyiv has suggested they could be exchanged for Russians held by Ukraine, although some in Moscow have called for the Ukrainian forces to be treated as criminals and put on trial.

Most of the devastated city’s prewar population of 400,000 has fled in recent weeks.

Russia was focused on Mariupol because conquering the city would help create a corridor between the Crimean peninsula and pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow claimed success in that part of Ukraine, too.

Defence Minister Shoigu said earlier in the day that Russian troops were continuing their advance across the eastern Donbass region and the “liberation” of the Luhansk People’s Republic was close at hand,

The Donbass, where fighting has intensified in recent weeks, contains the two self-declared “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were formed by pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

Putin had announced that Russia would recognize the breakaway regions as independent of Ukraine shortly before launching his invasion on Feb. 24.

Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said expanding its investigation into human rights violations committed during Russia’s war.

Observers have been sent to Ukraine to interview witnesses and survivors, the OSCE Office for Democracy and Human Rights says.

The office has also interviewed people who fled to neighboring countries before Moscow’s invasion began.

The OSCE is focusing on the civilian population and prisoners of war, with attacks on civilians, killings, abductions and torture the most urgent issues. It will likely be months before a report is ready.

Only a small number of the alleged atrocities against civilians in Ukraine for which Russian soldiers stand accused are even reported, according to Ukrainian officials.

“We have found evidence of many crimes, including sexual crimes, which often go unreported,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. She said it was a Russian tactic to break the morale of the Ukrainian population.

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US says ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Rusesabagina ‘wrongly detained’

Rusesabagina, 67, was sentenced last September to 25 years in prison over eight terrorism charges tied to an organization opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s rule. He has denied all the charges and refused to take part in the trial that he and his supporters have called a political sham.

“The determination took into account the totality of the circumstances, notably the lack of fair trial guarantees during his trial. This determination does not imply any position on his innocence or guilt,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Rusesabagina, who was feted around the world after being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in 2004’s “Hotel Rwanda,” is a vocal critic of Kagame. He is being held in a Rwandan prison.

Paul Rusesabagina of 'Hotel Rwanda' fame sentenced to 25 years on terrorism charges

He has acknowledged having a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), but denied responsibility for attacks carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN). The trial judges said the two groups were indistinguishable.

The “wrongfully detained” designation means the responsibility for the case will now be transferred from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to the office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, effectively raising the issue’s political profile.

Under 2020 legislation passed by Congress, there are criteria outlined in 11 points, based on which the Secretary of State can make the designation of wrongfully detained.

Among those are the cases of individuals who are being detained solely or substantially because they are an American citizen or with the purpose of influencing U.S. government policy.

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World Health Organization confirms 80 cases of monkeypox with outbreaks in 11 countries

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC via AP

The World Health Organization has confirmed about 80 cases of monkeypox with recent outbreaks reported in 11 countries, according to a statement Friday from the global health agency.

The outbreaks are unusual because they are occurring in countries where the virus is not endemic, according to the WHO. More cases will likely be reported in the coming days as surveillance expands, the global health agency said.

“WHO is working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected, and to provide guidance on how to manage the disease,” the WHO said.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus in the same family as smallpox but is not as severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, monkeypox can result in death for 1 in 10 people who contract the disease based on observations in Africa, according to the CDC.

The smallpox vaccine is 85% effective at preventing monkeypox based on observational studies in Africa, according to the WHO and CDC.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact with people, animals or material infected with with the virus. It enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, the eyes, nose and mouth. Though human-to-human transmission is believed to occur through respiratory droplets as well, this requires prolonged face-to-face contact because the droplets cannot travel more than a few feet, according to the CDC.

“As monkeypox spreads through close contact, the response should focus on the people affected and their close contacts,” the WHO said. Health-care workers, household members and sexual partners of people who have the virus are at greater risk of disease, according to the WHO.

The U.S. CDC confirmed a monkeypox case in Massachusetts on Wednesday. The person had recently traveled to Canada using private transportation. New York City is investigating a possible monkeypox case, according to a health department statement Thursday.

Monkeypox usually begins with symptoms similar to the flu including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC. Within 1 to 3 days of fever onset, patients develop a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other body parts. The illness usually lasts for about 2 to 4 weeks.

Monkeypox is usually found in Central and West African nations with rainforests where animals that carry the virus live, according to the WHO. However, outbreaks have previously occurred outside Africa. In 2003, the U.S. had the first monkeypox outbreak outside Africa, caused by human contact with infected prairie dogs kept as pets. The 2003 U.S. outbreak resulted in more than 70 cases.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

CNBC Health & Science

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Russia claims to have full control of Mariupol as wives share last messages from Ukraine fighters: “Love you. Kiss you. Bye.”

Russia claimed to have captured Mariupol on Friday in what would be its biggest victory yet in its war in Ukraine. The announcement came following a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the strategic port city to a smoking ruin, with over 20,000 civilians feared dead.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin the “complete liberation” of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol – the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance – and the city as a whole, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Buses carrying Ukrainian Azovstal service members arrive in Olenivka
Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, sit in a bus upon their arrival under escort of the pro-Russian military in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine May 20, 2022.

ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO / REUTERS


Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the ministry as saying that a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at Azovstal had laid down their arms and surrendered since Monday, including over 500 on Friday.

The steelworks had been the site of fierce fighting for weeks. The dwindling group of outgunned fighters had held out in the plant, drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire before their government ordered them to abandon its defense and save their lives.

Wives of fighters who held out at the steelworks spoke emotionally about what may have been their last contact with their husbands.

Olga Boiko, wife of a marine, wiped away tears as she said that her husband had written her on Thursday: “Hello. We surrender, I don’t know when I will get in touch with you and if I will at all. Love you. Kiss you. Bye.”

Natalia Zaritskaya, wife of another fighter at Azovstal, said that based on the messages she had seen over the past two days, “Now they are on the path from hell to hell. Every inch of this path is deadly.”

She said that two days ago, her husband reported that of the 32 soldiers with whom he had served, only eight survived, most of them seriously wounded.

The complete takeover of Mariupol gives Putin a badly needed military victory in the war he began on Feb. 24 – a conflict that was supposed to have been a quick and easy victory for the Kremlin but instead has seen the failure to take the capital of Kyiv, a pullback of its forces to refocus on battles in eastern Ukraine and even the sinking of Russia’s flagship of its Black Sea fleet, the Moskva.

Military analysts say the city’s capture at this point holds more symbolic importance than anything else, since Mariupol is already effectively under Moscow’s control and most of the Russian forces that were tied down by the drawn-out fighting have already left.

Russia had sought control of Mariupol, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, to complete a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops to join the growing battle for control of the wider industrial Donbas region, home to an 8-year-old Moscow-backed separatist rebellion. It would also deprive Ukraine of a vital port.

The city endured some of the worst suffering of the war. An estimated 100,000 people remained from a prewar population of 450,000, many trapped without food, water, heat or electricity. Constant bombardment has left behind shattered and charred buildings in row after row of destroyed apartment blocks and ruined neighborhoods.

A maternity hospital was hit with a lethal Russian airstrike on March 9, producing searing images of pregnant women being evacuated from the facility.

A week later, about 300 people were reported killed in a bombing of a theater where civilians were taking shelter, although the real death toll could be closer to 600. Officials had written the word “CHILDREN” in Russian on the pavement outside to try to forestall an aerial attack.

Long traffic jams of cars snaked out of the city, filled with evacuees fleeing past checkpoints of Russian soldiers with heavy weapons who didn’t have time to search inside each vehicle in the convoys.

Satellite images in April showed what appeared to be mass graves near Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of concealing the slaughter by burying up to 9,000 civilians. The imagery showed rows of graves stretching away from an existing cemetery in the town of Manhush, outside the port city.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko accused the Russians of “hiding their military crimes” in the mass graves and labeled it “the new Babi Yar” — recalling the ravine in Kyiv where the Nazis massacred nearly 34,000 Ukrainian Jews during World War II.

It was not the first time Moscow has claimed to have captured Mariupol. At a joint appearance with his defense minister on April 21, Putin declared that “the completion of combat work to liberate Mariupol is a success.” Even though die-hard Ukrainian forces were still inside the Azovstal plant at that point, Putin ordered the military to seal off the complex “so that not even a fly comes through.”

After continued bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on May 16 the evacuation of his forces from the bunkers and tunnels beneath Azovstal was done to save the lives of the fighters.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle,” Zelenskyy said.

The Azovstal complex covers 11 square kilometers (4 square miles) and is threaded with about 24 kilometers (15 miles) of tunnels and bunkers. Earlier in May, hundreds of civilians were evacuated from the plant during humanitarian cease-fires.

One civilian evacuee from Azovstal, who made it to the Ukrainian controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on May 3, said she went to sleep at the plant every night afraid she wouldn’t wake up. “You can’t imagine how scary it is when you sit in the bomb shelter, in a damp and wet basement, and it is bouncing and shaking,” said Elina Tsybulchenko, 54.

While Russia described the troops leaving the steel plant as a mass surrender, the Ukrainians called it a fulfilled mission.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, described the defense of Mariupol as “the Thermopylae of the 21st century” – a reference to one of history’s most glorious defeats, in which 300 Spartans held off a much larger Persian force in 480 B.C. before finally succumbing.

“The Azovstal defenders thwarted the enemy’s plans to seize eastern Ukraine, drew away enormous numbers of enemy forces, and changed the course of the war,” Podolyak said.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Mariupol’s defenders gave Ukraine “critically important time to form reserves and regroup forces and receive help from partners. And they fulfilled all their tasks.”

The U.S. has gathered intelligence that shows some Russian officials have become concerned that Russian forces in the ravaged port city of Mariupol are carrying out grievous abuses, a U.S official familiar with the newly declassified findings told CBS News.

The Russian officials are concerned that the abuses will backfire and further inspire Mariupol residents to resist the Russian occupation. The U.S. official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Russians, who were not identified, also feared that the abuses will undercut Russia’s claim that they’ve liberated the Russian-speaking city.

Meanwhile, teams of war crimes investigators are hard at work across Ukraine gathering evidence they hope will lead to more prosecutions of Russia’s invading forces. 

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Russia ramps up assault aiming to seize Ukrainian province for separatists

VICTORY

Capturing Luhansk and Donetsk would allow Moscow to claim victory after it announced last month that this was now its objective. It achieved a major step towards that goal this week, when Ukraine ordered its garrison in the main Donbas port, Mariupol, to stand down after a near three-month siege.

Russia’s Shoigu said around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in the past four days.

Kyiv has not confirmed how many fighters have surrendered, but Britain gave the first official Western confirmation that a large Ukrainian force had laid down arms in the plant, estimating the number at around 1,700. An unknown number were still believed to be inside, it said.

In a video, the commander of the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian unit that had defended the plant, confirmed the order to stop fighting was being carried out, and said all civilians and wounded fighters were now out.

Denys Prokopenko, the commander, gave no details of the fate of other fighters, but said a process was under way to remove the dead from underground tunnels and bunkers.

“I hope that in the near future, relatives and Ukraine will be able to bury their soldiers with honour,” Prokopenko said.

The Red Cross says it has registered hundreds of Ukrainians who surrendered as prisoners of war, but has given no firm numbers.

Kyiv says it wants to arrange a prisoner swap for Azovstal defenders it describes as heroes. Moscow says they will be treated humanely, but Russian politicians have been quoted as saying some must be tried for crimes and even executed.

FOOD AS HOSTAGE

The past week has seen Sweden and Finland apply to join NATO, the biggest shakeup in European security for decades, although Turkey has said it will block the move, accusing the Nordic countries of harbouring Kurdish militants.

After weeks of threatening to retaliate, Putin appears to have mostly climbed down, saying this week that NATO membership for Finland and Sweden did not represent a threat as such, unless the alliance sends new weapons or troops. Nevertheless, Defence Minister Shoigu said on Friday Moscow planned to beef up its forces nearby in response to what he called new threats.

Russian forces in Ukraine have been driven in recent weeks out of the area around Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv, their fastest retreat since being forced out of the north and the area around Kyiv at the end of March.

But they still control a large swathe of the south and east, and the end of fighting in Mariupol means that territory is now largely unbroken. Ukraine says Russia is trying to impose its own administration and could try to annex occupied territory, possibly by staging fake votes.

Still, military analysts say Russia has been using up its firepower against an underestimated foe, and may be running out of time to achieve its aim of capturing the whole Donbas.

“Nothing is set yet. But it will be very much the next phase … before the Kremlin must freeze positions on the ground and stop advancing and shift to positional warfare,” said Boulegue, the Chatham House expert.

In a sign of Russia’s aim to boost its war effort, the parliament in Moscow said it would consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military. Putin has stopped short of declaring his “special military operation” to be a war, which would make it easier to mobilise reservists and conscripts.

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