Washington imposes new sanctions on Russia and the Pope as Ukraine increases armament

Washington imposes new sanctions on Russia and the Pope as Ukraine increases armament

The administration of US President Joe Biden on Thursday imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian and Ukrainian officials, as well as a number of Russian companies and agencies, for human rights violations and theft of Ukrainian grain, at a time when Pope Francis said it was morally legitimate for countries to supply Ukraine with weapons.

The US State Department said that it had targeted with sanctions 23 Russian officials and 31 entities and companies, for their role in supporting Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

It is noteworthy that some of those on whom the new sanctions were imposed were already subject to US sanctions, which include freezing assets and preventing Americans from doing business with them.

In this context, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “Those identified today, from the perpetrators of the violence to an official facilitating the forced removal of children from Ukraine, provide examples of behavior that has become synonymous with the Russian government’s unprovoked war.”

“The United States intends to continue taking action against those who support Russia’s defense industrial base, its violation of human rights, and its attempts to legitimize its occupation of Ukrainian territory, wherever they are,” the minister added in a statement.

Among those targeted by Thursday’s sanctions are 17 Russian and Ukrainian officials who are said to be working for or on behalf of the Russian government to destabilize Ukraine. Five other people were also punished for their participation in the alleged theft of Ukrainian grain. Many of them were appointed by Russia to local leadership positions in Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions.

Among the government agencies and companies that have been sanctioned is Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), which has been under US sanctions since 2016, but has since been accused of running so-called “liquidation” camps through which Ukrainians have been forcibly deported.

Others sanctioned include high-tech companies operating in Russia’s space and satellite sectors, and computer companies that produce microprocessors and semiconductors used by the Russian armed forces.

On the other hand, US officials said Thursday that the United States will soon announce a new military aid package worth $600 million to Ukraine to help its military in the war against Russia.

Pope: Providing arms to Ukraine is morally acceptable

The Vatican was not far from the developments in the Ukrainian crisis, as Pope Francis said, on Thursday, that it is morally legitimate for countries to provide Ukraine with weapons to help it defend itself against Russia.

Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane during the return flight after a three-day visit to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis also urged Kyiv to be open to the eventual idea of ​​dialogue, even if it is a “hateful” idea, given that it would be a difficult choice on the Ukrainian side.

The war in Ukraine overshadowed the Pope’s visit to Kazakhstan, where he attended a conference of religious leaders from around the world.

At a 45-minute press conference on the plane, a reporter asked whether it was morally right for countries to send weapons to Ukraine.

Pope Francis replied: “This is a political decision that can be morally acceptable, if it is taken with due regard for (the rules) of moral responsibility.”

The Pope touched on the Roman Catholic Church’s “just war” principles, which allow the proportionate use of lethal weapons for self-defense against an aggressor nation. He said, “Self-defense is not only legitimate, but is an expression of patriotism. Whoever does not defend himself or anything else does not like this thing. Whoever defends (something) certainly loves it.”

Zelensky’s speech at the General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote on Friday on whether to exclude Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from its in-person meeting of world leaders next week and allow him to deliver a pre-recorded speech.

The document, which will come into being under the auspices of 50 countries, will allow Zelensky to deliver a pre-recorded statement in the General Assembly hall, emphasizing that this does not set a precedent for future high-level assembly meetings.

The draft document refers to the General Assembly’s resolution taken in an emergency special session on March 2, 6 days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, calling for an immediate cessation of Moscow’s aggression and the withdrawal of all Russian forces.

The number of votes in support of the resolution entitled “Aggression against Ukraine” reached 141 votes against 5 votes against, while 35 members abstained from voting.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual meeting of world leaders in the General Assembly was held virtually in 2020, and virtually in 2021. But this year, the United Nations General Assembly decided that all speeches should be in person.

The decision to allow Zelensky to pre-record his statement requires a majority vote in the General Assembly, and diplomats say it will almost certainly be approved. If that happens, Zelensky will deliver his speech on the afternoon of September 21, according to the latest schedule.

A “mass grave” was found in Iseum after it was liberated

In addition, the Ukrainian president announced, Thursday evening, that a “mass grave” had been found in the city of Izyum, which his forces had recaptured from the Russians a few days ago as part of a Ukrainian counter-attack in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine.

“We want the world to know what the Russian occupation has caused,” Zelensky said, in his daily video message, without giving further details about the number of buried bodies or the reasons that led to the death of these people.

Confirming the opening of an investigation into the incident, he said, “We are supposed to receive more confirmed and clear information tomorrow.”

For his part, Sergei Botvinov, a local police official, told Sky News that in Izyum, a site where about 440 bodies were buried.

He added that some of those killed were shot dead, while others died as a result of the bombing.

In his video message, Zelensky compared Izyum to Bucha and Mariupol, which became symbols of the atrocities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia is leaving death behind everywhere, and it must be held accountable for that,” the Ukrainian president said. “The world really must hold Russia accountable for this war. We will do everything we can for that to happen.”

New US aid package

US President Joe Biden announced a new $600 million arms package to help Ukraine’s military fight Russia, according to a White House memo sent to the State Department on Thursday.

Biden authorized this assistance using presidential authority to allow the transfer of surplus weapons from US stockpiles.

The memo does not explain how the money will be used, but several sources told Reuters that the package is expected to contain equipment that includes more HIMARS missile systems.

Two sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, also stated that the package would also include ammunition for howitzers.

The note also states that the money will be used for military training. Washington has sent about $15.1 billion in security aid to Zelensky’s government since the Russian invasion.

(Agencies, The New Arab)

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