KYIV: Russian forces have taken partial control of a key industrial city in eastern Ukraine, a regional governor said Tuesday, hours after European Union leaders struck a deal to ban more than two-thirds of Moscow’s oil imports.
Severodonetsk is one of several urban hubs that lie on Russia’s path to capturing the Donbas’s Lugansk region, where Moscow has shifted the bulk of its firepower since failing to capture Kyiv in the war’s early stages.
“The situation is extremely complicated. Part of Severodonetsk is controlled by the Russians,” Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media, adding that Ukrainian troops still retained some areas.
But as Russian troops edged closer to the Severodonetsk city center, officials in Brussels were tightening the economic screws on Moscow.
A compromise deal reached late Monday, meant to punish Russia for its invasion three months ago, cuts “a huge source of financing for its war machine,” European Council chief Charles Michel tweeted.
“Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war,” he said.
Tonight #EUCO agreed a sixth package of sanctions.
It will allow a ban on oil imports from #Russia.
The sanctions will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports. And by the end of the year, 90% of the Russian oil imported in Europe will be banned. pic.twitter.com/uVoVI519v8
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) May 30, 2022
Leaders of the 27-nation bloc met to negotiate the long-sought deal amid concerns raised by Hungary and other neighboring countries reliant on Russian fuel.
The agreement also includes plans for the EU to send nine billion euros ($9.7 billion) in “immediate liquidity” to Kyiv, Michel announced.
Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called an oil embargo the “key point” to any sanctions package.
“I believe that Europe will have to give up Russian oil and oil products in any case, because this is about the independence of Europeans themselves from (weaponized) Russian energy,” he said in his daily address to the nation.
The Netherlands on Tuesday became the latest European country to have its Russian gas shipments halted after refusing to pay in rubles, a demand Moscow is making of “unfriendly countries” in a bid to sidestep crippling Western sanctions.
“Gazprom has completely stopped gas supplies to (Dutch Energy Firm) GasTerra due to non-payment in rubles,” the Russian gas giant said in a morning statement.
TULSA: A gunman killed at least four people Wednesday at a hospital building in Tulsa, Oklahoma, police said — the latest mass shooting to convulse the United States as Texas families bury their dead after a school massacre nearly 10 days earlier.
The suspect, who was armed with a rifle and a handgun during his attack on the Saint Francis hospital campus, died by suicide, police said.
“Right now we have four civilians that are dead, we have one shooter that is dead, and right now we believe that is self-inflicted,” Tulsa Police Department Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish told reporters.
He said officers responded immediately after emergency calls came in reporting that a gunman had stormed into the second floor of the Natalie Building, which houses a clinic on the Saint Francis campus.
Police “were hearing shots in the building” when they arrived, according to Dalgleish, who said officers then searched floor by floor, room by room while trying to clear the building during what authorities described as an active shooter situation.
Earlier, police Captain Richard Meulenberg said officers were treating the scene as “catastrophic,” with “several” people shot and “multiple injuries.”
It was not clear how many other people might have been injured.
Dalgleish said the entire assault — from the moment emergency calls came in, to the time officers engaged the shooter — lasted about four minutes.
Dalgleish also noted that the suspect had yet to be identified.
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting, the White House said in a statement, adding that the administration has offered support to Tulsa officials.
Elizabeth Buchner, a legal assistant who lives behind the building where the shooting occurred, said she rushed out of her house when she heard helicopters and a loud commotion coming from the direction of the hospital.
“It was the most law enforcement I’ve ever seen at one place in my entire life,” Buchner, 43, told AFP by telephone.
She said she witnessed a tactical team rush inside as part of a response that she described as “fast and strong,” with “no hesitation.”
Melissa Provenzano, an Oklahoma state legislator, also praised the swift response of the officers.
“It could have been so much worse,” she told CNN.
But she expressed frustration at how such tragedies keep happening in America.
“We deserve better than this,” she said. “These things are preventable, and it’s time to wake up and address this.”
The shooting is the latest in a string of deadly assaults by gunmen that have rocked the United States in the past month.
On May 14 a white supremacist targeting African Americans killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter survived and is facing charges.
Ten days later an 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 burst into an elementary school in the small Texas town of Uvalde and killed 21 people — 19 of them young children — before being shot dead by law enforcement.
On Wednesday one of the two teachers killed in that attack was laid to rest in Uvalde, a day after the first funerals for the children.
Gun regulation faces deep resistance in the United States, from most Republicans and some rural-state Democrats.
But Biden — who visited Uvalde over the weekend — vowed earlier this week to “continue to push” for reform, saying: “I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it.”
Some key federal lawmakers have also voiced cautious optimism and a bipartisan group of senators worked through the weekend to pursue possible areas of compromise.
They reportedly were focusing on laws to raise the minimum age for gun purchases or to allow police to remove guns from people considered a threat to themselves or others — but not on an outright ban on high-powered rifles like the weapons used in Uvalde and Buffalo.
FAIRFAX, Virginia: A jury on Wednesday awarded Johnny Depp $10.35 million in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.
The jury also found in favor of Heard, who said she was defamed by Depp’s lawyer when he called her abuse allegations a hoax. The jury awarded her $2 million in damages.
The verdicts bring an end to a televised trial that Depp had hoped would help restore his reputation, though it turned into a spectacle of a vicious marriage.
Throughout the trial, fans — overwhelmingly on Depp’s side — lined up overnight for coveted courtroom seats. Spectators who couldn’t get in gathered on the street to cheer Depp and jeer Heard whenever either appeared outside.
Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.
While the case was ostensibly about libel, most of the testimony focused on whether Heard had been physically and sexually abused, as she claimed. Heard enumerated more than a dozen alleged assaults, including a fight in Australia — where Depp was shooting a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel — in which Depp lost the tip of his middle finger and Heard said she was sexually assaulted with a liquor bottle.
Depp said he never hit Heard and that she was the abuser, though Heard’s attorneys highlighted years-old text messages Depp sent apologizing to Heard for his behavior as well as profane texts he sent to a friend in which Depp said he wanted to kill Heard and defile her dead body.
In some ways, the trial was a replay of a lawsuit Depp filed in the United Kingdom against a British tabloid after he was described as a “wife beater.” The judge in that case ruled in the newspaper’s favor after finding that Heard was telling the truth in her descriptions of abuse.
In the Virginia case, Depp had to prove not only that he never assaulted Heard, but that Heard’s article — which focused primarily on public policy related to domestic violence — defamed him. He also had to prove that Heard wrote the article with actual malice. And to claim damages he had to prove that her article caused the damage to his reputation as opposed to any number of articles before and after Heard’s piece that detailed the allegations against him.
Depp, in his final testimony to the jury, said the trial gave him a chance to clear his name in a way that he the U.K trial never allowed.
“No matter what happens, I did get here and I did tell the truth and I have spoken up for what I’ve been carrying on my back, reluctantly, for six years.” Depp said.
Heard, on the other hand, said the trial has been an ordeal inflicted by an orchestrated smear campaign led by Depp.
“Johnny promised me — promised me — that he’d ruin my life, that he’d ruin my career. He’d take my life from me,” Heard said in her final testimony.
The case captivated millions through its gavel-to-gavel television coverage and impassioned followers on social media who dissected everything from the actors’ mannerisms to the possible symbolism of what they were wearing. Both performers emerge from the trial with reputations in tatters with unclear prospects for their careers.
Eric Rose, a crisis management and communications expert in Los Angeles, called the trial a “classic murder-suicide.”
“From a reputation management perspective, there can be no winners,” he said. “They’ve bloodied each other up. It becomes more difficult now for studios to hire either actor because you’re potentially alienating a large segment of your audience who may not like the fact that you have retained either Johnny or Amber for a specific project because feelings are so strong now.”
Depp, a three-time best actor Oscar nominee, had until recent years been a bankable star. His turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film helped turn it into a global franchise, but he’s lost that role. (Heard and Depp’s teams each blame the other.) He was also replaced as the title character in the third “Fantastic Beasts” spin-off film, “The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
Despite testimony at the trial that he could be violent, abusive and out of control, Depp received a standing ovation Tuesday night in London after performing for about 40 minutes with Jeff Beck at the Royal Albert Hall. He has previously toured with Joe Perry and Alice Cooper as the group Hollywood Vampires.
Heard’s acting career has been more modest, and her only two upcoming roles are in a small film and the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel due out next year.
Depp’s lawyers fought to keep the case in Virginia, in part because state law provided some legal advantages compared with California, where the two reside. A judge ruled that Virginia was an acceptable forum for the case because The Washington Post’s printing presses and online servers are in the county.
BOSTON: Hackers sponsored by the Iranian government last year attempted a “despicable” cyberattack against Boston Children’s Hospital that threatened to disrupt services to patients, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Wednesday.
Wray, in a speech delivered at a conference hosted by Boston College, detailed the incident as he warned about the rising threat cyberattacks sponsored by some nation states including Iran pose to companies and US infrastructure.
“We got a report from one of our intelligence partners indicating Boston Children’s was about to be targeted, and understanding the urgency of the situation, the cyber squad in our Boston field office raced out to notify the hospital,” Wray said.
Wray said officials with the FBI were able to quickly get the nationally renowned children’s hospital the information needed to “stop the danger right away” and mitigate the threat.
“Quick actions by everyone involved, especially at the hospital, protected both the network and the sick kids that depended on it,” Wray said.
Boston Children’s Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wray called the incident “one of the most despicable cyberattacks I have ever seen” and was an example of the increasing risks hospitals and other providers of critical infrastructure face from hackers, including state-sponsored ones.
“If malicious cyber actors are going to purposefully cause destruction, or hold data and systems for ransom, they tend to hit us somewhere that’s really going to hurt,” Wray said.
LONDON: Suicide attempts by asylum seekers in Britain threatened with being sent to Rwanda under new deportation plans have been reported to refugee charities, which warn that they are being “driven to despair.”
The reports of suicide attempts were made as Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the first group of asylum seekers who entered Britain via the English Channel will be deported to Rwanda on June 14.
A female Iranian asylum seeker told charity representatives that she attempted suicide because she thought she faced being sent to the African country.
A Yemeni asylum seeker, 40, sent a video to Patel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he had “no other choice but to kill myself” after arriving in the UK in April and being informed about the Rwanda offshoring plans.
More recently, an Afghan asylum seeker attempted suicide after being detained in preparation for being offshored to Rwanda.
A young Sudanese asylum seeker died in Calais on May 11, with charity workers being told that he wanted to die because of the Rwanda offshoring plans. French authorities are investigating the case.
Clare Moseley, CEO of the charity Care4Calais, said the prospect of being forcibly sent to Rwanda has distressed a lot of asylum seekers who could be traumatized from the lives they are escaping.
The Home Office deals with thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers every year, with its own assessments of the widespread vulnerability of asylum seekers being revealed in an investigation by The Guardian.
Some 17,440 asylum seekers were determined to be vulnerable last year. They were referred to so-called “safeguarding hubs.”
The Home Office said it records 26 different vulnerabilities that can lead to an asylum seeker or migrant being sent to a safeguarding hub, including suicide and self-harm, torture, trafficking and mental health problems.
Moseley said: “The aim of the Rwanda plan is to act as a deterrent by being even more terrifying to refugees than the journeys they make in flimsy boats across the Channel.
“Refugees have suffered terrible oppression. Yet our goal is to deter them using the fear of more injury and oppression. This is not the act of a civilized or compassionate nation.
“Little wonder that Priti Patel’s actions are driving the world’s victims to take their own lives in despair.”