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Russia to mark Soviet WW2 victory as Ukraine decries school bombing

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5/5

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Russian Il-78 military transport aircraft flies during a rehearsal for a flypast, part of a military parade marking the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Sheme

2/5

By Alessandra Prentice

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) -Kremlin forces bombed a village school in eastern Ukraine killing about 60 people, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as Russia prepared to mark the Monday anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

The governor of the Luhansk region said about 90 people were sheltering at the school in Bilohorivka on Saturday when it was bombed.

“As a result of a Russian strike on Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, about 60 people were killed, civilians, who simply hid at the school, sheltering from shelling,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

There was no response from Moscow to the news.

In the southern port of Mariupol, which has endured the most destructive fighting of the 10-week war, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment holed up in the Azovstal steel plant pleaded with the international community to help evacuate wounded soldiers.

“We will continue to fight as long as we are alive to repel the Russian occupiers,” Captain Sviatoslav Palamar told an online news conference.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations vowed on Sunday to deepen Russia’s economic isolation and “elevate” a campaign against Kremlin-linked elites.

The G7 said it was committed to phasing out or banning Russian oil and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“His actions bring shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people,” the G7 said in a statement, referring to Soviet Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany 77 years ago.

Putin has repeatedly likened the war in Ukraine – which he casts as a battle against dangerous “Nazi”-inspired nationalists in Ukraine – to the challenge the Soviet Union faced when Adolf Hitler invaded in 1941.

Ukraine and its allies reject the accusation of Nazism and the assertion that Russia is fighting for survival against a aggressive West, saying Putin unleashed an unprovoked war in an attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union.

In a video address, filmed in front of charred Ukrainian apartment blocks with footage of Russian missile strikes, Zelenskiy said that evil had returned, but his country would prevail.

Hailing the G7 response, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address: “The main thing I felt today was the world’s even greater willingness to help us … it is clear to the whole free world that Ukraine is the party of good in this war.”

“And Russia will lose, because evil always loses.”

Putin will preside over a parade in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday of troops, tanks, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles, making a speech that could offer clues to the future of the war.

‘CAN’T LEAVE’

Russia has come under increasingly punishing sanctions since Putin launched what he called a “special operation” on Feb. 24, with trade heavily impacted and assets seized.

The European Union should consider using frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves to help pay for the cost of rebuilding Ukraine after the war, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in an interview with the Financial Times.

In the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 230 km (140 miles) northwest of Mariupol, dozens of people who had fled the city and nearby occupied areas waited to register in a car park set up for evacuees.

“There’s lots of people still in Mariupol who want to leave but can’t,” said history teacher Viktoria Andreyeva, 46, who said she had only just reached the city after leaving her bombed home in Mariupol with her family in mid-April.

“The air feels different here, free,” she said in a tent where volunteers offered food, basic supplies and toys to the evacuees, many travelling with small children.

Separatists said a total of 408 people were evacuated from Mariupol over the past 24 hours, including 65 children.

Mariupol is key to Moscow’s efforts to link the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Russia in 2014, and parts of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk that have been controlled by Russia-backed separatists since then.

In Luhansk and Donetsk regions, half a dozen Russian attacks were repulsed, with tanks and armoured combat vehicles destroyed, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Monday.

Viktor Andrusiv, an adviser to the interior minister, said Ukraine was awaiting the delivery of more sophisticated weapons and expecting further attacks from Russia on Monday.

“We are preparing for rocket attacks today – please, take air alerts very responsibly today.”

A number of Western officials, including U.S. first lady Jill Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a German parliament head and the Norwegian foreign minister arrived in Ukraine on Sunday in a show of support.

Irish rock group U2’s frontman Bono and his bandmate The Edge performed a 40-minute concert in a metro station in Kyiv on Sunday and praised Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.

“This evening, 8th of May, shots will ring out in the Ukraine sky, but you’ll be free at last. They can take your lives, but they can never take your pride,” Bono said.

World

California law requiring women on company boards struck down

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Jody Godoy

(Reuters) – A state court judge found California’s law requiring publicly held companies to include women on their boards unconstitutional, dealing another blow to the state’s push to diversify corporate leadership.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis issued the decision on Friday in favor of California taxpayers who sought to block enforcement of the law, said the bill’s author, former California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.

Jackson said she believes the state will appeal the verdict and prevail.

The ruling was not available on the court’s website on Monday afternoon.

Three taxpayers challenged the law in 2019, saying it amounted to sex discrimination in violation of the state’s constitution.

California’s secretary of state had defended the law at trial, arguing that the state has a compelling interest in gender diversity on boards and that the law was tailored to address a historic lack of women on boards.

Spokespeople for the secretary of state and for Judicial Watch, which represents the plaintiffs, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Passed in 2018, the statute required publicly held companies based in California to have up to three women directors, and allowed the secretary of state to issue fines of up to $300,000 per violation. No fines have been levied.

Judicial Watch recently won another taxpayer challenge to a similar California law requiring boards to include directors who self-identify as a member of an “underrepresented community,” which includes Asian, Black, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander individuals, as well as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

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World

California church shooter was motivated by hate, politics

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on

4/4

© Reuters. The Geneva Presbyterian Church is seen after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods, California, U.S. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/David Swanson

2/4

By Sharon Bernstein and Andrew Hay

(Reuters) -The man who killed a doctor and injured five others at a California Taiwanese church shooting at the weekend was a U.S. citizen born in China who hated Taiwan and drove from Las Vegas armed with guns, chains and numerous Molotov cocktails, authorities said on Monday.

David Chou, 68, chained shut the doors where up to 40 people were attending a luncheon in honor of a former pastor of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Monday.

Barnes said that Chou’s violent assault at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, a community of mostly elderly residents, was motivated by his hatred of Taiwan and recent tensions between Taiwan and mainland China.

“This is a manifestation of the ugliest part of our humanity that exists in our country today,” Barnes said at a news conference on Monday, also referencing the weekend’s racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

The FBI said it was opening a hate crime investigation in the case.

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World

Steelworks defenders appear to signal end of Mariupol siege

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2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A local resident rides a bicycle past a charred armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the separatist-controlled town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region, Ukraine March 15, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo

2/2

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV/MARIUPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – The Ukrainian unit holed up beneath the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol said on Monday its garrison was fulfilling orders to save the lives of troops, an apparent sign that the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war had come to an end.

Reuters saw about a dozen buses apparently carrying Ukrainian fighters leaving the plant on Monday. It was not possible to determine how many people were aboard. Some 600 fighters have been estimated to be inside the vast Soviet-era plant, including dozens of wounded.

“In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people,” the Azov Regiment said in a social media post.

It said the defenders of Mariupol, in the southeast, had held out for 82 days, buying time for the rest of Ukraine to battle Russian forces and secure Western arms needed to withstand Russia’s assault.

The steelworks was the last Ukrainian-held bastion in the once prosperous port, now in ruins after months of Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people.

Since February, Mariupol’s devastation has become a symbol both of Ukraine’s ability to withstand Russia’s invasion, and of Russia’s willingness to destroy Ukrainian cities that hold out.

In a video accompanying the Azov Regiment statement, one of the unit’s senior commanders, Denys Prokopenko, said: “The main thing is to realise all the risks, is there a plan B, are you fully committed to that plan which must allow for fulfilling the assigned tasks and preserve the lives and health of personnel?”

“This is the highest level of overseeing troops. All the more so when your decision is endorsed by the highest military command.”

Prokopenko did not spell out what action the defenders were taking. The video was released hours after Russia said it had agreed to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers to a medical facility in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk.

Apart from the steelworks, Mariupol is entirely in Russian hands after a siege which left residents huddled in basements with no food and water and streets littered with dead bodies.

Moscow denies having targeted civilians. The United Nations and Red Cross both estimate thousands of civilians died, with the true toll still uncounted.

The last defenders, including many who were wounded, had been holding out for weeks in bunkers and tunnels built to withstand nuclear war, deep beneath Azovstal, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe. Civilians were evacuated from inside the plant earlier this month.

“An agreement has been reached on the removal of the wounded,” Russia’s defence ministry said. “A humanitarian corridor has been opened through which wounded Ukrainian servicemen are being taken to a medical facility in Novoazovsk.”

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar told Ukrainian television: “Any information can harm the processes that are taking place … Inasmuch as the process is under way, we can’t say what’s happening right now.”

Earlier, the wife of an Azov Battalion member had described conditions at the plant: “They are in hell. They receive new wounds every day. They are without legs or arms, exhausted, without medicines,” Natalia Zaritskaya said.

PUTIN CLIMBDOWN OVER NATO

Earlier on Monday, Vladimir Putin appeared to climb down from Russian threats to retaliate against Sweden and Finland for announcing plans to join NATO.

“As far as expansion goes, including new members Finland and Sweden, Russia has no problems with these states – none. And so in this sense there is no immediate threat to Russia from an expansion to include these countries,” Putin said.

The comments appeared to mark a major shift in rhetoric, after years of casting NATO enlargement as a direct threat to Russia’s security, including citing it as a justification for the invasion of Ukraine itself.

Just hours before Putin spoke, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Finland and Sweden were making a mistake that would have far-reaching consequences: “They should have no illusions that we will simply put up with it.”

Putin said NATO enlargement was being used by the United States in an “aggressive” way to aggravate an already difficult global security situation, and that Russia would respond if the alliance moves weapons or troops forward.

“The expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response. What that (response) will be – we will see what threats are created for us,” Putin said.

Finland and Sweden, both non-aligned throughout the Cold War, say they now want the protection offered by NATO’s treaty, under which an attack on any member is an attack on all.

“We are leaving one era behind us and entering a new one,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said, announcing plans to formally abandon militarily non-aligned status – a cornerstone of national identity for more than 200 years.

Kjell Engelbrekt, professor of political science at the Swedish Defence University, said Moscow now had few military options left to follow through on its previous “very assertive” rhetoric demanding the Nordics never join NATO.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington had seen no indications Russia was moving troops or equipment closer to the border with Finland.

UKRAINE TROOPS REACH BORDER

Moscow calls its invasion a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of fascists, an assertion Kyiv and its Western allies say is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.

Now nearly three months old, it has so far been a military disaster for Moscow, with its troops forced out of the north and the environs of Kyiv in late March. A Ukrainian counterattack in recent days has driven Russian forces out of the area near Kharkiv, the biggest city in the east.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Monday troops had advanced all the way to the Russian border, about 40 km north of Kharkiv.

The successes near Kharkiv could let Ukraine attack supply lines for Russia’s own main offensive, grinding on further south in the Donbas region, where Moscow has been launching mass assaults for a month achieving only small gains.

In a video message, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the achievement and thanked the troops: “I am very grateful to you from all Ukrainians, from everyone, from myself, from my family, my gratitude is unlimited.”

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