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Sixty feared dead in bombing of Ukraine school; G7 condemns Putin

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4/4

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People, who were evacuated from Mariupol in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, stand outside a bus near a temporary accommodation centre in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk region, Ukraine May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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By Alessandra Prentice

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) – As many as 60 people are feared to have been killed when a bomb struck a village school in eastern Ukraine, the regional governor said on Sunday while Russian forces continued shelling the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined southeastern port of Mariupol.

Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the school in Bilohorivka, where about 90 people were sheltering, was hit on Saturday by a Russian bomb, setting it ablaze.

“Thirty people were evacuated from the rubble, seven of whom were injured. Sixty people were likely to have died,” Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that two bodies had been found.

Reuters could not immediately verify his account. There was no response from Moscow to the report.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians in the war, something that Moscow denies.

In Mariupol, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment holed up in the sprawling 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.

As the fighting, now in its third month, raged on, with authorities in the eastern Kharkiv region reporting more casualties of Russian shelling, leaders of the Group of Seven industrial nations vowed on Sunday to deepen Russia’s economic isolation and “elevate” a campaign against Kremlin-linked elites.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders held a video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a show of unity ahead of Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on Monday.

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

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

Washington also unveiled another round of sanctions targeting more executives and businesses as part of a broad effort to isolate Russia and limit resources being used to advance the war. It also announced a new policy of visa restrictions on more than 2,500 Russian military officials and Russian-backed forced in Ukraine, according to a State Department fact sheet.

VICTORY DAY

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.

In an emotional address on Sunday for Victory Day, when Europe commemorates Nazi Germany’s formal surrender to the Allies in World War Two, Zelenskiy said that evil had returned to Ukraine with the Russian invasion, but his country would prevail.

Putin says that he launched a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and its allies say Russia launched an unprovoked war.

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.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said on Telegram that he visited Mariupol on Sunday, the country’s most senior government figure to set foot in the city after weeks of Russian bombardment.

Khusnullin, who is in charge of construction and urban development, visited the commercial port there and said it should serve to bring in building materials to restore the city, according to the Russian defence ministry’s Zvezda TV channel.

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. A team of U.S. diplomats also arrived in Kyiv for the first time since the invasion.

Putin sent Victory Day messages to separatist leaders in Luhansk and Donetsk, saying Russia was fighting shoulder to shoulder with them and likening their joint efforts to the war against Nazi Germany. “Victory will be ours,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin press release on Sunday.

Russia’s efforts have been stymied by logistical and equipment problems and high casualties in the face of fierce resistance.

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

The Russians “have nothing to celebrate tomorrow,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on CNN. “They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO.”

World

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney blasts fellow Republicans after ‘great replacement’ mass shooting

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) testifies before the House Rules Committee in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Representative Liz Cheney called on fellow Republicans to reject white supremacism, days after a teenage gunman motivated by the right-wing “great replacement” theory allegedly killed 10 people in a racist shooting in western New York state.

“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” Cheney, an outspoken Republican critic of former President Donald Trump and his allies in the House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR).

“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them,” she tweeted.

Political fallout from the weekend shooting could become a new hurdle for Republicans, as they try to minimize infighting over party fealty to Trump in the run-up to the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

A 180-page manifesto that circulated online, believed to have been authored by the 18-year-old white man accused in the killing spree, outlined the “Great Replacement Theory,” a racist conspiracy theory that white people were being replaced by minorities in the United States and elsewhere.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blamed the spreading of the “replacement” theory on conservative media pundits and Trump-style Republican rhetoric on immigration.

“These views should have no place in American society and certainly no place in the segments of our most-watched news channels,” said Schumer, who called for rooting out of hatred and legislation to address gun violence.

Cheney is one of two Republicans on a congressional committee that has subpoenaed House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and four other party lawmakers to testify about the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters.

McCarthy dismissed Cheney’s tweet by calling her criticism typical and saying she was just trying “to play a political game when she knows something’s not true.”

The California Republican also said he had not given any thought to the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena, describing the panel as “a one-party-appointed committee.”

Cheney was joined in her criticism by Representative Adam Kinzinger, a fellow maverick Republican who is also on the committee, in blaming the party’s leadership for not condemning the racism that fueled the attack in Buffalo, New York, where 11 of the 13 wounded were Black Americans.

“Here is my replacement theory: we need to replace @EliseStefanik, @GOPLeader, @RepMTG, @CawthornforNC and a number of others,” Kinzinger said Sunday in a tweet referring to McCarthy, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and hard-line Trump supporters Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn.

“The replacement theory they are pushing/tolerating is getting people killed,” said Kinzinger.

Cheney and Kinzinger maintain that House leaders are pandering to Trump allies and supporters who advocate white nationalism as the party tries to take control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

In a tweet on Saturday, Kinzinger said Stefanik pushed white replacement theory in Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) ads last September that claimed Democrats planned to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants to overthrow the U.S. electorate and perpetuate their power.

Stefanik’s office in a statement rejected that criticism.

“Any implication or attempt to blame the heinous shooting in Buffalo on the Congresswoman is a new disgusting low for the left, their Never Trump allies and the sycophant stenographers in the media,” said Alex DeGrasse, a senior adviser to Stefanik.

Stefanik, who represents a New York state congressional district, replaced Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican last year after Cheney condemned Trump for the January 2021 Capitol attack by his supporters.

Greene on Twitter said that responsibility for the shooting lay only with the gunman. The offices of McCarthy and Cawthorn did not respond to requests for comment.

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An oasis in underserved Buffalo neighborhood became killing field

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© Reuters. Mourners react while attending a vigil for victims of the shooting at a TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, U.S. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Jenna Zucker

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Reuters) – For many people in the neighborhood, the Tops Friendly Market was an answer to prayers when it opened for business 19 years ago, providing an oasis of fresh groceries at affordable prices in the middle of an area long considered a “food desert.”

Before Tops came, residents of the blocks around Jefferson Avenue in east-central Buffalo, New York – most of them Black people – had to travel for miles to find the kind of supermarket that suburban America takes for granted.

Birthday cake, salad fixings and a prescription refill? It was one-stop shopping for people once unaccustomed to such convenience.

In the years since it opened, the store became a focal point for the tight-knit community, according to many residents. It was just down the street, welcoming, a place to bump into old friends and make new ones.

All of that abruptly ended on Saturday afternoon when a teenager, motivated by racist ideology, carried out a well-planned attack designed to shoot and kill as many Black people as he could, according to law enforcement authorities.

The suspect chose Tops precisely because it was that focal point that Black residents of the community describe, officials said.

“We needed it because we were traveling away from our area to go grocery shopping and buy our items, things that we needed. So it means a whole lot to us, and now it’s just been ripped away from us,” said Yvonda King, a hair stylist who lives down the street from the store.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses the term ‘food desert’ to describe areas with limited supplies of fresh, affordable foods. An estimated 54.4 million Americans – 17.7% of the population – live in food deserts, according to the USDA.

Not everyone living in food deserts is Black, but studies have shown that even when poverty levels are similar, Black neighborhoods have fewer supermarkets than other areas.

The near-dearth of supermarkets in the east side of Buffalo highlights a de facto racial divide that persists in the city, the second largest in New York state.

According to a 2018 report, about 85% of residents who identify as Black live east of Main Street, the north-south thoroughfare that separates the east and west sides of Buffalo.

Where you live in Buffalo not only dictates your access to healthy food but also quality jobs, good schools and decent housing, the report by Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank, concluded.

In a small way, Tops filled some of the void. Now, to many Black residents, the store has become a painful reminder that racism, even in its most violent form, is an everyday reality.

“I go to the Tops every day and I just didn’t that day,” said Christina Hanesworth, 38, a client relations specialist in Buffalo. “I think about if I would have left my two kids at home to get some milk and never made it back.”

Tops, headquartered in Williamsville, just outside Buffalo, said it would ensure the community was able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs by providing a free shuttle service to the closest location, almost 5 miles (8 km) away. Tops and others are opening a temporary food-distribution center a few blocks from the now-closed store, city officials said.

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Suspect in Buffalo supermarket massacre visited city in March, police say

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© Reuters. A Buffalo Police officer stands at the scene of a shooting at a TOPS supermarket in Buffalo, New York, U.S. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Jenna Zucker and Gabriella Borter

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Reuters) -An investigation into the weekend shooting of 13 people in Buffalo, New York, turned on Monday to a visit police said the suspect made to the city in March and whether warning signs were missed, as public figures decried the suspect’s racist ideology.

Authorities said Payton Gendron, 18, who is white, carried out an act of “racially motivated violent extremism” when he opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on Saturday at the Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Buffalo, where 11 of the 13 people struck by gunfire were Black.

Gendron, who police said surrendered to officers who confronted him inside the store, has been jailed without bond on a charge of first-degree murder. He entered a plea of not guilty.

Investigators have said they are searching through phone records, computers and online postings, as well as physical evidence, as new details about the suspect’s past and meticulous planning emerge.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that the suspect, a resident of a southern New York state town hours away by car, made a trip to the Tops store in March to map its layout in preparation for the attack. He was confronted there at the time by a store security guard, who thought he looked suspicious, according to the Post.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told reporters at a news briefing on Monday that the suspect had paid a visit to Buffalo in early March, but he declined to confirm other details of the investigation reported by the Washington Post or other news media.

The Post said the planning trip to Buffalo was described in a 589-page document posted online by someone who identified himself as Gendron. The document is no longer available publicly, the Post reported.

The document referred to the Tops store as “attack area 1” and described two other nearby locations as attack areas to “shoot all blacks,” the Post reported. Gendron counted that there were 53 Black people and six white people in the Tops at the time of his visit, according to the account.

Police confirmed that they are investigating Gendron’s online postings, which included a 180-page manifesto he was believed to have written outlining the “Great Replacement Theory,” a racist conspiracy theory that white people were being replaced by minorities in the United States and elsewhere.

“The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake this is an absolute racist hate crime that will be prosecuted as a hate crime,” Gramaglia told reporters on Sunday.

Experts say the trend of mostly young white men being inspired by previous racist gun massacres is on the rise, citing recent mass shootings, including the 2015 attack at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a 2019 attack at a Walmart (NYSE:WMT) in an Hispanic neighborhood of El Paso.

President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden plan to visit Buffalo on Tuesday.

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