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What next? Ukraine’s allies divided over Russia endgame

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A local man walks next to a building damaged by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak/File Photo

By John Irish, Andreas Rinke and Humeyra Pamuk

PARIS/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Is it better to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine or to isolate him? Should Kyiv make concessions to end the war, or would that embolden the Kremlin? Are ramped up sanctions on Russia worth the collateral damage?

These are some of the questions testing the international alliance that swiftly rallied around Ukraine in the days after the Russian invasion but that, three months into the war, is straining, officials and diplomats told Reuters.

As Western governments grapple with spiralling inflation and energy costs, countries including Italy and Hungary have called for a quick ceasefire. That could pave the way for scaled back sanctions and end the blockade of Ukrainian ports that has worsened a food security crisis for the world’s poorest.

Yet Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics warn that Russia is not to be trusted and say a ceasefire would enable it to consolidate territorial wins, regroup and launch more attacks down the line.

The Russians have “spread the narrative that this would be an exhausting war, we should sit around the table and seek consensus,” a senior Ukrainian official told Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has said he wants Russia “weakened” and President Joe Biden called for Putin to be prosecuted for war crimes. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Kyiv must not be strong-armed into accepting a bad peace deal and that Ukraine “must win”.

Germany and France have remained more ambiguous, vowing to stop Putin from winning rather than to defeat him, while at the same time backing tough new sanctions.

“The question being asked is whether we return to the Cold War or not. That’s the difference between Biden, Johnson and us,” an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron told Reuters.

Russia launched what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine in February, saying it was needed to rid the country of dangerous nationalists and degrade Ukraine’s military capabilities – aims the West denounced as a baseless pretext.

Moscow has since argued that military support from Washington and allies is dragging out the war and deterring Ukraine from peace talks. In March, the Kremlin demanded Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian, and recognise eastern separatist-held areas as independent states as a condition for peace.

The Ukrainian and French sources, and officials in other countries consulted by Reuters for this story, requested anonymity in order to speak freely about sensitive diplomatic and security policies.

Divisions could become more pronounced as sanctions and the war take a toll on the global economy, risking domestic backlashes and playing into Putin’s hands.

“It was clear from the start it is going to get more and more difficult over time – the war fatigue is coming,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in an interview with CNN.

“There may be difference between those countries who have much better neighbours than we do, and those who have a different history like us, the Baltic countries, and Poland.”

DEALING WITH MISTER PUTIN

Macron has warned any peace should not “humiliate” Russia like it did for Germany in 1918.

He, like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has kept channels of communication with the Kremlin open, triggering consternation in more hawkish countries. Poland’s president compared the calls to speaking with Adolf Hitler during World War Two.

“We’ll have to deal with Mister Putin at some point, unless there’s a palace coup. And even more so because this war needs to be as short as possible,” the Macron ally said.

Scholz said his and Macron’s calls with Putin were used to convey firm and clear messages, and has stressed sanctions on Russia would not end unless Putin withdrew troops and agreed to a peace deal acceptable to Kyiv.

However, one of Scholz’s team told Reuters that Macron’s wording had been “unfortunate.” Some French diplomats have also privately expressed reservations about Macron’s stance, saying it risked alienating Ukraine and eastern European allies.

While grateful for the West’s support, Ukraine has bristled at suggestions that it should concede territory as part of a ceasefire deal and sometimes questioned whether its allies were properly united against Russia.

Macron’s warning not to humiliate Russia prompted Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to warn that France was only humiliating itself, and Kyiv’s relations with Scholz have been frosty.

“We don’t have a Churchill across the European Union. We do not have any illusions on that,” the senior Ukrainian official said, referring to Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

A French presidency official said “there is no spirit of concession with regard to Putin or Russia in what the president says.” France wanted a Ukrainian victory and Ukrainian territories restored, the official said, and dialogue with Putin was “not to compromise but to say things as we see them”.

A U.S. administration official said Washington was more vocal in its scepticism about Russia acting in good faith, but denied there was “strategic difference” between allies.

A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the U.S. working along with allies had “delivered,” for Ukraine – with sanctions, weapons transfers and other measures – despite naysayers since before the invasion casting doubt on the unity of the alliance. The goal, the spokesperson said, was to put Ukraine in a strong position to negotiate.

WEAKEN RUSSIA?

Referring to Austin’s comments, the first official said Washington had no intention of changing Russia’s leadership but wanted to see the country weakened to the point that it couldn’t carry out such an attack on Ukraine again.

“Everyone focused on the first part of what Austin said not on the second part. We want to see Russia weakened to the extent that it can’t do something like this again,” the official said.

One German government source said Austin’s aim to weaken Russia was problematic. It was unfortunate that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, from Scholz’s coalition partner the Greens, had endorsed that aim, the source said, because it complicated the question of when sanctions could ever be lifted, irrespective of whether Ukraine agreed to a peace deal or not.

German government sources also said they were worried that some in the West could be egging on Ukraine to unrealistic military goals, including the recapture of the Crimea peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, that could prolong the conflict.

Baerbock has publicly said sanctions would have to remain in place until Russian troops withdrew from Crimea.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany meanwhile has repeatedly criticised Germany for dragging its feet on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, though Berlin has robustly defended its record of support.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak signalled Ukraine’s frustrations:

“Russia must not win, but we won’t give heavy weapons – it may offend Russia. Putin must lose but let’s not impose new sanctions. Millions will starve, but we’re not ready for military convoys with grain,” he tweeted on May 31.

“Rising prices are not the worst that awaits a democratic world with such a policy,” he said.

World

Why are modern video games an art form?

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ed dead redemption 2 steam key

Has anyone ever wondered why games are not art? After all, making games is not such an easy job. Creating a game is a thousand times harder than writing a book.

Video games are like movies

We all love to watch movies. We worry about heroes; we can love or hate, the villain or the hero; we watch TV series without missing a single episode.

Games are essentially the same as movies or TV series. Take RD2, for example. A game that made you shed a tear at some points, get nervous, get scared. We feel the same way when we watch our favorite films or TV series. Red Dead Redemption 2 key today you can get at a nice price. 

Let’s remember the nineties. A time when games had a minimal emphasis on story. For example: Mario. At the very beginning of the game the Princess is kidnapped and that’s it, the rest of the time we just run, jump, collect coins, and only at the end we finish the game by killing the boss. The plot was, at a minimum. Now the big companies have screenwriters working for them. It depends on them what kind of story the game will have. Therefore, games can be perceived as movies.

Video games are like fine art

Many have been to art galleries. Everyone has seen many famous works of art on the covers of books, whether it’s Mona Lisa or Claude Monet’s The Poppy Field near Vetheuil. We have marveled at the beauty of these paintings.

The same could be said of games. Dozens of artists in companies work hard to make their world look really picturesque. For example, RD2 is a really beautiful game. The landscapes are very mesmerizing. The game wanted to go through many times to enjoy these landscapes. If you still haven’t managed to do it, use the Red Dead Redemption 2 Steam key

Also Ori and The Blind Forest game can be referred to as this example. The visual style is made on high. You will not see such landscapes in real life. Not a single element is duplicated. The artists did a great job. Such would be the envy of any modern artist.

Games as architecture

When we come to rest in any country, we necessarily visit historic monuments, created by great masters of architecture. The creation of urban locations in modern video games involved the same architects, but instead of a ruler and pencil in their hands using the mouse, graphics tablets and other tools.

Video games as literature

Everyone has read books and in the course of reading imagined what was happening in the story in their imagination. Some games are just like a book, but you don’t have to use your imagination: the developers did it for you. Many of the games were developed based on the books of the same name. The developers managed to convey the atmosphere that we are immersed in while reading the books.

Maybe now a lot of people have a different view on video games. A lot of people think games are something bad, they try to ban them, but you know, you are trying to ban the same art.

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U.S. Capitol riot panel promises new evidence at surprise Tuesday hearing

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2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A video of former U.S President Donald Trump speaking is shown on a screen during the fifth public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.

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By Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. congressional committee plans to reveal new evidence about the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters at a public hearing on Tuesday it hastily announced a mere 24 hours earlier.

The House of Representatives committee, investigating the first attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in U.S. history, declined to answer questions about who might testify or what evidence would be presented.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, is expected to testify, several media outlets reported. Representatives of the panel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.

The meeting, announced on Monday, is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT) on Tuesday.

Testimony at five prior hearings has shown how Trump, a Republican, riled thousands of supporters with false claims that he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden because of massive voter fraud.

British filmmaker Alex Holder, who spent time filming Trump and his family in the weeks after the election, has in recent days testified before the committee behind closed doors and shared video of his interviews with Trump and his family, according to media reports.

The committee has said it intends to interview Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, following reports she may have been involved in efforts to stop Biden’s victory certification at the Capitol on Jan. 6. She has said she intended to speak to the panel.

U.S. law enforcement last week raided the home of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump’s false fraud claims.

This month’s hearings featured videotaped testimony from figures including Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his former attorney general, Bill Barr. They and other witnesses testified that they did not believe Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud and tried to dissuade him of them.

Dozens of courts, state election officials and reviews by Trump’s own administration rejected his claims of fraud, some of which included outlandish stories about an Italian security firm or the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tampering with U.S. ballots.

Trump, who is publicly flirting with another White House run in 2024, has denied wrongdoing and accused the committee of engaging in a political witch hunt. He has leveled harsh criticism particularly at Representative Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the nine-member committee.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll early this month found that about two-thirds of U.S. Republicans believe Trump’s false election fraud claims.

The committee, sometime next month, is expected to hold one or two hearings on possible coordination of the Jan. 6 attack by right-wing extremist groups.

During the assault on the Capitol, thousands of Trump supporters smashed windows, fought with police and sent lawmakers, including Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, fleeing for their lives.

Four people died the day of the attack, one fatally shot by police and the others of natural causes. More than 100 police officers were injured, and one died the next day. Four officers later died by suicide.

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Rescuers dig for survivors after Russian missiles demolish Ukrainian shopping mall

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© Reuters. Rescuers work at a site of a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kremenchuk, in Poltava region, Ukraine June 27, 2022. Picture taken June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Voitenko

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By Simon Lewis

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (Reuters) -Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall in central Ukraine after a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in an attack condemned by the United Nations and the West.

More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall in Kremenchuk, about 300 km (200 miles) southeast of the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalised, while about 36 were missing, Poltava region governor Dmytro Lunin said.

Zelenskiy, in an overnight video address, called the attack deliberate, saying it was “a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre”.

Russia said the incident was caused by a strike on a legitimate military target. Its defence ministry, quoted by the RIA state news agency, said it had fired missiles at a storage depot for Western weapons in Kremenchuk, and the detonation of stored ammunition there had caused the fire at the nearby mall.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters a missile had also struck a nearby factory, but it was closed and not a military target.

“It’s a question about crimes against humanity,” she said. “I think it’s like systematical shelling of civilian infrastructure – with what aim? To scare people, to kill people to make terror in our cities and villages.”

Relatives of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday’s strike.

A survivor receiving treatment at Kremenchuk’s public hospital, Ludmyla Mykhailets, 43, said she was shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.

“I flew head first and splinters hit my body. The whole place was collapsing,” she said.

“It was hell,” said her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage around his head.

At the scene of the blaze on Tuesday morning, exhausted-looking firefighters sat on a kerb. Oleksandr, wetting his face from a water bottle on a bench, said his team had worked all night picking through the rubble.

“We pulled out five bodies. We didn’t find anybody alive,” he said.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was “abominable”.

“Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account,” they said in a joint statement.

BATTLE FOR LYSYCHANSK

Russia denies intentionally targetting civilians in its “special military operation” which has destroyed cities, killed thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

The U.N. Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto, will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the missile strike was deplorable.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk.

Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River. Ukraine said the Russians attempted to storm it.

Lysychansk is the last big city held by Ukraine in eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take Kyiv early in the war.

Eight residents including a child were killed and 21 wounded by shelling when they gathered to get drinking water in Lysychansk on Monday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Ukrainian forces controlled the city but its loss was possible as Russia poured resources into the fight, he added.

“They really want this and a lot of reserves are being thrown just for this…We do not need to lose an army for the sake of one city,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Moscow of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said Russian troops and their Luhansk Republic allies were advancing westward into Lysychansk and street battles had erupted around the city stadium.

Fighting was going on in several surrounding villages, and Russian and allied troops had entered the Lysychansk oil refinery where Ukrainian troops were concentrated, Miroshnik said on Telegram.

Russia also shelled the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine on Monday, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said.

The shelling killed five people and wounded 22. There were children among the wounded, the governor said.

During their summit in Germany, G7 leaders vowed to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and tighten the squeeze on Russia’s finances with new sanctions that include a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil.

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