Pressure on Russian forces mounts after Ukraine’s advances
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Western defense officials and analysts on Saturday said they believed the Russian forces were setting up a new defensive line in Ukraine’s northeast after Kyiv’s troops broke through the previous one and tried to press their advances further into the east.
The British Defense Ministry said in a daily intelligence briefing that the line likely is between the Oskil River and Svatove, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The new line comes after a Ukrainian counteroffensive punched a hole through the previous front line in the war and recaptured large swaths of land in the northeastern Kharkiv region that borders Russia.
Moscow “likely sees maintaining control of this zone as important because it is transited by one of the few main resupply routes Russia still controls from the Belgorod region of Russia,” the British military said, adding that ”a stubborn defense of this area” was likely, but that it remained unclear whether the Russians would be able to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault.
Ukrainian forces, in the meantime, continue to cross the key Oskil River in the Kharkiv region as they try to press on in a counteroffensive targeting Russian-occupied territory, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
Man arrested after ‘disturbance’ as line to see queen swells
LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people spent London’s coldest night in months huddled in line to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, and authorities warned Saturday that arriving mourners face a 24-hour wait.
Police arrested a man after what the force described as a “disturbance” Friday night in Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where the queen’s coffin is lying in state, draped in her Royal Standard and capped with a diamond-studded crown.
Parliamentary authorities said someone got out of the queue and tried to approach the coffin on its platform. The Metropolitan Police force said a man was detained for a suspected public-order offense.
The tide of people wanting to say goodbye to the queen has grown steadily since the public was first admitted to the hall on Wednesday. On Friday, authorities temporary halted letting more visitors join the end of the line, which snakes around Southwark Park some 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Parliament.
Overnight, volunteers distributed blankets and cups of tea to people in line as the temperature fell to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit).
Royal fans give London tourism a bump amid UK economic woes
LONDON (AP) — Royal fans have poured into the heart of London to experience the flag-lined roads, pomp-filled processions and, above all, brave a mileslong line for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to bid adieu to Queen Elizabeth II, who died after an unprecedented seven decades on the throne. And while they’re here, they’re packing hotels, restaurants and shops.
Visitors crowding into central London from as far away as the U.S. and India for the historic moment are giving a boost to businesses at a time when the British economy is facing a cost-of-living crisis fueled by the highest inflation in four decades and predictions of a looming recession.
“This is the history, you know, this happens once in the lifetime,” said Kanakkantt Benedict, who was visiting from India with his wife and filed past the queen’s flag-draped coffin this week. “So we became a part of it.”
The pomp and pageantry leading up to the funeral for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch underscored the royal family’s power as a global attraction, from an elaborate military procession for her crown-topped coffin drawing live viewers around the world to piles of flowers filling up Green Park near Buckingham Palace and gift shops hastily churning out souvenirs commemorating the queen’s life as people clamor for mementos.
Hundreds of thousands are expected to pay tribute to the queen in the four days that her body lies in state ahead of her state funeral Monday, pushing up demand for hotel rooms in central London that in some cases have doubled in price.
In Yemen, Queen’s death recalls memories of colonial past
ADEN, Yemen (AP) — In 1954, large crowds turned out for a historic visit by Queen Elizabeth II to Aden. At the time, this city on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula was a colony of the British Empire and was one of the busiest and most important ports in the world.
Now the queen’s death after a 70-year reign has prompted some Yemenis to remember a part of history not often evoked.
Her death has brought waves of grief and sympathy from around the globe. But it has also raised calls for a re-examination of the death and deprivation inflicted by Britain’s colonial rule in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
In Aden, now the second largest city in Yemen, many remember colonial rule as a time of oppression that entrenched some of the problems still plaguing the city and the country, which has been devastated by civil war since 2015.
Some today still remember Elizabeth’s visit with admiration and credit British rule with advances in the country. Hassan al-Awaidi, a university student, knows his grandfather was among those waving from the street when the queen and her husband, Prince Phillip, passed by.
Voter challenges, records requests swamp election offices
Spurred by conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, activists around the country are using laws that allow people to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot to contest the registrations of thousands of voters at a time.
In Iowa, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller had handled three voter challenges over the previous 15 years. He received 119 over just two days after Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who is touring the country spreading doubts about the 2020 election, swung through the state.
In Nassau County in northern Florida, two residents challenged the registrations of nearly 2,000 voters just six days before last month’s primary. In Georgia, activists are dropping off boxloads of challenges in the diverse and Democratic-leaning counties comprising the Atlanta metro area, including more than 35,000 in one county late last month.
Election officials say the vast majority of the challenges will be irrelevant because they contest the presence on voting rolls of people who already are in the process of being removed after they moved out of the region. Still, they create potentially hundreds of hours of extra work as the offices scramble to prepare for November’s election.
“They at best overburden election officials in the run-up to an election, and at worse they lead to people being removed from the rolls when they shouldn’t be,” said Sean Morales-Doyle of The Brennan Center for Justice, which has tracked an upswing in voter challenges.
Abrams’ strategy to boost turnout: Early voting commitments
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats’ nominee for governor, is launching an intensive effort to get out the vote by urging potential supporters to cast in-person ballots the first week of early voting as she tries to navigate the state’s new election laws.
The strategy, outlined to The Associated Press by Abrams’ top aides, is a shift from 2018, when she spent generously in her first gubernatorial bid to encourage voters to use mail ballots. It also moves away from Democrats’ pandemic-era emphasis on mail voting, a push that delivered Georgia’s electoral votes to President Joe Biden and helped Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win concurrent U.S. Senate runoffs to give Democrats control of Capitol Hill.
Republicans, including Abrams’ opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, answered in 2021 with sweeping election changes that, among other provisions, dramatically curtailed drop boxes for mail ballots, added wrinkles to mail ballot applications and ballot return forms, and made it easier to challenge an individual voter’s eligibility. But it also expanded in-person voting.
“It’s self-evident we have to have a big early vote in-person,” said Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, arguing the new mail ballot procedures make it risky for Democrats to rely too heavily on that option. “What’s not self-evident,” Groh-Wargo continued, “is how the hell you do that.”
Primary elections this midterm season have suggested a national decline in mail balloting, which spiked in 2020 because of COVID-19. Still, Abrams’ approach, which is shared by some liberal voting rights activists, represents a pivot from Democrats’ pre-COVID tactics and demonstrates how the left intends to try to maximize their votes in jurisdictions where Republicans remain in control of election procedures.
Hungary faces reckoning with EU that could cost it billions
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — After his headline performance at Hungary’s Sziget Festival last month, pop star Justin Bieber held a grandiose party for his staff in a luxurious countryside setting — a 19th century castle owned by the son-in-law of the country’s prime minister.
The castle, to the critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is emblematic of the corruption, nepotism and largesse of which the populist leader and his government have been accused for years — the kinds of behavior which now threaten to cost Hungary billions in European Union funding.
Standing beside the iron gates of Schossberger Castle this week, an independent Hungarian lawmaker who has made a name for himself as an anti-corruption crusader snapped pictures of the structure and its expansive manicured grounds.
A former member of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, Akos Hadhazy left the nationalist-populist party in 2013 after becoming aware of what he describes as a clientelistic system of unchecked corruption taking shape in the Central European nation.
“When Fidesz came to power, I saw more and more that a very serious organization was beginning to develop throughout the country, whose main task was to steal as much of the European Union’s money as possible,” Hadhazy told The Associated Press.
US asks appeals court to lift judge’s Mar-a-Lago probe hold
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court Friday to lift a judge’s order that temporarily barred it from reviewing a batch of classified documents seized during an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month.
The department told the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta that the judge’s hold, imposed last week, had impeded the “government’s efforts to protect the nation’s security” and interfered with its investigation into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago. It asked the court to remove that order so work could resume, and to halt a judge’s directive forcing the department to provide the seized classified documents to an independent arbiter for his review.
“The government and the public would suffer irreparable harm absent a stay” of the order, department lawyers wrote in their brief to the appeals court.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s appointment of a so-called special master to review the documents, and the resulting legal tussle it has caused, appear certain to slow by weeks the department’s investigation into the holding of classified documents at the Florida property after Trump left office. The Justice Department has been investigating possible violations of multiple statutes, including under the Espionage Act, but it remains unclear whether Trump — who has been laying the groundwork for a potential presidential run — or anyone else might be charged.
The FBI says it took about 11,000 documents, including roughly 100 with classification markings found in a storage room and an office, while serving a court-authorized search warrant at the home on Aug. 8. Weeks after the search, Trump lawyers asked a judge to appoint a special master to conduct an independent review of the records.
Biden meets with families of Whelan, Griner at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden met Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, the first face-to-face encounter that the president has had with the relatives.
In a statement after the meetings, which were held separately, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden stressed to the families his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”
“He asked after the well-being of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time,” Jean-Pierre said. “The President appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long.”
Still, administration officials have said the meetings were not an indication that negotiations with Russia for their release have reached a breakthrough.
Earlier Friday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that Russia has not responded to what administration officials have called a substantial and serious offer to secure Griner and Whelan’s release.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan hold talks to end border fighting
MOSCOW (AP) — The security chiefs of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan sat down for talks Saturday to stop fighting on the border between the two countries that so far has killed at least 24 people and wounded over 100.
The Kyrgyz border service announced the new round of talks as the two ex-Soviet nations traded blame for shelling that resumed Saturday morning after what appeared to be a brief respite overnight.
The fighting, which started Wednesday for no obvious or publicly announced reason, intensified on Friday. Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry said early Saturday that the bodies of 24 people killed in the clashes were delivered to hospitals in the Batken region that borders Tajikistan.
Kyrgyz hospitals and clinics also treated 103 people wounded in the shelling, the ministry said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether there were any casualties on Tajikistan’s side.
Tajik authorities, however, accused Kyrgyz forces of destroying a mosque and targeting civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings. Tajikistan’s security officials also charged that Kyrgyzstan was amassing troops and military equipment near the border in preparation for “provocations.”
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