Georgia’s protesters vow to stay on streets until government falls

Tbilisi, Georgia — Protesters in Georgia have vowed to continue anti-government demonstrations driven largely by the so-called “foreign agent” law that took effect last week. Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in the past two months to protest the law, which critics have compared to similar measures in Russia. Many of the demonstrators carry European Union and Georgian flags, while others wave the Ukrainian colors in solidarity with Kyiv following its 2022 invasion by Moscow. Protesters beaten Among the most well-known figures at the demonstrations is David Katsarava, a prominent activist who monitors Russian activities in parts of Georgia occupied by Moscow’s forces since its 2008 invasion of the country. On May 14, Katsarava was detained by Georgian special forces outside parliament. He says he was severely beaten at least five times in detention, suffering extensive injuries including a broken jaw and eye socket. He was released without charge the following day. The government says it is investigating his treatment. At his home in the suburbs of Tbilisi, Katsarava told VOA that the protests must go on – and he will rejoin them in the coming days. “We have now the changed reality and we must continue fighting. Georgia has changed and changed its direction to Russia. We must fight until to the end because otherwise if we stop, if we will be scared and we will stay at home, so that will be a finish for free Georgia. And Georgia then becomes Belarus or some branch of Russia or something like this,” he said. Foreign agent The new law requires any organization receiving more than 20 percent of its funding from overseas to register as a “foreign agent.” Critics have compared it to Russian legislation and say it is aimed at stifling scrutiny and criticism of the government by media and non-governmental organizations ahead of elections scheduled in October. The law’s supporters say it is aimed at ensuring transparency. “It doesn’t make sense why the state budget should be transparent — but any funding from foreign sources should not be transparent in the same way,” said Fridon Injia, an member of parliament with the European Socialists party, which is closely aligned to the ruling Georgian Dream party. The European Union has warned that the foreign agent law is incompatible with Georgia’s EU membership aspirations. Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on several … “Georgia’s protesters vow to stay on streets until government falls”

Georgia’s protestors vow to stay on streets until government falls

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in recent weeks to protest a new ‘foreign agent’ law, which critics have compared to similar legislation in Russia. The law is now in force – but its opponents have vowed to continue their demonstrations until crucial elections scheduled for later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports from Tbilisi. …

2 Russian warships approach Cuba ahead of military exercises in the Caribbean 

CARACAS, Venezuela — A fleet of Russian warships on Wednesday began entering the Caribbean in what some see as a projection of strength as tensions grow over Western support for Ukraine. The first two ships slowly crossed the mouth of the Havana Bay under a downpour. The ships were accompanied by small boats that guided them through the narrow entrance channel. The U.S. military expects the exercises will involve a handful of Russian ships and support vessels, which may also stop in Venezuela. Russia is a longtime ally of Venezuela and Cuba, and its warships and aircraft have periodically made forays into the Caribbean. But this mission comes less than two weeks after President Joe Biden authorized Ukraine to use U.S.-provided weapons to strike inside Russia to protect Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, prompting President Vladimir Putin to suggest his military could respond with “asymmetrical steps” elsewhere in the world. “Most of all, the warships are a reminder to Washington that it is unpleasant when an adversary meddles in your near abroad,” said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Latin America Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank, referring to the Western involvement in Russia’s war in Ukraine. “It also reminds Russia’s friends in the region, including U.S. antagonists Cuba and Venezuela, that Moscow is on their side.” Although the fleet includes a nuclear-powered submarine, a senior U.S. administration official told The Associated Press that the intelligence community has determined no vessel is carrying nuclear weapons. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details that had not been announced publicly, said Russia’s deployments “pose no direct threat to the United States.” U.S. officials last week said the Russian ships were expected to remain in the region through the summer. Russian ships have occasionally docked in Havana since 2008, when a group of Russian vessels entered Cuban waters in what state media described as the first such visit in almost two decades. In 2015, a reconnaissance and communications ship arrived unannounced in Havana a day before the start of discussions between U.S. and Cuban officials on the reopening of diplomatic relations. A State Department spokesperson told the AP that Russia’s port calls in Cuba are “routine naval visits,” while acknowledging its military exercises “have ratcheted up because of U.S. support to Ukraine and exercise activity in support of our NATO allies.” On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted … “2 Russian warships approach Cuba ahead of military exercises in the Caribbean “

Despite war, surrogacy in Ukraine keeps flourishing

Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was an international surrogacy hub. Relatively low cost and a favorable legal framework led to thousands of babies born every year thanks to Ukrainian surrogate mothers, many of them for overseas parents. Despite the war and the risks, hopeful foreigners keep coming to Ukraine. Mariia Prus has the story. …

Analysts see closer US-Indonesia ties under incoming president

Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto is set to be sworn in as the country’s next president in October, after having resoundingly won elections in February. VOA’s Virginia Gunawan reports on what this means for U.S. relations with Southeast Asia’s largest country. Ahadian Utama, Hafizh Sahadeva contributed to this report …

US Rep. Nancy Mace overcomes McCarthy-backed challenger to win Republican primary in South Carolina  

COLUMBIA, S.C. — U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace has won the Republican nomination after a tumultuous second term in South Carolina that saw her go from a critic to an ally of former President Donald Trump and make headlines for plenty of things off the House floor.  Mace defeated challengers Catherine Templeton and Bill Young in voting that ended Tuesday. She will face a Democratic opponent in the general election in the 1st District, which is the closest thing South Carolina has to a swing district in the Republican-dominated state.  Trump’s endorsement — after he called her crazy and terrible in 2022 — is just one of many ways Mace has attracted a spotlight far greater than a typical second-term member of Congress.  She’s a regular on interview shows, often antagonizing the hosts. She calls for her party to moderate on abortion and marijuana but joined seven of the farthest right members to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  McCarthy threw his weight against Mace and the other defectors. His political action committee gave a $10,000 contribution to Templeton, and the American Prosperity Alliance, where a McCarthy ally serves as a senior adviser, donated to a group called South Carolina Patriots PAC, which spent more than $2.1 million against Mace.  Mace has said her positions and beliefs aren’t erratic — she is just reflecting the values of the 1st District, which stretches from the centuries-old neighborhoods of Charleston down the coast to Beaufort County’s booming freshly built neighborhoods of retirees moving to South Carolina from somewhere else.  Mace, the first woman to graduate from South Carolina’s military academy The Citadel, thanked her voters for tuning out the “senseless noise” from her opponents and realizing she is unafraid to stand up to powerful people.  “When you are the first woman to sit in The Citadel’s barber chair to get all of your hair chopped off, you don’t get your feelings hurt when you don’t get invited to the fancy cocktail parties in Washington, D.C.,” Mace said. “While sometimes I may be a caucus of one, I’m not alone because I’m not there for me — I’m there for each and every one of you.”  Mace’s opponents argued that by seeming to land everywhere on issues, Mace is nowhere.  Templeton ran South Carolina’s health and environmental agency to some angst a decade ago and in her only political race finished third in the 2018 … “US Rep. Nancy Mace overcomes McCarthy-backed challenger to win Republican primary in South Carolina  “

Verdict due in Dutch crime reporter’s killing

The Hague — A Dutch court will on Wednesday hand down a long-awaited verdict over the 2021 assassination of high-profile crime journalist Peter R. de Vries, a killing that shocked the country. De Vries was gunned down in broad daylight on a busy Amsterdam street in July 2021, sparking an outpouring of grief and spotlighting the country’s drug gang underworld. Authorities believe gunmen targeted De Vries, 64, due to his role as advisor to a key witness in the case of drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi.  Police arrested two suspects, identified only as Dutchman Delano G. and Kamil E. from Poland, shortly after the shooting. Prosecutors have called for a life sentence. Prosecutors believe Delano G. pulled the trigger and Kamil E. drove the getaway car and carried out surveillance prior to the shooting. Seven men suspected of organizing and facilitating the killing have been added to the trial. All nine suspects either denied the charges or invoked their right to silence. Hearings have taken place in an extra high security “bunker” at the court in Amsterdam. A video showing De Vries seriously injured circulated after the attack. Partly because of this, prosecutors charged the suspects with “murder with terrorist intent.” Thousands of mourners filed past his coffin in Amsterdam following his death, paying respect to a journalist described as a “national hero.”  ‘Narco-state’ De Vries first shot to prominence as an intrepid crime reporter for the daily newspaper De Telegraaf — writing a best-selling book about the 1980s kidnapping of beer millionaire Freddy Heineken. The book was later turned into a 2015 movie “Kidnapping Freddy Heineken”, starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The celebrity journalist then moved into television, where he ran his own crime program called “Peter R. de Vries, Crime Reporter.” De Vries won international renown in 2008 after winning an Emmy Award for his coverage of the disappearance of US citizen Natalee Holloway on the Caribbean island of Aruba. From 2020, he was an advisor and confidant of Nabil B., the main prosecution witness in the case against Taghi, described as the country’s most wanted criminal. De Vries revealed in 2019 that authorities had informed him he was on a hit-list drawn up by Taghi, who in February received a life sentence over a series of murders committed by his gang. Nabil B.’s brother Reduan was killed in 2018, and his lawyer Derk Wiersum was shot dead … “Verdict due in Dutch crime reporter’s killing”

At G7, Biden to push plans for frozen Russian assets, Chinese overcapacity

At the Group of Seven summit this week, U.S. President Joe Biden will seek agreement on using interest from frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine’s war effort. He will also push for unity in tackling global challenges such as infrastructure funding, artificial intelligence, and Chinese overcapacity in green technologies. However, as White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara reports, a shift right in the European political landscape could complicate his plans. …

UN Chief puts Israeli military, Hamas on blacklist for harming children

united nations — The United Nation’s secretary-general has included Israel’s military and Hamas on the annual blacklist of perpetrators who harm children. “I am appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” Antonio Guterres said in the report, which was sent to U.N. Security Council members on Tuesday but has not yet been published. The annual Children and Armed Conflict report names and shames those who recruit, kill, maim or abduct children, commit sexual violence against them, deny them humanitarian assistance, or attack schools and hospitals. Guterres’ special representative Virginia Gamba is mandated by the Security Council to work to prevent and end these violations. In the report, obtained by VOA, the United Nations said it has verified 8,009 grave violations against Israeli and Palestinian children, but the process is ongoing and slow due to the conflict. Of them, 113 were against Israeli children, and the rest were against Palestinian children in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The report says most child casualties in Gaza from October 7 to the end of last year were caused by “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by Israeli armed and security forces.” In addition to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was also listed. Both groups are listed for the first time, accused of killing, maiming and abducting children. The report covers the period from January to December 2023. Hamas carried out its terror attack in Israel on October 7, 2023, triggering the war that is now in its ninth month. The report covers only the casualties reported or verified in 2023. This is the first time either Israel or Hamas has been included on the report’s blacklist, despite the killing and maiming of hundreds of children in at least three previous wars in Gaza. Israel’s armed and security forces are listed for the killing and maiming of children and for attacks on schools and hospitals. “The inclusion of Israeli forces on the U.N.’s ‘list of shame’ is long overdue and reflects overwhelming evidence of grave violations against children,” Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA in an email. Israeli officials have expressed outrage at being included on the list, which also includes the Taliban and terror groups al-Qaida and Islamic State. A U.N. spokesperson said last week that … “UN Chief puts Israeli military, Hamas on blacklist for harming children”

For a Ukrainian former POW, recovery is slow and painful

Russia says it is holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war. For many of those released, liberation is the start of a painful process of recovery. From Kyiv, Lesia Bakalets brings the story of one former prisoner of war. Videographer: Vladyslav Smilianets …

At G7 Italy, Biden to push plans to deal with Russian frozen assets, Chinese overcapacity

White House  — The last time leaders of the world’s seven richest economies met, at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan in 2023, they denounced China’s rising economic security threats and vowed to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion for as long as it takes. This week in Apulia, Italy, U.S. President Joe Biden wants the group to restrain the same two adversaries while continuing to tackle common global challenges, including infrastructure funding and AI, or artificial intelligence. However, a shift to the right of the European political landscape following EU parliamentary elections could complicate his plans. The U.S. is aiming for the G7 to agree on a united front against Chinese overcapacity, when production of goods exceeds demand, in key green technologies and a mechanism to use Russian frozen assets to aid Ukraine’s war efforts, a source familiar with Biden’s plans told VOA. On Russia, Biden is pushing a plan to give Kyiv tens of billions of dollars up front, using interest from the approximately $280 billion in Russian assets immobilized in Western financial institutions. Weeks after announcing new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, or EVs, and other strategic industries, Biden also wants leaders to confront Beijing’s practice of flooding global markets with cheap exports in those industries. Much work still needs to be done on both fronts, and officials are scrambling to agree on a final communique before the summit ends. Shifting political landscape in Europe With far-right parties gaining support in the European Parliament elections over the weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been weakened, while G7 host Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni consolidated her power. The European far-right has divergent views on China and Russia, adding another layer of uncertainty to the G7’s posture. A key factor: whether Ursula von der Leyen can keep her job as president of the European Commission for another five years. “If von der Leyen remains the likely candidate, we can expect continuity on the G7 agenda — she has been forward-leaning on Ukraine and on China,” said Liana Fix, a fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations. While von der Leyen is in a strong position, her second term is not guaranteed. Snap French parliamentary elections in late June, as announced by Macron on Sunday following his party’s loss in the parliamentary election, could be the wild card, Fix told VOA. With the prospects of … “At G7 Italy, Biden to push plans to deal with Russian frozen assets, Chinese overcapacity”

Jurors resume deliberations in the federal gun case against President Joe Biden’s son Hunter 

WILMINGTON, Del. — Jurors resumed deliberations Tuesday in the criminal case against Hunter Biden over a gun President Joe Biden’s son bought in 2018 when prosecutors say he was in the throes of a crack cocaine addiction.  The jurors had deliberated for less than an hour on Monday afternoon before leaving the federal courthouse in Delaware. They are weighing whether Hunter Biden is guilty of three felonies in the case pitting him against his father’s Justice Department in the middle of the Democratic president’s reelection campaign.  Prosecutors spent last week using testimony from Hunter Biden’s ex-wife and former girlfriends, photos of him with drug paraphernalia and other tawdry evidence to make the case that he lied when he checked “no” on the form at the gun shop that asked whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” drugs.  “He knew he was using drugs. That’s what the evidence shows. And he knew he was addicted to drugs. That’s what the evidence shows,” prosecutor Leo Wise told jurors in his closing argument Monday.  Hunter Biden’s substance abuse struggles after the 2015 death of his brother, Beau, are well documented. But the defense has argued that he did not consider himself an “addict” when he bought the gun.  Hunter Biden’s lawyers have sought to show he was trying to turn his life around at the time, having completed a rehabilitation program at the end of August 2018. The defense called three witnesses, including Hunter’s daughter Naomi, who told jurors that he seemed be improving in the weeks before he bought the gun.  And the defense told jurors that no one witnessed Hunter Biden using drugs during the 11 days he had the gun before Beau’s widow, Hallie, found it in Hunter’s truck and threw it in a trash can. Defense attorney Abbe Lowell suggested that prosecutors were presenting circumstantial evidence like a magician might present a card trick, trying to get jurors to focus on one hand and ignore the other.  “With my last breath in this case, I ask for the only verdict that will hold the prosecutors to what the law requires of them” — a verdict of not guilty, Lowell said in his final pitch to jurors.  But prosecutors have shown jurors text messages sent in the days after the gun purchase in which Hunter Biden told Hallie he was waiting for a dealer and smoking crack. Hallie … “Jurors resume deliberations in the federal gun case against President Joe Biden’s son Hunter “

Water shortage caused by dam breach hits southern Ukraine  

The destruction of the Kakhovka dam a year ago [June 2023] in southern Ukraine put the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, including residents of Kushuhum in the Zaporizhzhia region. With the region now in Ukrainian hands, Kushuhum officials say people are returning to their homes and making water issues worse. Eva Myronova has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. Camera: Oleksadnr Oliynyk   …

Chinese police say man under arrest in stabbing of US college instructors

BEIJING — Chinese police have detained a suspect in a stabbing attack on four instructors from Iowa’s Cornell College who were teaching at a Chinese university in the northeast city of Jilin, officials said Tuesday. Jilin city police said a 55-year-old man surnamed Cui was walking in a public park on Monday when he bumped into a foreigner. He stabbed the foreigner and three other foreigners who were with him, and also stabbed a Chinese person who approached in an attempt to intervene, police said. The instructors from Cornell College were teaching at Beihua University, officials at the U.S. school said. The injured were rushed to a hospital for treatment and none was in critical condition, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said at a daily briefing Tuesday. He said police believe the attack in Jilin city’s Beishan Park was an isolated incident, based on a preliminary assessment, and the investigation is ongoing. Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said in a statement that the instructors were attacked while at the park with a faculty member from Beihua, which is in an outlying part of Jilin, an industrial city about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) northeast of Beijing. Monday was a public holiday in China. The State Department said in a statement it was aware of reports of a stabbing and was monitoring the situation. The attack happened as both Beijing and Washington are seeking to expand people-to-people exchanges to help bolster relations amid tensions over trade and such international issues as Taiwan, the South China Sea and the war in Ukraine. An Iowa state lawmaker posted a statement on Instagram saying his brother, David Zabner, had been wounded during a stabbing attack in Jilin. Rep. Adam Zabner described his brother as a doctoral student at Tufts University who was in China under the Cornell-Beihua relationship. “I spoke to David a few minutes ago, he is recovering from his injuries and doing well,” Adam Zabner wrote, adding that his brother was grateful for the care he received at a hospital. News of the incident was suppressed in China, where the government maintains control on information about anything considered sensitive. News media outlets had not reported it. Some social media accounts posted foreign media reports about the attack, but a hashtag about it was blocked on a popular portal and photos and video of the incident were quickly taken down. Cornell spokesperson Jen Visser … “Chinese police say man under arrest in stabbing of US college instructors”