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Ukraine FM: Russian invasion ‘absolutely unprovoked,’ ‘attack against humanity’

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “absolutely unprovoked” and is an “attack against humanity,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Al Hadath in an interview which aired on Thursday.

“The Russian war against Ukraine is absolutely unprovoked and unjustified. Even if Russia had any concerns with regards to NATO’s policy, these concerns should have been addressed at the negotiating table. Instead, Russia preferred war,” said Kuleba.

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“If anyone knocks on your door, you do not immediately fire back with the rifle killing that person. You first try to understand who is knocking and what does he want. Russia decided to fire and kill,” he added.

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation” which has caused mass displacement, both within the country and externally, with over twelve million Ukrainians believed to be seeking asylum in Europe so far, according to the United Nations’ recent estimates.

A great deal of the heavy fighting has been taking place in the east of Ukraine, namely in Mairupol’s Azovstal steel plant which Moscow is struggling to seize complete control of. Many civilians have been sheltering inside the steel plant, waiting to be permitted safe passage and evacuations, which the Red Cross said on Thursday was successful and well underway.

Russia’s plan is ‘failing’

The official told Al Hadath that Russia’s initial plan of taking over all of Ukraine had failed.

“I would like to remind you that the initial plan of Russia was to conquer entire Ukraine within days. Since the beginning of the invasion, this plan failed,” Kuleba said. “Then Russia said it will conquer Luhansk and Donetsk region of Ukraine in full, and this plan is also failing. Russia has not achieved a strategic goal on the battleground of Ukraine.”

According to the foreign minister, the two cities that are “suffering” from Russian occupation are in the country’s south: Kherson and Mariupol.

“Yes, they control them, but these are two sieges out of many others, which Russia wanted to take under full control and failed to do so. The situation on the battleground is extremely heavy, difficult because Russia throws a lot of weapons and infantry against our forces, but our soldiers defend their land and they hold the line, they hold their positions and Russia’s plan of offensive is failing.”

Kuleba also said that as the foreign minister of Ukraine, “everything I’m saying is based on factual information what my country had to go through.”

He also added that he has lived through the war himself.

“Russia’s plan was to capture Kyiv in the first couple of days of the invasion and after seeing Kyiv captured, they expected the rest of Ukraine to fall to their knees. This did not happen,” the official told Al Hadath.

“Russia can say 100 times that they are winning, that they reached all the objectives of their operations, but tell me, if they’re so successful, why did they retreat from Kyiv and Northeast of Ukraine when they realized that they cannot make any gains?”

Russia has claimed that the main aim of their “operation” was to protect the two self-proclaimed Russian-backed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, the country’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, told Al Arabiya in an interview last week.

Lavrov had also claimed that their actions in Ukraine were a “response to what NATO was doing in Ukraine” to allegedly “prepare” Ukraine “for a very aggressive posture against” Russia.

“It’s the Russian propaganda that managed to explain to the Russian people that the Russian retreat [from Kyiv] is an offensive in the opposite direction,” he added. “Unlike Russia, we [Ukrainians] live in a free world where anyone can say anything that [he] wants. This is not a war launched by the West against Russia.”

He continued, “Anyone who claims this distorts reality and serves the purposes of Russian propaganda. This war was launched by the Russian Federation against a sovereign neighbor who did not pose a threat to it.”

According to Kuleba, Ukraine is “an independent nation that makes its independent choices. We made the choice to be a country that will live up to the European standards of life and safety. Russia did not want us to be independent. They wanted us to live inside of the Russian world where there is no prosperity and no safety.”

Pope is ‘most welcome’ in Ukraine

The foreign minister also said the Pope is welcome in Ukraine, following reports that he had requested a meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to stop the war.

“The Pope is most welcome in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians belong to his church and for them, he is the head of the church, and they will be more than happy to see him in Ukraine and to pray with them in order to support my country and our people in this in this tragedy,” Kuleba said.

Pope Francis said in an interview published on Tuesday that he asked for the meeting with the Russian president but had not received a reply, Reuters reported.

The pope also told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has given the war his full-throated backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy.”

The Pope, who made an unprecedented visit to the Russian embassy when the war started, told the newspaper that about three weeks into the conflict, he asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to send a message to Putin.

He said the message was “that I was willing to go to Moscow. Certainly, it was necessary for the Kremlin leader to allow an opening. We have not yet received a response and we are still insisting.”

He continued: “I fear that Putin cannot, and does not, want to have this meeting at this time. But how can you not stop so much brutality?”

Kuleba believes the pope “understands what Russia did in Ukraine is an attack on humanity and it’s beyond comprehension and it goes against God’s will.”

He also said “Ukraine appreciates a clear denunciation of Russia’s war against Ukraine by the Pope. That was expressed on a number of occasions, and his prayers for peace in Ukraine.”

The foreign minister said he has “no doubt” that the pope will visit Ukraine but cannot confirm when, or if he will first visit Russia.

“I have no doubts that first he will visit Ukraine. And … the people of Ukraine will whole heartedly welcome him while he goes to Russia. I'm afraid he will not be warmly received, but it’s up to him to make his choices, and I respect his right to do so.”

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Dr. Mona Khashwani becomes UAE’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery

Dr. Mona Abdulaziz Khashwani from Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Women and Children’s Hospital in the United Arab Emirates has become the country’s first Emirati physician to perform robotic surgery.

Khashwani, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, performed the robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci system, Emirates Health Services said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“I sincerely thank the wise leadership, who gave me the opportunity to be one of the few citizens who carry out this type of high-precision operations for patients using a robot,” she said.

Khashwani is one of the UAE’s most experienced doctors in the robotic surgery field. She graduated from London’s Queen Mary University in 2005 and was then nominated by the hospital’s Director of Laparoscopic Operations and Robotic Surgery Program, Dr. Zaki al-Mazki al-Shamsi, to join the women robotics surgeons’ program.

The Emirati doctor performs total hysterectomy, supra-cervical hysterectomy and the operations to remove of fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, and adhesions, among others.

“I have spent countless hours after my shift using the surgical simulator for training and studying how the robotic system operates,” she said.

“This qualified me to receive a license to perform gynaecologic robotic surgery using the advanced Da Vinci surgical robot from the IRCAD Training Center in Strasbourg, France,” Khashwani added.

Launched in 1999, Da Vinci is an automated surgical system that performs minimally invasive procedures and is considered to be one of the most accurate systems of its kind in the world. It is the first FDA recognized safe and effective surgical tool that performs complex surgeries, often involving small incisions, which shortens patients’ hospital stays, ensures faster recovery, and reduces the need for pain killers after operation.

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Taiwan rejects Philippines complaint about South China Sea live fire drills

Taiwan on Wednesday rebuffed a complaint from the Philippines about live fire drills around a Taiwan-controlled island deep in the South China Sea, saying it had the right to do so and always gives issues a warning of its exercises.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, in a message on Twitter late on Tuesday, lodged a “strong objection over the unlawful live fire drills” to be carried out by Taiwan this week around the island, known internationally as Itu Aba.
Taiwan calls the island Taiping, and the Philippines calls it Ligaw Island.
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The department said the island belonged to the Philippines.
“This illegal activity raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea,” it said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement the island was part of the territory of the Republic of China – Taiwan’s formal name – and that it enjoyed all relevant rights accorded by international law.
“Our country has the right to conduct routine exercises on Taiping Island and related maritime areas. In order to ensure the safety of maritime traffic and fishing boats operating in adjacent maritime areas, we notify the relevant regional countries in advance before each live-fire drill,” it said.
Itu Aba is the biggest feature in the Spratly Islands, a grouping of islets and other features also claimed, entirely or in part, by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The Philippines normally complains most vociferously about China’s activities in the South China Sea, including what Manila says is illegal fishing.
The Philippines, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but there are close cultural and economic links and Taiwan is home to about 160,000 Filipinos, most of them migrant workers.
The maps China bases its South China Sea claims on date to when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China government ruled China before it fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Taiwan also controls the Pratas Islands at the very northern end of the South China Sea.
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Turkey to seek extradition of ‘terror’ suspects from Finland, Sweden

Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 “terror” suspects from Sweden and Finland under a deal that paved the way for Ankara to back the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO after crunch talks ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit, in return for written security guarantees.
Ankara immediately put the new agreement to the test, with the justice minister announcing that Turkey would seek the extradition of alleged Kurdish militants and members of a group that Erdogan blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt.
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“We will seek the extradition of terrorists from the relevant countries within the framework of the new agreement,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted as saying by NTV television.
Bozdag said Ankara would now ask for the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden who were either members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or alleged members of a group led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is blacklisted by Turkey, the EU and the United States.
Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, denies charges of plotting the 2016 coup attempt.
The three-way memorandum signed on Tuesday says that Finland and Sweden pledge to “address Turkey’s pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly.”
The two countries also agreed to lift their embargoes on weapons deliveries to Turkey, which were imposed in response to Ankara’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.
Erdogan’s office hailed the agreement, saying Ankara had “got what it wanted.”
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