Russia’s controversial aid convoy to war-torn eastern Ukraine returned across the border yesterday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel held crisis talks in Kiev with the country’s pro-Western leaders.
The visit by Merkel — the most influential Western leader to call on Kiev since the start of the crisis in the ex-Soviet state — comes ahead of a crunch meeting between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia next week.
Tensions soared to a new high on Friday after the Kremlin unilaterally sent what it said was an aid convoy across the border to the insurgent stronghold of Lugansk in a move Kiev branded an “invasion.”
The West rebuked Russia over the convoy, with Washington warning Moscow it could face further sanctions, while the UN Security Council voiced concerns it could escalate the four-month conflict.
An observer for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the border said that the return of the Russian trucks was “complete” by about 12pm yesterday.
US President Barack Obama and Merkel had warned in a telephone call that the Russian convoy marked a “dangerous escalation” of the conflict in Ukraine, with Western fears that it could presage Moscow sending in troops.
Merkel, who has played a central role in trying to end the crisis, will have to tread a fine line in Ukraine, showing firm support for Kiev’s leaders, while also pushing for restraint in their increasingly successful — but deadly — offensive.
The German leader received flowers before getting down to talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, ahead of the first meeting in months between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk alongside top EU officials.
Poroshenko has pledged to “talk peace” with Putin, but insists that an end to the conflict that has cost more than 2,200 lives can be achieved only if pro-Kremlin fighters are pulled out of Ukrainian territory.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in a newspaper interview that establishing a federal Ukraine would be the only “viable path” to ending the crisis, a statement likely to set off alarm bells in Kiev, where such ideas have been fiercely opposed.
Dignitaries from 47 countries yesterday congratulated President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on the commencement of her second term and highlighted Taiwan’s achievements in democracy and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations a day earlier. As of noon yesterday, 263 high-ranking officials from 47 countries and global organizations had congratulated Tsai via statements, letters, social media posts or recorded footage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, while releasing a collection of footage sent by selected dignitaries. The governments of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies sent their congratulations, as did the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy,
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IN PROTEST: The US’ top diplomat said the WHA had been deprived of Taiwan’s scientific expertise, while Tsai said political factors should not be put above health US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday condemned Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly (WHA), while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday lodged a strong protest against the WHO for not inviting Taiwan. Twenty-two nations voiced support for Taiwan’s bid for participation on the first day of the assembly’s two-day virtual meeting, but despite the global community’s unprecedentedly strong support for Taiwan, it remained blocked from the assembly, with WHO member states on Monday agreeing to delay discussion on Taiwan until later this year. Pompeo, who on May 6 urged WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the WHA,
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced no new cases of COVID-19, adding that a ban on mask exports would be lifted soon under three conditions. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 401 people from among the nation’s 440 confirmed cases have been removed from isolation. Yesterday was the 12th consecutive day that no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Taiwan, and the 37th day of no new domestic cases. “As our local communities have gradually become safe, we should not become careless,” Chen said. “We should continue to take personal protective measures