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The world in brief: Norway plans F-16 donations for Ukraine

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | August 25, 2023 at 4:31 a.m.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) and Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Store talk during their meting Thursday in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP/Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)

Norway plans F-16 donations for Ukraine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- NATO-member Norway will donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said Thursday, amid Kyiv's difficult counteroffensive against Russia.

Speaking to Norwegian news agency NTB in Kyiv where he paid a visit on the occasion of Ukraine's Independence Day, Gahr Støre said Norway will provide F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, but they'll probably be fewer than 10.

Gahr Støre said he informed Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the aircraft donation and that Norway would discuss the number of planes as well as the transfer timetable with Kyiv and other allied countries.

"But Ukraine can count on Norway to make a contribution," Gahr Støre added.

Norway would be the third European country after the Netherlands and Denmark to donate F-16 planes.

Mexico's missing persons chief resigns

MEXICO CITY -- The head of Mexico's commission leading the search for tens of thousands who have disappeared over past decades of violence has stepped down as critics accuse the government of trying to undermine the true numbers of the missing in the run-up to presidential elections.

Escalating cartel violence has increasingly eclipsed large swaths of Mexico, leaving thousands of Mexicans reported missing this year alone.

Karla Quintana, head of the National Search Commission, did not elaborate on the motives for her resignation, saying on Wednesday only that she is leaving her post "in light of current circumstances."

"The challenges surrounding the disappearance of people remain," Quintana posted on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter. "The State must continue to push for a comprehensive policy geared toward prevention, searching and fighting impunity."

Populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's government has recently come under criticism for announcing it would carry out a census of the country's disappeared. Critics say this is a tactic to manipulate numbers and "present a fictitious decrease" in those missing ahead of elections next year.

More than 110,000 remain missing across the country, according to Quintana's commission figures -- likely an undercount due to lack of reporting, distrust in authorities and endemic impunity.

U.S. senator addresses Cyprus constraint

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Thursday he will push to either end or extend the timeline of a legal clause that requires annual approval for the sale of U.S.-made weapons to Cyprus.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez told a gathering of Cypriot diaspora in the capital Nicosia that ending or extending that year-by-year approval would enable ethnically divided Cyprus to have the "long range planning abilities" for its domestic defense.

"I think we have to keep enhancing our military to military cooperation, as well as our intelligence sharing, which has been extraordinary," Menendez said. "Cyprus' geostrategic position and location is an invaluable asset to our collective security."

The U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Cyprus in 1987 to deter an arms race in the region, but lifted the embargo in 2020 amid improving relations with the island nation, while requiring annual approval for further sales.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week approved exports, re-exports and transfers of U.S.-made weapons to Cyprus for the fiscal year 2024 after certifying that the east Mediterranean island nation met the "necessary conditions."

Those conditions include implementing anti-money laundering regulations and denying Russian military vessels access to ports for refueling and servicing.

Moscow court extends journalist's hold

The pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has been held in Russia since March, has been extended by three months, a Moscow court said Thursday.

Gershkovich has been detained in Moscow's Lefortovo prison on espionage charges that he, the U.S. government and the Journal have vehemently denied. The United States has said he is wrongfully detained.

In secret and short proceedings Thursday that were closed to the news media, a Moscow court ruled that Gershkovich's pretrial detention, which had previously been extended to Aug. 30, would now stretch until at least Nov. 30.

The arrest of Gershkovich was the first time since the end of the Cold War that an American journalist had been detained on accusations of spying in Russia. He could face a sentence of up to 20 years in a penal colony. At the time he was detained by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Gershkovich was on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg and had accreditation from Russia's Foreign Ministry.

In a statement released after the hearing, the Journal said it was "deeply disappointed" that Gershkovich "continues to be arbitrarily and wrongfully detained for doing his job as a journalist" and called the accusations "baseless" and "categorically false." The statement added that "journalism is not a crime."

  photo  Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich (center) is escorted Thursday to the Lefortovsky court in Moscow, Russia. (AP/Dmitry Serebryakov)

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