Help us in relocating Rohingyas to Bhasan Char: PM Hasina urges UN
Dhaka, Feb 20 (UNB)- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday urged the United Nations to help Bangladesh in relocating Rohingyas to Bhashan Char island.She made the plea while UN resident coordinator Gwyn Lewis called on her at her official residence, Ganabhaban.PM’s Speech Writer M Nazrul Islam told reporters that the prime minister mentioned that over one million Myanmar nationals, Rohingyas, are now a big burden for Bangladesh.“Their return to their homeland soon is uncertain, so I am requesting the UN to help Bangladesh relocate the Rohingyas to Bhashan Char,” she said.In this connection, she mentioned that the island has been organised and developed to provide better living condition for the Myanmar nationals.She said that it has a cyclone shelter, employment opportunities on limited scale and education facilities for the children in their mother language. Hasina said that the Rohingyas who are living in camps in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar have already outnumbered the local people.“They have created problems for the living and livelihoods of the local Bangladesh people,” she said.She also said that some of the Rohingyas are involved in various types of anti-social activities like human and drug trafficking, internal conflicts and militant activities.“In this situation, as their scope to return to their homeland soon is uncertain, their living standard will be upgraded if they relocate on Bhashan Char island where they will get better environment to live,” she said. The PM said that forcibly displaced Rohingyas are living in an inhumane condition in Cox’s Bazar amid uncertainty about their repatriation soon. Read more: PM Hasina slams move to undermine Bangabandhu’s role in Language MovementBangladesh has so far moved about 30,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char to ease crowding in the camps in Cox's Bazar.The Rohingyas, the minority Muslims in Myanmar, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh mostly in 2017 to escape killings, arson and rape unleashed by the country's military junta.Diplomatic efforts at safe, voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland have so far failed. The issues of UN-set MDGs and SDGs were also discussed during the meeting. PM Hasina said that she herself attended the events during the adoption of the agenda of MDGs and SDGs where Bangladesh played a proper role. She said that necessary measures have been taken to implement SDGs and issues relating to Bangladesh have been incorporated in the country’s five-year and perspective plans.Pointing out a number of challenges in implementing the SDGs due to Ukraine-Russia war followed by sanctions and counter-sanctions, the prime minister said that the war after the Covid-19 pandemic situation has created some obstacles.But the government has been working to implement the SDGs, she said.She said the government has been continuing with the provision of free books, stipends and scholarships to students for promotion of education. School feeding programmers have also been introduced.Talking about women empowerment, she said that the present government has ensured female representatives on the local government bodies.Besides, job opportunities have also been created for the female to attract them to education, she said.She said that as a result now the parents are more interested to send their daughters to educational institutions.In this regard, the PM said that girls are now outnumbering the boys in schools, while almost cent percent enrolment has been achieved in the country.During the meeting, the UN resident coordinator highly appreciated Bangladesh’s stunning progress and achievements in socio-economic front as well as in women’s empowerment, girl’s education, and in achieving MDGs and SDGs, spokesperson Nazrul said.Gwyn Lewis assured that the UN will remain beside Bangladesh in the days ahead in overcoming various challenges like it had been in the past. About child labor situation in the country Hasina said there is no such case in formal sectors as it has been almost abolished although there might be some in informal areas. Referring to the climate change, the prime minister said that her government has undertaken adaptation and mitigation programmers to face its adverse impact and has constructed cyclone tolerant houses as well as created green belts along the coastal areas. About measures to fight climate change the PM said they have taken adaptation and mitigation programme for making Bangladesh climate change resistant. She said Bangladesh is building climate resistant houses and green belt along the coastal areas as measures to fight the climate change impacts. She said Bangladesh set up a Climate Trust Fund with its own finance. She however expressed dissatisfaction over the climate promises made by the rich nations. "The rich countries are giving promises, but they are not complying with those," she said. The Prime Minister and UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh spoke of the important cooperation between the UN and Bangladesh in responding to climate-related disasters and economic volatility, according to UN office in Dhaka. They reaffirmed commitments to strengthen the UN-Bangladesh partnership on the Rohingya refugee response, despite funding shortages that forced cuts in food assistance for Rohingya refugees living in camps in Cox’s Bazar. They also exchanged views on Bangladesh's economic growth ahead of the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar, on 5-9 March.
Kenya seeks divine help to end crippling, ongoing drought
With the prospect of a sixth consecutive failed rainy season in the east and Horn of Africa, Kenya's president is hoping the heavens will finally open with the help of a national day of mass prayer on Tuesday. William Ruto announced the plans for the country's first ever day of prayer on Sunday at a service in the drought-stricken city of Nakuru, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the capital Nairobi. It follows a joint call by the country's spiritual leaders to dedicate an entire day to prayer to ease drought conditions in the nation. Ruto’s own ambitious economic revival strategy for the country is also dependent on a successful rainy season. “As a government we have set out elaborate plans for food security, we have seeds, ample fertilizer, and water harvesting strategies including dams. We now need God to send us the rain,” Ruto said. “I urge all people from all faiths ... to pray for our country." Kenya and other east African nations have been experiencing some of the worst drought conditions in decades, causing crop failure, loss of livestock, wildlife and biodiversity, and malnutrition. Domestic agriculture is a large part of Kenya's economy. The U.N. humanitarian agency has termed the ongoing drought in the region a “rapidly unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.” Meteorologists say human-caused climate change has been exacerbating the extreme conditions. “It is time we started including climate change as factor in our development plans," Evans Mukolwe, former director of the Kenyan and U.N. weather agencies, told The Associated Press. "The current drought which we warned about some years ago has wider ramifications on the social economic conditions of the region including peace, security, and political stability.” Mukolwe added that climate change has contributed to below average rainy seasons in the region for about three decades. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development's climate center said that since 2020, five rainy seasons have failed, affecting over 50 million people. The center will release its projections for the long rains season, typically from March to May, later in February. Early projections from other meteorological groups are not optimistic. Around the world people from different faiths have often sought divine intervention for rain or other favorable weather. Last summer Milan's Archbishop made a pilgrimage to three churches in hopes of ending the country's dry spell and Utah's governor called for citizens to pray for rain ahead of a weekend of extreme heat. Some Kenyans intend to heed the president’s call. Nairobi business owner Millicent Nyambura said she supported the idea, “even though it will affect my colleagues in the flower business who expect to boost sales on Valentine's Day.” ___ Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Russian retreat reveals destruction as Ukraine asks for help
Russian troops retreating from this northern Ukrainian city left behind crushed buildings, streets littered with destroyed cars and residents in dire need of food and other aid — images that added fuel to Kyiv's calls Thursday for more Western help to halt Moscow's next offensive. Dozens of people lined up to receive bread, diapers and medicine from vans parked outside a shattered school now serving as an aid-distribution point in Chernihiv, which Russian forces besieged for weeks as part of their attempt to sweep south towards the capital before retreating. The city's streets are lined with shelled homes and apartment buildings with missing roofs or walls. A chalk message on the blackboard in one classroom still reads: “Wednesday the 23rd of February — class work.” Russia invaded the next day, launching a war that has forced more than 4 million Ukrainians to flee the country, displaced millions more within it and sent shock waves through Europe and beyond. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned Thursday that despite a recent Russian pullback, the country remains vulnerable, and he pleaded for weapons from NATO to face down the coming offensive in the east. Nations from the alliance agreed to increase their supply of arms, spurred on by reports that Russian forces committed atrocities in areas surrounding the capital. Also read: Ukraine appeals for weapons as fight looms on eastern front Western allies also ramped up financial penalties aimed at Moscow, including a ban by the European Union on Russian coal imports and a U.S. move to suspend normal trade relations with Russia. Kuleba encouraged Western countries to continue bearing down on Russia, suggesting that any letup will result in more suffering for Ukrainians. “How many Buchas have to take place for you to impose sanctions?" Kuleba asked reporters, referring to a town near Kyiv where Associated Press journalists counted dozens of bodies, some burned, others apparently shot at close range or with their hands bound. "How many children, women, men, have to die — innocent lives have to be lost — for you to understand that you cannot allow sanctions fatigue, as we cannot allow fighting fatigue?” Ukrainian officials said earlier this week that the bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns around the capital city. Volunteers have spent days collecting the corpses, and more were picked up Thursday in Bucha. Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said investigators have found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians during the Russian occupation. Most victims died from gunshots, not from shelling, he said, and corpses with their hands tied were “dumped like firewood” into recently discovered mass graves, including one at a children’s camp. The mayor said the count of dead civilians stood at 320 as of Wednesday, but he expected the number to rise as more bodies are found in his city, which once had a population of 50,000. Only 3,700 now remain, he said. In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that the horrors of Bucha could just be the beginning. In the northern city of Borodianka, just 30 kilometers northwest of Bucha, Zelenskyy warned of even more casualties, saying “there it is much scarier.” Also read: Russian shelling is prelude to new attack The world should brace itself, he said, for what might soon be found in the seaport city of Mariupol, saying that on “on every street is what the world saw in Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region after the departure of the Russian troops. The same cruelty. The same terrible crimes.” He pledged that an international war crimes investigation already underway will identify “each of the executioners” and “all those who committed rape or looting. Ukrainian and several Western leaders have blamed the massacres on Moscow's troops, and the weekly Der Spiegel reported Thursday that Germany's foreign intelligence agency had intercepted radio messages between Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians. Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged. Kuleba became emotional while referring to the horrors in the town, telling reporters that they couldn’t understand “how it feels after seeing pictures from Bucha, talking to people who escaped, knowing that the person you know was raped four days in a row.” His comments came in response to a reporter's question about a video allegedly showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting a captured and wounded Russian soldier. He said he had not seen the video and that it would be investigated. He acknowledged that there could be “isolated incidents” of violations. The footage has not been independently verified by the AP. In the 6-week-old war, Russian forces failed to take Ukraine's capital quickly, denying what Western countries said was Russian leader Vladimir Putin's initial aim of ousting the Ukrainian government. In the wake of that setback and heavy losses, Russia shifted its focus to the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years. The United Nations' humanitarian chief told the AP on Thursday that he's “not optimistic” about securing a cease-fire after meeting with officials in Kyiv and in Moscow this week, underlining the lack of trust the two sides have for one another. He spoke hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of backtracking on proposals it had made over Crimea and Ukraine’s military status. It's not clear how long it will take withdrawing Russian forces to redeploy, and Ukrainian officials have urged people in the country's east to leave before the fighting intensifies there. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed to establish civilian evacuation routes Thursday from several areas in the Donbas. Even as Ukraine braced for a new phase of the war, Russia’s withdrawal brought some relief to Chernihiv, which lies near Ukraine's northern border with Belarus and was cut off for weeks. Vladimir Tarasovets described nights during the siege when he watched the city on fire and listened to the sound of shelling. “It was very hard, very hard. Every evening there were fires, it was scary to look at the city. In the evening, when it was dark, there was no light, no water, no gas, no amenities at all,” he said. "How did we go through it? I have no words to describe how we managed.” In addition to spurring NATO countries to send more arms, the revelations about possible war crimes led Western nations to step up sanctions, and the Group of Seven major world powers warned that they will continue strengthening the measures until Russian troops leave Ukraine. The U.S. Congress voted Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban the importation of its oil, while the European Union approved punishing new steps, including the embargo on coal imports. The U.N. General Assembly, meanwhile, voted to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body. U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.N. vote demonstrated how “Putin’s war has made Russia an international pariah.” He called the images coming from Bucha “horrifying.” “The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed — in some cases having their bodies desecrated — are an outrage to our common humanity,” Biden said. The U.S. State Department said it was blacklisting the United Shipbuilding Corp., Russia's largest military shipbuilder, as well as its subsidiaries and board members. The move blocks their access to American financial systems. The department also said it would levy sanctions against the world's largest diamond mining company, Russia-backed Alrosa.
Russians push deeper into Mariupol as locals plead for help
Russian forces pushed deeper into Ukraine's besieged and battered port city of Mariupol on Saturday, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help. The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war's worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War II. READ: Russians push deeper into Mariupol as locals plead for help “Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by The Associated Press. Details also began to emerge Saturday about a rocket attack that killed as many as 40 marines in the southern city of Mykolaiv the previous day, according to a Ukrainian military official who spoke to The New York Times. Russian forces have already cut Mariupol off from the Sea of Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to eastern territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. It would mark a rare advance in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance that has dashed Russia's hopes for a quick victory and galvanized the West. Ukrainian and Russian forces battled over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said. “One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said in televised remarks. The Mariupol city council claimed hours later that Russian soldiers had forcibly relocated several thousand city residents, mostly women and children, to Russia. It didn't say where, and AP could not immediately confirm the claim. READ: Denied swift victory, Russian military maintains strong hand Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the nearest forces that could assist Mariupol were already struggling against “the overwhelming force of the enemy” and that “there is currently no military solution to Mariupol.” Zelenskyy said early Sunday that the siege of Mariupol would go down in history for what he said were war crimes committed by Russian troops. “To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” he said in a video address to the nation. In Mykolaiv, rescuers searched the rubble of the marine barracks that was destroyed in an apparent missile attack Friday. The region's governor said the marines were asleep when the attack happened. It wasn't clear how many marines were inside at the time, and rescuers were still searching the rubble for survivors the following day. But a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity to reveal sensitive information, estimated that as many as 40 marines were killed, which would make it one of the deadliest known attacks on Ukrainian forces during the war. Estimates of Russian deaths vary widely, but even conservative figures are in the low thousands. Russia had 64 deaths in five days of fighting during its 2008 war with Georgia. It lost about 15,000 in Afghanistan over 10 years, and more than 11,000 in years of fighting in Chechnya. The Russian military said Saturday that it used its latest hypersonic missile for the first time in combat. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Kinzhal missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing Ukrainian missiles and aviation ammunition in the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk. Russia has said the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and flies at 10 times the speed of sound. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the U.S. couldn't confirm the use of a hypersonic missile. U.N. bodies have confirmed more than 847 civilian deaths since the war began, though they concede the actual toll is likely much higher. The U.N. says more than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees. The northwestern Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration reported, and Slavutich, 165 kilometers (103 miles) north of the capital, was “completely isolated.” Evacuations from Mariupol and other besieged cities proceeded along eight of 10 humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, and a total of 6,623 people left. Waiting to board a bus at a triage center near the Moldova-Ukraine border, a woman named Irina said she decided to leave home in Mykolaiv this week after a loud explosion shook the walls, waking her young daughter. “Can you imagine the fear I had, not for me but for my child?” said Irina, who didn't provide her last name. “So we made decision to arrive here, but I don’t know where we are going, where we’ll stay." Vereshchuk said planned humanitarian aid for the southern city of Kherson, which Russia seized early in the war, could not be delivered because the trucks were stopped along the way by Russian troops. Ukraine and Russia have held several rounds of negotiations aimed at ending the conflict but remain divided over several issues, with Moscow pressing for its neighbor's demilitarization and Kyiv demanding security guarantees. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Saturday for a second time this week with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The Kremlin said Putin “outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel informed him about “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Putin of using the talks as a “smokescreen” while his forces regroup. “We don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table," she told the Times of London. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during a Saturday visit to NATO ally Bulgaria, said the Russian invasion had “stalled on a number of fronts” but the U.S. had not yet seen signs that Putin was deploying additional forces. Around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked. At least 130 people survived the Wednesday bombing of a Mariupol theater that was being used a shelter, but another 1,300 were believed to be still inside, Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said Friday. “We pray that they will all be alive, but so far there is no information about them," Denisova told Ukrainian television. A satellite image from Maxar Technologies released Saturday confirmed earlier reports that much of the theater was destroyed. It also showed the word “CHILDREN” written in Russian in large white letters outside the building. Southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region announced a 38-hour curfew after two missile strikes killed nine people Friday. Russian forces have fired on eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, including Mariupol, Ukraine’s national police said Saturday. Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded, and at least 37 residential buildings and facilities were damaged including a school, a museum and a shopping center. In the western city of Lviv, Ukraine's cultural capital, which was hit by Russian missiles on Friday, military veterans were training dozens of civilians on how to handle firearms and grenades. “It’s hard, because I have really weak hands, but I can manage it,” said one trainee, 22-year-old Katarina Ishchenko.
China potentially can help resolve Rohingya crisis, says British envoy
Dhaka, Sept 22 (UNB) - British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson on Sunday said Chinese involvement has a “great deal of potential” to help bring the Rohingya crisis to an end noting that involvement of wide range of countries can resolve the crisis.