Nine Central, East Europe NATO countries condemn Russia annexations – POLITICO

The presidents of nine NATO countries in central and eastern Europe declared on Sunday that they would never recognize the annexation by Russia of several Ukrainian regions. Hungary and Bulgaria were conspicuously absent from the signatories.

In a joint statement, the leaders also supported a path to NATO membership for Ukraine.

The nine leaders demanded that “Russia immediately withdraw from all occupied territories” and encouraged “all allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine,” according to the statement.

“We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” they wrote. 

The statement comes two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he was annexing four Ukrainian regions, a move the West has described as an illegal land-grab. It was signed by the presidents of Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

The signatories also wrote that they “firmly stand behind” a NATO decision in 2008 over Ukraine’s future membership to the alliance. At the time, NATO allies pledged that Ukraine would eventually become a member. But as that process stalled over the years, it seemed increasingly unlikely that Ukraine’s bid would become a reality.

In the wake of the annexations, Ukraine formally applied for a fast-track accession to NATO, with hopes to jump-start its membership bid.

On Sunday, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that 10 NATO countries supported Ukraine’s membership to the alliance — including many countries that used to belong to the former Soviet bloc.

NATO countries however have hesitated at including a new member that is at war — and by treaty they would be forced to defend. In recent months, NATO has also welcomed the application of two new countries in Europe – Finland and Sweden, spurred by security concerns after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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It’s not impossible that Putin could use nuclear weapons, Austin says

Speaking Sunday on “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Austin said: “It’s an illegal claim. It’s an irresponsible statement … this nuclear saber-rattling is not the kind of thing we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capability.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has promised a “very tough” response to Russian annexations. On Friday night he said: “We must liberate our entire land.”

Austin said Zelenskyy’s forces have fought very well and he expects them to continue to attempt to regain conquered land.

“I think the Ukrainians have amazed the world in terms of their ability to fight back, their ability to exercise initiative, their commitment to the defense of their democracy,” he told Zakaria, “and that willingness to fight has rallied the international community in an effort to help provide them the security assistance so that they can continue to fight.”

Regardless of what Putin does next, Austin said the United States will not abandon Ukraine.

“We will continue to support Ukrainians, as you heard our president say, for as long as it takes,” Austin said.

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Live near water? Get flood insurance, FEMA admin says after Ian.

Hurricane Ian caused widespread flooding across the state of Florida, with some homes “still underwater,” Criswell said. The death toll grew to more than four dozen over the weekend. Many died in Florida from drowning.

Everyone should understand their risks for disaster, regardless of whether they live on the coast, inland or in “tornado alley,” Criswell said. Those rebuilding in Florida after Ian should also “make informed decisions about what their risk is” if they choose to rebuild in the same place.

The state needs to aggressively go after potential fraud in the insurance market, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In order to get insurance companies to do business in Florida, “you have to have stricter building codes … but then on top of that, you’ve got to make sure there’s no fraud,” Scott said.

Strict building codes are also needed to help ensure people who choose to rebuild in desirable but vulnerable areas stay safe, Scott said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he is pushing people in his state to get flood insurance.

“We know that particularly in these areas that are hit time and again that we’ve got to be more resilient,” Cooper said.

Mobile manufactured housing — which has been criticized as unsafe in areas prone to natural disasters — can be “good for people to make sure that they have an affordable place to live,” Cooper said, asked whether it should be banned.

“It’s sort of all of the above,” Scott said, asked about mobile manufactured housing on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Scott, a former governor of Florida, said he is concerned about costs because he “grew up in a poor family … You impact the poorest families every time you raise the cost of something. But you also want to keep people safe.”

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‘A character-altering event’: Officials reflect on Ian’s damage

In central Florida, some homes are “still underwater” as a result of flooding as the storm crossed the state, she said.

Rubio characterized the federal response so far as “very positive, as it’s always been in the past.” President Joe Biden had multiple meetings with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, and plans to visit both Florida and Puerto Rico in the coming days, following successive devastating storms.

The scope of the destruction led to discussion of a relief bill Sunday.

“We do have to provide disaster aid,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And whether that’s for a hurricane, or whether that’s for flooding, or whether that’s for wildfires, we’ve got to do that.”

Rubio, asked whether he would support a bill for relief bill including funding for seemingly unrelated projects, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” he would “fight against it having pork.”

Congress is “capable” of passing a relief bill “without using it as a vehicle or a mechanism for people to load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm,” Rubio said.

The senator voted against relief for Northeastern states for Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but defended that vote Sunday as against provisions in the bill that were not proximate enough to disaster relief.

Scott, a former governor of Florida, avoided making judgment on the actions of local officials in Lee County, which did not send an evacuation order to its residents until Tuesday; several nearby jurisdictions issued evacuation orders Monday.

“It’s something we’ll have to look at,” Scott said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” DeSantis has said those officials acted appropriately.

Florida suffered massive flooding and widespread damage to infrastructure from Hurricane Ian, and the storm has left hundreds of thousands of people without power as it crossed nearly the entire state. It made landfall in Florida on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, and hit the coast of South Carolina Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.

Ian continued to climb the East Coast on Sunday, dropping rain far and wide. But both Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) and Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.), speaking on Sunday morning shows, said their states had avoided the type of damage seen in Florida.

“Certainly we have avoided the worst of it, and we sympathize with the people in Florida. We’ve offered help to them,” Cooper said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Courts could throw state marijuana markets into disarray

Some states have carefully crafted their cannabis programs to meet goals beyond legalization: Many prioritize licenses for entrepreneurs of color and those hurt by the war on drugs. But these programs often rely on residency requirements — a condition a federal court recently ruled unconstitutional.

The ruling also imperils testing and packaging rules designed to bolster public safety.

The 2-1 opinion by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals was focused on Maine’s medical marijuana program, but many experts believe the same legal justification could open up interstate commerce nationwide. And two prior federal court rulings also struck down residency requirements as unconstitutional.

“This [decision] really portends the emergence of a national market in cannabis,” said Robert Mikos, a Vanderbilt legal scholar and expert on federalism and drug laws. “We will see changes to state import and export bans.”

Some states are already maneuvering to prepare for a potential national weed market.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill earlier this month that would allow the state to enter into agreements with other states to regulate the import and export of cannabis products. Oregon passed a similar bill in 2019, and New Jersey is considering legislation to do the same.

The prospect of courts wreaking havoc in state-legal markets has many advocates arguing that it’s far past time for Congress to step in and overhaul federal cannabis policies to reflect the current legalization landscape.

“Consumer safety is in jeopardy if [those rules] are struck down,” said Andrew Kline, senior counsel at Perkins Coie and a former policy director for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “That’s not good for consumers. I don’t think businesses want that either.”

Dormant Commerce Clause

The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate and international commerce. The dormant Commerce Clause — the legal doctrine used to strike down Maine’s residency requirement — is the flip side of the Commerce Clause. It bars states from discriminating against or burdening interstate commerce.

Maine’s medical marijuana law requires that all “officers or directors” of a dispensary are residents of the state. Multi-state marijuana operator Acreage Holdings sued the state over the requirement after the planned acquisition of a Maine medical marijuana dispensary ran afoul of the residency rule.

United Cannabis Patients and Caregivers of Maine, a coalition of small medical marijuana caregivers, intervened in the case, in hopes of preserving the dominance of small operators in the medical marijuana program. About 75 percent of medical marijuana sales in Maine are conducted by small operators, said James Monteleone, the attorney who represented the coalition in the case.

His clients are “hoping to preserve what was intended to be some manner of economic protection in this market,” he said.

At a time when both progressive marijuana advocates and anti-legalization activists are raising alarms about increasing corporate dominance in the market, the prospect of interstate commerce has advocates of all stripes debating when and how that trade should come about.

The 1st Circuit isn’t the only court to come down against residency requirements.

In June 2021, a federal court in Michigan ruled against the city of Detroit in a challenge to its proposed licensing scheme that favored longtime city residents. In November 2021, a federal court in Missouri struck down the state’s residency requirement for ownership in medical marijuana companies.

Both courts cited the dormant Commerce Clause in their rulings on the issue.

Courts in the ‘drivers’ seat’

So far, marijuana legalization has been dealt with at the ballot box by voters and through state legislatures.

“The courts have played a pretty subdued role,” Mikos said. But unless Congress steps in on the issue of the dormant Commerce Clause and marijuana, “the courts will be in the drivers’ seat and the states will have to deal with that.”

That could pose problems for existing state programs, which have sprung up in an isolated fashion. Every state has set up its regulated market differently, from taxes to lab testing to advertising.

Some states have mandatory vertical integration, meaning that a single company must grow, process, manufacture, distribute and sell marijuana products. Other states ban the practice in hope of dissuading industry consolidation.

If federal courts declare that states can’t ban the import and export of weed over state lines, companies are likely to start challenging state regulations on things like labeling and packaging.

Legal experts are also concerned about a race to the bottom. If the courts open up a national market, companies can just pick up and move to states with the most lenient regulations when it comes to public health, environmental laws and labor regulations.

“As hard as it is to comply with 38 different state rules, at least you know what the rules are,” said Kline. “If we start unwinding them and there’s uncertainty in the marketplace, that’s not good for business either.”

While several legal experts agreed that the 1st Circuit ruling could lead to the opening up of interstate markets, Matthew Warner, the attorney who represented Acreage in the case, cautioned against over-interpreting the ruling.

“A lot of these concerns are red herrings because states just don’t have that much authority here,” Warner said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be up to Congress to pass the broader laws.”

Threat to social equity

Cities and states across the country are increasingly focusing on standing up social equity programs, which are aimed at repairing the racially disparate harms of drug enforcement. These programs, which include priority licensing schemes, typically have certain residency requirements based on marijuana enforcement rates.

While the ruling won’t likely have any impact on existing social equity programs, it does take a step toward threatening Massachusetts’ social equity efforts. Massachusetts is the only state in the 1st Circuit’s jurisdiction with a state-wide social equity program that has a residency component.

And the legal basis for the ruling could be used to strike down similar programs across the country, from California to Colorado to New York.

“Is there an alternative way of identifying people harmed by the drug war, without discriminating against non-residents?” said Shaleen Title, a drug policy expert and former Massachusetts cannabis regulator. “You could consider drug convictions, poverty [and] unemployment.”

Looking ahead

The coalition of caregivers in Maine petitioned the court for a rehearing, which would have given all nine judges on the court a chance to weigh in. But the 1st Circuit denied their petition last week.

In the petition, the intervenors argued that the dormant Commerce Clause was applied erroneously to the marijuana market, citing one judge’s dissenting opinion in their case.

“The national market for marijuana is unlike the markets for liquor licenses or egg products in one crucial regard: it is illegal,” read the dissenting opinion.

The caregivers argued that no lawful national marijuana market exists, so Maine’s regulation of its in-state market does not violate the dormant Commerce Clause.

Monteleone said the intervenors weren’t sure at this point whether they would try to seek an audience with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Still, if the dormant Commerce Clause doesn’t apply to marijuana because it’s a federally illegal industry, it raises questions about other federal laws.

“It gets into this shady area,” said Benjamin Stelter-Embry, an attorney who represented the plaintiff in the case that struck down Missouri’s residency requirement. “Does that mean those companies don’t have to comply with the American Disabilities Act? Or Title 7, which prohibits employment discrimination? OSHA?”

Meanwhile, some advocates are working on setting up interstate marijuana agreements at the state level.

Adam Smith, founder of the Alliance for Sensible Markets, believes that this approach will allow states to keep their regulatory frameworks and develop an interstate marijuana trade that helps small businesses.

“It’s a more controlled, more predictable way for commerce to emerge [rather than] having siloes torn down by the courts,” Smith said.

Others are calling on Congress to weigh in — fearing that courts will continue on this path, threatening state regulations and social equity efforts.

“Congress should use its robust power to regulate interstate commerce to benefit disproportionately harmed people and small businesses,” Title said.

For example, Congress could authorize states to continue their social equity programs after legalization, or they could create a transition period where states could continue to ban out-of-state commerce for a certain number of years, she explained.

“That would allow a gradual transition and the opportunity for data collection,” Title said. “That way, regulators could course correct.”

Flipping the switch on interstate commerce all at once, Title said, could usher in Amazon and tobacco companies to dominate the national market.

“What we need is Congress not to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but rather to develop a plan for interstate commerce,” she said.

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‘4-alarm blaze’: New York’s public health crises converge

Strike two

But amid the scramble to respond to monkeypox, a new threat emerged.

On July 18, Bryon Backenson, director of the department’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases, received a call from Kirsten St. George, director of virology and chief of the laboratory of viral diseases at the Wadsworth Center, the state’s public health lab. The health department had, days earlier, reminded health care providers to watch out for signs and symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, a polio-like disease.

“It just so happened that that advisory showed up … pretty much the day before the individual who turned out to be our polio case presented at the hospital,” Backenson said in August. ”This particular advisory that we put out … had really put in the forefront of their minds to be on the lookout.”

St. George was one of the first to find out about the positive case in a person living in Rockland County.

“The molecular supervisor from the lab appeared in the doorway of my office and said, simply, ‘Kirsten, that paralysis case down in the city … we have the result: It’s probably a Type 2 polio,’’’ St. George recalled. “I simply looked at him and said, ‘You’re kidding.’”

She asked for the sequence to be run again.

“As soon as he told me the result, my mind, your mind, I think, for anyone in that situation, starts to run in quite a few different directions at once,” St. George said. “The importance of the finding, the public health implications, the many people who need to be notified … the consequences. But also just a single thought: Where on earth did it come from?”

Scientists at the center had no immediate answer.

Flooded with thoughts about the worst-case scenario, St. George and her team at the Wadsworth Center contacted the CDC. The CDC, members of the Wadsworth Center and officials from the health department convened via phone to develop a plan to determine how the individual contracted the virus and the exact degree to which it was spreading. It’s still not completely clear, officials said.

The CDC is testing New York wastewater to get a sense of where the virus may be circulating. Samples have tested positive in several counties, including New York City, Sullivan, Rockland and Orange.

Epidemiologists have determined that the Rockland case is genetically linked to a sample pulled from wastewater in Israel and the United Kingdom — but that doesn’t mean the individual contracted the virus there. It means that the mutations in the wastewater samples are similar.

“We don’t really know where the transmission occurred,” said Emily Lutterloh, director of the division of epidemiology at the health department, in an August interview.

And that’s part of what’s causing anxiety within the department. Polio can spread undetected — and at least one of the counties where wastewater samples have tested positive has a lower rate of polio vaccination than many other areas in the state.

“I’m worried about people not taking polio seriously,” Backenson said. “Because it spreads somewhat invisibly … [and] the vast majority of people don’t have any signs and symptoms, we can rapidly increase the amount of polio that may be circulating in a particular area, which just increases the risk. And it gets us to the point where we’re going to see additional cases of paralytic polio.”

As officials worked quickly to respond to a possible spread of polio, monkeypox cases kept climbing. By August, New York City reported almost 2,700 cases.

On Aug. 9, the White House announced that the Food and Drug Administration was proposing an alternative method of administering the monkeypox vaccine to help increase the number of doses available. The shots, the FDA said, should be given intradermally, or in between the layers of the skin. The new method, officials said, would increase vaccine supply by five-fold.

Since then, monkeypox cases in New York have leveled off, bringing much-needed relief to the health department.

But concerns about polio only seem to be growing.

Over the past several weeks, health department officials and top Biden health and White House officials have debated ways to ramp up vaccinations in communities that traditionally resist shots. On Sept. 9, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a public health emergency for polio, hoping it will convince more people in the state to get vaccinated. And last week, Bassett declared poliovirus an imminent threat to public health, opening up additional state resources for local health departments to increase vaccinations.

“Human resources are the crux of public health infrastructure,” Santilli said. “Being able to really support [staff] … is really going to be critical to making sure that infrastructure can continue to support the responses and the everyday public health activities.”

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10 torture sites in 1 town: Russia sowed pain, fear in Izium

The brutal encounter at the end of March was just the start. Andriy Kotsar would be captured and tortured twice more by Russian forces in Izium, and the pain would be even worse.

Russian torture in Izium was arbitrary, widespread and absolutely routine for both civilians and soldiers throughout the city, an Associated Press investigation has found. While torture was also evident in Bucha, that devastated Kyiv suburb was only occupied for a month. Izium served as a hub for Russian soldiers for nearly seven months, during which they established torture sites everywhere.

Based on accounts of survivors and police, AP journalists located 10 torture sites in the town and gained access to five of them. They included a deep sunless pit in a residential compound with dates carved in the brick wall, a clammy underground jail that reeked of urine and rotting food, a medical clinic, a police station and a kindergarten.

The AP spoke to 15 survivors of Russian torture in the Kharkiv region, as well as two families whose loved ones disappeared into Russian hands. Two of the men were taken repeatedly and abused. One battered, unconscious Ukrainian soldier was displayed to his wife to force her to provide information she simply didn’t have.

The AP also confirmed eight men were killed under torture in Russian custody, according to survivors and families. All but one were civilians.

At a mass grave site created by the Russians and discovered in the woods of Izium, at least 30 of the 447 bodies recently excavated bore visible marks of torture — bound hands, close gunshot wounds, knife wounds and broken limbs, according to the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office. Those injuries corresponded to the descriptions of the pain inflicted upon the survivors.

AP journalists also saw bodies with bound wrists at the mass grave. Amid the trees were hundreds of simple wooden crosses, most marked only with numbers. One said it contained the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers. At least two more mass graves have been found in the town, all heavily mined, authorities said.

A physician who treated hundreds of Izium’s injured during the Russian occupation said people regularly arrived at his emergency room with injuries consistent with torture, including gunshots to their hands and feet, broken bones and severe bruising, and burns. None would explain their wounds, he said.

“Even if people came to the hospital, silence was the norm,” chief Dr. Yuriy Kuznetsov said. He added that one soldier came in for treatment for hand injuries, clearly from being cuffed, but the man refused to say what happened.

Men with links to Ukrainian forces were singled out repeatedly for torture, but any adult man risked getting caught up. Matilda Bogner, the head of the U.N. human rights mission in Ukraine, told the AP they had documented “widespread practices of torture or ill-treatment of civilian detainees” by Russian forces and affiliates. Torture of soldiers was also systemic, she said.

Torture in any form during an armed conflict is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, whether of prisoners of war or civilians.

“It serves three purposes,” said Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch. “Torture came with questions to coerce information, but it is also to punish and to sow fear. It is to send a chilling message to everyone else.”


AP journalists found Kotsar, 26, hiding in a monastery in Izium, his blond hair tied back neatly in the Orthodox fashion and his beard curling beneath his chin. He had no way to safely contact his loved ones, who thought he was dead.

Back in March, after his first round of torture, Kotsar fled to the gold-domed Pishchanskyi church. Russian soldiers were everywhere, and nowhere in Izium was safe.

Hiding amid the icons, Kotsar listened to the rumble of Russian armored vehicles outside and contemplated suicide. He had been a soldier for just under a month and had no idea if anyone in his little unit had survived the Russian onslaught.

When he emerged from the church a few days later, a Russian patrol caught him. They kept him a week. His captors’ idea of a joke was to shave his legs with a knife, and then debate aloud whether to slice off the limb entirely.

“They took, I don’t know what exactly, some iron, maybe glass rods, and burned the skin little by little,” he said.

He knew nothing that could help them. So they set him free again, and again he sought refuge with the monks. He had nowhere else to go.

By then, the church and monastery compound had become a shelter for around 100 people, including 40 children. Kotsar took up a version of the monastic life, living with the black-robed brothers, helping them care for the refugees and spending his free hours standing before the gilt icons in contemplation.

In the meantime, Izium was transforming into a Russian logistical hub. The town was swarming with troops, and its electricity, gas, water and phone networks were severed. Izium was effectively cut off from the rest of Ukraine.


It was also in the spring that the Russians first sought out Mykola Mosyakyn, driving down the rutted dirt roads until they reached the Ukrainian soldier’s fenced cottage. Mosyakyn, 38, had enlisted after the war began, though not in the same unit as Kotsar.

They tossed him into a pit with standing water, handcuffed him and hung him by the restraints until his skin went numb. They waited in vain for him to talk, and tried again.

“They beat me with sticks. They hit me with their hands, they kicked me, they put out cigarettes on me, they pressed matches on me,” he recounted. “They said, ‘Dance,’ but I did not dance. So they shot my feet.”

After three days they dropped him near the hospital with the command: “Tell them you had an accident.”

At least two other men from Mosyakyn’s neighborhood, a father and son who are both civilians, were taken at the same time. The father speaks about his two weeks in the basement cell in a whisper, staring at the ground. His adult son refuses to speak about it at all.

That family, along with another man who was also tortured in the basement cell on Izium’s east bank, spoke on condition of anonymity. They are terrified the Russians will return.

Mosyakyn was captured again by a different Russian unit just a few days later. This time, he found himself in School No. 2, subject to routine beatings along with other Ukrainians. AP journalists found a discarded Ukrainian soldier’s jacket in the same blue cell he described in detail. The school also served as a base and field hospital for Russian soldiers, and at least two Ukrainian civilians held there died.

But the soldiers again freed Mosyakyn. To this day, he doesn’t know why.

Nor does he understand why they’d release him just to recapture him a few days later and haul him to a crowded garage of a medical clinic near the railroad tracks. More than a dozen other Ukrainians were jailed with him, soldiers and civilians. Two garages were for men, one for women and a bigger one — the only one with a window — for Russian soldiers.

Women were held in the garage closest to the soldiers’ quarters. Their screams came at night, according to Mosyakyn and Kotsar, who were both held at the clinic at different times. Ukrainian intelligence officials said they were raped regularly.

For the men, Room 6 was for electrocution. Room 9 was for waterboarding, Mosyakyn said. He described how they covered his face with a cloth bag and poured water from a kettle onto him to mimic the sensation of drowning. They also hooked up his toes to electricity and shocked him with electrodes on his ears.

It was here that Mosyakyn watched Russian soldiers drag out the lifeless bodies of two civilians they’d tortured to death, both from Izium’s Gonkharovka neighborhood.

Kotsar was taken to the clinic in July and received a slightly different treatment, involving a Soviet-era gas mask and electrodes on his legs. AP journalists also found gas masks at two schools.

By the time Kotsar arrived, people had already been there for 12 to 16 days. They told him arms and legs were broken, and people taken out to be shot. He vowed that if he survived, he would never allow himself to be captured again.

They released him after a couple of weeks. He craved familiar faces and people who meant him no harm. He returned to the monks.

“When I came out, everything was green. It was very, very strange, because there had been absolutely no color,” he said. “Everything was wonderful, so vivid.”


In mid-August, the bodies of three men were found in a shallow forested pit on the town’s outskirts.

Ivan Shabelnyk left home with a friend on March 23 to collect pine cones so the family could light the samovar and have tea. They never came back.

Another man taken with them reluctantly told Shabelnyk’s family about the torture they’d all endured together, first in the basement of a nearby house and then in School No. 2. Then he left town.

Their bodies were found in mid-August, in the last days of the occupation, by a man scavenging for firewood. He followed the smell of death to a shallow grave in the forest.

Shabelnyk’s hands were shot, his ribs broken, his face unrecognizable. They identified him by the jacket he wore, from the local grain factory where he worked. His grieving mother showed the AP a photo.

“He kept this photo with him, of us together when he was a small boy,” said Ludmila Shabelnyk, in tears. “Why did they destroy people like him? I don’t understand. Why has this happened to our country?”

His sister, Olha Zaparozhchenko, walked with journalists through the cemetery and looked at his grave.

“They tortured civilians at will, like bullies,” she said. “I have only one word: genocide.”

The Kharkiv region’s chief prosecutor, Oleksandr Filchakov, told the AP it was too soon to determine how many people were tortured in Izium, but said it easily numbered into the dozens.

“Every day, many people call us with information, people who were in the occupied territories,” he said. “Every day, relatives come to us and say their friends, their family, were tortured by Russian soldiers.”


After his final escape, Kotsar hid in the monastery for more than a month. Without documents and a phone connection to prove his identity, he was too afraid to leave.

Kotsar’s family had no idea what happened to him. They had simply reported him missing, like so many other Ukrainian soldiers caught on the wrong side of the frontline.

He spoke with effort to AP journalists, and at one point asked them to turn off the camera so he could compose himself. The AP contacted the Commissioner for Issues of Missing Persons Under Special Circumstances, which confirmed the missing person report and his identity through a photo on file. Then Kotsar’s own unit, which had left Izium in disarray, returned and tracked him down.

Kotsar doesn’t know what comes next. Ukrainian officials are still in the process of restoring his identity documents, and without them he can’t go anywhere. He would like psychological treatment to deal with the trauma from repeated torture, and for now he’s staying with the monks.

“If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have survived at all,” he said. “They saved me.”

Kotsar’s first call was to the sister of his best friend — the only person in his entire circle of loved ones he was certain was in a safe place. He grinned as the connection went through.

“Tell him I’m alive,” he said. “Tell him I’m alive and in one piece.”

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Stampede at Indonesia football match leaves 174 dead – POLITICO

At least 174 people have died and more are being treated for injuries following a stampede at a football stadium in Java, Indonesia, on Saturday night, according to media reports.  

The match was between two of Indonesia’s biggest teams, the rival Javanese clubs Arema and Persebaya Surabaya. Following Arema’s defeat, its supporters ran onto the pitch — leading the police to open tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowds, according to the reports. 

The tear gas, in turn, led to a stampede as people tried to flee the scene. Only 34 of the victims died in the stadium, while the rest died while being treated for injuries in the nearby hospitals later on, the reports said. Two police officers were among the victims. Police cars were set on fire near the stadium and one was seen on the pitch, flipped on its side.

“Chaos, overcrowding, trampling and suffocation” were among the causes of death, according to the head of the Malang Regency health office, Wiyanto Wijoyo, cited by media. 

Indonesia’s chief security minister said the crowd exceeded capacity, with 42,000 tickets issued for a stadium with capacity to hold 38,000 people. The country’s football league will be suspending play for a week while authorities investigate the incident, according to the reports.

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Zelenskyy vows to retake more areas after pushing Russia out of key Donetsk city – POLITICO

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to recapture more territory in eastern Ukraine after Kyiv’s forces pushed Russia out of the key city of Lyman.

“Now a Ukrainian flag is there” in Lyman, Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Saturday. “During this week, there were more Ukrainian flags in Donbas. It will be even more in a week.”

Ukraine pushed Moscow’s forces out of Lyman on Saturday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the annexation of Donetsk, which includes the strategic city. The Defense Ministry in Moscow on Saturday cited “a threat of encirclement” in withdrawing its troops from Lyman “to more advantageous lines,” it said in a Telegram post.

The retreat from Lyman represents a big setback for Putin, as Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion makes further advances in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian push has seen the recapture of a vast amount of Russian-occupied territory as Moscow’s soldiers have abandoned the front lines. 

Putin on Friday had proclaimed the annexation of Donetsk along with three other regions, following referendums that Western countries declared a “sham.”

“Russia has staged a farce in Donbas. An absolute farce, which it wanted to present as an alleged referendum,” Zelenskyy said late Saturday.

“Ukraine will return its own,” the president pledged. “Both in the east and in the south. And what they tried to annex now, and Crimea, which has been called annexed since 2014.”

“Our flag will be everywhere,” he said.

Lyman has been a key supply and logistics hub for Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine. The loss of the city will further hamper Moscow’s supply lines and impede Russia’s ability to maneuver against a stepped-up Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east that also has pushed Russian forces from the Kharkiv area.

The recapture of Lyman is “significant” for Ukraine, as it creates more problems for Russia’s military on its supply routes, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “And without those routes, it will be more difficult. So it presents a sort of a dilemma for the Russians going forward,” Austin told reporters in Hawaii on Saturday, Reuters reported.

“And we think the Ukrainians have done great work to get there and to begin to occupy the city,” Austin said.

“Lyman is important because it is the next step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas,” Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said on Saturday. “It is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is psychologically very important,” he said.

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King Charles to cancel planned COP27 appearance  – POLITICO

King Charles III will not be traveling to Egypt for the COP27 climate summit next month, after U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss advised him to stay away, the Sunday Times reported

The monarch, a lifelong environmental campaigner, had planned on giving a speech at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh between November 6-18. It would have been his first overseas tour as king.

Truss objected to the plan during a private audience at Buckingham Palace last month, according to a royal insider cited by the newspaper. The person also said the decision was made “entirely in the spirit of being ever-mindful as king that he acts on government advice.”

Last year, both Charles and his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, delivered speeches at the opening ceremony of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland. In contrast to his mother, Charles has been throughout his life significantly more vocal regarding his political views, campaigning for such things as organic farming and action on climate change. 

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