State Department Recap: August 24-31 

Here’s a look at what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats have been doing this week:

US-Pakistan 

 

The United States, through USAID, is providing an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan as the South Asian country suffers severe flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains, landslides and glacial lake outbursts that have occurred since mid-June. The flooding has damaged roads and more than 800,000 hectares of agricultural land, affecting an estimated 33 million people with more than 1 million homes destroyed. 

 

The deadly floods bear the hallmarks of a climate catastrophe, according to scientists.  

Pakistan Fatal Flooding Has Hallmarks of Warming 

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken said in a tweet the aid provides critical humanitarian assistance, such as food, safe water and shelter.

 

US-Russia-Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations of attacks near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant amid international concern the facility itself could be hit, causing a radiation leak.

The U.S. State Department has accused Russia of blocking a consensus document on a nuclear non-proliferation treaty because the agreement noted the risk posed by fighting near the Zaporizhzhia plant. 

Russia Launches New Attacks Near Nuclear Plant, Ukraine Says 

 

Meanwhile, a new Conflict Observatory report unveiled evidence of Russia-perpetrated filtration operations in, and forced deportations from, Ukraine.

“Russia’s filtration operations in Ukraine are devastating the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians. A new Conflict Observatory report shines a light on these and other atrocities. We will continue to work to hold Russian officials accountable,” said Blinken in a tweet.

 

August 24 marked the anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day. The U.S. pledged another $3 billion for Ukrainian defense on that day, continuing its support for the country in fending off Russian military aggression. It’s the largest security assistance package for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in February.

US Announces Largest-Ever, $3B Ukraine Aid Package as War Hits 6-Month Mark 

US-China–Taiwan 

 

The United States said it will not accept China’s attempt to set a “new normal” by escalating military activities in the Taiwan Strait, including flying fighter jets over the median line in the strait.   

 

The State Department said China overreacted and took unnecessary provocations over the past weeks following visits by U.S. members of Congress and elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican.

The U.S. said it seeks to maintain open lines of communication with China while supporting Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Top Official on China Policy to Visit US Amid Tensions 

Official: US Seeks Constructive Communication With China Amid Rising Tensions 

US-Iraq

Iraq is in political turmoil after a powerful Shiite Muslim cleric announced he would resign from politics, leading to clashes between his followers and those of rival political groups. The U.S. called for dialogue after the disturbing unrest but said it saw no need to evacuate staff in its embassy at this time. The State Department said a Level Four Travel Advisory Warning — Do Not Travel — remains in place in Iraq for American citizens intending to travel there. 

Five Killed in Iraq Clashes After Powerful Cleric Quits Politics 

US-Iran

The State Department denied reports the U.S. and Iran have agreed to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“That reporting is false. We have not concluded an understanding,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Tuesday. “We received Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposed final text through the EU, and we have responded to the EU on Wednesday, August 24. Now it is up for Iran to answer.”

Bridged by EU, a final draft text was submitted earlier in August. Key sticking points remain, including supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.

A recent IAEA report showed Iran is pressing ahead with its rollout of an upgrade to its advanced uranium enrichment program. Iran said it will not return to the 2015 nuclear deal unless the IAEA ends an investigation. Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran Steps Up Underground Uranium Enrichment, IAEA Report Says 

Iran Says No Return to 2015 Nuclear Deal Unless IAEA Ends Investigations

As Boris Johnson Departs, Britain’s Next Leader Faces Daunting Challenges

Britain will have a new prime minister next week, nearly two months after the resignation of Boris Johnson in July, following a series of scandals. As Henry Ridgwell reports, Johnson’s successor faces a series of daunting challenges — while Britain’s allies, including Ukraine, are watching closely.

To Ukrainians, Gorbachev Remains an ‘Imperialist’

Mikhail Gorbachev could have been celebrated for involuntarily opening a path toward Ukraine’s independence, but his support for Crimea’s annexation and silence in the face of Russia’s invasion have stained his reputation there.

Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, triggered its demise in 1991, which led to the formation of 15 new independent countries including Ukraine.

But it is no accident that the Ukrainian government is still mute, a day after the death of Gorbachev, whose mother and wife were of Ukrainian origin.

Ukrainians walking through the streets of Kyiv on Wednesday did not mince their words about the leader of the “occupying” and “imperialist” Soviet power.

“I’m very happy he died. The more enemies and their supporters die, the happier I’ll be,” said 32-year-old Oleksandr Stepanov.

Katerina Boyuk, a 17-year-old student, is convinced that Gorbachev “did not really care” about Ukraine and that the country’s independence has “nothing to do” with him.

“He was just the ruler of the USSR, and he couldn’t manage to keep his throne,” she said.

“I think he’s as much of an aggressor as the current Kremlin leaders,” said Vytalya Formantchuk, 43, adding that Gorbachev “put a lot of effort into destroying Ukrainians, their culture and their language.”

The visible hostility of Ukrainians toward Gorbachev also stems from his silence regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gorbachev, mostly popular in the West, never publicly commented on what has turned out to be the worst conflict in Europe since World War II.

One member of his close circle, Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov, said in July that Gorbachev was “disappointed, of course.”

Even worse, Gorbachev said he “approved” Moscow’s annexation of Crimea to Russia in 2014.

He argued that “the people” had spoken in the referendum on the unification of the peninsula to Russia, widely regarded as a sham.

Kyiv never forgave him for that.

Gorbachev is perceived in Ukraine “with a lot of skepticism — we do not share the enthusiasm we’ve been seeing in obituaries all around the world,” said Volodymyr Yermolenko, philosopher and editor-in-chief of the ukraineworld.com website.

“His destiny is the same destiny as many Russian reformers who want reforms, but only up to a certain point: when people start questioning Russian imperialism and decolonization,” he said.

Gorbachev was Soviet leader in 1986, when Chernobyl’s No. 4 nuclear reactor exploded, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident and spreading radioactive contamination across Europe.

Moscow first tried to downplay the extent of the disaster, which delayed evacuation of locals.

Gorbachev is widely blamed for this and for the decision to maintain the May 1 parade in Kyiv five days later.

Thousands of people, including many children, marched through the city holding flowers and singing songs, blissfully unaware of the radioactive cloud surrounding them.

Gorbachev “was an ordinary Russian imperialist. He simply did everything he could to save the USSR and restore the Russian Empire, which is now waging war against us,” popular blogger and activist Yuri Kasyanov posted on Facebook.

Disliked by Russians, rejected by Ukrainians, Gorbachev still regularly talked about his Ukrainian roots.

“I am, after all, half Ukrainian. My mother was Ukrainian, and my wife, Raisa, was too. I spoke my very first words in Ukrainian, and the first songs I heard were Ukrainian,” he said in a 2015 interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel.

American Nun, 83, Abducted by Jihadists in Sahel is Free

An 83-year-old American nun who was abducted by jihadists in northern Burkina Faso in April has been released, the Catholic Church said. 

Sister Suellen Tennyson, a nun with the Congregation of Marianites of the Holy Cross, had been kidnapped in the parish of Yalgo, where she had worked since 2014. 

In a statement, the bishop of the diocese of Kaya, Theophile Nare, announced “to all, that with great joy and gratitude to God,” Tennyson “has been released by her kidnappers.” 

She is “currently in a safe place … [and] in good health,” Nare said, in the statement that reached AFP on Wednesday, adding that he had no details about the conditions of her release but was “deeply grateful to all those who worked for it.” 

In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed “the release of a U.S. citizen in Niger who had been held hostage in West Africa.” 

The spokesman did not identify the individual, but Tennyson was the only known American hostage in the region. 

“This individual will soon be reunited with loved ones. It is the wish of the individual to remain private at this time, and we ask that all respect that wish,” the spokesman said. 

Yalgo lies between the towns of Kaya and Dori, in the heart of a region of northern Burkina Faso that, like neighboring Niger, has been plagued by jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. 

Thousands of people have died and nearly 2 million people have fled their homes in the 7-year-old insurgency. 

In April 2021, three Europeans who had been reported missing after an attack in eastern Burkina — two Spaniards and an Irishman — were “executed by terrorists,” the authorities said at the time. 

 

На тлі візиту місії МАГАТЕ до ЗАЕС окупанти заявляють про відмову надавати «перепустки» і «запобігання теракту»

Наразі українська сторона цих заяв окупантів ще не коментувала

Через понад 12 годин війська РФ повторно вдарили по Київському району Харкова – мер

Інформація про постраждалих уточнюється

Росія незаконно вивезла з окупованого Мелітополя мільйони тонн українського зерна – мер Федоров

«Ми чітко розуміємо, що кількість вкрадених товарів і техніки лише збільшуватиметься»

Borrell Says EU Members Agree on Suspension of Visa Deal for Russians

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, says the bloc’s 27 members have agreed to suspend an agreement with Russia, which had made it easier for Russians to obtain tourist visas, as a sanction for Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Borrell announced the decision, which falls short of the total ban on visa issuance some countries sought, on Tuesday after the second day of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Czech capital.

A 2007 visa agreement to ease EU entry requirements for Russians was partially suspended in late February, targeting people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as Russia’s official delegations and holders of diplomatic passports. But it left so-called “ordinary Russians” untouched, allowing them to continue to enjoy EU visa-facilitation benefits, such as reduced waiting times and costs and the need to present fewer documents when applying.

Countries that share borders with Russia — the Baltic states, Poland, and Finland — have led the drive for more restrictive bans on visas for Russian tourists. With air service barred by the EU on flights from Russia, most travelers are using their land borders to travel on to other EU countries.

Borrell said the agreement is aimed at stopping Russians from “visa shopping” by applying for their travel documents with countries in the bloc where the rules are not as strict. Once granted a visa to an EU country, the holder of the document can then travel freely within the EU’s Schengen Area.

The suspension of the pact makes the EU visa process more complicated, more expensive, and more bureaucratic, as well as increasing waiting times for approval, according to European Commission guidelines.

Germany and France have led the other side of the debate, saying the limiting of visas to Russians would be counterproductive as the EU tries to fight for the “hearts and minds” of those Russians who don’t support Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.

Kyiv has called for the bloc to ban issuing visas to all Russians except political dissidents.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told RFE/RL in an interview on August 30 that “calling this war a ‘Putin problem’ and not the problem of the Russian society that mostly supports its president is self-deception.”

All 27 EU members had to agree to any measure adopted that would limit the issuance of visas throughout the bloc.

Fans of Princess Diana Gather to Mark Her Death 25 Years Ago

Fans of the late Princess Diana placed tributes outside the gates of her Kensington Palace home on Wednesday, marking the 25th anniversary of her death in a Paris car accident.

An arrangement of white chrysanthemums spelling out “Princess Diana” sat among dozens of photos and messages left by admirers, some of whom said they make annual pilgrimages to the spot to remember the tragedy.

“We just come here, do the memorial and, you know, we just chat about things that she used to do, you know, to … let people know that we will never forget the princess, we will never forget what she’s done,’’ said Julie Cain, 59, who traveled 300 miles (480 kilometers) from Newcastle in northern England. “We just want her legacy kept, like, going as long as possible.”

Diana died on Aug. 31, 1997, at the age of 36, stunning people around the world who felt they knew the princess after seeing her successes and struggles play out on TV screens and newspaper front pages for 17 years. The tributes left outside Kensington Palace on Wednesday were a small reminder of the mountains of flowers piled there in the days after Diana’s death.

Diana was the focus of constant media attention from the moment she was engaged to marry Prince Charles until the night she died. Her fairytale wedding, ugly divorce and efforts to build a new life all made headlines.

The public watched as she blossomed from a shy teenager into an international style icon who befriended AIDS patients, charmed Nelson Mandela and walked through a minefield to promote the drive to eradicate landmines. Along the way, she showed the royal family, particularly her sons William and Harry, how to connect with people and be relevant in the 21st century.

On Wednesday morning, Cain and her friend Maria Scott, 51, paid their respects to Diana as dawn broke over the palace, just as they do every year.

“There was just something about that girl that really stood out. And of course, I watched the wedding, the fairy-tale princess,’’ Scott said. “And, you know, you see, she was like part of your life because you were seeing that every day on the television. She was in newspapers, magazines. She was all over. And you felt like she was part of your life.”