Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has formally ruled out direct peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the Kremlin declared it had annexed four Ukrainian territories seized by Russia’s military. Earlier today, Zelensky signed a decree stating that talks with Putin over Ukraine’s fate would be “impossible,” adding, “We are ready for a dialogue with Russia, but with another president of Russia.” This comes as Ukraine’s military continues to claim battlefield victories. In the east, Ukraine’s military is advancing toward the Russian-held Luhansk region after its troops recaptured the city of Lyman on Saturday; meanwhile, Ukrainian forces reportedly retook territory along the Dnieper River in the south on Monday.
In Afghanistan, the death toll in last week’s attack on an educational center in Kabul has risen to 53, with more than 110 people injured. Most of the victims were young women and girls. On Friday, a suicide bomber struck inside the building as hundreds of students studied for a university entrance exam. It was the latest attack on the minority Hazara community, which has repeatedly been targeted by the ISIS-K militant group. Over the weekend, Afghan women took to the streets of Kabul and other cities to protest the killings. In response, Taliban soldiers fired warning shots over the protesters’ heads; smashed some of their cellphones; beat them; cursed at them; and forced them to disperse. This is Asya Asghari, the older sister of Um al-Banin, one of the students killed in Friday’s bomb attack.
Asya Asghari: “We are really worried. It’s hard for us. All the schools are closed to girls. In the educational center, an unfortunate incident happened. Not only was Um al-Banin martyred, but also Samira, Zahra and the security guard named Tahir, who were all like members of our family and served to protect us in the educational center. It is a very painful scene, but we will continue with the lessons, and we will never give up or stop.”
Iran’s supreme leader has made his first public comments about the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after she was detained by Iran’s so-called morality police for allegedly wearing her head scarf improperly. Speaking to military cadets at a graduation ceremony in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday labeled nationwide protests that have broken out over Amini’s killing as “riots” — and he blamed the United States and Israel for organizing them.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “I say this clearly, that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the usurping and fake Zionist regime. They have sat down and planned this. They have planned this. And those who take their salaries, some being traitorous Iranians abroad, have helped them.”
President Biden said Monday he was “gravely concerned” about the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, while promising to impose “further costs” on Iran. On Monday, Canada announced new sanctions against senior Iranian officials, while Germany and other European countries submitted more than a dozen proposals for new EU sanctions on Iran.
Mass protests in Haiti are continuing for a seventh week to demand the resignation of the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ariel Henry and to condemn rising fuel prices.
Thelemaque Piere: “We are in the streets to say that we cannot breathe because of the high cost of living. Today we are in the streets to say that we want our dollars. Today we are in the streets to say that we do not accept the increase in the price of fuel, because fuel is a significant product. If we add one cent to its cost, then the price of all products will triple or increase fivefold. As long as Prime Minister Ariel Henry does not give up power, we will continue to fight.”
The ongoing protests in Haiti have shut down many parts of the country. Meanwhile, Haitian authorities have announced eight people have died from cholera — the first cholera deaths in Haiti in three years. A cholera outbreak a decade ago killed over 10,000 people in Haiti.
In Somalia, at least 20 people were killed Monday in a pair of car bomb attacks. The militant group al-Shabab took responsibility, claiming the attack in the central city of Beledweyne killed Somali government officials and soldiers. The violence came after the U.S. military said it killed the leader of al-Shabab in an airstrike on Saturday. U.S. Africa Command says its initial assessment showed Abdullahi Nadir was killed, while no civilians were injured in the strike 230 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
This comes after the Pentagon claimed in an annual report published last week that U.S. forces killed only 12 noncombatants in 2021. The war monitoring group Airwars accused the Pentagon of vastly undercounting civilian deaths, noting that it documented up to 25 civilians killed by the U.S. last year in Syria alone.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians and injured a third Monday as they drove their car near a checkpoint outside the city of Ramallah. Israel’s military accused the young men of plotting to carry out a car-ramming attack. The families of the men dispute Israel’s account, saying the soldiers opened fire on their vehicle and killed them “in cold blood.”
This comes as the EU-Israel Association Council is holding its first meeting in a decade today. Ahead of the talks, Amnesty International said in a statement, “Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians. This is a crime against humanity requiring the EU to hold Israel’s leaders to account, and to ensure it in no way supports their apartheid system. Any cooperation must focus on dismantling Israel’s cruel system of oppression and domination.”
Palestinian leaders are condemning a proposal by Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss to move the United Kingdom’s Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So far, the U.S. is virtually alone among nations in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, after then-President Trump relocated the U.S. Embassy there in 2018. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh spoke from Ramallah on Monday.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh: “Any change in the status quo in Jerusalem would undermine the two-state solution and will be considered a tacit recognition of the city’s annexation to Israel, which will encourage the occupying state and the settlers’ radical groups to continue their aggression toward our people and toward the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”
Japan’s government has condemned North Korea’s military after it test-fired a ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, triggering an emergency alert for 5 million residents. The missile reportedly flew for nearly 3,000 miles before crashing into the Pacific far to the east of Japan, which would make it North Korea’s longest test flight of a missile to date. This comes after Japan and South Korea joined trilateral, U.S.-led naval war games last week in waters off the Korean Peninsula.
President Biden visited Puerto Rico on Monday, where he pledged U.S. disaster relief, two weeks after Hurricane Fiona collapsed the island’s electrical grid with high winds, storm surge and heavy flooding. Speaking from the Port of Ponce on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, Biden pledged to send “every single dollar” promised to Puerto Rico by the federal government.
President Joe Biden: “We know that the climate crisis and more extreme weather are going to continue to hit this island and hit the United States overall. And as we rebuild, we have to ensure that we build it to last. We’re particularly focused on the power grid.”
Biden pledged $60 million in additional funding to shore up Puerto Rico’s levees, fortify flood walls and create a new flood warning system. His pledge came as FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said the cost of repairing Puerto Rico’s electrical grid would require “billions” of dollars. Tomorrow Biden will tour parts of Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian. The storm’s death toll has topped 100, with search and rescue crews on warning they’re likely to uncover more bodies in hard-hit parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast in the coming days.
The University of Idaho has warned its employees not to discuss contraception with students or to provide reproductive health counseling — at the risk of being fired and charged with a felony. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that overturned federal abortion rights under Roe v. Wade, Idaho has seen nearly all abortions outlawed under a so-called trigger law passed in 2019. Last week, the university’s general counsel wrote in an email to faculty and staff that officials will also enforce a law dating back to 1867 — when Idaho was a territory — making it a crime to advertise abortion services and birth control. Civil liberties groups have condemned the guidance as a violation of free speech on campus. Adam Steinbaugh is an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
Adam Steinbaugh: “The First Amendment protects the rights of university faculty at public universities and colleges to discuss matters in class that are relevant to the class. The First Amendment protects that. And if you were telling them that if they are seen to promote abortion in their class or academic work, they could wind up in handcuffs, that’s a First Amendment problem.”
In sports news, a yearlong independent investigation has documented systemic abuse of players at all levels of women’s soccer, including the National Women’s Soccer League. The lead investigator was Sally Yates, who briefly served as acting attorney general. In a statement, Yates said, “Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims.” Yates went on to say, “Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.” The independent investigation comes a year after two coaches in the National Women’s Soccer League were fired over abuse allegations.