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Orthodox patriarch anticipates Pope Francis visit to Turkey for Council of Nicea anniversary – Catholic News Agency

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CBS Evening News Anchor Norah O’Donnell Interviews Pope Francis – Inside Edition

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What You Need to Know About New Vatican Norms on Supernatural Phenomena – National Catholic Register

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Israel Recovered the Bodies of 3 Hostages

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Also, Francis Ford Coppola has no regrets about his new film.

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Putin wants buffer zone around Ukraine city of Kharkiv

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By Illia Novikov | Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday during a visit to China that Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region aims to create a buffer zone but that there are no plans to capture the city.

The remarks were Putin’s first on the offensive launched May 10, which opened a new front and displaced thousands of Ukrainians within days. Earlier Friday, a massive Ukrainian drone attack on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula cut off power in the city of Sevastopol, after an earlier attack damaged aircraft and fuel storage at an airbase.

In southern Russia, Russian authorities said a refinery was also set ablaze.

Moscow launched attacks in the Kharkiv region in response to Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s Belgorod region, Putin told reporters while visiting the Chinese city of Harbin.

“I have said publicly that if it continues, we will be forced to create a security zone, a sanitary zone,” he said. “That’s what we are doing.” Russian troops were “advancing daily according to plan,” he said and added there were no plans for now to take the city of Kharkiv.

Ukrainian troops are fighting to halt Russian advances in the Kharkiv region that began late last week. In an effort to increase troop numbers, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed two laws Friday, allowing prisoners to join the army and increasing fines for draft dodgers fivefold. The controversial mobilization law goes into effect on Saturday.

Russia enlisted prisoners early on in the war, and personnel shortages compelled the new measures. The legislation allows for “parole from serving a sentence and further enlistment for military service” for a specific period for some people charged with criminal offences. It doesn’t extend to those convicted of crimes against Ukraine’s national security.

Penalties will be increased to 25,500 hryvnias ($650) for citizens and 51,000 hryvnias ($1,300) for civil servants and legal entities for ignoring draft notices or failing to update the draft board of their information. Fines were previously 5100 hryvnias ($130) for citizens and 8500 hryvnias ($215) for civil servants and legal entities.

Ukrainian authorities have evacuated around 8,000 civilians from the recent flashpoint town of Vovchansk, 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Russian border. The Russian army’s usual tactic is to reduce towns and villages to ruins with aerial strikes before troops move in.

At least two people were killed and 19 were wounded in the Russian bombing of Kharkiv, regional chief Oleh Syniehubov said on his Telegram posting on Friday. Four of the wounded were in critical condition.

Russia’s new offensive has “expanded the zone of active hostilities by almost 70 kilometers” (45 miles), in an effort to force Ukraine to spread its forces and use reserve troops, Ukraine’s military chief, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Friday.

In the Kharkiv region, Russian forces have advanced 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border, Zelenskyy said Friday.

Separately, speaking about Ukraine’s upcoming peace conferences in Switzerland next month, Putin said it was a vain attempt to enforce terms of a peaceful settlement on Russia and stressed that Russia wasn’t invited to the meeting.

He said that Russia was ready for talks but shrugged off Zelenskyy’s peace formula as wishful thinking. Any prospective peace talks should be based on a draft deal negotiated by Russia and Ukraine during their Istanbul talks in 2022, he said.

Ukraine meanwhile carried out drone raids on Crimea in an attempt to strike back during Moscow’s offensive in northeastern Ukraine, which has piled on pressure on outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian forces awaiting delayed deliveries of crucial weapons and ammunition from Western partners.

A Ukrainian intelligence official confirmed to The Associated Press that the country’s intelligence services struck Russia’s military infrastructure sites in Novorossiysk, on the Black Sea coast, and in Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol. The official was not authorized to make public comments and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The operation, carried out by Ukraine-built drones, targeted Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels, the official said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said air defenses downed 51 Ukrainian drones over Crimea, 44 over the Krasnodar region of Russia and six over the Belgorod region. Russian warplanes and patrol boats also destroyed six sea drones in the Black Sea, it said.

At least three fighter jets were destroyed in an earlier attack in Crimea a few days ago, according to satellite imagery of the airbase provided by Maxar Technologies.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor of Sevastopol, which is the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, said the drone attack damaged the city’s power plant. He said it could take a day to fully restore electricity and warned residents of power cuts. He also announced city schools would be closed temporarily.

In the Krasnodar region, authorities said a drone attack early Friday caused a fire at an oil refinery in Tuapse, which was later contained. There were no casualties. Ukraine has repeatedly targeted refineries and other energy facilities deep inside Russia, inflicting damage.

The Krasnodar region’s governor, Veniamin Kondratyev, said fragments of downed drones around the port of Novorossiysk caused several fires, but there were no casualties.

Belgorov Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said a Ukrainian drone struck a vehicle, killing a woman and her 4-year-old child. Another attack there set a fuel tank ablaze at a gas station, he said.

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Recent Russian attacks have also targeted the eastern Donetsk region, as well as the Chernihiv and Sumy regions in the north and in the southern Zaporizhzhia region — apparently seeking to further stretch depleted Ukrainian resources.

Having boosted their forces in northern Ukraine, Russian forces are now pushing to advance near the village of Lyptsi, as well as the town of Vovchansk, according to Syrskyi, the Ukrainian military commander.

Syrskyi also said he inspected units that are “preparing for defense” of Sumy. On Tuesday, the head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, reportedly said Russia’s military planned to launch offensive actions in Sumy.

Russia has also been testing defenses elsewhere along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, which snakes north-to-south through eastern Ukraine. The line has barely changed over the past 18 months, in what has become a war of attrition.

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Menendez Jurors See the Gold Bars at the Heart of a Bribery Case

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  • The Latest
  • Opening Statements
  • Key Players
  • The Charges
  • Menendez’s Political Future

An F.B.I. agent, testifying for the government, described his search of Senator Robert Menendez’s house in New Jersey.

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Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, surrounded by law enforcement officers,  arrives at federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Jurors in the corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez on Thursday were handed plastic bags containing gold bars, allowing them to touch an object at the heart of the government’s case.Credit…Andrew Kelly/Reuters

With the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey underway on Thursday, a prosecutor handed a juror in the first row of the jury box a plastic bag containing an object at the heart of the government’s case: a gold bar that glinted under the courtroom lights.

One by one, jurors held the bag, turning it over in their hands and feeling its weight before passing it to their neighbor — the jury’s first tangible exposure to evidence prosecutors say was a bribe paid to Mr. Menendez, 70, and his wife.

The prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, soon handed jurors another bag containing several gold bars. But before she could hand over a third, the judge, Sidney H. Stein, said the jury “has gotten a feel for the weight of gold.”

Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, have been charged with accepting gifts collectively worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, including gold, cash and a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible, in exchange for the senator’s dispensing of political favors to the governments of Egypt and Qatar and to three New Jersey businessmen.

The senator and two of the businessmen — Wael Hana and Fred Daibes — are being tried together in Manhattan federal court. Ms. Menendez, 57, was to be tried with them, but her trial was postponed after her lawyers said she had a “serious medical condition.”

On Thursday, the senator revealed that Ms. Menendez was being treated for breast cancer and was preparing to undergo a mastectomy and possible radiation treatment.

The third businessman charged in the case, Jose Uribe, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify as a prosecution witness at the trial.

The trial of Mr. Menendez, Mr. Hana and Mr. Daibes is expected to last more than a month. In an opening statement on Wednesday, Avi Weitzman, a lawyer for the senator, largely pinned blame for the bribery charges on Ms. Menendez, who he said had hidden her past dire finances from her husband and “what she was asking others to give her.”

On Thursday morning, lawyers for the senator’s co-defendants, in their opening statements, portrayed their clients as friends of the couple whose innocent acts of generosity were being unfairly cast by prosecutors as criminal.

“It’s about criminalizing friendships,” said Mr. Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence S. Lustberg. Mr. Daibes’s lawyer, César de Castro, said his client had not given anything to the Menendezes to influence them or have the senator engage in any official act on anyone’s behalf.

The presentation of the gold bars came as an F.B.I. special agent, Aristotelis Kougemitros, the government’s first witness, testified about the gold and cash seized during a June 2022 search of the Menendezes’ home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Agent Kougemitros, who led the search team, said investigators seized $486,461 in cash, 11 one-ounce gold bars and two one-kilogram bars.

Although the agent’s testimony focused on the valuable items found in the search, his account, along with F.B.I. photographs that were taken, offered jurors an uncommonly intimate visit to the Menendezes’ home.

Photograph after photograph was displayed from inside the couple’s bedroom, which had been locked and could only be opened with the help of an F.B.I. locksmith, the agent testified. Inside were photographs of the senator and his wife. There was an exercise machine by their bed; even their en suite bathroom was visible.

A photo of the contents of a closet showed aquamarine lingerie and playful ties, including two that depicted mice eating cheese.

Agent Kougemitros said that, with the locksmith’s help, the team entered two bedroom closets, each secured with deadbolt locks, and found gold bars, jewelry and a safe. Inside the safe were boxes and envelopes of cash. In other parts of the house, agents found more cash: in clothing, a duffel bag, plastic bags and men’s shoes. The Mercedes was parked in a cluttered garage.

During the initial phase of the search, Agent Kougemitros said, agents carefully laid out, counted and photographed the cash. Eventually, he said, the “sheer volume of bills” was too much to count by hand, “so we got cash-counting machines — you’ve probably seen them in movies.”

At one point, the agent stepped off the witness stand and opened a box to show the jury a bag stuffed with cash, which he said was found in the senator’s office and contained $100,000.

Late Thursday, Adam Fee, a lawyer for the senator, raised questions during cross-examination about whether the senator even had access to the bedroom closet where the safe and gold had been found. He focused on the location of a blue blazer that the agent said had been hanging inside the closet and was linked to the senator.

Mr. Fee zoomed in on photographs that he said made it clear the blazer was hanging on an adjacent door outside of the closet.

“Do you want to change that testimony?” he asked the agent. He did not change his account.

The cross-examination was in line with the defense strategy of suggesting Ms. Menendez had secrets the senator was not privy to. On Wednesday, in Mr. Weitzman’s opening statement, he hammered home that point, saying the senator did not have a key to the closet nor did he know gold was kept there.

“It is Nadine’s closet,” he said. “In fact, when you look inside the closet, you will see that it is filled with all of Nadine’s clothing. Women’s clothing.”

Tracey Tully contributed reporting.

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Putin, Xi issue one-sentence warning on nuclear war

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have issued a one-sentence statement about nuclear war as part of their “new era” strategic partnership.

Putin and Xi announced plans to deepen their partnership on Thursday, issuing a statement addressing their position on a number of issues facing the world, ranging from questions about the economy to the war between Russia and Ukraine. China and Russia have steadily strengthened ties as the two countries have found regularly themselves at odds with much of the West.

The United States has seen its long-frayed relations with both countries become even more strained in recent years. Washington emerged as a staunch supporter of Ukraine after Putin ordered an invasion of the Eastern European nation in February 2022, delivering billions of dollars of aid to help Kyiv defend itself.

Meanwhile, relations with China remain tense over, among other concerns, Taiwan. The question of Taiwanese independence has been a sticking point between the U.S. and China.

Putin, Xi statement on nuclear weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear in Beijing on May 16, 2024. In a joint statement, Putin and Xi addressed their position on the use of nuclear weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear in Beijing on May 16, 2024. In a joint statement, Putin and Xi addressed their position on the use of nuclear weapons.

Beijing’s “One China” policy dictates that Taiwan, an island off the country’s coast, is part of China. Taiwan’s leaders, however, consider the island to be its own nation. While the United States does not officially recognize the island’s independence, it has pledged to defend it against a Chinese invasion.

Some experts and officials have raised concerns that these regional conflicts could eventually escalate into a wider war with the United States, culminating in fears that nuclear weapons could eventually be used.

However, China and Russia addressed their stance on nuclear war in their joint statement issued on Thursday.

“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be fought,” the statement reads.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China’s International Press Center for further comment via email.

Javed Ali, a professor at the University of Michigan and former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, told Newsweek on Thursday the statement “indicates the confidence both countries feel about declared nuclear powers and how those weapons—like for the United States, France, and Great Britain–are part of each country’s national security posture.”

The summit is an “indicator of the strong relationship” between the two counties as the two leaders both believe the U.S. and allies have worked to diminish their influence, according to Ali.

“The degree to which these Russian and Chinese ties endure is an open question, since both President Xi and President Putin also have to manage their national interests and may view the current framework as more transactional than strategic,” he said noting that U.S. policy treats Russia and China differently given deeper economic ties to Beijing.

Putin warned during a statement in March that the chances of nuclear war would increase if Western nations send troops to Ukraine, which has long been viewed as a red line for Russia that Ukraine’s allies have not been willing to cross.

While Russian authorities have long sought to downplay nuclear fears, pundits on Russian state TV, which aligns with the Kremlin, have repeatedly discussed the possibility of nuclear war, fueling concerns.

In response to Putin’s remarks in March, Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, warned about the risks of nuclear war just days later.

“In January 2022, leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint-statement, affirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” she said. “China believes that all nuclear weapon states need to embrace the idea of common security and uphold global strategic balance and stability.”

Mao continued: “Under the current circumstances, parties need to jointly seek de-escalation and lower strategic risks.”

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Russia lacks ‘numbers for strategic breakthrough’ in Ukraine: NATO

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Moscow says it will keep pushing its offensive in Ukraine, though NATO doubts Russia has the resources to make a significant breakthrough.


NATO’s top military officer has said Russia’s armed forces are incapable of any major advance.

“The Russians don’t have the numbers necessary to do a strategic breakthrough,” NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe Christopher Cavoli told reporters on Thursday.

“More to the point, they don’t have the skill and the capability to do it; to operate at the scale necessary to exploit any breakthrough to strategic advantage,” the general said. 

His comments come as Ukrainian forces engage in fierce battles with Russia’s troops for control of Vovchansk, a key town in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region. 

Kyiv claimed on Thursday it had checked Russia’s advance, but a senior Moscow official said the Russian army had enough resources to keep going. 

Euronews could not independently verify either claim. 

Vovchansk, located just 5 kilometres from the Russian border, has been a hotspot in the fighting in recent days. 

Asked if Russia was about to launch its anticipated summer offensive early, top US and NATO commander, Cavoli said: “We can never be sure.” 

However, he added: “What we don’t see is large numbers of reserves being generated some place” needed for such an offensive.

Russia began an operation in the Kharkiv region last week, marking its most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began in 2022.

The move has piled pressure on Ukraine’s outnumbered and outgunned forces which are waiting for deliveries of crucial military supplies from the West. 

Delays in Western assistance have “likely helped” Russia’s offensive by forcing Ukrainian forces to conserve material and limiting their ability to defend themselves, according to the US-based Insitute for the Study of War. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met top military commanders in Kharkiv on Thursday, saying the region “is generally under control.” 

But he acknowledged on social media that the situation was “extremely difficult”.

Former Russian defence minister – now the head of the National Security Council – Sergei Shoigu insisted Russian troops are pushing the offensive in many directions and that “it’s going quite well.”

“I hope we will keep advancing. We have certain reserves for the purpose, in personnel, equipment and munitions,” he said in televised remarks.

The Institute for the Study of War calculated that Moscow’s army had advanced no more than 8 kilometres from the shared border in Kharkiv.

It says Moscow’s main aim in the region is to create a “buffer zone” that will prevent Ukrainian cross-border strikes on Russia’s neighbouring Belgorod region.

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