(MOSCOW) -- At least seven children and two adults have been killed and around 20 more injured in a mass shooting at a school in the Russian city of Kazan.
A gunman attacked school no. 175 in the city, about 500 miles east of Moscow, on Tuesday morning while hundreds of children were in classes. Armed with a semi-automatic shotgun and explosives, the attacker forced his way into the building and made his way to classrooms and opened fire on eight graders there, according to police.
Heavily armed police stormed the school and detained the alleged shooter, identified as a 19-year-old man.
Videos from the scene showed terrified children trying to flee the school building, with some jumping out of high windows as the sound of gun shots rang out. Emergency services helped others to climb down ladders. Other videos showed children lying in grass near the school covered in blood.
"It's a great tragedy. We have lost seven children -- four boys, three girls. They died here on the third floor," Tatarstan's president, Rustam Minnikhanov, told reporters standing outside the school following the shooting. He said two female teachers at the school were also killed.
The seven children killed were eighth graders. At least 21 people were hospitalized, 18 of them children, and six are in critical condition, according to regional health authorities. Most of the children are between the ages of 7 and 15.
Children at the school described to Russian media how they locked themselves in their classrooms on the third floor after hearing explosions and gunfire. In several accounts, students said the gunman tried to break down the doors to get to them.
"He sort of started to smash the door," a pupil, identified as Adelya, told the Russian news site Media.Zona. "Then the police came into the corridor. He ran and started shooting, and a bullet hit our door."
Authorities identified the attacker as Ilnaz Galyaviyev, a resident of Kazan and according to local media a former pupil at the school. There were early conflicting reports suggesting two gunmen were present at the attack, but local authorities have since said he acted alone.
Russian media have found a channel on the Telegram messenger purportedly created by the alleged shooter a few days before the attack. In photos posted on the channel, a man poses in a long, dark coat and a mask with the word "God" written in Russian on it. In the posts, the alleged gunman refers to himself as a "god" and threatened mass killings in the near future.
After police said they had detained the shooter, local media posted a video purporting to show Galyaviyev's interrogation by police. In the video, a young man, shirtless and tied by his arms and legs to a cage, screams at an officer that he has realised he "is a god" and that he "hates everyone."
Galyaviyev until last month was a student at a college in Kazan but dropped out in April, the college told the Russian news site, RBC. He graduated from the school four years ago and had been studying programming at the college.
Russian officials said that Galyaviyev obtained a gun license last month, using it to buy the semi-automatic shotgun used in the attack.
Although in recent years there have been a series of deadly attacks at schools by students in Russia, mass school shootings of the sort seen in the United States are rare and this is already one of the most deadly. In 2018, an 18-year-old killed 20 people and injured dozens more before killing himself at a school in Kerch in Crimea.
President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to the victims on Monday and immediately ordered authorities to tighten up gun regulations.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had ordered the head of Russia's National Guard that oversees gun ownership to develop new rules for the type of weapons civilians are permitted to possess. Peskov said the change was needed to address to assault weapons sometimes being improperly classed as hunting rifles.
Following Putin's order, Russia's National Guard quickly said it would develop new rules in coordination with other government bodies and the head of Russia's parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said it would meet next week to discuss measures for tougher controls, including ensuring stricter background checks. Volodin also said the parliament should discuss whether anonymity on the internet now ought to be restricted.
Tatiana Moskalkova, Russia's human rights ombudswoman, called for the age for purchasing firearms to be raised from 18 to 21, except for those with military experience.
Russia has fairly tough gun laws, requiring potential owners to take classes and pass a series of tests, including medical and psychological examinations, before they can receive a license to buy smoothbore guns, such as shotguns. To buy a rifle requires another five-year waiting period following that.
After the 2018 Kerch school shooting, Putin also ordered the National Guard to tighten firearm rules. But since then, proposed plans -- including to have gun owners inform the guard of their location within three days if they travel with their weapons -- have stalled and little has changed, according to the Russian news sites Meduza and Kommersant.
(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth stepped out Tuesday for her first public engagement outside of Windsor Castle since the death last month of Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years.
The queen opened the United Kingdom's parliament with a speech, performing a ceremonial duty in her role as head of state.
Queen Elizabeth, who turned 95 on April 21, wore a lavender day dress and a hat for her speech, forgoing the full ceremonial dress and crown for this year's state opening, which featured fewer ceremonial elements and attendees due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Imperial State Crown, signifying the queen as Head of State, sat on a table next to the queen as she delivered her speech, which laid out the U.K.'s government's priorities for the coming months, including a post-pandemic recovery effort.
Queen Elizabeth was accompanied at parliament by her son and heir, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, both of whom sat directly next to the queen.
Prince Charles has accompanied the queen for the last three state openings of parliament. There was no state opening last year due to the pandemic.
The engagement was the first time Charles has been seen publicly with the queen since last month, when the royal family gathered at Windsor Castle for Prince Philip's funeral.
After a two-week period of mourning, Queen Elizabeth officially returned to work on April 27, holding virtual audiences with two incoming ambassadors to the U.K.
Just a few days earlier, the queen celebrated her 95th birthday in private at Windsor Castle, where she has stayed through most of the pandemic. She issued a very personal statement on her birthday, describing a "period of great sadness" for her family.
"I have, on the occasion of my 95th birthday today, received many messages of good wishes, which I very much appreciate," Queen Elizabeth said in the statement. "While as a family we are in a period of great sadness, it has been a comfort to us all to see and to hear the tributes paid to my husband, from those within the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and around the world."
"My family and I would like to thank you all for the support and kindness shown to us in recent days," she said. "We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life."
(JERUSALEM) -- At least seven of the more than 150 rockets launched by militant group Hamas on Monday targeted Jerusalem, according to Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that a line was crossed when rockets were launched from Gaza at Jerusalem.
“Israel will respond with great force. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, on our capital, on our citizens and on our soldiers. Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” said an official statement.
Israel retaliated within hours, carrying out airstrikes against a number of Hamas installations in Gaza, according to an announcement made by the Israeli military.
“In response to continuous rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, over the past few hours, the IDF struck a number of terror targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip,” said the IDF in a press release. “Among the targets are two rocket launchers, two military posts and eight terror operatives belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza strip were struck.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry told ABC News that 20 people were killed in the IDF attack, among them nine children, and at least 65 were wounded.
The rocket attacks from Gaza were in response to clashes earlier on Monday between Palestinians, who were protesting Palestinian housing evictions, and Israeli police near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem -- known as the third-holiest site in Islam -- located on the Temple Mount.
The Israeli police said in a statement on Twitter that “at the end of the prayer on the Temple Mount, thousands of worshipers began to disturb the order, throwing stones and firing fireworks. Israeli police forces are operating at the scene and so far six policemen have been injured.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 522 injured in the clashes with 333 requiring care at hospitals and clinics.
There is growing pressure from the Biden administration to address the new tensions between Israel and Palestinians which marked the first time since 2014 that Hamas has fired rockets towards Jerusalem.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attacks during a press conference. He said they "need to stop immediately."
Spokesperson Ned Price of the U.S. State Department said Monday that although the U.S. has called for a de-escalation of violence, there is still a possibility that the attacks will continue.
"I don't want to speak to what would happen in the absence of de-escalation, but of course the possibility of additional violence, of extended violence is something we're concerned about," he said.
(NEW YORK) -- A U.S. Coast Guard cutter fired 30 warning shots at two armed Iranian fast-attack boats on Monday after they approached American warships at a high rate of speed while transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, according to the U.S. Navy.
It is the second time in as many weeks that American ships have had to fire warning rounds at Iranian speedboats that engaged in what the Navy called "unsafe" and "unprofessional" behavior near the Persian Gulf.
The two Iranian boats were part of a larger group of 13 fast-attack boats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) that made what the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet called "a high-speed approach" on six American ships.
At the time, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, patrol coastal ships USS Thunderbolt, USS Hurricane, USS Squall and Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Wrangell and USCGC Maui were escorting the guided-missile submarine USS Georgia through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway separating the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
"Two of the 13 IRGCN vessels broke away from the larger group, transited to the opposite side of the U.S. formation and approached Maui and Squall from behind at a high rate of speed (in excess of 32 knots) with their weapons uncovered and manned," according to a Navy statement. "The remaining 11 FIAC maintained position which places the formation of the U.S. ships in between the two IRGCN groups."
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired two warning-shot volleys from its .50-caliber machine gun at the two speed boats after they ignored acoustic device warnings -- horn blasts and bridge-to-bridge radio communications from the American vessels.
The Iranian boats did not break away from the American ships until after a second volley of warning shots were fired as they approached to a distance of 150 yards and at a high rate of speed.
The Navy statement labeled the warning shots as "lawful de-escalatory measures."
At a briefing with reporters on Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby labeled the action by the Iranian boats as "unsafe" and "unprofessional" and "dangerous."
The Navy described the approach by the two Iranian boats to within 150 yards as "an unnecessarily close range that put the ships and their crews in immediate danger."
Monday's incident was the third close encounter between Iranian boats and American warships in the last five weeks.
Once a regular occurrence, Iran's harassment of American Navy ships in the Persian Gulf had ceased over the past year until an April 2 incident involving Iranian boats that swarmed two U.S. Coast Guard cutters.
The second incident on April 27 led the Navy patrol boat USS Firebolt to fire warning shots at three Iranian small boats that had closed to within 68 yards of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Baranoff.
U.S. Coast Guard ships have operated in the Persian Gulf since 2003 and fall under the control of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's Task Force 55.
(NEW YORK) -- The fate of coral reefs around the world remains grim should global warming continue at its current rate, according to new research.
Coral reefs will stop growing in the next decade or so unless a significant reduction in greenhouse gases is achieved, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests.
A team of researchers led by Christopher Cornwall, a marine botanist at the Victoria University of Wellington in Australia, analyzed data from 183 reefs worldwide to estimate the effects of ocean warming and acidification, which are posing increasing threats to underwater ecosystems.
The calcifying coral reef taxa that constructs the calcium carbonate framework of the reef and cements it together are "highly sensitive" to ocean warming and acidification, the scientists said. Climate change affects both the abundance and the calcification rates, while ocean acidification, which is mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels, also reduces the calcification rates.
Under the worst case scenario presented by the researchers, 94% of all reefs could erode by 2050. Under other scenarios, declines are projected to be so severe that reef production will cease by 2100, the researchers said.
Geographic location also played a role in production declines, with reefs in the Pacific Ocean faring better than more degraded coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, the researchers said.
The population declines are largely due to bleaching events, a process that occurs when water is too warm and the algae the corals expel from their tissues cause them to turn completely white.
The capacity for reef-building taxa to gain tolerance to marine heat waves and ongoing ocean warming and acidification over the coming decades is unknown, the scientists said.
If coral reefs stop growing, there would be negative effects on a vast array of biodiversity that reside in its ecosystems. The reefs also yield billions of dollars of revenue for fisheries and tourism around the world and protect tropical shorelines from hazards, such as storms, the researchers said.
Should sea levels continue to rise due to climate change, reefs will no longer be effective at protecting coastlines because the production will not be able to keep up with the amount of melting ice, Cornwall told ABC News.
"Our work highlights a grim picture for the future of coral reefs," Cornwall said in an email.
"Rapid reduction" of carbon dioxide emissions is necessary to protect coral reefs, according to the study's authors.
The findings highlight "the low likelihood that the world's coral reefs will maintain their functional roles without near-term stabilization of atmospheric CO2 emissions," the study states.
"The only hope for coral reef ecosystems to remain as close as possible to what they are now is to quickly and drastically reduce our CO2 emissions," Cornwall said. "If not, they will be dramatically altered and cease their ecological benefits as hotspots of biodiversity, sources of food and tourism, and their provision of shoreline protection."
(NEW YORK) -- Germany's powerful Catholic progressives are offering to bless same sex unions in about 100 different churches all over Germany this week. The move is in direct defiance of a recent Holy See pronouncement that priests cannot bless gay unions.
The Vatican pronouncement was released in March and argued the decision was made because God "cannot bless sin."
Germany legalized same-sex marriage in 2017, and the country also banned the use of gay conversion therapy practices on people under age 18, according to the BBC.
Pope Francis, who has championed a more decentralized church structure, has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome.
(NEW YORK) -- Duchess Meghan made her first appearance since her bombshell interview with Oprah this past weekend.
In a pre-taped video that aired during Global Citizen's Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World event, she wore a floral print red and pink shirtdress by Carolina Herrera accompanied by a "Woman Power Charm" necklace by Awe.
The 14K gold necklace combines the female Venus symbol with a protesting fist. It also features a purple amethyst stone at the center -- symbolizing protection as well as abundance and enlightenment.
Additionally, 20% of each necklace purchase is being donated to help women in need.
Meghan's necklace symbolized her speech on women's empowerment. She spoke about being "thrilled" to be welcoming a daughter with Prince Harry.
"When we think of her, we think of all the young women and girls around the globe who must be given the ability and the support to lead us forward," she said.
She continued, "Their future leadership depends on the decisions we make and the actions we take now to set them up, and set all of us up, for a successful, equitable and compassionate tomorrow."
Harry, who was a campaign co-chair for the event along with Meghan, discussed misinformation about vaccines being magnified on social media and how it "exposes a collective threat to humanity."
The royal couple's baby girl is due to arrive this summer.
(NEW YORK) -- The parents of one of two Americans who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of an Italian police officer have broken their silence for the first time since the verdict.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News airing Monday on Good Morning America, Ethan and Leah Elder said they are concerned about their son's mental health behind bars.
"We just want Finn to be able to survive this," Leah Elder said. "He has a noted history of attempted suicide, and we're really worried and really concerned. He was utterly devastated by the verdict, just devastated. It was completely unexpected for him."
When Elder's mother testified in court in Rome last December, she spoke of her son's suicide attempt at the Torpedo Wharf, a pier in San Francisco that sits at the mouth of the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Leah Elder told ABC News that the court-appointed psychiatrist also noted other previous suicide attempts in his report on her son.
"He struggles with anxiety and depression, and his current situation is really perilous," she said.
Prosecutors alleged that Finnegan Lee Elder, then 19, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, then 18, attacked two members of Italy's storied Carabinieri paramilitary police force on a street corner in Rome in the early morning hours of July 26, 2019, after a botched drug deal. Police said the teenagers, who are former classmates from the San Francisco area, were trying to buy drugs in Italy's capital but were sold a fake substance. They then allegedly robbed a man who had directed them to the drug dealer in the first place, stealing his backpack and demanding he pay them 100 euros and a gram of cocaine to get it back. The man agreed but, unbeknownst to them, he also contacted authorities, according to police.
Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, had just returned to duty from his honeymoon when he responded to the call with his partner at around 3 a.m. local time. Both officers were in plainclothes when they confronted the American tourists on a street near an upscale hotel in Rome where they were staying, according to police.
Elder testified that he and Natale-Hjorth were suddenly confronted by two men who they thought were drug dealers.
A scuffle ensued and Elder allegedly stabbed Cerciello Rega 11 times with a combat knife that he brought with him on his trip to Europe, while Natale-Hjorth allegedly punched Cerciello Rega's partner repeatedly, according to prosecutors.
A coroner concluded that Cerciello Rega bled to death. Italy mourned the newlywed policeman as a national hero.
Elder admitted to stabbing Cerciello Rega, but said he did it in self-defense because he feared that he was being strangled during the four-minute encounter.
Speaking to ABC News, Elder's parents described their son as "incredibly kind, incredibly sensitive" and "painfully honest."
"From the moment Finn was detained, he has not changed his version of that night one iota," Leah Elder said.
Police said Elder and Natale-Hjorth were captured on surveillance video fleeing the scene with the stolen backpack. The duo were tracked down at their hotel, a block away from the scene and near Rome's Tiber River. Police said they discovered the knife and blood-soaked clothes hidden in the ceiling of the teens' hotel room.
Elder and Natale-Hjorth were questioned by police for hours and, when "faced with overwhelming evidence, they confessed," according to the Provincial Command of Rome.
Natale-Hjorth testified that he hid the knife at Elder's request and that he didn't know his friend had the weapon on him prior to the stabbing.
In the days after the killing, Italian newspapers published a leaked photo of what appears to be Natale-Hjorth blindfolded and handcuffed while in custody, prompting questions about the pair's confessions. It is illegal to blindfold a suspect in Italy.
Elder's parents told ABC News that their son was "illegally interrogated" by police "without a lawyer present."
"We raised Finnegan as I’m sure many other parents do, to tell the truth and things will be okay," Ethan Elder said. "And part of his utter devastation at this verdict is he has told the truth from the very moment he was being illegally interrogated."
During a press conference in Rome on July 30, 2019, the Carabinieri commander told reporters that Cerciello Rega had "forgotten his gun" that fateful night, but there was still "no time" for the officers to react and the suspects then took off. Cerciello Rega's partner could not have used his weapon on the suspects as they fled because it's a serious crime and was trying to help the wounded officer, the commander said.
The murder trial ended last Wednesday. A jury convicted both Elder, now 21, and Natale-Hjorth, now 20, on all five identical charges and handed them life sentences, Italy's stiffest punishment. Under Italian law, an accomplice in an alleged murder can also be charged with murder even if they did not actually kill the victim.
Cerciello Rega’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, broke down in tears in the courtroom upon hearing the verdict.
Elder's parents said they were shocked that Natale-Hjorth was also charged with murder and received the same sentence.
"My heart breaks for that entire family," Leah Elder said.
Elder's parents said they feel their son's sentencing was too harsh, given his mental health issues and young age, and that they will appeal the "abhorrent decision."
Latest update, 12:36 a.m.: The rocket has reentered Earth's atmosphere and fell into the Indian ocean north of the Maldives at latitude 22.2, longitude 50.0, according to an update from Space-Track.
@18SPCS confirms that CZ-5B (#LongMarch5B) (48275 / 2021-035B) reentered atmosphere 9 May at 0214Z and fell into the Indian ocean north of the Maldives at lat 22.2, long 50.0. That's all we have on this re-entry; thanks for the wild ride and 30K more followers. Good night!
The official China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, meanwhile, said on Weibo it had reentered the Earth's atmosphere at 10:24 p.m. ET and provided coordinates: around 72.47° east longitude and 2.65° north latitude. Those coordinates would put it in the northern Indian Ocean, near the Maldives.
It said most of the rocket debris was "ablated and destroyed" during reentry.
Update, 8:24 p.m.: The reentry window has shifted to between 9:11 and 11:11 p.m. ET. Saturday, with the projected landing now in the Mediterranean Basin.
Latest TIP (as of 2021-05-09 0000Z) for CZ-5B (#LongMarch5B) (48275 / 2021-035B) shows projected re-entry at 2021-05-09 0211(UTC) +/- 60 minutes at latitude 35.9, longitude 24.4 (Mediterranean Basin)
At 7.8 km/s, just 1 minute diff in the time of reentry =470 km diff in final loc
Update, 5:03 p.m. The latest data from the U.S. Space Force has narrowed the reentry window for the rocket body to just two hours: 9 to 11 p.m. ET.
Notice the uncertainty window of +/- 60 minutes.
At 7.8 km/s, just 1 minute early/late in the time of reentry = 470 km difference in the final location. This a PREDICTION, not an exact measurement. @18SPCS will not know the precise location until AFTER it has already landed.
Computer projections show that if the debris were to reenter the atmosphere at exactly 10:04 p.m. ET on Saturday, it likely would be over the northern Atlantic Ocean, though the location varies minute to minute.
Space Force won't know the precise landing location until after the rocket body has already landed, according to Space Track.
Predictions for when and where Chinese rocket debris hurtling toward Earth is expected to land are narrowing.
The section is part of a rocket called Chinese Long March 5B, which launched a module of the country's first permanent space station into orbit last week.
Officials have been tracking the rocket body's uncontrolled return to Earth for several days now, estimating when it might reenter the atmosphere.
The rocket body's reentry is currently projected at anywhere between 7:30 p.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. ET, according to the latest U.S. Space Force data.
The U.S. Space Force has projected four possible orbits for reentry in play -- three over water, one over land.
Potential landings over land are subject to change, but currently include the Southeastern U.S., Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, parts of Southern Europe, much of Northern and Central Africa, the Middle East, Southern India and Australia.
Since the rocket section is moving at 18,000 mph, experts won't be able to estimate a reentry location until a few hours before it happens.
People can follow the latest reentry time estimates at Space Track, which is working with the U.S. Space Force on tracking the debris.
The massive rocket body measures 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide and weighs 21 metric tons, according to the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit that performs technical analyses and assessments for a variety of government, civil and commercial customers.
Instead of falling downrange during the launch, the empty rocket body reached orbital velocity, which placed it "in an elliptical orbit around Earth where it is being dragged toward an uncontrolled reentry," the corporation explained in a blog post.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent less than 24 hours on the ground in Ukraine's capital, but his day of meetings was meant to send a strong, important signal amid the "twin" threats of Russian aggression and corruption, he said.
Ukraine is only the sixth country the top U.S. diplomat has visited -- before other key allies or even whole regions, and just over 100 days into the Biden administration.
As Blinken put it before his meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, "I thought it was important as early as possible to come and say so in person" that President Joe Biden is committed to Ukraine.
That message of strong support contrasts with the chaotic signals sent by former President Donald Trump, who tried to withhold lethal weapons and a White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's government to announce investigations into then-candidate Biden, his son Hunter, and Hunter's role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. That effort ultimately resulted in his first impeachment in late 2019.
But Blinken also carried with him some strong warnings, urging Zelenskiy, his top officials and Ukrainian lawmakers to enact reforms to counter corruption, strengthen Ukraine's young democracy, and bolster its institutions.
"Ukraine faces twin challenges -- aggression from outside coming from Russia, and in effect, aggression from within coming from corruption, oligarchs and others who are putting their interests ahead of those of the Ukrainian people," Blinken said during a press conference with Zelenskiy.
In the shadow of that threat looms Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney whose home was raided by the FBI last week as part of an investigation into his alleged lobbying efforts in Ukraine. Giuliani was at the heart of Trump's efforts to push Zelenskiy, serving as the primary interlocutor with top Ukrainian aides.
"Let's not talk about the past. Let bygones be bygones, and let's discuss the future," Zelenskiy told reporters when asked about Giuliani, pivoting to instead talk about his government's counter-corruption reforms.
Instead of discussing Trump, Blinken talked with Zelenskiy, Kuleba and others about boosting U.S. support for Ukraine, especially against continued Russian aggression. While that Russian military build-up on Ukraine's borders has drawn down, Russia continues to occupy Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, lead and arm separatists in Ukraine's eastern provinces, block access to the Sea of Azov and use hybrid warfare against Kyiv, like cyber attacks and disinformation.
Both Zelenskiy and Blinken warned the threat remains substantial, including for military action.
"Russia has the capacity on fairly short notice to take aggressive action if it so chooses, and so we are watching this very, very carefully," Blinken told reporters.
At one point during their press conference, there was an issue with the simultaneous translation, and Zelenskiy, a comedian prior to becoming president, quipped it must be "Russian translators, they're here. They're everywhere."
But despite Ukraine's requests for more lethal weapons, there was no announcement during the trip of any new U.S. deliveries. Instead, Blinken and others have said they're actively reviewing what Ukraine needs and what the Biden administration will provide.
Former President Barack Obama declined to sell Ukraine lethal weapons, saying it would escalate the conflict with Russia. Trump approved the sale in late 2017, but when the newly inaugurated Zelenskiy asked for more anti-tank missiles in 2019, Trump famously responded, "I would like you to do us a favor though," according to a White House memo about the call -- which later was the center of Trump's impeachment.
In addition to withholding anti-tank weapons, Trump's White House was withholding a meeting between him and Zelenskiy, asking that in exchange they first launch the Biden investigations.
On Thursday, Zelenskiy publicly invited Biden to visit Kyiv, too, and Blinken said he would "welcome the opportunity at the right time."
Trump and his allies defended their actions with Ukraine by saying they were fighting corruption in Ukraine -- although critics say their actions actually fostered it by ousting U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and backing the corrupt former prosecutor-general.
In contrast, Blinken met with anti-corruption activists, praising them for being "on the front lines in that second fight against corruption and for a democracy" and asking what they believe the U.S. can do to better support their efforts.
He warned Zelenskiy directly of the "powerful interests lined up against reform and against anticorruption efforts. Those include external forces like Russia but also internal forces like oligarchs and other powerful individuals who are pursuing their own narrow interests through illegitimate means."
In particular, his State Department has scolded Zelenskiy's government for replacing half of the board of Ukraine's state-run energy firm Naftogaz with allies -- an issue Blinken raised in person with Zelenskiy as well.
While Blinken made no mention of Trump or Giuliani, even when asked about it by reporters, he did acknowledge how U.S. embassy staff were dragged into the impeachment. Beyond Yovanovitch, staffers like her replacement, charge d'affaires Bill Taylor, and David Holmes, who served as political counselor in Kyiv, were called to testify about Trump's plan.
"Even before COVID, Ukraine and this mission were pulled into matters that should not have been the case, and one thing that's very important is that politics stops at the C Street door, and that's very much the case now," Blinken told staff during a virtual meet-and-greet, referring to the entrance of the State Department's Washington headquarters.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department's new, third highest-ranking official, joined Blinken for his stop in Kyiv, another strong gesture. In 2014, Nuland was the top U.S. diplomat for Europe when she visited the pro-Western Maidan square protests in Kyiv that ousted the pro-Russian president. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal praised her visit as "symbolic," while Foreign Minister Kuleba joked warmly that he missed her baked goods.
Nuland has long been a foe of Russia. At the height of that Ukrainian revolution, her conversation with another U.S. diplomat was hacked and leaked by Russian intelligence. Her line, "F*** the EU," caused a stir, but it didn't divide the U.S. and EU in backing Ukraine's protesters.
Blinken paid tribute to those protests and the Ukrainian soldiers killed in the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine with Russian-led separatists at the Wall of Remembrance. Afterwards, he toured St. Michael's, a monastery and church that houses the Tomos of Autocephaly -- the decree establishing Ukraine's independent Orthodox Christian church in 2019.
The stops on a brisk spring day in Kyiv were two more symbols -- nods to Ukraine's latest nationalist steps that have further separated the country from its dominant neighbor Russia.
(NEW YORK) -- Scientists are racing to determine what will happen as a result of melting glaciers before the repercussions of climate change on communities become a reality.
Researchers are especially worried about the increased risk of flood outbursts from glacial lakes, which can pose threats to residents who live downstream, according to a new study published Thursday in Nature Climate Change.
A glacial lake is a body of water that forms when a glacier erodes into land and then its water melts into the depression that forms. An outburst flood occurs when one of the naturally occurring dams break, sending a tidal wave of water out of the depression.
The risk is especially profound in the Third Pole, the region that encompasses the Hindu Kush Himalayan mountain range, the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding areas. It has the largest number of glaciers outside of the polar regions, according to the study.
The Third Pole has distinctly higher warming rates than the Northern Hemisphere, and warming in the region is leading to rapid loss of ice and the formation and expansion of glacial lakes, which then pose a severe threat to communities that reside downstream, scientists said.
"Particularly, when water is suddenly released, glacial lake outburst floods can devastate lives and livelihoods up to hundreds of kilometers downstream of their source," the study states.
The highest risk is in the eastern Himalayas, and the overall risk in the region is expected to triple as a consequence of more lakes developing, according to the study. The outbursts can be triggered by a number of mechanisms, including intense precipitation and snow or, most commonly, from the impact of ice or rock avalanches into a lake.
Glaciers across the Himalayas have experienced significant ice loss over the past 40 years, with the average rate of ice loss doubling in the 21st century compared to the end of the 20th century, according to a study published in Science Advances in 2019.
A glacial lake outburst flood was initially blamed for the "water monster" of rushing water and sediment that plunged down a steep flank in the Himalayas and into a hydroplant in northern India in February, killing dozens of people and leaving more than 100 missing.
The results of the study highlight the need for urgent, "forward-thinking" and collaborative approaches to mitigate future impacts of climate change, the researchers said.
(NEW YORK) -- Archie Sussex, the oldest child of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, is turning 2.
The young royal and great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip is expected to celebrate his second birthday in California, where his family moved last year from the United Kingdom.
Archie received birthday wishes on social media from his family members in the U.K., including his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, his uncle and aunt, Prince William and Duchess Kate, and his grandparents, Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall.
Wishing Archie Mountbatten-Windsor a very happy 2nd birthday today.
(LONDON) -- Prince William and Duchess Kate are adding YouTubers to their list of royal responsibilities.
On Wednesday, the duke and duchess of Cambridge, announced on social media that they're now on YouTube by sharing a video about some of their most memorable moments together as a couple, including the time Kate showed off her archery skills during a trip to Bhutan in 2016 and their red carpet appearance at the BAFTA Awards in 2019.
The YouTube announcement also features one of the most playful moments between the couple yet.
At the start of the video, William is seen warning Kate about the cameras and to be careful what she says.
"Be careful what you say now, because these guys are filming everything," he tells Kate.
It's unclear what kind of content the couple will share, but so far their YouTube channel, which shares the name of their updated Instagram handle, The duke and duchess of Cambridge, includes videos from royal tours, speeches and virtual visits and chats that were conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, William and Kate, who have three children together -- Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 3 -- celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary. To commemorate their milestone, the couple shared two new royal portraits, which were taken at Kensington Palace, and a home video that showed them enjoying the outdoors with their kids.
(NEW YORK) -- A new species of turtle that roamed Earth alongside dinosaurs and flying reptiles has been discovered in Madagascar.
The near-complete fossil of the quick-mouthed frog turtle, or Sahonachelys mailakavava, was found in the Maevarano Formation in northwestern Madagascar, according to a study published in Royal Society Open Science. The formation "has yielded a series of exceptional fossils" over the last three decades, and in 2015 archaeologists discovered the turtle's skeleton while removing overburden -- rock or soil overlying a mineral deposit -- from the formation.
The freshwater turtle is noted for its frog-like appearance -- an unusually flattened skull, a slender lower jaw and enlarged tongue bones -- and researchers said it was likely a "suction feeder" that ate small-bodied living prey, such as insect larvae and tadpoles by using quick strikes.
The fossil researchers found was "unusual for its fragility and completeness" and displayed numerous morphological adaptions consistent with specialized suction feeding, according to the study.
It likely lived during the late Cretaceous period -- 66 million to 100.5 million years ago -- and would have existed around the same time as the triceratops and the flying reptile pterosaur, researchers said.
The formation where the fossil was found likely would have formed during a time when northwestern Madagascar had pronounced wet and dry seasons. The island already was isolated in the Indian Ocean after having been separated from the African mainland about 165 million years ago and from Antarctica and Australia about 124 million years ago, scientists said.
(LONDON) -- Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, won her final copyright claim in her lawsuit against a U.K. tabloid publisher over the publication of her handwritten letter to her estranged father.
Associated Newspapers Limited, the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, had argued in court that it believed Prince Harry and Meghan's former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, was a co-author of the letter, which Associated Newspapers argued meant the letter belonged to the Crown.
But on Wednesday, Knauf, through his lawyers, denied co-writing the letter, according to the BBC.
High Court Justice Mark Warby ruled in February that the Mail on Sunday invaded Meghan's privacy by publishing large parts of the personal letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle before her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry.
Meghan's 2018 handwritten letter to her father, which addressed the breakdown in their relationship, was reproduced by Associated Newspapers in five articles in February 2019.
Meghan sued Associated Newspapers for alleged copyright infringement, misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Meghan, who now lives in California with Harry and their son Archie, said after the court's ruling in February that she hopes her case "creates legal precedent."
“After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices. These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they’ve been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it’s a game. For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep," Meghan said in her statement. “The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite."
"We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain," she said. "But for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won. We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years."
“I share this victory with each of you—because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better," Meghan concluded her statement. "I particularly want to thank my husband, mom, and legal team, and especially Jenny Afia for her unrelenting support throughout this process.”