G-7 rolls out global infrastructure plan: U.S. aims to contribute $200B, Biden says

Stefan Rousseau – Pool/Getty Images

(KRUN, Germany) — The Group of Seven nations on Sunday began rolling out a global infrastructure initiative in a bid, as they described it, to promote “stability” and improve conditions in developing and middle-income countries around the globe.

The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment plans on disbursing $600 billion by 2027 in infrastructure investments, with President Joe Biden announcing the U.S. alone would aim to spend $200 billion in public and private partnerships.

Biden and other world leaders, speaking in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, cast the investments as “critical” amid crises on multiple fronts, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, an energy crunch fueled in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and more.

“These strategic investments are in areas critical to sustainable development and to our shared global stability: health and health security, digital connectivity, gender equality and equity, climate and energy security,” Biden said.

“We need a worldwide effort to invest in transformative clean energy projects to ensure that critical infrastructures resilient to changing climate. Critical materials that are necessary for clean energy transition, including production of batteries, need to be developed with high standards for labor and environment,” he added.

The G-7 announcement comes as the alliance looks to lay down markers of tangible investments and accomplishments at a time when China and Russia are looking to make inroads elsewhere.

China has become increasingly involved in Africa and Latin America, investing hefty sums in building roads, bridges and more in an aggressive diplomatic effort on both continents.

In his remarks on Sunday, Biden directly contrasted the new announcement with what China has done, emphasizing that the G-7’s investments will be based on “shared values,” a signal to nations that it’s in their benefit to align with the U.S. and others compared with China.

“What we’re doing is fundamentally different because it’s grounded on our shared values of all those representing the countries and organizations behind me. It’s built using the global best practices: transparency, partnership, protections for labor and the environment,” he said.

He said the infrastructure program was not “aid or charity,” but instead “an investment that will deliver returns for everyone, including the American people and people of all” nations.

“It’ll boost all of our economies, and it’s a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future …. Because when democracies demonstrate what we can do, all that we have to offer, I have no doubt that will win the competition, every time,” he said.

The investments in energy and climate infrastructure have taken on heightened on importance both as nations race to combat climate change’s effects and make themselves less reliant on countries like Russia for oil and natural gas — a dependency that has hindered the response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

There was no question-and-answer session at the end of the G-7 announcement, but when one reporter shouted a question, it was about whether the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade had come up in meetings.

“What decision?” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could be heard asking as she walked off stage.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Search and rescue underway after missiles strike Kyiv

ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 26, 3:32 pm
Ukrainian forces attack Russian controlled oil-drilling platform

A Russian controlled oil drilling platform in the Black Sea was targeted by Ukrainian shelling on Sunday, the second attack in a week, Russia’s state-run media outlet TASS reported.

A spokesperson for Crimea’s emergency services reported that no one was injured in the attack on the platform operated by the Chernomorneftegaz oil and gas company.

Russia-backed officials seized Chernomorneftegaz’s oil-drilling platforms from Ukraine’s national gas operator Naftogaz as part of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014, according to Reuters.

This is the second attack in a week on the same Chernomorneftegaz oil-drilling platform.

On June 20, Ukrainian forces shelled the platform in the Black Sea, injuring three of the 109 people on the drilling rig at the time, according to Crimea officials. Seven people remain missing, the officials said.

More than 90 people were evacuated from the platform after the previous attack and 15 people had stayed behind to guard operations, Sergey Aksyonov, the governor of Russian-controlled Crimea.

Jun 26, 2:43 pm
250 civilians evacuated from Severodonetsk chemical plant

About 250 Ukrainian civilians have been evacuated from a chemical plant where they sought shelter in the besieged city of Severodonetsk in Eastern Ukraine, an official said.

Rodion Miroshnik, the Luhansk People’s Republic ambassador to Russia, said the civilians were evacuated safely from the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk.

“Servicemen of the LPR People’s Militia evacuated another about 250 people, including little children, from the premises of the Severodonetsk Azot plant,” Miroshnik said on social media Sunday.

He added that the evacuation came a day after about 200 civilians were evacuated from the chemical plant.

Following months of heavy fighting, Russian troops took complete control of the Severodonetski over the weekend, according to Oleksandr Striuk, chief of the city’s military administration.

Jun 26, 2:35 pm
1 killed, 6 injured in missile strike on Kyiv

One person was killed and six were injured, including a child, following a Russian missile strike Sunday in Ukraine’s capital city, officials said.

The Russian shelling of Kyiv struck a residential building in the city, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

Klitschko said at least six people were injured in the attack, including a 7-year-old girl. He said the girl was undergoing surgery Sunday for non-life-threatening injuries.

Klitschko said the girl’s mother was also injured in the attack.

A missile strike occurred in the Shevchenkivskyi neighborhood, near central Kyiv, officials said.

Jun 26, 7:11 am
More of Russia’s ‘barbarism,’ Biden says of Kyiv strike

President Joe Biden on Sunday said Russia’s early morning missile strikes on Kyiv were an act of “barbarism.”

As Biden stood alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the official G7 welcome ceremony, ABC News’ Karen Travers asked if he had any reaction to the strikes on a residential neighborhood.

“Yes, it’s more of their barbarism,” Biden said.

A missile struck an apartment block in Shevchenkivskyi, near central Kyiv, on Sunday morning, killing at least one and trapping others in the rubble, local officials said.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Jun 26, 5:03 am
US to ban Russian gold imports

The Biden administration and other G7 leaders will announce on Sunday an import ban on Russian gold.

“This is a key export, a key source of revenue alternative for Russia, in terms of their ability to transact in the global financial system,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call about the G7 summit in Germany. “Taking this step cuts off that capacity and again, is an ongoing illustration of the types of steps that the G7 can take collectively to continue to isolate Russia and cut it off from the global economy.”

The Treasury Department is expected to issue an official notice on Tuesday.

Gold is Russia’s second largest export after oil and a source of significant revenue, but much of Russia’s gold exportation has already been cut off in practice by banks, refiners and shippers. The move on Sunday marks an official severance of Russia from the world’s gold market.

The U.S. and U.K. are participating in Sunday’s announcement, but it is unclear whether all G7 countries will participate in the initiative. A Biden administration official tried to downplay concerns about potential disunity among G7 member states, pivoting instead to a talking point about efforts to cut off all financial pathways for Russia.

Pressed on whether Russia could continue to export gold by going through a country that does not participate in the ban, officials insisted the ban will be effective.

“We will continue to identify places where evasion as a risk continue to take steps to block off those pads,” an official said. “And the measuring gold in some ways is in fact, another step forward to block off ways that that Russia might seek to engage with the financial system, by virtue of all the other ways that have now been cut off to them.”

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky

Jun 26, 3:30 am
Russian strike traps Kyiv woman in rubble

Emergency responders in Kyiv are working to free a woman from the top floor of a residential building that was hit by a Russian strike on Sunday morning.

An advisor to the minister of the interior told ABC News that the woman, who is in her 30s, is alive and trapped in the rubble.

At least one civilian was killed in Sunday’s strike, local officials said. At least one other, a young girl, was rescued from the building in Shevchenkivskyi, a central district a few moments from the historic center of the city.

-ABC News’ Tom Soufi Burridge

Jun 26, 2:55 am
Missiles strike central Kyiv residential neighborhood

A series of Russian missiles struck a residential area of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday morning, local officials said.

“Friends! Search and rescue operations are underway in a residential building in the Shevchenkivskyi district where a missile hit,” Mayo Vitaliy Klychko said on Telegram. “There are people under the rubble. Some residents were evacuated, two victims were hospitalized. Rescuers continue to work, medics are on site.”

At least one residential building appeared to have had sections of its facade sheared off, photos from the scene showed. Emergency responders could be seen working on the upper floors of the building as smoke rose into the morning sky.

“Several explosions in the Shevchenkivskyi district,” Klychko said. “Ambulance crews and rescuers on the spot. Residents are being rescued and evacuated in two houses.”

At least one missile was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional administration, said on Telegram.

“The remains of the missile fell on the outskirts of one of the villages in the area,” Kuleba said.

-ABC News’ Natalia Kushnir

Jun 24, 9:01 am
Ukrainian forces to retreat from Severodonetsk

Ukrainian forces plan to retreat from the city of Severodonetsk, following weeks of fighting.

The local governor said Friday morning “it doesn’t make sense” to hold onto the city and “the number of people killed will increase every day,” in a statement on Telegram.

The city has faced a heavy bombardment of rockets and street-to-street fighting between Ukrainian and Russia troops for weeks.

Ukrainian officials said nearly 90% of buildings in Severodonetsk have been destroyed.

It’s believed 8,000 civilians remain. At one point, hundreds of civilians sheltered in a chemical plant.

-ABC News’ Joe Simonetti

Jun 23, 2:58 pm
Ukraine granted candidate status for EU membership

The European Council has granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status for EU membership, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the announcement on Twitter, calling it a “unique and historical moment,” adding, “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”

It could take years for Ukraine to become an EU member. Five other countries that have been granted candidate status are currently negotiating their EU membership: Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Oslo police believe mass shooting that killed two and injured 10 was terror attack

Rodrigo Freitas/Getty Images

(OSLO, Norway) — Two people were fatally shot and 10 were injured early Saturday in a nightclub in Oslo, Norway, in what Oslo police now suspect was a terror attack.

Authorities say the gunman, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested after opening fire at three locations in downtown Oslo at approximately 1 a.m., including at a nightclub that is popular within the LGBTQ community called The London Pub.

Police attorney Christian Hatlo confirmed that the unnamed suspect was being held on charges of suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, and that the suspect’s mental health was also being investigated.

“Our overall assessment is that there are grounds to believe that he wanted to cause grave fear in the population,” Hatlo said. “We need to go through his medical history, if he has any. It’s not something that we’re aware of now.”

Authorities said they were able to seize two weapons following the suspected terror attack, including a handgun and an automatic weapon which Hatlo described as “not modern” but gave no further details.

Two of the shooting victims were killed, Oslo police inspector Tore Soldal said. He also confirmed that the other 10 victims were being treated for serious injuries but that all 10 were expected to survive.

“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” said Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK who said he witnessed the attack. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”

Following the shooting, Oslo Pride confirmed that it has been advised by authorities to cancel the annual Pride parade and other Pride events that had been scheduled for this weekend.

“Oslo Pride therefore urges everyone who planned to participate or watch the parade to not show up. All events in connection with Oslo Prides are canceled,” Oslo Pride organizers said on the official Facebook page of the event.

“The shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoer in a Facebook post following the attack.

Store added that the mass shooting had caused immediate fear and grief within Norway’s LGBTQ community.

“We all stand by you,” Store wrote.

ABC News’ Rashid Haddou, Lama Hasan, Ahmad Hemingway and Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US nuclear scientist reportedly rescued from Russia-occupied Ukraine

Irena Sowinska/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — American nuclear scientist John Spor escaped from Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine this week with the help of a rescue organization called Project Dynamo, a Tampa-based nonprofit group run by U.S. veterans.

Spor, a Texas native and founder of Texas Photonics Inc., had been living in Mariupol for several years before the Russia invaded Ukraine last February. He reportedly went into hiding during the siege.

The group said that Spor was considered a high-value target because of the sensitive nature of his work in laser-guided weapons systems and that Chechen-Russian forces “have been actively hunting him.”

Project Dynamo claims Spor was able to pass through more than 30 Russian checkpoints in Eastern Ukraine and was then driven nearly 20 hours straight across the rest of the country and into Poland.

ABC News has not been able to independently confirm the details of the escape but the State Department said Wednesday they’re “aware of the reports” and reiterated that all U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately.

In Poland, Spor was reunited with his son and his sister, who had contacted the rescue group.

“Project DYNAMO has been with our family every step of the way through this nightmare. DYNAMO has been the answer to our family’s prayers,” said Lauri Weigle, Spor’s sister said in a statement released by Project Dynamo. “We are in amazement that he is finally on his way to us and safe after months of hoping and praying.”

Project Dynamo said it had been working on this complex and dangerous mission to rescue Spor for more than a month. Due to the ongoing nature of the missions, some details and locations are being withheld, according to the statement released by the group.

“I’m so grateful for Project DYNAMO and the support they have provided to me and my family during this time,” said Sean Spor in a statement, who flew to Europe to reunite with his father. “They’ve rescued my dad from harm’s way, and I am eagerly awaiting his arrival.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Ukraine granted candidate status for EU membership

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 23, 2:58 pm
Ukraine granted candidate status for EU membership

The European Council has granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status for EU membership, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the announcement on Twitter, calling it a “unique and historical moment,” adding, “Ukraine’s future is within the EU.”

It could take years for Ukraine to become an EU member. Five other countries that have been granted candidate status are currently negotiating their EU membership: Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

Jun 23, 2:08 pm
Russian forces advancing on Lysychansk in Luhansk region

Russian forces are advancing toward the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region, putting the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk pocket “under increasing pressure,” the British Defense Ministry said. Some Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from Lysychansk, “probably to avoid being encircled,” the officials said.

The Ukrainian army claims Ukrainian soldiers stopped the Russian offensive in the southern outskirts of Lysychansk on Thursday, inflicting losses and forcing them to retreat, and that to resume the offensive, Russian forces put forward reserves.

-ABC News’ Fidel Pavlenko

Jun 23, 1:05 pm
$450 million military aid package to be announced

The U.S. is expected Thursday to announce a new $450 million military aid package that will include more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS.

Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov tweeted Thursday that the initial HIMARS package from the U.S. has arrived in Ukraine, and he thanked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for the “powerful tools.”

The new aid package will include more small arms, grenade launchers, vehicles and patrol craft.

The U.S. has committed over $6 billion to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began, according to the Pentagon.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Jun 23, 6:26 am
More than 8 million have fled Ukraine, UN says

More than 8 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, according to an update by the United Nations.

More than 4 million Ukrainians fled through Poland — by far the preferred route for the displaced, the U.N. report said. Hungary, the second most used route, reported just over 800,000 crossings.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 23, 6:08 am
Belarusian military flexes its muscle near Ukrainian border

The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced “mobilization exercises” on Wednesday in the Gomel region bordering Ukraine.

The military drills, scheduled to last until 1 July, will include special operations forces as well as freshly called up conscripts, Belarusian officials said on Telegram.

The Belarusian army has already been placing wooden dummies of tanks on the Ukrainian border to demonstrate their presence, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Alexander Motuzyanyk said on Wednesday.

Real weapons are arriving near the Ukrainian border, too, with a new batch of Russian missiles for the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system being brought to Belarus on Tuesday night, local monitoring groups reported. The delivery included at least 16 missiles, with the likely addition of one Pantsir missile defense system, the report said.

Still, Ukrainian officials maintain that “at this stage of the war,” there is no imminent threat “of the Belarusian army invading” Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, said on Wednesday as cited by local media.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 23, 5:39 am
EU shifts to coal as Russia tightens gas tap

The European Union will temporarily shift back to coal to cope with slowing Russian gas flows, an EU official said on Wednesday, as a tight gas market and rocketing prices set off a race for alternative fuels.

The International Energy Agency warned Russia could cut gas supplies to Europe completely this winter.

“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” IEA chief Fatih Birol told The Financial Times on Wednesday.

While Russia denies premeditated supply cuts, several European countries, including Germany and Italy, reported a dip in gas flow via pipelines from Russia over the past week.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 22, 7:31 am
Turkey raises hopes for grain exports

A four-way summit discussing ways to export grain blocked in Ukraine will be held in Istanbul in less than 10 days, Turkish presidential sources told local media on Tuesday.

According to Turkish officials, a military delegation will head to Russia this week to discuss details. On top of Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the UN Secretary General António Guterres are likely to attend the Istanbul summit, local sources said.

The lives of about 400 million people in different countries depend on Ukrainian food exports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Tatiana Rymarenko, Fidel Pavlenko and Natalya Kushnir

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince William, Kate unveil their first official joint portrait

Paul Edwards – WPA Pool/Getty Images

(CAMBRIDGE, England) — Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited a museum in Cambridge, England, Thursday to view their first official joint portrait.

“It’s quite big,” William said upon seeing the portrait of himself and his wife, which was painted by award-winning British portrait artist Jamie Coreth.

William and Kate, both 40, viewed the portrait during a visit to the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.

The portrait of the Cambridges will be on display to the public at the museum for the next three years, and will then travel to other local galleries as well as the National Portrait Gallery in London.

While at the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Cambridges’ portrait will be used “as a means of encouraging children and young people of all backgrounds from across the county to take an interest in art in all its forms,” according to Kensington Palace.

In the portrait, William is wearing a dark suit and blue tie, while Kate is wearing an emerald green dress by The Vampire’s Wife.

The dress appears to be the same one Kate wore to an evening reception at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in 2020.

The new portrait of the Cambridges was commissioned last year by the Cambridgeshire Royal Portrait Fund as a gift to Cambridgeshire, a county in eastern England.

Coreth, the portrait artist, described the painting as a “gift for the people of Cambridgeshire.”

“It has been the most extraordinary privilege of my life to be chosen to paint this picture,” Coreth said in a statement. “I wanted to show Their Royal Highnesses in a manner where they appeared both relaxed and approachable, as well as elegant and dignified.”

He continued, “As it is the first portrait to depict them together, and specifically during their time as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I wanted the image to evoke a feeling of balance between their public and private lives. The piece was commissioned as a gift for the people of Cambridgeshire, and I hope they will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed creating it.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Belarus flexes military muscle near Ukrainian border

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 23, 6:26 am
More than 8 million have fled Ukraine, UN says

More than 8 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, according to an update by the United Nations.

More than 4 million Ukrainians fled through Poland — by far the preferred route for the displaced, the U.N. report said. Hungary, the second most used route, reported just over 800,000 crossings.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 23, 6:08 am
Belarusian military flexes its muscle near Ukrainian border

The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced “mobilization exercises” on Wednesday in the Gomel region bordering Ukraine.

The military drills, scheduled to last until 1 July, will include special operations forces as well as freshly called up conscripts, Belarusian officials said on Telegram.

The Belarusian army has already been placing wooden dummies of tanks on the Ukrainian border to demonstrate their presence, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Alexander Motuzyanyk said on Wednesday.

Real weapons are arriving near the Ukrainian border, too, with a new batch of Russian missiles for the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system being brought to Belarus on Tuesday night, local monitoring groups reported. The delivery included at least 16 missiles, with the likely addition of one Pantsir missile defense system, the report said.

Still, Ukrainian officials maintain that “at this stage of the war,” there is no imminent threat “of the Belarusian army invading” Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate, said on Wednesday as cited by local media.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 23, 5:39 am
EU shifts to coal as Russia tightens gas tap

The European Union will temporarily shift back to coal to cope with slowing Russian gas flows, an EU official said on Wednesday, as a tight gas market and rocketing prices set off a race for alternative fuels.

The International Energy Agency warned Russia could cut gas supplies to Europe completely this winter.

“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” IEA chief Fatih Birol told The Financial Times on Wednesday.

While Russia denies premeditated supply cuts, several European countries, including Germany and Italy, reported a dip in gas flow via pipelines from Russia over the past week.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Max Uzol, Fidel Pavlenko and Yuriy Zaliznyak

Jun 22, 7:31 am
Turkey raises hopes for grain exports

A four-way summit discussing ways to export grain blocked in Ukraine will be held in Istanbul in less than 10 days, Turkish presidential sources told local media on Tuesday.

According to Turkish officials, a military delegation will head to Russia this week to discuss details. On top of Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the UN Secretary General António Guterres are likely to attend the Istanbul summit, local sources said.

The lives of about 400 million people in different countries depend on Ukrainian food exports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday.

-ABC News’ Edward Szekeres, Tatiana Rymarenko, Fidel Pavlenko and Natalya Kushnir

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

At least 1,000 dead, 1,500 injured in earthquake in Afghanistan

KeithBinns/ Getty Images

(LONDON) — At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 1,500 others have been injured in a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan, according to the country’s state-run media.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the 5.9-magnitude quake near the Pakistani border at about 1:30 a.m. local time.

“We are deeply saddened by reports of an earthquake in eastern Afghanistan,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to all who have been affected by this devastating event.”

The death toll has continued to rise throughout the day, as rescue teams arrive in the mountainous area around the quake’s epicenter.

Mawlawi Sharafudin Muslim, deputy minister of disaster management, told reporters earlier on Wednesday that at least 920 people had been killed and at least 600 others were injured. He warned that the already tragic toll might rise

A journalist on the scene told ABC News that many of the victims died in their homes, as the quake struck in the middle of the night, while many were asleep. The quake destroyed homes and knocked out communication, resulting a near total blackout.

“People got shocked with the hit and many lost their lives right at their homes,” the journalist said.

Many of the villages that were hit are in remote areas with difficult access routes for emergency responders. The few pictures that have been published since the earthquake struck showed helicopters ferrying injured people away from the area.

Afghanistan Ministry of Defense’s said in a press release that the ministry has sent seven helicopters with first aid to transport the wounded to military and civilian hospitals and to treat the victims. According to the ministry’s leadership, teams from the field and central units had arrived at the scene to help transport the injured to health centers.

Local media reported that hundreds of houses were turned to rubble. There are warnings that the scale of the disaster is yet to be understood.

Mohammad Hasan Akhund, acting prime minister of the Taliban, announced the country will allocate more than $11 million to “urgently address the situation of the families of earthquake victims and victims in Paktika and Khost provinces,” Bakhtar News Agency reported.

The quake’s epicenter was in Paktika province, about 27 miles southwest of Khost, Pakistan’s Meteorological Department said. That service, which placed the magnitude at 6.1, logged the quake at a depth of 31 miles.

“I am saddened over loss of precious lives by earthquake in Afghanistan & express my sympathies with the affectees,” Arif Alvi, Pakistan’s president, said on Twitter. “I pray for the deceased, the injured & offer condolences to bereaved families. Pakistan stands in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in this hour of need.”

Pope Francis offered condolences to those affected by the quake.

“In the past few hours an earthquake has caused victims and extensive damage in Afghanistan,” he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican. “I express my closeness to the injured and those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and their families. I hope that with everyone’s help we can alleviate the suffering of the dear Afghan people.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

2nd American confirmed dead in Ukraine

Johnny Maroun/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski has died in Ukraine, the State Department confirmed to ABC News Tuesday morning.

Zabielski was a 52-year-old U.S. Army veteran. His death was first reported by Rolling Stone.

According to an obituary posted online by his family, Zabielski died on May 15 while fighting near a village called Dorozhniank.

“We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen Stephen Zabielski in Ukraine. We have been in touch with the family and have provided all possible consular assistance,” a state department spokesperson told ABC News.

The State Department also said U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine because of the ongoing war and due to Russian government security officials singling out U.S. citizens in Ukraine.

Americans in Ukraine should depart immediately if safe to do so, the State Department said.

Willy Joseph Cancel, a 22-year-old former U.S. Marine, was killed in Ukraine in April while fighting aside Ukrainian forces. He was the first American to be reported killed in Ukraine.

Two U.S. citizens have been reportedly captured by Russian soldiers in the conflict zone in Donbas. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he did not know their whereabouts, in a press briefing.

Peskov said they were mercenaries who made attempts on the lives of Russian service members. They are charged with mercenary practices, he said.

“The Geneva Convention absolutely does not apply to them. Their crimes must be investigated, and they must stand trial,” Peskov said. As to whether the two Americans were facing the death penalty, Peskov said, “Yes, we do not rule out anything, because this is a decision to be made by a court, we never comment and, above all, have no right to intervene in court rulings.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Iranian officers’ mysterious deaths probed amid rising tensions with Israel

Sir Francis Canker Photography/Getty Images

(LONDON) — Researchers and military figures associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its nuclear program and its missile-development industry have either died after a series of “mysterious” incidents or were killed in planned assassinations over the past few weeks, according to the country’s local media.

Some officials in Iran and other experts said they believe that the deaths — which are happening amid increasing international tensions over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs — could be linked.

A commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said on Monday that the death of one of the “employees” at the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran was due to “industrial sabotage.”

General Mohammad Reza Hasani-Ahangar, commander of the IRGC-affiliate military university of Imam Hussein, was referring to a May 26 explosion at the facility, in which Ehsan Qadbeigi, an engineer working at one of the research units, was killed. Parchin houses several industrial and research units.

On June 12, Ali Kamani, a junior officer of the IRGC Aerospace Force, died in a car accident in Khomein, a town in central Iran, according to a provincial IRGC statement.

The statement offered condolences to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and tagged Kamani as a “martyr” who worked for the aerospace force of the IRGC.

Within a few hours of that announcement, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported the death of another officer of the aerospace force, Mohammad Abdoos, who was “martyred” while on a “mission” in Semnan, a northern province and home to a space launch center.

Abdoos was also named a “martyr” in the report from Fars News, which is known to be close to the IRGC. The report did not provide an explanation for how he died.

“I think [this series of deaths] can indeed be linked, especially in the case of two deaths on the same day,” Farzin Nadimi, an associate fellow with The Washington Institute, told ABC News. He specializes in security and defense in Iran and the Gulf region.

Explaining the sensitivity of the IRGC units where Kamani used to serve, Nadimi said that the IRGC’s Aerospace Force “operates both ballistic missiles and suicide and armed drones, at what appears to be a logistical base in central Iran which might have been involved in the IRGC’s logistical air bridge to Lebanese Hezbollah.”

Abdoos used to work at the Aerospace Organization of Iran’s Ministry of Defense, which works on the design and development of ballistic and cruise missiles.

“There are a large number of missile development and test centers in Semnan, where he reportedly died ‘in the line of duty,'” Nadimi said.

The two incidents followed another mysterious death of an aerospace engineer. Ayoob Entezari died after allegedly being poisoned, his relatives said, claiming that he had received death threats before he passed away.

Iranian judicial authorities, however, said he had not been a scientist but an ordinary employee of an industrial company and had passed away in a hospital after being sick.

The deaths of the aerospace-related officers happened a few weeks after two other mysterious deaths.

Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh, a commander of the notorious Quds Force, IRGC’s external operations unit, died on May 30 after falling from the roof of his home in Karaj, west of Tehran, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Esmailzadeh was a colleague of Colonel Hassan Sayyad-Khodaei, who was shot dead in his car outside his home in Tehran in broad daylight on May 22.

General Hossein Salami, IRGC’s commander-in-chief, appeared to say that the U.S. and Israel are responsible for Sayyed-Khodaei’s killing, adding that Tehran would get revenge.

“The enemy, from the heart of the White House and Tel Aviv, followed him for months and years, door-to-door and alley-to-alley to kill him… God willing we will take revenge,” he said.

“If those deaths are indeed linked, and of ‘unnatural’ causes, Israel’s Mossad could be one of the main suspects,” Nadimi said.

Nadimi added that “we cannot say anything with total certainty” about who was involved, “as the nature of such works is.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Iran embarked on expanded drone operations against Israel beginning in February 2018 when the Islamic Republic launched a drone from Syria. It tried again in 2021, launching two drones from Iraq earlier in the year.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz has discussed drone threats from Iran many times over the last year. That report detailed how Iran has been training drone operators from the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday warned Iranian proxies that they would pay if they participate in Iran’s plots.

“We are currently witnessing Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in various overseas locations,” Bennet said at his weekly cabinet meeting. “The security services are working to thwart attempted attacks before they are launched. We will continue to strike those who send the terrorists. Our new rule is: Whoever sends — pays.”

The deaths came amid attempts by international officials to save the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, between Iran and world powers.

With the negotiations stalled, Iran’s nuclear capabilities, including its uranium enrichment level, signal the country is the closest its ever been to making a nuclear weapon, experts warn.

Iran’s “stockpile of uranium is now enriched to 60%, close to the roughly 90% weapons — and in a form that can be enriched further,” the International Atomic Energy Agency told ABC News in late May. “It grew from 9.9 kg to 43.1 kg. This number is approximate amount for manufacturing a nuclear explosive device. This possibility cannot be excluded.”

Israel opposes the JCPOA and the negotiations to restore it, saying it is “giving in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail.”

“Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program; from today, they’ll be getting paid for it,” Bennett said in an official message in November, amid talks to resume the deal.

The Islamic Republic, which is under tough economic sanctions, said it is still interested in pursuing talks.

“Iran won’t distance itself from result-oriented talks,” Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Twitter on Friday.

Calling on the U.S. “to be realistic” and to “abandon sanctions lunacy,” Amirabdollahian invited the IAEA to focus on “technical duties” instead of adopting a “politicized approach.”

Tehran accused the IAEA of politicizing its nuclear case and referencing “fake documents” in the verification process of its nuclear program, including what Israel provides to the agency.

Israel has openly boasted about its intelligence operation’s influence on Iran’s nuclear program.

Bennet on May 31 uploaded an extensive stock of secret documents of Iran’s nuclear program and shared the link with public access via his Twitter account, saying, “We got our hands on Iran’s deception plan.”

U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price declined to comment June 16 about the possibility of the Iranian deaths being linked. He highlighted the White House’s commitment to its allies, saying, “Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Tel Aviv has announced that it has embarked on a new policy described as “a turning point in the Israeli strategy vis-à-vis Iran,” which it’s dubbed the “Octopus Doctrine.”

“In the past year, the State of Israel has taken action against the head of the terrorist octopus and not just against the arms as was done in previous decades,” Bennett said earlier this month. “The days of immunity, in which Iran attacks Israel and spreads terrorism via its regional proxies but remains unscathed — are over.”

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi made it clear that Iran is determined to take revenge for the recent deaths.

“I have no doubt that revenge against the criminals for the blood of this martyr is assured,” Raisi said a day after the death of Colonel Sayyad-Khodaei.

The “Iranian regime and especially the IRGC are certainly conducting a major counterintelligence house sweep right now to identify and get rid of any foreign spy,” Nadimi said, emphasizing that “those deaths will not have any effect on Iran’s nuclear or regional policies.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday urged citizens in Turkey to leave “as soon as possible” over threats that Iranian operatives are actively planning attacks on Israelis in Istanbul.

“Following the events of recent weeks in Turkey and after a series of attempts at Iranian terrorist attacks against Israelis who went on vacation in Istanbul, we call on Israelis not to fly to Istanbul and if you have no vital need do not fly to Turkey,” Lapid said on Twitter.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.