The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they happened.
KYIV, Ukraine — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announces his arrival in Kyiv today following talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I have arrived in Ukraine after visiting Moscow. We will continue our work to expand humanitarian support and secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. The sooner this war ends, the better — for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and the world,” he writes on his official Twitter account.
A plane carrying nine Holocaust survivor refugees from Ukraine lands in Israel just as the country ushers in Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In total, the special medical rescue flight is carrying 21 refugees immigrating to Israel, according to the Zaka emergency response group, which helped organize the flight alongside the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The plane is met by ambulances to ferry the elderly and infirm passengers directly to hospitals and care facilities.
Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata meets the refugees personally. Before the plane touched down, she noted the resonance of the flight landing at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It is symbolic. If in the Holocaust they didn’t have a place to run. Today, there is a strong Jewish home,” she says.
Speaking after Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he is holding a single “witness sheet,” an official Yad Vashem document that outlines the basic biographical details of a Jew who was murdered in the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem focuses on individual losses to drive home the genocide’s tragedies, which are impossible to grasp at scale, and seeks to name as many of the 6 million victims as possible.
Bennett says the people who filled out a witness sheet were usually family and friends of the deceased.
He read out the details of a young girl with the family name Reich, and no first name, who was listed as being both born and killed in Auschwitz.
“Circumstances of her death: taken immediately from her mother.”
“Age at the time of death: half an hour,” Bennett says. The sheet was filled out by her mother, Irene Reich.
“The Holocaust is an unprecedented event in human history. I take the trouble to say this because as the years pass, more and more severe events are compared to the Holocaust,” Bennett says.
“But no, even the most serious wars today are not the Holocaust and are not like the Holocaust,” he adds. “No event in history, cruel as it may have been, compares to the destruction of Europe’s Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.”
Bennett says the lesson to take from the Holocaust is to “rely only on ourselves. To be strong and never apologize for our existence or success.”
“Building the State of Israel, the Jewish state in the land of Israel, is the victory over those who strove to destroy us. Let’s all of us hold fast to it,” he says.
He also issues a call for national unity.
“Today, thank God, in the State of Israel there is one army, one government, one Knesset and one people — the people of Israel,” he says.
President Isaac Herzog addresses the official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, calling the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews during World War II “mankind’s darkest hour.”
“Millions of our people were tortured, murdered, massacred by the most frightful mechanism of evil that humankind has ever known,” he says.
“My sisters and brothers, three years after the camp gates were opened, the survivors of the Holocaust became the heroes of the resurrection. They became our standard, our example, our symbol,” Herzog adds, referring to Israel’s founding.
“The state of the Jews arose as a lighthouse expressing the victory of light over darkness and promising that… never, ever, will depraved murderers stand behind a Jewish family, shoot them, and dispatch them into the valley of death.”
Addressing survivors in the audience, Herzog links the continued memory of the Holocaust to Israel’s survival.
“It is we who bear the duty to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and to hand them down, from generation to generation,” he says. “We stand no chance, nor have we any justification as a people and as a state, if we do not remember forever what happened to our people, in the ghettos, in the basements of the Gestapo, in the execution pits, in the death trains, in the extermination camps, in the crematoria, and in every other place where the image of humanity was lost and no trace of compassion survived.”
He also calls for Israel to “act in a cohesive and determined manner in the face of terrorism and hatred, led by states and organizations against us,” and for antisemitism to “be uprooted.”
“We must continue fighting against ugly expressions of antisemitism, which is returning to rear its head in many places in the world, including on social media. And we must make clear that even today, eight decades after the darkest abyss in the annals of human history, the antisemitism threatening our people is a crime against humanity,” he says.
WASHINGTON — World leaders and US political and foreign policy elite pay their respects to the late Madeleine Albright, the child refugee from war-torn Europe who rose to become America’s first female secretary of state.
Led by US President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, the man who picked Albright to be his top diplomat and the highest-ranking woman ever in the US government at that time, some 1,400 mourners gathered to celebrate her life and accomplishments at Washington National Cathedral.
Albright died of cancer last month at age 84, prompting an outpouring of condolences from around the world that also hailed her support for democracy and human rights. Besides the current and former presidents, the service is attended by at least three of her successors as secretary of state along with other current and former cabinet members, foreign diplomats, lawmakers and an array of others who knew her.
Biden, who delivered a tribute to Albright, says her name is synonymous with the idea that America is “a force for good in the world.”
“In the 20th and 21st century, freedom had no greater champion than Madeleine Korbel Albright,” Biden says. “Today we honor a truly proud American who made all of us prouder to be Americans.”
Albright was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, but her family fled twice, first from the Nazis and then from Soviet rule. They ended up in the United States, where she studied at Wellesley College and rose through the ranks of Democratic Party foreign policy circles to become ambassador to the United Nations. Bill Clinton selected her as secretary of state in 1996 for his second term.
AMMAN, Jordan — A Jordanian court has sentenced a fugitive uncle of King Abdullah II to 18 years in prison in a corruption case, a judicial official says.
Walid al-Kurdi had already been jailed for more than 37 years in 2013 for “abuse of office,” after he had fled to the United Kingdom.
Kurdi is the former CEO of the Jordan Phosphate Mines Co, one of the world’s largest suppliers.
He was tried in the latest case for abuse of power and corruption while he served with the company.
In addition to the new jail term, the court fined him 190 million dinars ($268 million), the judicial official says on condition of anonymity.
His previous conviction related to “sales and shipping deals,” a judicial official said at the time.
The court also froze his assets in 2013.
Kurdi is married to Princess Basma, sister of Abdullah’s father, the late king Hussein.
In April last year former crown prince Hamzah, King Abdullah II’s half-brother, accused the country’s rulers of corruption and ineptitude. He also said he had been put under house arrest.
At the same time, authorities announced they had foiled a bid to destabilize the pro-Western kingdom and had arrested 18 suspects, though most were later released.
The royal court said that Hamzah had apologized over the events. Last month he said he was renouncing his title of prince.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is huddling with top ministers and other officials to discuss security measures for the end of Ramadan and Israel’s national holidays of Memorial Day and Independence Day next week.
Among those taking part in the meeting are Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev.
The Kan public broadcaster links the meeting to Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny), when Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad, which begins tonight.
Thousands of police will be deployed to Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of Muslim prayers tonight and tomorrow on the Temple Mount.
MADRID — Russia has announced it is withdrawing from the United Nations World Tourism Organization just hours before the body’s assembly voted to temporarily suspend the country’s membership over the invasion of Ukraine, officials said.
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili makes the announcement on his official Twitter account. He says it is the first UN body to address Russia’s membership.
The organization goes ahead and approves the suspension at a special meeting in Madrid, where the organization has its headquarters.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s military offensive is an attack on the founding principles of the United Nations and on the values that tourism represents, such as peace, prosperity and universal respect and the observance of human rights,” Spanish Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto says in a statement following the decision.
The assembly resolution includes a clause that says the suspension could be reversed if a change in the politics of the Russian Federation were noted.
Spain is one of 22 European nations that had promoted the motion.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that if any other country intervenes in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia will launch a quick-fire military response.
Speaking to lawmakers, Putin says that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response… will be lightning-fast.”
The Russian leader says that the military won’t hesitate to use the most modern weaponry.
“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: we’ll use them, if needed. And I want everyone to know that,” Putin says.
“We have already taken all the decisions on this.”
Putin has frequently touted Russia’s development of modern weaponry, including hypersonic missiles and the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile that was successfully tested earlier this month.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with German Bundestag President Barbel Bas, who is in Israel for Holocaust Remembrance Day events.
“In recent years a lot of significant steps have been made in Germany to commemorate the Holocaust and the deep connection between the countries,” Bennett says, according to his office.
The CEO of Strauss Group says the food manufacturer is still unsure what the source of a salmonella outbreak was at a factory in northern Israel that has prompted a major recall of its chocolate products.
“We had a large mishap. It’s our duty to compensate our customers. We take responsibility and I believe that our honesty will be admired,” Eyal Dror tells Army Radio.
Israeli and Jordanian officials are expected to soon meet to discuss efforts to prevent a violent flareup at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Walla news site reports.
The report, which cites three unnamed Israeli and Western sources, says a joint committee will convene after Ramadan in a bid to reach an agreement on how to lower tensions at the holy site and prevent any violent incidents there.
According to the report, one of Amman’s main demands is expected to be for Israel to allow more unarmed guards at the Temple Mount on behalf of the Waqf, the Jordanian-controlled religious council that administers the site.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has expressed his government’s desire for closer cooperation with China in remarks made during a visit by the Chinese defense minister, state media reports.
According to the report, Raisi tells China’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe that Tehran sees its ties with Beijing as strategic. Closer cooperation would serve to confront what the Iranian president describes as US unilateralism as talks to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers have stalled.
“Confronting unilateralism and creating stability and order is possible through cooperation of independent and like-minded powers,” Raisi is quoted as saying today.
Wei in turn says improving ties between Iran and China would provide security, “particularly in the current critical and tense situation.”
Wei also meets with his Iranian counterpart, Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtinai, and reportedly invites him to visit China, as well as with other Iranian military officials.
The official IRNA news agency quotes Ashtiani as assailing US military presence in the Middle East and elsewhere, claiming that “wherever the US has had military presence, it has created waves of insecurity, instability, rifts, pessimism, war, destruction and displacement.”
Wei says his visit was aimed at “improving the strategic defense cooperation” between Iran and China — cooperation that he says will have a “remarkable” impact in defusing unilateralism and fighting terrorism.
Iran and China have increased their military ties in recent years, with their navies visiting each other’s ports and holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean.
In 2021, Iran and China signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement that covered a variety of economic activities from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transportation and agricultural collaborations.
China is a signatory to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, along with Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
PARIS — Newly reelected French President Emmanuel Macron narrowly avoids being pelted by what looks like a small sackful of cherry tomatoes as he wades through a boisterous and packed crowd in a market northwest of Paris.
About six of the small fruits, some orange, some red, contained in what looked like a blue plastic bag, fly over the head of the French leader and bounce off the shoulder and arm of two men beside him, according to broadcaster BFM-TV’s video.
Macron himself seems oblivious of the near-miss until someone in the crowd shouts “projectile” and bodyguards raise arms over the French leader’s head to cover him.
Someone then unfurls a black umbrella to shield him, and his security detail steers him to cover under a nearby market-stall parasol. The president shelters there for a few moments until things calmed down.
Emmanuel Macron ciblé par un jet de tomates lors de son déplacement à Cergy pic.twitter.com/3J0hXIZSRP
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) April 27, 2022
Macron, ostensibly unharmed and unperturbed, then happily continues his walkabout in Cergy-Pontoise, mingling and talking to people at the market. He tells reporters he is visiting the working-class neighborhood as part of his previously stated pledge to unite France after the bruising presidential campaign.
Macron, 44, comfortably beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the election runoff on Sunday.
The Russian foreign ministry has announced sanctions against 287 British lawmakers in response to the UK sanctioning 368 members of Russia’s lower house of parliament.
The ministry on Wednesday released a list of both government and opposition lawmakers, and a few former lawmakers. They are now barred from entering Russia because they “took the most active part in the establishment of anti-Russian sanctions instruments in London (and) contribute to the groundless ramping-up of Russophobic hysteria in the UK.”
The ministry’s statement said that “hostile rhetoric and far-fetched accusations coming from the mouths of British parliamentarians not only condone the hostile course of London aimed at demonizing our country and (at) its international isolation, but are also used by opponents of mutually respectful dialogue with Russia to undermine the foundation of bilateral cooperation.”
Responding to the announcement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “those 287 should regard it as a badge of honor.”
KYIV, Ukraine — The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organization tries in vain to get access for work including repairs.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi says that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, re-establish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the UN agency. And for that, both Russia and Ukraine need to help.
The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi says. “So this is a pending issue. This is a red light blinking.”
He speaks in an interview Wednesday, a day after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the issue.
BRUSSELS — The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warns EU importers that paying for Russian gas in rubles, as the Kremlin has demanded, would breach sanctions.
Brussels’ top official tells reporters that, unless a supply contract was denominated in rubles, European firms must not bow to pressure to pay in the Russian currency.
“This would be a breach of the sanctions, so a high risk for the companies,” she says.
A delegation of senior officials from the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group is visiting Tehran, according to Iran’s official news agency.
The IRNA report says the delegation is being led by Khalil al-Hayya and will attend a meeting tomorrow on “the latest status of the Palestinian nation’s resistance.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda will take part in tomorrow’s March of the Living, an annual Holocaust commemoration at Auschwitz, alongside Holocaust survivors and thousands of others.
A group of refugees who fled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are among those expected to take part.
“With shadow of war once again hanging over Europe, and Poland hosting millions of refugees from the ongoing war, President Duda’s participation pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and will serve as a clear statement against the dangers of antisemitism, hatred, racism and intolerance,” the organizers of the events say in a press release.
Duda took part in the March of the Living in 2018 alongside Israel’s then-president Reuven Rivlin. However, relations between the countries have been strained odds over Israeli objections to Polish legislation limiting Holocaust restitution, though Jerusalem has moved in recent months to patch up ties with Warsaw.
WASHINGTON — Russia and the United States carry out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, a senior US official says.
Today’s surprise deal would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades.
As part of the exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Marine from Texas who was arrested in the summer of 2019, after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station, following a night of heavy drinking. Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has described him as unjustly detained.
The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US.
Russia had sought his return for years while also rejecting entreaties by high-level US officials to release Reed, who was nearing his thousandth day in custody and whose health had recently been worsening, according to his family.
The two prisoners were swapped in a European country. Though officials would not say where the transfer took place, in the hours before it happened commercial flight trackers identified a plane belonging to Russia’s federal security service as flying to Ankara, Turkey. The US Bureau of Prisons also updated its website overnight to reflect that Yaroshenko was no longer in custody.
Michael Brodsky, Israel’s envoy to Ukraine, asks Kyiv’s mayor to consider renaming streets and public spaces in the capital after Ukrainians who saved Jews in the Holocaust.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko, a retired heavyweight champion boxer, announced Monday that he would be renaming Kyiv streets and sites linked to Russia and Belarus. Citizens can submit suggestions through the end of the month.
Brodsky, who is stationed in Poland along with the rest of the embassy staff, sends his letter on the eve of Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, that many Jews worldwide observe.
Strauss Group announces a further expansion of its massive recall of a wide-ranging number of chocolate products after salmonella was confirmed to be present in a number consumer-ready goods.
The food manufacturer, one of Israel’s largest, says it is now recalling all products made at a chocolate factory in Nof Hagalil, where traces of the bacteria were first detected, regardless of expiration date.
The new list of recalled goods includes Elite brand chocolate, cookies, energy bars, toffee, and more.
Strauss says the factory will not return to operations until the problem is fixed.
MADRID, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez vows to “be accountable” for allegations that Madrid spied on dozens of Catalan separatist figures using controversial spyware.
The allegations have strained relations between Sanchez’s leftist minority coalition government and the Catalan separatist party ERC, whose support he needs to pass legislation.
Canada’s Citizen Lab group said last week that more than 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been targets of Pegasus spyware after a failed independence bid in 2017.
Elected officials, including current and former Catalan regional leaders, were among those targeted by the spyware made by Israel’s NSO group, which infiltrates mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone and spy on its owners.
“We will be accountable,” Sanchez says during a parliamentary debate today, his first public comments on the spying allegations.
“This is a serious issue which demands serious answers,” he adds.
The government said Sunday it would launch inquiries into the affair.
It has neither confirmed nor denied whether it uses Pegasus or similar spyware, saying only that any surveillance was carried out under the supervision of judges.
Sanchez vows “maximum transparency,” saying documents could be declassified to help the investigations.
At the same time, he defends Spain’s intelligence service, the CNI, saying everything it had done had been carried out “scrupulously and with rigor, within the framework of the law.”
Police have arrested a rabbi from Jerusalem for suspected sex offenses and exploiting women.
The man, in his 50s, committed the alleged offenses against women in the process of becoming observant.
The rabbi was arrested after a months-long covert investigation.
He is suspected of rape, according to the Haaretz daily.
The head of Germany’s parliament visits the Knesset, as Israel is set to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this evening.
“The lessons of the Holocaust oblige us to give no place to antisemitism. Germany’s responsibility hasn’t ended. We stand alongside Israel,” Bundestag President Barbel Bas says, according to a Knesset statement.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy calls Bas’s participation in the Israeli parliament’s ceremonies for Holocaust Remembrance Day “a significant and important expression of the special connection that exists between the countries, for the historical responsibility that Germany took for the war crimes and Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security.”
Before her stop at the Knesset, Bas and Levy toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.
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