“It’s a conflict with a clear good side and bad side”: American military veterans volunteering to join the fight in Ukraine

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USA- According to a report by the New York Times, all across the country, small groups of military veterans are gathering, planning, and getting their passports in order, as many of them band together to join the fight in Ukraine.

One individual, Hector, who served two tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine and has since gotten out, received a pension, and started a civilian job, has boarded a plane for one more deployment – this time as a volunteer in Ukraine.

Hector, who thought he was done with military service, checked in several bags filled with rifle scopes, helmets, and body armor that was donated by other veterans. The former Marine, who lives in Tampa Bay, Florida, said:

“Sanctions can help, but sanctions can’t help right now and people need help right now. I can help right now.”

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Hector is one of many U.S. veterans who are now preparing to join the fight in Ukraine.

Soon after Russia attacked Ukraine, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he was creating an “international legion” and asked volunteers from around the world to help defend his nation against Russia.

Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, echoed the call for help, tweeting:

“Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.”

Hector said that he hopes to cross the border to train Ukraine in his expertise, which is armored vehicles and heavy weapons. He said:

“A lot of veterans, we have a calling to serve, and we trained our whole career for this kind of war. Sitting by and doing nothing? I had to do that when Afghanistan fell apart and it weighed heavily on me. I had to act.”

David Ribardo, a former Army officer who now owns a property management business in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said in a statement:

“It’s a conflict that has a clear good and bad side, and maybe that stands apart from other recent conflicts. A lot of us are watching what is happening and just want to grab a rifle and go over there.”

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After the invasion, he saw veterans flooding social media talking about joining the fight in Ukraine. David, who was unable to physically go to Ukraine and fight due to commitments at home, he spent the past week acting as a sort of middle man for a group called Volunteers for Ukraine.

While doing this, he identified veterans and other volunteers with useful skills and connected them to donors who purchased gear and airline tickets. He said:

“It was very quickly overwhelming. Almost too many people wanted to help.”

He said that he worked to sift those with valuable combat or medical skills from people he described as “combat tourists, who don’t have the correct experience and would not be an asset.” He added that his group had to comb out a number of extremists as well as.

A number of mainstream media outlets, including Military Times and Time, have published step-by-step guides on joining the military in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government reportedly instructed interested volunteers to contact its consulates.

On Thursday, March 3rd, Zelenskyy said in a video on Telegram that 16,000 volunteers had joined the international brigade. However, it is unclear what the true number is and the Times was unable to identify any veterans actively fighting in Ukraine.

Volunteers risk not only their own lives, but also drawing the United States into a direct conflict with Russia. Daniel Gale, who lost a leg in Iraq before going on to teach leadership for several years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and retiring as a lieutenant colonel, said:

“War is an unpredictable animal and once you let it out, no one — no one — knows what will happen.”

He added that he understands the urge to fight, but the risk of escalation resulting in nuclear war is too great. He said:

“I just feel heartsick. War is terrible and the innocent always suffer most.”

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War drums: As the world was distracted by Russia, North Korea launched its 9th missile test of 2022

March 5th, 2022

NORTH KOREA – As the world’s attention has continued to be captured by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korea has launched its ninth missile test of 2022.

According to officials in South Korea and Japan, North Korea launched a “suspected ballistic missile” off its eastern coast on Saturday, March 5.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the missile was launched from the Sunan region in North Korea, near Pyongyang.  It traveled to an apogee of about 340 miles and a distance of about 185 miles before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

According to the New York Post, North Korea conducted “a record number of seven tests in January” of 2022, and after a pause for most of February, resumed testing for the eighth time on Sunday, February 27.

At this writing, North Korea has not commented on its most recent missile test, but the Associated Press reports that North Korean officials stated that the February 27 test was for a camera system the nation plans to install on a spy satellite.

According to Bloomberg, “the U.S. and others have accused [North Korea] of using satellites as a cover to bolster its ballistic missiles for the military.”

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called Saturday’s launch “unacceptable,” adding:

“The missile was fired just as the international community is responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while also in the middle of the Beijing Paralympics. 

“I would like to reiterate we absolutely cannot condone this.”

A State Department spokeswoman stated that this launch, like previous launches:

“demonstrates the threat the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s] illicit weapons of mass destruction and missile programs pose to the DPRK’s neighbors and the region as a whole.”

Bloomberg reports that the U.S.-Indo Pacific command and South Korea’s presidential office “condemned” the launch, “urging Pyongyang to refrain from making additional provocations.”

South Korean officials also promised to cooperate with the United States to deal with the threat from North Korea, and to “more closely monitor [North Korea’s] nuclear and missile facilities as well as a nuclear testing ground that had been active until 2017.”

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Indo Pacific command has declared that the latest launch poses no “immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or that of its allies.”

According to the Daily Mail, Japanese Defense Minister Kishi reported no damage to vessels.

Some experts believe that the timing of this latest launch is political, as world attentions are squarely on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and South Korea is scheduled to elect a new leader on March 9.

According to Soo Kim, former CIA analyst and current policy analyst for Rand Corp.:

“Any crisis or major event will present an opportunity for North Korea to insert its relevance to the parties.”

Soo Kim continued:

“There’s essentially not enough time or policy space for the [South Korean] Moon administration to take any response measures, which means that Kim can again go scot-free with his missile tests and no consequences.”

The threats from Pyongyang have implications for effects on voting in the upcoming South Korean presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Under left-leaning President Moon Jae -in, Seoul has adopted a pro-engagement policy with Pyongyang.

“It is a tight race between Lee Jae-myung, a ruling party progressive, who would largely maintain Mr. Moon’s approach, and Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who pledges to take a more confrontational stance with the Kim regime.”

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Lee Sung-yoon, an expert on Korea from Tufts University’s Fletcher School, told the WSJ:

“Pyongyang’s threatening posture actually helps the candidate calling for peace at all costs instead of the one standing up to the tyrannical regime.”

Professor Lee continued by saying that “[t]he latest missile test could be framed by Lee Jae-myung, of the Democratic Party, as Pyongyang lashing out against a hard-lined conservative and therefore voters should opt to reup with a president who will give priority to diplomacy.”

Significantly, the Wall Street Journal also cites satellite imagery analysis from 38 North, a website concentrating on North Korea, as indicating that “North Korea also appears to have kept up production of plutonium and enriched uranium at its Yongbyon facility.”

Furthermore, 38 North has pointed out that the Yongbyon facility is “primed for expansion,” given the fact that there is new construction there, and the fact that North Korea restarted a nuclear reactor in 2021.

Per Reuters, diplomatic discussions between the United States and North Korea remain “stalled,” with the U.S. remaining open to talks, but with Pyongyang rejecting communications from the U.S. as “insincere.”

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UN General Assembly censures Russia over Ukraine invasion – but a shocking number of countries refused to

Originally published March 3, 2022

NEW YORK CITY — The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Russia and demanded that it immediately cease aggression, withdraw its troops and abide by the rules of the UN Charter.

The UN General Assembly, which held a rare emergency session to address Russia’s attack of Ukraine, drafted the resolution, “Aggression against Ukraine,” and then voted on it March 2.

The vote came as Russia attacked Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, which contains about 1.5 million people.

According to Oleksiy Arestovich, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, several Russian planes were shot down over the city.

There were 141 “yes” votes, 5 “no” votes and 35 abstentions.

The five countries that voted “no” included Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

Several supposed allies of Russia that abstained from voting included China, Cuba, India, Iran and Iraq.

Eleven countries were not recorded as voting or abstaining, including Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

AP News reported:

“The abstentions included China and India, as expected, but also some surprises from usual Russian allies Cuba and Nicaragua. And the United Arab Emirates, which abstained on Friday’s similar Security Council resolution, voted ‘yes.’

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“Cuba had spoken in Russia’s defense on Tuesday, with Ambassador Pedro Luis Cuesta blaming the crisis on what he said is the U.S. determination to keep expanding NATO toward Russia’s borders and on the delivery of modern weapons to Ukraine, ignoring Russia’s concerns for its own security.

“He told the assembly the resolution ‘suffers from lack of balance’ and doesn’t begin to address the concerns of both parties, or ‘the responsibility of those who took aggressive actions which precipitated the escalation of this conflict.’”

China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun explained its abstention from voting, citing “dramatic changes of the situation in Ukraine” and calling what is unfolding “heart wrenching,” according to a report by AP News.

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Jun reiterated Beijing’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and for the peaceful settlements of all disputes in line with the U.N. Charter and said:

“The top priority right now is to ease the situation on the ground as much as possible, and prevent the situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”

After the vote, there was a standing ovation.

The resolution holds no legal authority, but serves as a symbol of global unity against Russian President Vladimir Putin as only five of the 181 nations present voted against the measure.

Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions do not count.

AP News reported that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters immediately after the vote:

“The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear: End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.

“We don’t have a moment to lose. The brutal effects of the conflict are plain to see … It threatens to get much, much worse.”

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the vote sent a clear message that the General Assembly condemns Putin and supports Ukraine, according to AP News’ report.

Woodward said:

“We have stood up against those who seek to redraw the world’s borders by threat or use of force.

“For if president Putin’s aggression against Ukraine goes unchecked, which country could be next?”

President Zelenskyy praised the vote via a tweet:

“I praise the approval by the #UN GA with an unprecedented majority of votes of the resolution with a strong demand to Russia to immediately stop the treacherous attack on 🇺🇦. I’m grateful to everyone & every state that voted in favor. You have chosen the right side of history.

“Destructive results of the vote in 🇺🇳 for the aggressor convincingly show that a global anti-Putin coalition has been formed and is functioning. The world is with us. The truth is on our side. Victory will be ours 🇺🇦!”

President Joe Biden commented on the UN’s vote that condemned Russia, saying in part:

“The United Nations condemned Putin. 141 countries voted to do that. In the UN, here in the Assembly. Several abstained. China abstained….India abstained. Seven countries abstained — I think that was the number.

“They’re alone, and they did what they did in my view…because he thought he could split NATO, split Europe and split the United States.

“We’re going to demonstrate to the whole world, no one can split this country.”

Reuters reported that while Brazil had voted for the UN resolution against Russia, it later criticized “indiscriminate sanctions” against the country:

“Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ronaldo Costa Filho, reaffirmed on Wednesday the country’s position in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, but said the indiscriminate application of sanctions on Russia does not lead to the reconstruction of dialogue.

“He made his statement minutes after the UN General Assembly voted to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine and demanded that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces.”

Brazil’s ambassador warned:

“The resolution cannot be seen as something that allows the indiscriminate application of sanctions.

“These initiatives do not lead to the reconstruction of a diplomatic dialogue and it brings consequences that go beyond the current situation.”

Reuters further reported that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously visited Putin before the invasion of Ukraine, said Brazil would remain neutral in the conflict.

Bolsonaro mentioned Brazil’s reliance on Russian fertilizers that are crucial for the country’s giant agribusiness sector.

A death toll of at least 2,000 Ukrainians was reported by the Ukraine State Emergency Service.

In addition, the foreign ministry claimed that over 5,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since fighting began one week ago, according to a FOX News report.

According to a separate FOX News report, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell explained that many of the deaths are caused by wide-impact explosives:

“Most of these casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area.

“This includes shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems and airstrikes.”

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