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    Cameron warns failure to supply arms to Ukraine will harm US security

    David Cameron has said that the continued US failure to supply arms to Ukraine would undermine its own security, strengthen China and cast doubt on America’s reliability as an ally around the world.The UK foreign secretary, who attended the G20 meeting in Brazil earlier in the week, admitted that the effort to rally global support for the Ukrainian cause had been “damaged” by the fact that neither the US nor the UK had voted for a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. But he argued the damage had been mitigated by the UK’s clarification of its position.Cameron was speaking in New York on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine at a time when the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, is blocking a substantial package of military aid to Kyiv, leading to a severe ammunition shortage for Ukrainian troops.The foreign secretary was flanked by his German and Polish counterparts, Annalena Baerbock and Radek Sikorski, who made their own calls for US supplies to be resumed at a meeting organised in New York by the Wall Street Journal ahead of a UN security council meeting on Ukraine on Friday afternoon.Earlier in the day, Joe Biden had announced 500 new sanctions on Russia and a further 100 entities around the world for providing support to Russia, in an effort to squeeze Moscow’s revenues. But the foreign ministers made clear that arms supplies were the key in the struggle with Russia in Ukraine.Cameron sought to frame his argument in terms of competition with China, one of the few issues that unites Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress.“I know that lots of people in Congress are hugely concerned about the role of China and if you’re concerned about the role of China, you must make sure that Putin doesn’t win,” he said.He added that Beijing was enjoying “the fact that we’re, we’re not as united as we should be. I think that’s why the American package is so important.”In its relations with countries around the world, Cameron argued, China was saying “come have a relationship with us. America isn’t reliable.”The end of US military support to Ukraine, he added “would strengthen that argument they make in an enormous way”.Baerbock said the blockage of US aid “will be the biggest gift for Putin and will be the biggest gift for China”.“The Ukrainians are fighting like lions, but you cannot fight with bare hands,” Sikorski said. “They are running out of ammunition for anti-aircraft missiles that are protecting cities and when soldiers don’t have artillery shells, they have to do close combat fighting. That means that Ukrainian casualties are greater.”The European ministers face an uphill task persuading a Republican congressional leadership that is under the powerful sway of Donald Trump, an opponent of Ukrainian aid, and also resistant to allied pressure. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican congresswoman, responded to an earlier effort by Cameron to persuade Congress in Ukraine’s favour that the foreign secretary could “kiss my ass”.“I’m not trying to lecture or tell American congressmen what to do,” Cameron insisted on Friday. “I love my own country but I love America too. I think this is really important for America, for American security.”He admitted that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and western positions on the conflict had complicated efforts to build global solidarity against Russia. Earlier this week, the US vetoed a UN security council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire for the third time, and the UK abstained.“The fact that we haven’t signed up for some of these resolutions and what have you, it does do some damage. There is no doubt about that,” Cameron said. “But I think when you explain how we really want to stop the fighting right now and have got a plan to do it, I think that helps to build some faith between the Arab world and what foreign ministers like myself and others say.”As European ministers sought to change minds in the Republican party, Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks with a US congressional delegation in Lviv. The group – led by the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer – said it wanted to show that the US had not abandoned “the Ukrainian people”, or its Nato allies in Europe.Schumer said he and his fellow Democrats would “not stop fighting” until $61bn in military funding for Ukraine was delivered. House Republicans are currently blocking the assistance package, despite a 64-19 Senate vote in favour.View image in fullscreen“We believe we are at an inflection point in history and we must make it clear to our friends and allies around the globe that the US does not back away from our responsibilities,” Schumer said. The consequences of walking away would be “severe”, he warned, saying he would “make this clear” to the Republican speaker and to others obstructing aid back in Washington.Schumer told the Associated Press opposition to the national security package “may be the view of Donald Trump and some of the hard-right zealots. But it is not the view of the American people, and I don’t think it’s the view of the majority of people in the House or Senate.”Ukrainian commanders say with no new US weapons deliveries they are facing serious problems on the battlefield. They say that Ukrainian soldiers were forced to withdraw from the eastern city of Avdiivka last week because of an acute shortage of shells and ammunition. Further Russian gains were likely if no more aid arrived, they admitted.Ukraine is also running out of western-supplied interceptor missiles. A Russian drone strike killed three people early on Friday in the Black Sea port of Odesa, the regional governor, Oleh Kiper, said. Ukrainian air defences were only able to shoot down 23 out of 31 drones – a significantly lower number than in attacks last year.Earlier in Lviv Zelenskiy met with Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen. The country has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest European allies. Frederiksen recently pledged to give all of Denmark’s artillery reserves to Ukraine and on Friday signed a long-term security agreement with Kyiv. It envisages giving €1.8bn ($1.9bn) in support.The two leaders visited Lviv’s Lychakiv cemetery and laid flowers at the grave of a Ukrainian soldier. Many hundreds of service personnel have been buried there since Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago. More

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    German Lawmakers Move Closer to Legalizing Marijuana

    The measure still requires approval from the Council of States, but the vote brings the country closer to becoming the largest nation in Europe to legalize the drug for recreational use.Lawmakers in Germany approved legalization of cannabis on Friday, bringing the country a step closer to becoming one of the few European nations — and by far the largest — to fully legalize limited amounts of the drug for recreational use.“By legalizing it, we are taking cannabis out of the taboo zone,” said Karl Lauterbach, who as health minister is largely responsible for the law, on public television before the vote, which ended up being 407 votes for and 226 against.The proposal must be approved by the Federal Council next month.Several other European countries, perhaps most notably the Netherlands, tolerate the use of cannabis, but legalization is rare: With in the European Union, Only Malta and Luxembourg have gone that far.If the law passes the Federal Council and is signed by the president, it will be rolled out in two steps. Starting in April, all adults will be allowed to carry up to 25 grams, own up to 50 grams, and grow up to three adult plants for private consumption. Then, in July, adults in Germany will be permitted to form social clubs that can produce cannabis plants for their members.Critics have objected to the new law on the grounds that it could normalize the drug and make it easier for minors to obtain it. To try to prevent this, the measure limits carrying and use of the drug to people over 18 years old and bans consumption of the drug close to schools or other places where young people gather.States have warned that the legalization would cause an extra burden for the traffic police, who expect to see an increase in the number of people driving under the influence of the drug on German roads. More

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    Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens arrested again

    The former FBI informant who is charged with lying about a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving Joe Biden’s family was again taken into custody in Las Vegas, two days after a judge released him, his attorneys said.Alexander Smirnov was arrested during a meeting on Thursday morning at his lawyers’ offices in downtown Las Vegas. The arrest came after prosecutors appealed the judge’s ruling allowing 43-year-old Smirnov, who holds dual US-Israeli citizenship, to be released with a GPS monitor ahead of trial. He is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record.Attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in a statement that they have requested an immediate hearing on his detention and will again push for his release. They said Smirnov, who claims to have links to Russian intelligence, was taken into custody on a warrant issued in California for the same charges.Smirnov was first arrested last week in Las Vegas, where he now lives, while returning from overseas. A spokesman for justice department special counsel David Weiss, who is prosecuting Smirnov, confirmed that Smirnov had been arrested again, but did not have additional comment.Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told his FBI handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Joe and Hunter Biden $5m each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry of President Biden in Congress.Smirnov has not entered a plea to the charges, but his lawyers have said their client is presumed innocent and they look forward to defending him at trial.As part of their push to keep him in custody, prosecutors said Smirnov told investigators after his arrest last week that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov’s self-reported contact with Russian officials was recent and extensive, and said he had planned to meet with foreign intelligence contacts during an upcoming trip abroad.US magistrate judge Daniel Albregts said on Tuesday that he was concerned about Smirnov’s access to money that prosecutors estimated to be around $6m, but noted that federal guidelines required him to fashion “the least restrictive conditions” ahead of trial. Smirnov was also ordered to stay in the area and surrender his passports.“Do not make a mockery out of me,” Albregts said to Smirnov, warning that he’d be placed back into the federal government’s custody if he violated any of his conditions. His lawyers say he had been “fully compliant” with his release conditions.Prosecutors quickly appealed to US district judge Otis D Wright in California.“The circumstances of the offenses charged – that Smirnov lied to his FBI handler after a 10-year relationship where the two spoke nearly every day – means that Smirnov cannot be trusted to provide truthful information to pretrial services,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.“The effects of Smirnov’s false statements and fabricated information continue to be felt to this day. Now the personal stakes for Smirnov are even higher. His freedom is on the line.”Smirnov had been an informant for more than a decade when he made the explosive allegations about the Bidens in June 2020, after “expressing bias” about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, prosecutors said.But Smirnov had only routine business dealings with Burisma starting in 2017, according to court documents. No evidence has emerged that Joe Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current role or previous office as vice president.While his identity wasn’t publicly known before the indictment, Smirnov’s claims have played a major part in the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family, and helped spark what is now a House impeachment inquiry into Biden. Republicans pursuing investigations of the Bidens demanded the FBI release the unredacted form documenting the unverified allegations, though they acknowledged they couldn’t confirm if they were true.Democrats called for an end to the investigation after the Smirnov indictment came down last week, while Republicans distanced the inquiry from his claims and said they would continue to “follow the facts.”Smirnov’s lawyers say he has been living in Las Vegas for two years with his longtime girlfriend and requires treatment and daily medications for “significant medical issues related to his eyes”. He lived in California for 16 years prior to moving to Nevada. More

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    U.S. Warns Allies Russia Could Put a Nuclear Weapon Into Orbit This Year

    The American assessments are divided, however, and President Vladimir Putin denied having such an intention, saying that Russia was “categorically against” it.American intelligence agencies have told their closest European allies that if Russia is going to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit, it will probably do so this year — but that it might instead launch a harmless “dummy” warhead into orbit to leave the West guessing about its capabilities.The assessment came as American intelligence officials conducted a series of rushed, classified briefings for their NATO and Asian allies, as details of the American assessment of Russia’s intentions began to leak out.The American intelligence agencies are sharply divided in their opinion about what President Vladimir V. Putin is planning, and on Tuesday Mr. Putin rejected the accusation that he intended to place a nuclear weapon in orbit and his defense minister said the intelligence warning was manufactured in an effort to get Congress to authorize more aid for Ukraine.During a meeting with the defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, Mr. Putin said Russia had always been “categorically against” placing nuclear weapons in space, and had respected the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits weaponizing space, including the placement of nuclear weapons in orbit.“We not only call for the observance of the existing agreements that we have in this area,” he was quoted as saying by the Russian state media, “but we have proposed many times to strengthen these joint efforts.”On Wednesday, Mr. Putin reinforced the central role he believes Russia’s nuclear arsenal plays in the country’s defenses: Visiting an aviation factory, he climbed into the bomb bay of a Tu-160M strategic bomber, the most modern in the Russian fleet.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    TikTok Is Subject of E.U. Inquiry Over ‘Addictive Design’

    The European Commission said it would investigate whether the site violated online laws aimed at protecting children from harmful content.European Union regulators on Monday opened an investigation into TikTok over potential breaches of online content rules aimed at protecting children, saying the popular social media platform’s “addictive design” risked exposing young people to harmful content.The move widens a preliminary investigation conducted in recent months into whether TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, violated a new European law, the Digital Services Act, which requires large social media companies to stop the spread of harmful material. Under the law, companies can be penalized up to 6 percent of their global revenues.TikTok has been under the scrutiny of E.U. regulators for months. The company was fined roughly $370 million in September for having weak safeguards to protect the personal information of children using the platform. Policymakers in the United States have also been wrestling with how to regulate the platform for harmful content and data privacy — concerns amplified by TikTok’s links to China.The European Commission said it was particularly focused on how the company was managing the risk of “negative effects stemming” from the site’s design, including algorithmic systems that it said “may stimulate behavioral addictions” or “create so-called ‘rabbit hole effects,’” where a user is pulled further and further into the site’s content.Those risks could potentially compromise a person’s “physical and mental well-being,” the commission said.“The safety and well-being of online users in Europe is crucial,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president overseeing digital policy, said in a statement. “TikTok needs to take a close look at the services they offer and carefully consider the risks that they pose to their users — young as well as old.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Ursula von der Leyen Seeks Second Term as Top E.U. Official

    The German politician has been European Commission president since 2019, becoming a key contact for the Biden administration.“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”The answer to the famous question — attributed to Henry Kissinger, but probably apocryphal — has been easier to answer over the past four years than ever before: You call Ursula von der Leyen.President of the European Commission since 2019, Ms. von der Leyen has emerged as the face of Europe’s response to major crises, and on Monday she announced that she would seek a second five-year term.“I ran in 2019 because I firmly believe in Europe. Europe is home to me,” Ms. von der Leyen said on Monday in Berlin at the Christian Democratic Union party conference. “And when the question came up back then as to whether I could imagine becoming president of the European Commission, I immediately said ‘yes’ intuitively.”“Today, five years later, I am making a very conscious and well-considered decision: I would like to run for a second term,” she added.Given her strong record steering the European response to both the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ms. von der Leyen is seen as a relatively sure bet to keep the job, which is not elected but decided in negotiations among European Union leaders.Another term for Ms. von der Leyen would provide continuity for bloc, which could also expect her to further expand the authority of her position, even beyond its duties overseeing the 32,000-strong European Commission, the E.U.’s executive branch, which is responsible for drafting laws and policies for the 27 member states.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Volodymyr Zelenskiy pleads for more arms as frontline Ukrainian city falls

    Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a desperate plea for fresh arms on Saturday as his army commanders announced that Ukrainian troops were pulling out of the key eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow its first major military victory since last May, just days before the second anniversary of the Russian invasion.Ukraine’s leader told the Munich Security Conference that the slowing of weapons supplies was having a direct impact on the frontline and was forcing Ukraine to cede territory.“Keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” he said.The retreat from Avdiivka hands the initiative in the conflict to Vladimir Putin, a month before rubber-stamp elections that will hand him another six years in office, and a day after the death of the leading Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.Referring to the US Congress’s decision to call a two-week recess instead of voting on a $60bn military aid package, Zelenskiy warned that “dictators don’t go on vacation”.“Hatred knows no pause,” he said. “Enemy artillery is not silent due to procedural troubles. Warriors opposing the aggressor need sufficient strength.”Ukraine’s military announced in the early hours of Saturday that it was withdrawing forces from Avdiivka, a decision that has been regarded as inevitable for some time as Russian forces cut off the industrial city on three sides. “I decided to withdraw our units from the town and move to defence from more favourable lines in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen,” said the newly appointed army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi in a statement.Soldiers had raised concerns that Avdiivka could be “another Bakhmut” – the city that Ukraine defended fiercely last spring, but which ultimately fell after heavy losses.Soldiers involved in the retreat painted a chaotic picture of risky and terrifying withdrawal, in which they were sometimes forced to leave wounded behind. A top army commander wrote on the messaging service Telegram that “a certain number of Ukrainian servicemen” were taken prisoner during the retreat.Viktor Biliak, a soldier with the 110th Brigade, described earlier in the week how he and others had left a garrison in the south of Avdiivka. “There was zero visibility outside,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was just plain survival. A kilometre across a field. A group of blind cats led by a drone. Enemy artillery. The road to Avdiivka is littered with our corpses.”View image in fullscreenFewer than 1,000 civilians are left in the town, which was once home to 30,000 people and a sprawling coke plant. Close to the major city of Donetsk, which has been occupied since 2014, it has long been a fortified outpost, and has been the scene of intense fighting since October.Ukrainian forces are under pressure along the length of the frontline as the anniversary approaches on 24 February, and in Munich, the mood at the conference was darkened by Zelenskiy’s sombre warning that Ukraine will lose without more long-range weapons, drones and air support.The US Senate has approved a bill that allocates $60bn in new aid for the Ukrainian military. But it has been held up in the House of Representatives, which last week announced a sudden two-week recess. At a joint press conference with Zelenskiy, the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, said that Washington “must be unwavering” and that “we cannot play political games”.Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said at a side meeting that everything depended on when Ukraine received further aid. “I am optimistic but the timing is critical,” he said. He was dubious that European aid, without sufficient US support, would be enough to prevent Ukraine ceding further territory.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionAmong the politicians present, there was frustration not just with US isolationists, but with Europe’s failure to turn its promises of extra ammunition into a reality. The Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said she did not understand why countries such as Germany and France that did have extra ammunition were not sending it to the frontline now. “The sense of urgency is simply not clear enough in our discussions,” she said. “We need to speed up and scale up.”Addressing Navalny’s death in an Arctic prison, Zelenskiy said Putin was responsible. “Putin kills whoever he wants, be it an opposition leader or anyone who seems like a target to him,” he said.On Friday, the Munich conference was rocked when Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, addressed the conference hours after reports of his death broke.Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, said investigators in the city of Salekhard had refused to release Navalny’s body to his mother, who had arrived there on Saturday morning.Georgy Alburov, another ally, said that authorities wanted to prevent an independent autopsy by delaying the release of Navalny’s body.Prison authorities claim Navalny “fell unconscious” during a walk at the IK-3 prison in the Yamalo-Nenets region where he was serving a 19-year sentence widely seen as politically motivated.OVD-Info, a Russian NGO that monitors law enforcement, said that at least 359 people in 32 cities had been detained at vigils held in support of Navalny across Russia. Many had laid carnations at makeshift memorials under the eye of riot police. More

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    ‘Dictators Do Not Go on Vacation,’ Zelensky Warns Washington and Europe

    President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed back against skepticism of a Ukraine victory, calling on world leaders not to ask when the war would end, but why Russia was still able to wage it.President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called on world leaders not to abandon his country, citing the recent death of a Russian dissident as a reminder that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia of would continue to test the international order, and pushing back against the idea of a negotiated resolution to the war.Mr. Zelensky, speaking on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, said that if Ukraine lost the war to Russia, it would be “catastrophic” not only for Kyiv, but for other nations as well.“Please do not ask Ukraine when the war will end,” he said. “Ask yourself why is Putin still able to continue it.”The two topics that have loomed over nearly every discussion at the yearly meeting of world leaders have been Russia and the potential weakening of trans-Atlantic relations, amid an increasingly pessimistic assessment of Kyiv’s ability to beat Moscow.Mr. Zelensky’s speech on Saturday came as Ukrainian forces retreated from a longtime stronghold, Avdiivka, giving Russian troops their first significant victory in almost a year.And it came a day after attendees of the conference were shaken by the news that the prominent dissident Aleksei A. Navalny had died in a Russian Arctic penal colony. It was a stark reminder, Mr. Zelensky warned, of how Moscow would continue to test the Western-backed international rules-based order.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More