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Putin orders Russian troops to Ukraine after recognising breakaway regions

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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

A Reuters witness saw unusually large columns of military hardware moving through the breakaway city of Donetsk after Putin told Russia’s defence ministry to send forces into the two regions to “keep the peace” in a decree issued shortly after announcing recognition for Russian-backed separatists there.

The moves drew U.S. and European condemnation and vows of new sanctions although it was not immediately clear whether the Russian military action would be regarded by the West as the start of a fullscale invasion. The area was already controlled by Russian-backed separatists and Moscow in practice.

There was no word on the size of the force Putin was dispatching, but the decree said Russia now had the right to build military bases in the breakaway regions and that the troops’ mission would a peacekeeping operation.

In a lengthy televised address packed with grievances against the West, Putin, looking visibly angry, described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian lands and that he was confident the Russian people would support his decision..

Russian state television showed Putin, joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signing a decree recognising the independence of the two Ukrainian breakaway regions — the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic – along with agreements on cooperation and friendship.

Defying Western warnings against such a move, Putin had announced his decision in phone calls to the leaders of Germany and France earlier, both of whom voiced disappointment, the Kremlin said.

Moscow’s action may well torpedo a last-minute bid for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. The rouble extended its losses as Putin spoke, at one point sliding beyond 80 per dollar.

Biden responded by signing an executive order for a halt to all U.S. economic activity in the breakaway regions and a ban on import of all goods from those areas as well as investment there.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the measures being rolled out in response to Putin’s decree were separate from sanctions the United States and its allies have been readying if Russia invades Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the executive order “is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law.”

The U.N. Security Council will meet publicly on Ukraine at 9 p.m. EST Monday (0200 GMT on Tuesday), a Russian diplomat said, following a request by the United States, Britain and France.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said European Union countries have agreed to impose a limited set of sanctions “targeting those who are responsible” for Russia’s recognition of the rebel regions, and British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said the government would announce new sanctions on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Russia of “trying to stage a pretext” for a further invasion. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In his address, Putin delved into history as far back as the Ottoman empire and as recent as the tensions over NATO’s eastward expansion. His demands that Ukraine drop its long-term goal of joining the Atlantic military alliance have been repeatedly rebuffed by Kyiv and NATO states.

With his decision to recognise the breakaway regions, Putin brushed off Western warnings.

“I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago – to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.

He said earlier that “if Ukraine was to join NATO it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia.”

SANCTIONS THREAT

Putin has for years worked to restore Russia’s influence over nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Ukraine holding an important place in his ambitions.

Russia denies any plan to attack its neighbour, but it has threatened unspecified “military-technical” action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO.

But recognition of the separatist-held areas paved the way for Putin to send military forces there, arguing that he was intervening as an ally to protect the separtists against Ukrainian forces.

Putin‘s move will narrow the diplomatic options to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year-old ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, touted as the framework for future negotiations on the wider crisis.

Separately, Moscow said Ukrainian military saboteurs had tried to enter Russian territory in armed vehicles leading to five deaths, an accusation dismissed as “fake news” by Kyiv.

Both developments fit a pattern repeatedly predicted by Western governments, who accuse Russia of preparing to fabricate a pretext to invade by blaming Kyiv for attacks and relying on pleas for help from separatist proxies.

Moscow has said repeatedly it has no such plans.

Biden reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in a call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and also spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Hours earlier, Macron gave hope of a diplomatic solution, saying Putin and Biden had agreed in principle to meet.

But the Kremlin said there were no specific plans for a summit. The White House said Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

Washington says Russia has massed a force numbering 169,000-190,000 troops in the region, including the separatists in the breakaway regions, and could invade within days.

European financial markets tumbled at the signs of increased confrontation, after having briefly edged higher on the glimmer of hope that a summit might offer a path out of Europe’s biggest military crisis in decades. The price of oil – Russia’s main export – rose, while Russian shares and the rouble plunged. [MKTS/GLOB] [RU/RUB] [O/R]

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Matt Spetalnick, Kevin Liffey, Peter Graff, Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates)

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A year of trauma, catharsis and finally peace for some survivors of Kamloops school

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KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The nightmares started last May, said Harvey McLeod, chief of the Upper Nicola Indian Band and a survivor of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

They tormented McLeod for months after the discovery of 215 suspected unmarked graves at the school he attended for two years.

Then one night he was visited in his dreams by a young girl who set him free.

“It’s been tough on me and so wonderful at the same time,” said McLeod.

The year since the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that ground-penetrating radar had located the suspected grave sites in a former apple orchard has been one of national reckoning about residential schools in Canada.

But for survivors of the residential school system it has meant much more: reawakened trauma, catharsis, and, for some, a kind of closure.

“There was a little girl by my right leg, always there,” McLeod recalled of his dream. “I’d get up and walk and she’d be holding onto my leg or my hand. It seemed like everywhere I went that little girl was there.”

The dream ended when the girl walked to a door, waved and left, he said.

“My conclusion was, I’m OK now and she’s OK and she’s going to go home,” said McLeod, 68. “I think she was another child at the school that looked after me and I took care of her.”

Percy Casper, 73, spent 10 years at the Kamloops school. He said he was distraught and angry when he heard the announcement.

“The last year I really had to bear down and go back to my ceremonial life and roots,” said Casper, a member of the Bonaparte Indian Band near Cache Creek. “When I first found out about the 215, I was like a rubber band. I was maxed out and I was ready to snap.”

The former U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran said he found peace following a summer solstice ceremony last June at a healing location near Cache Creek.

A mother grizzly bear and three cubs watched in the distance as salmon, venison and berries were left at the sacred site. They emerged from the forest to eat the offerings as he prepared to leave, said Casper, who took their visit as a sign to find strength.

“It was up to me to revisit myself spiritually, and say, ‘Hey, you have to help yourself. You’ve got kids. You’ve got grandkids and you have people,’” he said. “So, I’m very proud to say I’m guilty of helping my people.”

Prof. Nicole Schabus, an Indigenous and environmental law expert at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, said upset survivors started calling her in the hours following the announcement about the suspected graves last May.

“Immediately, it flashed the survivors back to being children again and it brought the intergenerational trauma,” she said.

Many told her about dreams of seeing little boys standing alone, said Schabus.

“It took them a long time to actually realize they were looking at themselves,” she said, adding that many survivors recognized they were ready to move on from their experiences.

Mike Arnouse, 79, spent 11 years at the Kamloops school. He said the past year has seen him renew his commitment to living in unity with the land.

“There’s a cycle of life and we belong in that cycle,” he said. “The birds know what to do. The four-legged animals know what to do. The fish know what to do, but do we?”

The Adams Lake Indian Band member said residential schools were built to take Indigenous people off the land and impose the Western world on them.

“They’ve been practising on us for 500 years,” he said. “I always make the joke, ‘I was the smartest one in Grade 2 for eight years.’ “

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

A 4,000-page report in 2015 by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed harsh mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions.

The report cited records of at least 51 children dying at the Kamloops school between 1914 and 1963. Health officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition, the report noted.

Kamloops survivor Garry Gottfriedson, 69, said the past year had been emotionally draining for the members of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, who were unable to mourn in private.

“This was such a public thing,” he said.

Gottfriedson, 69, an internationally known poet who provides curriculum advice to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on Secwepemc Nation protocols and cultural practices, said community members still struggled with anxiety about the discovery and the next steps for the site, including exhumation.

“It’s different than a graveyard because we know the people who are taken to a graveyard and buried there,” he said. “It’s settled. But there’s so many unknowns with the 215 bodies. Those kids are buried in our yard. It’s a constant reminder.”

McLeod said the discovery of the unmarked graves at Kamloops had forced individuals, institutions and countries to face their past.

“It’s going to take some time, but it changed all of us in one way or another,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2022.

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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U.S., Canada, other APEC delegates walk out on Russian speaker

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BANGKOK (AP) — Delegates from the United States, Canada, and three other nations staged a walkout Saturday when a representative from Russia began his opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in the Thai capital, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng said Canada walked out alongside the U.S., New Zealand, Japan and Australia during Russia’s intervention.

“Canada has already taken many actions to hold Russia accountable for its devastating invasion of Ukraine, including severe sanctions against Putin and those who enable him – but we must keep the pressure on,” the minister’s spokeswoman Alice Hansen said by email.

A Japanese official said Japan’s Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts walked out of the meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A statement from the office of New Zealand Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor said he walked out “in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has slowed the region’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and made it harder for people in the region to get food on their tables.

A U.S. official in Bangkok confirmed the walkout but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is diplomatic sensitivity over speaking about the incident because the proceedings were held in closed session. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is representing Washington at the meeting.

Thailand is this year’s host nation for meetings of APEC, which comprises 21 economies. The two-day trade ministers meeting ends Sunday.

The walkout occurred just as Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s minister for economic development, was set to deliver his opening remarks, said a Southeast Asian diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the delegates of the five protesting nations and their staff walked out together in what appeared to clearly be a planned action, and returned after Reshetnikov completed his remarks.

Canada added Reshetnikov to its list of sanctioned Russian officials in mid March.

Western nations have imposed tough diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, but many of APEC member nations, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, have distanced themselves from such moves. The war in Ukraine has raised major trade issues because it has disrupted supply chains, especially in the food sector.

APEC was launched in 1989 to boost growth by promoting economic integration and trade among its members.

___

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand and David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this report.

 

Grant Peck, The Associated Press

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‘Still going’: Some RVers say high gasoline prices could keep them closer to home

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With gasoline prices hitting all-time highs, Jeff Redmond says he’s planning to stay closer to home when RV camping this summer.

The owner and general manager of Bucars RV Centre in Balzac, Alta., says recreational vehicles are still one of the most affordable ways to travel as a couple or with a family once hotels, gasoline prices or airline costs are factored in.

“We laugh that RVers are the ones that are winning,” Redmond said in an interview this week.

The cost of gasoline declined slightly before this May long weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer camping season, but analysts say summer demand in coming weeks has the potential to send prices even higher.

Redmond said that could influence where he travels this year.

“The Okanagan Valley is a place I like to go … and that’s a seven-hour drive, so maybe I am going to go to Pigeon Lake or Gull Lake (Alberta), which is an hour-and-a-half drive,” he said. “The good news is that I am still going.

“We’re able to alter our plans and to work within our budget.”

Redmond said he has heard a similar sentiment from customers. Some are staying closer to home. Others are planning to stay longer at one campsite.

“You park the larger trailer at a permanent campsite, or at your friend’s cottage, or at the old family farm, or at a winery in the Okanagan — and you don’t tow it,” he said. “You hop in your family car and you go back and forth. You have a built-in, very affordable … off-the-grid cabin that is extremely efficient once you get there.

“Lots of people are no longer towing.”

Rob Minarchi is vice-president of sales at ArrKann Trailer & R.V. Centre with outlets across Alberta. He said there’s been a lot of demand for RVs since the start of the pandemic and it hasn’t slowed down this year.

“Most (people) are upgrading, as crazy as that sounds,” he said from Edmonton. “Some people are selling … because circumstances have changed but, for the most part, they are just trading in for different units.

“There’s a lot of new RVers who came to the market when COVID first hit … but they didn’t know exactly what they wanted.”

Those customers, he said, are trading in for units that better suit their needs.

Minarchi said he hasn’t heard about anyone getting rid of an RV due to high gas prices.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of people are just camping a little closer,” he said. “If they were going to do a five-hour trip, now they are going to do a one-hour trip … I think it actually ties in a little bit with COVID and staying close to home.

“They found so many hidden gems locally … in the last couple of years that they are OK to do that.”

Some campgrounds are starting to notice some changes.

“I’ve had a few people cancel,” said Scott Kast, owner of Tomahawk R.V. at Lake of the Woods in Ontario.

But, he said, gas prices are a minor factor in those cancellations.

“We do get a lot of Americans here. One thing holding people back is vaccine mandates,” said Kast.

Another campground manager told CKPG radio station in Prince George, B.C., that some people travelling from farther away have cancelled.

“A lot of people are wanting to stay local,” said Bobbie Carpino, who runs the Salmon Valley campground.

“We’ve seen cancellations from folks coming in from the States heading up to Alaska, as well as folks coming in from the Lower Mainland.”

The price of fuel could add $100 or $200 to the cost of an average camping trip, Minarchi said.

“It feels like a lot when you are at the pump but … it’s still affordable to do it,” he said. “One less restaurant that you eat out at pays for the difference in your fuel for the whole camping trip.”

Some RVers, he said, are adding solar panels and buying generators to make it easier to camp off the grid — including on Crown land. Others are parking their RVs at permanent sites for the entire summer.

“They are still camping, so that’s good.”

Redmond said the pandemic encouraged many people to get outdoors in their RVs, on a mountain bike or with a set of golf clubs.

“I am a guy that went and bought a new bicycle and there’s no way I’m selling my bike. It’s been awesome to get on the trails and get reintroduced to that,” he said.

“There (are) lots of people, their lives got in the way of our great outdoors. They are stepping back now and saying, ‘Wow, that was great’ and they are going to keep doing it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2022.

 

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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