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Trump judgment looms as historic trial reaches finale

Trump judgment looms as historic trial reaches finale

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Trump judgment looms as historic trial reaches finale

Prosecutors in the trial of Donald Trump will make a final pitch to the jury on Tuesday, in their historic pursuit of the first ever criminal conviction of a former US president.

Less than six months before American voters choose whether to return Trump to the White House, the stakes riding on the verdict are hard to overstate – for the 77-year-old personally, but also for the country as a whole.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels over a 2006 sexual encounter between them that could have damaged his 2016 presidential bid.

If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison on each of 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.

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Crucially, a conviction would not bar Trump from appearing on the ballot in November as the Republican presidential challenger to Democrat Joe Biden.

It has taken nearly five weeks, the testimony of more than 20 witnesses and a few courtroom fireworks to reach closing arguments – the last chance for the prosecution and defense to impress their case on the anonymous, 12-member jury.

As expected, Trump chose not to testify in his defense – a move that would have exposed him to unnecessary legal jeopardy and forensic cross-examination.

Instead, he was forced to sit and listen while Daniels recounted their alleged encounter in sometimes graphic detail.

Speaking to reporters before and after each day in court, Trump launched regular tirades against Judge Juan Merchan – calling him “corrupt” and a “tyrant” – and condemned the whole trial as “election interference” by Democrats intent on keeping him off the campaign trail.

The politics of the case were in full view in the final days when a coterie of leading Republicans – including several vice-presidential hopefuls – came to the court and stood behind Trump in a gesture of support as he spoke to the press.

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Unanimity required

The judge has said he expects closing arguments to take up all of Tuesday.

He will then give his final instructions to the jury, who will likely begin their deliberations on Wednesday.

To return a guilty or not guilty verdict requires unanimity. Just one holdout means a hung jury and a mistrial.

Aside from Daniels, the key prosecution witness was Michael Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer” turned bitter foe who said he arranged the $130,000 hush money payment so her story “would not affect Mr Trump’s chances of becoming president of the United States.”

Trump’s defense team devoted most of their questioning trying to discredit Cohen, recalling that he had admitted lying to Congress and spent time in prison for tax fraud.

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In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He also faces charges in Florida of allegedly mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House.

None of those trials are expected to take place before the November election. 

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UK’s Rwanda asylum scheme has cost 700 million pounds

UK’s Rwanda asylum scheme has cost 700 million pounds

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UK's Rwanda asylum scheme has cost 700 million pounds

 Britain’s now-scrapped plan to deport migrants who arrive illegally on British shores to Rwanda has cost taxpayers 700 million pounds ($904 million), new interior minister Yvette Cooper said on Monday.

“Two and a half years after the previous government launched (the Rwanda plan), I can report it has already cost the British taxpayer 700 million pounds,” she told parliament. 

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Hungary, Slovakia ask European Commission to mediate with Ukraine over Lukoil

Hungary, Slovakia ask European Commission to mediate with Ukraine over Lukoil

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Hungary, Slovakia ask European Commission to mediate with Ukraine over Lukoil

Hungary and Slovakia have asked the European Commission to mediate a consultation procedure with Ukraine, Hungary’s foreign minister said on Monday, after Kyiv placed Russian group Lukoil on a sanctions list, stopping its supplies to the two countries.

Slovakia and Hungary have stepped up pressure on Kyiv after they said last week they had stopped receiving oil from Lukoil via Ukraine. Hungary receives 2 million metric tonnes of oil from the Russian group annually, around a third of its total oil imports, Peter Szijjarto said.

“I spoke with the Ukrainian foreign minister yesterday, he said they allow every oil transfer through, but it’s not true,” Szijjarto told reporters while in Brussels.

The two countries have now initiated a consultation with the European Commission, he said. “The Commission has three days to execute our request, after which we will bring the issue to court.”

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Szijjarto said if the consultation procedure did not bear fruit, Hungary and Slovakia would bring the issue to an international court of their choosing instead.

In an attempt to sell the freed-up crude volumes, Lukoil has added some 140,000 metric tonnes of crude oil to its original lifting plan for the Black Sea port of Novorossiis for July, market sources said.

Lukoil’s oil supplies via Druzhba’s southern spur account for some 50% of the pipeline’s flows. MOL’s refineries in Slovakia and Hungary totally depend on supplies from Lukoil.

As an alternative, Hungary may import oil from Croatia’s Omisalj sea port via the Adria pipeline, while Slovakia is landlocked and is only able to get oil via Hungary.

Since April, oil imports via Omisalj were at around 500,000 metric tons each month. Supplies include such oil grades as Basrah, Azeri BTC and CPC Blend.

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Russia continues to supply natural gas and oil to landlocked Hungary and Slovakia via Ukraine despite the war in the country and existing EU sanctions on Russian crude.

The countries have exemptions from oil sanctions to give them more time to transition to alternative sources of supply.

Both Slovakia and Hungary also supply energy to Ukraine. Szijjarto said Hungary provided 42% of Ukrainian electricity imports last month.

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said over the weekend that his country helped supply diesel to Ukraine, in comments in which he blasted the sanctions and said Slovakia would not be “hostage” to Ukraine-Russia relations.

On Monday Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar reiterated some of Fico’s comments, saying that the sanction had a bigger impact on Slovakia and the EU than Russia itself.

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Ukraine’s ban does not affect other Russian oil exporters whose oil was still allowed to transit through Ukraine.

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Russian troops mount pressure on Ukrainian logistics hub of Pokrovsk

Russian troops mount pressure on Ukrainian logistics hub of Pokrovsk

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Russian troops mount pressure on Ukrainian logistics hub of Pokrovsk

Ukraine’s top commander said on Monday that Russian forces were staging relentless assaults to try to advance towards the town of Pokrovsk, a logistics hub in the east and that there was active fighting taking place along the entire front line.

Nearly 29 months after the full-scale invasion, Ukraine has stepped up its mobilisation effort to address its manpower shortages and been reinforced by supplies of Western artillery shells, but Russian troops have continued to inch forward.

“The enemy pays no attention to their fairly high level of losses and continues to push through towards Pokrovsk,” Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a statement from the eastern front.

Pokrovsk is less than 25 km (15 miles) from Russian-occupied land, according to open-source intelligence battlefield maps, and lies at an intersection of roads and a railway that makes it an important logistics point for the military and for civilians in the east.

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“Active combat operations of varying intensity are taking place along the entire front,” Syrskyi said, noting that Russian forces were also trying to capture floodplain islands near the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.

FIGHTING RAGES IN EAST

Fierce battles, he said, also raged near several eastern villages and towns, including Krasnohorivka and Chasiv Yar, a strategic hilltop town whose capture would bring Russia closer to threatening important Kyiv-held Donetsk region cities.

That’s a balance to be found between perfect security, which is the priority. And there is no discussion.

Russia staged 39 assaults on the Pokrovsk front in the last 24 hours of a total of 117 registered along the front line, the military said in its daily battlefield readout.

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Russian forces captured two villages in the east over the weekend, Russian media said, citing the Defence Ministry.

Though Kyiv’s weary troops have been on the backfoot this year with Russia again on the offensive and keeping up the pressure, Moscow’s progress has been slow.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who travels to China this week on a diplomatic trip, estimated on Friday that Russia controlled 17.68% of Ukrainian territory compared with 17.61% on Jan. 1, 2024.

A senior NATO official said this month that Russia lacked the munitions and troops for a major offensive in Ukraine and would need to secure significant ammunition supplies from other countries beyond what it already has to do so.

LONG-RANGE STRIKES

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Russia has pounded Ukraine’s electricity system with airstrikes in recent months, causing regular power cuts across the country.

Ukraine has used domestic-made drones to attack targets in Russia and staged a major overnight strike that damaged its Tuapse oil refinery, its biggest on the Black Sea.

In his statement, Syrskyi said it was vital for Kyiv to conduct long-range strikes on Russian forces, echoing Ukrainian officials who have appealed to allies to allow Kyiv to use Western-supplied weapons to attack military targets inside Russia.

Russia has warned that the use of U.S. and Western weapons against targets inside Russia could trigger a new level of confrontation.

Ukraine is also grappling with a shortage of short-range anti-aircraft missiles to repel Russian reconnaissance drones and is having to rely on drones and other electronic warfare systems for defence, he said. 

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