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Kenyan president sacks cabinet, bowing to pressure from protests

Kenyan president sacks cabinet, bowing to pressure from protests

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Kenyan president sacks cabinet, bowing to pressure from protests

Kenyan President William Ruto on Thursday fired his entire cabinet apart from the foreign minister, bowing to pressure from nationwide protests that have created the biggest crisis of his two-year presidency.

The youth-led protests against planned tax hikes started off peacefully but turned violent, killing at least 39 people in clashes with the police last month. Some demonstrators briefly stormed parliament, before Ruto abandoned the new taxes.

“I will immediately engage in extensive consultations across different sectors and political formations and other Kenyans, both in public and private, with the aim of setting up a broad-based government,” Ruto said in a televised address to the nation, adding that he would announce additional measures later.

He also dismissed the attorney general but said the office of the deputy president was not affected.

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The sweeping cabinet changes were what Kenyans have been asking for, veteran anti-corruption activist John Githongo told Reuters.

“Let us see what happens now if the new ministers deal with big issues around corruption and just the arrogance and excess of his administration and the fact that a lot of Kenyans died during the demonstrations,” he said. “Hopefully this should temporarily calm things.”

Ruto has been caught between the demands of lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut deficits and a hard-pressed population reeling from rising cost of living.

Last week he proposed spending cuts and additional borrowing in roughly equal measure to fill the nearly $2.7 billion budget hole caused by the withdrawal of the tax hikes.

Analysts have said the tax rollback means Kenya is likely to miss IMF targets although the government does not have debts that are due.

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The budget deficit is now projected at 4.6% of gross domestic product in the fiscal year that started on July 1.

Ojango Omondi, a community activist from the Social Justice Centres Working Group in Nairobi, said dismissing so many cabinet ministers was a “move towards justice”, but activists would want to see who Ruto appoints in their place.

“It’s one thing to dismiss, the second is to ensure that the people that will be chosen in the cabinet are accountable to the constitution and the rule of law,” Omondi said.

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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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