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Ukrainian medic who filmed Russia's bombardment of Mariupol has been freed from captivity

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The Ukrainian medic who helped smuggle footage of Russia’s attack on Mariupol out of the country has been freed from Russian captivity, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced.Yuliia Paievska, who is known in Ukraine as simply Taira, her character name from the World of Warcraft video game, was freed by Russian forces on Friday, three months after she was initially taken captive.Taira’s husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press he was relieved his wife would soon be home.
This undated image provided by the Invictus Games Team Ukraine shows Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, a celebrated Ukrainian medic who used a body camera to record her work in Mariupol while the port city was under Russian siege. (Invictus Games Team Ukraine via AP)
(Invictus Games Team Ukraine via AP)”It was such a great sense of relief. Those sound like such ordinary words, and I don’t even know what to say,” Puzanov said.US MILITARY VETERANS CAPTURED IN UKRAINE SEEN FOR FIRST TIME IN RUSSIAN TV FOOTAGEDuring a nightly address Friday, Zelenskyy announced Taira’s release.”We managed to liberate Taira, Ukrainian paramedic Yuliia Paievska, from captivity. I am grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already home,” he said. “We will keep working to liberate everyone.”
FILE – Yuliia Paievska, known as Taira, looks in a mirror and turns off her camera in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Feb. 27, 2022. (Yuliia Paievska via AP)
(Yuliia Paievska via AP)Taira used a body camera she received last year to record over 256 GB of video, including her and her team taking care of wounded Ukrainian and Russian soldiers.TOP RUSSIAN SECURITY OFFICIAL QUESTIONS WHETHER UKRAINE WILL ‘EXIST ON THE MAP’ IN 2 YEARSThe videos also showed Russian soldiers mistreating Ukrainian civilians.
FILE – Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol during shelling, in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)
(AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov, File)She was a member of the Ukraine Invictus Games for military veterans, where she participated in archery and swimming. The body camera she used to capture the now-widely transmitted footage, was given to her in 2021 to record footage for a Netflix documentary.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPAfter Russia’s military invaded on Feb. 24, she used the device to capture scenes from the war.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sikh temple in Afghanistan rocked by explosions, gunfire

ISLAMABAD — Several explosions and gunfire ripped through a Sikh temple in Afghanistan’s capital Saturday killing one person and wounding seven others, a Taliban official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.Gunmen attacked the Sikh house of worship, known as a gurdwara, in Kabul and a gunbattle between the attackers and Taliban fighters ensued, said Abdul Nafi Takor, a Taliban-appointed spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.He said a vehicle full of explosives was detonated outside of the temple but that resulted in no casualties. “First the gunmen threw a hand grenade which caused a fire near the gate,” he said. Khalid Zadran, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said the police operation ended after the last attacker was killed several hours later. He did not say how many attackers were involved.Zadran said one Sikh was killed and seven others were wounded in the attack and a Taliban security force was also killed during the rescue operation.“The security forces were able to act quickly to control the attack and eliminate the attackers in a short period of time to prevent further casualties,” he said.Videos posted on social media show plumes of black smoke rising from the temple in Kabul’s Bagh-e Bala neighborhood and gunfire can be heard.A regional affiliate of the Islamic State group known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province has lately increased attacks on mosques and minorities across the country.The IS affiliate, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s Taliban rulers. Since seizing power in Kabul and elsewhere in the country last August, the Taliban have launched a sweeping crackdown against the IS in eastern Afghanistan.In March 2020, a lone Islamic State gunman rampaged through a Sikh temple in Kabul, killing 25 worshippers, including a child, and wounding eight others. As many as 80 worshippers were trapped inside the gurdwara as the gunman lobbed grenades and fired an automatic rifle into the crowd.There were less than 700 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan at the time of the 2020 attack. Since then, dozens of families have left but many cannot financially afford to move and have remained in Afghanistan, mainly in Kabul, Jalalabad and Ghazni.

Brazil Indigenous expert was 'bigger target' in recent years

SAO PAULO — Before disappearing in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, Bruno Pereira was laying the groundwork for a mammoth undertaking: a 350-kilometer (217-mile) trail marking the southwestern border of the Javari Valley Indigenous territory, an area the size of Portugal.The purpose of the trail is to prevent cattle farmers from encroaching on Javari territory — and it was just the latest effort by Pereira to help Indigenous people protect their natural resources and traditional lifestyles.While Pereira had long pursued these goals as an expert at the Brazilian Indigenous affairs agency, known as FUNAI, he worked in recent years as a consultant to the Javari Valley’s Indigenous organization. That’s because after Jair Bolsonaro became Brazil’s president in 2019, FUNAI began taking a more hands-off approach toward protecting Indigenous land and people — and the government unapologetically promoted development over environmental protection.Deeply frustrated, Pereira left the agency and embarked on a more independent — and dangerous — path.He was last seen alive on June 5 on a boat in the Itaquai river, along with British freelance journalist Dom Phillips, near an area bordering Peru and Colombia. On Wednesday, a fisherman confessed to killing Pereira, 41, and Phillips, 57, and took police to a site where human remains were recovered; some remains were identified Friday as belonging to Phillips, others are believed to belong to Pereira.Pereira spoke several times with The Associated Press over the past 18 months, and he talked about his decision to leave FUNAI, which he felt had become a hindrance to his work. After Bolsonaro came to power, the agency was stacked with loyalists and people who lacked experience in Indigenous affairs, he said.“There’s no use in me being there as long as these policemen and army generals are calling the shots,” he said by phone in November. “I can’t do my work under them.”As a technical consultant for the Javari Valley’s association of Indigenous people, or Univaja, Pereira helped the group develop a surveillance program to reduce illegal fishing and hunting in a remote region belonging to 6,300 people from seven different ethnic groups, many of whom have had little to no contact with the outside world. He and three other non-Indigenous people trained Indigenous patrollers to use drones and other technology to spot illegal activity, photograph it and submit evidence to authorities. “When it came to helping the Indigenous peoples, he did everything he could,” said Jader Marubo, former president of Univaja. “He gave his life for us.”———Like Pereira, Ricardo Rao was an Indigenous expert at FUNAI who, in 2019, prepared a dossier detailing illegal logging in Indigenous lands of Maranhao state. But fearful of being so outspoken under the new regime, he fled to Norway.“I asked Norway for asylum, because I knew the men I was accusing would have access to my name and would kill me, just like what happened with Bruno,” Rao said.Bolsonaro has repeatedly advocated tapping the vast riches of Indigenous lands, particularly their mineral resources, and integrating Indigenous people into society. He has pledged not to grant any further Indigenous land protections, and in April said he would defy a Supreme Court decision, if necessary. Those positions directly opposed Pereira’s hopes for the Javari Valley. Before taking leave, Pereira was removed as head of FUNAI’s division for isolated and recently contacted tribes. That move came shortly after he commanded an operation that expelled hundreds of illegal gold prospectors from an Indigenous territory in Roraima state. His position was soon filled by a former Evangelical missionary with an anthropology background. The choice generated outcry because some missionary groups have openly tried to contact and convert tribes, whose voluntary isolation is protected by Brazilian law. Key colleagues of Pereira’s at FUNAI either followed his lead and took leave, or were shuffled to bureaucratic positions far from the demarcation of protected lands, according to a recent report from the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies think tank and the nonprofit Associated Indigenists, which includes current and former FUNAI staff. “Of FUNAI’s 39 regional coordination offices, only two are headed by FUNAI staffers,” the report says. “Seventeen military men, three policemen, two federal policemen and six professionals with no prior connection with public administration have been named” under Bolsonaro. The 173-page report published Monday says many of the agency’s experts have been fired, unfairly investigated or discredited by its leaders while trying to protect Indigenous people. In response to AP questions about the report’s allegations, FUNAI said in an emailed statement that it operates “with strict obedience to current legislation” and doesn’t persecute its officers. ———On the day they went missing, Pereira and Phillips slept at an outpost at the entrance of the main clandestine route into the territory, without passing by the Indigenous agency’s permanent base at its entrance, locals told the AP. Two Indigenous patrollers told the AP the pair had been transporting mobile phones from the surveillance project with photos of places where illegal fishermen had been. Authorities have said that an illicit fishing network is a focus of the police investigation into the killings. Pereira wasn’t the first person connected with FUNAI to be killed in the region. In 2019, an active FUNAI agent, Maxciel Pereira dos Santos, was shot to death as he drove his motorcycle through the city of Tabatinga. He had been threatened for his work against illegal fishermen before he was gunned down. That crime remains unsolved.Pereira’s killing will not stop the Javari territory’s border demarcation project from moving ahead, said Manoel Chorimpa, an Univaja member involved in the project. And in another sign that Pereira’s work will endure, Indigenous patrollers’ surveillance efforts have begun leading to the investigation, arrest and prosecution of law-breakers. Before his career at FUNAI, Pereira worked as a journalist. But his passion for Indigenous affairs and languages — he spoke four — led him to switch careers. His anthropologist wife, Beatriz Matos, encouraged him in his work, even though it meant long stretches away from their home in Atalaia do Norte, and their children. More recently, they were living in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.The Indigenous people of the region have mourned Pereira as a partner, and an old photo widely shared on social media in recent days shows a group of them gathered behind Pereira, shirtless, as he shows them something on his laptop. A child leans gently onto his shoulder. In a statement on Thursday, FUNAI mourned Pereira’s death and praised his work: “The public servant leaves an enormous legacy for the isolated Indigenous people’s protection. He became one of the country’s top specialists in this issue and worked with highest commitment.”Before the bodies were found, however, FUNAI had issued a statement implying Pereira violated procedure by overstaying his authorization inside the Javari territory. It prompted FUNAI’s rank-and-file to strike, claiming that the agency had libeled Pereira and demanding its president be fired. A court on Thursday ordered FUNAI to retract its statement that is “incompatible with the reality of the facts” and cease discrediting Pereira.Rubens Valente, a journalist who has covered the Amazon for decades, said Pereira’s work became inherently riskier once he felt it necessary to work independently.“Fish thieves saw Bruno as a fragile person, without the status and power that FUNAI gave him in the region where he was FUNAI coordinator for five years,” Valente said. “When the criminals noticed Bruno was weak, he became an even bigger target.”———Maisonnave reported from Atalaia do Norte. AP writer Débora Álvares contributed from Brasilia.——— Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol's horror

TALLINN, Estonia — A celebrated Ukrainian medic whose footage was smuggled out of the besieged city of Mariupol by an Associated Press team was freed by Russian forces on Friday, three months after she was taken captive on the streets of the city. Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15. Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces on March 16, the same day a Russian airstrike hit a theater in the city center, killing around 600 people, according to an Associated Press investigation. “It was such a great sense of relief. Those sound like such ordinary words, and I don’t even know what to say,” her husband, Vadim Puzanov, told The Associated Press late Friday, breathing deeply to contain his emotion. Puzanov said he spoke by phone with Taira, who was en route to a Kyiv hospital, and feared for her health.Initially the family had kept quiet, hoping negotiations would take their course. But The Associated Press spoke with him before releasing the smuggled videos, which ultimately had millions of viewers around the world, including on some of the biggest networks in Europe and the United States. Puzanov expressed gratitude for the coverage, which showed Taira was trying to save Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Taira’s release in a national address.“I’m grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already home. We will keep working to free everyone,” he said.Hundreds of prominent Ukrainians have been kidnapped or captured, including local officials, journalists, activists and human rights defenders.Russia portrayed Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s narrative that it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said she had no links to Azov, which made a last stand in a Mariupol steel plant before hundreds of its fighters were captured or killed. The footage itself is a visceral testament to her efforts to save the wounded on both sides.A clip recorded on March 10 shows two Russian soldiers taken roughly out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands bound behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. Their eyes are covered by winter hats, and they wear white armbands.A Ukrainian soldier curses at one of them. “Calm down, calm down,” Taira tells him.A woman asks her, “Are you going to treat the Russians?”“They will not be as kind to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t do otherwise. They are prisoners of war.”Taira was a member of the Ukraine Invictus Games for military veterans, where she was set to compete in archery and swimming. Invictus said she was a military medic from 2018 to 2020 but had since been demobilized.She received the body camera in 2021 to film for a Netflix documentary series on inspirational figures being produced by Britain’s Prince Harry, who founded the Invictus Games. But when Russian forces invaded, she used it to shoot scenes of injured civilians and soldiers instead.

Gaza rocket into Israel breaks 2-month lull, Israel responds

JERUSALEM — Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel early Saturday, shattering a two-month lull in violence at the Gaza-Israel border in contrast to soaring tensions in the occupied West Bank.The Israeli military said aerial defense systems intercepted the projectile, which activated warning sirens in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. There were no reports of casualties.Hours later, Israeli aircraft carried out a series of airstrikes on four military sites for Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza. Videos on social media showed plumes of smoke and fire rising from the targeted camps in central and northern Gaza Strip and eastern Gaza City.No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire but the Israeli military blamed Hamas.An Israeli military raid in the West Bank early Friday, in which three Palestinian militants were killed and eight wounded, could have triggered the rocket attack from Gaza.Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in northern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said it was investigating the incident but clarified the balloon was not downed by Palestinian militants.The Israeli military has been carrying out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank since a string of attacks earlier this year killed 19 people in Israel. Many of the arrest raids have been launched in and around Jenin, the hometown of several of the attackers.

US military veterans captured in Ukraine seen for first time in Russian TV footage

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Two U.S. military veterans who went missing in Ukraine last week were shown on a Russian news broadcast telling their loved ones Russian separatists had captured them.The footage on the Russian news outlet RT’s broadcast Friday was the first time the missing men, Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, were seen since they went missing on June 9.”Mom, I just want to let you know that I’m alive and I hope to be back home as soon as I can be,” Drueke said in the footage. 
Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, two U.S. military veterans from Alabama, went missing in Ukraine last week were shown on a Russian news broadcast on June 17, 2022. (Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP) (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
(AP Newsroom)During the video, he is seen providing his mother with a quick wink and telling her to take care of his dog. “So, love Diesel for me. Love you,” he added.MISSING US CITIZENS IN UKRAINE: FAMILY OF ALABAMA SERVICE MEMBER BELIEVES HE COULD HAVE BEEN ‘CAPTURED’Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt, said the video recording included a secret word and gesture they had discussed during his previous tours in Iraq, verifying his identity and letting her know he was OK.RT broadcasted the report in English, saying the two Americans were separated from their group when they wound up approaching a Russian patrol and surrendered. Russian-backed separatist forces are holding the men, the report added.MARINE VETERANS TRAVEL TO UKRAINE TO RESCUE CIVILIANS, BRING MEDICAL AID AND SUPPLIESDrueke previously served in the U.S. Army, which included two tours to Iraq. Huynh previously served in the U.S. Marines.Neither the U.S. nor the Russian government has confirmed that American men are being held.
This undated photograph provided by Diane Williams shows U.S. military veteran Alexander Drueke of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Drueke traveled to Ukraine to help with the fight against Russian invaders and was later reported missing. (Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)
(Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)Previously, the U.S. government said any Americans captured in Ukraine should be considered prisoners of war and thus protected as combatants under the Genera Conventions. Russian military officials, however, said international fighters would be considered mercenaries and would not be afforded those protections.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPOn Friday, President Joe Biden was asked by a reporter about the missing Americans.
This photo taken April 6, 2022, in Hartselle, Ala., shows U.S. Marine veteran Andy Tai Huynh, who decided to fight with Ukraine in the war against Russia. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)
(Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP)”I don’t know where they are and I want to be clear: Americans should not be going to Ukraine,” the president answered. “I’ll say it again, Americans should not be going to Ukraine.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UNICEF: Spike in child migrants crossing the Darien Gap

PANAMA CITY — The number of child migrants who crossed the treacherous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has spiked, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Friday. UNICEF said that in May 2021, 500 children were detected crossing on the jungle trail. But in May 2022, that number rose to 2,000. The fund estimates that about 5,000 children have crossed the Darien Gap so far this year. Plagued by wild animals, swollen rivers, rough terrain and thieves, the gap claims many lives. Jean Gough, the UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said “right now, it is the middle of the rainy season, and our teams on the ground are seeing a massive increase in boys, girls and adolescents risking their lives and crossing the jungle in the worst climatic conditions.”The overall number of migrants crossing the land bridge between South and North America doubled, with about 32,000 crossing so far this year, compared to 16,000 in 2021.