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Azerbaijan, Armenia exchange blame after deadly border skirmish

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Azerbaijan, Armenia exchange blame after deadly border skirmish

Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday traded accusations over a border skirmish that left at least four Armenian soldiers dead and escalated tensions between the two Caucasus neighbors.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry denounced what it described as a “provocation” by Azerbaijani troops who fired on Armenian forces across the border in the eastern Syunik region early Tuesday. Four Armenian soldiers were killed and one was wounded, the ministry said. It urged Azerbaijan to refrain from “destabilizing” actions.

Azerbaijan’s State Border Service said it had fired on an Armenian post in retaliation for Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani positions that wounded one Azerbaijani service member the previous day.

AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT’S 90% RE-ELECTION MARGIN RAISES CONCERNS OVER ‘RESTRICTIVE’ SYSTEM

“Any provocations by the Armenian side aimed at escalating tensions along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border will now be met with even more serious and decisive measures,” the State Border Service said in a statement. “The military-political leadership of Armenia bears full responsibility for these developments.”

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Ruins are photographed outside Fuzuli, Azerbaijan, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long history of land disputes. Azerbaijan waged a lightning military campaign last year to reclaim the Karabakh region, which Armenian separatists had ruled for three decades.

The region, which was known internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh, and large swaths of surrounding territory came under full control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia at the end of a separatist war in 1994.

Azerbaijan regained parts of Karabakh and most of the surrounding territory in a six-week war in 2020. It then launched a blitz in September that routed the separatist forces in one day and forced them to lay down arms. More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region in the following days, leaving it nearly deserted.

With political momentum from the successful military operation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev last week won another term with 92% of the vote in a snap election.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have pledged to work toward signing a peace treaty, but no visible progress has been made, and tensions have continued to soar amid mutual distrust.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry cited the latest skirmish to accuse Azerbaijan of “searching for pretexts for escalation” and trying to derail peace efforts.

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TVLine Items: Tattooist of Auschwitz Trailer, Eva Longoria Joins Only Murders and More

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TVLine Items: Tattooist of Auschwitz Trailer, Eva Longoria Joins Only Murders and More


‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ Release Date, Trailer for Peacock Series – TVLine



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Zelenskyy appeals to Trump, Congress to see 'tragedy' of Russia invasion in exclusive Bret Baier interview

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Zelenskyy appeals to Trump, Congress to see 'tragedy' of Russia invasion in exclusive Bret Baier interview

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an exclusive FOX News interview, appealed to President Biden and Republican front-runner Donald Trump to visit Ukraine and see for themselves at the front lines of “this tragedy.”

“I’m happy to see all the candidates and all the people who are decision-makers or can support not to be against just to understand what the war in Ukraine means,” Zelenskyy told FOX News chief political anchor and executive editor of “Special Report” Bret Baier. 

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“Who opened this war, who began it, and what’s going on, what’s around,” Zelenskyy said. “What brilliant Ukraine we had. We have [a] beautiful country, but in the war it’s another picture and other lives,” adding that the candidates should “Come see people, just to see them on the streets.” 

Baier met with Zelenskyy near the front lines in Kharkiv, just a few kilometers from heavy fighting. Distant artillery shots and explosions peppered the background of the interview and throughout the morning as the team set up for the interview. 

ZELENSKYY PRAISES ‘HEROIC’ SOLDIERS IN PREVIEW OF BRET BAIER’S EXCLUSIVE FOX NEWS INTERVIEW: ‘NO PLAN B’

Zelenskyy underscored the value of hosting the interview in such a precarious location, saying, “It’s very important for me, like I said before we started … the United States [needs] to see different war in the capital and here closer to [the] front line.” 

Baier confronted Zelenskyy with Trump’s famous quote in which he claimed that he would end the war in 24 hours, which the Ukrainian president still “can’t understand how” Trump would achieve such a feat. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier in a hospital in Kharkiv after visiting wounded soldiers and awarding them medals for their service.  (Special Report with Bret Baier)

“He can’t solve this problem, this tragedy with me,” Zelenskyy said. He said he would host the former President on the frontlines where he “will explain everything, and he will explain what his thoughts, maybe he has some ideas. I don’t know.” 

He continued, “he will see what’s going on, and after that, I think he will change his mind, and we all understood that there is no two sides of this war: There is only one enemy, and this is the position of Putin,” Zelenskyy insisted. 

ICONIC FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT MESSAGE TO LAWMAKERS ON UKRAINE: ‘IF WE DON’T ACT NOW, WE WILL LOSE’

Zelenskyy agreed that the Russian people could create change within their country and remove Putin, but that task remains a long and difficult road, particularly as “Putin is afraid only of strong, and he’s not accepting any weakness,” which means that Ukraine must be “strong on the battlefield, prevent [Russia] from occupying anything.” 

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“His positions will be weaker if with more and more casualties, the people in Russia will see those doubts that will be against this war,” Zelenskyy explained. “This wave is something that we need.”

When asked about the losses his forces have suffered, Zelenskyy remained vague, citing “tens of thousands” but spinning the losses as fewer than Russia has suffered, claiming – and yet to be verified – that Russia loses five soldiers for every one Ukrainian soldier killed. 

BOYFRIEND OF BALLERINA DETAINED IN RUSSIA SAYS IT ‘MAKES ME HOPEFUL THAT AMERICA’S FIGHTING FOR HER’

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has estimated that Russia has lost more than 400,000 troops. Those losses have amounted to small gains since the start of the war, with Russia only succeeding in taking the city of Avdiivka near Donetsk. 

Russia has experienced a roller coaster year, starting with the embarrassing rebellion of mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin – who later died when his plane spontaneously exploded – before spending months stymying Ukraine’s much-touted counteroffensive. Putin grew so confident that he ended the U.N.-brokered grain deal.

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Baier Zelenskyy

FOX News anchor Bret Baier will interview Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. (Fox News)

Ukraine turned around those failures and finished out the year with significant wins over Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which allowed Kyiv to create a new grain corridor and forced Putin to replace his naval command. 

“You remember and you remind today that those days of the war, nobody in the world really believed that we will do it,” Zelenskyy told Baier. “Today, sometimes we have – and also in Congress … we have good relations because we met a lot of time, [and] they say, “When? When we will finish the war? When we will win? Why so slowly?”

IRAN DELIVERS HUNDREDS OF BALLISTIC MISSILES TO RUSSIA AS UKRAINIAN DEFENSE FALTERS

The effort to continue the support from the U.S. Congress and other Western allies remains, and also to convince several holdouts in Congress including Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.; Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.; all who have spoken against continued support for Ukraine. 

Vance has argued that he sees little sense in “unlimited, unaccounted-for aid to Ukraine without any goals in mind,” while Tuberville found it difficult to continue “paying Ukrainian farmers” after “we just punted the farm bill for American farmers [to] next year.” 

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Asked about his message to Congress, Zelenskyy said he was thankful for everything the president and Congress have done. “My message is, if they want to be very pragmatic, the price, we are asking now to support, this price is less than it will be in the future … They will pay much more, much more. We just want to live, to survive. We don’t have alternative.”

He continued, “Congressman, just people with their families, with their children. And I think they understand that we are just trying to save our houses with children and just say that if you think that we are fighting for the common values, so let that help us and let’s support, let’s be in unity.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy looking at battleground plans with military leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, second left, looks at a map during his visit to the Ukrainian 110th mechanized brigade in Avdiivka, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Dec. 29, 2023 (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Zelenskyy responded to criticisms over corruption and reports that he canceled the country’s elections, saying that he never canceled them, noting that during wartime there was a law in place that didn’t allow them to run them. He also said, given his present popularity and were there an election today he would be reelected by the people.

On American fears of corruption in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said that, “everything is clean,” noting that they followed the reforms demanded by the European Union but he also said it was hard to put in new “difficult anti-corruption reforms,” during wartime while stating E.U. leaders had signed off on Ukraine’s transparency.

Bakmut fighting

Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 15, 2023. For months, Western allies have shipped billions of dollars worth of weapons systems and ammunition to Ukraine with an urgency to get the supplies to Kyiv in time for an anticipated spring counteroffensive. Now summer is just weeks away. While Russia and Ukraine are focused on an intense battle for Bakhmut, the Ukrainian spring offensive has yet to begin. (AP Photo/Libkos)

Zelenskyy continues to insist that without aid from the West, Ukraine will not be able to maintain its defense but also to improve the strength of the country’s economy and stability, which could in turn allow the country to ramp up production of its own weapons again. Particularly, Kyiv needs “strong weapons, long-distance weapons, long-distance missiles and artillery.” 

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“It’s not about the types, with the production,” Zelenskyy clarified. “Increasing it each day, yes, and air defense just to defend people to give possibility, economy to increase it means give possibility of security situation.”

PRESSURE GROWS ON JOHNSON TO MAKE MOVE ON UKRAINE AID AS RUSSIAN INVASION NEARS 2-YEAR MARK

“If people, Ukrainians, will come back the economy will increase,” he continued. “A lot of jobs, a lot of taxes, so, I mean, this is to be more strong and of course, to push them as much as possible, to push them. And in this position, in the strong position, we found one very important diplomatic route. It’s a document. When it will be ready, it doesn’t matter where it will stay.”

“At this time, what I wanted to say, it doesn’t matter,” he insisted. “It will be strong. In all the cases I set and if we will have the document with the most big countries, important countries, decisionmakers in the world on our side, of course, we can find a political negotiation.”

Brett Baier Kharkiv

Fox News chief political anchor and executive editor of Special Report Bret Baier speaks from Kharkiv ahead of airing his multi-part interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.  (Special Report with Bret Baier)

The question of a diplomatic resolution has hit a new stumbling block after a recent interview in which Putin claimed Zelenskyy had signed a decree forbidding negotiations with Russia, insisting that Moscow has “never refused” to negotiate.

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After saying he did not need to hear more than two hours of “bull—-” about Ukraine, Zelenskyy blasted Putin’s claims and dismissed him as an untrustworthy person: He recalled that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both received assurances from Putin that Russia would not occupy Ukraine. 

He also belittled Putin’s insistence that Russia had no interest in going to Poland, Latvia or “anywhere else,” adding that people around Putin have said he’s “not willing to stop until they reach their goals.”  

At one stage of the interview, Baier asked Zelenskyy about attempts made against the Ukrainian president’s life. Zelennskyy said that after the fifth attempt it was “not interesting for me now.”

Asked when he thought the war would end after nearly two years of intensive fighting, Zelenskyy said that “The world is not really ready for Putin to be able to lose his power. The world is afraid of changes in Russian Federation. The United States and the European countries and the global South can choose. 

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Zelenskyy had this warning, “Putin has broken all the red lines. He’s an inadequate person, that he was a threat to the whole world, that he will destroy NATO. And he will try to do that. So when the world will understand that, okay, that’s it. So in this moment, the war will end.” 

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US, European powers back outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next NATO head

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US, European powers back outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next NATO head

Support of top NATO powers makes Rutte favourite to succeed current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in October.

The United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany have all thrown their weight behind outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to become NATO’s next secretary general, at a crucial time for the alliance as Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on.

Top NATO powers on Thursday backed Rutte to succeed current chair Jens Stoltenberg when he steps down in October, putting him in a strong position to win the leadership of the transatlantic alliance.

Stoltenberg’s successor will take office at a crucial juncture, tasked with sustaining NATO members’ support for Ukraine’s costly defence while guarding against any escalation that would draw the alliance directly into a war with Moscow.

“The United States has made it clear to our allies, our NATO allies, that we believe Mr Rutte would be an excellent secretary general for NATO,” US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told journalists on Thursday.

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the UK “does strongly back” Rutte, adding that the UK wanted a candidate who would “keep NATO strong and deliver on the alliance’s NATO 2030 vision”.

The British Foreign Office also said Rutte was a well-respected figure across NATO, with serious defence and security credentials and who would ensure it remained strong and prepared for any need to defend itself.

A senior French official told the Reuters news agency that President Emmanuel Macron had been an early supporter of putting Rutte in the role. And German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said on X that Rutte had Berlin’s backing, praising him as “an outstanding candidate”.

Diplomats have said Rutte is the only official candidate for the post in the behind-the-scenes contest, although some said the name of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had also been floated in informal discussions recently. Other candidates may include Estonian Primer Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvia’s foreign minister, Krisjanis Karins.

But with the support of Washington – the alliance’s predominant power – and the three big European nations and some 16 other NATO members, according to diplomats, Rutte is in a commanding position.

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However, some analysts believe he could face opposition from Turkey and Hungary.

‘Interesting’ job

After ruling himself out for the NATO post in previous years, Rutte, 57, told Dutch media in October that running the military alliance was a “very interesting” job and he would be open to the prospect.

The Netherlands’ longest-serving leader, Rutte has had good relationships with various British, European Union and US leaders – including Donald Trump – during his tenure.

Set to run for a second term as US president later this year, Trump drew fierce criticism from Western officials earlier this month for calling into question his commitment to defending NATO allies if re-elected.

At the weekend, Rutte urged European leaders to “stop moaning and whining and nagging” about Trump and focus instead on what they could do to bolster defence and help Ukraine.

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Founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, NATO is a political and military alliance of countries from North America and Europe.

NATO leaders are appointed by consensus, meaning all members must consent to a final decision. The alliance currently has 31 members, with Sweden poised to join soon.

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