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Peru races to save birds threatened by oil spill

AFP

A Lima zoo is racing to save dozens of seabirds, including protected penguins, after 6,000 barrels of crude oil spilled off Peru’s coast due to waves from a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific.

More than 40 birds, including Humboldt penguins — listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature — were brought to the Parque de Las Leyendas zoo after being rescued from polluted beaches and nature reserves.

“We have never seen anything like this in the history of Peru,” biologist Liseth Bermudez told AFP, while tending to a bird.

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“We didn’t think it was going to be of this magnitude.”

A team of veterinarians is caring for the birds, bathing them with special detergents to remove the suffocating oil.

The animals have also been given anti-fungal and anti-bacterial drugs, as well as vitamins.

“The birds’ prognosis is unclear,” Bermudez said. “We are doing everything we can.”

Peru has declared an environmental emergency after almost 264,000 gallons (1.2 million liters) of crude oil spilled into the sea last Saturday when a tanker was hit by big waves while offloading at a refinery.

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The abnormally large waves were triggered by the eruption of an undersea volcano near the archipelago of Tonga, thousands of miles (kilometers) away.

The spill near Lima has fouled beaches and harmed the fishing and tourism industries, with crews working non-stop to clean up the mess.

The environment ministry said Sunday that more than 180 hectares — equivalent to around 270 soccer fields — of beach and 713 hectares of sea were affected, as sea currents spread the spilled oil along the coast.

The health ministry has warned would-be bathers to stay away from at least 21 affected beaches.

– Bird food contaminated –

Biologist Guillermo Ramos of Peru’s Serfor forestry service said more animals will die if the oil spreads.

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“There are species here that feed on crustaceans and fish that are already contaminated,” he said.

Serfor staff have found many dead birds and sea otters on beaches and in natural reserves since the spill, he added.

More than 150 bird species in Peru depend on the sea for nutrition and reproduction.

Among the birds rescued alive but in need of help are different types of cormorants and six Humboldt penguins.

Juan Carlos Riveros, scientific director of rescue NGO Oceana Peru, said the oil could affect the reproductive capacity of some animals and cause birth defects, especially in birds, fish and turtles.

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The government has sought compensation from Spanish oil company Repsol, which owns the tanker.

But the company denies responsibility, saying maritime authorities had issued no warning of abnormal waves after the Tonga eruption.

On Sunday, Jaime Fernandez-Cuesta, president of Repsol in Peru, said the Spanish company was doing everything it could to mitigate the environmental damage.

“We are doing everything possible, without sparing any expense, to remedy this entire disaster as soon as possible,” Fernandez-Cuesta told the TV show Punto Final.

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Russian soldier in Ukraine court for first war crimes trial

AFP

A Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appeared in court in Kyiv on Friday ahead of the first war crimes trial since the start of the offensive.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was brought to court for a preliminary hearing, accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian, footage distributed by local media showed.

Shishimarin, with a shaved head, wore a grey and blue hoodie and was placed in the defendant’s box, in a video post by Ukrainian media.

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He faces possible life imprisonment on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder.

The trial marks a significant moment for Ukraine, where Russian forces have been accused of killing hundreds of civilians since the war began on February 24.  

Shishimarin is accused of firing an automatic rifle from a car window, killing the civilian to prevent him from serving as a witness to a carjacking, Ukrainian prosecutors said earlier this week.

Prosecutor Yaroslav Ushchapivskiy told privately-owned Ukrainska Pravda that Shishimarin had admitted his guilt and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

After his convoy was hit in northern Ukraine on February 28, Shishimarin joined four other fleeing soldiers and stole a car from outside the village of Chupakhivka, Ukraine says.

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The civilian, who was not named, was riding his bicycle on the side of the road not far from his home when the alleged theft took place, according to prosecutors. 

“One of the military servicemen ordered the accused to kill a civilian so that he would not report them,” according to a statement from prosector Iryna Venediktova’s office Thursday.

“The man died on the spot just a few dozen metres (yards) from his home,” it added. 

Western countries have repeatedly accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in Ukraine. 

The UN Human Rights Council voted overwhelmingly on Thursday — in a session boycotted by Russia — to probe allegations of atrocities in the Kyiv, Chernigiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.

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International Criminal Court (ICC) teams are also investigating possible mass atrocities, including in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where at least 20 bodies were discovered in April. 

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Russia advises against travel to UK

AFP

Moscow on Friday advised its citizens against travel to the United Kingdom, citing London’s “unfriendly” stance as well as huge delays in visas for Russians.

“In order to avoid financial losses and other possible problems, we recommend that Russian citizens refrain, if possible, from travelling to the UK and trying to obtain British visas,” the Russian foreign ministry said. 

It added that it will “act in the same way” with British citizens until the situation improves.

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The ministry said it received “numerous complaints from Russian citizens that it has become virtually impossible or extremely difficult for them to obtain a UK visa” of any category. 

Britain’s visa service “gives priority to the processing of visa applications for Ukrainian refugees,” the foreign ministry in Moscow added, also pointing out that Russians are unable to pay their visa fees using Mastercard of Visa cards issued in Russia. 

The ministry said such an approach “contradicts all previously reached Russian-British agreements on consular issues” and “can only be described as a politicised infringement of the rights of Russian citizens”.

Britain has been part of an international effort to punish Russia with asset freezes, travel bans and economic sanctions, since President Vladimir Putin moved troops into Ukraine on February 24. 

On Friday, Britain announced new sanctions targeting 12 members of Putin’s “inner circle”, including Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast who the UK government said was “alleged to have a close personal relationship with Putin”. 

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Zelensky says Macron talking to Putin ‘in vain’

AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky believes that French leader Emmanuel Macron is trying “in vain” to have a constructive dialogue with Russian President Putin, according to an interview transcript released by Kyiv Friday.

“We must not look for a way out for Russia, and Macron is doing it in vain,” Zelensky told Italian television Rai 1, according the Ukrainian president’s Telegram channel.

“I know he wanted to get results from mediation between Russia and Ukraine, but he didn’t get any,” Zelensky said. 

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Moscow, he said, would not seek any end to the fighting “until Russia itself wants and understands that it needs” this.

The Elysee told AFP on Friday that Marcon had “never discussed anything with Vladimir Putin without the agreement of President Zelensky”.

“He has always said that it is up to the Ukrainians to decide the terms of their negotiation with the Russians.”

The French leader said earlier this week that Russia and Ukraine would have to come to a negotiated truce and that peace efforts would not be served by Russia’s “humiliation”.

Zelensky said that “some European leaders think we need to find a way of talking with Putin”.

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“We have been looking for them for years. And today, these routes are littered with bodies, bodies of our people,” the Ukrainian leader added.

Zelensky however repeated his offer to speak with Putin directly but described talks with Russian as “no longer possible”. 

“Today, the stage when we could sit down with Russia has passed.”

Macron is one of the few Western leaders to speak to Putin since Moscow moved troops into Ukraine on February 24, spending hours on telephone calls trying to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.

Putin on Friday spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and insisted that Russia was fighting “Nazi ideology” in Ukraine.

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