Russian lawmakers propose banning WhatsApp; Zelenskyy to visit United Nations and Washington

Zelenskyy to visit Washington and New York

U.S. President Joe Biden and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands during G7 Declaration of Joint Support for Ukraine at LITEXPO Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Center in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12, 2023.

Beata Zawrzel | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to visit Congress and the White House next week, in addition to the United Nations, as he heads to the U.S. for the U.N. General Assembly.

His visit will come as Congress deliberates the latest military and humanitarian aid package President Joe Biden is requesting for Ukraine, which could be worth as much as $24 billion.

The visit also comes amid heightened debate in some American circles over the success of Ukraine’s slow-moving counteroffensive and whether the U.S. should continue supporting Ukraine to such a high degree. More isolationist factions of both the Democratic and Republican parties have criticized Biden’s aid packages to Ukraine, saying the U.S. should end its involvement in the war.

— Natasha Turak

Russian lawmakers propose banning WhatsApp after Channels launch

Some members of Russia’s State Duma and Federal Council proposed banning the popular messaging app WhatsApp if it starts featuring Russian language channels, the Institute for the Study of War think tank reported.

Meta, WhatsApp’s owner, announced on Wednesday the launch of WhatsApp Channels in more than 150 countries, which would be similar to Telegram’s channels where users can follow celebrities and organizations.

The ISW wrote: “Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Head Viktor Bondarev, State Duma Committee on Information Policy Head Alexander Khinshtein, and State Duma Deputy Anton Gorelkin said that Russia should consider blocking WhatsApp in Russia if WhatsApp launches Russian language channels.”

It added that “Russian state media censor Roskomnadzor reported that Russia could block WhatsApp if it disseminates prohibited information.”

“Russian authorities are likely attempting to funnel the Russian information space onto a limited number of closely monitored or controlled social media platforms,” the report said.

— Natasha Turak

More than 500 children killed during war so far, Ukrainian officials say

More than 500 children have died since the start of the war in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian office of the prosecutor general, as posted on Telegram.

“According to the official information of juvenile prosecutors, 504 children were killed and more than 1,123 were injured of various degrees of severity,” the office reported. The figures date from Feb. 24, 2022, to Sept. 14, 2023.

Soft toys, candles and flowers are left near the monument to Ukrainian children who died in the war on August 20, 2023 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Most of the children affected were in the regions of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv, according to the office.

The platform “Children of War” is attempting to keep track of child fatalities following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but highlights it is “impossible to establish the exact number of injured children due to active hostilities and the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine.”

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

Russia expels two U.S. embassy staff for ‘illegal activities’

Russia’s foreign ministry has declared two U.S. embassy staff “persona non grata” for carrying out “illegal activities.”

The foreign ministry’s statement, translated by NBC, said that J. Sillin and D. Bernstein had maintained contact with Russian citizen R. Shonov, who is “accused of ‘confidential cooperation’ with a foreign state, who in return for financial compensation was given tasks aimed at harming the national security of the Russian Federation.”

CNBC is unable to independently verify the information provided by the Russian ministry.

— Hannah Ward-Glenton

South Korea warns Russia and North Korea over deeper military ties

South Korea’s National Security Council warned Russia and North Korea that there will be consequences to any violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

 “[The] South Korean government will make sure that North Korea and Russia will pay the price for any actions that threaten the national security of South Korea at the cost of violating the UN Security council’s resolutions,” the presidential office said in a statement translated by NBC News.

South Korea’s National Security Council said that “it is a very serious situation that Russia and North Korea have discussed various kinds of military cooperation.”

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on March 27, South Korea’s military said in the latest in its flurry of weapons tests in recent weeks.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

It urged North Korea and Russia “to abide by the obligations that prohibit military cooporation and arms deals laid out by the UN Security Council’s resolutions and various sanctions.”

Russia and North Korea deny that they have held arms negotiations, despite Western concern that Moscow is looking to Pyongyang to supply it with weaponry for use against Ukraine.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, said it would look to deepen military cooperation with Pyongyang, although Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged there were “limitations” to doing so.

— Holly Ellyatt

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