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Official: Haiti President Jovenel Moïse Assassinated at Home

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FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2020, file photo, Haiti's President Jovenel Moise speaks during an interview at his home in Petion-Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Sources say Moise was assassinated at home, first lady hospitalized amid political instability. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in an attack on his private residence early Wednesday, according to a statement from the country’s interim prime minister, who called the killing a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”

First Lady Martine Moïse was shot in the overnight attack and hospitalized, interim Premier Claude Joseph said.

Even before the assassination, Haiti had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled under Moïse. The president ruled by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and the opposition demanded he step down in recent months.

“The country’s security situation is under the control of the National Police of Haiti and the Armed Forces of Haiti,” Joseph said in a statement from his office. “Democracy and the republic will win.”

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, the streets were largely empty in the Caribbean nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince, but some people ransacked businesses in one area.

Joseph said police have been deployed to the National Palace and the upscale community of Pétionville and will be sent to other areas.

Joseph condemned the assassination as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.” In the statement, he said some of the attackers spoke in Spanish but offered no further explanation. He later said in a radio address that they spoke Spanish or English, again offering no details.

The White House described the attack as “horrific” and “tragic” and said it was still gathering information on what happened. U.S. President Joe Biden will be briefed later Wednesday by his national security team, spokesperson Jen Psaki said during an interview on MSNBC.

“The message to the people of Haiti is this is a tragic tragedy,” she during a previously scheduled interview on CNN. “It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss that they are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news. And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”

Haiti’s economic, political and social woes have deepened recently, with gang violence spiking heavily in Port-au-Prince, inflation spiraling and food and fuel becoming scarcer at times in a country where 60% of the population makes less than $2 a day. These troubles come as Haiti still tries to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew that struck in 2016.

Opposition leaders accused Moïse, who was 53, of seeking to increase his power, including by approving a decree that limited the powers of a court that audits government contracts and another that created an intelligence agency that answers only to the president.

In recent months, opposition leaders demanded the he step down, arguing that his term legally ended in February 2021. Moïse and supporters maintained that his term began when he took office in early 2017, following a chaotic election that forced the appointment of a provisional president to serve during a year-long gap.

Haiti was scheduled to hold general elections later this year.

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Ukraine lauds Western move on tanks, while Russia attacks

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From Washington to Berlin to Kyiv, a Western decision to send battle tanks to Ukraine was hailed enthusiastically. Moscow sought to downplay it.

The Kremlin has previously warned that such tank deliveries would be a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, and it has strongly denounced the watershed move by Germany and the United States to send the heavy weaponry to its foe.

But it insists the new armor won’t stop Russia from achieving its goals in Ukraine.

“The potential it gives to the Ukrainian armed forces is clearly exaggerated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Those tanks will burn just like any others.”

Moscow played down the move in an apparent attempt to save face as the West raised the stakes in Ukraine. Some Russian experts also emphasized that the supply of the deadly armor will be relatively limited and could take months to reach the front.

On Thursday, Russia launched a new wave of missile and self-exploding drone attacks across Ukraine. The attack initially appeared to be a continuation of previous attacks rather than retaliation for the announcements on the tanks.

President Vladimir Putin, his diplomats and military leaders have repeatedly warned the West that supplying long-range weapons capable of striking deep inside Russia would mark a red line and trigger a massive retaliation.

While other weapons like tanks and certain air defense systems have drawn warnings from Russian officials, the wording has been deliberately vague, perhaps to allow the Kremlin to avoid getting cornered by making specific threats.

Poland, the Czech Republic and other NATO allies have provided Ukraine with hundreds of smaller Soviet-made tanks from the Cold War era when they were part of the Soviet bloc. Ukrainian armed forces, who have used similar aging weaponry, needed no extra training to use them. They played an important role on the battlefield, helping Ukraine reclaim broad swaths of territory in 11 months of fighting.

As Ukraine’s armored units suffered attrition and stockpiles of the old T-72 tanks ran dry in the arsenals of its allies in Central and Eastern Europe, Kyiv has increasingly pushed for delivery of German-made Leopard 2 and U.S. M1 Abrams tanks.

After weeks of hesitation, Germany said Wednesday it will provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks and allow other allies willing to follow suit to deliver 88 Leopards to form two tank battalions. The U.S. announced it will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his officials, who long have said the country needs hundreds of tanks to counter a foe with a far superior number as well as other weapons, greeted the Western decision as a major breakthrough, voicing hope that more supplies will follow.

“The deliveries of Leopard 2 will take our ground forces to a qualitatively new level,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press. Even though Leopard 2s are heavier than Soviet-designed tanks, they have a strong edge in firepower and survivability.

“One Leopard 2 could be equivalent to three or five Russian tanks,” Zhdanov said.

But he noted that the promised number of Western tanks represents only the minimum that Ukraine needs to repel a likely offensive by Moscow, adding that Russia has thousands of armored vehicles.

“Kyiv is preparing for a defensive operation, and its outcome will determine the future course of the conflict,” Zhdanov said.

Russian military analysts were more skeptical about the Western tanks, arguing that while Abrams proved clearly superior to older models of Soviet-built tanks during the war in Iraq, newer Russian models are more closely matched. They also charged that Leopard 2 tanks used by the Turkish army against the Kurds in Syria proved vulnerable to Soviet-era anti-tank weapons.

Some Russian online media quickly posted diagrams of the vulnerable points of the Leopard 2. “Hit Leopard as your grandfather hit Tiger and Panther!” one headline said, referring to Nazi tanks in World War II.

Andrei Kartapolov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, argued that both Leopard 2 and Abrams are inferior to Russia’s T-90, a modified version of the T-72.

The latest Russian tank, the T-14 Armata, has been manufactured only in small numbers and so far hasn’t been used in the war. The British Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update that Russia has worked to prepare a small batch of T-14s for deployment in Ukraine, but said it had engine and other problems.

Russian observers, meanwhile, noted it could take a significant time for the Western tanks to reach Ukraine, adding that training Ukrainians to use them and properly maintain them would add to the challenge.

“It likely means that the Ukrainian military will probably receive a few small batches of tanks that could be incompatible with each other,” Moscow-based defense analyst Ilya Kramnik said in a commentary.

Zhdanov, the Ukrainian military analyst, argued that by agreeing to provide Ukraine with tanks, the West crossed an important psychological barrier and could eventually follow up by supplying even more deadly weapons.

“Handing over Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine marks a major change in the policy of Western allies, who stopped fearing escalation and are now ready to challenge Russia in the war of resources,” he said. “The West is forced to more widely open the doors to its military arsenals to Ukraine.”

Speaking in a video address late Wednesday, Zelenskyy hailed the creation of what he called a “tank coalition” and said Ukraine now will seek more artillery and push for unlocking supplies of long-range missiles and, ultimately, warplanes.

Ukrainian officials long have expressed hope for getting U.S. F-16 fighter jets and long-range rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, to hit targets far behind the front lines.

Such desires drew ominous remarks from Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov, similar to the kind voiced earlier by Putin and others.

“If Washington and NATO give Kyiv weapons to strike peaceful cities deep inside Russia and try to seize the territories that constitutionally belong to Russia, it will force Moscow to take harsh retaliatory action,” Gavrilov told a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Don’t tell us then that we haven’t warned you.”

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Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with G7+ Partners on Ukraine Energy Sector Support

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi co-hosted a meeting today with G7 and other key partners to reaffirm collective support for Ukraine’s energy sector.

The Secretary led discussion of ongoing efforts to expedite energy equipment deliveries to Ukraine, praised Ukrainian citizens’ continued resilience, and highlighted the new $125 million package from the United States to support the resilience of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including procurements of high-voltage autotransformers, mobile gas turbines to support essential public services, and distribution substation repair equipment.

The Secretary and his counterparts reiterated their call for Russia to halt its attacks on the people of Ukraine and their energy and heating systems.

The group committed to continuing its close coordination to deliver equipment and humanitarian support this winter, procure essential infrastructure, and support Ukraine’s long-term vision to modernize and decarbonize its energy grid and integrate with the European system.

The Secretary emphasized the firm commitment of the United States to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

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Controversy, frivolity mark day one of Paris Fashion Week

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PARIS (AP) — The pioneering Black performer Josephine Baker — who left the United States to find global fame in Paris in the 1920s — was Dior’s muse for an old school spring couture collection of archetypal classicism.

With her caressing velvets and silks, embroideries, sequins and tiny silver studs, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri may not have reinvented the wheel, but she certainly embellished it beautifully on the first day Monday of Paris Fashion Week.

Yet the event’s first day wasn’t without controversy after Dior was criticized for inviting a Russia influencer sanctioned by Ukraine. Moreover, Schiaparelli was the subject of online ire for glamorizing trophy hunting after featuring a fake lion’s head.

Here are some highlights of the first day of spring-summer haute couture displays:

DIOR’S BAKER

Lining the perfume-scented interiors of an annex inside the Rodin Museum gardens were giant images by African American artist Mickalene Thomas of Baker alongside other female Black American icons.

The stark tableaux photographs documented Baker’s extraordinary life and her many roles: as member of the French Resistance, civil rights activist and humanist as well as dancer and performer.

Guests took their seats, curious and excited.

According to Dior, a series of coats, a take on bathrobe styles depicted “the cozy, intimate dressing room that precedes (Baker’s) entrance on stage.” In couture terms they were undeniably beautiful, if somewhat restrained. The first came in silk velvet; its black diamond lapels hung with a dramatic weight. It was worn over delicately smocked satin swimwear in a take on the 1950s. Elsewhere, knit-like mesh made of silk and steel beads cut a fine vintage style on one ensemble, while also evoking a quiet female power. It was worn on a gleaming, crushed velvet evening robe to suggest intimacy.

Later, Chiuri slightly let her hair down and got her fringe on. Baker’s heyday was evoked in a steel beaded mesh skirt trimmed with sparkling fringe.

Although the theme created an expectation the Dior clothes themselves may offer some powerful exploration of racism or being Black, the collection itself remained very Parisian. It was only a veiled homage to the Black pioneer who fought battles against race, gender and nationality all her life.

That being said, it was admirable how many models of color walked the show — in over half the 60 looks — especially because of the fact Paris Fashion Week, and the luxury industry as a whole, have wrestled with persistent accusations of being white-centric.

MAISIE WILLIAMS PLAYS DIOR’S SISTER

“Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams looked every bit the part posing against images of stars such as Earth Kitt, Nina Simone and Baker with pixie hairstyle and Dior bustier to flashes of photographers’ lenses.

Williams called coming to the show “such a dream,” in part because she has just played Dior’s sister, Catherine Dior, in the highly anticipated Apple TV drama series “The New Look” — which center on the bitter rivalry between the couturier and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Williams, who found fame playing the feisty Arya Stark, told Te Associated Press that “I find the Dior woman to be something to really aspire to,” calling the clothes “powerful” for women.

“The women that I love to play have qualities that align,” she said.

SANCTIONED RUSSIAN INFLUENCER INVITED

Dior provoked criticism online for extending a Paris couture show invitation to a Russian TV presenter called Yana Rudkovskaya, who was sanctioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Jan. 15 for her connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other houses have reportedly refused to allow Rudkovskaya, who is an influencer, into their shows.

Rudkovskaya posted a photo of her Dior couture invitation on Instagram. Some journalists asked how many “other sanctioned Russians are attending Paris Haute Couture?”

SCHIAPARELLI MAKES SURREAL TWISTS

Glamorous frivolity, exaggerated silhouettes and surreal takes on classics harking from the 1930s heyday of house founder Elsa Schiaparelli.

That was the mood at the first spring-summer couture show of the season — and what a start! — with its lashings of gold, intricate embellishments and rollcall of front row VIPs inside the lofty gilded atrium of the Petit Palais.

Designer Daniel Roseberry was on top form Monday — taking classical styles and giving them unexpected twists. A dark tuxedo with stiff oversize shoulders was transformed into a minimalist, space-age jumpsuit.

A bronze bustier reimagined as a giant oyster shell rose up like a fan that obscured the model’s face. Its incredible pearl embellishments were rendered in organic, crystallized layers showing off the deftness of the house atelier.

Myriad embellished baubles — almost resembling wet pearls — organically dripped off a blown-up bolero jacket that cut a beautiful silhouette, and had perhaps belonged to some underwater princess.

Yet the collection was also reverential to the house founder whose unique brand of frivolity charmed audiences around the world. A giant lion’s head — replete with fangs and bushy mane — modeled by Irina Shayk added a bite to this collection. It was an inventive nod to Surrealism, but also a statement about the absurdity of the use of fur.

Kylie Jenner, who sat front row at Schiaparelli also wearing a 3-D lion’s head and a gold snakeskin bag, was later criticized online amid accusations of glamorizing animal cruelty.

IRIS VAN HERPEN GOES DIGITAL

Against the grain of Paris Fashion Week, which is turning its back on digital, Dutch Wunderkind said of her latest couture offering that she “is proud to announce that… instead of a traditional runway show, the brand shows a digital presentation that allows for more creative freedom and storytelling.”

An in-person presentation accompanied the collection film “Carte Blanche,”in which she teamed up with a French artists called Julie Gautier — exploring how female beauty can be used as a form of control.

A limp red dress, with sinews revealing inches of flesh, resembled a poisonous sea creature, while interlocking circles evoked spiky but precious coral. Billowing blue and silver portions of generous fabric on a gown flowed like an underwater generous — touching on the signature organic inspiration from the award-winning couturier who has designed for artists such as Bjork.

VALLI GIRLS IN BLOSSOM

Spring was truly in the air at Giambattisata Valli, whose powder pinks, canary yellows and pale turquoises mixed with the wafting floral perfume to crown this season gloriously.

In this collection, the lauded Italian couturier lopped off elements of the classical wardrobe or else made unexpected takes on gowns.

A regal ballgown that ballooned with voluminous whooshes, sleeves and train, was imagined shoulderless and revealed inches of leg. An exaggeratedly proportioned mermaid down flared out dramatically from the knee — ready for a spring wedding. It a nice disruption to the style, it was twinned with a stiff sleeveless crop top that revealed the midriff in a sporty way.

Flowers were also a touchstone.

Cuffs were embellished in giant roses, which reappeared in another look above the shoulder as if to cushion the model’s head. While, teeming embroideries and tulle banding accompanied stylized hair to evoke a take on Arabic dress — with the ubiquitous giant pearl earrings seeming to evoke the famous ancient traditions of Kosovar brides.

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