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How China, Russia recently sought to spread political misinformation online, according to Meta

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(NEW YORK) -- Social media accounts with ties to users in China and Russia posed as Western media outlets in an attempt to manipulate users and spread "inauthentic" content related to high-profile, politically charged issues including the invasion of Ukraine, Meta employees told reporters on Monday.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and other services, said that the accounts tied to both countries were taken down manually, though for more in-depth investigations and bigger networks an automated feature for takedowns is also used.

The accounts, as a whole, did not reach nearly the same scale as past documented efforts on social media to spread politically related messages to U.S. users and others.

But the operations, as described by Meta, are some of the latest examples of what both the company's officials and top U.S. lawmakers have said is a concern: how countries use social media to secretly sway public opinion. (The American government has reportedly employed a similar digital strategy abroad -- to influence opinion of the U.S.)

In response to this scrutiny about foreign actors on their platforms, Meta and other leading internet companies have taken steps, they say, to curb the spread of suspicious and misleading information.

The coordinated Chinese operation that Meta revealed on Monday targeted users primarily in the U.S. and Czech Republic, Meta said, and it was running fake accounts and websites across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and two petition platforms in the Czech Republic.

According to the company, the accounts impersonated Americans by sharing online messages in both Chinese and English about issues including Second Amendment rights and abortion. Accounts in this network spanned both sides of the political aisle, supporting both conservative and liberal causes.

Messages were also directed to a more global French and Chinese-speaking audience, Meta said. The group operated between November 2021 and September 2022. This was the first Chinese-based effort that Meta disrupted that focused on U.S. political issues and major topics ahead of the midterms, a distinct shift in Chinese-based interference, according to Meta.

However, the operation was relatively short-lived and did not receive much engagement from real users, Meta said, with 81 Facebook accounts with 20 collective followers, one Facebook group with 250 members and two Instagram accounts with less than 10 followers between them.

On a number of occasions, Chinese-originated entities would post various Russian state-linked content, Meta said. While the two countries overlapped in their goals and mutually reinforced each other, there was no visible coordination between the two. Meta officials also noted a notable time lag between the two operations.

The Russian operation in May was the largest and most complex since the war on Ukraine started, spanning over 60 websites, using multiple different languages, impersonating credible and legitimate Western websites and news organizations, according to Meta. Its presence spanned Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube and other European sites.

The network mainly targeted users in Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine and the U.K, Meta said. The narratives focused on the war on Ukraine and its impact in Europe. The messages criticized Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees and pushed the narrative that U.S. sanctions would backfire.

Meta said it disrupted misinformation campaigns that targeted Ukrainians and exploited Ukraine's tensions with Russia in February. The company's security team removed about 40 users they found "inauthentic," officials said Monday.

The Russian operation had 1,633 Facebook accounts with 1,500 collective followers, 29 Instagram accounts with 1,500 followers between them and generated around $105,000 in ad sales, Meta said. The company will not return the ad revenue and will use it to build their security teams.

Meta previously removed a Russian network of users in 2020 for violating their policy of foreign interference. The users were connected to an online trolling group that attempted to interfere with the 2016 election, the company has said.

Meta has also emphasized that fake sites will continue to pop up.

The company stressed on Monday that its view is that its security work is on deception rather than the content itself and that it did not punish Russian government platforms that had content from either of the operations because they were not directly contributing.

Meta officials said the company remains on alert for more threats, including monitoring potential actors as the election season progresses. They will not be implementing any new tactics ahead of the midterms, officials said Monday.

Meta said it has also shared its findings and threat indicators with the media and other platforms, law enforcement and the government.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince William and Kate travel to Anglesey in Wales, where they had their first family home

Paul Ellis/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Prince William and Kate, the prince and princess of Wales, traveled to Wales on Tuesday to meet with different communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organizations.

The couple first traveled to Anglesey to meet with crew and volunteers at the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, one of the oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast, then visited St. Thomas Church in Swansea, a redeveloped church supporting locals and serving as a hub in the community.

Their visit to Wales was the first to the nation since King Charles III announced earlier this month that their new titles would be the prince and princess of Wales, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

They are the first couple to use the titles since they were used by Charles and the late Princess Diana, who divorced in 1996.

William and Kate have a "deep affection for Wales," according to Kensington Palace. The couple made their first family home in Anglesey, where they spent their first months as parents, making Wales the first home of Prince George. Wales was also where William undertook his first engagement as a young boy.

William graduated from the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley in Anglesey when he was training to become a helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force.

The couple's three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, have also taken on the last name, Wales.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

King Charles III approves four 'In Memoriam' stamps of Queen Elizabeth II

Royal Mail

(LONDON) -- Royal Mail in the United Kingdom has revealed images of four new portrait stamps in memory of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

These are the first stamp images to be approved by King Charles III and all four stamps feature images that were used in the 2002 Golden Jubilee stamp issue.

The images of the stamps include a second class stamp featuring a photograph taken by Dorothy Wilding in 1952 to mark the queen’s accession and coronation, a first class stamp with a picture of the queen in in her admiral’s cloak snapped by Cecil Beaton taken in 1968, a £1.85 stamp displaying a portrait of the late queen taken in November 1984 by Yousuf Karsh, and a £2.55 stamp with the newest photograph in the collection that features a picture of the queen taken at Prague Castle in 1996 by Tim Graham.

A Presentation Pack of all four stamps will retail at £6.95 and are available to pre-order until they are released and go on general sale from Nov. 10.

The announcement comes as the official Royal Mourning period ends Tuesday -- just over a week after her funeral was held -- and the debut of King Charles III’s new cypher that was unveiled overnight.

Chosen by the new king, the cypher will replace the “E II R” on government buildings, state documents and some mailboxes around the country.

The cypher features the king’s initial of “C” intertwined with “R” which stands for Rex -- Latin for “king” -- along with the Roman numeral III.

The Royal Mint also confirmed that they will unveil what the new bank notes will look like before the end of the year with the new King Charles notes expected to be placed into circulation in 2024.

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Four dead after tourist boat sinks near Galapagos Islands

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(NEW YORK) -- Four people have died and two are missing after a tourist boat sunk near the Galápagos Islands on Sunday night, Santa Cruz officials confirmed to ABC News.

Officials said that 31 passengers were rescued and two are still missing.

An American-Israeli citizen, a Colombian and an Ecuadorian are among the dead, according to Santa Cruz officials.

The boat sunk close to Tortuga Bay and was traveling between Isla Isabella and Santa Cruz, officials said.

The boat's three engines reportedly stopped working after running out of fuel, according to officials.

More than two dozen rescue personnel from Ecuador and the Galápagos National Park are searching for the two missing passengers, officials said.

Ecuador's Galápagos Islands is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean and includes Santa Cruz Island.

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Canada to lift all COVID-19 restrictions for travelers entering the country

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(NEW YORK) -- Canada is lifting all of its COVID-19-related entry restrictions, effective Saturday, government officials announced.

Travelers, regardless if they're Canadian citizens or not, will no longer have to submit public health information through an application the government launched for travelers before or after they enter the country, provide proof of vaccination, go through pre- or on-arrival testing, quarantine or isolate, or monitor and report if they've developed COVID-19 symptoms when arriving in Canada, the country's public health agency said.

Additionally, the Canadian government said travelers will no longer be required to wear masks on planes and trains, adding that it strongly recommends people "wear high-quality and well-fitted masks during their journeys."

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Canada and the U.S. closed their respective borders to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has taken a layered approach to border management to protect the health and safety of Canadians," the health agency said Monday in a press release. "As the pandemic situation has continued to evolve, adjustments to border measures have been informed by the latest evidence, available data, operational considerations and the epidemiological situation, both in Canada and internationally."

"Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, we have reached the point where we can safely lift the sanitary measures at the border," Canadian Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said. "However, we expect COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses will continue to circulate over the cold months, so I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, and exercise individual public health measures."

In June, the U.S. lifted its COVID-19 restrictions for international travelers, including no longer requiring a negative COVID-19 test one day before their flight into the country.

"We are able to take this step because of the tremendous progress we've made in our fight against the virus," a senior White House official told ABC News at the time. "We have made lifesaving vaccines and treatments widely available and these tools are working to prevent serious illness and death, and are effective against the prevalent variants circulating in the U.S. and around the world."

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American mountaineer Hilaree Nelson reportedly missing on Manaslu

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(NEW YORK) -- American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson is reportedly missing after attempting to ski down Manaslu in Nepal, North Face, her sponsor, confirmed to ABC News.

Nelson was on the eighth highest peak in the world along with her partner, Jim Morrison, when she went missing just below the summit, North Face said, according to reports.

They had reached the true summit late Monday morning, Outside magazine reported the managing director of the guiding company they were with said. The Himalayan Times reported eyewitnesses said she fell into a crevasse.

At 26,781 feet, Manaslu is a difficult peak for rescue efforts. Further hindering efforts is bad weather on the mountain, according to the Himalayan Times and Outside.

This comes as an avalanche caused tragedy lower down on the mountain. One person was killed and 14 were injured, according to The New York Times.

Chhang Dawa Sherpa, a director at Seven Summit Treks, wrote on Instagram that the avalanche took place between Camps 3 and 4, which are above 22,000 feet, and that "more than 13 climbers (including Sherpas) were swept along." Mountaineer Nims Purja, of Elite Exped, posted videos apparently showing helicopters managing rescues from the avalanche.

ABC News has reached out to the Nepal Tourism Board and Shangri-La Nepal Trek, the guiding company Morrison and Nelson were with, for further information.

It had already been a difficult time on Manaslu before Monday for Nelson and Morrison. Late last week they turned around on a summit push when "the mountain said no," Morrison wrote on Instagram.

"I haven't felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya," Nelson wrote about the failed summit push. "These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways. The constant monsoon with its incessant rain and humidity has made me hopelessly homesick. I am challenged to find the peace and inspiration from the mountain when it's been constantly shrouded in mist."

Even so, she wrote, they found joy on their skis that day, including racing with Palden Namgye, Sherpa Yulha Nurbu and Pemba Sharwa and "generally just finally being present and actually seeing what I have been seeing for weeks but not absorbing."

Nelson is the captain for The North Face Athlete Team and in 2018 was recognized as a National Geographic adventurer of the year after summiting and skiing down Papsura, known as the Peak of Evil, in India and then doing the same on Denali in Alaska.

A mother of two, she was the first woman to summit Mounts Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours, according to North Face, and the first person, along with Morrison, to ski down the Lhotse Couloir.

"[Climbing] has significantly shaped who I am, the places I've travelled, the people with whom I've been privileged to share climbing experiences with," she wrote on social media last month. "From terror to triumph, tears to laughter, solitude to partnership, it's been a path of joy, one that I hope to share with others."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NASA spacecraft successfully collides with asteroid

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

(NEW YORK) -- NASA has successfully tested its Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, which collided with an asteroid Monday night.

Asteroid Dimorphos, which NASA said is the size of a football stadium, does not pose a threat to the planet, in this case. But the mission will help scientists test technologies that could prevent a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact.

Here's what you need to know about the mission:

How did the DART mission work?

The refrigerator-sized aircraft, launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last November, traveled roughly 7 million miles to reach its point of impact. On the receiving end of that collision was Dimorphos, a small asteroid that is the moon of a bigger space rock, Didymos.

Dimorphos, which means "having two forms" in Greek, spans 525 feet or 160 meters in diameter.

DART will record images with the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation. The instruments will give viewers a first glimpse of Didymos and allow the spacecraft to autonomously steer itself into a direct collision with the small asteroid, Dimorphos.

At the moment of impact, DART was traveling at 14,000 mph, a speed fast enough to cover the last 4 miles in a single second.

The aircraft will not destroy Dimorphos but was expected to redirect the space rock onto a different flight path.

"The idea is that asteroid impacts occur when an asteroid's orbit and the Earth's orbit intersect," Andy Rivkin of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (Johns Hopkins APL), which is building the spacecraft and managing the mission for NASA, told ABC News last November. "So the idea of kinetic impactor is to give the asteroid a bit of a push so it doesn't show up at the same time, at the same place as Earth."

"This is the only natural disaster that humankind can do something about," Rivkin said of asteroid impacts. "And this is our first attempt to kind of take that into our hands, to take our future into our hands that way."

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At least 17 killed in Russian school shooting

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(IZHEVSK, Russia) -- At least 17 people, including 11 children, were killed after a man opened fire at a school in central Russia on Monday, officials said.

Local authorities said at least 24 more people were injured, some severely, in the attack in the school in the city of Izhevsk about 600 miles from Moscow, making it one of the deadliest school shootings Russia has suffered. Twenty-two children were among the two dozen injured in the shooting.

Two teachers and two security guards were among the dead, according to the region's governor.

Police said the alleged shooter killed himself at the school following the attack. They identified him as a 34-year-old former student at the school. Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles serious crimes, identified him as Artyem Kazantsev, and posted a video it said showed his body lying in a pool of blood in a classroom.

The motive for the attack was still unclear but the committee said it was investigating possible "neofascist views" held by the shooter, who in the video it released appeared to be wearing a T-shirt with a red swastika.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman called the shooting a "terrorist act."

"President Putin grieves in connection with the deaths of people and children in the school, where the terrorist act occurred. It was carried out by an individual who, judging by everything, belongs to a neofascist organisation or group," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary told reporters.

The shooting began mid-morning, while children were in class. Video circulating in Russian media showed pupils cowering under desks and with blood stains visible on the floor. Police sealed off the school and emergency services could be seen carrying stretchers with the wounded from the building.

The shooter was armed with two pistols, according to Alexander Khinstein, the chairman of Russia's parliamentary committee for information policy, technology and communications.

School shootings have been relatively rare in Russia, but in recent years they have become increasingly frequent.

In May 2021, a teenager killed seven children and two adults after attacking a school in Kazan, and in April this year a man shot two children and a teacher dead at a kindergarten in the Ulyanovsk region. An 18-year-old student killed 21 people and wounded dozens more after setting off a bomb in a polytechnic college in Kerch in occupied Crimea in 2018.

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Vladimir Putin reportedly grants Russian citizenship to American whistleblower Edward Snowden

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(WASHINGTON) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly granted Russian citizenship to American whistleblower Edward Snowden in a decree signed on Monday, according the country's state news agency.

The decree granting Snowden and 75 other foreign nationals citizenship was published on an official government website.

Snowden’s attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti that Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, intend to apply for Russian passports. Mills is also American and has been living in Russia with Snowden.

A former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the United States for leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs.

The 39-year-old Snowden was granted permanent residency in Russia in 2020 and at the time said he intended to apply for Russian citizenship, but had no plans to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

In December 2020, Snowden and Mills announced they had become parents to a baby boy.

"The greatest gift is the love we share," Snowden tweeted at the time, posting a photo of him and Mills kissing while holding their newborn.

In 2013, Snowden claimed the U.S. government was spying on its citizens and leaked documents taken from the NSA to support his claim.

Long vilified by current and former members of the intelligence community, Snowden has continued his advocacy for government transparency and pro-whistleblower measures from his home in Moscow.

Snowden said in 2013 that he was motivated by principle to leak the NSA documents, saying he wanted to to pull back the veil on one of the government's most secretive entities and its programs to track Americans' phone records and internet usage.

"I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded," Snowden told the British newspaper The Guardian, which broke the first in a series of headline-grabbing articles on NSA surveillance in June 2013. "That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia increases penalty for soldiers after mobilization

Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 26, 1:29 PM EDT
40- to 50-hour wait as people attempt to flee Russia into Georgia to avoid military draft: Report

A massive line of traffic continued to grow Monday at the border between Russia and Georgia as huge numbers of Russians seek to flee the country amid fears they will be drafted to fight in the war in Ukraine.

Drone video, posted on Twitter by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider, showed hundreds of cars and trucks backed up for miles at the Verkhny Lars border between the two countries.

The Insider reported that people are waiting 40-50 hours in the line to cross.

Tens of thousands of Russians are trying to flee the country following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a military mobilization of 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. Besides the Russia-Georgia border, large crowds of people attempting to leave the country have been packing border crossings into Finland, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others.

Sep 26, 12:08 PM EDT
New clashes break out in Russia between police and protesters over Kremlin's mobilization

More clashes broke out Monday in Russia's Dagestan capital city, as police tried to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the Kremlin’s military mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine.

Videos circulating on social media showed scuffles between protesters and police in Makhachkala.

On Sunday, there were violent clashes in Dagestan, with police firing warning shots and people angrily shouting chants against the mobilization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine.

The announcement sparked major protests in Moscow and at least 30 other cities across Russia over the weekend. At least 17 military recruitment offices have been targeted with arson attacks. A man was detained by authorities on Monday after he allegedly opened fire on a recruitment center in Siberia, severely injuring a recruitment officer.

Sep 26, 11:01 AM EDT
US sending Ukraine $457.5 million in civilian security assistance

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. will give Ukraine another $457.5 million in civilian security assistance to bolster the efforts of Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice agencies "to improve their operational capacity and save lives.”

Blinken said some of the funds will also go toward supporting efforts to “document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia's forces.” He said that since December, the United States has pledged more than $645 million toward supporting Ukrainian law enforcement.

Blinken's announcement follows a U.N.-led investigation that found Russian troops had committed war crimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, including the rape, torture and imprisonment of children.

Sep 26, 10:14 AM EDT
Ukrainian first lady 'worried' about Russian mobilization

In a new interview, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenka told ABC News that recent developments in the war are upsetting, saying this is not an "easy period" for the people of Ukraine.

"When the whole world wants this war to be over, they continue to recruit soldiers for their army," said Zelenska, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement last week that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine. "Of course, we are concerned about this. We are worried and this is a bad sign for the whole world."

Zelenska, who spoke with ABC News' Amy Robach through a translator, said Ukrainians will continue to persevere in the face of conflict.

"The main difference between our army and the Russian army is that we really know what we are fighting for," she said.

Zelenska attended the United Nations General Assembly in-person in New York City, where she spoke to ABC News about the U.N.'s recent finding that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian troops. An appointed panel of independent legal experts reported that Russian soldiers have "raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined" children in Ukraine, among other crimes.

"On the one hand, it's horrible news, but it's the news that we knew about already," she said. "On the other hand, it's great news that the whole world can finally see that this is a heinous crime, that this war is against humanity and humankind."

Sep 26, 5:40 AM EDT
Man opens fire at Russian military enlistment office

A man has opened fire at a military enlistment office in eastern Russia, severely injuring a recruitment officer there.

An apparent video of the shooting was circulating online, showing a man shooting the officer at a podium in the officer in the city of Irkutsk.

Irkutsk’s regional governor confirmed the shooting, naming the officer injured as Alexander V. Yeliseyev and saying he is in intensive care in a critical condition.

The alleged shooter has been detained, according to the governor.

Sep 25, 12:49 PM EDT
Russia Defense Ministry announces high-level leadership shake-up

The Russian Defense Ministry announced a high-level shake-up in its military leadership amid reports Russian forces are struggling in the war against Ukraine.

The defense ministry said Saturday that Col. Gen. Mikhail Y. Mizintsev has been promoted to deputy defense minister overseeing logistics, replacing four-star Gen. Dmitri V. Bulgakov, 67, who had held the post since 2008.

Bulgakov was relieved of his position and is expected to be transferred "to another job,” the Defense Ministry statement said.

The New York Times reported that Mizintsev -- whom Western officials dubbed the “butcher of Mariupol" after alleged atrocities against civilians surfaced in the Ukrainian city in March, previously served as chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, which oversees military operations and planning.

In this previous role, Mizintsev became one of the public faces of the war in Ukraine, informing the public about what the Kremlin still calls a “special military operation.”

Mizintsev was put on international sanctions lists and accused of atrocities for his role in the brutal siege of the Mariupol.

Sep 25, 11:58 AM EDT
Russian recruits report for military mobilization

Newly recruited Russian soldiers are reporting for duty in response to the Kremlin's emergency mobilization to bolster forces in Ukraine, according to photographs emerging from Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week a mobilization to draft more than 300,000 Russians with military expertise, sparking anti-war protests across the country and prompting many to try to flee Russia to avoid the draft.

Putin signed a law with amendments to the Russian Criminal Code upping the punishments for the crimes of desertion during periods of mobilization and martial law.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview Sunday with ABC News This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos that Russia's military draft is more evidence Russia is "struggling" in its invasion of Ukraine. He also said "sham referendums" going on in Russia-backed territories of eastern and southern Ukraine are also acts of desperation by the Kremlin.

"These are definitely not signs of strength or confidence. Quite the opposite: They're signs that Russia and Putin are struggling badly," Sullivan said while noting Putin's autocratic hold on the country made it hard to make definitive assessments from the outside.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ukrainian first lady's message to American people

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In July, three months after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, first lady Olena Zelenska told ABC News that she hoped an end to the war was near.

Four months later, just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he is mobilizing 300,000 more troops against Ukraine.

In a new interview, Zelenska told ABC News' Amy Robach that the developments are upsetting, saying this is not an "easy period" for the people of Ukraine.

"When the whole world wants this war to be over, they continue to recruit soldiers for their army," said Zelenska, referring to Russia. "Of course, we are concerned about this. We are worried, and this is a bad sign for the whole world."

Zelenska, who spoke with Robach through a translator, said she feels though that Ukrainians will continue to persevere in the face of conflict.

"The main difference between our army and the Russian army is that we really know what we are fighting for," she said.

Zelenska's husband, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, warned last week in a recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly that Moscow was trying to wait his fighters out.

Zelenska attended the United Nations General Assembly in-person in New York City, where she spoke to Robach about the U.N.'s recent finding that wars crimes have been committed in Ukraine by Russian troops.

A U.N.-appointed panel of independent legal experts reported that, among other crimes, Russian soldiers have "raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined" children in Ukraine.

The report followed an announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March that the State Department made a formal assessment that Russian forces have committed war crimes in the country.

Zelenska said she was not surprised by the U.N. report but is glad the crimes are internationally recognized now.

"On the one hand, it's horrible news, but it's the news that we knew about already," she said. "On the other hand, it's great news that the whole world can finally see that this is a heinous crime, that this war is against humanity and humankind."

Zelenska continued, "Now Ukrainian efforts at the international level are focused on creating an international tribunal for all responsible for crimes that still unfortunately continue to occur in Ukraine during this war."

Zelenska recently started a foundation to help Ukrainians recover from the devastating effects of the war with Russia.

She said the foundation is focused on three areas: Education, medicine and humanitarian aid.

"Our main goal is to help as many people as possible to return home," said Zelenska. "For them to be able to return, we need to restore hospitals, schools ... We need to rebuild their homes."

In English, Zelenska directly addressed the American people, saying support from the United States is "crucial."

"It's not war between Ukraine and Russia. It's war for values of all the world. A war for freedom, for human rights, for all that we love, all of the people of the world," she said. "And that's exactly what Ukrainians are fighting for now. So don't stop your support. It's very important for us."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Controversy erupts over former Japanese prime minister's funeral

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

(TOKYO) -- Thousands of people are expected to gather at Tokyo's famed Budokan arena on Tuesday to pay their respects to slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japan's government says 3,600 people from Japan and about 700 from overseas will come to the state funeral, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

But the mood is distinctly dour in the capital, as the citizens of Japan wrestle with the unsettled legacy of the murdered leader and his controversial send-off using taxpayer funds.

The plan has set off a firestorm of debate and protests. The government says the event will cost $12 million, but many suspect the final tab will be much higher.

In the country's post-World War II history, only one other prime minister was granted the honor of a funeral financed with state coffers. Police from outside prefectures have also been brought to Tokyo to bolster security.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has defended his administration's decision on a state funeral, saying that it will not only commemorate Abe's legacy but also show that Japan can "resolutely defend democracy without yielding to violence."

Detractors say Kishida's decision to hold the state funeral is in itself undemocratic and that this event is a thinly veiled attempt by Japan's ruling party to whitewash the legacy of one of the nation's more divisive leaders.

Though Abe was Japan's longest-serving leader in Japan's modern history, he was not the most popular.

His years in office were plagued by scandals and he left behind many unfulfilled political goals, including the unsuccessful push to "normalize" the nation by revising its pacifist constitution.

Polls show roughly six in 10 Japanese people oppose his state-funded funeral. Hundreds of thousands have signed petitions calling for the event to be halted. Detractors argue that the state-funded event will essentially force all citizens of Japan to express sadness for the departed leader. The government, however, assures the public that "every citizen will not be required to engage in mourning."

On Sunday night, hundreds gathered near Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku station with placards and loudspeakers to demonstrate against the state funeral.

“In these tough times, there is no need for taxpayer money to finance this. Most of us are having a tough enough supporting our families as it is,” declared 35-year-old Yosuke Takagi, a sanitation worker living in Tokyo.

Sanae, a woman in her sixties who declined to give her last name, looked on while brandishing a small sign that read, “No State Funeral.”

“Abe didn’t move Japan forward at all while he was in power and the scandals surrounding him are numerous,” she said.

Shinzo Abe's brazen murder in July exposed long-suspected links between many of Japan's top government leaders and the Unification Church, now known as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Critics claim the group is a cult known for "spiritual sales" of trinkets at exorbitant prices and soliciting large monetary donations. According to police, Abe's accused assassin said the church sent his family into poverty and blamed Abe for supporting the church. As details of church and government ties emerge, support for the state funeral wane and clouds of doubt over Abe's legacy grow.

Some academics believe that a state funeral for Abe cast a favorable light on the leader, preventing proper evaluation of his legacy. Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, told ABC News that Abe's supporters will have a tough time ensuring that history looks upon him favorably.

"Prime Minister Kishida probably hoped that the tangled web can be covered up with the hosting of the state funeral and the deification of Abe, but that is not happening." Nakano said. "The fact that Abe was the linchpin of the tight relations between his party and the Unification Church is now public knowledge, so at least domestically, a lot of people will remember Abe as much less than a faultless hero that turned Japan around."

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party had since admitted that 179 out of 379 members it surveyed were found to have interacted with the Unification Church. Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency has assembled of a panel to investigate dubious marketing practices alleged to be conducted by the church.

Naomichi, who works in office management in central Tokyo told ABC News, "Perhaps Abe's greatest accomplishment was exposing the connection between the Unification Church and Japan's politicians. That will be his legacy."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Solar panel bike lane generates eco-friendly energy in South Korea

South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

(SEJONG, South Korea) -- There is a five-and-a-half mile bike path sitting in the middle of an eight-lane highway, topped with a solar panel that lights up the streets below in South Korea.

But this is no regular bike path. What started as an idea to produce clean energy while simultaneously giving people a place to exercise, South Korea built this eco-friendly cycle lane that connects the cities of Daejeon to Sejong -- the administrative capital of South Korea -- in 2014.

The 13-foot-wide path set in the middle of a highway is unique in South Korea, where most bicycle paths are built adjacent to pedestrian roads. But what really makes the path stand out is its one-of-a-kind feature -- a solar panel-lined roof.

With 7,502 solar panels installed at intervals of approximately 30 inches, the paneling covers 3 miles of the 5.5 mile cycling highway and is capable of producing an annual average of 2,200 MWh of eco-friendly electricity that powers many of the streetlights and electronic displays in Sejong. In fact, the solar panels produce an equivalent amount of energy to power approximately 600 households, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The Korea Western Power Co., Ltd. -- the public corporation that constructed the solar panel bike road -- is in charge of maintaining the solar panels to keep up the power efficiency.

“Solar panels in public facilities are part of a trend in clean energy,” Kim Geun-ho, a researcher from the Green Energy Institute based in the country, told ABC News. “At the beginning stage, solar power generation was mostly constructed in vast farmland and mountainous areas. It moved on to public facility rooftops, and finally have evolved to play the role of a shelter and power generator at the same time, in this case, a roof on top of a bike road.”

Several other metropolitan governments in South Korea have implemented the bike road with solar panels, but this one particular road in Sejong remains the longest and the only one set in the middle of a highway.

“This is the fastest bike road I can take from my home in Daejeon to my workplace in Sejong,” Park Yoon-soo who commutes to work every day using the solar panel bike road for the last two years, told ABC News. “I have always appreciated the solar panel roofs because they become a good shade under strong sunlight, and a roof when it rains.”

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Italy expected to elect its first female prime minister, a conservative firebrand

ABC News

(ROME) -- Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), could become the first female prime minister in the history of Italy in an anticipated right-wing surge to the polls on Sunday.

Europe's attention is trained on Rome, where this potential first is joined by fears that Meloni would restore an ideology not seen in Italy since World War II. Pollsters expect the Sunday vote to deliver a conservative coalition to parliament, with the government guided by Meloni as premier.

The archconservative of Italian politics, Meloni entered politics at age 15 in 1992, joining the neo-fascist Social Movement, a group with pronounced sympathy for Benito Mussolini, the country's dictator from 1925 to 1945. Fratelli d'Italia's party imagery evokes Italy's fascist past, but Meloni has rejected the associations, framing her proposed conservative coalition as a nationalist project that would recover power from Brussels.

A Meloni government would represent a major change in tide from the technocrat government held together by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. Meloni's party was the only opponent to Draghi's coalition, which fell in July after maintaining a hardline on consensus issues in the European Union – including sending arms to Ukraine and sanctioning Russia.

Observers say EU battle lines may be realigning, with Italy, one of the bloc's founders and its third-largest economy, cozying more to Hungary and Poland than Germany and France.

The collapse of Draghi's government in July threw Italy into a familiar political tumult, and a splintered left wing, including the center-left Democratic Party and the populist Five-Star Movement, has not coalesced with a pre-election pact. The Democratic Party leader, Enrico Letta, has trailed consistently in polls and is expected to split ballots cast by liberals with voters for Five-Star and a "Third Pole" coalition.

The right wing, though, has joined forces. Polls indicate Meloni will be the leading conservative finisher on Sunday; her government's junior partners would be Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, and Silvio Berlusconi, the head of the center-right Forza Italia. Berlusconi, the media tycoon and conservative firebrand, rose to power in 1994 and won three stints as prime minister, in total the longest serving premier in the post-war era. Salvini has been seen as the conservative in the wings of Palazzo Chigi, while Meloni had led the smaller Fratelli d'Italia, distant from the mainstream.

Analysts credit Meloni's surge past them to her resolute anti-Putin, pro-NATO posture. Berlusconi, a longtime Putin friend, has outright echoed the Kremlin's war narrative. Salvini has wavered on continuing to send arms to Kyiv.

In the two-month campaign sprint, Meloni has worked to settle fears over the conservative coalition, including those of her own making. If more pugilistic toward Brussels than her recent predecessors, Meloni does not propose a divorce with the EU or an exit from the euro, which is supported by more than 70% of Italians. She has tempered her past hostile tones toward LGBT rights and abortion rights.

Amid rising energy costs hitting Italians particularly hard and long-stagnant wages in the country, Meloni has made her message economic, focusing on tax cuts and investment in nuclear energy.

Anticipation for a far-right surge in Rome, which would follow closely behind Tuesday's stunning electoral victory for the Swedish Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi origins, has already provoked barbed remarks from Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission chief. Von der Leyen was not keen to veil Brussels' posture toward a government that could move to subvert democracy.

"If things go in a difficult direction, I've spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools," von der Leyen told students in the United States on Thursday. The Commission has recommended exercising an internal sanctions measure on Hungary over corruption it alleges.

Potential clashes with the EU will not be the first order of business should the right-wing coalition win a majority of votes on Sunday. Before it can govern, conservatives will have to organize a government behind Meloni in a process that could take weeks.

Fratelli d'Italia won 4.4% of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary elections, the last time Italians went to the polls. After votes are counted on Sunday, barring a major break from polling, it's poised to be the nation's leading political party.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Fiona updates: Much of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island without power as Fiona hits Canada

NOAA via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 80% of Nova Scotia and the entirety of Prince Edward Island are currently without power as Fiona, now a post-tropical cyclone, continues to lash the east coast of Canada with strong, gusty winds. It is the most intense landfalling system Canada has ever seen.

While it has lost its tropical characteristics, Fiona is still producing hurricane-force winds over a large area. Wind gusts over 85 mph have been recorded in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.

While winds are sustained at 80 mph, the wide range of Fiona’s wind field is resulting in a long duration of strong winds across a vast geographical area.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for all of Prince Edward Island and parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. High wind alerts have been issued for much of Maine, showing the far-reaching impacts of this storm.

Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia early Saturday morning. While the storm is no longer a Category 3 hurricane, it still brought powerful winds gusting at over 100 mph.

The storm will now continue to weaken as it heads further north toward Canada. After dropping below hurricane strength Saturday it is expected to continue north toward Greenland.

Rare hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings are in effect. Fiona was forecast to become the strongest storm, in terms of pressure, to hit Canada.

Fiona is expected to bring high winds, dangerous storm surge, up to 10 inches of rain, flooding and large, destructive waves.

Power outages and widespread damage are possible.

The biggest impact in the United States will be high winds gusting up to 55 mph in Maine expected on Saturday and an increased threat of rip currents, with 10-feet waves, along the East Coast.

This comes after Fiona barreled through Bermuda Friday morning.

About 70% of Bermuda woke up without power, according to the local power company.

Conditions on the island improved by the afternoon.

ABC News' Melissa Griffin, Chris Donato, Riley Winch and Max Golembo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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