‘I can’t forget her’- Myanmar’s soldiers admit atrocities

Soldiers in the Myanmar military have admitted to killing, torturing and raping civilians in exclusive interviews with the BBC. For the first time they have given detailed accounts of widespread human rights abuses they say they were ordered to conduct.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual violence and torture

“They ordered me to torture, loot and kill innocent people.”

Maung Oo says he thought he had been recruited to the military as a guard.

But he was part of a battalion who killed civilians hiding in a monastery in May 2022.

“We were ordered to round up all the men and shoot them dead,” he says. “The saddest thing was we had to kill elderly people and a woman.”

The testimony of six soldiers, including a corporal, plus some of their victims provides a rare insight of a military desperate to cling to power. All of the Myanmar names in this report have been changed to protect their identities.

The soldiers, who recently defected, are under the protection of a local unit of the People’s Defence Force (PDF), a loose network of civilian militia groups fighting to restore democracy.

The military seized power from the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup last year. It is now trying to crush the armed civilian uprising.


Turkey says an agreement for Ukrainian grain transport will be signed Friday. Here’s what we know

A farmer harvests a barley field in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on July 18. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

An agreement to allow the safe transport of Ukrainian grain from the country’s blocked ports will be signed on Friday in Istanbul, according to a statement from Turkey’s communications directorate.

Details of the emerging deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine, have not yet been divulged, and Turkey’s statement was met with caution by Ukrainian officials.

The statement said the deal would be signed at 4:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET) by the Ukrainian and Russian sides, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and UN Secretary General Secretary-General António Guterres.

  • Why this matters: Western officials have previously accused Moscow of “weaponizing” food supplies, with leaders and experts warning of a catastrophic food crisis as millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are unable to reach the global market due to the war. A United States official said last month they had intelligence that the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy “is under orders to effectively blockade the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Ochakiv.” The Kremlin has previously rejected accusations that Russia is obstructing the export of grain from Ukraine and instead blamed the West and Kyiv.
  • Some background: Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian officials last held talks with the support of the UN on the issue of grain exports on July 13. Speaking at the time, Guterres said that although the meetings had proven that Russia and Ukraine can talk, there is still “a long way to go” to broker peace between the two countries.
  • What the UN says now: On Thursday, deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq, said the UN is trying to reach an “agreement that would allow for Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets.” Although no deal has been formalized, Haq told a briefing the UN is “hopeful” and will wait to “see what happens” when talks pick up again Friday.
  • What the Ukrainians say: More talks are expected before the agreement is signed, a top Ukrainian official has cautioned. “Following negotiations, a document can be signed, that will contain the obligations of the parties regarding the safe operation of the export routes in the Black Sea,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday. Nikolenko stressed that the Ukrainian delegation “will support only those decisions that will guarantee the security of the southern regions of Ukraine, the strong positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Black Sea, and the safe export of Ukrainian agricultural products to the world markets.”
  • Western reaction: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday that Washington welcomes the “agreement in principle” to allow the safe transport of Ukrainian grain, but is focused on “holding Russia accountable for implementing this agreement and for enabling Ukrainian grain to get to world markets,” European officials familiar with the discussions expressed optimism about the agreement, but cited concerns about its implementation. The officials said Russia is unlikely to follow through on the agreement without any issues.


Trump watched Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot unfold on TV, ignored pleas to call for peace

WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) – Donald Trump sat for hours watching the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol unfold on live TV, ignoring pleas by his children and other close advisers to urge his supporters to stop the violence, witnesses told a congressional hearing on Thursday.

The House of Representatives Select Committee used its eighth hearing this summer to detail what members said was Trump’s refusal to act for the 187 minutes between the end of his inflammatory speech at a rally urging supporters to march on the Capitol, and the release of a video telling them to go home.

“President Trump sat at his dining table and watched the attack on television while his senior-most staff, closest advisors and family members begged him to do what is expected of any American president,” said Democratic Representative Elaine Luria.

The panel played videotaped testimony from White House aides and security staff discussing the events of the day.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone was asked question after question in the recorded testimony about Trump’s actions: did he call the secretary of defense? The attorney general? The head of Homeland Security? Cipollone answered “no” to each query.

“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump’s eldest son, Don Jr., appealed in a text message to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. “They will try to fuck his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.”

The onslaught on the Capitol, as Vice President Mike Pence met with lawmakers, led to several deaths, injured more than 140 police officers and delayed certification of Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee, said Trump had no interest in calling off the rioters.

“The mob was accomplishing President Trump’s purpose, so of course he didn’t intervene,” Kinzinger said.

Trump remains popular among Republican voters and continues to flirt with the possibility of running for president again in 2024. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll concluded on Thursday found his standing among Republicans has weakened slightly since the hearings began six weeks ago. Some 40% of Republicans now say he is at least partially to blame for the riot, up from 33% in a poll conducted as the congressional hearings were getting underway. read more

Trump denies wrongdoing and continues to claim falsely that he lost because of widespread fraud. “These hearings are as fake and illegitimate as Joe Biden — they can’t do anything without a teleprompter,” Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington said in a post on his Truth Social social media site during the hearing.

OFFICERS FEARED FOR THEIR LIVESScheduled during the evening to reach a broad television audience, the hearing was shown on most of the major U.S. television networks. Another round of hearings will begin in September, said the panel’s Republican vice chairperson, Representative Liz Cheney.


Witnesses in the room were Matthew Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser under Trump, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary in his White House. Both resigned in the hours following the riot.

“If the president had wanted to make a statement and address the American people, he could have been on camera almost immediately,” Matthews testified. “If he had wanted to make an address from the Oval Office, we could have assembled the White House press corps within minutes.”

The panel of seven Democratic and two Republican House members has been investigating the attack for the past year, interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses and amassing tens of thousands of documents.

It has used the hearings to build a case that Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat by Biden in 2020 constitute dereliction of duty and illegal conduct, far beyond normal politics.

Audio testimony from a White House security official whose identity was shielded bolstered previous testimony that administration officials knew there were multiple reports of weapons in the crowd of supporters who gathered for Trump’s rally speech.

The committee showed video of several White House officials describing their dismay that afternoon at seeing a Twitter post by Trump to his supporters in which he blamed Pence for not stopping the certification.

“Trump was pouring gasoline on the fire,” Matthews said.

The security official said some of Pence’s bodyguards began to fear for their own lives. “There were calls to say goodbye to family members,” the security official said. “The VP detail thought this was about to get very ugly.”

The attack on the Capitol led to several deaths. More than 850 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, with more than 325 guilty pleas so far.

Near the end of the hearing, the committee showed outtakes of a video Trump made on Jan. 7 addressing what he called “the heinous attack.” But he refused to say in the speech that the election was over.

Trump eventually left Washington on Jan. 20 rather than attend Biden’s inauguration that day.

Asked for his assessment of the riot, Cipollone said in the testimony shown on Thursday that it could not be justified in any way. “It was wrong and it was tragic and it was a terrible day for this country.”