Leaders from the European Union unanimously agreed to a four-year 50-billion-euro aid package for Ukraine as Hungary, which vetoed the deal in December, fell into line with the other 26 member states, ending weeks of wrangling over the move - RFE/RL

Hungary's Viktor Orban said on Friday that he "went to the wall" for his country before agreeing to an EU deal on Thursday to extend new aid to Ukraine and that he averted the risk of losing EU funds earmarked for Budapest from the bloc's joint coffers - Reuters

In an exclusive essay for CNN Opinion, submitted amidst a swirl of rumors surrounding his future, Ukraine’s embattled army chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, addressed the challenge of mass mobilization, a source of tension between himself and President Volodymyr Zelensky. There’s subtle criticism of the government. Zaluzhnyi references the apparent reluctance of top bosses in Kyiv to get fully behind his call for greater mobilization for up to half a million draftees.


The United States has imposed sanctions on four illegal Israeli settlers as President Joe Biden said violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank had reached intolerable levels. Thursday's sanctions marked a rare US move against Israelis and came as Biden travelled to Michigan, where many in the sizable Arab American community have voiced anger over his support for Israel's carnage in besieged Gaza. “The situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability," Biden said in an executive order laying the groundwork for US actions - Reuters

Farmers have blocked several border crossings between Belgium and the Netherlands, Belgian and Dutch traffic canters said on Friday, as they protest against grievances including taxes, rising costs, cheap imports and bureaucracy. The border crossing in the direction of Antwerp, Belgium's second-biggest city and home to Europe's second-biggest port, is one of the blocked crossings. Farmers elsewhere in Europe are similarly disgruntled, with unrest seen in Germany, Poland, Greece, Portugal and Romania. The protests have exposed tensions over the impact on farming of the EU's drive to tackle climate change, as well as of opening the door to cheap Ukrainian imports to help Kyiv's war effort - Reuters


Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's 12-year jail sentence for corruption has been halved by the country's pardons board. Najib was jailed in 2022 over the embezzlement of Malaysia's state-owned wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The board also reduced the fine imposed on him to 50m ringgit (£8.3m; $10.5m) from the original 210m ringgit. Najib must pay this in full to secure his release in August 2028 - BBC

Beauty giant Avon has come under fire for maintaining links with Russia despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. The BBC has discovered the firm is still recruiting new sales agents in the country and continuing production in a huge plant in the Moscow region. Avon, which has its headquarters in the UK, started doing business in Russia 30 years ago. The firm said that it provides "critical support" for women whose livelihoods depend on their business. At the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, Avon announced it was stopping investment and suspending exports of its beauty items from Russia to other markets, including Ukraine. Avon's parent company, the Brazilian firm Natura & Co, previously emphasized it was only maintaining local operations to support its sales agents who are reliant on their business. “We believe restricting their access to products would have an outsize impact on women and children there," it said. However, the BBC has found it is still possible to register as a new sales agent for the firm in Russia, with recruits offered prizes, cash bonuses and even holidays for hitting targets. Steven Tian, part of a team of researchers at Yale University who track what companies have done in response to the Ukraine war, said the company should be "ashamed" for continuing to do business in Russia. “There is no excuse for continuing to fund Putin's war machine... and [there] has been more than enough time to allow for companies to exit in an orderly way," he said - BBC


This review is reprinted with the author’s permission from his World Briefing blog. See the original here.

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