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Navalny widow vows to absorb the struggle for Russia’s ‘freedom’

DUBAI: The EU formally launched a naval mission on Monday to protect Red Sea shipping from Yemen’s Houthi rebels as attacks by the group forced the crew of one vessel to abandon ship and damaged another.
The Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, have been harassing the vital shipping lane since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The European Union aims to have the mission — called Aspides, Greek for “shield” — up and running in a “few weeks” with at least four vessels, an official said on Friday.
“Europe will ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, working alongside our international partners,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.
The United States is already spearheading its own naval coalition in the area and has conducted retaliatory strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, as has Britain.
The dozens of Houthi attacks have roiled shipping in the Red Sea, forcing some companies to take alternative routes including a two-week detour around the tip of southern Africa.
On Monday evening, the Houthis said they had targeted three vessels in the last 24 hours, including the British-registered Rubymar, the US-owned Sea Champion and the Navis Fortuna which they described as “American.”
Earlier, the maritime security firm Ambrey had reported that a Greek-flagged, US-owned bulk carrier was attacked twice in two hours in the gulf, which adjoins the Red Sea.
The bulk carrier reported a “missile attack” before another projectile hit the water just meters (yards) from the ship, Ambrey said.
The ship’s master reported “evidence of shrapnel and damage to paintwork” in the second incident, the Royal Navy’s UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.
The Sea Champion is a Greek-flagged bulk carrier that was traveling from Argentina to Yemen, multiple tracking sites show.
Meanwhile, the crew of the British-registered, Belize-flagged Rubymar were forced to abandon ship following a Houthi strike.
A UK government spokesperson condemned what they called a “reckless attack” on the bulk carrier and said coalition vessels were already on the scene, Britain’s Press Association reported.
The UKMTO reported that the incident took place 35 nautical miles (65 kilometers) south of Mokha on Yemen’s Red Sea coast. The location would be toward the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Citing “military authorities,” it said the crew had safely “abandoned the vessel” which was left at anchor with military authorities at the site and providing assistance.
The Navis Fortuna was approaching the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait on Monday afternoon, Marine Traffic, a ship tracking service, showed.
Late on Monday the UKMTO said it had received a report of an incident 60 nautical miles (110 kilometers) north of Djibouti, also near the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait.
As the attacks continued, Qatar’s energy minister called for a ceasefire in Gaza to end the insecurity in the Red Sea, which has disrupted oil deliveries along with other trade.
Saad Al-Kaabi, who is also the chief executive of state-owned QatarEnergy, said the “root of the problem” in the Red Sea “is the Israeli invasion of Gaza.”
“Hopefully there is a ceasefire soon that will stop that so that the economic impact on the entire world stops,” he said.
Separately, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said that revenues from the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, had fallen “40 to 50 percent” so far this year.
The canal, which brought in $8.6 billion in the 2022-23 fiscal year, is a vital source of foreign currency for Cairo, which is suffering from a severe financial crisis.
Italian top diplomat Antonio Tajani confirmed the EU mission’s launch during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, calling it “an important step toward common European defense.”
The overall commander of the EU mission will be Greek, while the lead officer in operational control at sea will be Italian.
So far France, Germany, Italy and Belgium have said they plan to contribute ships.
The EU says the mission’s mandate — set initially for one year — is limited to protecting civilian shipping in the Red Sea and that no attacks will be carried out “on Yemeni soil.”
An EU official said there would be “continuous military to military contact” to coordinate actions with the United States and other forces in the region.


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