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A Nigerian chess champion is trying to break the world record for the longest chess marathon

NEW YORK (AP) — A Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate is attempting to play chess nonstop for 58 hours in New York City’s Times Square to break the global record for the longest chess marathon.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, hopes to raise $1 million for children’s education across Africa. He is playing against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion, in line with Guinness World Record guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who would play continuously for the entire duration.

Onakoya had played chess for 42 hours by 10:00 a.m. GMT on Friday. Support is growing online and at the scene, where a blend of African music is keeping onlookers and supporters entertained amid cheers and applause.

The current chess marathon record is 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad, both from Norway.

The record attempt is “for the dreams of millions of children across Africa without access to education,” said Onakoya, who founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2018. The organization wants to support education of at least 1 million children in slums across the continent.

“My energy is at 100% right now because my people are here supporting me with music,” Onakoya said Thursday evening after the players crossed the 24-hour mark.

On Onakoya’s menu: Lots of water and jollof rice, one of West Africa’s best known dishes.

For every hour of game played, Onakoya and his opponent get only five minutes’ break. The breaks are sometimes grouped together, and Onakoya uses them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joins in with their dancing sometimes.

A total of $22,000 was raised within the first 20 hours of the attempt, said Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya’s manager.

“The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the U.S., global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby,” he said.

Onakoya’s attempt is closely followed in Nigeria where he regularly organizes chess competitions for young people living on the streets to boost his cause. More than 10 million children are out of school in the West African country — one of the world’s highest rates.

Among those who have publicly supported him are celebrities and public office holders, including Nigeria’s former Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Onakoya on X, formerly Twitter: “Remember your own powerful words: ‘It is possible to do great things from a small place.’”

The Guinness World Record organization has yet to publicly comment about Onakoya’s attempt, which could reach 58 hours by midnight on Friday. It sometimes takes weeks for the organization to confirm any new record.

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This version corrects that Osinbajo is Nigeria’s former vice-president, not current vice-president.

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Asadu reported from Abuja, Nigeria.


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US envoy to UN visits Nagasaki A-bomb museum, pays tribute to victims

TOKYO (AP) — The American envoy to the United Nations called Friday for countries armed with atomic weapons to pursue nuclear disarmament as she visited the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki, Japan.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who became the first U.S. cabinet member to visit Nagasaki, stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy amid a growing nuclear threat in the region.

“We must continue to work together to create an environment for nuclear disarmament. We must continue to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in every corner of the world,” she said after a tour of the atomic bomb museum.

“For those of us who already have those weapons, we must pursue arms control. We can and must work to ensure that Nagasaki is the last place to ever experience the horror of nuclear weapons,” she added, standing in front of colorful hanging origami cranes, a symbol of peace.

The United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people. A second attack three days later on Nagasaki killed 70,000 more people. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II and its nearly half-century of aggression in Asia.

Nagasaki Gov. Kengo Oishi said in a statement that he believed Thomas-Greenfield’s visit and her first-person experience at the museum “will be a strong message in promoting momentum of nuclear disarmament for the international society at a time the world faces a severe environment surrounding atomic weapons.”

Oishi said he conveyed to the ambassador the increasingly important role of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in emphasizing the need of nuclear disarmament.

Thomas-Greenfield’s visit to Japan comes on the heels of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official visit to the United States last week and is aimed at deepening Washington’s trilateral ties with Tokyo and Seoul. During her visit to South Korea earlier this week, she held talks with South Korean officials, met with defectors from North Korea and visited the demilitarized zone.

The ambassador said the United States is looking into setting up a new mechanism for monitoring North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Russia and China have thwarted U.S.-led efforts to step up U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile testing since 2022, underscoring a deepening divide between permanent Security Council members over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

She said it would be “optimal” to launch the new system next month, though it is uncertain if that is possible.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have been deepening security ties amid growing tension in the region from North Korea and China.


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Blinken says China is Russia’s primary military complex supplier

By Crispian Balmer and Humeyra Pamuk

CAPRI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticised on Friday Chinese support for Russia’s defence industry, saying Beijing was currently the primary contributor to Moscow’s war in Ukraine though its provision of critical components for weaponry.

He said this effort was fueling “the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.”

Speaking at a news conference capping the end of a gathering of G7 foreign ministers on the Italian island of Capri, Blinken said Washington had made it very clear to Beijing and others that they should not be aiding Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

“When it comes to Russia’s defense industrial base the primary contributor in this moment to that is China. We see China sharing machine tools, semiconductors, other dual use items that have helped Russia rebuild the defense industrial base,” Blinken said.

“China can’t have it both ways. It can’t afford that. You want to have positive, friendly relations with countries in Europe, and at the same time, you are fueling the biggest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War,” Blinken said.

The U.S. has warned China not to aid Moscow’s war effort since Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which came just weeks after Russia and China declared a “no limits partnership.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed Blinken’s concerns.

“If China openly pursues an ever closer partnership with Russia, which is waging an illegal war against Ukraine, … we cannot accept this,” Baerbock said after a meeting with her G7 counterparts in Capri.

U.S. officials briefed reporters earlier this month on materials China was providing to Russia, including drone and missile technology, satellite imagery and machine tools, that fall short of providing lethal assistance but were helping Russia build up its military to sustain its two-year-old war in Ukraine.

A Chinese embassy spokesperson told Reuters at the time that China was not a party to the Ukraine crisis and that normal trade between China and Russia should not be interfered with or restricted.

President Joe Biden raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call earlier this month, after which U.S. officials said Blinken would travel to China in the coming weeks. Details of Blinken’s trip have not yet been announced.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Toby Chopra)


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Two held in Poland over March attack on Navalny aide Volkov

WARSAW (Reuters) -Two people have been detained in Poland on suspicion of attacking Leonid Volkov, an exiled top aide to the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Polish and Lithuanian police said on Friday.

Volkov suffered injuries from hammer blows in the attack on March 12 outside his home in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

Lithuanian counterintelligence said at the time that the attack was the work of Russian special services. The Kremlin declined to comment.

Polish police said on the social media platform X that they had arrested the two suspects in cooperation with Lithuanian police in response to a European arrest warrant.

A spokesperson for the court in Warsaw that is dealing with the case said the suspects were accused of “acting in an organised group, executing the orders of the special services of a foreign country” and of damaging the health of a Russian citizen in Lithuania.

The spokesperson said the suspects would be held in pre-trial detention for 40 days and that their lawyers had lodged an appeal.

In Vilnius, the deputy head of Lithuania’s criminal police, Saulius Briginas, told a press conference that the suspects were both Polish citizens and had been detained on April 3 in Warsaw.

The two suspects have been charged in Lithuania with intentionally causing minor bodily harm to Volkov because of his beliefs, which is punishable by a fine or a jail term, chief Vilnius prosecutor Justas Laucius said.

“At this time, the charge is that the crime was committed due to (Volkov’s) beliefs and his political activities”, Laucius told the same news conference in Vilnius.

EXTRADITION

The suspects could be extradited to Lithuania by May, Laucius added.

The two suspects were previously known to Polish police and had travelled to Lithuania to carry out the assault, said Briginas.

Laucius said he did not know whether the detainees were connected to a Polish citizen who was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of planning to cooperate with Russian foreign intelligence services for a possible assassination attempt on Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Volkov himself has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack. Before the assault he had told Reuters that leaders of Navalny’s movement in exile feared for their lives.

On Friday, Volkov thanked Lithuanian police for working “energetically and persistently” on the case.

“I am very glad that this work has been effective”, he said on X. “Well, we’ll find out the details soon. Can’t wait to find out!”

Navalny, Putin’s most prominent critic, died in February in an Arctic prison. Russian authorities say he died of natural causes. His followers believe he was killed by the authorities, which the Kremlin denies.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Alan Charlish, Karol Badohal; Additional reporting by Marek Strzelecki and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Alex Richardson and Gareth Jones)


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Police arrest man in Paris Iran consulate incident – source

PARIS (Reuters) -A man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris was arrested by police, a police source said.

French police earlier cordoned off the Iranian consulate, Reuters reporters saw.

A police source told Reuters the man was seen at about 11 am (0900 GMT) entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Sudip Kar-Gupta, Gabriel Stargardter, Zhifan Liu, Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Gareth Jones, Ros Russell)


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Blinken says U.S. not involved in “any offensive operations” when asked about Iran

CAPRI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeatedly declined to confirm a reported Israeli attack on Iran on Friday, saying Washington has not been involved in any offensive operations and it was committed to de-escalating tensions in the region.

“I’m not going to speak to that except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken said at a news conference capping a gathering of G7 foreign ministers on the southern Italian island of Capri.

“What we’re focused on, what the G7 is focused on, and again, it’s reflected in our statement, and in our conversation, is our work to de-escalate tensions, to de-escalate from any potential conflicts,” Blinken said.

The top U.S. diplomat kept repeating the same response, almost verbatim, when he was asked about the issue several times at the news conference.

At a separate news conference moments before Blinken, Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the United States was “informed at the last minute” but did not elaborate.

Explosions echoed over the Iranian city of Isfahan in the early hours of Friday in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation – a response that appeared gauged towards averting region-wide war.

Israel said nothing about the incident. It had said for days it was planning to retaliate against Iran for Saturday’s strikes, the first direct attack on Israel by Iran in decades of shadow war waged by proxies which has escalated throughout the Middle East during six months of battle in Gaza.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by Ros Russell)


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Israel gave US last-minute warning about drone attack on Iran, Italian foreign minister says at G7

CAPRI, Italy (AP) — The United States told the Group of Seven foreign ministers on Friday that it received “last minute” information from Israel about a drone action in Iran, Italy’s foreign minister said.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who chaired the meeting of ministers of industrialized countries, said the United States provided the information at a Friday morning session that was changed at the last minute to address the suspected attack.

Early Friday, Iran fired air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan after spotting drones, part of an apparent Israeli attack in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country last weekend.

Tajani said the U.S. informed the G7 ministers that it had been “informed at the last minute” by Israel about the drones. “But there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to comment on the assertion, but emphasized that the U.S. was not involved in any attack.

“I’m not going to speak to that except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken said.

In a communique following the three-day meeting, the ministers urged the parties “to prevent further escalation.”

The statement pledged support for Israel’s security and condemned “in the strongest terms” what the foreign ministers described as Iran’s “unprecedented attack against Israel of April 13-14, which Israel defeated with the help of its partners,” as well as the seizure of the Portuguese-flagged vessel MSC Aries in the Strait of Hormuz.

“We stand ready to adopt further sanctions or take other measures, now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives,” the document read.

The group also warned Iran against transferring ballistic missiles and related technology to Russia.

On the war in Gaza, the group called on Hamas to release hostages and reminded Israel to respect international and humanitarian law.

It added that G7 countries remained opposed to “a full scale military operation in Rafah that would have catastrophic consequences on the civilian population,” and called for increasing the flow of aid into Gaza.

“The G7 worked and will work for a de-escalation,” Tajani said in a closing press conference. He said that would include a de-escalation of tensions, followed by a cease-fire, liberation of hostages and aid to the Palestinian people.


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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy visits eastern command post for Chasiv Yar troops

KYIV (Reuters) -President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he visited a Ukrainian military command post used by troops defending the embattled eastern town of Chasiv Yar that Russian forces are bearing down on.

The Ukrainian leader, due to address allies at the NATO-Ukraine Council by video link on Friday, said he spoke to troops with the 41st mechanised brigade and presented them with awards.

The visit looked aimed at lifting Ukrainian troop morale 25 months into Russia’s full-scale invasion, which shows no sign of letting up. Moscow’s troops occupy 18% of Ukraine’s territory and are inching forward in the east.

Zelenskiy said on X that he also visited a paratroopers’ medical platoon and inspected the construction of fortifications. “Every effort must be made in this regard.”

Kyiv has scaled up its efforts to build defence lines as officials warned that Russia might be preparing a big offensive later this spring or in summer.

It was not clear how close the command post was to Chasiv Yar, a strategically-positioned town on elevated ground that could become the site of an important battle in coming weeks.

Video from the trip shared by Zelenskiy showed an entrance sign to the town of Sloviansk, about 30 km from Chasiv Yar that has recently seen intensified Russian attempts to advance.

Ukraine’s army chief said Russia aimed to capture the town by May aiming to set the stage for further advances in the region. Kyiv’s brigades were holding back the assaults.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Philippa Fletcher)


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G7 identified “specific steps” to help Ukraine, Kuleba says

CAPRI, Italy (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies have identified “specific steps” needed to help Ukraine fight Russia, Kyiv’s foreign minister said on Friday, warning Europe would be engulfed by war if Russia triumphed.

“We identified specific steps which Western partners will make to help Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on the Italian island of Capri where G7 foreign ministers are meeting.

He said the West had the capacity “to provide Ukraine with all necessary resources as soon as possible to save Europe from a larger war.” He gave no further details.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; editing by Crispian Balmer)


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European Union official von der Leyen visits the Finland-Russia border to assess security situation

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The head of the European Union’s executive branch said Friday that Finland’s decision to close its border crossings with Russia over a surge in migrants was a security matter for the whole 27-member bloc to consider.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made the remarks during a trip to the frontier, visiting a part of the border located in southeastern Finland.

“We all know how (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his allies instrumentalize migrants to test our defenses and to try to destabilize us,” von der Leyen said. “Now Putin is focusing on Finland, and this is no doubt in response to your firm support of Ukraine and your accession to NATO.”

On April 4, Finland decided to extend the closure of its border crossing points with Russia “until further notice” because of what the government says is a high risk of organized migration being orchestrated by Moscow. Finland’s government has closed eight of its nine checkpoints with Russia. The only one that remains open is dedicated to rail travel only, and cargo trains mainly run through it.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) land border with Russia, running mostly through thick forests in the south, and to the rugged landscape in the Arctic north.

“This is not just about the security of Finland, but it is about the security of the European Union. We are in this together,” von der Leyen said after visiting the border in Lappeenranta with Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo. “We should be more Finnish when it comes to security.”

Von der Leyen and Orpo flew in a Finnish helicopter over the landscape of forests and towns on the border.

In a statement issued after the visit, Orpo said that “the spring’s warmer weather increases the risk of Russia helping people illegally try to get to Finland via the land border … outside the border crossing points.”

Most of the migrants hail from the Middle East and Africa. The vast majority of them have sought asylum in Finland, a member of the EU and NATO with a population of 5.6 million.

Finland joined NATO in April 2023, ending decades of neutrality after the country’s defeat by the Soviet Union in World War II. In March, Sweden also became a member of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The move dealt a major blow to Putin, with a historic realignment of Europe’s post-Cold War security landscape triggered by Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

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This story has been corrected to say that Ursula von der Leyen visited the southeastern part of the border, not the Arctic portion.


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