Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

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PRAGUE: NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Prague on Thursday amid growing calls for leading allies to lift restrictions preventing Kiev from using Western weapons to launch attacks inside Russia.
The focus of the two-day meeting in the Czech capital will be efforts to work out an aid package for Ukraine at the NATO summit in Washington in July.
But the heated debate over whether Kyiv should be allowed to use arms supplies from Western sources for domestic attacks could overshadow the meeting.
Ukraine is pressuring its backers – especially the United States – to allow it to use the long-range weapons they supply to attack targets inside Russia.
The United States and Germany have so far refused to allow Kyiv to attack across the border, fearing that this could lead to a direct conflict with Moscow.
Ahead of the NATO meeting, which begins with a dinner on Thursday, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg repeatedly said it was time for members to rethink those limits because they hamper Kyiv’s ability to defend itself.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to change course on Tuesday when he said Ukraine must be allowed to “neutralize” bases in Russia used for attacks.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, was less forthcoming, saying Ukraine must act within the law – and that Berlin had not supplied the weapons for the attack on Russia anyway.
Across the Atlantic, the White House said it remained opposed to Ukraine using U.S. weapons to launch attacks inside Russia, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted that this strategy could change.
Moscow, meanwhile, reacted violently: President Vladimir Putin warned that there would be “serious consequences” if Western countries gave their consent to Ukraine.
Those pushing for giving Ukraine more freedom of action say they hope momentum is building in the United States and other countries that will prompt them to change course as Kyiv struggles to stop the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region.
“President Macron’s ideas obviously help allies who believe this rule should be changed,” said a diplomat from a NATO country.
“I hope that Macron’s ideas will be taken into account in the debates in the US.”

While NATO allies grapple with this issue, ministers in Prague are also trying to work out an assistance package that will satisfy Ukraine, whose hopes of eventual membership remain distant.
After persistent pressure at a summit last year, Kyiv was told emphatically by NATO countries – especially the United States and Germany – that it could not expect any concrete progress from Washington towards joining the alliance.
Instead, NATO chief Stoltenberg wants to obtain clear, multi-year commitments from alliance members about how much aid they will provide to Ukraine in the future.
Last month he proposed a total target of 100 billion euros ($108 billion) over five years, but this met with little response from allies due to a lack of clarity on what this amount would actually mean.
“People understand that something has to be announced, but they don’t want it to just stay in the air,” the Western diplomat said.
Diplomats said debates are ongoing as allies try to work out the scope of any commitments and how they might be structured.
In one area, NATO seems to be coming closer to agreement: the plan to take over the coordination of arms deliveries to Ukraine from the United States.
So far, Washington has been in charge, as NATO has refrained from supplying weapons for fear of provocation from Russia.
Supporters believe that transferring overall responsibility to the alliance could help safeguard future deliveries against a possible return of Donald Trump to the US presidency.
Others fear that this will only create more bureaucracy.
“The first hope is to make it no less effective than the current system,” said a second Western diplomat.
Diplomats say that in order to avoid resistance from Hungary – one of the most Russia-friendly countries in the alliance – Budapest was given an “opt-out clause” not to interfere.

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