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10 things you need to know today: May 15, 2023

Turkey's presidential election appears headed to runoff, Zelensky vows to reclaim occupied lands from Russia, and more


Turkey's presidential election appears headed to a runoff

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, appeared to be headed to a runoff, as an unofficial count showed neither winning a majority in Sunday's presidential election. State-owned news agency Anadolu said with nearly all ballots counted Erdogan led with 49.4 percent of the vote, compared to 44.8 percent for Kilicdaroglu. A third candidate got 5 percent. The vote marked the biggest challenge Erdogan has faced in his 20-year rule, and a referendum on Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian policies. Opinion polls ahead of Sunday's vote had given Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of a six-party alliance, a narrow lead over Erdogan, whose support thinned due to an economic crisis and the government's slow response to a February earthquake that killed 50,000.


Zelensky vows to reclaim occupied turf

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived in the U.K. Monday on a surprise visit for aid talks, said Sunday in Germany that Ukraine would reclaim all territory Russia has seized since it invaded last year. Zelensky, speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said Ukraine had no intention of attacking Russian territory in its looming counteroffensive but hoped to reclaim occupied territory, including Crimea, by the end of the year. Scholz, whose government is providing Kyiv with $3 billion in new military aid, said Germany would back Ukraine, saying peace everywhere "is endangered by the idea that a larger country can simply attack and conquer parts of a smaller country."


Biden and congressional leaders likely to discuss debt limit on Tuesday

President Biden and congressional leaders are expected to meet Tuesday for more talks on raising the debt limit ahead of a potentially catastrophic default that could hit as soon as June 1. The meeting had been scheduled for Friday but was postponed to give staff more time to hammer out proposals for a deal. Biden and his fellow Democrats are calling for raising the debt ceiling with no conditions, but Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), want deep spending cuts in exchange for increasing the borrowing limit. Plans for the Tuesday meeting haven't been finalized. Biden is scheduled to leave for a Group of 7 summit in Japan on Wednesday.


Voters in Thailand back opposition in blow to military leaders

Thai voters on Sunday overwhelmingly backed two opposition parties promising to limit the power of the military and the monarchy. With 97 percent of the vote counted, the progressive Move Forward Party and the populist Pheu Thai Party had taken 151 and 141 seats, respectively, in the 500-seat House of Representatives in a clear call for ending nearly a decade of military rule. "People want change, and not just a change of government. They want structural reform," said Napon Jatusripitak, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Pheu Thai and Move Forward now will negotiate with other parties to build a coalition, although the military has given the junta power to play kingmaker.


Report: Wagner's Prigozhin offered Ukraine a deal on Bakhmut

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group mercenary army, offered to give Ukrainian intelligence information on Russian troop locations if Ukrainian forces pulled out of the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut, The Washington Post reported Sunday, citing U.S. intelligence documents shared on Discord by an American military analyst. Prigozhin reportedly made the offer in late January, when Wagner fighters were suffering heavy losses in Bakhmut, to contacts he has secretly maintained within Ukraine's intelligence directorate, HUR, including in-person meetings with HUR officials in an African country. Two Ukrainian officials told the Post that Prigozhin had offered HUR the Russian troop positions more than once, but that Kyiv rejected it because Ukrainian officials don't trust Prigozhin or his intentions.


Serbia collects 13,500 weapons in wake of mass shootings

Serbian authorities on Sunday displayed 13,500 weapons citizens had turned in under a crackdown on illegal arms declared by the government after back-to-back mass shootings that left 17 people dead this month. The arms, handed in under a one-month amnesty for illegal weapons, included thousands of guns, as well as anti-tank rocket launchers and boxes of hand grenades. Since the deadly shootings in a Belgrade school and two villages, the country's populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, has faced intense pressure to do something about the tens of thousands of weapons left over from the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia. Vucic said about half the weapons the government has collected so far were being held illegally, while the rest were registered. 


Cyclone Mocha hammers Myanmar but spares refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh

Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar with heavy rains and winds of up to 120 miles per hour on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated coastal areas ahead of the storm. Mocha moved inland from the Bay of Bengal, flooding the port city of Sittwe. The storm caused minimal damage in densely populated refugee camps in Bangladesh, Myanmar's low-lying neighbor, where minority Rohingya refugees have sought protection from a crackdown by Myanmar's military. "Luckily, we could escape the worst of the cyclone," said Mohammad Shamsud Douza, a Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees. "We are getting some reports of huts damaged but there are no casualties."


Belarus leader misses state celebration amid speculation about his health

Belarus' autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko, missed Sunday's annual National Flag, Emblem and Anthem Day, a major state celebration, fueling speculation that his health is failing. Lukashenko usually speaks at the event, but this year he had his prime minister deliver a message for him. Lukashenko last week skipped a lunch with Russia President Vladimir Putin shortly after attending a Victory Day parade in Moscow, and returned home instead. Lukashenko has appeared tired in public appearances, and wore a bandage on his right hand. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus, a key Russian ally, since 1994, and is often called Europe's last dictator. In 2020, he was declared the winner of presidential elections that the opposition denounced as a sham.


Vice files for bankruptcy protection

Vice Media Group on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection as it tries to organize a sale. Under the potential deal, a group of lenders, including Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital, would provide $225 million in credit and assume significant liabilities in exchange for the assets of the company, which owns popular websites Vice and Motherboard. Vice, once valued at $5.7 billion, has struggled with financial difficulties and the departure of top executives for years. Vice started as an alternative magazine in Montreal nearly 30 years ago, and gained popularity in recent years for its documentary-style videos. Its fall came despite a shared Pulitzer Prize in 2020 and multiple Emmys for Vice News Tonight.


Grizzlies star Ja Morant suspended over video showing him with gun

The Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday suspended star guard Ja Morant for a second time in three months after another social media video surfaced appearing to show him holding a gun. The video, streamed live over Instagram, was the latest of several controversies involving Morant, a two-time All-Star. In March, after the first time Morant was seen in an Instagram video holding a gun, the NBA suspended him for eight games. The incident cost him $669,000. The second video was posted and widely shared Saturday from the Instagram account of Davonte Pack, an associate of Morant, The Associated Press reported, citing a person familiar with the situation. NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the professional basketball league was "gathering more information" about the post.


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