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Defenders of Ukrainian steel mill declare mission complete

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Defenders of Ukrainian steel mill declare mission complete

By OLEKSANDR STASHEVSKYI and CIARAN McQUILLAN

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The regiment that doggedly defended a steel mill as Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol declared its mission complete Monday after more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks. He said the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle,” he said. An unknown number of fighters stayed behind to await other rescue efforts.

The steel mill’s defenders got out as Moscow suffered another diplomatic setback in its war with Ukraine, with Sweden joining Finland in deciding to seek NATO membership. And Ukraine made a symbolic gain when its forces reportedly pushed Russian troops back to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.

Still, Russian forces pounded targets in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, and the death toll, already many thousands, kept climbing with the war set to enter its 12th week on Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor.

She said an exchange would be worked out for their return home. Officials also planned to keep trying to save the fighters who remained inside.

“The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” Zelenskyy said.

Before Monday’s evacuations from the steelworks began, the Russian Defense Ministry announced an agreement for the wounded to leave the mill for treatment in a town held by pro-Moscow separatists. There was no immediate word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

After nightfall Monday, several buses pulled away from the steel mill accompanied by Russian military vehicles. Maliar later confirmed that the evacuation had taken place.

“Thanks to the defenders of Mariupol, Ukraine gained critically important time to form reserves and regroup forces and receive help from partners,” she said. “And they fulfilled all their tasks. But it is impossible to unblock Azovstal by military means.”

The commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defense of the plant, said in a prerecorded video message released Monday that the evacuation marked the end of the regiment’s mission.

“Absolutely safe plans and operations don’t exist during war,” Lt. Col. Denis Prokopenko said, adding that all risks were considered and part of the plan included saving “as many lives of personnel as possible.”

Elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling that killed at least 10 people, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that nine civilians were killed in shelling.

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv was rocked by loud explosions early Tuesday. Witnesses counted at least eight blasts accompanied by distant booms, and the smell of burning was apparent some time later. An Associated Press team in Lviv, which was under an overnight curfew, said the sky west of the city was lit up by an orange glow.

But Ukrainian troops also advanced as Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who reportedly pushed them all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region.

Video showed Ukrainian soldiers carrying a post that resembled a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow-striped border marker. Then they placed it on the ground while a dozen of the soldiers posed next to it, including one with belts of bullets draped over a shoulder.

“I’m very grateful to you, on behalf of all Ukrainians, on my behalf and on behalf of my family,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “I’m very grateful to all the fighters like you.”

The Ukrainian border service said the video showing the soldiers was from the border “in the Kharkiv region,” but would not elaborate, citing security reasons. It was not immediately possible to verify the exact location.

Ukrainian border guards said they also stopped a Russian attempt to send sabotage and reconnaissance troops into the Sumy region, some 90 miles (146 kilometers) northwest of Kharkiv.

Russia has been plagued by setbacks in the war, most glaringly in its failure early on to take the capital of Kyiv. Much of the fighting has shifted to the Donbas but also has turned into a slog, with both sides fighting village-by-village.

Howitzers from the U.S. and other countries have helped Kyiv hold off or gain ground against Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. military assessment, said Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to within a half-mile to 2.5 miles (1 to 4 kilometers) of Russia’s border but could not confirm if it was all the way to the frontier.

The official said Russian long-range strikes also appeared to target a Ukrainian military training center in Yavoriv, near the Polish border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Away from the battlefield, Sweden’s decision to seek NATO membership followed a similar decision by neighboring Finland in a historic shift for the counties, which were nonaligned for generations.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said her country would be in a “vulnerable position” during the application period and urged her fellow citizens to brace themselves.

“Russia has said that that it will take countermeasures if we join NATO,” she said. “We cannot rule out that Sweden will be exposed to, for instance, disinformation and attempts to intimidate and divide us.”

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO member, ratcheted up his objection to their joining. He accused the countries of failing to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and of imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

He said Swedish and Finnish officials who are expected in Turkey next week should not bother to come if they intend to try to convince Turkey of dropping its objection.

“How can we trust them?” Erdogan asked at a joint news conference with the visiting Algerian president.

All 30 current NATO members must agree to let the Nordic neighbors join.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “does not have a problem” with Sweden or Finland as they apply for NATO membership, but that “the expansion of military infrastructure onto this territory will of course give rise to our reaction in response.”

Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24 in what he said was an effort to check NATO’s expansion but has seen that strategy backfire. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the membership process for both could be quick.

Europe is also working to choke off funding for the Kremlin’s war by reducing the billions of dollars it spends on imports of Russian energy. A proposed EU embargo faces opposition from some countries dependent on Russian imports, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bulgaria also has reservations.

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McQuillan reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odesa and other AP staffers around the world contributed.

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

Puffy white clouds filled the blue skies above Target Field and sunlight bounced off buildings that make up the Minneapolis skyline. It was the kind of summer night at the ballpark that Minnesotans dream about throughout the long winter months.

It was the perfect night at Target Field and the hometown team, well, they were nearly perfect, too. Twins pitchers gave up just one hit (and five walks), and the team captured a first-inning lead on its way to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Target Field.

A day after getting shut out for the 10th time this season, tying the league lead, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton made sure early on that the Twins wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Arraez snapped an 0-for-11 stretch to begin the game and Buxton, back in the lineup for the first time since Tuesday, followed that up with his first triple since 2019.

After missing time this week after his knee flared up, Buxton turned on the burners, with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet/second (30 ft/sec is elite) on the triple, losing his helmet along the way. When he reached the base, he pounded his chest a couple times, smacked his hands together and let out a roar.

While the Twins left Buxton on third, they added on throughout the game, tacking on a run in the second on Arraez’s second hit of the game, two more in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Alex Kirilloff drove in three of those runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other on a double off the right field wall, bringing home Max Kepler — who walked three times in the game — and Kyle Garlick. The double was his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A.

All that offense came in support of Chris Archer, who worked five innings and allowed just one hit — a single to former Twin C.J. Cron in the second inning — and a walk in his outing.  Archer pitched out of that second-inning jam, retiring the next three batters in a row, the first of 12 straight that he sent down to conclude his start.

His start was followed by a scoreless inning each from Jharel Cotton and Griffin Jax and two from Tyler Thornburg. Twins pitchers have now thrown two shutouts in their past three games, and in Friday’s loss, they gave up just one run.

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

1858: Joseph Israel Lobdell, born Lucy Lobdell, is arrested for “impersonating a man.” A judge in the rural camp community of Forest City, Minn., sided with Lobdell, ruling that he did not act unlawfully.

1877: Minneapolis rules crossdressing as illegal, putting gender-nonconforming Minnesotans at risk for imprisonment.

1969: The Stonewall riots begin in New York City after police raids occur in the gay-friendly bars and community spaces of Lower Manhattan. These riots serve as a public turning point in American LGBTQ+ history.

May 18, 1969: University of Minnesota alumni found Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, or FREE, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the state. Founders Jack Baker and Michael McConnell become the first same-sex couple in the nation to apply for a marriage license, an application that is rejected by Hennepin County. Their legal case is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in one sentence.

1972: The first Twin Cities Pride celebration is held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Dec. 9, 1972: Minnesota state Sen. Allan Henry Spear indicates he is gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star, making him the first openly gay state legislator in the United States.

June 1982: Bruce Brockway becomes the first documented recipient of an HIV diagnosis in Minnesota. After his diagnosis, he founded the Minnesota AIDS Project to provide resources to HIV-positive Minnesotans.

1993: Gender- and sexuality-based discrimination is outlawed in Minnesota, making it the first state in the nation to adopt the policy.

1997: Sicaŋgu Lakota man Nicholas Metcalf and his partner, Korean-American Edd Lee, found the Minnesota Men of Color, an organization that focuses on the well-being of men, women and gender-nonconforming people of color.

2012: Amendment 1, which limits marriage rights to only heterosexual couples, is rejected by the majority of Minnesota voters. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court releases a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in any state and must be recognized nationally. Gay marriage is legalized.

June 25-26, 2022: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the Twin Cities Pride parade and festival returns to Minneapolis.

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Ramsey County official recalls Pride marches in the early 1980s: A time of AIDS, discrimination

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Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul on June 23, 2022. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

Growing up in the 1970s in small farming communities outside of Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., Brian Theine knew three things: He was gay, he wanted to help people, and he wanted to live in a more cosmopolitan place.

Theine would go on to become a social worker and land in Minneapolis in 1982, toward the height of the AIDS epidemic. Instead of Minnesota Nice, he said he discovered profound rejection. Some 100 to 200 members of the gay and lesbian community would gather annually at a beach by the area then known as Lake Calhoun for a solidarity walk to Loring Park. Along the way, the insults and jeers from bystanders came hard and fast, and they were relentless.

Celebrating Pride meant suffering through verbal assault, and sometimes real punches.

Gay media at the time carried news accounts of men who had been badly beaten as they were arrested by police for loitering in the park, and the graphic image of a Black man who’d had his teeth knocked out still haunts Theine some 40 years later.

“It was sort of a feeling of, ‘What kind of place did I come to?’ ” he recalled.

This weekend, during the 50th anniversary celebration of Twin Cities Pride, Theine is spending at least eight hours each day manning a Ramsey County Social Services booth in Loring Park, encouraging members of the GLBTQ community and their allies to become foster parents and open their doors to young people who may be struggling with their gender identity or who have faced rejection at home and bullying in school.

Underscoring the degree to which the social landscape has changed, some 400,000 people are expected for the Ashley Rukes GLBTQ Pride Parade on Sunday down Hennepin Avenue. The parade had been canceled for two years in a row during the pandemic.

While social acceptance and legal rights may be more widespread than in the 1980s, Theine considers the issues confronting many GLBTQ youth to be no less profound. Theine, a manager in Ramsey County Social Services, oversees foster care licensing for children and adults, adoptions and other family services. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It’s the 50th anniversary of Twin Cities Pride. A lot more people are openly gay today than 50 years ago. Is it safe to say we’ve come a long way?

I made that leap in the late ’70s, and it was a time of HIV and AIDS awareness impacting the community hard, and a difficult journey for the next 10 years of my life. In my job life here at Ramsey County, I led a mobile crisis team for 10 years, and part of what I did was make the rounds with police. We reached out to them to make a bridge. We said hey, we have social workers, I’m a social worker. Let’s work as a mental health team and change what’s happening in the community. In these later years, I had a much different relationship with the police. I would never have approached the police like that in 1984, whereas I feel much more comfortable doing that today.

Back in the early 1980s, how many folks would attend Pride?

Maybe 100 to 200. I have nothing against the parades of today, but they’re long, a huge number of people come to the park. In a good year, 400,000 people come to the park. It’s great. It’s a different feeling now than in the 1980s. There was sort of an area known as the gay beach, and there was a part of the beach where African-American people would gather up. That’s where the parade would start out from. It was grassroots.

You mentioned arriving in the Twin Cities during the HIV and AIDS epidemic. What was that like for you at the time?

Brian Theine, manager of St. Paul Social Services, in his office overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul. (Bryson Rosell / Pioneer Press)

At that time, I had friends and people who I had actually dated who ended up with HIV. It was a scary time, because there was not a lot known about it, services weren’t available to get help. Friends of mine who had been diagnosed at that time were told they had two years to live. One of my friends is still living with HIV. He lost a couple doctors along that way who died of it. Friends I’ve known have suicided. We were sort of the pariah because of HIV.

It was isolating, and making our community feel alone, but it was actually sort of unifying, too. Our lesbian sisters came to help their gay brothers when others wouldn’t do so. I was part of the founding of OutFront Minnesota — which in 1987 had a different name, the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minnesota — because there weren’t a lot of support services at that time. We ran the hotlines, helping people get to therapy and direct care and making sure they had services in the home to try to have some quality of life. In a different job I was doing, I had to get people to volunteer to work on the floor of the nursing home where people went to rehab after the hospital, because finding staffing was a struggle.

A lot has changed legally, like the national legalization of gay marriage in 2015. And I’m sure a lot hasn’t changed depending upon where you are and what situation you’re in. Talk about your vantage point working in youth social services.

In the last three years or so, I came into this department of Children and Family Services to take on being a manager. There were people interested in this area of foster care and adoptions who wanted to work with the GLBTQ community to see if there was more they could do. The staff in our foster care and adoption unit also started showing up at Pride five years ago. At the same time, the department in social services here was getting consultation with the Human Rights Campaign, trying to figure out how to approach policies and procedures and change policies that needed to be refreshed.

If services didn’t join with our values, we wouldn’t place kids there. Today, we have had to move kids out of a foster home, or out of a residential treatment facility because of conflict with our policy. We all want to be accepted. Kids who identify as trans, or lesbian or gay, they’re no different from anybody else. We didn’t want to place them into placements where that was going to be a conflict. It’s written into our contracts for anyone who works with us, that recipients of our social services should not be subject to discrimination because of their race, gender expression, political beliefs, religion, etc. We’re not going to go into a contract with an agency in those kinds of situations.

How often would you assume kids in foster care are GLBTQ?

National numbers tell us as many as 30 percent of the kids identify. It’s a very GLBTQ community. Other surveys that are bit more local suggest it’s 27 percent, 28 percent, so it’s similar numbers. We’re trying to collect demographic data. We need to do that, because we have the anecdotal stories. That’s part of the systems change we’re working on.

Why are those numbers so large?

It’s one of those things that are hard to hear. We end up with kids who are homeless, living on the street as teens. They may need to do sex work to get inside and out of the cold on a cold winter night. Kids who are homeless had conflict in their homes. They’re struggling with gender identity or gender expression, and their home situation is too much to bear. The streets might feel safer than what they have at home.

There’s times we may need to reach out to a grandma or an aunt to say, ‘Can you take this kid in?’ It’s a whole variety of factors. There’s other things that happen to kids, like bullying in school, that still make coming out a hard time for people. There’s a lot of public schools that are trying to have Gay/Straight Alliances, or alliances to acknowledge our non-binary kids. But there’s these individual factors that can make life hard, and make it difficult to live without fear. And all of that contributes to what we’re seeing — kids who are couch-hopping or living on the street.

We need to reach out to their kinship support groups. People shouldn’t be in child protection just because they’re GLBTQ. They shouldn’t be in a group home or institutional care. We need to work with families upfront in a welfare way and not in a child-protection way. Ultimately, we don’t want any kid in foster care, and that’s part of our overall mission as a county — only to use foster care when we need it. That’s part of why we show up at Pride, to say, ‘Have you thought about being a foster parent?’ We need people who reflect the community. We keep saying it, and sometimes you have to hear it 15 times to get someone to sign up: ‘We need you.’

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