Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

Britain says talking to Ukraine, not Russia, about jailed soldiers

Britain is prioritizing talking to Ukraine rather than Russia on the situation of two jailed British men who have been sentenced to death in one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Friday. Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine were sentenced to death on Thursday by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) on Thursday.

Scholz backs giving ‘realistic chance’ to Western Balkans on EU membership bid

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised to help the Western Balkans to reinvigorate their long-stalled campaign for European Union membership, a move aimed at easing regional tensions and fending off the influence of rival powers such as Russia. Speaking alongside the Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Pristina at the start of a two-day trip, Scholz said his government had made their EU membership a priority and would also support Kosovo’s aspiration for EU visa liberalization.

Intense fighting reported in Ukraine’s bombed-out Sievierodonetsk

Ukrainian forces were holding their positions in intense street fighting and under day and night shelling in Sievierodonetsk, officials said, as Russia pushes to control the bombed-out city, the key to its objective of controlling eastern Ukraine. Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk, on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, are the last Ukrainian-controlled parts of Luhansk province, which Russia is determined to seize as one of its principal war objectives.

U.S., Chinese defense ministers stand firm over Taiwan in meeting

The defense chiefs of China and the United States held face-to-face talks in Singapore on Friday, with both sides standing firm on their opposing views over Taiwan’s right to rule itself. Relations between China and the United States have been tense in recent months, with the world’s two largest economies clashing over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.

‘Girls’ education is a climate solution’: Malala Yousafzai joins climate protest

The fight against climate change is also a fight for the right to education of girls, millions of whom lose access to schools due to climate-related events, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai told Reuters on Friday. Yousafzai was speaking outside the Swedish parliament where she joined environmental campaigners Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate at one of the Friday climate protests which have been held there every week since 2018 and sparked a global movement.

U.S. summit plan eyes better job and legal conditions for migrants

Signatories to a declaration at the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas on Friday will pledge to expand temporary work programs for migrants and improve their legal options as the region works to manage record levels of migration, U.S. officials said. The Biden administration has sought to portray migration as a challenge for all governments in the Americas, calling on them to strengthen the rights of migrants.

South Korea trucker strike poses early test for new president

A strike by South Korean truckers poses an early test for President Yoon Suk-yeol after a month in office, with the dispute threatening to distract from his agenda while raising the risk of long-term antagonism with powerful trade unions. Thousands of truckers went on strike for a fourth day on Friday in a protest over pay as fuel costs surge, disrupting industrial production, slowing port operations and posing new risks to a strained global supply chain.

Pope’s trip to Africa in July postponed because of knee problem, Vatican says

Pope Francis’ July 2-7 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan has been indefinitely postponed because of the 85-year-old pontiff’s knee ailment, the Vatican said on Friday. A statement said the postponement was made ‘with regret’ at the requests of the pope’s doctors, who have been treating him for a torn ligament in his knee. The condition has forced him to use a wheelchair for the last month or so.

No signs of Russian threat to Sweden, Finland -NATO deputy chief

NATO’s deputy chief sees no immediate military threat to Sweden and Finland from Russia and is confident that the aspiring NATO members will join the alliance despite Turkey’s objections, he told the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Friday. Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but face opposition from Turkey, which accuses them of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups it deems terrorists.

Sri Lanka tycoon Dhammika Perera to replace president’s brother in parliament

One of Sri Lanka’s richest businessmen will replace the president’s brother in parliament, a ruling party official said on Friday, as the cash-strapped country moves forward on talks for a bailout plan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sri Lanka is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since independence in 1948. Foreign exchange reserves have dropped to record lows leaving it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, food and medicine and triggering shortages and months of protests.

(With inputs from agencies.)