UK to supply tanks to Ukraine; casualties after barrage of Russian missiles

A view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro on January 14, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2023
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UK to supply tanks to Ukraine; casualties after barrage of Russian missiles

  • Sunak made the pledge to provide Challenger 2 tanks and other artillery systems after speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday
  • "There are already five dead," Dnipropetrovsk governor said on Telegram after Russian strikes

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday promised to provide tanks and artillery systems to Ukraine, amid renewed missile attacks by Moscow targeting multiple Ukrainian cities for the first time in nearly two weeks.
Five people were killed and 39 wounded in the southeastern city of Dnipro, where a Russian missile strike destroyed a section of an apartment building, regional Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said. Photos showed a large gap in the nine-story building.
Infrastructure facilities were also hit in the western Lviv region and Ivano-Frankivsk regions, in the Odesa region on the Black Sea and in northeastern Kharkiv. Kyiv, the capital, was also targeted.
Sunak made the pledge to provide Challenger 2 tanks and other artillery systems after speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, the British leader’s Downing Street office said in a statement.
It didn’t say when the tanks would be delivered or how many. British media have reported that four British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks will be sent to Eastern Europe immediately, with eight more to follow shortly after, without citing sources.
Zelensky tweeted his thanks to Sunak on Saturday “for the decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners.”
Ukraine has for months sought to be supplied with heavier tanks, including the US Abrams and the German Leopard 2 tanks, but Western leaders have been treading carefully.
The Czech Republic and Poland have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces. Poland has also expressed readiness to provide a company of Leopard tanks, but President Andrzej Duda stressed during his recent visit to the Ukrainian city of Lviv that the move would be possible only as an element in a larger international coalition of tank aid to Kyiv.
Earlier this month, France said it would send AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, designated “light tanks” in French. The US and Germany announced the same week that they would send Bradley fighting vehicles and Marder armored personnel carriers, respectively, for the first time.
Sunak’s announcement came as Russian forces fired missiles at Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine on Saturday in the first major barrage in days.
In Dnipro, rescuers were using a crane to try to evacuate people trapped in the apartment building’s upper stories, some of whom were signaling with the flashlights on their mobile phones, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on Telegram. He also said there were likely people under the rubble.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said two Russian missiles hit an infrastructure object again on Saturday afternoon, following a similar attack in the morning, In the city of Kharkiv, the subway suspended operations amid the attacks, according to its Telegram channel.
Another infrastructure facility was hit in the western Lviv region, according to Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi.
Air defense systems were activated in other regions of Ukraine, as well, and as another round of air raid sirens sounded across the country in the afternoon, regional officials urged local residents to seek shelter.
Vitali Kim, governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, hinted in a Telegram post that some missiles have been intercepted over his province.
Military top commander Valeri Zaluzhny said that Russia overall fired 33 cruise missiles on Saturday, of which 21 were shot down.
Earlier in the day, explosions also rocked the capital, Kyiv. The blasts occurred before air sirens sounded, which is unusual. It’s likely the explosions came ahead of the warning sirens because the attack was by ballistic missiles, which are faster than cruise missiles or drones.
According to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, Russia attacked Kyiv with ballistic missiles flying from the north.
“The ballistics are not easy for us to detect and shoot down,” he told local media. The warning about the missile threat was late because of the lack of radar data and information from other sources.
An infrastructure target was hit in the morning missile attack, according to Ukrainian officials.
Explosions were heard in the Dniprovskyi district, a residential area on the left bank of the Dnieper River, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Klitschko also said that fragments of a missile fell on a nonresidential area in the Holosiivskyi district on the right bank, and a fire briefly broke out in a building there. No casualties have been reported so far.
This was the first attack on the Ukrainian capital since Jan. 1.
On Saturday morning, two Russian missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The strikes with S-300 missiles targeted “energy and industrial objects of Kharkiv and the (outlying) region,” governor Syniehubov said. No casualties have been reported, but emergency power cuts in the city and other settlements of the region were possible, the official said.
In the city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine where fighting is most intense, three people were killed in Russian artillery attacks on Saturday, mayor Vitalii Barabash said. One person died in a rocket attack in Kryvyi Rih, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Reznichenko said.
The attacks follow conflicting reports on the fate of the fiercely contested salt mining town of Soledar, in Ukraine’s embattled east. Russia claims that its forces have captured the town, a development that would mark a rare victory for the Kremlin after a series of humiliating setbacks on the battlefield.
Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar said Saturday that the “fiece battles for Soledar are continuing.”
Moscow has painted the battle for the town and the nearby city of Bakhmut as key to capturing the eastern region of the Donbas, which comprises of partially occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and as a way to grind down the best Ukrainian forces and prevent them from launching counterattacks elsewhere.
But that cuts both ways, as Ukraine says its fierce defense of the eastern strongholds has helped tie up Russian forces. Western officials and analysts say the two towns’ importance is more symbolic than strategic.


South Korea’s military fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday -Yonhap

Updated 4 sec ago
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South Korea’s military fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed border on Thursday -Yonhap

SEOUL: South Korea’s military fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers crossed the border on Thursday, the Yonhap news agency reported on Friday citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
It is at least the third time such an incident occurred this month.  

 


US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

Updated 21 June 2024
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US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

  • White House says it can do this by redirecting orders made by other allies for air defense systems
  • Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes

WASHINGTON: The White House announced Thursday that it will rush delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine by redirecting planned shipments to other allied nations, as Washington scrambles to counter increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
National security spokesman John Kirby said the US had taken the “difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize near-term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries,” though he wouldn’t say which nations would be affected or how many.
“Right now, we know that Ukraine urgently needs these additional capabilities,” Kirby said on a call with reporters, adding, “Obviously more is needed, and it’s needed now.”
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden, during last week’s Group of Seven meeting in Italy, suggested such action might be necessary, saying, “We’ve let it be known for those countries that are expecting, from us, air defense systems in the future, that they’re going to have to wait.”
“Everything we have is going to go to Ukraine until their needs are met,” Biden said. “And then we will make good on the commitments we made to other countries.”
The US was already sending Ukraine a consistent stream of interceptors for its air defense systems, including for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. But Kirby said that more was urgently needed as Russia’s military has accelerated missile and drone attacks against cities and infrastructure centers “trying to destroy Ukraine’s energy system ahead of this winter.”

This handout photograph taken on June 18, 2024 and released by the Press service of the 24th mechanized brigade shows Ukrainian servicemen repairing military equipment at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (AFP)

Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes, as each side seeks to hinder the other’s ability to continue fighting.
The number of interceptors to be sent isn’t clear but Kirby said it could involve “hundreds” of Patriot interceptor missiles.
Kirby said Ukraine will get prioritized shipments as soon as systems roll off assembly lines for the next about 16 months, and those will provide the country with “enough capability” during that period.
After that, he said, “Countries that have been asked to delay will start to get” deliveries of systems they had already ordered.
Kirby said the move means “a range of countries” will face delays in receiving missile systems that are being diverted to Ukraine but that the shift would not affect Taiwan or what it “continues to need and receive for self-defense” in the face of potential threats from China.
Asked to describe how other countries reacted to the shift, Kirby said they were “broadly understanding of it.”
“They know how serious the need is in Ukraine,” he said.


Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

Updated 21 June 2024
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Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

  • The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district

PARIS: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is seen leading the race ahead of France’s parliamentary elections, three polls showed on Thursday, ahead of the leftwing Popular Front and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists.
Pollster IFOP in a survey for broadcasting group TF1 and Le Figaro said the National Rally (RN) would secure 34 percent of the vote, while the Popular Front would reach 29 percent and Macron’s Together bloc would get 22 percent.
Another poll by Harris Interactive — conducted for RTL radio, M6 TV and Challenges Magazine — put the RN at 33 percent, while the left was seen at 26 percent and Macron’s camp at 21 percent.
A third poll published on Thursday, by OpinionWay on behalf of CNews TV, Europe 1 radio and the Journal du Dimanche paper, also put the RN in the lead with 35 percent of the votes, ahead of the Popular Front which had 27 percent and Macron’s camp which had 20 percent.
The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district.
The Harris poll, however, made rough seat projections and forecast 235 to 280 seats for RN and its allies, which would fall short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority but make it by far the largest bloc.


New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

Updated 21 June 2024
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New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

  • The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a bill that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts suggested by a platform’s algorithm, a move to limit feeds critics argue are addictive.
Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under age 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by an automated algorithm. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6 a.m.
Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent.”
The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user’s age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement the regulations.
“We can protect our kids. We can tell the companies that you are not allowed to do this, you don’t have a right to do this, that parents should have say over their children’s lives and their health, not you,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Manhattan.
The signing is the first step in what is expected to be a drawn out process of rule making, and a probable lawsuit from social media companies to block the law.
NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, has criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.
“This is an assault on free speech and the open Internet by the State of New York,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”
Most of the biggest social media platforms send users a steady stream of suggested videos, photographs and other content, using a computer to try and predict what will keep users entertained and engaged for as long as possible. The algorithms use a variety of factors to curate that content, including what a user has clicked on before and interests of other people with similar preferences.
The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced plans to work with the Legislature on a bill to restrict smartphone usage for students during the school day, though he didn’t provide exact details on what the proposal would include. Newsom in 2019 signed a bill allowing school districts to limit or ban smartphones while at school.
There hasn’t been broad legislation on the subject at the federal level but it is a common point of discussion in Washington. This week the US surgeon general called on Congress to put warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarettes, citing mental health dangers for children using the sites.
Some tech companies, with pressure mounting, have decided to set up parental controls on their platforms. Last year, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, created tools that allowed parents to set time limits on the apps for children.
The New York legislation, debuted last October, had faced major pushback in the Legislature from the tech industry.
“Social media platforms manipulate what our children see online to keep them on the platforms as long as possible,” said James, a Democrat who pushed for the bill. “The more time young people spend on social media, the more they are at risk of developing serious mental health concerns.”


Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

Updated 21 June 2024
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Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

  • A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows individuals to live and work permanently in the United States and is a path to citizenship

MIAMI: Former President Donald Trump said in an interview posted on Thursday he wants to give automatic green cards to foreign students who graduate from US colleges, a sharp departure from the anti-immigrant rhetoric he typically uses on the campaign trail.
Trump was asked about plans for companies to be able to import the “best and brightest” in a podcast taped Wednesday with venture capitalists and tech investors called the “All-In.”
“What I want to do and what I will do is you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically as part of your diploma a green card to be able to stay in this country. And that includes junior colleges too, anybody graduates from a college. You go there for two years or four years,” he said, vowing to address this concern on day one.
Immigration has been Trump’s signature issue during his 2024 bid to return to the White House. His suggestion that he would offer green cards — documents that confer a pathway to US citizenship — to potentially hundreds of thousands of foreign graduates would represent a sweeping expansion of America’s immigration system that sharply diverges from his most common messages on foreigners.
Trump has blamed immigrants who are in the country illegally for committing crimes, stealing jobs and government resources, and suggested that they are “poisoning the blood of our country.” He has promised to carry out the largest deportation operation in US history if elected.
Trump and his allies often say they distinguish between people entering illegally versus legally. But during his administration, Trump also proposed curbs on legal immigration such as family-based visas and the visa lottery program.
Right after taking office in 2017, he issued his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, directing Cabinet members to suggest reforms to ensure that business visas were only awarded to the highest-paid or most-skilled applicants to protect American workers.
He has previously said the H1-B program commonly used by companies to hire foreign workers temporarily — a program he has used in the past — was “very bad” and used by tech companies to get foreign workers for lower pay.
During the conversation with “All-In,” Trump blamed the coronavirus pandemic for being unable to implement these measures while he was president. He said he knows of stories of people who graduate from top colleges and want to stay in the US but can’t secure visas to do so, forcing them to return to their native countries, specifically naming India and China. He said they go on and become multibillionaires, employing thousands of workers.
“You need a pool of people to work for your company,” Trump said. “And they have to be smart people. Not everybody can be less than smart. You need brilliant people.”