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.


Five killed in nursing home shooting in Croatia

Updated 14 sec ago
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Five killed in nursing home shooting in Croatia

  • Unidentified gunman entered a nursing home in Daruvar — some 130 kilometers east of Zagreb — and began shooting
  • Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list described the alleged shooter as a ‘retired military police officer’
DARUVAR, Croatia: A gunman opened fire in a nursing home in Croatia on Monday, killing at least five people, according to officials and state media, in a rare instance of gun violence in the Balkan country.
State broadcaster HRT said an unidentified gunman entered a nursing home in Daruvar — some 130 kilometers east of Zagreb — and began shooting.
At least five were killed and several others wounded during the incident, HRT said.
Police said they were informed of the incident at 10:10 a.m. local time (0810 GMT), and confirmed the suspect had entered the nursing home and used a firearm.
“The person linked to the perpetration of the crime is under police custody,” police said in a statement.
The number of dead was later confirmed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who called for a thorough investigation by relevant officials.
“We are appalled by the murder of five people at the home for elderly in Daruvar,” Plenkovic said on social media.
The head of a regional emergency care facility, Nenad Mrzlecki, told local media that medical teams found four dead at the scene and four others wounded, who were immediately taken to local hospitals.
Mrzlecki did not provide information about the fifth victim.
“Our teams are still on the ground and the priority is to provide everyone with the necessary help, after that is done we will know the exact data on the number of victims,” he said.
Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list described the alleged shooter as a “retired military police officer” who killed his mother along with other residents and staff.
Daruvar, a town of some 7,000, has long been a popular spa destination thanks to the area’s thermal springs.
Shootings in the Balkan country are rare.
Last year in neighboring Serbia, the country was rocked by back-to-back mass shootings, including a massacre at a school in the capital in Belgrade in which 10 people were killed.

Ukraine’s top diplomat to visit China this week to talk peace, Kyiv says

Updated 21 min 33 sec ago
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Ukraine’s top diplomat to visit China this week to talk peace, Kyiv says

  • Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will discuss bilateral ties at talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during a trip from July 23 to 25
  • The trip is unusual as China is widely seen as close to the Kremlin

KYIV/BEIJING: Ukraine’s top diplomat will visit China on Tuesday at the invitation of Beijing for talks that Kyiv said would focus on how to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and on a possible Chinese role in reaching a settlement.
Nearly 29 months since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will discuss bilateral ties at talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a trip to China from July 23 to 25, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
“The main topic of discussion will be the search for ways to stop Russia’s aggression and China’s possible role in achieving a stable and just peace,” the Ukrainian ministry said in a statement on its website.
The Chinese statement said Kuleba’s visit would run from July 23 to 26 and provided less detail.
The trip is unusual as China is widely seen as close to the Kremlin, with which Beijing declared a “no limits” partnership in 2022 just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Though the world’s second largest economy has not condemned the Russian invasion and helped keep Russia’s war economy afloat, Kyiv has been cautious in its criticism of Beijing.
China meanwhile says its ties with Russia are built on the basis of non-alliance and do not target any third party.
Various peace initiatives have emerged in recent months as the fighting has dragged on ahead of a US election in November that could see the return to power of ex-president Donald Trump who has threatened to cut vital aid flows to Ukraine.
Kyiv held an international summit without Russian representation in Switzerland in June to promote its vision of peace and now says it hopes to be ready to hold another one in November that would feature Russian representation.
China, which did not attend the Swiss summit, together with Brazil published a separate six-point peace plan on May 23, saying they supported an international peace conference being held that would be recognized by both sides in the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that only the world’s powerful countries would be able to successfully bring an end to the war, singling out China as well as Kyiv’s close US ally as two possibilities.
The Ukrainian leader has said that China should play a serious role in helping to resolve the war.


India court suspends order to restaurants to display owners’ names after anti-Muslim bias concerns

Updated 22 July 2024
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India court suspends order to restaurants to display owners’ names after anti-Muslim bias concerns

NEW DELHI: India’s top court ruled on Monday that restaurants cannot be forced to display the names of their owners, suspending police orders in two northern states that critics had said could foment discrimination against Muslims.
Police in the two states, both ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party, gave oral orders in at least two districts requiring restaurants to put the names of their owners on display boards.
Police said this would help avoid disputes for thousands of Hindu pilgrims who travel on foot to sacred sites during a holy month, many of whom follow dietary restrictions, such as eating no meat during their journey.
But a Supreme Court bench ruled on Monday that while restaurants could be expected to state the type of food they serve, including whether it is vegetarian, they “must not be forced” to display the name and identities of owners.
The court suspended orders by police in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states and issued a notice to them seeking their response on petitions challenging the move.
More than a third of India’s 1.4 billion people are estimated to be vegetarian — the world’s largest percentage of people who don’t eat meat or eggs — as they follow diets promoted by groups within Hinduism and other religions.
Some vegetarians choose not to eat in restaurants that also serve meat and don’t rent out houses to meat-eating tenants.
A few allies of Modi and leaders of opposition parties had criticized the police orders, saying they feared they would deepen the communal divide and lead to Hindus avoiding restaurants employing Muslims.
Political foes accuse Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting India’s roughly 200 million minority Muslims for electoral gains, which Modi and the BJP both deny.
“Such orders are social crimes, which want to spoil the peaceful atmosphere of harmony,” opposition Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav had said in a post on X, criticizing the police moves.


China and the Philippines announce deal aimed at stopping clashes at fiercely disputed shoal

Updated 22 July 2024
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China and the Philippines announce deal aimed at stopping clashes at fiercely disputed shoal

  • Crucial deal reached after a series of meetings between Philippine and Chinese diplomats in Manila
  • Beijing has disputes with several governments over land and sea borders, many of them in the South China Sea

MANILA: China and the Philippines reached a deal they hope will end confrontations at the most fiercely disputed shoal in the South China Sea, the Philippine government said Sunday.
The Philippines occupies Second Thomas Shoal but China also claims it, and increasingly hostile clashes at sea have sparked fears of larger conflicts that could involve the United States.
The crucial deal was reached Sunday, after a series of meetings between Philippine and Chinese diplomats in Manila and exchanges of diplomatic notes that aimed to establish a mutually acceptable arrangement at the shoal, which Filipinos call Ayungin and the Chinese call Ren’ai Jiao, without conceding either side’s territorial claims.
Two Philippine officials, who had knowledge of the negotiations, confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity and the government later issued a brief statement announcing the deal without providing details.
“Both sides continue to recognize the need to deescalate the situation in the South China Sea and manage differences through dialogue and consultation and agree that the agreement will not prejudice each other’s positions in the South China Sea,” the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced shortly after midnight Sunday that they discussed with the Philippines “managing the situation at Ren’ai Jiao and reached provisional arrangement with the Philippines on humanitarian resupply of living necessities.”
Neither side released the text of the agreement.
China has disputes with several governments over land and sea borders, many of them in the South China Sea. The rare deal with the Philippines could spark hope that similar arrangements could be forged by Beijing with other countries to avoid clashes while thorny territorial issues remain unresolved. It remains to be seen, however, if the deal could be implemented successfully and how long it will last.
Chinese coast guard and other forces have used powerful water cannons and dangerous blocking maneuvers to prevent food and other supplies from reaching Filipino navy personnel at Manila’s outpost at the shoal, on a long-grounded and rusting warship, the BRP Sierra Madre.
The yearslong territorial standoff has flared repeatedly since last year.
In the worst confrontation, Chinese forces on motorboats repeatedly rammed and then boarded two Philippine navy boats on June 17 to prevent Filipino personnel from transferring food and other supplies including firearms to the ship outpost in the shallows of the shoal, according to the Philippine government.
The Chinese seized the Philippine navy boats and damaged them with machetes and improvised spears. They also seized seven M4 rifles, which were packed in cases, and other supplies. The violent faceoff wounded several Filipino navy personnel, including one who lost his thumb, in a chaotic skirmish that was captured in video and photos that were later made public by Philippine officials.
China and the Philippines blamed each other for the confrontation and each asserted their own sovereign rights over the shoal.
The United States and its key Asian and Western allies, including Japan and Australia, condemned the Chinese acts at the shoal and called for the rule of law and freedom of navigation to be upheld in the South China Sea, a key global trade route with rich fishing areas and undersea gas deposits.
In addition to China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have been locked in separate but increasingly tense territorial disputes in the waterway, which is regarded as a potential flashpoint and a delicate fault line in the US-China regional rivalry. The US military has deployed Navy ships and fighter jets for decades in what it calls freedom of navigation and overflight patrols, which China has opposed and regards as a threat to regional stability.
Washington has no territorial claims in the disputed waters but has repeatedly warned that it is obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.
One of the two Philippine officials said the June 17 confrontation prompted Beijing and Manila to hasten on-and-off talks on an arrangement that would prevent confrontations at Second Thomas Shoal.
During final meetings in the last four days, two Chinese demands that had been key sticking points were removed from the draft deal.
China had previously said it would allow food, water and other basic supplies to be transported by the Philippines to its forces at the shoal if Manila agreed not to bring construction materials to fortify the crumbling ship and to give China advance notice and the right to inspect the ships for those materials, the officials said.
The Philippines rejected those conditions, and the final deal did not include them, according to the Philippine officials.


France says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ at Olympics

Updated 22 July 2024
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France says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ at Olympics

PARIS: Israeli athletes are welcome at the Paris Olympics, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Monday, after a hard-left member of the French parliament sparked outrage by urging them to stay away.
“The Israeli delegation is welcome in France,” Sejourne said in Brussels ahead of talks with his Israeli counterpart, adding that the call by France Unbowed (LFI) lawmaker Thomas Portes for the country’s exclusion had been “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“We will ensure the security of the delegation,” Sejourne added.
Portes drew ire from French Jewish groups and both political opponents and allies for saying Israeli athletes were “not welcome” and calling for “mobilization” around the Olympics, during a demonstration in support of Palestinians.
He later told the Parisien newspaper that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” over its invasion of Ukraine.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the comments had “hints of anti-Semitism” while the head of the Crif Jewish organization Yonathan Arfi said he was “putting a target on the backs” of Israeli athletes.
Portes’ remarks were condemned at the weekend by some allies from the more moderate Socialists, but backed by others in LFI.