Long-range US rockets could give Ukraine major boost: analysts

This undated handout picture from Swedish aerospace and defence company, the Saab group, shows a Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) rocket during a test launch in Norway. (SAAB AB via AFP)
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Updated 31 March 2023
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Long-range US rockets could give Ukraine major boost: analysts

  • Now faced with the far longer-reaching GLSDB, the Russians will have to move almost double the distance away from the frontline
  • French expert Leo Peria-Peigne says the long-range rocket offer more potential compared to main battle tanks being sought by Ukraine

PARIS: The long-range rockets that Moscow says the United States has delivered to Ukraine could be a strategic asset for Kyiv against Russian troops in coming months, analysts say.
Russia on Tuesday said it had for the first time downed a ground-launched small-diameter bomb (GLSDB), a munition that can fly up to 150 kilometers (93 miles).
Kyiv has not confirmed the delivery, but the US Defense Department in early February said it would ship over the rocket-propelled precision bombs as part of a fresh arms package for the country.

Western nations have rallied to the side of Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor on February 24, 2022, dispatching all manner of weaponry to help.
But until now, Ukrainian forces could only strike some 80 kilometers behind the frontlines thanks to US high-precision HIMARS rockets.
“The HIMARS had already forced the Russians to reorganize their command and logistics, either by rendering them more discreet near the frontline or by withdrawing them 80 kilometers beyond it,” said Leo Peria-Peigne of the French Institute of International Relations.

Now faced with the far longer-reaching GLSDB, the Russians will have to move almost double the distance away from the frontline, and do so “with an already limited fleet of vehicles,” Peria-Peigne said.
The new deliveries also mean Russian-controlled shores of the Black Sea are now within firing range, complicating supply deliveries to the troops by sea.

On Monday, the UK defense ministry said it had since February 21 recorded at least 14 explosions around the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, more than 80 kilometers from the frontline.
“Russia will likely be concerned that unexplained explosions are occurring in a zone it had probably previously assessed as beyond the range of routine Ukrainian strike capabilities,” it said.
Produced by Boeing and the Saab Group, the GLSDB can hit a target from any angle within one meter, Saab says.
It was tested for the first time in Sweden in 2015, Boeing says on its website.
But its real trial will come in Ukraine.
“It will be the first real-time, massive use of this weapon, which will test its performance including in terms of precision,” Peria-Peigne said.
Kyiv on Monday said it had received modern Leopard and Challenger battle tanks from Germany and the United Kingdom, but the French expert said the long-range rocket offered more potential.
“Fifty tanks, even if they are the best in the world, will hardly have a strategic impact, but that is not the case for 10,000 GLSDB — if they live up to their promise,” he said.

Ivan Klyszcz, a research fellow at the Estonia-based International Center for Defense and Security, was more tempered in his predictions.
“The introduction of new systems — such as GLSDB — might change the dynamics on the battlefield in one direction or another,” he said.
But “right now, for Ukraine and Russia, the war effort comes down to manpower and artillery shells. The EU agreement to deliver one million shells to Ukraine strikes me as more consequential in that sense.”
The 27-nation bloc has agreed a plan aimed at supplying Kyiv with one million artillery shells over the next 12 months.
But Western allies often take a long time to agree to deliver the weapons that Ukraine requests.
Kyiv has, for example, long been begging for fighter jets, but has only so far secured a promise of 17 Soviet-design MiG-29 jets — 13 from Slovakia and four from neighboring Poland.
“It takes time for politicians and decision-makers to form coalitions to approve new arms deliveries,” said Klyszcz.
Many have initially been reluctant, fearing an escalation that would lead to a more direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Military aid to Ukraine “is becoming politicized in some countries,” with some Republicans in the United States for example increasingly questioning the deliveries.

But, said Peria-Peigne, Moscow can do little except protest.
Despite veiled threats that he will unleash a nuclear weapon, Russian President Vladimir “Putin cannot attack... another country as he is already struggling to beat Ukraine,” he said.
“And he cannot attack NATO as he knows he will lose.”


ICC unveils arrest warrant for top Sahel jihadist leader

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ICC unveils arrest warrant for top Sahel jihadist leader

Iyad Ag Ghaly is said to be the undisputed leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, which operates in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger
Ag Ghaly previously led the Ansar Dine militant group that invaded the city known as the “Pearl of the Desert” more than a decade ago

THE HAGUE: International Criminal Court judges on Friday made public an arrest warrant for one of the Sahel’s top militant leaders over alleged atrocities in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu from 2012 to 2013.
Iyad Ag Ghaly, age not given, is said to be the undisputed leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which operates in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The JNIM is accused of numerous attacks against national forces and atrocities against civilian populations.
Ag Ghaly previously led the Ansar Dine militant group that invaded the city known as the “Pearl of the Desert” more than a decade ago.
Also known as “Abou Fadl,” Ag Ghaly is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Timbuktu, the ICC said.
These included murder, rape and sexual slavery and attacks on buildings dedicated as religious and historic monuments.
Judges issued the warrant against Ag Ghaly in mid-2017, but the document has been kept under wraps for the past seven years because of “potential risks to witnesses and victims.”
The ICC “at the request of the Prosecutor, made public an arrest warrant against Iyad Ag Ghaly for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in northern Mali between January 2012 and January 2013,” the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.
“Mr Ghaly is not detained by the ICC,” the court said.
Ansar Dine occupied Timbuktu in 2012, taking pickaxes to 14 of the city’s famous mausoleums of Muslim saints. The group also conducted a reign of terror among the local population.
Ag Ghaly is a veteran of Mali’s internecine conflicts.
An ethnic Tuareg from northern Mali, he first leapt onto the stage during a Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s.
After it subsided, he went into business, before publicly returning to militancy again in 2012, with the newly created group called Ansar Dine.
That year, Tuareg separatists launched a rebellion in northern Mali, which was quickly commandeered by militants.
The event triggered a bloody conflict, which has now spread to the center of the country, and neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Opening its doors in 2002, the ICC is the only independent court that investigates and prosecutes the world’s worst crimes.
However, the court does not have the capacity to apprehend suspects and relies on member states to carry out arrests.

One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds

Updated 15 min 6 sec ago
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One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds

  • The man, 55, was injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula
  • Dozens of firefighters assisted by aircraft were deployed to tame forest fires in Ilia

ATHENS: A man died on Friday as several forest fires fanned by gale-force winds battered Greece's southern tip and forced evacuations, the fire brigade said.
The man, 55, was injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula and died at a hospital, said a fire service official.
Dozens of firefighters assisted by aircraft were deployed to tame forest fires in Ilia, the nearby Achaia region and near the town of Kranidi, also in Peloponnese.
Residents of several villages in those areas were told to flee their homes as blazes approached.
Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country, but they have become more devastating as summers have become hotter and drier, which scientists relate to climate change.
Winds of up to 95 kph (60 mph) were hampering operations of firefighting aircraft, Greek fire brigade spokesperson Vasilis Vathrakogiannis said.
"All civil protection forces have been on alert today," he told a televised briefing, as around 45 wildfires broke out in the country within a few hours.
One forest fire that briefly threatened houses at a coastal town close to the capital Athens was contained earlier on Friday, the fire brigade said.


Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted

Updated 21 June 2024
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Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted

  • Russia said its air defenses shot down scores of drones, including a half dozen it said were launching a naval attack in the Black Sea
  • SBU drones struck oil refineries in the Russian locations of Afipsky, Ilsky, and Krasnodar, which supply fuel for ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

KYIV: The Ukrainian military launched a wave of drones that struck three oil refineries inside southern Russia overnight, a security official said Friday, as Ukraine tries to disrupt the infrastructure that supplies the Russian military.
Russia said its air defenses shot down scores of drones, including a half dozen it said were launching a naval attack in the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian security official said his country’s forces also struck a drone-launching facility within Russia, but declined to say how that target was attacked. The operations involved the armed forces and the Ukrainian Security Service, SBU, the official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to announce the information publicly.
SBU drones struck oil refineries in the Russian locations of Afipsky, Ilsky, and Krasnodar, which supply fuel for ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the official said.
Ukrainian forces also struck a drone facility in the southern Russia town of Yeysk where Iranian-designed Shahed drones were stored and launched, the official said. A “series of explosions” were recorded there, the official said.
Russian regional authorities in the Krasnodar region said four people were injured, including oil refinery workers, as a result of drone strikes.
Despite improvements in Russia’s air defenses, Ukraine has continued its campaign to strike oil infrastructure across the border, hitting multiple sites in 2024, as part of a wider effort to disrupt Russia’s military supplies.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that its air defenses had downed 114 Ukrainian drones It said that 70 drones were shot down in Crimea and the Black Sea, 43 in the Krasnodar region and one in the Volgograd region, further east.
Russian warplanes also destroyed six Ukrainian naval drones in the Black Sea early Friday, the ministry said, responding to an incident that appeared to be one of the largest drone attacks of its type in recent months.
Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, said that Ukrainian drones also damaged a boiler room near a bus station in the city of Krasnodar, killing a worker.


Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children

Updated 21 June 2024
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Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children

  • A separately funded $1.2 billion scheme to boost vaccine production in Africa, the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator, also launched
  • Gavi helps low-income countries buy vaccines to protect against killer diseases

LONDON: The global vaccine organization Gavi wants $9 billion from governments and foundations to fund immunization efforts in the world’s poorest countries over five years, it said on Thursday.
The amount was finalized at a meeting in Paris, where donors also began announcing commitments for the organization’s plan for 2026-2030. Gavi said it had already raised $2.4 billion of the total with months more fundraising to go, including $1.58 billion from the United States.
A separately funded $1.2 billion scheme to boost vaccine production in Africa, the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator, also launched.
Gavi helps low-income countries buy vaccines to protect against killer diseases. Around one billion children have been immunized as a result of Gavi’s work since 2020.
Gavi Chief Executive Sania Nishtar said the group aims to move more quickly and offer more vaccines. This will include expanding a malaria vaccine roll-out, which began in Cameroon this year, as well as catching up on routine programs for diseases like measles, which were set back by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global vaccine alliance wants to reach “the highest number of children, covering them against the widest number of diseases ... in the shortest possible time,” Nishtar told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday, ahead of the meeting.
The organization wants to reach 500 million children in the next five years, including 50 million children with the malaria vaccine.
Gavi board documents had suggested the alliance needs up to $11.9 billion for its work from 2026 on. The remaining money will come from leftover COVID-19 financing and some financial instruments the organization has in place, Nishtar said, although she acknowledged it was a very challenging time for global health, with aid budgets stretched worldwide by demands from conflicts to climate change.
“Gavi has never had to make trade-offs,” she said. “On the one hand, there is a wide portfolio of vaccines available. On the other hand, we’re looking at an environment where donors are resource constrained.”
But she said she was cautiously optimistic that the organization would raise the amount needed.
Gavi also plans to further expand its work in the coming years, for example by setting up an mpox vaccine stockpile. It is also likely to add a dengue vaccine to its program as climate change puts more countries at risk of outbreaks. It will also establish a “day zero” $500 million pandemic response fund for quick action on major outbreaks.


Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges

Updated 21 June 2024
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Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges

  • The three men were arrested in the western city of Frankfurt on Wednesday after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national“
  • Prosecutors did not specify which foreign secret service the men were allegedly working for

BERLIN: German prosecutors said Friday they had arrested three men — a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Armenian — on suspicion of spying for a foreign intelligence service.
The three men were arrested in the western city of Frankfurt on Wednesday after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
The men were only identified as Robert A. from Ukraine, Vardges I. from Armenia and Russian citizen Arman S.
Prosecutors did not specify which foreign secret service the men were allegedly working for, and declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.
“The three suspects were acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service in Germany,” the statement said, adding that the trio had on June 19 “scouted a cafe in Frankfurt am Main where the target person was thought to be.”
Germany has uncovered numerous espionage cases on its soil since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
A former German intelligence officer is currently on trial in Berlin, accused of handing information to Moscow that showed Germany had access to details of Russian mercenary operations in Ukraine. He denies the charges.
Last month, a German former soldier was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for sharing secret military information with Russia in the wake of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
Russian authorities for their part have levelled treason charges against dozens of people accused of aiding Ukraine and the West since the invasion.