World Inside

West unveils sanctions with more ready if Russia carries out full-scale Ukraine invasion

Publish: 09:05 AM, 23 Feb, 2022


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Highlights:

US' Blinken cancels meeting with Russia's Lavrov

U.S and UK target banks, EU blacklists more politicians

Germany freezes gas pipeline project with Russia

West fears full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia


Western nations on Tuesday punished Russia with new sanctions for ordering troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and threatened to go further if Moscow launched an all-out invasion of its neighbour.

The United States, the European Union, Canada and Britain announced plans to target banks and elites while Germany halted a major gas pipeline project from Russia, which they say has amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine's borders. Moscow has denied planning an invasion.

One of the worst security crises in Europe in decades is unfolding as Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered soldiers into Donetsk and Luhansk to "keep the peace." Washington has dismissed that as "nonsense".

Satellite imagery over the past 24 hours shows several new troop and equipment deployments in western Russia and more than 100 vehicles at a small airfield in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine, according to US firm Maxar.

Weeks of intense diplomacy have so far failed and on Tuesday both US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian cancelled separate meetings scheduled with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"To put it simply Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine," Biden said on Tuesday.

"This is the beginning of a Russian invasion."

Plans announced by Biden to bolster Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania include sending 800 infantry soldiers and up to eight F-35 fighter jets to locations along NATO's eastern flank, a US official said, but are a redistribution, not additions.

Putin did not watch Biden's speech and Russia will first look at what the United States has outlined before responding, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, cited by Russian news agencies.

Early on Wednesday, Putin said he was always open to finding diplomatic solutions but that "the interests of Russia and the security of our citizens are unconditional for us."

Moscow is calling for security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO, while the US and its allies offer Putin confidence-building and arms control steps to defuse the stand-off.

A meeting between Biden and Putin, brokered by France, "certainly is not in the plans" at this point in time, the White House said on Tuesday.

MORE SANCTIONS TO COME?

US sanctions are being applied to VEB bank and Russia's military bank, Promsvyazbank, which does defence deals, Biden said. Starting on Tuesday, sanctions will begin against Russian elites and their family members.

Tass news agency cited Promsvyazbank as saying the sanctions would not have a significant effect since it had taken precautionary measures ahead of time. It did not give details.

Washington also said that it restricted dealings in the secondary market with Russia's sovereign debt for bonds issued after March 1.

Canada also announced similar steps and will impose sanctions on members of the Russian parliament who voted for the decision to recognise the two separatist areas.

But many Western nations held off the strictest sanctions as they try to dissuade a larger Russian assault. Russia's Sberbank SBER.MM and VTB VTBR.MM would face sanctions if Moscow proceeds with an invasion, said a senior US official, warning of a hit to the wider economy.

"We are fully prepared with a very large number of countries across the world to implement ... export control measures."

The European Union and Britain chiefly targeted Russian banks and their ability to operate internationally with the impact likely to be minimal.

Lavrov earlier brushed off the threat of sanctions.

"Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called punishment of Russia," he said.

MARKETS WORRY, SEPARATISTS CELEBRATE

The prospect of a disruption to energy supplies and fears of war - stoked by reports of shelling in some areas and movements of unmarked tanks overnight in the city of Donetsk - rattled markets and sent oil prices to their highest level since 2014.

Germany put the brakes on the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Britain also hit Russian banks with sanctions. The Russian foreign ministry criticised the new measures as "illegitimate".

Germany is Russia's biggest customer for natural gas, and the decision by Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the pipeline - built but awaiting approval - was widely seen as one of the strongest measures Europe could take.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed the move.

"This is a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances," he said. "True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany's move proves just that."

The Kremlin said it hoped the delay was temporary. Putin said Russia "aims to continue uninterrupted supplies" of energy to the world.

Following Russia's recognition of the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, some residents in Donetsk city celebrated, with cars flying Russian flags and sounding their horns.

But several blasts could be heard at midnight in the centre of the separatist-held city, a Reuters witness said.

The Russian-backed regions broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent "people's republics" after a pro-Moscow Ukrainian president was ousted in Kyiv.

"I know that the blood I spilled with my comrades and our labours and efforts and the losses of civilians were not in vain all this time," Dmitry, a former member of a pro-Russian militia, said in Donetsk on Tuesday.


Russia   Sanction   Ukraine invasion  


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World Inside

Israeli strikes on Gaza City kill dozens, Hamas says

Publish: 02:16 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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Two Israeli air strikes on buildings in Gaza City have killed at least 38 people and injured many more, Hamas says.

The Israeli military said warplanes had struck Hamas military infrastructure sites and it would provide more details later.

A spokesman for Gaza's civil defence said a residential block in the al-Shati area, one of Gaza's historic refugee camps, was hit several times. The other strike targeted houses in the al-Tuffah district, the Hamas-run government media office said.

Footage showed people carrying away the wounded and searching for survivors in the wreckage as dust filled the streets.

Earlier reports put the estimated death toll at 42.

Israeli media reported that the air strikes may have been targeting a senior Hamas official.

Hussein Muhaisen, a civil defence spokesman in Gaza City, told AFP that the impact from the strikes was "like an earthquake".

"The whole area was targeted, as you see homes were destroyed. There are still families under the rubble," he said.

"Some of the injured were transferred to the Baptist Hospital, and now we are rescuing others from under the rubble, and the situation is very, very difficult due to the lack of tools and fuel for ambulances."

Meanwhile the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU condemned Friday's shelling of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in Gaza, which the ICRC said had killed 22 people who had sought shelter around its compound.

Mr Borrell called for an independent investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable.

On Saturday the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said an initial inquiry into the shooting in the al-Mawasi area of southern Gaza found there was "no direct attack carried out by the IDF against a Red Cross facility".

It said the incident would be "quickly examined" and the findings presented.

Israel launched a campaign to destroy Hamas in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people - mostly civilians - were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,551 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.

Its figures do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but it had reportedly identified 14,680 children, women and elderly people among the dead by the end of April.


(BBC)



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World Inside

Bangladesh seeks India's support to become member of BRICS: FM

Publish: 02:05 AM, 23 Jun, 2024


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Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud today said Bangladesh has sought support from India to become a member of BRICS, a group of emerging-market nations - the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
 
"If BRICS decides to take a new member or partner, we want to be a part of the BRICS. We have sought support from India to this end (during the delegation level talks),"he said.
 
He briefed media about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's engagements on her two-day state visit to India at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
 
The foreign minister said the delegation level talks featured many issues of bilateral interests that include joint management of 54 common rivers and their water sharing, connectivity, trade, security, border management, introduce of quota for Bangladesh to import essential commodities from India, quick medical visas for Bangladeshis and development of partnership.
 
During the meeting, both sides have expressed their satisfaction as the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India has been strengthening and continuing to reach new height under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the last 15 years and Indian premier Narendra Modi in last 10 years.
 
"Both sides have expressed their willingness to elevate further the relations," Dr Hasan said.
 
Replying to a question, he said that Bangladesh and India have shared 54 common rivers.
 
The matter of forming joint river management for the rivers has prominently come to the delegation-level talks, the foreign minister said.
 
"Joint river management is important as it can help us to fight together the adverse impact of the climate change," he said.
 
Replying to a query, Dr Hasan said Bangladesh is set to import electricity from Bhutan and Nepal and Bangladesh has already signed an agreement with Bhutan to this end.
 
He said Bangladesh has talked about the matter with India and "India gave a very positive response".
 
It is not enough to only produce electricity and it also requires a transmission line to distribute the power, the minister said.
 
Hasan said India has been currently working to set up a transmission line for 3000mw power.
 
"India will facilitate Bangladesh from the transmission line to this end," he said.
 
About killings at boarder, the foreign minister said both Bangladesh and India are politically committed to bring down the boarder killings to zero level.
 
Both the countries have been working to decrease the killings in borders, he said.
 
He continued they have sought to introduce a quota for Bangladesh to import essential commodities such as onion, oil, wheat, and sugar.
 
"We have sought a specific quota for this purpose as they don't stop exporting essential items to Bangladesh," he said.
 
Replying to a query, the foreign minister said Teesta project was also discussed during the bilateral meeting with India.
 
India has expressed its desire to assist Bangladesh in the implementation of the Teesta project, he said, adding that other countries have also expressed their willingness to this matter.
 
Technical committees of both the countries will sit together to pursue the matter, he continued.
 
Dr Hasan also said India has expressed no objection to China to this end.
 
The foreign minister said Bangladesh had sought help from India to send back 12 lakh forcibly displaced Rohingyas to their motherland Myanmar.
 
Indian side said China has a role to play to this end, he said.
 
In reply, Bangladesh Prime Minister said she will bring the matter to Chinese government as she will visit China soon, he said.
 
In replying to a question, Mahmud said he himself brought the issue of resolving the existing problem over Indian medical visa for Bangladeshis by cutting the duration of issuing medical visas.
 
Bangladeshis are currently facing problem in getting medical visas as it takes a long time, he said.
 
The Indian Prime Minister already asked the authorities concerned to resolve the problem.
 
India has been working to update their software and issue e-visas to resolve the problem, he said.
 
Bangladesh High Commissioner to India M Mustafizur Rahman and PM's Press Secretary M Nayeemul Islam Khan were present during the briefing.


(Source: BSS)



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World Inside

Assam Flood Hit In10 Districts : 6 Lakh Affected

Publish: 01:57 PM, 02 Jun, 2024


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The flood situation in Assam persisted, affecting over 6 lakh people across 10 districts, officials said on Sunday. 

Heavy rainfall across the state caused rivers such as Kopili, Barak, and Kushiyara to surpass their danger levels, which forcing prompte evacuations to affected people in many areas for safety, they said. 

Among the affected districts are Hailakandi, Hojai, Morigaon, Karimganj, Nagaon, Cachar, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong West, and Dima Hasao, with a total of 6,01,642 people impacted by the floods.

The death toll from floods and storms since May 28 stands at 15. Nagaon remains the most severely affected district, with over 2.79 lakh people affected, followed by Hojai with 1,26,813 and Cachar with 1,12,265. Over 40,000 displaced individuals are seeking refuge in relief camps across various districts. Multiple agencies, including NDRF, SDRF, local administration, and volunteers, are conducting rescue and relief operations.

Furthermore, road and rail communications are disrupted in several parts of the state. Due to track damage and waterlogging, ten trains scheduled to depart from Saturday to Monday have been canceled, according to a spokesperson from Northeast Frontier Railway's Lumding division.


Assam   Flood  


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World Inside

US, UK launch new wave of strikes against Yemen's Huthis

Publish: 10:17 AM, 25 Feb, 2024


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American and British forces carried out a fresh wave of strikes Saturday against 18 Huthi targets in Yemen, following weeks of unrelenting attacks on Red Sea shipping by the Iran-backed rebels.

The strikes "specifically targeted 18 Huthi targets across eight locations in Yemen" including weapons storage facilities, attack drones, air defense systems, radars, and a helicopter, a joint statement said.

It was co-signed by Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, who gave unspecified "support" to the new round of strikes, the second this month and fourth since the rebels began their attacks on ships in the region.

"The Huthis' now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response," the statement said.

Huthi-run Al-Masirah television reported "a series of raids on the capital Sanaa," while AFP correspondents in the rebel-controlled city in western Yemen said they heard several loud bangs.

"The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways," Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a separate statement after the strikes.


"We will continue to make clear to the Huthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage, and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries."

Huthi military spokesman Yahya Saree was defiant, vowing in a social media statement that the rebels would "confront the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab Seas."

The UK Ministry of Defence said four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s targeted "several very long-range drones, used by the Houthis for both reconnaissance and attack missions," on Saturday, at a site north-east of Sanaa.

Saturday's operation comes after several merchant vessels were struck this week in the region, including the fertilizer-filled Rubymar, whose crew had to abandon ship after it was hit Sunday and began taking on water.

Apart from the joint operations with Britain, the United States has also carried out unilateral strikes against Huthi positions and weaponry in Yemen, and downed dozens of missiles and drones in the Red Sea.

- Anti-ship missile downed -

Earlier on Saturday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that an American Navy ship had shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile "launched into the Gulf of Aden from Iranian-backed Huthi controlled areas of Yemen."

The missile "was likely targeting MV Torm Thor, a US-Flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker," CENTCOM said on X, formerly Twitter.

US forces on Friday also shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles on land, CENTCOM said.

The Huthis say they are targeting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

Following previous US and UK strikes, the Huthis declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

The Huthis will "persist in upholding their religious, moral and humanitarian duties towards the Palestinian people, and their military operations will not stop unless the aggression stops and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted," military spokesman Saree said.

Anger over Israel's devastating campaign in Gaza -- which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 -- has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.



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World Inside

Israel strikes Gaza's Rafah as truce talks under way

Publish: 01:54 PM, 22 Feb, 2024


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Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza's Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.

Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.

International concern has spiralled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack against Israel.

More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

International concern has in recent weeks centred on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.

The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighbouring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.

Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month's start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.

- 'My daughter' -

The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel's operation in Rafah would begin "after the evacuation of the population", although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.

In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighbourhood.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.

Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.

"I found my wife lying in the street," he told AFP. "Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran towards him and.... picked her up, realising she was really my daughter."

He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.

- 'Possibility of progress' -

Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday -- his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.

Hamas's chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.

Israel's Gantz said there were efforts to "promote a new plan for the return of the hostages".

"We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction."

Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an "agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance", but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.

Israel's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden's administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.

Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas's October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.

The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls -- which Israel rejected as "despicable and unfounded claims".

Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack -- something Hamas has denied.

- 'Waiting for death' -

Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis -- a city just north of Rafah -- medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.

Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the "strongest possible terms".

When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had "fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring", adding that it "regrets" harm to civilians.

In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by "artillery shelling".

Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases -- claims that Hamas has denied.


Israel Strikes   Gaza's Rafah  


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