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New round of talks aims to stop the fighting in Ukraine

Publish: 10:53 AM, 29 Mar, 2022


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Another round of talks aimed at stopping the war in Ukraine is scheduled for Tuesday as the fighting looks increasingly like a stalemate on the ground, with the two sides trading control of a town in the east and a suburb of the capital.

Ukrainian forces retook Irpin, northwest of Kyviv, from Russian troops, who were regrouping to take the area back, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday as he sought to rally the country.

“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”

Ahead of the talks, to be held in Istanbul, the Ukrainian president said his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and is open to compromise on the fate of the Donbas, the contested region in the country’s east.

As fighting raged throughout the country, the mayor of Irpin, which has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting, said that the city had been “liberated” from Russian forces.

A senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. believes the Ukrainians have also retaken the town of Trostyanets, south of Sumy, in the east.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. intelligence assessments, said Russian forces largely remained in defensive positions near the capital, Kyiv, and were making little forward progress elsewhere in the country.

The official said Russia appeared to be de-emphasizing ground operations near Kyiv and concentrating more on the Donbas, the predominantly Russian-speaking region where Moscow-backed rebels have been waging a separatist war for the past eight years.

Late last week, with its forces bogged down in parts of the country, Russia seemed to scale back its war aims, saying its main goal was gaining control of the Donbas.

While that suggested a possible face-saving exit strategy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, it also raised Ukrainian fears that the Kremlin intends to split the country in two and force it to surrender a swath of its territory.

Meanwhile, a cyberattack knocked Ukraine’s national telecommunications provider Ukrtelecom almost completely offline. The chief of Ukraine’s state service for special communication, Yurii Shchyhol, blamed “the enemy” without specifically naming Russia and said most customers were cut off from telephone, internet and mobile service so that coverage could continue for Ukraine’s military.

Also Monday, an oil depot in western Ukraine’s Rivne region was hit by a missile attack, the governor said. It was the second attack on oil facilities in the region near the Polish border.

In recent days, Ukrainian troops have pushed the Russians back in other sectors.

In the city of Makariv, near a strategic highway west of the capital, Associated Press reporters saw the carcass of a Russian rocket launcher, a burned Russian truck, the body of a Russian soldier and a destroyed Ukrainian tank after fighting there a few days ago.

In the nearby village of Yasnohorodka, the AP witnessed positions abandoned by Ukrainian soldiers who had moved farther west, but no sign of Russian troops.

And on Friday, the U.S. defense official said the Russians were no longer in full control of Kherson, the first major city to fall to Moscow’s forces. The Kremlin denied it had lost full control of the southern city.

Russia has long demanded that Ukraine drop any hope of joining NATO, which Moscow sees as a threat. Zelenskyy, for his part, has stressed that Ukraine needs security guarantees of its own as part of any deal.

Over the weekend, Zelenskyy said he is ready to agree to neutrality. He also said that “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt,” while suggesting at the same time that compromise might be possible over “the complex issue of Donbas.”

The Ukrainian leader has suggested as much before but rarely commented so extensively. That could create momentum for the talks, for which the Russian delegates arrived in Istanbul on Monday, Turkish media reported.

Still, it was not clear how a compromise on the Donbas would square with maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

In other developments:

— President Joe Biden made no apologies for calling for Putin’s ouster, saying he was expressing his “moral outrage,” not a new U.S. policy. Over the weekend, Biden said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” On Monday, the president said: “I’m not walking anything back.”

— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has launched an effort to achieve a humanitarian cease-fire that would allow aid to be brought in and people to move around safely.

— Russia’s invasion has most Americans at least somewhat worried that the U.S. will be drawn directly into the conflict and could be targeted with nuclear weapons, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

— T he Group of Seven major economies rejected a Kremlin demand that some countries pay in rubles for Russia’s natural gas. That demand appeared designed to support the Russian currency, which is under pressure from Western sanctions.

Earlier talks, both by video and in person, have failed to make progress on ending the more than month-old war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes. That includes almost 4 million who have fled the country.

In the besieged southern port of Mariupol, the mayor said half the pre-war population of more than 400,000 has fled, often under fire, during weeks of shooting and shelling.

Alina Beskrovna, who escaped the city in a convoy of cars and made it to Poland, said desperate people are melting snow for water and cooking on open fires despite the risk of bombardment, “because if you don’t, you will have nothing to eat.”

“A lot of people are just, I think, starving to death in their apartments right now with no help,” she said. “It’s a mass murder that’s happening at the hands of the Russians.”

Putin’s ground forces have become bogged down because of stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, combined with what Western officials say are Russian tactical missteps, poor morale, shortages of food, fuel and cold weather gear, and other problems. Moscow has resorted to pummeling Ukrainian cities with artillery and airstrikes.

In Stoyanka village near Kyiv, Ukrainian soldier Serhiy Udod said Russian troops had taken up defensive positions and suffered heavy losses.

The Russians probably “thought it would be like Crimea,” which the Kremlin annexed in 2014. “But here it’s not like in Crimea. We are not happy to see them. Here they suffer and get killed.”


Peace Talks   Russia Ukraine War   Putin  


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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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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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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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