Russia reports 18,359 new coronavirus cases, 485 deaths

Russia reports 18,359 new coronavirus cases, 485 deaths
Authorities said 485 people had died in the last day, taking the official death toll to 73,182. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2021

Russia reports 18,359 new coronavirus cases, 485 deaths

Russia reports 18,359 new coronavirus cases, 485 deaths
  • Authorities said 485 people had died in the last day, taking the official death toll to 73,182

MOSCOW: Russia on Sunday reported 18,359 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 2,284 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 3,850,439.
Authorities said 485 people had died in the last day, taking the official death toll to 73,182.


Biden, Putin set video call Tuesday as Ukraine tensions grow

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Russian President Valdimir Putin at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Russian President Valdimir Putin at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 11 sec ago

Biden, Putin set video call Tuesday as Ukraine tensions grow

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Russian President Valdimir Putin at the 'Villa la Grange' in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (AFP)
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, recently charged that a group of Russians and Ukrainians planned to attempt a coup in his country and that the plotters tried to enlist the help of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov

MOSCOW: Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will speak in a video call Tuesday, the White House and Kremlin said, as tensions between the United States and Russia escalate over a Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border that’s seen as a sign of a potential invasion.
Biden will press US concerns about Russian military activities on the border and “reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Saturday, confirming the planned call after first word came from Moscow.
Putin will come to the call with concerns of his own and intends to express Russia’s opposition to any move to admit Ukraine into the NATO military alliance. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “the presidents will decide themselves” how long their talk will last.
The last known call between the leaders was in July, when Biden pressed Putin to rein in Russia-based criminal hacking gangs launching ransomware attacks against the United States. Biden said the US would take any necessary steps to protect critical infrastructure from such attacks.
Ransomware attacks have continued since then, though perhaps none has been as alarming as the one from May that targeted a major fuel pipeline and resulted in days of gas shortages in parts of the US
Russia is more adamant than ever that the US guarantees that Ukraine will not be admitted to the NATO military alliance. But NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said this past week that Russia has no say in expansion plans by other countries or the alliance. Numerous former US and NATO diplomats say any such Russian demand to Biden would be a nonstarter.
US intelligence officials, meanwhile, have determined that Russia has massed about 70,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and has begun planning for a possible invasion as soon as early next year, according to a Biden administration official who was not authorized to discuss that finding publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The risks for Putin of going through with such an invasion would be enormous.
US officials and former American diplomats say while the Russian president is clearly laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in the past, and that sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to the Russian economy.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be, will be, the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden said Friday.
Ukrainian officials have said Russia could invade next month. Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, and warned that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, recently charged that a group of Russians and Ukrainians planned to attempt a coup in his country and that the plotters tried to enlist the help of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.
Russia and Akhmetov have denied that any plot is underway, but the Russians have become more explicit recently in their warnings to Ukraine and the United States.
Biden is also expected to speak with Zelenskyy in the coming week, according to a person close to the Ukrainian leader. This person was not authorized to comment publicly before the announcement of the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin, during his call with Biden, would seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine. Biden tried to head off the demand in comments to reporters Friday before leaving for a weekend stay at Camp David.
“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.
Psaki said in a brief statement Saturday that Biden and Putin will discuss a range of topics in the US-Russia relationship, “including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues.”
She said Friday that the administration would coordinate with European allies if it moved forward with sanctions. She alluded to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that had been under Ukraine’s control since 1954. Russia has also backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a 7-year conflict that has cost over 14,000 lives.
“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki said. “We see that he is putting in place the capacity to take action in short order.”
US-Russia relations have been rocky since Biden took office.
His administration has imposed sanctions against Russian targets and called out Putin for the Kremlin’s interference in US elections, cyberactivity against American companies and the treatment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned last year and later imprisoned.
When Putin and Biden met in Geneva in June, Biden warned that if Russia crossed certain red lines — including going after major American infrastructure — his administration would respond and “the consequences of that would be devastating.”


Rohingya from Bangladesh island camp visit families

A health worker along with locals at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya. (AP/File)
A health worker along with locals at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya. (AP/File)
Updated 05 December 2021

Rohingya from Bangladesh island camp visit families

A health worker along with locals at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya. (AP/File)
  • 68 of Bhasan Char’s 20k refugees have returned to the mainland to see loved ones

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities said on Saturday they are planning to make Rohingya family reunions more frequent, as the first group of refugees resettled to a remote island camp in the Bay of Bengal last year visited their relatives on the mainland.

Bangladesh hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya, who fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017. Most of them live in Cox’s Bazar, a coastal region in the country’s east, which with the arrival of Rohingya became the world’s largest refugee settlement.
To take pressure off Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladeshi government has since December 2020 sent 20,000 refugees out of a planned 100,000 to Bhasan Char, a flood-prone island some 68 km from the mainland.
The UN refugee agency had criticized the relocation on the grounds of safety and Bhasan Char’s livability until October, when it signed an agreement with the Bangladeshi government to start operations on the island. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch continue to oppose the project, questioning whether the resettlement has been voluntary.
A year since the beginning of relocation, 68 Rohingya living in the island camp were allowed to arrive in Cox’s Bazar on Tuesday night to stay for eight days.
“We have plan to regularize such visits for family reunions of the Rohingyas. After the return of the first batch, we will review the outcome and organize the tour for a second batch if there are no anomalies,” Zohirul Islam, in charge of the Bhasan Char camp, told Arab News.
“In the first batch 68 Rohingyas were taken for the reunion with the families and friends at Cox’s Bazar. They will stay over with the family for eight days.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• The UN refugee agency had criticized the relocation on the grounds of safety and Bhasan Char’s livability until October, when it signed an deal with the government to start operations on the island.

• Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch continue to oppose the project, questioning whether the resettlement has been voluntary.

He added it took a year to grant permission, as authorities needed time to prepare the trip and logistics.
Fatema Begum, 23, who was reunited with her ailing mother in Cox’s Bazar, said the visit gave her “great peace of mind.”
“I was worried about my mother’s health condition,” said Begum, adding: “I was not sure whether I could see her again in my life.”
She told Arab News she would rather stay on the mainland, as most of her family members are in Cox’s Bazar, but in Bhasan Char her fisherman husband has more opportunities to earn a livelihood.
Unlike her, Zobaer Ahmed, 24, said he felt safer on the island as gang violence incidents have been on the rise in Cox’s Bazar in recent months.
“But it’s a great joy to be reunited with my mother, sisters and eight other family members after so many months,” he said. “I am happy to see their faces. No words can express my joy.”
For Ahmed, Bhasan Char is a good place for living, he said, as each family has its own house and there is more space compared with the congested makeshift settlements of Cox’s Bazar. He expressed hope, however, that there would be more freedom of movement for the island’s inhabitants.
“I have shared the information with my friends and family members over the facilities we are currently enjoying at Bhasan Char island,” he told Arab News. “Some of them have expressed interest to be relocated to the island.”
Nur Khan, a prominent human rights activist in Bangladesh, said the reunion was a “praiseworthy initiative,” but certain issues should be addressed as recent reports suggest that dozens of refugees have fled the island, where they are not allowed to move outside the camp.
“The authorities also need to think why some Rohingyas tried to flee from the island in recent months. The authorities should work to find out and remove the causes,” Khan told Arab News.
“We should keep in mind that the Rohingyas are free men also. They took shelter here to save lives. So, we need to ensure a life with dignity for them.”


Islamabad man goes viral selling pasta out of car, hopes to launch restaurant

Zaheer Jan’s fortunes changed after a social media user, Maria Malik, shared a picture of Jan standing next to his four-wheeled food stall. (Supplied)
Zaheer Jan’s fortunes changed after a social media user, Maria Malik, shared a picture of Jan standing next to his four-wheeled food stall. (Supplied)
Updated 05 December 2021

Islamabad man goes viral selling pasta out of car, hopes to launch restaurant

Zaheer Jan’s fortunes changed after a social media user, Maria Malik, shared a picture of Jan standing next to his four-wheeled food stall. (Supplied)
  • Malik, who is behind the viral tweet, said she is glad she was able to support the young man earn an “honest living”

ISLAMABAD: Zaheer Jan had been selling homemade macaroni out of his maroon Suzuki Mehran in Islamabad’s G-9 market only for about a month before he was catapulted to Twitter fame.
The 21-year-old’s fortunes changed after a social media user, Maria Malik, shared a picture of Jan standing next to his four-wheeled food stall decorated with twinkling fairy lights and a sign that read “Homemade Macaroni.”
“If you’re in G-9 or cross G-9 markaz, do drop by Zaheer to have a plate of delicious chicken macaroni. He’s a super sweet young boy trying to make ends meet one plate at a time,” Malik wrote on Twitter on Nov. 24. “His car is parked opposite to the Bata store.”
The post instantly got thousands of retweets and on the next day Jan’s macaroni, which he sells for Rs100, or a little over 50 US cents a box, was sold out within two hours.
“About a month ago we would sell like 18 to 20 boxes daily,” Jan told Arab News in an interview, standing next to his car. “But now, with all the posts and the tweets and everything, all the publicity that is going on, it’s been a blessing. We are making a living here.
“I want to thank all the people who have put up tweets and posts and shared them on Twitter and WhatsApp and Facebook. I’m very grateful to them.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Zaheer Jan started selling pasta last month to contribute to family budget when Twitter post catapulted him to fame. 

• Previously selling 18-20 helpings a day, now he says social media publicity has turned his idea into real livelihood.

The idea behind the macaroni car stall, which Jan and his sister came up with, was to contribute to the family budget, Jan said. His parents were initially not very enthusiastic but helped out anyway, with his mother preparing the macaroni at home.
“When we decided we wanted to start this, my parents were a bit apprehensive. They weren’t sure that it was going to be successful,” Jan said. “But they were and continue to be incredibly supportive. The whole family — I could not do it without them.”
Malik, who is behind the viral tweet, said she is glad she was able to support the young man earn an “honest living.”
“Sometimes these random acts of kindness can actually change someone’s life,” she told Arab News. “I really, really hope that this does not die down and that Jan and his family are able to make something out of it,” Khan told Arab News.

 And it also goes to show that it doesn’t cost anything to be kind, to show someone a little bit of support.”
Going forward, Jan hopes he can one day open a little restaurant of his own: “Something small where people can come and sit and relax.”
He also hopes his story will inspire other young people.
“I am trying to encourage the youth to believe they can do anything. They can work hard and make life better for themselves and for the country,” Jan said, as he packed up for the day. “We Pakistanis are capable of everything.”

Related


UK school slammed after Muslim students seen praying in the cold

In the video, eight male students can be seen praying on the street outside. Social media users described the footage as “disgusting.” (Screensot/5Pillars)
In the video, eight male students can be seen praying on the street outside. Social media users described the footage as “disgusting.” (Screensot/5Pillars)
Updated 05 December 2021

UK school slammed after Muslim students seen praying in the cold

In the video, eight male students can be seen praying on the street outside. Social media users described the footage as “disgusting.” (Screensot/5Pillars)
  • ‘Angry teacher made us go outside,’ says pupil, as investigation launched

LONDON: A UK school has faced criticism after a video emerged showing a group of Muslim students being forced to pray outside in the winter cold.

Oldham Academy North, near Manchester, was slammed by the local community following the release of the footage, MailOnline reported.

It has been claimed that a teacher demanded the students leave the school building in order to conduct their Friday prayers.

In the video, eight male students can be seen praying on the street outside. Social media users described the footage as “disgusting.”

One student reportedly involved said: “We were praying inside and a teacher came in and told us we aren’t allowed to pray in that room. She slammed the door and seemed angry.

“We have had a prayer room for a long time and teachers would allow us to go there for our prayers.”

The school claimed that the students were unable to pray inside because of flooding and damage to several classrooms, but has launched an investigation into the incident.

A spokesperson said in a statement: “Earlier this week, photos on social media began to circulate of students at The Oldham Academy North praying outside.

“We would like to offer a sincere apology. We are proud of our diversity and have never, and would never, stop students from praying or ask them to pray outside.

“At Oldham Academy North, we consider our diversity our greatest strength. We will always do everything in our power to ensure our students, staff and our communities are given the very best opportunities in life.”

Arooj Shah, the local council leader, said: “When we were made aware of the issues raised at the Oldham Academy North, we acted quickly to speak with the school to understand what had happened.

“Having spoken with the school leaders I am glad they have apologized to those who were affected and will be writing to parents to explain,” he said.

“Oldham is a proud and diverse borough and I know that the Oldham Academy North sees this as a strength for the school,” he added.

“We will continue conversations with the school around this matter to investigate the situation properly.”


Hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on Iraq-bound flight

Hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on Iraq-bound flight
Updated 04 December 2021

Hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on Iraq-bound flight

Hundreds more migrants leave Belarus on Iraq-bound flight
  • The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus on Thursday after accusing it of flying in migrants

MOSCOW: More than 400 migrants who had traveled to Belarus seeking to cross the border into the EU flew home on Saturday on an Iraqi Airways plane bound for the city of Irbil in northern Iraq, Minsk’s airport said.
The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus on Thursday after accusing it of flying in migrants, mostly from the Middle East, and pushing them to illegally cross the Polish border to manufacture a crisis, something Minsk denies.
Minsk airport authorities said in a statement a Boeing 747-400 would fly 415 adults and four children on Saturday to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The airport’s website later listed the flight as having departed.
Iraqis who fled seeking economic opportunity and in some cases political asylum began returning to their country last month having failed to get into the EU via a route that people smugglers promised them would work.
Russia, which supported Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government during mass street protests last year, on Saturday criticized the new EU sanctions as illegal, and said the issue should be settled through dialogue.