Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff

Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters after her meeting with the Russian deputy foreign minister in Moscow on October 12, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 13 October 2021

Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff

Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff
  • Ties between the former Cold War enemies rapidly deteriorated after Joe Biden increased pressure on the Kremlin since becoming US president in January

MOSCOW: Tuesday talks in Moscow between Russian and US officials to resolve a diplomatic standoff ended without any breakthroughs, but were still “useful,”  Moscow’s deputy foreign minister said.

The discussions held behind closed doors saw Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discuss a long-running row over embassy staffing limits, among other issues.

The meeting comes with Washington’s ties with Moscow under particular strain over a long list of disagreements including the conflict in Ukraine, which Ryabkov said was not discussed.

He said the two officials had failed to make progress on the functioning of diplomatic missions including visas and rotation of personnel.

“Americans are not heeding our logic or our demands,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Ryabkov as saying. “At the same time the talks were useful.”

He also warned that a lack of progress on core disagreements raised the possibility of new areas of conflict.

“There is very little progress when it comes to the substantive part of the problems that exist,” news agency Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying. “There is a risk of new aggravations.”

Ties between the former Cold War enemies rapidly deteriorated after Joe Biden increased pressure on the Kremlin since becoming US president in January.

As part of tit-for-tat sanctions, Russia earlier this year prohibited the US embassy in Moscow from employing foreign nationals and formally designated the United States as an “unfriendly state.”

Nuland, who is on a three-day visit to Russia, arrived Monday. She is set to meet with President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov during her visit, the Kremlin said.

Nuland was allowed to travel to Russia despite previously having been placed on a sanctions list.

In exchange, Washington issued a US visa to a representative of the Russian foreign ministry.


Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules
Updated 14 sec ago

Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

BRUSSELS: Belgian police fired water cannon and used tear gas Sunday to disperse protesters opposed to compulsory health measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 8,000 people marched through Brussels toward the headquarters of the European Union, chanting “Freedom!” and letting off fireworks.
The crowd was smaller than the 35,000 vaccine and lockdown skeptics who marched last month, and police were better prepared.
Protesters were blocked from reaching the roundabout outside the EU headquarters by a barbed wire barricade and a line of riot officers.
As two drones and a helicopter circled overhead, they threw fireworks and beer cans. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
As the crowd dispersed into smaller groups around the European quarter, there were more clashes and some set fire to barricades of rubbish.
Police said two of their officers and four protesters had been hospitalized, and 20 people had been arrested.
Several European countries have seen demonstrations in recent weeks as governments respond to a surge in covid cases with tighter restrictions.
In Brussels, the organizers hoped to match the November 21 demo, in which police seemed caught off guard and there were violent clashes.
The demonstrators oppose compulsory health measures — such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes — and some share conspiracy theories.
Banners on Sunday compared the stigmatization of the non-vaccinated to the treatment of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany.
“Covid = Organized Genocide,” said one sign. “The QR code is a Swastika,” declared another, referring to the EU Covid safe digital certificate.
Parents — some of whom brought small children to the protest — chanted their belief that the vaccine would make their toddlers sick.
Off duty firefighters in uniform, marched at the head of the protest as it wound its way through the city, to demand the right to refuse vaccination.
The measures imposed to fight Covid in Belgium were decided by the country’ own national and regional governments, but the European Union has also attracted the skeptics’ anger.
On Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that in her view it was time to “think about mandatory vaccination,” a suggestion that was denounced by speakers at the protest.
On Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bringing school Christmas holidays forward and asking children aged six and over to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with Covid-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
Around 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and the postponement of treatment for many other conditions.
 


Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea
Updated 44 min 16 sec ago

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea
  • Green turtles seen on Karachi beaches jumped to 15,000 last year from 8,000-8,500 in 2019, Sindh Wildlife says

KARACHI: A female turtle lumbers across the beach in Pakistan's bustling port city of Karachi late at night, looking for a place to lay her eggs.
Waiting for her, staff from Sindh Wildlife watch quietly as the green turtle buries a hundred or more eggs in the sand before heading back out into the Arabian Sea.
Because of to COVID-19 and movement restrictions, beaches around the world have more sparsely inhabited by humans since last year. Sea turtles have taken the opportunity to return to their birthplaces in large numbers, reclaiming the now less-polluted, serene beaches to lay their eggs during the main September-November breeding season.
Green turtles seen on Karachi beaches jumped to 15,000 last year from 8,000-8,500 in 2019, Sindh Wildlife says. Lockdowns ended by the start of this year's season, but conservation experts still expect a large number of the endangered animals to visit.
Among the largest sea turtles and the only herbivores, adult green turtles can weigh more than 90 kg (200 pounds).
They nest in more than 80 countries and live in tropical and subtropical coastal areas of more than 140. Conservation group Sea Turtle Conservancy says there are 85,000 to 90,000 nesting females worldwide.
The weather in Karachi can be conducive to egg-laying as late as January, and wildlife officials will keep up their vigil until then.
"The turtles have still had an ample egg-laying opportunity during this period. In this season, too, we have had a large number of turtles coming here. The result is that within a period of three months, we have nested around 6,000 eggs so far," said Ashfaq Ali Memon, who is in charge of Sindh Wildlife's Marine Turtle Unit.
As soon as the mother turtle leaves, staff hurry to dig out the eggs and move them to a three-foot (1-metre) deep pit in a hatchery until the babies hatch, 40-45 days later. The hatchlings are taken to the beach immediately and released into the sea.
The Sindh turtle unit has released 860,000 turtle babies into the Arabian Sea since being set up in 1970. Memon said 900 have been released so far this season.
Conservationists say that in the past, sea turtle populations were threatened by demand for their fat, meat and eggs, but in recent years loss of habitat due to pollution and land reclamation have also taken their toll.


Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine
Updated 06 December 2021

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday voiced hope for a quick approval of the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine by the World Health Organization, saying the move is essential to expand its global supplies.
Speaking during a video call with Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Putin said receiving the WHO’s vetting is necessary to spread the Russian vaccine more broadly around the world, including free supplies.
“We intend to expand such assistance,” Putin said.
The Russian leader also argued that WHO’s approval should open the door for Russians and others who have had the Sputnik V vaccine to travel more freely around the world. He said about 200 million people worldwide have received Sputnik V.
Putin was vaccinated with Sputnik V in the spring, and last month he received a booster shot of Sputnik Light, the one-dose version. He also said he took an experimental nasal version of Sputnik V days after receiving his booster shot, adding that he was feeling fine and felt no side effects.
The Gamaleya Institute that developed Sputnik V has said the vaccine should be efficient against the omicron variant of COVID-19, but announced that it will immediately start working on adapting it to counter the new variant.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, launching Sputnik V in August 2020, and has plentiful supplies. But uptake has been slow, blamed in part on conflicting signals from Russian authorities.
Russia in recent months has faced its deadliest and largest surge of coronavirus cases, with infections and deaths climbing to all-time highs and only slowing in the last few weeks. Russia has Europe’s highest confirmed pandemic death toll at over 281,000, according to the government’s coronavirus task force. But a report released Friday by the state statistics agency Rosstat, which uses broader criteria, put the the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 537,000 — almost twice the official toll.
Putin, who despite a surge in infections in Russia has repeatedly argued that vaccinations should remain voluntary, emphasized Sunday that Russian authorities have been tried to use “persuasion and not pressure” and worked to dispel “prejudices and myths driving the aversion to vaccination.”
Russia’s quick approval of Sputnik V drew criticism abroad, because at the time it had only been tested on a few dozen people. But a study published in British medical journal The Lancet in February showed the Sputnik V is 91 percent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
Russia has actively promoted Sputnik V around the world but faced bottlenecks in shipping the amounts it promised. Countries in Latin America have complained about delays in getting the second Sputnik V shot.
The World Health Organization has been reviewing data about Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as part of the approval process. Such approval could pave the way for its inclusion into the COVAX program that is shipping COVID-19 vaccines to scores of countries around the world based on need.


In Pakistan’s Khaplu Valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

In Pakistan’s Khaplu Valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival
Updated 06 December 2021

In Pakistan’s Khaplu Valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

In Pakistan’s Khaplu Valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

KHAPLU GILGIT, Pakistan: When autumn arrives in the Khaplu Valley with its foliage of vibrant reds, yellows and copper browns, families welcome it as a “blessing” — not for the colorful spectacle but for the fuel the falling leaves will serve as when burnt come winter, helping locals survive the harsh weather in Pakistan’s mountainous north.

The valley in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, surrounded by some of Pakistan’s highest peaks and glaciers, is home to over 24,000 people who remain largely cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months, when temperatures can fall below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, residents have had to find alternative means of heating their homes. One option is burning the colorful leaves that fall in autumn, which locals call “gold” and diligently collect between late November and early December to use as burning fuel in the winter ahead.

“We don’t waste dried leaves because they are the main source of heating for us,” Mohammed Jaffar, a 68-year-old resident of Garbong village, told Arab News.

Jaffar, a member of the village’s welfare committee, which is responsible for leaf collection and distribution, said the dried leaves were “the biggest blessing.”

FASTFACTS

•Villagers collect dry leaves between late November and early December to use as fuel during freezing winters.

•In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, people have found alternative means to heat their homes. 

The collection and distribution of dried leaves among Garbong’s 130 households take almost a week. Each household nominates a woman representative and does not receive leaves if it fails to do so. The same practice is observed in all other villages in Khaplu valley.

Mohammed Ali, who summons residents using a mosque loudspeaker every morning during the week to collect their share of leaves from the nearby Stronpi village, said leaf collection rules and exact dates were established years ago to avoid conflict.

“Fifteen years ago, women would fight each other for dried leaves,” he said. “Now, the committee monitors all the affairs of the village, from the mosque to working in the fields and personal disputes as well as dried leaf collection.”

Once distributed among village households, the leaves are burnt in the open air. When they stop giving off smoke, they are brought into the kitchen in a metal pot, placed under a special square table and covered with a blanket or quilt.

“Family members nestle around the table with the burnt leaves placed under it,” Stronpi resident Sajid Ali said.

Fatima, a village elder who only gave her first name, said there was a special room in her basement to store the leaves during winter. 

“Without dried leaves, how could we spend the winter days?” she said. “It’s only seasonal dried leaves, but for us, it is like gold.”


India orders probe after troops kill 14 civilians in Nagaland

India orders probe after troops kill 14 civilians in Nagaland
Updated 06 December 2021

India orders probe after troops kill 14 civilians in Nagaland

India orders probe after troops kill 14 civilians in Nagaland
  • Assam Rifles patrol opened fire on group of miners returning home after work

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Sunday ordered a special investigation into the killing of at least 14 civilians by paramilitary forces who mistook them for insurgents in the northeastern
state of Nagaland bordering Myanmar.

The Indian army has been battling separatist militants in Nagaland for years.

On Saturday night, an Assam Rifles patrol in Oting village, Mon district, opened fire on a group of miners returning home after work, killing six. Local police told reporters eight more civilians and a soldier died when angry villagers confronted troops.

The army said in a statement on Sunday it acted “based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents” and that it “deeply regretted” the incident.

The central and local government immediately ordered a probe.

BACKGROUND

Local media reported that telephone and internet services have been suspended in Mon district as the incident has fueled anger among members of the Konyak tribe, which constitutes a majority in the region.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that a “high-level” special investigation team “will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.”

The Nagaland chief minister appealed for calm and tweeted that justice will be “delivered as per the law of the land.”

Local media reported that telephone and internet services have been suspended in Mon district as the incident has fueled anger among members of the Konyak tribe, which constitutes a majority in the region.

“I spoke to my relatives in Mon. There is tension in the area and people are angry about the incident,” Langphong Konyak, a civil society leader based in Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland, told Arab News.

“The people killed are miners working in a coal mine,” he said. “Locals confirm that 14 people were killed in the army firing, with seven injured. You cannot solve the Naga problem by killing innocent people.”

There are dozens of ethnic insurgent groups in India’s remote, predominantly tribal northeast. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the main nationalist separatist group in Nagaland, signed a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government in 1997.

But its splinter group, formed under the late Burmese insurgent leader Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, remains active in Mon district, aiming to establish a sovereign state out of all Naga-inhabited areas of Myanmar and India.