Russian strike on base brings Ukraine war close to NATO’s border

Russian strike on base brings Ukraine war close to NATO’s border
An injured serviceman is transported by medical workers, following an attack on the Yavoriv military base, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at a hospital in Novoyavorivsk, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 March 2022

Russian strike on base brings Ukraine war close to NATO’s border

Russian strike on base brings Ukraine war close to NATO’s border
  • Facility is less than 25 km from Polish border, is one of Ukraine’s biggest and largest in western part of country
  • Mayor of another city in western Ukraine said Russian troops also continued to hit its airport

LVIV: Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian base near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding 134, a local official said, in an escalation of the war to the west of the country as intense fighting was reported elsewhere.
Russia’s defense ministry said the air strike had destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by foreign nations that were being stored at the sprawling training facility, and that it had killed “up to 180 foreign mercenaries.”
Reuters could not independently verify the casualties reported by either side.
The attack on the Yavoriv International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, a base just 15 miles (25 km) from the Polish border that has previously hosted NATO military instructors, brought the conflict to the doorstep of the Western defense alliance.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister had warned on Saturday that convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukraine could be considered legitimate targets.
Britain said the incident marked a “significant escalation” of the conflict. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said any attack on NATO territory would trigger a full response by the alliance.
Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the Yavoriv facility, adding that some were intercepted. At least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded, he said.
Russian defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Russia had used high-precision, long-range weapons to strike Yavoriv and a separate facility in the village of Starichi.
“As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large amount of foreign weapons were destroyed,” he told a briefing.
The 360-square km (140-square mile) facility is one of Ukraine’s biggest and is the largest in the western part of the country, which has so far been spared the worst of the fighting.
Ukraine, whose aspirations to join NATO are a major irritant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, held most of its drills with Western countries at the base before the invasion. The last major exercises were in September.
In the weeks before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the Ukrainian military trained there, but according to Ukrainian media all foreign instructors left in mid-February, leaving behind equipment.
“The dining room and dormitory were destroyed. So were the barracks,” said Col. Leonid Benzalo, an officer in the Ukrainian medical reserve who was thrown across the room by one of the blasts. “The most important thing is we’re still alive,” he told Reuters after treating the wounded there.
While Western nations have sought to isolate Putin by imposing harsh economic sanctions and have been supplying Ukraine with weapons, the United States and its allies are concerned to avoid NATO being drawn into the conflict.
“There are no NATO personnel in Ukraine,” the NATO official said, when asked if anyone from the alliance was at the base.
Stockpiling food
Heavy fighting was reported on multiple fronts.
Air raid sirens wailed once again across the capital Kyiv and authorities said they were stockpiling two weeks worth of essential food items for the 2 million people who have not yet fled from Russian forces attempting to encircle the city.
Ukraine reported renewed air strikes on an airport in the west and heavy shelling on Chernihiv northeast of the capital.
Interior Ministry official Vadym Denyenko said Ukrainian forces were counterattacking in the eastern Kharkiv region and around the southern town of Mykolayiv. Reuters was not able to verify those statements.
An American journalist was shot and killed by Russian forces in the town of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, and another journalist was wounded, the regional police chief said.
Despite the violence, both sides gave their most upbeat assessment yet of the prospects for progress at bilateral talks that have been held periodically since the start of the invasion.
“Russia is already beginning to talk constructively,” Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video posted online. “I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days.”
A Russian delegate to talks with Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying they had made significant progress and it was possible the delegations could soon reach draft agreements.
Neither side said what these would cover. Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus, most recently last Monday, had focused mainly on humanitarian issues.
But there were contradictory statements on the timing of new discussions. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych told national television “talks are continuing right now.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied this, saying talks were planned for Monday via video link.
Seeking to up the ante on the increasingly sanctions-hit Russian economy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a Twitter post, called on US software firms Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. and German business software group SAP to halt support services in Russia.

“Violent and inhuman”
Russia’s invasion has sent more than 2.5 million people fleeing across Ukraine’s borders and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged cities.
“It is terrifying how violent and inhuman it is,” Olga, a refugee from Kyiv, told Reuters after crossing into Romania.
Ukraine’s human rights monitor said Russia used phosphorous bombs in an overnight attack on the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region, calling it a “war crime.” She shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack, but did not say if Ukraine had concrete evidence. Reuters could not immediately verify any of the reports.
Phosphorus munitions can be used legally in war to provide light, create smokescreens or burn buildings. But its use in populated areas has been a persistent source of controversy.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops were trying to surround Ukrainian forces as they advance from the port of Mariupol in the south and the second city Kharkiv in the north, the British Defense Ministry said.
The city council in Mariupol said in a statement that 2,187 residents had been killed since the start of the invasion. Reuters was not able to verify that toll.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment. Videos from one resident, Teimur Aliev, showed bombed buildings lining streets, burned-out cars riddled with shrapnel holes and debris strewn around.
“We will stitch up the wounds and the pain of our country and our city. We are ready to build it and we are ready to renew it when the war is over. We’re not going anywhere,” said Aliev, a 23-year-old musician.
In Chernihiv, around 150 km (100 miles) northeast of Kyiv, firefighters rescued residents from a burning building after heavy shelling, video from Ukraine’s emergency service — and verified by Reuters — showed.
Moscow denies targeting civilians. It blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuate civilians from encircled cities, an accusation Ukraine and its Western allies strongly reject.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television that more than 140,000 people had been evacuated from conflict zones, but that a humanitarian convoy had been unable to reach Mariupol due to shelling.
The Kremlin describes its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “deNazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.


Russia’s Federation Council ratifies annexation of four Ukrainian regions

Russia’s Federation Council ratifies annexation of four Ukrainian regions
Updated 17 sec ago

Russia’s Federation Council ratifies annexation of four Ukrainian regions

Russia’s Federation Council ratifies annexation of four Ukrainian regions
  • Russian Federation Council unanimously ratified legislation to annex Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia

MOSCOW: The upper house of Russia’s parliament voted on Tuesday to approve the incorporation of four Ukrainian regions into Russia, as Moscow sets about formally annexing territory it sized from Kyiv during its seven-month conflict.
In a session on Tuesday, the Federation Council unanimously ratified legislation to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, following a similar vote in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, yesterday.
The documents now pass back to the Kremlin for President Vladimir Putin’s final signature to complete the process of formally annexing the four regions, representing around 18 percent of Ukraine’s internationally-recognized territory.
Russia declared the annexations after holding what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.

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MALANG, Indonesia: The death toll from an Indonesian football riot that turned into a stampede rose by six to 131 on Tuesday, a local health official said.
The six additional victims who succumbed to their injuries “have been sent home to their families,” said Wiyanto Wijoyo, head of the health agency in Malang Regency where the tragedy took place.
The police chief in Indonesia’s East Java province where a stadium tragedy left 131 dead at the weekend apologized Tuesday for the disaster.
“As the regional police chief, I am concerned, saddened and at the same time I am sorry for the shortcomings in the security process,” Nico Afinta told a press conference in the city of Malang.


Prison chief killed in Indian Kashmir, militants claim responsibility

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Updated 04 October 2022

Prison chief killed in Indian Kashmir, militants claim responsibility

Prison chief killed in Indian Kashmir, militants claim responsibility
  • Body of Hemant Kumar Lohia was found at his home on Monday night in the Jammu region
  • Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan which both claim it in full

SRINAGAR: The chief of the prison service in Indian Kashmir has been murdered, police said on Tuesday, as the powerful interior minister visited the disputed Himalayan region that has been riven by a decades-long insurgency.
The body of Hemant Kumar Lohia, 57, the region’s director general of prisons, was found at his home on Monday night in the Jammu region, police said.
Police said a household helper was the main suspect but an Islamist militant group said it had targeted and killed Lohia.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between mostly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan which both claim it in full.
Separatist Muslim groups have fought against Indian security forces in its part of Kashmir since the late 1980s.
Senior police officer Mukesh Singh said Lohia’s throat had been cut and his body bore burns. The initial investigation suggested it was not a “terror act” but police were investigating, he said.
The People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), a militant group that emerged after India’s government reorganized its only Muslim-majority state into two federally administered territories in 2019, said it had assassinated Lohia.
Police have blamed groups like the PAFF for targeted killing but militants have not killed any security official of Lohia’s seniority in recent years.
“This is just a beginning of such high profile operations,” the PAFF said in a statement on social media, adding that the killing were a “small gift” to Home Minister Amit Shah, who arrived in Kashmir on Monday on a three-day visit.
Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the PAFF statement.


North Korea fires mid-range ballistic missile that flies over Japan

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Updated 04 October 2022

North Korea fires mid-range ballistic missile that flies over Japan

North Korea fires mid-range ballistic missile that flies over Japan
  • The last time North Korea fired a missile over Japan was reportedly in 2017
  • Tokyo also confirmed the launch of a suspected ballistic missile by Pyongyang

SEOUL: North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile Tuesday which flew over Japan, Seoul and Tokyo said, a significant escalation as Pyongyang ramps up its record-breaking weapons-testing blitz.
The last time North Korea fired a missile over Japan was reportedly in 2017, at the height of a period of “fire and fury” when Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un traded insults with then-US president Donald Trump.
South Korea’s military said it had “detected one suspected medium-range ballistic missile that was launched from Mupyong-ri area of Jagang Province at around 7:23 am (22:23 GMT) today and passed over Japan in the eastern direction.”
In a statement, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was “maintaining a full readiness posture and closely cooperating with the United States while strengthening surveillance and vigilance.”
Tokyo also confirmed the launch of a suspected ballistic missile by Pyongyang, activating the country’s missile alert warning system and issuing evacuation warnings.
“A ballistic missile is believed to have passed over our country and fallen in the Pacific Ocean. This is an act of violence following recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles. We strongly condemn this,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
With talks long-stalled, nuclear-armed North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s military modernization plans this year, testing a string of banned weaponry, including an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017.
Last week, Pyongyang fired short-range ballistic missiles on four occasions, including just hours after US Vice President Kamala Harris flew out of Seoul.
The latest bout of intense weapons testing by Pyongyang comes as Seoul, Tokyo and Washington ramp up joint military drills to counter growing threats from the North.
South Korea, Japan and the United States staged anti-submarine drills Friday — the first in five years — just days after Washington and Seoul’s navies conducted large-scale exercises in waters off the peninsula.
Such drills infuriate North Korea, which sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.
Harris toured the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula while on a trip that aimed to underscore her country’s “ironclad” commitment to South Korea’s defense against the North.
Washington has stationed about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help protect it from the North.
“If Pyongyang has fired a missile over Japan, that would represent a significant escalation over its recent provocations,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle,” he said.
“The Kim regime is developing weapons such as tactical nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a long-term strategy to outrun South Korea in an arms race and drive wedges among US allies,” he added.
South Korean and US officials have also been warning for months that Kim was preparing to conduct another nuclear test.
The officials said they believed this could happen soon after China’s upcoming party congress on October 16.
North Korea, which is under multiple UN sanctions for its weapons programs, typically seeks to maximize the geopolitical impact of its tests with careful timing.
The isolated country has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006, most recently in 2017.


King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

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Updated 03 October 2022

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions
  • The king has been involved with British Asian communities for many years through his work with the British Asian Trust
  • He founded the trust in 2007 with a group of British Asian business leaders

LONDON: King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, hosted guests of South Asian heritage in Edinburgh on Monday in recognition of their contributions to British society.

The royals welcomed around 300 people at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to recognise the contribution that South Asian communities in the UK have made to the National Health Service, arts, media, education, business and the armed forces.

The king has been involved with British Asian communities for many years through his work with the British Asian Trust which he founded in 2007 with a group of British Asian business leaders.

The royal couple are visiting Scotland as part of their first joint public engagement since the end of the royal mourning period to remember Queen Elizabeth II.

They were visiting to formally give city status to Dunfermline, the birthplace of King Charles I.

Dunfermline was among eight towns that won city status as part of Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year to mark Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.