Russia fires more rockets at steel plant, some evacuees reach safety

Russia fires more rockets at steel plant, some evacuees reach safety
Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 03 May 2022

Russia fires more rockets at steel plant, some evacuees reach safety

Russia fires more rockets at steel plant, some evacuees reach safety
  • The EU said it planned to replace two thirds of its Russian gas use by the end of 2022
  • Macron urged Putin in a phone call on Tuesday to order an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine: Russia unleashed rockets on Tuesday on an encircled steel works in Mariupol, Ukraine’s last redoubt in the port city, after a cease-fire broke down with some civilians still trapped beneath the sprawling site despite a UN-brokered evacuation.
However, scores of evacuees who managed to leave under UN and Red Cross auspices at the weekend after cowering for weeks under the Azovstal plant finally reached the relative safety of Ukraine-controlled Zaporizhzhia.
“We would have hoped that many more people would have been able to join the convoy and get out of hell. That is why we have mixed feelings,” Pascal Hundt from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told journalists by Zoom.
Weary-looking people, including children and pensioners, clambered off buses after escaping the ruins of their home town in southeast Ukraine where Russia now claims control.
“We had said goodbye to life, we didn’t think anyone knew we were there,” said Valentina Sytnykova, 70, who said she sheltered in the plant for two months with her son and 10-year-old granddaughter.
Russia has turned its heaviest firepower on Ukraine’s east and south since failing to take Kyiv, the capital, in March.
But it has also struck targets much further west in a drive to limit Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, vital for its grain and metal exports, and also to disrupt supplies of Western military aid to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces.
On Tuesday Russia’s defense ministry said its forces had struck a military airfield near the port of Odesa with missiles, destroying drones, missiles and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by the United States and its European allies.

“Ukraine's finest hour”
Nearly 10 weeks into a war that has killed thousands, devastated cities and driven five million Ukrainians to flee abroad, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the economic stakes for Kyiv’s Western backers on Tuesday by announcing plans to block the export of vital Russian raw materials.
The European Union said new sanctions on Russia would target its oil industry and banks, and that it also planned to replace two thirds of its Russian gas use by the end of 2022, part of efforts to deplete Moscow’s war-chest.
The US Congress is considering a $33 billion military aid package, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a further 300 million pounds ($375 million) in aid, including electronic warfare equipment and a counter-battery radar system.
“This is Ukraine’s finest hour, (one) that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come,” Johnson told Ukraine’s parliament via videolink. He was channelling the words spoken by Winston Churchill in 1940 when Britain faced the threat of being invaded and defeated by Nazi Germany.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Putin in a phone call on Tuesday to order an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and to lift Russia’s embargo on Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea. Putin said Russia remained open to dialogue, the Kremlin said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin’s policies were “imperialistic,” and that he would support Finland and Sweden if they decided to join NATO, as each is now considering.
“No one can assume that the Russian president and government will not on other occasions break international law with violence,” said Scholz, who in the past has been accused of being too soft on Moscow but has now thrown Germany’s support behind the EU plans for a ban on Russian oil imports.
EU countries have paid more than 47 billion euros ($47.43 billion) to Russia for gas and oil since it invaded Ukraine, according to research organization the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
Under the decree signed by Putin on Tuesday, Russia’s government has 10 days in which to draw up a sanctions list targeting specific people and entities in “unfriendly” states.
Hit by some of the severest sanctions in modern history over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s own $1.8 trillion economy is heading for its biggest contraction since the years following the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

“Powerful assault”
Osnat Lubrani, UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said 101 evacuees including young children and pensioners had reached Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday from Mariupol.
“I can’t believe I made it, we just want rest,” said Alina Kozitskaya, who spent weeks sheltering in a basement with her bags packed waiting for a chance to escape.
Mariupol, a city of 400,000 before Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, has seen the bloodiest fighting of the war, enduring weeks of siege and shelling. Some 100,000 civilians are still in the ruined city.
In a Telegram video from the steel plant, Captain Sviatoslav Palamar of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said Russia had pounded Azovstal with naval and barrel artillery through the night and dropped heavy bombs from planes.
Reuters could not independently verify his account. However, Reuters images on Monday showed volleys of rockets fired from a Russian truck-mounted launcher toward Azovstal.
“As of this moment, a powerful assault on the territory of the Azovstal plant is underway with the support of armored vehicles, tanks, attempts to land on boats and a large number of infantry,” Palamar said.
Russia calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
At least 10 people were killed and 15 wounded by Russian shelling of a coking plant in the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, the regional governor said. The Ukrainian president’s office said earlier other areas of Donetsk were under constant fire.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, visiting the shattered town of Irpin near Kyiv on Tuesday, accused Russia of using rape as a tactic of war. Iryna Venediktova also described Putin as “the main war criminal of the 21st century.”
Russia denies targeting civilians and rejects charges that its forces have committed war crimes.


Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
Updated 10 sec ago

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
  • Russia vows to push Ukrainian army back in response to longer-range rockets
MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday said the United States was directly involved in explosions that severely damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last year.
Lavrov provided no evidence for his claim. President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Britain of blowing up the pipelines, which London denied.
In an interview on state TV, Lavrov also said the West was lying about Russia’s refusal to negotiate over Ukraine and was trying to turn Moldova, Georgia and former Soviet states in Central Asia against Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone.
In the interview on state TV, Lavrov said everybody wanted the conflict in Ukraine — which Moscow calls a “special military operation” — to end, but that the West’s support for Kyiv was playing an important role in how Russia approached the campaign.
Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was preparing a new package of military aid worth $2.2 billion which is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time.
.”..We’re now seeking to push back Ukrainian army artillery to a distance that will not pose a threat to our territories,” said Lavrov.
.”..The greater the range of the weapons supplied to the Kyiv regime the more we will have to push them back from territories which are part of our country.”
Longer-range rockets would allow Ukraine — which has said it plans to retake all of its territory by force, including annexed Crimea — to strike deeper into Russian-held territory.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that such rockets would escalate the conflict but not change its course.
President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of Russian troops into Ukraine in February last year. He has said the operation was needed to protect Russia’s own security and to stand up to what he has described as Western efforts to contain and weaken Moscow.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an illegal war designed to expand its territory.

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
Updated 27 min 39 sec ago

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
  • EU countries have staunchly backed Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February
  • In June last year, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status

KYIV: European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she had arrived in Kyiv with a team of commissioners on Thursday, a day before a Ukraine-European Union summit in the war-torn country.
“Good to be back in Kyiv, my 4th time since Russia’s invasion.... We are here together to show that the EU stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever. And to deepen further our support and cooperation,” she wrote in a tweet.
She is accompanied by 15 commissioners, including the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
The Commission described the visit as a “strong symbol” of European support for Ukraine “in the face of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression.”
EU countries have staunchly backed Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February, by hitting Russia with waves of economic sanctions and by sending weapons to Kyiv.
In June last year, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status.


Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief
Updated 02 February 2023

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief

Pakistan mosque suicide bomber ‘was in police uniform’: police chief
  • Hundreds of police were attending afternoon prayers in the police headquarters’ mosque when the blast erupted

The suicide bomber who killed 101 people inside a mosque at a police headquarters in Pakistan was wearing a police uniform and helmet when he staged the attack, a police chief said Thursday.
“Those on duty didn’t check him because he was in a police uniform... It was a security lapse,” Moazzam Jah Ansari, the head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province police force, told a news conference.
Police have a “fair idea” about who the bomber was after matching his head found at the scene with CCTV images.
“There’s an entire network behind him,” Ansari said, explaining that the bomber had not planned Monday’s assault in northwest Peshawar alone.
Hundreds of police were attending afternoon prayers in the police headquarters’ mosque when the blast erupted, causing a wall to collapse and crush officers.
Authorities are investigating how a major security breach could happen in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and next door to the regional secretariat.
It is Pakistan’s deadliest assault in several years and the worst since violence began to surge again in the region after the Afghan Taliban’s takeover in Kabul in 2021.


Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes
Updated 02 February 2023

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes
  • The RBA said it would consult Indigenous people on a new design that “honors the culture and history of the First Australians”
  • Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with King Charles III as its head of state

SYDNEY: Australia will remove the British monarch from its banknotes, replacing the late Queen Elizabeth II’s image on its $5 note with a design honoring Indigenous culture, the central bank said Thursday.
The decision to leave her successor King Charles III off the $5 note means no monarch would remain on Australia’s paper currency.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said it would consult Indigenous people on a new design that “honors the culture and history of the First Australians.”
Queen Elizabeth’s death on September 8 last year was marked by public mourning in Australia, but some Indigenous groups also protested against the destructive impact of colonial Britain, calling for the abolition of the monarchy.
Australia is a constitutional monarchy, a democracy with King Charles III as its head of state. A referendum proposing a switch to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999.
The central bank said its decision was supported by the center-left Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who favors an eventual move to an Australian republic.
The new banknote would take “a number of years” to be designed and printed, it said, with the existing $5 note remaining legal tender even after the new design is in people’s hands.
The RBA’s move was hailed by the nation’s republican movement, which noted that Indigenous people predated British settlement by 65,000 years.
“Australia believes in meritocracy so the idea that someone should be on our currency by birthright is irreconcilable, as is the notion that they should be our head of state by birthright,” said Australian Republic Movement chair Craig Foster.
“To think that an unelected king should be on our currency in place of First Nations leaders and elders and eminent Australians is no longer justifiable at a time of truth-telling, reconciliation and ultimately formal, cultural and intellectual independence.”
The Australian Monarchist League said the decision was “virtually neo-communism in action.”
“Before a referendum is held on whether the people want to retain the King as sovereign or opt for a President, this government has arbitrarily moved to discard the King’s head from Australia’s five dollar note,” it said in a statement.
“It is certainly not Australian democracy.”
A British monarch has featured on Australian banknotes since 1923 and was on all paper bills until 1953, the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The queen’s face adorned the 1-pound banknote and then the new $1 note from 1966.
That first $1 banknote also included imagery of Aboriginal rock paintings and carvings based on a bark painting by Indigenous artist David Malangi Daymirringu.
The queen’s face has peered up at Australians from the polymer $5 note since 1992.
But the central bank’s governor Philip Lowe announced three months ago that it had begun talking with the government about whether to forego replacing the queen’s image with a portrait of King Charles III.
Australian coins, which are issued by the Royal Australian Mint, currently feature an image of the queen.


North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’
Updated 02 February 2023

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’

North Korea says US drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’
  • Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies: statement
  • White House rejected North Korean statement and reiterated willingness to meet North Korean diplomats

SEOUL: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies have pushed the situation to an “extreme red-line” and threaten to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone.”
The statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.
“The military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red-line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces,” an unnamed ministry spokesperson said in the statement.
In Washington, the White House rejected the North Korean statement and reiterated a willingness to meet with North Korean diplomats “at a time and place convenient for them.”
“We have made clear we have no hostile intent toward the DPRK and seek serious and sustained diplomacy to address the full range of issues of concern to both countries and the region,” said a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council.
The North Korean statement cited a visit to Seoul this week by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. On Tuesday Austin and his South Korean counterpart vowed to expand military drills and deploy more “strategic assets,” such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to counter North Korea’s weapons development and prevent a war.
“This is a vivid expression of the US dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone,” the North Korean statement said.
North Korea will respond to any military moves by the United States, and has strong counteraction strategies, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary, the statement added.
More than 28,500 American troops are based in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
“We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any sort of provocation. These are routine exercises fully consistent with past practice,” the White House statement said.
Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions. It was also observed reopening its shuttered nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
In New York, South Korea’s foreign minister, Park Jin, met with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and called for the UN’s continued attention to North Korea’s recent provocations and efforts to implement sanctions on the reclusive regime.
Guterres said any resumption of nuclear testing by North Korea would deal a devastating blow to regional and international security, and reaffirmed support to build lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, according to Park’s office.
Park is on a four-day trip to the United States, which will include a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Friday.
On Wednesday the United States and South Korea carried out a joint air drill with American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
“The combined air drills this time show the US’ will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.