Ukraine president expects Russia attacks to intensify with EU summit this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's President Emmanuel Macron prior to their meeting in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. (AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's President Emmanuel Macron prior to their meeting in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Ukraine president expects Russia attacks to intensify with EU summit this week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) shakes hands with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) next to France's Macron. (AFP)
  • The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor outside of the West’s sphere of influence

KYIV: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted Russia will escalate its attacks this week as European Union leaders consider whether to back Kyiv’s bid to join the bloc and Moscow presses its campaign to win control of the country’s east. “Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities,” Zelensky said in his Sunday nightly video address. “We are preparing. We are ready.”
Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. The EU’s executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine receive candidate status.
Leaders of the 27-nation union will consider the question at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine’s application despite misgivings from some member states. The process could take many years to complete.
The EU’s embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow’s southern neighbor outside of the West’s sphere of influence.
Putin on Friday said Moscow had “nothing against” Ukraine’s EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia was closely following Kyiv’s bid especially in light of increased defense cooperation among member countries.
On the battlefield, Russian forces are trying to take complete control of the eastern Donbas region, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the Feb. 24 invasion.
A prime target of Moscow’s eastern assault is the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Russia said on Sunday it had seized Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts, and Russian state news agency TASS reported that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there. Ukraine’s military said Russia had “partial success” in the area.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV that a Russian attack on Toshkivka, 35 km (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk, also “had a degree of success.”
In Sievierodonetsk itself, a city of 100,000 before the war, Gaidai said Russia controlled “the main part” but not the entire town after intense fighting. Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy bombardment around Sievierodonetsk “with little change to the front line,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday. In Sievierodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk, residential buildings and private houses had been destroyed by Russian shelling, Gaidai said. “People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters,” he added.
He later said 19 people had been evacuated on Sunday. “We are managing to bring in humanitarian aid and evacuate people as best we can,” Gaidai said.

’WAR COULD LAST YEARS’
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, wrote in a note that “Russian forces will likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Ukraine conflict could last for years and urged Western governments to continue sending state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.
“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.
Russia has said it launched what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and protect Russian speakers there from dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its allies dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.
The British military assessment said morale for Ukrainian and Russian combat units in the Donbas was likely “variable.”
“Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks, however, Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled. Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” the British Ministry of Defense said on Twitter.
In Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, northwest of Luhansk, Russia’s defense ministry said its Iskander missiles had destroyed weaponry recently supplied by Western countries.
Russian forces were trying to approach Kharkiv, which experienced intense shelling earlier in the war, and turn it into a “frontline city,” a Ukrainian interior ministry official said.
In southern Ukraine, Western weaponry had helped Ukrainian forces advance 10 km (6 miles) toward Russian-occupied Melitopol, its mayor said in a video posted on Telegram from outside the city.
An EU decision in favor of Kyiv’s ultimate membership would put Ukraine on track to realize an aspiration that would have been out of reach for the former Soviet republic before the Russian invasion.
“Whole generations fought for a chance to escape from the prison of the Soviet Union and, like a free bird, to fly to European civilization,” the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said in a statement.


6 dead, 20 wounded in school shooting in Russia

6 dead, 20 wounded in school shooting in Russia
Updated 8 sec ago

6 dead, 20 wounded in school shooting in Russia

6 dead, 20 wounded in school shooting in Russia
MOSCOW: A gunman on Monday morning killed six people and wounded 20 others in a school in central Russia, local police said.
Governor of the Udmurtia region, Alexander Brechalov, said in a video statement that the still unidentified shooter got into a school in Izhevsk, the region’s capital, killed a guard and some of the children there. “There are victims among the children, there are wounded too,” Brechalov said.
The school educated children between grades 1 and 11.
According to the governor and local police, the gunman shot himself. The school has been evacuated and area around it has been fenced off, the official said.
No details about the gunman or his motives have been released.
Izhevsk, a city of 640,000, is located west of the Ural mountains in central Russia, about 960 kilometers (596 miles) east of Moscow.

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military
Updated 26 September 2022

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

QUETTA, Pakistan: A Pakistani military helicopter crashed in the southwest area of the country late on Sunday killing all six soldiers on board, including two officers, the military said on Monday.
The helicopter crashed during a “flying mission” near Harnai in the province of Balochistan, the military’s public relations wing said in a statement. No reason for the crash was given.


Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
Updated 26 September 2022

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
  • The victims drowned in rampaging waters after a collapsed wall hit the boat they were using to help residents trapped in floods
  • President Marcos orders supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities

MANILA: Typhoon Noru blew out of the northern Philippines on Monday, leaving five rescuers dead, causing floods and power outages and forcing officials to suspend classes and government work in the capital and outlying provinces.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year slammed into the coast in Burdeos town in Quezon province before nightfall on Sunday then weakened as it barreled overnight across the main Luzon region, where thousands of people were moved to emergency shelters, some forcibly, officials said.
Gov. Daniel Fernando of Bulacan province, north of Manila, said five rescuers, who were using a boat to help residents trapped in floodwaters, were hit by a collapsed wall then apparently drowned in the rampaging waters.
“They were living heroes who were helping save the lives of our countrymen amid this calamity,” Fernando told DZMM radio network. “This is really very sad.”
On Polillo island in northeastern Quezon province, a man was injured after falling off the roof of his house, officials said.

More than 17,000 people were moved to emergency shelters from high-risk communities prone to tidal surges, flooding and landslides in Quezon alone, officials said.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated to safety in Metropolitan Manila, which was lashed by fierce wind and rain overnight. Classes and government work were suspended Monday in the capital and outlying provinces as a precaution although the morning skies were sunny.
The entire northern provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija, which were hit by the typhoon, remained without power Monday and repair crews were at work to bring back electricity, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a televised meeting he called to assess damages and coordinate disaster-response.

Marcos Jr. praised officials for evacuating thousands of people to safety as a precaution before the typhoon hit which prevented large number of casualties despite the Noru’s potentially disastrous force. He ordered supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities.
“The point at which we can stand down is when the majority of evacuees are already back home,” Marcos said at a news conference with disaster management officials on Monday, referring to the 74,000 people who were forced into evacuation centers by the storm.
Luzon, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy and roughly half of the country’s 110 million population, started clean-up operations as floods in the capital region had started subsiding, officials said.
Noru underwent an “explosive intensification” over the open Pacific Ocean before it hit the Philippines, Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency PAGASA, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
From sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on Saturday, Noru was a super typhoon just 24 hours later with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) at its peak late Sunday.
By Monday morning, Noru had sustained winds of 140 kph (87 mph) and gusts of 170 kph (105 mph) and was moving westward in the South China Sea at 30 kph (19 mph), according to the weather agency.
About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines — well to the south of Noru’s path.

(With Reuters) 


Italy voters shift sharply, reward Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party

Italy voters shift sharply, reward Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party
Updated 26 September 2022

Italy voters shift sharply, reward Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party

Italy voters shift sharply, reward Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party
  • The formation of a ruling coalition could take weeks. If Meloni succeeds, she would be the first woman to hold the country’s premiership
  • Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government

ROME: Italian voters rewarded Giorgia Meloni’s euroskeptic party with neo-fascist roots, propelling the country toward what likely would be its first far-right-led government since World War II, based on partial results Monday from the election for Parliament.
In a victory speech, far-right Italian leader Giorgia Meloni struck a moderate tone after projections based on votes counted from some two-thirds of polling stations showed her Brothers of Italy party ahead of other contenders in Sunday’s balloting.
“If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people (of this country),” Meloni said at her party’s Rome headquarters.
“Italy chose us,” she said. “We will not betray (the country) as we never have.”
The formation of a ruling coalition, with the help of Meloni’s right-wing and center-right allies, could take weeks. If Meloni, 45, succeeds, she would be the first woman to hold the country’s premiership.
The mandate to try to form a government is given by Italy’s president after consultations with party leaders.

Meanwhile, former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, whose government collapsed two months ago, stays on in a caretaker role.
Differences among Meloni’s potential coalition partners could loom.
She has solidly backed the supplying of Ukraine with arms to defend itself against Russia’s invasion. In contrast, right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini, who before the war was a staunch admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has voiced concern that Western sanctions could end up hurting Italy’s economic interests more that punishing Russia’s.
Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, another long-time Putin admirer, has said that his inclusion in a center-right bloc’s coalition would guarantee that Italy stays firmly anchored in the European Union and one of its most reliable members.
With Italy’s households and businesses struggling with staggeringly high energy bills as winter approaches, Meloni has demurred from Salvini’s push to swell already-debt-laden Italy by tens of billions of euros for energy relief.
What kind of government the eurozone’s third-largest economy might be getting was being closely watched in Europe, given Meloni’s criticism of “Brussels bureaucrats” and her ties to other right-wing leaders. She recently defended Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban after the European Commission recommended suspending billions of euros in funding to Hungary over concerns about democratic backsliding and the possible mismanagement of EU money.
After opinion polls in the run-up to the vote indicated she would be headed to victory, Meloni started moderating her message of “God, homeland and family” in an apparent attempt to reassure the European Union and other international partners, worried about euro-skepticism.
“This is the time for being responsible,” Meloni said, appearing live on television and describing the situation for Italy and the European Union is “particularly complex.”

She promised more detailed comments later on Monday. In her campaign, she criticized European Union officials as being overly bureaucratic and vowing to protect Italy’s national interests if they clash with EU policies.
Projections based on votes counted from nearly two-thirds of the polling stations in Sunday’s balloting indicated Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party would win some 25.7 percent of the vote.
That compared to some 19.3 percent by the closest challenger, the center-left Democratic Party of former Premier Enrico Letta. Salvini’s League was projected to win 8.6 percent of the ballots, roughly half of what he garnered in the last 2018 election. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, appeared headed to win 8 percent.
Meloni’s meteoric rise in the European Union’s third-largest economy comes at a critical time, as much of the continent reels under soaring energy bills, a repercussion of the war in Ukraine, and the West’s resolve to stand united against Russian aggression is being tested. In the last election, in 2018, Meloni’s party took 4.4 percent.
Fellow euroskeptic politicians were among the first to celebrate. French politician Marine Le Pen’s party also hailed the result as a “lesson in humility” to the EU.
Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain’s far-right Vox opposition party, tweeted that “millions of Europeans are placing their hopes in Italy.” Meloni “has shown the way for a proud and free Europe of sovereign nations that can cooperate on behalf of everybody’s security and prosperity.”
Nearly 64 percent of eligible voters deserted the balloting, according to the Interior Ministry. That is far lower than the previous record for low turnout, 73 percent in 2018.
Italy has had three coalition governments since the last election — each led by someone who hadn’t run for office, and that appeared to have alienated many voters, pollsters had said.
Meloni’s party was forged from the legacy of a neo-fascist party formed shortly after the war by nostalgists of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Italy’s complex electoral law rewards campaign alliance. Meloni was buoyed by joining campaign forces with Salvini and Berlusconi.
The Democrats went into the vote at a steep disadvantage since they failed to secure a similarly broad alliance with the left-leaning populists of the 5-Star-Movement, the largest party in the just-ended legislature.
Headed by former Premier Giuseppe Conte, the 5-Stars appeared headed to a third-place finish, with some 16 percent of the vote. Had they joined forces in a campaign agreement with the Democrats, their coalition would have roughly take the same percentage of Meloni’s alliance
The election Sunday came six months early after Draghi’s pandemic unity government, which enjoyed wide citizen popularity, collapsed in late July after the parties of Salvini, Berlusconi and Conte withheld support in a confidence vote.
Meloni kept her Brothers of Italy party in the opposition, refusing to join Draghi’s unity government or the two previous coalitions led by Conte.
 


China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress
Updated 26 September 2022

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress

China’s Communist Party has elected delegates for congress
  • Nearly 2,300 delegates representing all provinces and regions will pick members of the party’s Central Committee of around 200 members
  • The Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee, currently comprising seven people

BEIJING: China’s Communist Party said Sunday that it had elected all the delegates attending a key political meeting starting October 16, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.
The twice-in-a-decade conclave will also see a shuffle of personnel on the party’s powerful decision-making body, the 25-member Politburo.
“Each electoral unit across the country convened a party congress or party representative meeting and elected 2,296 delegates to the 20th Party Congress,” state broadcaster CCTV said.
The delegates must adhere to Xi’s political ideology in addition to the party constitution, CCTV said.
The representatives include women, ethnic minority party members and those specializing in various fields, such as economics, science and sports, CCTV said.
The congress in the capital Beijing comes as Xi faces significant political headwinds, including an ailing economy, deteriorating relations with the United States and a strict zero-Covid policy that has accelerated China’s inward turn from the world.

The congress is the most important date on China’s political calendar. It offers signposts on the direction the world’s second-largest economy will take in the near term and the extent of the sway that Xi has over the party with millions of members.
The nearly 2,300 delegates representing all provinces and regions will engage in a highly choreographed exercise to pick members of the party’s Central Committee of around 200 members.
The Central Committee will then vote for the 25-person Politburo and its all-powerful Standing Committee — China’s highest leadership body and apex of power, currently comprising seven people.
Voting is mostly a formality — the pecking order of the Politburo and its Standing Committee is likely to have been decided well in advance. The overall duration of the congress is not yet clear.

Xi’s decade-long tenure has seen crackdowns on corruption within the party — which analysts say served to take down his political rivals — as well as the crushing of a democracy movement in Hong Kong and strict lockdowns on cities in the name of curbing the coronavirus.
He has faced harsh human rights criticism from the international community over repressive policies in the northwestern Xinjiang region, where an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorites have been detained in a sweeping crackdown ostensibly targeting “terrorism.”
He also ushered in an assertive “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy that has alienated Western democracies and some regional neighbors, and has pushed for closer ties with Russia while stoking nationalism at home.
He abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018 — originally set up by former leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to prevent another Mao-like dictatorship — leaving open the possibility of him becoming leader for life.