Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
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A boy holds his pet dog as his family gets on a train evacuating people from the war-hit area in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine, on June 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
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Ukrainian soldiers enjoy a short rest in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid Russian attacks on June 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
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Protesters hold placards during a pro-Ukrainian demonstration opposite Downing Street in London on June 26, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 June 2022

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine

Russian forces turn sights on Lysychansk in battle for eastern Ukraine
  • Russian missiles strike Kyiv for first time in weeks as G7 countries meet in Germany
  • US expected to announce advanced medium to long range SAM defense system for Ukraine

KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine: Russian forces were fighting on Monday to achieve one of their strategic objectives in Ukraine as Moscow-backed separatists said they were pushing into Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province.
Lysychansk’s twin city of Sievierodonetsk fell on Saturday in a victory for Moscow’s campaign to seize the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk on behalf of pro-Russian separatists.
Tass news agency on Sunday quoted a separatist official as saying Moscow’s forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders. Reuters could not confirm the report.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south but made no mention of separatists entering the city.
Elena, an elderly woman from Lysychansk, was among dozens of evacuees who arrived in the Ukrainian-held town of Pokrovsk by bus from frontline areas. 

“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week. Yesterday we could not take it any more,” she said. “I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house.”
The RIA agency quoted a separatist official as saying separatist forces had evacuated more than 250 people, including children, on Sunday from Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant.
The industrial area was the last part of Sievierodonetsk held by Ukrainian forces before they withdrew on Saturday after weeks of heavy fighting which left the town in ruins.

Kyiv hit again
Russian missiles struck an apartment block and close to a kindergarten in Kyiv on Sunday as world leaders gathered in Germany to discuss further sanctions against Moscow.
Deputy Mayor Mykola Povoroznyk said one person was killed and six wounded in the first Russian attack on the capital in weeks.
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a wounded seven-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble of a nine-story apartment block. The girl’s father was killed in the strike, he said.
“She was not threatened by anything in our country. She was completely safe, until Russia itself decided that everything was equally hostile to them now — women, children, kindergartens, houses, hospitals, railways,” Zelensky said.
A Ukrainian air force spokesperson said the strike was carried out with four to six long-range missiles fired from bombers more than 1,000 km (621 miles) away in southern Russia.
US President Joe Biden called the strikes acts of “barbarism,” as leaders from the Group of Seven nations gathered for a summit in Germany. Russia denies targeting civilians.




Demonstrator march in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on June 26, 2022 in support of Ukraine as G7 leaders meet in the nearby Bavarian alpine resort of Schloss Elmau castle. (REUTERS)

Other G7 leaders mocked Russian President Vladimir Putin as they gathered for a group photograph at the summit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the leaders bare their chests and “show them our pecs” in reference to Putin’s shirtless poses over the years, including on horseback.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display.” European Union President Ursula von der Leyen replied: “Oh yes. Horseback riding is the best.”
Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States proposed a ban on imports of gold from Russia, aimed at wealthy Russians who have been buying safe-haven bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions.
The leaders gathered in the Bavarian Alps are also expected to discuss a possible price cap on Russian oil and efforts to tackle soaring global food and energy prices.
The United States is likely to announce this week the purchase of an advanced medium to long range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday.

Missiles hit central city
Russian missiles also on Sunday struck the central city of Cherkasy, which until now had been largely untouched by bombardment, according to authorities who said one person was killed and five others wounded.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the attack also hit a strategic bridge linking western Ukraine and the eastern battlefields.
“They are trying to limit the transfer of our reserves and Western weapons to the east,” he told Reuters.
Russia’s defense ministry said it had used high-precision weapons to strike military training centers in the regions of Chernihiv, Zhytomyr and Lviv, an apparent reference to strikes reported by Ukraine on Saturday. There was no immediate comment about Sunday’s strikes on Kyiv or Cherkasy.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin called a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security.
Kyiv and the West dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing Ukraine and destroyed cities.
The conflict has driven up gas, oil and food prices, pushed the European Union to reduce reliance on Russian energy, and prompted Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.
Russia edged closer to a default on Sunday amid little sign that investors holding its international bonds had received payment, heralding what would be the nation’s first default in decades.


Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
Updated 12 sec ago

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
  • Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides
PRAGUE: The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia have held talks in Prague in efforts to ease tensions between the two longtime adversaries.
Armenia agreed to “facilitate a civilian EU mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan,” according to a joint statement released early Friday, following a meeting on the margins of a European summit in the presence of the EU Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Azerbaijan “agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned,” the statement said.
Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides.
The EU mission will start in October for a maximum of two months, with the aim to “build confidence” and “contribute” to the border commissions that have been set earlier this year to address questions related to the delimitation of the border, the statement said.
The ex-Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
The move comes after the leaders of historic foes Turkey and Armenia on Thursday held their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries agreed to improve relations.
The discussions have been held on the sidelines of a summit by the leaders of 44 countries to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across Europe.

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others
Updated 07 October 2022

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others
  • The case calls for accountability for the island nation’s leadership for its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s top court has granted permission for proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the rights group which filed the case against him said in a statement on Friday.
The court also agreed to allow proceedings against the country’s former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, its former finance minister and two of its former central bank governors.
The case, filed by rights group Transparency International, calls for accountability for the island nation’s leadership for its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades.


Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip
Updated 07 October 2022

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip
  • The names of those wounded in the attack were not immediately released
  • Police described the suspect as a man in his 30s and said they were working to confirm his identity

LAS VEGAS: An attacker with a large kitchen knife killed two people and wounded six others in stabbings along the Las Vegas Strip before he was arrested Thursday, police said.
Three people were hospitalized in critical condition and another three were in stable condition, according to Las Vegas police, who said they began receiving 911 calls about the stabbings around 11:40 a.m. across the street from the Wynn casino and hotel.
The Clark County coroner’s office identified the victims who were killed as Brent Allan Hallett, 47, and Maris Mareen Digiovanni, 30, both Las Vegas residents, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The names of those wounded in the attack were not immediately released.
Police described the suspect as a man in his 30s and said they were working to confirm his identity. He is not a Las Vegas resident, according to Metropolitan Police Department Deputy Chief James LaRochelle.
The initial stabbing was unprovoked and on the eastern sidewalk of Las Vegas Boulevard. The suspect then headed south and stabbed others, LaRochelle said.
The man fled and was followed by 911 callers before he was taken into custody, authorities said. Police recovered the “large knife with a long blade” believed to have been used, LaRochelle said, calling the case a “hard-to-comprehend murder investigation.”
There were no other suspects in the case and “the Strip is secure,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.
Police said it was too early in their investigation to speculate on a possible motive for the stabbings.
“Locals and tourists are the victims of this crime,” Lombardo said.
Witnesses told Las Vegas TV stations that some of the victims appeared to be showgirls or street performers who take pictures with tourists on the Strip.
The suspect told a woman that he was a chef who wanted to take a picture with some of the showgirls with his knife, but he started stabbing people when the group declined the man’s offer, the woman told KTNV.
Jason Adams told KLAS that he witnessed the attack on a showgirl.
“This guy came, ran up, and started stabbing this lady in front of me and she ran around the escalators and she tried to get up under the bridge and her girlfriend was trying to help her,” Adams said, adding that the attack happened very quickly.
Pierre Fandrich, a tourist from Canada, told KTNV that he did not see the stabbing suspect as he was walking along the Strip. But he said he thought he heard “three or four showgirls laughing,” and it turned out to be screaming.
Fandrich said he saw “a lot of blood” as one woman ran across a bridge, one was on the ground, and another had a stab wound on her back as she tried to help the fallen woman.
Fandrich also told KTNV that he thought one of the victims fell from the bridge because there was so much blood on the ground.
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak posted a message on social media saying, “Our hearts are with all those affected by this tragedy.”
“At the State level, we will continue to work with partners in law enforcement to make resources available on the ground and ensure the Las Vegas Strip remains a safe and welcoming place for all to visit,” Sisolak said.


Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer
Updated 07 October 2022

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer
  • Police speculated the gunman targeted the center because it was near his home

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand: Friends hugged sobbing family members struggling with staggering loss Friday in a rural northeastern Thailand community mourning the children and other victims slain by a fired police officer in the nation’s deadliest shooting rampage.
At least 24 of the 36 people killed in the assault Thursday in the small town of Uthai Sawan were children.
On Friday morning, royal and government representatives in white, military-style coats stood in lines to lay wreaths at ceremonial tables in front of the Young Children’s Development Center’s main door. They were followed by weeping family members, who gathered their hands in prayer before laying white flowers on the wooden floor.
“I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes. They are running through my heart,” said Seksan Sriraj, 28, whose pregnant wife was a teacher at the center and was due to give birth this month. “My wife and my child have gone to a peaceful place. I am alive and will have to live. If I can’t go on, my wife and my child will be worried about me, and they won’t be reborn in the next life. That’s about it.”
Many relatives were gathered in front of the child care center to start the process of claiming compensation and psychologists were also sent to the site to help them. Seven of the 10 people who were wounded were still hospitalized Friday.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were expected later Friday to visit two hospitals treating the wounded, and Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to visit the daycare center and the hospitals.
When asked whether he thought the child care center was secure enough, Seksan noted the attacker had been a police officer. “He came to do what he had in his mind and was determined to do it. I think everyone did the best they could.”
Police speculated the gunman targeted the center because it was near his home. They identified him as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired earlier this year because of a drug charge involving methamphetamine. He had been due to appear in court Friday.
Witnesses said the attacker got out of a car and shot a man eating lunch before pausing to reload. Staff at the child care center locked the door, but the gunman shot his way through it. The children, mainly 2- and 3-year-olds, had been taking an afternoon nap, and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies still lying on blankets.
Panya took his own life after killing his wife and child at home.
Nopparat Langkapin, a local official in Uthai Sawan, said the victims were “all children of our community.”
“Relatives, families and close friends are deeply saddened by this incident. And we all felt this across the community very quickly. Most of us are feeling depressed and sad because they are our children,” he said.
The attack took place in Nongbua Lamphu province, one of the country’s poorest regions.
A video taken by a first responder arriving at the scene showed rescuers rushing into the single-story building past a shattered glass front door, with drops of blood visible on the ground in the entryway. Photos showed slashes to the victims’ faces and gunshots to their heads.
In footage posted online after the attack, frantic family members wept outside the building. The floor was smeared with blood, and pictures of the alphabet and other colorful decorations adorned the walls.
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand, which has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia, with 15.1 weapons per 100 population compared to only 0.3 in Singapore and 0.25 in Japan. That’s still far lower than the US rate of 120.5 per 100 people, according to a 2017 survey by Australia’s GunPolicy.org nonprofit organization.
The US and Australia expressed sympathy and solidarity. “All Australians send their love and condolences,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted. “This violence is both senseless and heartbreaking,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Thailand’s previous worst mass shooting involved a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for some 16 hours before eventually being killed by them.
Nearly 60 others were wounded in that attack. Its death toll surpassed that of the previously worst attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people. It was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.
Last month, a clerk shot co-workers at Thailand’s Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and wounding another before he was arrested.


Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party congress

Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party congress
Updated 07 October 2022

Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party congress

Xi’s ‘final purge’ ahead of Chinese Communist Party congress
  • More than 1.5 million officials in China have been punished since Xi Jinping became leader a decade ago
  • Xi is widely expected to secure a third term as party leader, upending the succession norms in place since the 1990s

BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has embarked on a “final round of purges” ahead of a major Chinese Communist Party congress, wielding his long-running anti-corruption campaign to cement his grasp on power, analysts say.
When he became leader a decade ago, Xi vowed to root out dishonest officials, both senior “tigers” and low-ranking “flies.”
More than 1.5 million officials have been punished since then, according to data from the party disciplinary body, and China’s ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has improved.
But critics say the campaign is also a thinly veiled political tool that has helped Xi eliminate his rivals — and the build-up to this year’s congress has seen more heads roll.
About 1,100 officials have been caught in the party dragnet since the beginning of this year, according to party data.
Among them are former deputy public security minister Sun Lijun and former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, who will now spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
“This final round of purges, masquerading as an anti-corruption campaign, will ensure that Xi will have tighter if not absolute control over personnel and policy issues (at the Congress),” said Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Xi is widely expected to secure a third term as party leader at the meeting, upending the succession norms in place since the 1990s.
“Despite all signs that his major goal of a third term is pretty much guaranteed, Xi is still paranoid about his control over appointments to key decision-making bodies within the party,” Lam added.

Once a trusted lieutenant of Xi, Sun oversaw security in Hong Kong during months of unrest in 2019 and was even sent to Wuhan at the start of the Covid pandemic.
But he reportedly fell from grace because of his political ambitions, and was officially accused of “seriously damaging the unity of the party.”
Sun confessed on national television in January to taking bribes worth $14 million, hidden inside boxes of what appeared to be seafood.
Others allegedly in his “political clique,” including Fu and three former police chiefs, were also rounded up and given harsh sentences.
“Sun Lijun’s case is linked to Xi’s absolute control of the security apparatus, which is indispensable for his political agenda,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.
“It also sends a stern message to anyone with dissenting views about Xi’s leadership.”
Chinese Communist Party politics — despite the facade of unity — has always been deeply factional with different groups vying for influence.
“There are some who are anti-Xi but very pro-party. They don’t like where the party is heading under him,” Alex Payette, chief executive of consultancy Cercius Group, told AFP.
The congress presents an opportunity for Xi to reduce that threat by promoting close allies to positions on the Politburo’s seven-person standing committee, the apex of power.

More than any other Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, Xi has built a strong personality cult, with children as young as 10 required to take lessons in “Xi Jinping Thought.”
And according to Wu Muluan, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore, he has used the anti-corruption campaign to turn the Communist Party “from a collective dictatorship to a personalist dictatorship.”
He has already brought under his wing the three critical power centers of the party — the military, the propaganda machine and the internal security apparatus — by rooting out dissenting voices and replacing them with his proteges.
For example, the recently appointed minister of public security Wang Xiaohong has known Xi at least since the mid-1990s, when they were both working in southeastern Fujian province.
“Xi is cherry-picking people who have shown absolute loyalty to him for decades,” Wu said.
Surrounding himself with allies going into his next term has become even more important given the significant political headwinds Xi faces, 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 anti-corruption card is a potent tool for Xi to send a message to the still-considerable number of opponents in the upper echelon of the party,” analyst Lam said.
“Any opposition could mean a jail term... or at least ugly harassment by the anti-graft agencies such as 24-hour surveillance.”