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.


Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
Updated 7 sec ago

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
LISBON: Massive wildfires in Portugal and Spain were largely under control Thursday after forcing thousands from their homes and destroying large swathes of land.
The fires in both countries followed punishing heatwaves and long dry spells, leaving forests parched and primed to burn.
In Portugal, over 1,000 firefighters were still deployed in the Serra da Estrela national park, but the blaze was mostly contained after days of burning out of control.
With more hot weather forecast, however, there were fears it could flare up again.
“The fire is under control, but it is not extinguished. Consolidation work will continue in the coming days,” civil protection commander Miguel Oliveira told TSF radio.
“It is always possible, and very likely, that there will be new reactivations, but we hope that they do not take on worrying proportions,” he said.
The huge fire in central Portugal was brought under control last week, only to restart again Monday.
More than 25,000 hectares (nearly 61,800 acres) of land is estimated to have been scorched by the fire in the UNESCO-listed park, home to diverse wildlife species including wildcats and lizards.
Forecasts are predicting a fresh heatwave on Saturday, the latest in a string of hot spells in Portugal this year. July was the hottest on record in nearly a century.
Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro said Wednesday “we will experience increased risks” of fires in the coming days due to hot and dry conditions.
In neighboring Spain, rain and lower temperatures eased pressure on firefighters who for days have been battling two major fires in the eastern Valencia region, officials said Thursday.
“Finally, some good news: the rain and the drop in temperatures have helped to contain the fire in Vall d’Ebo,” regional leader Ximo Puig tweeted late Wednesday.
He hoped the conditions would also “help stabilize the fire in Bejis” further north.
By Thursday morning, there were “few visible flames left,” Puig told Cadena Ser radio, as the emergency services said the rain had almost completely put out the fires.
The two wildfires had forced the evacuation of 3,000 people and burnt their way through some 25,000 hectares.
So far this year, Spain has been hit by 391 wildfires, which have destroyed over 283,000 hectares of land in total, the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System show.
This year’s fires in Spain have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in the whole of 2021, which totalled over 84,000 hectares, the figures show.
In Portugal, some 92,000 hectares have burned this year, according to the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, in the worst fires since 2017 when around 100 people were killed.
Experts say climate change driven by human activity is boosting the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations
Updated 39 min 18 sec ago

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

TOKYO: Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology for the United Arab Emirates and Special Envoy to Japan, talked with Japan’s Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Thursday with the two ministers resolving to use the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries to enhance cooperation even further.

Al Jaber and Hayashi said they would continue to work together under the Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) to further strengthen cooperation in various fields and elevate the strategic partnership to the next level looking toward the next 50 years, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

Minister Al Jaber once again offered his condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

This article was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
Updated 18 August 2022

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
  • Reciprocal agreement to expedite return of offenders from both countries

LONDON: The UK has signed a deal with Pakistan to expedite the deportation of criminals and rejected asylum seekers, The Times reported on Thursday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel pushed for the reciprocal deal, which encourages both countries to accept the return of deported criminals, including those who violate immigration law.
The UK has struggled in the past in dealing with the Pakistani government on matters related to criminal deportations. Among foreign criminals in Britain, Pakistanis make up the seventh-largest nationality.
The deal with the South Asian country follows similar agreements with Serbia, Nigeria, Albania and India.
Patel reportedly has plans to create a performance table of countries based on their willingness to cooperate over the return of foreign criminals from Britain.
The table aims to ease the burden on the UK immigration system, with “uncooperative” countries set to face increased bureaucracy and costs for travelers entering Britain.


Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
Updated 18 August 2022

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights

Philippine official cites Saudi Arabia’s commitment to migrant workers’ rights
  • Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries
  • Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which conform to international standards

DUBAI: Philippine migrant workers secretary Susan Ople has cited Saudi Arabia’s commitment to support migrant workers’ rights, as she announced stricter measures to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly domestic workers.

The official, in a statement highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “public expression of support for the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which declares that the protection of migrants and migrant workers is a shared responsibility among States.”

“Even countries where the sponsorship or ‘Kafala system’ is in place have signed this UN document, signifying their support to sound migration governance and humane treatment of migrant workers, including those in vulnerable occupations such as domestic work,” Ople said in her statement.

Over 150 countries voted in favor of the UN Global Compact on Migration with the exception of five countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland and the United States.

Sattam Alharbi, Deputy Minister of Human Resource and Social Development, in an earlier UN forum in New York, reiterated the robust partnership between the Philippines, as the labor-sending country, and Saudi Arabia, a country of migrant labor destination.

Saudi Arabia has signed 23 agreements with labor-exporting countries, the contents of which are per international standards, to ensure a partnership based on the promotion of human rights between employees and employers.

In 2021, about 1.6 million overseas Filipinos comprised Saudi Arabia’s 13.49 million expatriate population. Saudi Arabia is the leading destination for OFWs, making about 26.6 percent of those being deployed.

“Safeguarding the rights and welfare of our migrant workers is at the heart of the DMW’s programs, services, and agreements. We will always strive to do our best amid so many challenges in the world we live in,” Ople said.

Some of the initiatives to be put in place to ensure protection of OFWs include the performance review and assessment of licensed recruitment agencies and their foreign counterparts, the issuance of country-specific employment contracts taking, stricter guidelines to only qualified and fully trained household workers are deployed abroad and white-listing of ethical recruitment agencies and foreign recruitment agencies.

Meanwhile, the names of foreign employers and recruitment agencies, both local and foreign, that have been blacklisted due to recruitment and labor violations would be published as a warning to the public.


Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
Updated 18 August 2022

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21

Death toll from Kabul mosque blast now at 21
  • No immediate claim of responsibility for the attack
  • Several children were reported to be among the wounded

KABUL: A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Wednesday night, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.

The Daesh group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, the extremists claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.

Khalid Zadran, the spokesman for Kabul’s Taliban police chief, gave the figures for the bombing at the Siddiquiya mosque in the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood. An eyewitness said the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the explosion and vowed that the “perpetrators of such crimes will soon be brought to justice and will be punished.”

There were fears the casualty numbers could rise further. On Thursday morning, one witness to the blast who gave his name as Qyaamuddin said he believed as many as 25 people may have been killed in the blast.

“It was evening prayer time, and I was attending the prayer with others, when the explosion happened,” Qyaamuddin said. Some Afghans go by a single name.

AP journalists could see the blue-roofed, Sunni mosque from a nearby hillside. The Taliban parked police trucks and other vehicles at the mosque, while several men carried out one casket for a victim of the attack.

A US-led invasion toppled the previous Taliban government, which had hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Since regaining power, the former insurgents have faced a crippling economic crisis as the international community, which does not recognize the Taliban government, froze funding to the country. On Thursday, the Taliban hosted a gathering of 3,000 tribal elders, religious scholars and others in Kandahar, their state-run Bakhtar News Agency reported. It wasn’t immediately clear what topics they planned to discuss.

Separately, the Taliban confirmed on Wednesday that they had captured and killed Mehdi Mujahid in western Herat province as he was trying to cross the border into Iran.

Mujahid was a former Taliban commander in the district of Balkhab in northern Sar-e-Pul province, and the only member of the minority Shiite Hazara community among the Taliban ranks.

Mujahid had turned against the Taliban over the past year, after opposing decisions made by Taliban leaders in Kabul.