BEIRUT: Iraq’s government has agreed to continue supplying Lebanon’s electricity company with heavy fuel oil for another year, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister said on Thursday, alleviating pressure on Lebanon’s struggling power grid.
Najib Mikati said he had made the request to Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, who agreed to extend the same terms of the agreement signed last year.
In July 2021, Iraq offered the cash-strapped Lebanese government 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil a year in exchange for services including healthcare for Iraqi citizens.
The deal was meant to alleviate Lebanon’s acute power shortage, which last summer reached crisis levels when the government was unable to subsidize fuel imports.
Lebanon subsequently removed those subsidies and domestic fuel prices skyrocketed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine then further bumped up international prices this year.
With the government unable to provide fuel to public power plants, most homes in the country have been left without state-provided electricity for around 22 hours every day.
Russian military recruiter shot amid fear of Ukraine call-up
Zinin was arrested and officials vowed tough punishment. Authorities said the military commandant was in intensive care
Updated 8 min 20 sec ago
KYIV, Ukraine: A young man shot a Russian military officer at close range at an enlistment office Monday, an unusually bold attack reflecting resistance to Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to mobilize hundreds of thousands of more men to wage war on Ukraine.
The shooting comes after scattered arson attacks on enlistment offices and protests in Russian cities against the military call-up that have resulted in at least 2,000 arrests. Russia is seeking to bolster its military as its Ukraine offensive has bogged down.
In the attack in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk, 25-year-old resident Ruslan Zinin walked into the enlistment office saying “no one will go to fight” and “we will all go home now," according to local media.
Zinin was arrested and officials vowed tough punishment. Authorities said the military commandant was in intensive care. A witness quoted by a local news site said Zinin was in a roomful of people called up to fight and troops from his region were heading to military bases on Tuesday.
Protests also flared up in Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorer regions in the North Caucasus. Local media reported that “several hundred” demonstrators took to the streets Tuesday in its capital, Makhachkala. Videos circulated online showing dozens of protesters tussling with the police sent to disperse them.
Demonstrations also continued in another of Russia’s North Caucasus republics, Kabardino-Balkaria, where videos on social media showed a local official attempting to address a crowd of women.
Concerns are growing that Russia may seek to escalate the conflict — including potentially using nuclear weapons — once it completes what Ukraine and the West see as illegal referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine.
The voting, in which residents are asked whether they want their regions to become part of Russia, began last week and ends Tuesday, under conditions that are anything but free or fair. Tens of thousands of residents had already fled the regions amid months of fighting, and images shared by those who remained showed armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.
“Every night and day there is inevitable shelling in the Donbas, under the roar of which people are forced to vote for Russian ‘peace,’" Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said Monday.
Russia is widely expected to declare the results in its favor, a step that could see Moscow annex the four regions and then defend them as its own territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday no date has been set for recognizing the regions as part of Russia but it could be just days away.
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, said Russia would pay a high, if unspecified, price if it made good on veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” he told NBC.
Elsewhere, the British government on Monday slapped sanctions on 92 businesses and individuals it says are involved with organizing the referendums in occupied Ukraine. U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the votes on joining Russia “sham referendums held at the barrel of a gun.” He said they “follow a clear pattern of violence, intimidation, torture and forced deportations.”
The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre likewise said Monday the U.S. “will never recognize” the four regions as part of Russia, and threatened Moscow with “swift and severe” economic costs.
Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, meanwhile, held an unannounced meeting Monday in the southern Russian city of Sochi and claimed they were ready to cooperate with the West — “if they treat us with respect,” Putin said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday that Putin had told Turkey’s president last week that Moscow was ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine but had “new conditions” for a cease-fire.
The Kremlin last week announced a partial mobilization — its first since World War II — to add at least 300,000 troops to its forces in Ukraine. The move, a sharp shift from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation, proved unpopular at home.
Thousands of Russian men of fighting age have flocked to airports and Russia's land border crossings to avoid being called up. Protests erupted across the country, and Russian media reported an increasing number of arson attacks on military enlistment offices.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday once again decried the Russian mobilization as nothing more than “an attempt to provide commanders on the ground with a constant stream of cannon fodder.”
In his nightly televised address, Zelenskyy referenced ongoing Russian attempts to punch through Ukrainian defense lines in the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, a key target of Moscow’s military campaign.
“Despite the obvious senselessness of the war for Russia and the occupiers’ loss of initiative, the Russian military command still drives (troops) to their deaths,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly televised address.
The Ukrainian military on Monday said in its regular Facebook update that Moscow was focusing on “holding occupied territories and attempts to complete its occupation of the Donetsk region,” one of two that make up the Donbas. It added that Ukrainian troops continued holding Russian troops at bay along the frontline there.
Meanwhile, the first batches of new Russian troops mobilized by Moscow have begun to arrive at military bases, the British Defense Ministry said Monday, adding that tens of thousands had been called up so far.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday on Facebook that the Ukrainian military is pushing efforts to take back “the entire territory of Ukraine,” and has drawn up plans to counter “new types of weapons” used by Russia. He did not elaborate.
An overnight drone strike near the Ukrainian port of Odesa sparked a massive fire and explosion, the military said Monday. It was the latest drone attack on the key southern city in recent days, and hit a military installation, setting off ammunition. Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze.
New Russian shelling struck near the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Zelenskyy's office. Cities near the plant were fired on nine times by rocket launchers and heavy artillery.
Local Ukrainian officials said Monday evening that the strikes had wounded three civilians in the town of Marhanets, across the Dnieper river from the plant.
Russia also kept pummeling Ukrainian-held territory in the country’s east, parts of which have seen ramped-up shelling and missile strikes since Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive made sweeping gains there this month. At least seven civilians, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed Monday in a rocket attack on the city of Pervomayskiy in the northeastern Kharkiv region, local officials reported.
Further south, Ukrainian officials reported that a Russian missile on Monday evening destroyed a civilian airport in the eastern city of Kryvyi Rih, President Zelenskyy’s birthplace. The regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko said that while there had been no casualties, the airport had been knocked out of commission.
In Ukraine’s industrial heartland of Donbas, four civilians were wounded on Monday after a Russian strike slammed into apartment blocks in the city of Kramatorsk, its mayor said on social media.
Kramatorsk is one of two largest Ukrainian-held cities remaining in the Donbas, and home to the headquarters of Ukrainian troops there.
In the town of Izium in eastern Ukraine, which Russian forces fled this month after a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Margaryta Tkachenko is still reeling from the battle that destroyed her home and left her family close to starvation with no gas, electricity, running water or internet.
“I can’t predict what will happen next. Winter is the most frightening. We have no wood. How will we heat?” she asked.
Gas from Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline leaks into Baltic Sea
President Vladimir Putin in September chided the West for keeping Nord Stream 2 shut
Updated 31 min 28 sec ago
BERLIN/COPENHAGEN: Danish authorities on Monday asked ships to steer clear of a five nautical mile radius off the island of Bornholm after a gas leak overnight from the defunct Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline drained into the Baltic Sea.
The German government said it was in contact with the Danish authorities and working with local law enforcement to find out what caused pressure in the pipeline to plummet suddenly. Denmark’s energy ministry declined to comment.
On Monday evening, the operator of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which ran at reduced capacity since mid-June before stopping supplies altogether in August, also disclosed a pressure drop on both lines of the gas pipeline.
“The reasons are being investigated,” Nord Stream AG said on its website, without disclosing further information.
The pipeline has been one of the flashpoints in an escalating energy war between Europe and Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February that has pummelled major Western economies and sent gas prices soaring.
“A leak today occurred on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Danish area,” said Denmark’s energy agency in a statement.
The German network regulator president, Klaus Mueller, said on Twitter the pressure drop in both pipelines “underscores the German network regulator’s assessment that the situation is tense.”
The regulator said it was currently not known what had caused the pressure drop, adding the event had no impact on security of supply in Germany and that the country’s gas storage levels were around 91 percent.
Danish maritime authorities had issued a navigation warning and established a zone around the Nord Stream 2 pipeline “as it is dangerous for ship traffic,” it added.
Nord Stream 2’s operator said pressure in the pipeline, which had contained some gas sealed inside despite never becoming operational, dropped from 105 to 7 bars overnight.
The pipeline, which was intended to double the volume of gas flowing from St. Petersburg under the Baltic Sea to Germany, had just been completed and filled with 300 million cubic meters of gas when Germany canceled it days before the invasion.
“Overnight the Nord Stream 2 landfall dispatcher registered a rapid gas pressure drop on Line A of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline,” Nord Stream 2’s operator said in a statement.
“Investigation is ongoing.”
European countries have resisted Russian calls to allow the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to operate and accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon. Russia denies doing so and blames the West for gas shortages.
“We are currently in contact with the authorities concerned in order to clarify the situation. We still have no clarity about the causes and the exact facts,” said a statement from the German economy ministry.
The Swiss-based operator, which has legally been wound up, said it had informed all relevant authorities about the leak.
Russian gas exporter Gazprom referred questions about the incident to the Nord Stream 2 operator.
Russia has cut off gas supplies to several countries and also halted flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming Western sanctions for hindering operations.
President Vladimir Putin in September chided the West for keeping Nord Stream 2 shut.
Monday’s gas leak happened a day before the ceremonial launch of the Baltic Pipe carrying gas from Norway to Poland.
The project is a centerpiece of Warsaw’s efforts to diversify from Russian gas. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is due to travel to Poland on Tuesday to mark the occasion.
Nord Stream 2 was widely unpopular among Danish lawmakers and the country in 2017 passed a law which allowed it to ban the project from passing through its territorial waters on security grounds.
But Nord Stream 2 later changed the original route to steer it through Denmark’s exclusive economic zone, where this veto could not be applied.
NASA’s DART spacecraft closes in on target asteroid as test mission nears climax
DART’s celestial target is an asteroid “moonlet” about 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin
Updated 38 min 31 sec ago
CALIFORNIA: Ten months after launch, NASA’s asteroid-deflecting DART spacecraft closed in on its target on Monday in a test of the world’s first planetary defense system, designed to prevent a doomsday meteorite collision with Earth.
The cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, roughly the size of a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, was on course to fly into the asteroid Dimorphos, about as large as a football stadium, and self-destruct at around 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) some 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.
The mission’s finale will test the ability of a spacecraft to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into the object at high speed to nudge it astray just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.
It marks the world’s first attempt to change the motion of an asteroid, or any celestial body.
DART, launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, has made most of its voyage under the guidance of NASA’s flight directors, with control to be handed over to an autonomous on-board navigation system in the final hours of the journey.
Monday evening’s planned impact is to be monitored in near real time from the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
DART’s celestial target is an asteroid “moonlet” about 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin.
Neither object presents any actual threat to Earth, and NASA scientists said their DART test cannot create a new hazard by mistake.
Dimorphos and Didymos are both tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, wiping out about three-quarters of the world’s plant and animal species including the dinosaurs.
Smaller asteroids are far more common and present a greater theoretical concern in the near term, making the Didymos pair suitable test subjects for their size, according to NASA scientists and planetary defense experts. A Dimorphos-sized asteroid, while not capable of posing a planet-wide threat, could level a major city with a direct hit.
Also, the two asteroids’ relative proximity to Earth and dual configuration make them ideal for the first proof-of-concept mission of DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.
ROBOTIC SUICIDE MISSION
The mission represents a rare instance in which a NASA spacecraft must ultimately crash to succeed.
The plan is for DART to fly directly into Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph), bumping it hard enough to shift its orbital track closer to its larger companion asteroid.
Cameras on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft released from DART days in advance are designed to record the collision and send images back to Earth.
DART’s own camera began returning pictures at the rate of one image per second during its final approach, with those images streaming live on NASA TV starting more than an hour before impact.
The earliest images showed the two asteroids together appearing as a single white dot in the center of the TV screens. NASA commentators said Dimorphos would gradually emerge as a separate point of light that would grow larger and brighter as DART flew closer, and would ultimately take shape as a discernable asteroid filling the entire screen until just before impact.
The DART team said it expects to shorten the orbital track of Dimorphos by 10 minutes but would consider at least 73 seconds a success, proving the exercise as a viable technique to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth — if one were ever discovered.
A small nudge to an asteroid millions of miles (km) away years in advance could be sufficient to safely reroute it away from the planet.
The test’s outcome, beyond whether DART hits its target, will not be known until a new round of ground-based telescope observations of the two asteroids in October.
Earlier calculations of the starting location and orbital period of Dimorphos were confirmed during a six-day observation period in July.
DART is the latest of several NASA missions in recent years to explore and interact with asteroids, primordial rocky remnants from the solar system’s formation more than 4.5 billion years ago.
Last year, NASA launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters orbiting near Jupiter, while the grab-and-go spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is on its way back to Earth with a sample collected in October 2020 from the asteroid Bennu.
The Dimorphos moonlet is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name and is one of 27,500 known near-Earth asteroids of all sizes tracked by NASA. Although none are known to pose a foreseeable hazard to humankind, NASA estimates that many more asteroids remain undetected in the near-Earth vicinity.
NASA has put the entire cost of the DART project at $330 million, well below that of many of the space agency’s most ambitious science missions.
Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3
Updated 43 min 58 sec ago
Part one of the healing process is complete for Italy.
Looking to regain respect after failing to qualify for a second straight World Cup, the Azzurri advanced to next year’s finals tournament in the Nations League by winning at Hungary 2-0 thanks to goals by Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco on Monday.
By topping a group also containing England and Germany, the Italians joined the Netherlands and Croatia in qualifying for the final four, which will be hosted by the Dutch in June.
Portugal or Spain will complete the lineup when they face off on Tuesday.
Unlike Italy, England and Germany will be going to the World Cup in Qatar in less than two months and they’ll head to the Middle East on the back of a wild 3-3 draw at Wembley Stadium, where all the goals were scored in the second half.
Trailing 2-0, England scored three goals in a 12-minute span from the 71st — through Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Harry Kane’s penalty — only for Kai Havertz to pounce on a fumble by England goalkeeper Nick Pope to equalize in the 87th.
England’s winless run stretched to six games, with Gareth Southgate’s team finishing its Nations League campaign without a victory and relegated.
Germany isn’t in much better shape ahead of the World Cup, with just one win in its last seven games.
Italy won Group A3 with 11 points, one more than Hungary, which went into the game in Budapest needing only a draw to reach the Nations League final four for the first time.
The Italians are finding it easier to qualify for Nations League finals than World Cups.
They also got to the 2021 tournament, losing to Spain in the semifinals on home soil in their first few months as the reigning European champion.
Plenty has changed in the team since beating England in the European Championship final at Wembley last year, not least up front where Raspadori is making his mark.
Three days after scoring the winner against England in Milan, the Napoli striker put Italy ahead after Adam Nagy’s back-pass came up short.
Wilfried Gnonto challenged goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi for the ball, which bounced free and Raspadori was alert to round Gulacsi and convert his finish in the 27th.
Gianluigi Donnarumma produced a string of diving stops — including a triple save in a matter of seconds — before Nicolò Barella played a ball through at the other end to Bryan Cristante, who crossed for Dimarco to score from close range for his first goal for Italy.
Late pressure from Hungary failed to yield a goal.
“We were excellent for 70 minutes, the last 20 I didn’t like too much,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “We’re happy — it’s important to have reached the Nations League final four for the second time.” MAGUIRE UNDER SCRUTINY
Under pressure for his starting place in England’s team, Harry Maguire didn’t help his cause against Germany.
The Manchester United center back was at fault for Germany’s 52nd-minute opener from the spot by Ilkay Gundogan — Maguire initially gave the ball away to Jamal Musiala, then clumsily fouled the teenager in the area moments later — and was then dispossessed in midfield to allow the Germans to break, culminating in a curling finish from the edge of the area by Havertz.
Maguire has lost his starting spot at United but Southgate has retained his faith in the defender, who typically plays better for his country than his club. It was a tough night all around for England’s center backs, with John Stones forced off with a suspected hamstring injury.
England did well to fight back, with Kane’s penalty taking him to 51 goals for England, two off Wayne Rooney’s national record, but yet another mistake proved costly.
Pope, filling in for the injured Jordan Pickford, spilled Serge Gnabry’s weak shot and Havertz was on hand to tap in from close range.
“A couple of errors have cost us the goals,” Southgate said, “but I’ll focus on the fact they played with tremendous spirit and showed a belief that we haven’t shown in the last few games.”
There was a well-observed period of silence before kickoff as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died this month. Players from both teams wore black armbands.
Putin grants Russian citizenship to US whistleblower Snowden
“Our position has not changed,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday. “Mr. Snowden should return to the United States where he should face justice as any other American citizen would”
Updated 47 min 2 sec ago
MOSCOW: Russia on Monday granted citizenship to former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who fled prosecution after he revealed highly classified US surveillance programs to capture communications and data from around the world.
A decree signed Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin listed Snowden as one of 75 foreign citizens listed as being granted Russian citizenship. After fleeing the US in 2013, Snowden was granted permanent Russian residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship without renouncing his US citizenship.
Ties between Washington and Moscow are already at their lowest point in decades following Putin’s decision to launch what the Kremlin has dubbed a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
While Snowden, 39, is considered by supporters to be a righteous whistleblower who wanted to protect American civil liberties, US intelligence officials have accused him of putting US personnel at risk and damaging national security. He currently faces charges in the United States that could result in decades in prison.
“Our position has not changed,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday. “Mr. Snowden should return to the United States where he should face justice as any other American citizen would.”
Snowden becomes a Russian citizen as Moscow is mobilizing reservists to go to Ukraine. In Russia, almost every man is considered a reservist until age 65, and officials on Monday stressed that men with dual citizenship are also eligible for the military call-up.
Snowden, however, has never served in the Russian armed forces, so he is not eligible to be mobilized, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Interfax news agency. Having previous combat or military service experience has been considered the main criterion in the call-up.
Kucherena told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti that Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, an American who has been living with him in Russia, will also be applying for a Russian passport. The couple has two children.
“After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little stability will make a difference for my family,” Snowden tweeted Monday. “I pray for privacy for them — and for us all.”
Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and occasionally criticized Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 that he was willing to return to the US if he’s guaranteed a fair trial.
Snowden has become a well-known speaker on privacy and intelligence, appearing remotely at many events from Russia. But he has been sharply criticized by members of the intelligence community, and current and former officials from both US political parties say he endangered global security by exposing important programs. A US damage assessment of his disclosures is still classified.
James Clapper, who served as US director of national intelligence at the time of the disclosures, said Snowden’s grant of citizenship came with “rather curious timing.”
“It raises the question — again — about just what he shared with the Russians,” Clapper said in an email Monday.
Snowden has denied cooperating with Russian intelligence and was traveling through Moscow when the US revoked his passport.
Snowden leaked documents on the National Security Agency’s collection of data passing through the infrastructure of US phone and Internet companies. He also released details about the classified US intelligence budget and the extent of American surveillance on foreign officials, including the leaders of US-allied countries.
Snowden says he made the disclosures because he believed the US intelligence community had gone too far and wrongly infringed on civil liberties. He also has said he didn’t believe the administration of former President Barack Obama, which was in office when Snowden leaked the records to journalists, would act had he made an internal whistleblower complaint instead.
His decision to turn against the NSA came when he used his programming skills to to create a repository of classified in-house notes on the agency’s global snooping and as he built a backup system for agency data, he wrote in his 2019 book “Permanent Record.”
Reading through the repository, Snowden said he began to understand the extent of his government’s stomping on civil liberties and became “cursed with the knowledge that all of us had been reduced to something like children, who’d been forced to live the rest of their lives under omniscient parental supervision.”
Snowden was charged in 2013 with unauthorized disclosure of US national security and intelligence information as well as theft of government property. The three charges each carry a maximum 10-year penalty.
The Justice Department also sued to stop Snowden from collecting profits on his memoir, saying he had violated his nondisclosure agreements with intelligence agencies.
The White House on Monday referred comment on Snowden’s citizenship to the Justice Department, citing the pending criminal charges.