NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a lecture on Russia, Ukraine and NATO's security policy challenges during the Civita breakfast in the University Aula in Oslo, Norway, December 8, 2022. (REUTERS)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a lecture on Russia, Ukraine and NATO's security policy challenges during the Civita breakfast in the University Aula in Oslo, Norway, December 8, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 10 December 2022

NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict

NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict
  • Kremlin has repeatedly accused NATO allies of effectively becoming a party to the conflict

KYIV, Ukraine: The head of NATO expressed worry that the fighting in Ukraine could spin out of control and become a war between Russia and NATO, according to an interview released Friday.
“If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in remarks to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
“It is a terrible war in Ukraine. It is also a war that can become a full-fledged war that spreads into a major war between NATO and Russia,” he said. “We are working on that every day to avoid that.”
Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, said in the interview that “there is no doubt that a full-fledged war is a possibility,” adding that it was important to avoid a conflict “that involves more countries in Europe and becomes a full-fledged war in Europe.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly accused NATO allies of effectively becoming a party to the conflict by providing Ukraine with weapons, training its troops and feeding military intelligence to attack Russian forces.
In comments that reflected soaring tensions between Russia and the West, President Vladimir Putin suggested Moscow might think about using what he described as the US concept of a preemptive strike.
“Speaking about a disarming strike, maybe it’s worth thinking about adopting the ideas developed by our US counterparts, their ideas of ensuring their security,” he said.
Long before the Ukraine war, the Kremlin expressed concern about US efforts to develop the so-called Prompt Global Strike capability that envisions hitting an adversary’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within one hour.
Putin noted that such a strike could knock out command facilities.
“We are just thinking about it, they weren’t shy to openly talk about it during the past years,” he said, claiming that Moscow’s precision-guided cruise missiles outperform similar US weapons and Russia has hypersonic weapons that the US hasn’t deployed.
Putin also said he was disappointed with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent comments that a 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine negotiated by France and Germany had bought time for Ukraine to prepare for the 2022 war.
“I assumed that other participants of the process were sincere with us, but it turned out that they were cheating us,” he said. “It turned out that they wanted to pump Ukraine with weapons and prepare for hostilities.”
Putin argued that Merkel’s statement showed that Russia was right in launching what he calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine. “Perhaps we should have started it earlier,” he said.
He also said her comments further eroded Russia’s trust in the West, complicating any possible peace talks.
“Eventually we will have to negotiate an agreement,” he said. “But after such statements there is an issue of trust. Trust is close to zero. I repeatedly have said that we are ready for an agreement, but it makes us think, think about whom we are dealing with.”
In separate comments via video link to defense and security chiefs of several ex-Soviet nations, Putin again accused the West of using Ukraine as a tool against his country.
“For many years, the West shamelessly exploited and pumped out its resources, encouraged genocide and terror in the Donbas and effectively turned the country into a colony,” he said. “Now it’s cynically using the Ukrainian people as cannon fodder, as a ram against Russia by continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition, sending mercenaries and pushing it to a suicidal track.”
Ukrainians say they are fighting for freedom against an unwanted invader and aggressor.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone Friday and both “agreed on the importance of preempting Russia’s insincere calls for a cease-fire,” Sunak’s office said. “The prime minister added that the Kremlin needed to withdraw its forces before any agreement could be considered.”
Heavy fighting continued Friday in eastern and southern Ukraine, mostly in regions that Russia illegally annexed in September.
Ukraine’s presidential office said five civilians have been killed and another 13 have been wounded by Russian shelling in the last 24 hours.
Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said the Russians were pressing an offensive on Bakhmut with daily attacks, despite taking heavy casualties.
“You can best describe those attacks as cannon fodder,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “They are mostly relying on infantry and less on armor, and they can’t advance.”
In neighboring Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the Ukrainian military was pushing its counteroffensive toward Kreminna and Svatove.
He voiced hope Ukraine can reclaim control of Kreminna by year’s end, and then by the end of winter reclaim areas in the region that were captured by Russia since the war began.
In the south, Kherson regional Gov. Yaroslav Yanyshevych said eight civilians were wounded by Russian shelling in the last 24 hours, and in the city of Kherson that Ukraine retook last month, a children’s hospital and a morgue were damaged.
In the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces shelled Nikopol and Chervonohryhorivka, which are across the Dnieper River from the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Zaporizhzhia Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said Russian shelling damaged residential buildings and power lines.
In the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said three civilians were wounded by Russian shelling, with one later dying.

 


France’s Macron faces electoral pressure over ‘out of control’ immigration

France’s Macron faces electoral pressure over ‘out of control’ immigration
Updated 22 sec ago

France’s Macron faces electoral pressure over ‘out of control’ immigration

France’s Macron faces electoral pressure over ‘out of control’ immigration
  • 28.6% increase in asylum claims as opposition warns of ‘insurrection in the voting booths’
  • Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Georgia were main countries of origin for asylum seekers last year

French President Emmanuel Macron’s party is facing significant electoral losses amid concerns over “out of control” immigration, The Times reported.

The government’s perceived failure to control immigration — with a 28.6 percent year-on-year increase in asylum applications — has led to key potential allies urging Macron to take urgent action.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Georgia were the main countries of origin for asylum seekers in France last year.

New figures show that France provided 320,330 people with residency permits in 2022 — up from 193,000 a decade earlier.

Bruno Retailleau, leader of the opposition Republicans in the Senate, said populism could make another comeback in France due to growing dissatisfaction with immigration levels.

Macron is likely to need Retailleau’s support in pushing through a critical new immigration bill in Parliament, with the president’s party losing its majority in the National Assembly during elections last year.

The proposed bill aims to ease concerns from both the left and right of French politics, with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne describing the legislation as a balance of “firmness and humanity.”

Under the plans, authorities will expedite the deportation of unemployed illegal immigrants, while industries facing labor shortages will gain access to new one-year working visas enabling the rapid hiring of undocumented migrants.

But Retailleau criticized the proposals, saying it “will not enable us to take back control” of immigration.

He added: “We are in the midst of migratory disorder (and) if we don’t take back control … there will be insurrections in the voting booths very soon.”

Retailleau warned that France could follow in the footsteps of Sweden, where “the extreme right is at the door of power.”

Political commentator Matthieu Croissandeau said: “The left thinks it (the legislation) is too right wing and the right thinks it’s too left wing.”


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

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
Updated 02 February 2023

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

Russia’s Lavrov says United States involved in Nord Stream explosions
  • Russia vows to push Ukrainian army back in response to longer-range rockets

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


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

EU chief arrives in Kyiv, says bloc ‘stands by Ukraine’
Updated 02 February 2023

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes
Updated 02 February 2023

Australia to remove British monarch from banknotes

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

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