St. Petersburg cafe blast kills top Russian military blogger

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry stand at the side of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP)
Russian Emergency Situations Ministry stand at the side of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, April 2, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 02 April 2023
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St. Petersburg cafe blast kills top Russian military blogger

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry stand at the side of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday.
  • News reports said blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed and 16 people were hurt in the explosion at the Street Food Bar No. 1 cafe

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia: A prominent Russian military blogger was killed Sunday and 25 others injured in an explosion at a cafe in Russia’s second-largest city of Saint Petersburg, the interior ministry said.
“One person was killed in the incident. He was military correspondent Vladlen Tatarsky,” the ministry said on Telegram.
Investigators later said they had confirmed “an unidentified explosive device exploded in a cafe in central St. Petersburg,” and had opened a murder inquiry.
The health ministry said that a total of 25 people were injured in the blast, 24 of whom were taken to hospital.
Six of the injured were said to be in serious condition.
The explosion occurred at “Street Food Bar No. 1,” located along the Neva river not far from the historic city center, with the interior ministry saying police had been called to the scene at 6:13 p.m. (1513 GMT).
Officers cordoned off the street outside the building with around 20 police cars, alongside six ambulances as well as fire trucks, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
The TASS news agency quoted a law enforcement source as saying the blast was “caused by an improvised explosive device hidden inside a statue given to Tatarsky as a gift.”
The Ria Novosti agency, quoting a source close to the inquiry, said “a girl” had supposedly dropped off a package with a “figurine” inside intended for the blogger.
“She gave it to him... and all of a sudden there was an explosion,” Alissa Smotrova, a woman who was at the cafe, told AFP.
“There was blood and pieces of glass...”
Another source told Ria Novosti that Tatarsky “knew” the suspected deliverer of the package, and that they had crossed paths at other “events,” without giving further details.
Tatarsky, whose real name is Maxim Fomin, has more than 500,000 followers on Telegram and is in favor of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.
He made his name early in the operation by publishing videos analizing the military situation on the ground and offering advice for mobilized troops, according to TASS.
A group called Cyber Front Z, which refers to itself on social media as “Russia’s information troops,” said it had hired out the cafe for the evening.
A local media outlet, Fontanka, said there were at least 100 people at the event.
“There was a terrorist attack. We took certain security measures but unfortunately they were not enough,” the group said on Telegram.
“Condolences to everyone who knew the excellent war correspondent and our friend Vladlen Tatarsky,” it said.
The 40-year-old Tatarsky came from the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, which Russia claims to have annexed and which is currently mostly held by Russian troops.
Reacting to the attack, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter the “question of when domestic terrorism would become an instrument of internal political fight was a matter of time.”
In August 2022, Russia’s FSB security services accused Ukraine of being behind a car bombing outside Moscow that killed the daughter of hard-line Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin — charges denied by Kyiv.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said bloggers like Tatarsky “are defenders of the truth,” and lashed out at Western governments for not reacting quickly to the bombing.
A failure to comment “despite their concerns for the welfare of journalists and the free press speaks for itself,” she said, an apparent reference to widespread condemnation of the arrest of US reporter Evan Gershkovich.


UK migration adviser: Scrap special visa rules for shortage occupations

UK migration adviser: Scrap special visa rules for shortage occupations
Updated 03 October 2023
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UK migration adviser: Scrap special visa rules for shortage occupations

UK migration adviser: Scrap special visa rules for shortage occupations
  • The Migration Advisory Committee said making it easier to recruit low-wage workers increased the risk of exploitation
  • Employers can hire migrant workers at 80 percent of a job’s usual “going rate” in Britain for occupations on the list

LONDON: The British government’s independent migration adviser on Tuesday recommended abolishing one of the main routes for businesses to hire migrant workers in sectors where there are severe staff shortages.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which was commissioned to conduct a review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), said making it easier to recruit low-wage workers increased the risk of exploitation.
Business lobby groups have previously called for the government to expand the number of occupations on the list to help firms facing significant issues recruiting staff post-Brexit.
But the committee also said low-wage migrants were more likely to result in a net fiscal cost for Britain, and the high administrative burdens of the scheme made it uneconomic for many businesses.
“These concerns mean that we are not convinced that the SOL provides a sensible immigration solution to shortage issues in low-wage sectors, and so our preference is for the government to abolish it,” the committee said in a report.
Employers can hire migrant workers at 80 percent of a job’s usual “going rate” in Britain for occupations on the list, which includes roles such as bricklayers and care workers.
Being a shortage occupation can allow employers to bypass the general minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa of 26,200 pounds ($31,610), meaning sectors with a going rate below that level particularly benefited from being on the list, MAC said.
MAC recommended no employer should be able to pay below the going rate, which it said helped to protect resident workers from undercutting and reduced the exploitation of migrants.
A spokesperson for Britain’s Home Office said the government would consider the findings of the report and respond “in due course.”
MAC said in future it could instead examine individual occupations or sectors with particularly acute labor market issues, looking at how far immigration policy is helpful, and focussing on changes to things such as wages, training and investment in technology.
The committee said these actions were “likely to be a more sustainable response to the problems.”


KSrelief launches eye treatment program for 30,000 Bangladeshi schoolchildren

KSrelief launches eye treatment program for 30,000 Bangladeshi schoolchildren
Updated 03 October 2023
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KSrelief launches eye treatment program for 30,000 Bangladeshi schoolchildren

KSrelief launches eye treatment program for 30,000 Bangladeshi schoolchildren
  • More than 6 million Bangladeshis have benefited from KSrelief’s aid projects
  • Campaign is part of KSrelief’s ophthalmological interventions in Bangladesh

DHAKA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center launched on Tuesday a medical campaign in Dhaka to treat tens of thousands of Bangladeshi schoolchildren suffering from eye disease.

The campaign is part of KSrelief’s ophthalmological interventions in Bangladesh, where volunteer doctors from Saudi Arabia help Bangladeshis retain or regain their eyesight. The center’s Saudi Noor Volunteer Program, which was held in May, reached more than 4,700 people.

“Helping to reduce the rate of blindness and visual impairments in Bangladesh has been (a) top priority for (the) King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center,” Dr. Aqeel Al-Ghamdi, KSrelief’s assistant supervisor-general for planning and development, told reporters as he launched the program in Dhaka.

The campaign will start with training teachers, as they will be the first to identify students who need help.

“The screening program is in 50 schools in Dhaka. It will cover around 30,000 students. This morning, we visited one of the high schools, and we started the program there. They will screen around 1,000 students in the next three days,” Al-Ghamdi told Arab News.

Under the program, KSrelief will provide glasses for students who need them, while those who may require more medical assistance will be sent to doctors.

“It will change a lot for the students in their academic activity (and) in their life, actually. In this program, I hope the best for the students,” Al-Ghamdi said.

Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Essa Al-Duhailan said during the event that the medical campaign also illustrates the wide-ranging scope of Saudi-Bangladesh relations.

“Our relationship is a multidimensional relationship. It’s not only concentrated in manpower and Hajj and Umrah visits, but it is more than this,” he told reporters.

KSrelief provides humanitarian and development support to millions of beneficiaries in 94 countries. More than 6 million people have received the center’s assistance in Bangladesh, where 52 projects worth about $25 million have been conducted since 2015.


Kremlin says Russia has not abandoned moratorium on nuclear testing

Kremlin says Russia has not abandoned moratorium on nuclear testing
Updated 03 October 2023
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Kremlin says Russia has not abandoned moratorium on nuclear testing

Kremlin says Russia has not abandoned moratorium on nuclear testing
  • Russia may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russia had not abandoned a moratorium on nuclear testing, and dismissed a suggestion by one commentator that it should detonate a thermonuclear bomb.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not know where New York Times reporters had got the idea that Russia may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile, or may have recently tested one.
Margarita Simonyan, hawkish editor-in-chief of the state-owned broadcaster RT, suggested in an interview extract posted online by the foreign-based digital broadcast network RTVI that Russia should detonate a nuclear bomb at high altitude over Siberia as a warning to the West.


Nobel laureate engages young Indians in movement to ‘globalize compassion’

Nobel laureate engages young Indians in movement to ‘globalize compassion’
Updated 03 October 2023
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Nobel laureate engages young Indians in movement to ‘globalize compassion’

Nobel laureate engages young Indians in movement to ‘globalize compassion’
  • Summit on human fraternity, compassion attracts 600 youth leaders
  • Younger generation can protect humanity, planet: Kailash Satyarthi

VIRATNAGAR, RAJASTHAN, India: Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has called on India’s youth leaders to help promote and nurture compassion and human fraternity.

Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, launched over the weekend the Youth Summit on Human Fraternity and Compassion.

The event in Viratnagar, Rajasthan, co-organized by the Satyarthi Movement for Global Compassion and the UAE-based Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, attracted 600 youth leaders from different parts of India to discuss initiatives for unity and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

“Young people have a tremendous capacity to make this world a better place. They can protect humanity as well as the planet. It’s because they are much more genuine and much more honest,” Satyarthi told Arab News.

“We realized that when we dream to make this world a better, peaceful, much more humane, sustainable place, then it should be led by the young people. And therefore, this new movement is being started and that is the movement for global compassion.

“We need connectivity, we need unison, we need a moral responsibility, accountability, and a moral compass to lead our world, and therefore this summit is being held.”

For Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, it was important to spread the efforts in India, given its cultural, ethnic, and religious heterogeneity.

“The Indian community faces many challenges at present and that’s why it is telling these values of global compassion and human potential are very important in addressing these challenges to make sure that this community, the Indian people, will be able to prosper and live with the spirit of living together as one harmonious nation,” he told Arab News.

“My message is for us to create more space for peace and dialogue for young people. As individuals, as leaders, as governments, as institutions, we have to fight to ensure that these young people have this spirit.”

The way the summit’s participants were chosen reflected India’s diversity.

“We set some criteria for the selection of the young leaders and the participants,” he said.

“Top of these was to select people coming from different cultures, different parts in India, different faiths, and different ethnicities, and bring them together to give them a role model of understanding each other and building peace among them so they go out of this event and spread the message of peace nationwide and worldwide.”


South Asia expected to grow by nearly 6 percent this year, making it world’s fastest-growing region

South Asia expected to grow by nearly 6 percent this year, making it world’s fastest-growing region
Updated 03 October 2023
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South Asia expected to grow by nearly 6 percent this year, making it world’s fastest-growing region

South Asia expected to grow by nearly 6 percent this year, making it world’s fastest-growing region
  • Per capita incomes in South Asia are around $2,000 — one-fifth of the level in East Asia and the Pacific region
  • India, which accounts for most of the regional economy, is set to grow by 6.3 percent in the 2023-24 fiscal year

NEW DELHI: South Asia is expected to grow by 5.8 percent this year, making it the fastest-growing region in the world even as the pace remains below pre-pandemic levels, the World Bank said on Tuesday.
The latest South Asia Development Update from the World Bank projected growth in the region to slow slightly to 5.6 percent in 2024 and 2025, as post-pandemic rebounds fade and reduced global demand weighs on economic activity.
At almost 6 percent this year, the region is growing faster than all other emerging markets, said Franziska Ohnsorge, the organization’s chief economist for South Asia.
“While high inflation and interest rates have bogged down many emerging markets, South Asia seems to be forging ahead,” the World Bank noted in its report.
Still, “for all of the countries here this represents a slowdown from pre-pandemic levels,” Ohnsorge said, adding that the growth wasn’t fast enough to meet various development goals set by countries in the region.
Despite the progress, the region still has a long way to go, the report said. Per capita incomes in South Asia are around $2,000 — one-fifth of the level in East Asia and the Pacific region. The current growth rates, while high, are not sufficient for South Asian nations to achieve high-income status within a generation, it said. Additionally, the growth is not necessarily equal.
India, which accounts for most of the regional economy, is set to remain robust with 6.3 percent growth in the 2023-24 fiscal year, while others like Maldives and Nepal are also expected to grow thanks to a rebound in tourism.
But things are bleaker in other countries. Bangladesh’s growth may slow to 5.6 percent, while projections for Pakistan’s growth — only 1.7 percent — are below the rate of its population growth, the World Bank said. Sri Lanka, whose economy collapsed last year, is recovering slowly from a severe recession, but the IMF last week held off from releasing a second tranche of a funding package after concluding that the country had failed to make enough progress in economic reforms.
The World Bank said another concern was that government debt in South Asian countries averaged 86 percent of GDP in 2022, which is higher than other emerging markets. It added the high debt could increase the risk of defaults and raise borrowing costs.
The region’s economic outlook could also be affected by the slowdown in China’s economy and is vulnerable to further shocks from natural disasters, which have become more frequent and intense due to climate change, the report said.
Ohnsorge said that governments in South Asia could improve fiscal conditions by seizing on opportunities for energy transition, which could create jobs, reduce reliance on energy imports and cut pollution levels.
“Almost one-tenth of the region’s workers are employed in pollution-intensive jobs,” many of which are concentrated among informal and lower-skilled workers who are more vulnerable to changes in the labor market, the World Bank said. The region currently lags behind others in adopting energy-efficient technologies and creating more green jobs, Ohnsorge added.
The World Bank on Tuesday also released its latest India Development Update, which found that despite a challenging global economic environment, India was one of the fastest-growing major economies in the previous fiscal year at 7.2 percent. This put it as the second highest among the Group of 20 countries and was almost twice the average for emerging market economies, it said.
With global challenges expected to continue on the back of high interest rates, geopolitical tensions and sluggish global demand, overall economic growth is likely to slow in the medium-term. The World Bank forecasts India’s GDP growth for the current fiscal year to be 6.3 percent, attributing it mainly to external factors and waning pent-up demand after the COVID-19 pandemic.