Kremlin warns of tensions if Poland sends troops to Finnish-Russian border

Kremlin warns of tensions if Poland sends troops to Finnish-Russian border
Any decision by Finland to allow a "concentration" of troops on its border with Russia would be viewed by Moscow as a threat, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, after Poland offered to send military advisers to help Helsinki police the frontier. (AP/File)
Short Url
Updated 29 November 2023
Follow

Kremlin warns of tensions if Poland sends troops to Finnish-Russian border

Kremlin warns of tensions if Poland sends troops to Finnish-Russian border
  • The head of the Polish National Security Bureau said in a post on social media X late on Tuesday that Poland would send military advisers to its NATO ally Finland
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is an absolutely redundant measure to ensure border security because there is no threat there”

MOSCOW/HELSINKI: Any decision by Finland to allow a “concentration” of troops on its border with Russia would be viewed by Moscow as a threat, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, after Poland offered to send military advisers to help Helsinki police the frontier.
The head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Jacek Siewiera, said in a post on social media X late on Tuesday that Poland would send military advisers to its NATO ally Finland, in response to “an official request for allied support in the face of a hybrid attack on the Finnish border.”
“A team of military advisers will provide on-site knowledge on border security, also in operational terms,” he said.
Finland said on Wednesday it was unaware of the Polish offer. It has closed its entire 1,340 km (833 mile) border with Russia for two weeks in a bid to halt an unusually large flow of asylum seekers that Helsinki says amounts to a “hybrid attack” orchestrated by Moscow, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Asked about the Polish offer to Finland during a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is an absolutely redundant measure to ensure border security because there is no threat there.”
“The Finns must be clearly aware that this will pose a threat to us — an increase in the concentration of military units on our borders.”
Any planned deployment would be unprovoked and unjustified, said Peskov.
Finland’s Border Guard and the interior ministry both said they were unaware of any plan to bring Polish military advisers to Finland’s eastern border.
The Finnish foreign and defense ministries and its defense forces did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto held talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Warsaw last week but they did not discuss military cooperation on the Finnish border with Russia, Niinisto’s office said in a statement to Reuters.
Finland infuriated Russia earlier this year when it joined NATO, ending decades of military non-alignment, due to the war in Ukraine.


Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal
Updated 9 sec ago
Follow

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal
  • ‘The government are now owned by fear of Islamic rule’: Conservative Democratic Organisation member
  • Ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman ‘the only person who can remove the threat of Islam from our country’

LONDON: UK Conservative Party supporters at the grassroots level have expressed anger over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s suspension of an MP embroiled in an Islamophobia row, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Lee Anderson was suspended last week after claiming in a TV interview that Islamists had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor.

Sunak’s decision to sack Anderson has divided the Conservative base, with some supporters labeling the leader “weak and feeble,” and a “snake.”

Leaked WhatsApp messages seen by The Guardian from members of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, a faction on the right of the party launched in 2022, show the extent of anger at Anderson’s sacking.

One member said it was “time for the snake of a PM to go,” while another said Sunak “should never have been” in the leadership position.

Other members appear to support Anderson’s comments, with one saying: “The government are now owned by fear of Islamic rule.”

Controversial former Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also discussed in the WhatsApp conversations after she claimed last week that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.”

One CDO member said: “She is saying the exact same thing as Lee Anderson, just in less colorful language, and importantly in print.

“I am beginning to believe that Suella is the only person who has shown the mettle who can turn the party and remove the threat of Islam from our country.”

Their message was liked by 10 group members on the messaging platform.

In a sign of further rifts within the Conservative Party, the CDO group members shared an online petition calling for Anderson’s reinstatement, which had gathered more than 5,000 signatures overnight.

Members also warned that the party leadership’s decision to sack the MP would threaten its electoral chances.

One member said: “There goes Lee’s voters — wonder what happens when it dawns on them that they actually need voters to keep themselves in power.”

A number of Conservative MPs have said they support Anderson’s reinstatement if he apologizes for his comments.

MP Jonathan Gullis told Times Radio: “I hope that we will see him return to that party sooner rather than later but of course he has to, I think, make that apology to Mayor Khan.”

Another Conservative MP said: “He wants to come back. We want him back.”

But Anderson has so far remained firm in standing by his remarks, describing them as “born out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city.”

In a statement, he said: “If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. But when you think you are right, you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

Despite making the decision to sack Anderson, Sunak has avoided describing the MP’s comments as Islamophobic, saying: “I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable and that’s why we suspended (him).”

Khan said Sunak’s refusal to describe the claims as Islamophobic is “a tacit endorsement of anti-Muslim hatred and can only lead to the conclusion that anti-Muslim bigotry and racism are not taken seriously.”


Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row
Updated 11 min 7 sec ago
Follow

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row
  • Areas of London, Birmingham enforced by Muslims ‘abusing their religion’: Paul Scully
  • Comments condemned by Labour, Conservative figures representing those areas

LONDON: Claims by a former Conservative minister in the UK that Muslim “no-go” zones exist in major British cities have escalated an Islamophobia row within the ruling party.

MP Paul Scully, who previously ran to be his party’s candidate for London mayor, made the claims as the Conservatives were engaged in a fresh row over Islamophobia.

In an interview with the BBC, Scully referenced areas of east London and Birmingham as containing “no-go areas” enforced by local Muslims “abusing their religion,” the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

“If you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying,” he said. “That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

Scully was responding to the recent sacking of MP Lee Anderson, who had claimed that Islamists had “got control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Sully’s comments were condemned by Labour and Conservative figures representing the areas referenced by him.

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said “those in Westminster” should “stop the nonsense slurs.”

He added: “The idea that Birmingham has a ‘no-go’ zone is news to me, and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill.”

Labour’ Jess Phillips said: “As one of the MPs for Sparkhill, I am expecting an apology for this utter drivel. My kids hang out in Sparkhill day and night, never had a moment’s worry.

“I go there weekly and live literally a five-minute walk from there and used to live there myself.”

Scully also claimed that the Conservative Party did not have a problem with Islamophobia.


Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel
Updated 21 min 17 sec ago
Follow

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel
  • Jakarta issues call at UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Transfer of weapons to Israel would likely be used to violate international law, UN experts say

JAKARTA: Indonesia, the current president of the UN Conference on Disarmament, has called for an end to military support and weapons sales to Israel.

The Conference on Disarmament, consisting of 65 member states including permanent members of the UN Security Council, was established in 1979 and is the world’s only multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations.

Indonesia holds the rotating presidency for a four-week term until March 15 and is leading the high-level segment of the conference in Geneva this week. During the ministerial-level meeting, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called for a stop to arms shipments to Israel.

“At the end of my statement, I conveyed condemnation of Israel’s plan to use nuclear weapons to threaten the residents of Gaza. I also urged a stop to weapons shipment to Israel to prevent more fatalities,” Marsudi said in a video briefing on Tuesday.

She also attended a side event on Palestine during her time in Geneva, where she highlighted Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza and the fight against double standards within the international community.

“With the current situation in Gaza and Palestine, I asked if we will remain silent. Ideally, the answer should be no … In closing, I conveyed how we need to remain united, we must continue to work together to fight against the injustice that has gone on for so long against the nation of Palestine.”

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October, with about 1.9 million people displaced in the besieged enclave where intense Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea have continued for the last four months.

UN experts called on Feb. 23 for an immediate end to arms exports to Israel, saying that “given the facts or past patterns of behavior,” any weapons or ammunition transferred there would be used to violate international law.

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk,” the UN experts said.

“The need for an arms embargo on Israel is heightened by the International Court of Justice’s ruling on 26 January 2024 that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then,” the experts said. “All States must not be complicit in international crimes through arms transfers. They must do their part to urgently end the unrelenting humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.


India names four astronauts for first human space flight

India names four astronauts for first human space flight
Updated 27 February 2024
Follow

India names four astronauts for first human space flight

India names four astronauts for first human space flight
  • Uncrewed test flights into space scheduled for 2024-25
  • Astronauts are Indian Air Force pilots who underwent training in Russia

NEW DELHI: India announced on Tuesday the names of four astronauts who will take part in the Gaganyaan mission — the country’s first human space flight program.

Having become the fourth nation ever to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon in August last year, India aims to put an astronaut on the lunar surface by 2040.

The Indian Space Research Organization, the state-run agency spearheading the program, aims to launch the mission in 2024-2025.

The astronauts — Indian Air Force pilots Gp. Capt. P. Balakrishnan Nair, Gp. Capt. Ajit Krishnan, Gp. Capt. Angad Pratap and Wg. Cdr. S. Shukla — were introduced to the public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

“They are not just four names or four human beings, they are the four powers that are going to take the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians to space. An Indian is going to space, after 40 years. This time, the time is ours, the countdown is ours and the rocket is also ours,” he said.

“We are witnessing another historic journey at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.”

Modi was referring to Rakesh Sharma — the only Indian citizen to travel in space, who flew aboard Soyuz T-11 on April 3, 1984, as part of the Soviet Interkosmos program.

Like Sharma, the four astronauts have also undergone training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Zvezdnyi Gorodok near Moscow.

The Gaganyaan mission, estimated to cost over $1 billion, began in 2006 with the aim of developing the technology needed to launch crewed orbital spacecraft into low Earth orbit.

The first crewed flight is expected after three uncrewed ones this and next year. Two or three of the astronauts will be launched to an orbit of 400 km for three days and brought back to Earth — landing in Indian sea waters.

If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation to conduct independent human spaceflight after Russia, the US and China.

Before it sends an astronaut to the moon, India’s space agency also intends to start a space station program.

“By 2035, India will have its own space station in space that will help us study the unknown expanses of space,” Modi said.

“This is the beginning of a new era, where India is continuously expanding its space in the global order and this is clearly visible in our space program.”

The Gaganyaan mission adds to India’s status as an emerging space superpower, building on a historic success in August 2023, when it landed the moon rover Chandrayaan-3 on the lunar surface, becoming the first country to land near the lunar south pole and the fourth to land on the moon — after the US, Russia, and China.

Weeks after the soft-landing, India launched the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, which in January reached Lagrange point — 1.5 million km from the Earth — where it can orbit the sun at the same rate as the Earth and observe the photosphere and chromosphere to study solar wind particles and magnetic fields.

To date, the US is the only other country to have explored the sun with the Parker Solar Probe launched in 2021.


NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine
Updated 27 February 2024
Follow

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine
  • NATO as an alliance provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support
  • The idea of putting boots on the ground has so far been taboo

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military alliance has no plans to send combat troops into Ukraine amid reports that some Western countries may be considering putting boots on the ground in the war-ravaged country.
Stoltenberg said that “NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion. But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine.”
Ahead of a trip to Paris on Monday, where top officials from over 20 countries discussed options to increase help for Ukraine, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said that some are weighing whether to strike bilateral deals to send troops to Ukraine to help it fend off the Russian invasion.
Fico said that his government is not planning to propose to send Slovak soldiers, but did not provide details about what countries might be considering such deals, or what the troops would do in Ukraine.
Parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini also said that Slovakia won’t deploy troops there.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also declined to comment, but he underlined that “the Czech Republic certainly doesn’t want to send its soldiers to Ukraine.”
Prime Minister Donald Tusk also said on Tuesday that “Poland does not plan to send its troops to Ukraine.”
While ruling out NATO military action, Stoltenberg said “that this is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, blatantly violating international law. According to international law, Ukraine of course has the right to self-defense, and we have the right to support them in upholding that right.”
NATO as an alliance provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support like medical supplies, uniforms and winter equipment, but some members send weapons and ammunition bilaterally or in groups. Any decision for the organization to send troops would require unanimous support from all member countries.
The idea of putting boots on the ground has so far been taboo, particularly as NATO seeks to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia. However, Ukraine’s backers have gradually provided more hi-tech and long-range weapons since Russia invaded two years ago.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that sending Western troops on the ground in Ukraine should not be “ruled out” in the future, as Russia’s full-scale invasion grinds into a third year.
“We will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war,” the French leader said after hosting the gathering in Paris. While he underlined that “there’s no consensus today” to send a combined force, he also said that “nothing can be ruled out.”
The conference was held just after France, Germany and the UK each signed 10-year bilateral security agreements with Ukraine in a signal of long-term backing as Kyiv works to shore up Western support.
European nations are worried that the US will dial back support, as aid for Kyiv is held up in Congress. They also have concerns that former President Donald Trump might return to the White House and change the course of US policy on the continent.
Several European countries, including France, expressed support Monday for an initiative launched by the Czech Republic to buy shells for Ukraine outside the European Union, participants at the meeting said.
Macron said that a new coalition will be launched to deliver medium and long-range missiles. France announced last month the delivery of 40 additional long-range Scalp cruise missiles.
In an interview last week, Stoltenberg did not oppose the idea that Ukraine be allowed to use Western weapons to strike targets in Russia. Some countries have placed restrictions on the use of materiel they provide, asking that it be used only inside Ukraine.
“It’s for each and every ally to decide whether there are some caveats on what they deliver,” Stoltenberg told Radio Free Europe. But, he said, Ukraine’s right to self-defense “includes also striking legitimate military targets, Russian military targets, outside Ukraine.”
Also Monday, Sweden cleared its final hurdle to becoming a NATO member.