Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink

Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink
A Starlink satellite internet system is set up near the frontline town of Bakhmut amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink

Kremlin, Musk deny Russian army using Starlink
  • Ukraine itself has widely used Starlink to ensure communications and connectivity for its troops during the two-year war

KYIV, Ukraine: The Kremlin on Monday rejected Ukraine’s claims that Russian troops fighting on the frontline were using Starlink Internet terminals.
Kyiv’s GUR military intelligence agency said it had evidence that the terminals were being used on a “systematic” basis by Russian troops, accusing Moscow of “smuggling” them into the country.
Starlink, owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide Internet to remote locations, or areas that have had normal communications infrastructure disabled.
“My companies have probably done more to undermine Russia than anything,” Musk said during a streamed session on X, formerly known as Twitter, criticizing US funding to Ukraine.
Musk maintained that SpaceX had taken away two thirds of Russian space launch business and that “Starlink has overwhelmingly helped Ukraine.”
“It cannot be officially supplied here and is not officially supplied here,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.
“Accordingly, it cannot be officially used here in any way,” he added.
The system is not active in Russia, meaning even a device inside Russia could not connect.
But Kyiv has accused Russian troops of using the device across the frontlines in Ukraine.
“Starlink is freely available in Russia. Compared to last year, now the use of Starlink in the Russian army on the front line has become more systematic,” GUR spokesman Andriy Yusov said Monday on state television.
He said it would not “reveal all the details” of its claims.
Ukraine itself has widely used Starlink to ensure communications and connectivity for its troops during the two-year war.
Musk called reports SpaceX had sold Starlink terminals to Russia “categorically false” in a post on his X social media platform.
“To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia,” he added.
Ukraine’s Yusov said Kyiv accepted that Starlink was not “officially being sold to the Russians.”
He said Russia bought them through “parallel imports, which is essentially smuggling.”
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine and was hit with Western sanctions, it has set up a network of traders and intermediaries in third countries to get hold of banned goods and other products no longer available inside Russia.
It is not the first time Kyiv and Musk have clashed over Starlink.
Last year the Tesla and SpaceX tycoon rejected a request to activate the network in the Crimean city of Sevastopol to support a Ukrainian attack on Russia’s naval fleet.
He said SpaceX would have been “explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation” if he had agreed.
Also last year he said his company could not indefinitely fund the service in Ukraine, before agreeing to maintain the connections.


The imam and rabbi confounding stereotypes in Austria

The imam and rabbi confounding stereotypes in Austria
Updated 11 sec ago
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The imam and rabbi confounding stereotypes in Austria

The imam and rabbi confounding stereotypes in Austria
  • Unlikely Muslim-Jewish pair are in high demand as speakers among students seeking to understand the two great religions

VIENNA: More than 150 students crowded into a room at an Austrian high school to hear an unlikely duo speak — imam Ramazan Demir and rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister.

The two men’s talks, educating students about their religions, have taken on additional pertinence since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent relentless bombing of Gaza.
Since then Austria has seen a rise in both anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts, as elsewhere in Europe.
“We must separate religion from politics,” rabbi Hofmeister, 48, told the students, while imam Demir, 38, nodded in support.
“This is not a religious war, it is a political conflict, a terrible conflict that must not impact our communities here in Europe,” Hofmeister added.
The two volunteers are in high demand because “just our friendship alone defies stereotypes,” according to Demir.
Their diaries are packed until June, with the pair visiting some 30 Austrian schools.
During last week’s two-hour discussion at a high school in a working-class suburb of the capital, questions came thick and fast from the students aged 16 to 18.
A livestream allowed those unable to get a seat in the large hall to hear them explain how Jews and Muslims pray to the differences between kosher and halal.

The two bearded men — one wearing a kufi cap, the other a wide-brimmed fedora hat — met 10 years ago during an inter-religious project and have since worked together, traveling to Turkiye, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The Gaza war has not affected their friendship, they say.
“We want there to be peace, without any ifs and whens,” Demir said, while Hofmeister added that he was “glad they started to cooperate so early on to be able to address the current crisis.”
The war started when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
But concern has mounted amid the high civilian death toll from Israel’s retaliatory campaign, now at almost 30,000, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
The Vienna school where the pair were speaking has 1,200 students of 63 different nationalities, although none identify as Jewish.
At each break, numerous students crowd around the duo, who use humor to lighten the atmosphere.
“It’s interesting to see how similar religions are,” 17-year-old Estella Dolas told AFP.
Austria is a majority Catholic country, with Muslims making up around 8 percent of the population. Only 0.1 percent — just 5,400 people — declared themselves as Jewish in the 2021 census.
School director Inge Joebstl, 55, said the rapport and respect between the two men, who spoke “on an equal footing,” made the students more receptive.
Especially since many of them will otherwise look for answers on social networks where “self-proclaimed experts converted two years ago explain to them what Islam is,” warned Demir.
“After we leave, the students may not remember everything we told them,” admitted Hofmeister.
“But they will remember that an imam and a rabbi came to their school and that they got along well.”
 


New Zealand designates entirety of Hamas a ‘terrorist entity’

New Zealand designates entirety of Hamas a ‘terrorist entity’
Updated 40 min 36 sec ago
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New Zealand designates entirety of Hamas a ‘terrorist entity’

New Zealand designates entirety of Hamas a ‘terrorist entity’

WELLINGTON: New Zealand on Thursday became one of the last Western countries to designate all of Hamas as a “terrorist entity,” saying the attacks of October 7 had shattered the notion its political and military wings could be separated.
“The organization as a whole bears responsibility for these horrific terrorist attacks,” the government said, announcing a move that spells a freeze on Hamas assets in New Zealand and a ban on providing it with “material support.”


Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’

Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’
Updated 29 February 2024
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Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’

Marcos says Philippines on ‘frontline’ of maritime disputes, will not cede ‘one square inch’
  • “The challenges that we face may be formidable, but equally formidable is our resolve. We will not yield,” Marcos tells Australia's Parliament
  • China has rapidly grown its naval forces in recent years, and snatched vast tracts of maritime territory

CANBERRA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos told Australia’s parliament his country was on the “frontline” of a battle for regional peace Thursday — pledging resolve as he sought support in maritime disputes with China.
With Beijing’s warships detected in waters off his country’s coast, Marcos told Australian lawmakers that “the Philippines now finds itself on the frontline against actions that undermine regional peace, erode regional stability, and threaten regional success.”
He vowed to remain firm in defending his country’s sovereignty.
“I will not allow any attempt by any foreign power to take even one square inch of our sovereign territory,” Marcos said to loud applause.
“The challenges that we face may be formidable, but equally formidable is our resolve. We will not yield.”
Philippines authorities this week said they detected Chinese navy vessels around the Scarborough Shoal — an area seized by Beijing in 2012.
China has claimed the shoal and swathes of the South China Sea as its own, ignoring regional objections and an international tribunal ruling that the claims have no legal basis.
It has long deployed coast guard and other vessels around the Scarborough Shoal to prevent Philippine access.
But Marcos has called the deployment of warships a new and “worrisome” development.
The South China Sea is strategically vital for several countries, providing a key route for the import and export of essential fuel, food and other goods.
The Philippines and other countries — backed by the United States — have argued the waterway should be free and open.
China has rapidly grown its naval forces in recent years, and snatched vast tracts of maritime territory, hoping to project its military and political power well beyond the country’s shores.
“The protection of the South China Sea as a critical global artery is crucial to the preservation of regional peace. And I dare say of global peace” Marcos said.


Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules

Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules
Updated 29 February 2024
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Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules

Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules
  • Judge said the former president should be disqualified from the ballot for violating the anti-insurrection clause of the US constitution
  • Colorado and Maine earlier removed Trump from their state ballots, but both decisions are on hold while Trump appeals

An Illinois state judge on Wednesday barred Donald Trump from appearing on the Illinois’ Republican presidential primary ballot because of his role in the insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but she delayed her ruling from taking effect in light of an expected appeal by the former US president.

Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter sided with Illinois voters who argued that the former president should be disqualified from the state’s March 19 primary ballot and its Nov. 5 general election ballot for violating the anti-insurrection clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
The final outcome of the Illinois case and similar challenges will likely be decided by the US Supreme Court, which heard arguments related to Trump’s ballot eligibility on Feb. 8.
Porter said she was staying her decision because she expected his appeal to Illinois’ appellate courts, and a potential ruling from the US Supreme Court.
The advocacy group Free Speech For People, which spearheaded the Illinois disqualification effort, praised the ruling as a “historic victory” in a statement.
A campaign spokesperson for Trump, the national frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, said in a statement this “is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal.”
Colorado and Maine earlier removed Trump from their state ballots after determining he is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Both decisions are on hold while Trump appeals.
Section 3 bars from public office anyone who took an oath to support the US Constitution and then has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, attacked police and swarmed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours did not act on requests that he urge the mob to stop.
The Supreme Court is currently weighing Trump’s challenge to his Colorado disqualification. The justices in Washington appeared skeptical of the decision during oral arguments in the case, expressing concerns about states taking sweeping actions that could affect the national election.


Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set

Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set
Updated 29 February 2024
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Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set

Chad says opposition group attacked security agency in capital, a day after election date was set
  • Govt blames attack on opposition group led by Yaya Dillo, cousin of interim President Mahamat Deby Itno and a strong contender in the upcoming election
  • The government announced earlier that the presidential election would be held on May 6

N’DJAMENA, Chad: Several people were killed in an attack on the national security agency in Chad’s capital, officials said on Wednesday.

Opposition group The Socialist Party Without Borders attacked The agency, known as ANSE, D’jamena, government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah in a statement. The group is led by Yaya Dillo, the current president’s cousin and a strong contender in the upcoming election.
Koulamallah said, “the situation is now totally under control” but did not reveal the exact number of people killed. He said some were arrested and others were being pursued.
In the same statement, the government said that earlier the party’s finance secretary tried to assassinate the president of the supreme court, which led to his arrest.
Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, seized power after his father who ran the country for more than three decades was killed fighting rebels in 2021. Last year, the government announced it was extending the 18-month transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.
On Tuesday, the government announced that presidential election would be held on May 6.
On Wednesday afternoon the Internet was cut in the capital and tensions remained high.