Putin removes defense minister Shoigu

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is driven along Red Square in an Aurus car during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2024, marking the 79th anniversary of the end of World War II. (AP)
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is driven along Red Square in an Aurus car during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2024, marking the 79th anniversary of the end of World War II. (AP)
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Updated 13 May 2024
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Putin removes defense minister Shoigu

Putin removes defense minister Shoigu
  • That included when Wagner paramilitary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a bloody insurrection last year calling for Shoigu’s removal

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday moved to replace defense minister Sergei Shoigu in a major shake-up to Russia’s military leadership more than two years into its Ukraine offensive.
Putin proposed economist Andrey Belousov as Shoigu’s replacement, according to a list of the ministerial nominations published by the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.
The move comes at a key time in the conflict with Russian troops advancing in eastern Ukraine and having just launched a major new ground operation against the northeastern Kharkiv region.
Despite a string of military setbacks in the first year of the campaign — including the failure to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and retreats from the Kharkiv and southern Kherson regions — Putin had stood by Shoigu until now.
That included when Wagner paramilitary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a bloody insurrection last year calling for Shoigu’s removal.
Explaining the timing of the decision, the Kremlin on Sunday said it needed the defense ministry to stay “innovative.”
“The defense ministry must be absolutely open to innovation, to the introduction of all advanced ideas, to the creation of conditions for economic competitiveness,” state media quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in a briefing on the appointments.
“The battlefield is won by whoever is more open to innovation,” Peskov said.
“That is likely why the president has settled on the candidacy of Andrey Belousov,” he added.
Belousov, who has no military background, has been one of Putin’s most influential economic advisers over the last decade.
UK defense minister Grant Shapps said the Ukraine conflict had left more than 355,000 Russian soldier casualties under Shoigu’s watch as well as “mass civilian suffering.”
“Russia needs a Defense Minister who would undo that disastrous legacy” and end the conflict, “but all they’ll get is another of Putin’s puppets,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Shoigu, 68, was appointed Russian defense minister in 2012 and has had a decades-long political career of unmatched longevity in post-Soviet Russia.
His presence at the center of power in Moscow predates that of Putin himself.
Prior to Russia launching its full-scale military campaign on Ukraine in February 2022, he was seen as one of Putin’s most trusted lieutenants.
The pair were regularly photographed on macho nature retreats in the Siberian wilderness, hunting and fishing together.
In one famous snap from 2017 shared by the Kremlin, they are sitting bare-chested under the sun on a beach by a lake.
On Sunday, Putin simultaneously issued decrees naming Shoigu as the new secretary of the Security Council, replacing his longstanding ally Nikolai Patrushev.
The Kremlin also said Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff, would stay in post overseeing daily military operations in Ukraine.
Along with Shoigu, Gerasimov had been targeted by a hardcore group of influential pro-offensive military bloggers for Moscow’s perceived military failures.
Prigozhin, who marched on Moscow calling for the pair’s removal, died in an unexplained plane crash weeks after his aborted mutiny.

Putin is constitutionally required to name a new set of government ministers — or reappoint existing ones — following his victory in a March election devoid of opposition.
Lawmakers in Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament need to approve the president’s nominations, which they are set to do over the coming days.
The future of Patrushev, an arch-hawk who is sometimes seen as a possible successor to Putin, was unclear.
There was no immediate high-level reaction to the shake-up in Ukraine.
The changes come at a crucial time in the conflict, which had been showing signs of a stalemate for months.
Putin casts the fight against Ukraine as a near-existential battle for his country, calling it just one front of a “hybrid war” between Russia and the West.
 

 


Norway gives $103 million to Ukraine to secure electricity

Norway gives $103 million to Ukraine to secure electricity
Updated 5 sec ago
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Norway gives $103 million to Ukraine to secure electricity

Norway gives $103 million to Ukraine to secure electricity
  • Norwegian PM says the fund will go toward repairs in the Kharkiv area
  • Kharkiv has been hit particularly hard by Russian attacks recently

OSLO: Norway said Sunday that it would provide 1.1 billion kroner ($103 million) to Ukraine to help repair its energy infrastructure and secure the country’s electricity supply before next winter.
“Russia is carrying out massive, systematic attacks to paralyze the power grid, but Ukrainians are working day and night to maintain essential electricity supplies for the population,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement.
According to new estimates, more than 50 percent of Ukraine’s power production capacity has been destroyed, the government said.
“We are in close dialogue with Ukraine on how it can use these funds most effectively. The Ukrainians themselves have the best insight into what is needed,” Store said, adding that it was important to begin infrastructure repairs before the onset of winter.
Norway said it had already been decided that 120 million kroner would go toward repairs in the Kharkiv area, which has been hit particularly hard by Russian attacks recently.
Solar panels will be installed at seven maternity units and operating theaters in the Kharkiv area, Store said in the statement, which was issued as he attended a Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland.
In 2022, Norway provided 2.1 billion kroner in funding to the Ukrainian energy sector, and 1.9 billion kroner last year.
The Scandinavian country has pledged 75 billion kroner in military and civilian aid to Ukraine for the five-year period 2023-2027, with funding allocated each year in line with Ukraine’s needs.
 


Philippine ship, Chinese vessel collide in South China Sea: Beijing

Philippine ship, Chinese vessel collide in South China Sea: Beijing
Updated 56 min 1 sec ago
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Philippine ship, Chinese vessel collide in South China Sea: Beijing

Philippine ship, Chinese vessel collide in South China Sea: Beijing
  • China's coast guard says “Philippine replenishment ship ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side”
  • China has been trying to force a Philippine troops stationed in one of the disputed reefs by blocking supply missions

BEIJING: A Philippine ship and a Chinese vessel collided near the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea on Monday, Beijing’s Coast Guard said.
Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.
China deploys coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into militarised artificial islands. Chinese and Philippine vessels have had a series of confrontations in disputed areas.
On Saturday, new Chinese coast guard rules took effect under which it can detain foreigners for alleged trespassing in the disputed sea.
Beijing’s coast guard said in a statement Monday that a “Philippine replenishment ship ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side.”
It “approached the... Chinese vessel in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision,” the statement said.
Beijing accused the ship of having “illegally broken into the sea near Ren’ai Reef in China’s Nansha Islands,” using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
“The Chinese Coast Guard took control measures against the Philippine ship in accordance with the law,” it added.
Manila has accused the Chinese coast guard of “barbaric and inhumane behavior” against Philippine vessels, and President Ferdinand Marcos has called the new rules a “very worrisome” escalation.
China has defended its new coast guard rules. A foreign ministry spokesman said last month that they were intended to “better uphold order at sea.”
China Coast Guard vessels have used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters.
There have also been collisions that injured Filipino troops.
The Group of Seven bloc on Friday criticized what it called “dangerous” incursions by China in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is a vital waterway, where Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in some parts.
Most recently, however, confrontations between China and the Philippines have raised fears of a wider conflict over the sea that could involve the United States and other allies.
Trillions of dollars in ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea annually, and huge unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under its seabed, though estimates vary greatly.
 


Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message

Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message
Updated 17 June 2024
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Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message

Biden pushes Gaza ceasefire deal in Eid message
  • The US has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept the ceasefire deal greenlighted by Security Council members last week

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden used his Eid Al-Adha message to Muslims to advocate a US-backed ceasefire deal in Gaza, saying Sunday it was the best way to help civilians suffering the “horrors of war between Hamas and Israel.”
“Too many innocent people have been killed, including thousands of children. Families have fled their homes and seen their communities destroyed. Their pain is immense,” Biden said in a statement.
“I strongly believe that the three-phase ceasefire proposal Israel has made to Hamas and that the UN Security Council has endorsed is the best way to end the violence in Gaza and ultimately end the war,” he added.
The United States has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept the ceasefire deal greenlighted by Security Council members last week, which would allow an initial six-week pause to fighting.
Eid Al-Adha, which marks the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God, saw a rare day of relative calm in Gaza after Israel announced a “tactical pause” in fighting near Rafah to facilitate aid deliveries.
The president highlighted American efforts to “advocate for the rights of other Muslim communities” facing persecution, including the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uyghurs in China.
He said “we’re also working to bring a peaceful resolution to the horrific conflict in Sudan,” which has been gripped by fighting between the country’s army and a rival paramilitary group since April 2023.
On the domestic front, Biden’s message Sunday also promised a crackdown on Islamophobia in a direct appeal to American Muslims, a key voting demographic in the Democrat’s reelection bid against Republican rival Donald Trump.
“My Administration is creating a national strategy to counter Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination, which affect not only Muslims, but also Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Americans,” Biden said.
 


Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers

Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers
Updated 17 June 2024
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Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers

Nuclear arms more prominent amid geopolitical tensions: researchers
  • The nine countries are the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel

STOCKHOLM: The role of atomic weapons has become more prominent and nuclear states are modernizing arsenals as geopolitical relations deteriorate, researchers said Monday, urging world leaders to “step back and reflect.”
Diplomatic efforts to control nuclear arms also suffered major setbacks amid strained international relations over the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual yearbook.
“We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War,” Wilfred Wan, director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, said in a statement.
The research institute noted that in February 2023 Russia announced it was suspending participation in the 2010 New START treaty — “the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty limiting Russian and US strategic nuclear forces.”
SIPRI also noted that Russia carried out tactical nuclear weapon drills close to the Ukrainian border in May.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has upped his nuclear rhetoric since the Ukraine conflict began, warning in his address to the nation in February there was a “real” risk of nuclear war.
In addition, an informal agreement between the United States and Iran reached in June 2023 was upended after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, SIPRI said.

According to SIPRI, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states also “continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals and several deployed new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023.”
The nine countries are the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.
In January, of the estimated 12,121 nuclear warheads around the world about 9,585 were in stockpiles for potential use, according to SIPRI.
Around 2,100 were kept in a state of “high operational alert” on ballistic missiles.
Nearly all of these warheads belong to Russia and the United States — which together possess almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons — but China was for the first time believed to have some warheads on high operational alert.
“While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as Cold War-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads,” SIPRI director Dan Smith said.
He added that this trend would likely continue and “probably accelerate” in the coming years, describing it as “extremely concerning.”
Researchers also stressed the “continuing deterioration of global security over the past year,” as the impact from the wars in Ukraine and Gaza could be seen in “almost every aspect” of issues relating to armaments and international security.
“We are now in one of the most dangerous periods in human history,” Smith said, urging the world’s great powers to “step back and reflect. Preferably together.”
 

 


Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US

Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US
Updated 17 June 2024
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Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US

Indian suspect in plot to kill Sikh separatist extradited to US
  • Pannun told Reuters on Sunday that while the extradition was a welcome step, “Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier.” He alleged that those who hired Gupta were senior members of the Indian government who act on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

WASHINGTON: An Indian man suspected by the US of involvement in an unsuccessful plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil has been extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website and a source familiar with the matter.
Nikhil Gupta has been accused by US federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US resident who advocated for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.
Gupta traveled to Prague from India last June and was arrested by Czech authorities. Last month, a Czech court rejected his petition to avoid being sent to the US, clearing the way for the Czech justice minister to extradite him.
An inmate search by name on the Bureau of Prisons website showed on Sunday that Gupta, 52, is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, a federal administrative detention facility. A source familiar with the matter, who did not want to be identified, separately confirmed Gupta’s extradition and his detention in Brooklyn.
A US Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. Gupta’s US-based lawyer, attorney Jeffrey Chabrowe, had no immediate comment. There was also no immediate comment from Czech authorities.
The discovery of assassination plots against Sikh separatists in the US and Canada has tested relations with India, seen by Western nations as a counter to China’s rising global influence. India’s government denies involvement in the plots.
Canada said in September its intelligence agencies were pursuing allegations linking India’s government to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023 in Canada.
In November, US authorities said an Indian government official had directed the plot in the attempted murder of Pannun, who is a US and Canadian citizen. Gupta is accused of involvement in that plot.
Pannun told Reuters on Sunday that while the extradition was a welcome step, “Nikhil Gupta is just a foot soldier.” He alleged that those who hired Gupta were senior members of the Indian government who act on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s government has dissociated itself from the plot against Pannun, saying it was against government policy. It has said it would formally investigate security concerns raised by Washington.
New Delhi has long complained about Sikh separatist groups outside India, viewing them as security threats. The groups have kept alive the movement for Khalistan, or the demand for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India.
Last month, Washington said it was satisfied so far with India’s moves to ensure accountability in the alleged plots, but added that many steps still needed to be taken.