UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war
A firefighter works amid debris of a destroyed house in a residential area in Makiivka. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

LONDON: China is sending “lethal aid” to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, Britain’s defense minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.
“Today I can reveal that we have evidence that Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine,” he said in a speech at a London conference.
Shapps warned that NATO needed to “wake up” and bolster defense spending across the alliance.
“US and British defense intelligence can reveal that lethal aid is now flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine.”
He argued that democratic states should make a “full-throated case” for freedoms that are dependent on the international order, meaning “we need more allies and partners” worldwide.
“It’s time for the world to wake up. And that means translating this moment to concrete plans and capabilities. And that starts with laying the foundations for an alliance-wide increase in spending on our collective deterrent,” he said.
China and Russia’s strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, but Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow’s war effort.
China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, appeared to take issue with some of Shapps’s comments.
He said the possibility that China might “provide weapons directly — lethal assistance — to Russia” had been a concern earlier, but that “we have not seen that to date.”
The United States did though have a “concern about what China’s doing to fuel Russia’s war machine, not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia’s defense industrial base,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin put on a strong show of unity during a meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Xi said in a statement following talks with Putin during his visit that the two sides agreed on the need for a “political solution” to resolve the war.


Mobile internet down, troops on streets as Bangladeshi students clash with police

Mobile internet down, troops on streets as Bangladeshi students clash with police
Updated 19 min 57 sec ago
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Mobile internet down, troops on streets as Bangladeshi students clash with police

Mobile internet down, troops on streets as Bangladeshi students clash with police
  • At least 11 people killed in violent clashes across Bangladesh’s main cities

DHAKA: Mobile internet services were down, businesses closed, and public transportation was disrupted across Bangladeshi cities on Thursday, as authorities ordered troops on to the streets amid deadly clashes with protesting students.
University students have been rallying to demand the removal of government employment quotas after the High Court reinstated a rule that reserves the bulk of jobs for descendants of those who fought in the country’s 1971 liberation war.
Under the quota system, 56 percent of public service jobs are reserved for specific groups, including women, marginalized communities, and children and grandchildren of freedom fighters — for whom the government earmarks 30 percent of the posts.
Clashes with police and government supporters began on Sunday after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undermined the students’ cause by suggesting that they supported the “razakars,” or those who had collaborated with the Pakistani military, an enemy occupying force, during the 1971 war.
Since Wednesday, educational institutions, campuses and students’ dormitories have been shut across the country, forcing students on to the streets.
Tensions escalated early on Thursday and about 6,000 border guards were sent to assist police.
“Considering the present situation, we have deployed additional forces to maintain law and order, and protect the people’s lives and properties,” Inamul Huq Sagar, spokesperson at the police headquarters, told Arab News.
“During emergency situations, we always deploy an additional number of forces.”
Authorities have also shut down mobile internet to prevent further mobilization through social media, with Telecommunications Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak telling reporters services “will be brought back to normal when the situation improves.”
At least 11 people have been killed and hundreds injured since the clashes broke out across Bangladesh’s main cities, according to local media reports.
Most of the violence took place in Dhaka, where students announced a “complete shutdown,” urging private sector workers and businesses to close operations for the day.
“The complete shutdown is a call from the students to the people not to go to offices, and businesses to remain closed. People will stay at home. All the students are on the streets now,” Umama Fatima, coordinator of Students Against Discrimination, one of the protest organizers, told Arab News.
“The protest is underway everywhere in the capital and across the country. In many places, police and the ruling party’s student wing, Bangladesh Chatra League, attacked the protesting students. As I heard, at least four students died in Dhaka on Thursday during clashes with police.”
More than a quarter of Bangladesh’s 170 million population is aged between 15 and 29. Unemployment is highest in this group, contributing 83 percent of the total jobless figure in the country.
The quotas for well-paid government jobs hit them directly.
Mohammad Nahid Islam, another Students Against Discrimination coordinator, told Arab News earlier this week that the protest was not seeking an end to the quota system, merely its reform, so that it continues to protect marginalized groups, but does not disproportionately distribute public service jobs prioritizing the descendants of the 1971 fighters.
“We are demanding the reform by reserving some quota for the underprivileged population,” he said. “We are demanding job recruitment on the basis of merit.”


Spanish, German police detain four suspected of trafficking drone parts to Hezbollah

Spanish, German police detain four suspected of trafficking drone parts to Hezbollah
Updated 31 sec ago
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Spanish, German police detain four suspected of trafficking drone parts to Hezbollah

Spanish, German police detain four suspected of trafficking drone parts to Hezbollah
MADRID: Police detained four suspects — three in Spain and one in Germany — as part of an investigation into the sale of drone parts to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group in Lebanon, Spanish police said on Thursday.
The investigation was initiated in Spain, where police officers detected Spanish companies owned by Lebanese-born citizens trading in large quantities of parts and components for military drones able to carry explosives, the police said.
Based on an analysis of documents detailing trades of the components within Europe, several hundred or even a thousand drones could have been assembled by Hezbollah using the parts, the Spanish police said in a statement.
The light aircraft, which are hard to detect and stop, are loaded with explosives as heavy as several kilograms and sent into Israel, the police said.
The remains of drones flown by Hezbollah and found in Israel match the type of components seized by the police in Spain and Germany, the statement said.
Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging fire since Hezbollah announced a “support front” with Palestinians shortly after its ally Hamas attacked southern Israeli border communities on Oct. 7, triggering Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
The fighting in Lebanon has killed more than 100 civilians and more than 300 Hezbollah fighters, according to a Reuters tally, and led to levels of destruction in Lebanese border towns and villages not seen since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.

Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center

Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center
Updated 25 min 28 sec ago
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Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center

Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center
  • Widodo awarded Order of Zayed for strengthening UAE-Indonesian relations
  • First phase of the new capital megaproject is scheduled for completion in 2024

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo secured a deal during his UAE trip to involve Dubai’s financial hub in the new capital project, Nusantara, his office said on Thursday.

Widodo arrived in the UAE on a two-day working visit on Tuesday and was hosted by the Gulf state’s president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

The two countries agreed to “significant bilateral cooperation in various sectors,” Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat said in a statement, as it listed eight agreements signed during the trip, including in the areas of renewable energy, tourism ecosystems, payments systems, and the “MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the international financial hub Dubai International Financial Centre Authority and the Nusantara National Capital Authority.”

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is relocating its capital to Borneo island to replace the overcrowded and sinking Jakarta on Java island, with the $33 billion megaproject scheduled for completion in 2045.

The mammoth undertaking is expected to mostly rely on private investors, with government funding planned to cover 20 percent of the total expenditure.

“In the field of strategic investment, the UEA’s contribution is increasingly significant in the development of the Indonesian Capital City,” Widodo said on X.

While construction works are underway and the central government expected to begin operations in the new city in 2024, the new capital has begun work on its financial center area, where Indonesia’s largest state-owned banks — Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, and Bank Negara Indonesia — broke ground on their new corporate offices earlier this year.

The financial center will cover 260 hectares within the city’s broader business district.

Through the MoU between Dubai International Financial Centre and Nusantara Capital City Authority, Indonesia and the UAE are “forming a new framework to ultimately grow the two financial ecosystems,” DIFC governor Essa Kazim said, the UAE state news agency reported on Thursday.

“As the UAE and Indonesia collaborate and innovate to drive economic growth and social impact in both countries, DIFC as MEASA’s (the Middle East, Africa, and Southern Asia) global leading financial center, is perfectly positioned to facilitate significant opportunities by way of this strategic partnership,” he said.

The ambitious move to relocate the capital from Jakarta about 2,000 km away in the middle of a forest is a flagship project for Widodo, who officially launched it in 2019.

The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in 2024, in what has been widely seen as the president’s attempt to seal his legacy before the end of his second and final term in office in October this year.

During the UAE trip, Sheikh Mohamed presented Widodo with the Order of Zayed for his efforts in strengthening UAE-Indonesian relations.

The order is the highest civilian honor in the UAE and is bestowed upon leaders and heads of state.

During Widodo’s second term, the countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in July 2022 — Indonesia’s first free trade deal with a Middle Eastern country.

“Building upon the close and enduring ties between the UAE and Indonesia, we explored opportunities to further expand our economic partnership,” Sheikh Mohamed said on X.

“I extend my sincere thanks to President Widodo for his tireless efforts during his time in office to strengthen the bonds between our two nations.”


British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds

A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
Updated 37 min 19 sec ago
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British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds

A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
  • Britain recorded one of the world’s highest number of fatalities from COVID with more than 230,000 deaths reported by December 2023
  • Nation’s finances are still suffering from economic consequences

LONDON: Britain let down its citizens by leaving the nation ill-prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic because of significantly flawed planning and failures by ministers and scientific experts, a public inquiry concluded in a scathing report on Thursday.
Britain recorded one of the world’s highest number of fatalities from COVID with more than 230,000 deaths reported by December 2023, while the nation’s finances are still suffering from the economic consequences.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered an inquiry in May 2021, and its first report, which examined the nation’s preparedness for an outbreak, was damning.
“Had the UK been better prepared for and more resilient to the pandemic, some of the financial and human cost may have been avoided,” the report by the inquiry chair, former judge Heather Hallett, said in the report.
“The inquiry has no hesitation in concluding that the processes, planning and policy of the civil contingency structures within the UK government and devolved administrations and civil service failed their citizens.”
The inquiry found there had been a “lack of adequate leadership” with “groupthink” clouding expert advice. Ministers had not been given a broad enough range of opinions, and then had failed to sufficiently challenge what they did receive.
A flawed 2011 strategy, which had underpinned the nation’s preparations for such an emergency, had prepared for only one type of pandemic — influenza.
It was outdated, had focused on dealing with the impact of an outbreak rather than trying to prevent its spread, and had not taken into account the economic and social impact, the report said. That strategy was virtually abandoned on its first encounter with COVID.
“The Secretaries of State for Health ... who adhered to the strategy, the experts and officials who advised them to do so, and the governments of the devolved nations that adopted it, all bear responsibility for failing to have these flaws examined and rectified,” the report said.
Radical reform
Hallett made 10 recommendations, saying preparation for a civil emergency should be treated the same way as a threat from a hostile state.
“There must be radical reform. Never again can a disease be allowed to lead to so many deaths and so much suffering,” she said in her introduction to the report.
Her inquiry’s first module has only examined Britain’s preparedness, and later reports will provide assessments of the more politically charged issues of decision-making during the pandemic against a backdrop of widespread accusations of government incompetence.
Johnson himself was forced from office in July 2022, with revelations of parties during COVID lockdowns among the many scandals that ended his premiership. A parliamentary committee later concluded he had misled lawmakers over the parties.
Rishi Sunak, the finance minister during the pandemic who later became prime minister, was also fined for breaking lockdown rules at the time.
“We know that for lives to be saved in the future, lessons must be learnt from the mistakes of the past,” Brenda Doherty said on behalf of the campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK ahead of the report’s release.
“Sadly, nobody knows the true cost of the government’s failure to prepare as we do.”


Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others

Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others
Updated 54 min 47 sec ago
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Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others

Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others
  • Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed over 280 people in one of the country’s deadliest accidents in decades
  • In June, a cargo train rammed into a passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others

LUCKNOW, India: A passenger train derailed on Thursday in northern India, killing at least two passengers and injuring 20 others, a railroad official said. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Naveen Kumar, a state relief commissioner, said rescuers and ambulances have reached the site of the accident.
The train was on its way to Dibrugarh, a town in northeastern Assam state, from the northern city of Chandigarh when it derailed near the town of Gonda, causing some coaches to overturn.
Television images showed scores of passengers standing next to derailed coaches waiting for rescuers.
In June, a cargo train rammed into a passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others. Investigators said the driver of the cargo train, who was among the dead, disregarded a signal and caused the collision.
Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed over 280 people in one of the country’s deadliest accidents in decades.
More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India daily, traveling on 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track. Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents happen annually, most blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.