Russia says captured two villages in eastern Ukraine

Russia says captured two villages in eastern Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen launch a reconnaissance drone for flying over positions of Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine May 26, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Russia says captured two villages in eastern Ukraine

Russia says captured two villages in eastern Ukraine
  • Moscow is looking to press its advantage on the battlefield while long-awaited US weapons are making their way to Ukrainian troops on the front lines

MOSCOW: Russia said on Monday its forces had captured two more villages in eastern Ukraine — one in the Donetsk region, and another in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
In a daily briefing, the defense ministry said its troops had “liberated the village of Netailove in the Donetsk region” and “Ivanivka in the Kharkiv region,” the latest in a string of Russian territorial gains over recent weeks.
Russia launched a major new ground assault on the northeastern Kharkiv region two weeks ago, though the latest claim of captured territory is in a part of the front line further east, where fighting has been raging for months.
Moscow is looking to press its advantage on the battlefield while long-awaited US weapons are making their way to Ukrainian troops on the front lines.
Its advances in the Kharkiv region have been the most significant for 18 months, according to AFP calculations of territory captured by Russian troops.
Kyiv has rushed reinforcements to the area and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned it could be the first wave of a Russian summer offensive.


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

British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds
Updated 27 sec ago
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British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds

British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds
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 8 min 6 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.


North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
Updated 18 July 2024
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North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
  • This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May
  • In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal

SEOUL: North Korea is launching more balloons believed to be carrying trash toward the South, Seoul’s military said Thursday, in the latest round of a tit-for-tat balloon war between the two Koreas.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North was “launching (suspected) trash balloons aimed at the South once again,” adding they were currently floating across the border.
“Citizens are advised to be cautious of falling debris. If you find any fallen balloons do not touch them and report them to the nearest military unit or police station,” it added.
Seoul city authorities issued an alert to residents Thursday, saying “a suspected balloon from North Korea is confirmed to have entered the airspace of Northern Gyeonggi province. Citizens should be cautious of outside activities.”
This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May.
The nuclear-armed North has already sent more than a thousand of the balloons south, calling it retaliation for ones carrying anti-regime propaganda floated northwards by activists south of the border.
In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal and restarted some propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border.
It has also carried out live-fire drills in some border areas.
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week that more “dirty leaflets” from South Korean “scum” had been found in the North’s territory along the border, warning they would pay “a very high price.”
Kim Yo Jong, a key regime spokesperson, went on to say that North Korean military personnel were “now making an all-out search, throwing into fire and disposing of the found rubbishes,” according to a statement from the official Korean Central News Agency.


Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
Updated 18 July 2024
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Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
  • Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents
  • The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza

ROME: Italy has sent food supplies and health equipment for the Gaza population aboard a humanitarian flight that landed in Jordan, a statement said on Thursday, as part of Rome’s “Food for Gaza” initiative to help civilians there.
Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents. The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza.
“With this operation we give a tangible demonstration of the attention that the Italian government is dedicating to the humanitarian situation in the Strip,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said.
He added Italy was committed “to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza.”
The Food for Gaza initiative is led by Italy together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food program (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
On Wednesday, the US military announced that its mission to install and operate a temporary, floating pier off the coast of Gaza was complete, formally ending an effort to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
Italy said in May it would allocate 30 million euros ($32.8 million) in the Food for Gaza plan, as it resumed funding for the United Nations’ Palestinian relief organization UNRWA.
UNRWA faced criticism over allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. ($1 = 0.9151 euros)


Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines

Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines
Updated 18 July 2024
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Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines

Italy carrier strike group joins Australia war games, will visit Philippines
  • Italian aircraft carrier Cavour is in the northern Australian town of Darwin taking part in Exercise Pitch Black this week
  • 23 Italian jets, including eight stealthy F-35Bs, are practicing dogfights, strikes and other operations alongside its allies

DARWIN, Australia: An Italian carrier strike group on its first deployment to the Indo-Pacific region will sail through the South China Sea to the Philippines after participating in war games with US allies in Australia, a senior Italian navy official said on Thursday.
The moves come amid rising tensions between China and some of its neighbors in the contested South China Sea region. About 40 percent of Europe’s foreign trade flows through the South China Sea, where the United States, Japan, Australia and other nations have conducted joint maritime exercises they say uphold freedom of navigation. China claims almost the entire strategic waterway.
The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour is in the northern Australian town of Darwin taking part in Exercise Pitch Black this week, where Italy is contributing nearly two dozen fighter jets to the 20-nation drills with host Australia.
The United States, Britain, Japan, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are also taking part.
It is the first time an aircraft carrier has joined the exercises, Italian Navy Rear Admiral Giancarlo Ciappina said.
Twenty-three Italian jets, including eight stealthy F-35Bs, are practicing dogfights, strikes and other operations alongside its allies over huge swathes of largely unpopulated land in northern Australia.
“Pitch Black gives us a chance to work with the main F-35 communities, shoulder to shoulder,” said Captain Dario Castelli, the strike group’s carrier air wing commander. “In terms of deploying far from home, it is also an incredible logistics exercise for us.”
After the current exercises end on Aug. 2, the 1,200-person strong Italian carrier strike group will travel to the US Pacific territory of Guam and Japan, before transiting the South China Sea to the Philippines for the first time, Ciappina said.
‘Very powerful tool’
Ciappina said his strike group did not plan to conduct any freedom of navigation operations.
The Cavour will carry out humanitarian work in the Philippines, performing surgery on children in the ship’s hospital while at port in Manila, he said.
“An aircraft carrier — just being present somewhere, it has an effect, it can influence. It is a very powerful tool,” Ciappina said.
Manila and Beijing have traded barbs repeatedly over jurisdiction as the Philippines challenges China’s permanent presence around strategic features inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
Ciappina said the Italian Navy’s first Indo-Pacific deployment improved its training and provided a better understanding of the region.
Although the deployment is not a NATO initiative, Italy has coordinated with the French Navy and Britain’s Royal Navy, which will send ships to the region later in the year, to ensure significant capacity remains in the Mediterranean, he said.
“Everything is connected... that’s why we have to also be present in the Pacific now,” he said.