Ukraine’s army chief says Russia is augmenting its troops presence in the Kharkiv region

Update Ukraine’s army chief says Russia is augmenting its troops presence in the Kharkiv region
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds. (REUTERS)
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Updated 31 May 2024
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Ukraine’s army chief says Russia is augmenting its troops presence in the Kharkiv region

Ukraine’s army chief says Russia is augmenting its troops presence in the Kharkiv region

KYIV: Russia conducted an array of aerial attacks on Ukraine with cruise missiles, drones and ballistic missiles, Ukraine’s air force said Thursday, while the chief of the army said Russia is increasing its troop concentration in the Kharkiv region where Moscow’s forces have made significant advances in a spring offensive.

Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence operation said that sea drones destroyed two Russian KS-701 patrol boats in the Black Sea off the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Russian officials didn’t immediately comment.

The air force said that the overnight attacks included eight S-300 ballistic missiles, 11 cruise missiles and 32 Shahed drones. All the drones and seven of the cruise missiles were shot down, the air force said, but didn’t provide further details.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, seven people were wounded and a municipal services building caught fire in the attacks, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. Russian aerial strikes were also reported in Khmelnytskyi and Dnipropetrovsk, but there were no injuries.

Ukrainian army chief Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said on his Facebook page on Thursday that Russia is bringing army units into the Kharkiv region from other parts of Ukraine to supplement forces in the two main flashpoints of fighting, the towns of Vovchansk and Lyptsi. Syrskyi said that Ukraine has also moved reserve troops into the area.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that its air defenses shot down eight US-made ATACMS missiles over the Azov Sea, which borders both Russia and Russia-held Ukrainian territory.

One person was wounded by a drone explosion in Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Kharkiv and comes under daily attack from the Ukrainian side.

A lengthy delay in US military aid and Western Europe’s inadequate military production has slowed crucial deliveries to the battlefield for Ukraine, and Russia has exploited the delays to make advances in the Kharkiv region.

Russian missiles and bombs also have pummeled Ukrainian military positions and civilian areas, including the power grid.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assailed Russian attempts to sow discord in democracies with misinformation, after hinting that the Biden administration may soon allow Ukraine to use American-supplied munitions to strike inside Russia.

In Prague for a NATO foreign ministers meeting, Blinken cited Moscow’s use of misinformation and disinformation, calling it a “poison” and signing an agreement with the Czech government to combat it.

Blinken said Wednesday that US policy on how Ukraine deploys American weapons is constantly evolving, suggesting that Washington may rescind an unwritten prohibition on Ukraine’s use of them for attacks on Russian territory.

Although US officials insist there is no formal ban, they have long made clear that they believe the use of American weapons to attack targets inside Russia could provoke an escalatory response from Moscow, something that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised.

Three US officials familiar with the matter told AP on Thursday that President Joe Biden has given Ukraine the go-ahead to use American weaponry to strike inside Russia for the limited purpose of defending Kharkiv.

The officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, underscored that the US policy calling on Ukraine not to use American-provided long-range missiles and other munitions to strike inside Russia offensively has not changed.


South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
Updated 6 min 45 sec ago
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South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
  • Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest
  • The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month

SEOUL: The South Korean government issued a return-to-work order for private practitioners on Tuesday as more doctors including medical professors join the months-long strike to protest increasing medical school admissions.
Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said.
“To minimize the medical gap, the return-to-work order will be issued at 9 a.m. today,” Cho told a briefing.
The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month as an olive branch.
Under the law, doctors defying the return-to-work order can face suspension of their licenses or other legal repercussions.
President Yoon Suk Yeol said the doctors’ strike was “regretful and disappointing.”
“(The government) has no choice but to sternly deal with the illegal acts neglecting patients,” Yoon said during a cabinet meeting, while offering to work together if the doctors return to work.
The Korea Medical Association, a critic of the government’s reforms, was leading Tuesday’s strike. The group also staged a protest in Seoul on the same day, calling for reconsideration of increasing medical school admissions.
“The government should respect...all doctors in this land as life-saving experts, not slaves, and listen to their voices,” Association President Lim Hyun-taek said.
At least some 10,000 people showed up for the protest, according to a Reuters witness, with protesters wearing a makeshift hat saying: “Prevent medical collapse.”
According to a survey by local pollster nownsurvey conducted last week, nearly eight in 10 South Koreans oppose the doctors’ strike.
Some doctors and medical staff have openly criticized the collective action in response to the government’s push for an increase in medical school admissions to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
Others have argued that increasing the number of doctors alone will do little to shore up essential services and rural areas grappling with a deepening shortage of doctors.
More than half of medical professors at Seoul National University hospitals on Monday went on indefinite strike, the Yonhap news agency reported.


11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores

11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores
Updated 4 sec ago
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11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores

11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores
  •  Sixty reported missing in two migrant shipwrecks off Italy’s southern shores, officials say
  • UN refugee agency says boats carried migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria

ROME: Eleven people died and more than 60 were missing, including 26 children, following two migrant shipwrecks off Italy’s southern shores, aid groups, coast guard officials and UN agencies said on Monday.

German aid group RESQSHIP, which operates the Nadir rescue boat, said it picked up 51 people from a sinking wooden boat, including two who were unconscious, and found 10 bodies trapped in the lower deck of the vessel.
Survivors were handed over to the Italian coast guard and taken ashore on Monday morning, while the Nadir was making its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa, towing the wooden boat with the deceased, the charity said.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and UN children’s agency UNICEF said in a joint statement the boat had set off from Libya, carrying migrants from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The second shipwreck took place about 200 km (125 miles) east of the Italian region of Calabria, as a boat that had set off from Turkiye caught fire and overturned, the agencies said.
They said 64 people were missing at sea, while 11 were rescued and taken ashore by the Italian coast guard, along with the body of a woman.
Shakilla Mohammadi, a staffer of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity, said she heard from survivors that 66 people were unaccounted for, including at least 26 children, some only a few months old.
“Entire families from Afghanistan are presumed dead. They left from Turkiye eight days ago and had taken in water for three or four days. They told us they had no life vests and some vessels did not stop to help them,” she said in a statement.
The UN agencies said migrants from the second shipwreck came from Iran, Syria and Iraq.
The incidents confirmed the central Mediterranean’s reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes. According to UN data, more than 23,500 migrants have died or gone missing in its waters since 2014.
UN agencies called on EU governments to step up Mediterranean search and rescue efforts and expand legal and safe migration channels, so that migrants “are not forced to risk their lives at sea.”
Earlier this month 11 bodies were recovered from the sea off the coast of Libya, while last year another migrant boat that had set off from Turkiye smashed into rocks just off the town of Cutro in Calabria, killing at least 94 people.


Taiwan keeping watch after Chinese submarine surfaces in Taiwan Strait

Taiwan keeping watch after Chinese submarine surfaces in Taiwan Strait
Updated 49 min 22 sec ago
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Taiwan keeping watch after Chinese submarine surfaces in Taiwan Strait

Taiwan keeping watch after Chinese submarine surfaces in Taiwan Strait
  • The narrow strait that separates Taiwan from China is a frequent source of tension
  • Published pictures of the surfaced craft appears to be a nuclear-armed Jin class ballistic missile submarine

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s defense minister said on Tuesday that they have a “grasp” of the situation after pictures appeared online of a Chinese nuclear submarine surfacing in the sensitive Taiwan Strait near Taiwanese fishermen.
The narrow strait that separates Taiwan from China is a frequent source of tension. Taiwan reports Chinese warplanes and warships operating there on a daily basis, as Beijing seeks to assert its sovereignty claims against the democratically governed island.
Taiwanese media published the pictures of the surfaced craft, which appears to be a nuclear-armed Jin class ballistic missile submarine, taken by a Taiwanese fishing boat in the strait as dawn broke on Tuesday, about 200 km (125 miles) from Taiwan’s western coast.
Asked about the submarine, Taiwan Defense Minister Wellington Koo said they have a “grasp” of the intelligence situation, but declined to say how they were monitoring it or give details.
China’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nuclear-powered submarines can operate underwater for months at a time, and ballistic-missile boats’ secretive mission means they rarely surface.
A security source familiar with the situation said that the submarine was most likely returning to its home port in Qingdao from the South China Sea. The source said Tuesday’s incident might have been because it experienced a malfunction and was forced to surface.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
Military experts say the strategic waters off Taiwan’s southwestern shores, where the largely shallow Taiwan Strait descends in depth, provide submarines a location for an ambush, making it a hot spot for militaries including China, Taiwan and the United States.
Ballistic missile submarines are not designed to attack ships, but to launch ballistic missiles at targets on land.
Taiwan’s fleet of P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft are based at the Pingtung air base in southern Taiwan, giving easy access to the southern part of the strait.
Taiwan has complained in recent years that China has been using so-called grey zone warfare designed to exhaust a foe without resorting to open combat, such as flying surveillance balloons over the island.
“We must be fully alert to China’s continued military harassment and grey zone threats and must always understand China’s constant salami-slicing attempts to unilaterally change the status quo,” Koo said.
“We must be alert at all times, but not panic nor be apathetic, and calmly deal with the situation in the strait,” he added. “We won’t be the one provoking, and call on China not to be a troublemaker.”
Taiwan detected 20 Chinese military planes and seven vessels around the island in the past 24 hours, Taiwan’s defense ministry said in its daily report on Chinese military activities on Tuesday morning.


Thaksin granted bail, media reports, as Thai court cases raise risk of political crisis

Thaksin granted bail, media reports, as Thai court cases raise risk of political crisis
Updated 18 June 2024
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Thaksin granted bail, media reports, as Thai court cases raise risk of political crisis

Thaksin granted bail, media reports, as Thai court cases raise risk of political crisis
  • Thaksin’s is the first of four high-profile cases involving key political players that are before the courts on Tuesday
  • The cases involve some of Thailand’s most powerful politicians, including its current prime minister

BANGKOK: Influential former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a powerful backer of the ruling government, was granted bail on Tuesday, local media reported, avoiding pre-trial detention for allegedly insulting the monarchy in a 2015 interview.
Thaksin’s is the first of four high-profile cases involving key political players that are before the courts on Tuesday, in the latest legal wrangling that could see Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy plunged into a new period of uncertainty.
The cases involve some of Thailand’s most powerful politicians, including its current prime minister, and could deepen a decades-old rift between the conservative-royalist establishment and its opponents, such as the populist ruling Pheu Thai party and the opposition Move Forward party.
Thaksin sought bail from a court in Bangkok shortly after the Attorney General formally indicted the 74-year-old billionaire for an offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of up to 15 years for each perceived royal insult.
Public broadcaster ThaiPBS and other local media reported the court had accepted 500,000 baht ($13,600) bail.
Separately, the Constitutional Court will conduct a hearing in a case lodged by a group of senators that could potentially see Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin dismissed from office for breaching the law in appointing a lawyer with a conviction record to his cabinet.
The same court will also hear a case seeking to disband the popular opposition Move Forward Party for their campaign to amend the country’s royal insult law, following a complaint by the Election Commission.
The court is expected to announce the next hearing or verdict date for cases involving Srettha and Move Forward on Tuesday.
The Constitutional Court will also rule whether the ongoing selection process for a new upper house, which started earlier this month and is scheduled to conclude in early July, is lawful.
If the court cancels or delays the process, it would temporarily extend the term of military-appointed senators who have a played crucial role in the formation of the previous government.
POWERFUL COURTS, RATTLED MARKETS
“The political parties and representatives that voters have chosen are being systematically and repeatedly stymied,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.
A single petition can bring down a sitting, elected government or oust a prime minister, he said, outlining the power of the country’s courts.
“There’s a judicial assertiveness that has been damaging to Thailand, subverting popular will and popular mandates.”
Such tensions have previously triggered violent street protests, dissolutions of political parties, airport closures and military coups that have hamstrung the economy.
Thai stock markets have been rattled by the spectre of a political crisis. The main stock index dropped to its lowest level since November 2020 on Monday, but was up more than 1 percent on Tuesday morning.


South Korean soldiers fire warning shots after North Korean troops intrude for second time this month

South Korean soldiers fire warning shots after North Korean troops intrude for second time this month
Updated 18 June 2024
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South Korean soldiers fire warning shots after North Korean troops intrude for second time this month

South Korean soldiers fire warning shots after North Korean troops intrude for second time this month
  • Around 20 to 30 North Korean soldiers, while engaging in unspecified construction work on the northern side of the border, briefly crossed the military demarcation line

SEOUL: South Korean soldiers fired warning shots to repel North Korean soldiers who temporarily crossed the rivals’ land border Tuesday for the second time this month, South Korea’s military said.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said around 20 to 30 North Korean soldiers, while engaging in unspecified construction work on the northern side of the border, briefly crossed the military demarcation line that bisects the countries as of 8:30 a.m. It said the North Korean soldiers retreated after the South broadcasts warnings and fired warning shots and the South’s military didn’t spot any suspicious activities after that.
The South also fired warning shots on June 11 after another group of North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the MDL. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Tuesday’s incident occurred in a different area along the central frontline region. It said it doesn’t believe the North Korean soldiers intruded the border intentionally and that the North did not return fire.
The South’s military said North Korean has been increasing construction activity in frontline border areas, such as installing suspected anti-tank barriers, reinforcing roads and planting land mines.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff also said it recently observed several explosions suspected to have been caused by mines in areas where North Korean soldiers were deployed for construction work, but that the activities continued despite an unspecified number of injuries or deaths.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it anticipates North Korea will expand its border construction activities, which it said could be aimed at making it harder for North Korean civilians or soldiers to escape to the South as Pyongyang’s leadership attempts to strengthen its control over its people.
The border intrusions come as tensions rise between the war-divided rivals, who in recent weeks have engaged in Cold War-style psychological warfare and made it clear they are no longer bound by their landmark military agreement in 2018 to reduce tensions.
The Koreas’ heavily fortified border, referred to as the Demilitarized Zone, has occasionally been a site of bloodshed and violent confrontations between the rivals. An estimated 2 million mines are peppered inside and near 248-kilometer-long border, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides. It’s a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.