As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes
A Ukrainian serviceman belonging to the attack drones battalion of the Achilles, 92nd brigade, carries a mid-range reconnaissance type drone, Vector, used for flying over positions of Russian troops in a Kharkiv region on Jun. 19, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes
  • Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the US to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv
  • The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions

KHARKIV, Ukraine: Weeks after the decision allowing Ukraine to use US-supplied weapons for limited strikes in Russian territory, the country is having some success in halting Russia’s new push along the northeast front, but military commanders are clamoring for restrictions on long-range missiles to be lifted.
Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the US to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv by targeting border regions where the Kremlin’s forces assemble and launch attacks.
The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions.
But commanders said that without the ability to use long-range guided missiles, such as ATACMS, their hands are tied.
“We could target (Russian) brigade command points and the entire northern grouping, because they are located 100 to 150 kilometers from the front line,” said Hefastus, an artillery commander in the Kharkiv region who goes by his callsign. “Normal ammunition can’t get at them. With this kind, we can do a lot to destroy their centers of command.”
The Ukrainian commanders interviewed spoke on condition that their callsigns be used, in line with brigade rules.
The US expanded the scope of its policy to allow counterstrikes across a wider region Friday. But the Biden administration has not lifted restrictions on Ukraine that prohibit the use of US-provided ATACMS to strike inside Russian territory, according to three US officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. The US began providing Ukraine with long-range ATACMS earlier this year, but with rules, including that they cannot be used to strike inside Russia and must be used within sovereign territory, which includes land seized by the Russians.
That prevents attacks on airfields and military infrastructure in Russia’s deep rear, underscoring a common Ukrainian complaint that Western allies anxious about potentially provoking Russia are undermining Ukraine's ability to fight effectively.
Ukrainian officials are pushing US allies to be able to strike particular high-value targets inside Russia using ATACMS, which can reach over 100 kilometers (62 miles).
“Unfortunately, we still cannot reach, for example, airfields and their aircraft. This is the problem,” Yehor Cherniev, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, defense and intelligence, said earlier this month. “That’s why we are asking (allies) to lift the restrictions to use long-range missiles against limited military targets in the territory of Russia.”
Since late May, Ukraine has been able to target Russian troops and air defense systems 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border in the Kharkiv region. Moscow opened a new front in the region on May 10, capturing village after village in a sweeping advance that caught Ukrainian troops unprepared.
Though not a panacea, the move has greatly slowed Russia’s momentum, even allowing Ukrainian troops to make advances along the northeast border, including recently recapturing areas southwest of Vovchansk, according to local reports. Brigades there said high mobility army rocket systems, or HIMARS, were fired hours after permission was granted, destroying an air defense complex outfitted to launch the deadly missiles.
At the time, the stakes were high as Ukrainian military leaders anticipated another assault designed to divert troops from other intense battlegrounds in the Donetsk region. First Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Havryliuk told The Associated Press that at least 90,000 Russian troops deep in Russian territory were gearing up for a new assault.
“The HIMARS were not silent for the whole day,” Hefastus said, recalling the first hours when permission was granted to use the rocket systems. “From the first days, Ukrainian forces managed to destroy whole columns of troops along the border waiting for the order to enter Ukraine.”
“Before, we couldn’t target them. It was quite complicated. All warehouses with ammunition and other resources were located a 20-kilometer distance beyond what we could hit,” he said.
The dynamics shifted almost immediately, allowing Ukrainian forces to stabilize that part of the front line. Soldiers near a strategic area north of Kharkiv where fighting to push Russian troops back is ongoing said enemy troops had moved positions several kilometers back. Such claims could not be independently verified.
“Tactics have changed" as a result of Ukraine’s improved striking ability, said Kalina, a platoon commander for the Khartia Brigade. Before, they were only able to hit incoming infantry assaults; now, they can employ more artillery against Russian firing points.
The US decision came in the 11th hour, after much lobbying by Ukrainian officials and right as troops were preparing for combat in anticipation of Russia opening a new front in the northeast.
Ukrainian officials are hoping to convince American allies to allow the use of ATACMS against specific targets.
“It seems pretty absurd when the enemy is so actively advancing on our territory and striking with all types of missiles and calibers at Ukrainian territory and we cannot strike back inside the enemy’s territory where they hold logistics and supplies,” said Lys Mykyta, the commander of a drone company in the 103rd Territorial Defense Brigade.
But Ukrainian officials said only desperate battlefield conditions are likely to convince American officials to walk back the restriction.
The renewed invasion of the Kharkiv region, which drew in precious Ukrainian reserves, pushed the US to have a change of heart on allowing self-defense strikes in Russian territory, Cherniev said.
“Probably, the decision about the ATACMS will also be changed based on the situation on the ground,” he said. “I hope the decision will be made as soon as possible.”


Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests
Updated 43 min 19 sec ago
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Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests

Top court in Bangladesh scales back job quota system after deadly protests
  • More than 100 people killed, thousands injured in clashes between police and students
  • Police on ‘highest alert’ as curfew remains in place after hearing

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Sunday scrapped most of the quotas on government jobs that had sparked nationwide unrest in the country and resulted in deadly clashes between police and student protesters that killed more than 100 people in the past week.

University students have been demonstrating on campuses since the beginning of July to demand a reformation of the quota system that reserved 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The government abolished the quotas after student protests in 2018, but it was reinstated by Bangladesh’s High Court last month, setting off a new round of demonstrations that was met with a harsh crackdown, including a curfew and a communications blackout that left the country of 170 million people cut off from the world.

Ruling on an appeal, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin said the Supreme Court had ordered for the quota reserved for veterans to be cut to 5 percent and for 93 percent of jobs to be allocated on merit. The remaining 2 percent will be reserved for members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

“In the future, the government may change the ratio if needed,” Uddin told Arab News.

“Now, I will send a copy of the verdict to the law minister for the next steps. (I) hope a gazette will be published in this regard within the next couple of days.”

The verdict came after demonstrations spiraled into deadly clashes, prompting authorities to impose a curfew ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, which Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Agence France-Presse news agency will continue “until the situation improves.”

The military was on patrol in the streets of Dhaka, along with riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel as all gatherings were banned amid an increasing number of casualties.

At least 148 people have been killed in the past week and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media.

Inamul Haq Sagar, spokesman for the police, told Arab News: “We are on the highest alert across the country to maintain law and order.”

He added that at least three policemen had been killed and about 1,000 police officers injured during clashes in the past few days.

He said: “Since the curfew is underway, I urge all to be respectful to the law of the country and refrain from any destructive activities.”

It was not immediately clear how protesters would react to the decision by the Supreme Court.

Students had taken to the streets as the government quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of well-paid government jobs, affect young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a quarter of Bangladesh’s population — which constitutes 83 percent of the total without jobs.


Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’
Updated 20 sec ago
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Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’

Ruto says Kenya demos must stop, opposition urges ‘justice’
NAIROBI: Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga Sunday insisted “justice” was a prerequisite for any talks with the government after deadly clashes, as President William Ruto warned unrest could “destroy” the country.
Initially peaceful rallies that started last month against planned tax rises descended into violence with dozens killed after some marchers stormed parliament.
Ruto shelved his tax reform and proposed a national dialogue.
“Justice must come first before any talks,” said Odinga on Sunday, however.
He demanded “compensation for every victim of police brutality” during the rallies.
Despite Ruto’s concessions, rallies have continued across the country. The opposition has called for fresh demonstrations next week.
“I want to promise it is going to stop. Enough is enough,” Ruto said on Sunday.
A court on Thursday suspended a police move to ban protests in the center of the capital Nairobi.
Ruto vowed to stop “looters” and “killers” who he said “risk destroying our country.”
“We want a peaceful, stable nation. And our issues are resolved using democratic means.”
Odinga, 79, who lost out to Ruto in the 2022 presidential election, said there had to be a “national conversation” between different sectors of society.
Such discussions, he said in a post on X, “should come from various sectors including youth, government, religious leaders, health care professionals, lawyers and teachers.”
Ruto on Friday unveiled a new partial cabinet to lead a “broad-based” government in a bid to ease the worst crisis of his nearly two years in office.
But the main opposition coalition swiftly branded the cabinet moves “cosmetic” and insisted it would not join a government of national unity led by Ruto.

Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace

Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace
Updated 4 min 1 sec ago
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Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace

Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday voiced his hope that the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide an opportunity for countries at war to respect an ancient Greek tradition and establish a truce for the duration of the Games.
“According to ancient tradition, may the Olympics be an opportunity to establish a truce in wars, demonstrating a sincere will for peace,” Francis said during his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope stressed that sport also has “a great social power, capable of peacefully uniting people from different cultures.”
The opening ceremony of the 33rd Olympic Games will be held in Paris on July 26 with the participation of 205 delegations of athletes, who will parade on more than 80 boats on the Seine.
“I hope that this event can be a sign of the inclusive world we want to build and that the athletes, with their sporting testimony, may be messengers of peace and valuable models for the young,” Francis added.
The pope, as always, asked the faithful to pray for peace, recalling the ongoing conflicts around the world.
“Let us not forget the martyred Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and many other countries at war. Let us not forget, war is a defeat,” he concluded.

Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan

Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan
Updated 21 July 2024
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Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan

Turkiye ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’: Erdogan

ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that his country was ready to build a Cyprus naval base “if necessary,” 50 years after Turkish forces invaded the now-divided island.
“If necessary, we can construct a base and naval structures in the north” of the divided island, the official Anadolu news agency reported him as saying.
“We also have the sea,” Erdogan said he flew back to Turkiye after visiting northern Cyprus on Saturday to mark 50 years since Turkiye’s invasion.
He also accused rival Greece of wanting to establish a naval base of its own on Cyprus, on whose future both sides remain as divided as ever.
In 1983, Turkiye installed what it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which no other country has recognized four decades after it was proclaimed by Turkish Cypriot leaders.
As Greek Cypriots mourned those killed and still missing since the 1974 convulsion of violence, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Saturday that reunification was the only option.
Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 still divided after Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a UN plan to end their differences with Turkish Cypriots.
But on the other side of the UN-patrolled buffer zone that separates the two communities, Erdogan on Saturday rejected the federal model championed by the United Nations, saying he saw no point in relaunching talks on such a plan.
“Frankly, we do not think it is possible to start a new negotiation process without establishing an equation whereby both parties sit down as equals and leave the table as equals,” Erdogan said.
The last round of UN-backed talks to reunify the island collapsed in 2017.
“We are constructing on the island the building of the presidency of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the parliament building. They are constructing a military base, we are building a political base,” Erdogan added.
He also hailed the “precious” presence during Saturday’s visit of the leader of Turkiye’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel, saying it demonstrated the “unity” of Turkiye’s population with regards to Cyprus.


Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers

Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers
Updated 21 July 2024
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Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers

Taliban ban on girls’ education takes mental, financial toll on Afghan teachers
  • Scores of teachers lost their jobs after Taliban suspended secondary schools for girls
  • While female teachers cannot teach boys, women are also restricted from many workplaces

KABUL: Najiba’s life as an educator came to a halt after the Taliban imposed a ban on girls’ education almost three years ago, a controversial policy that also forced many Afghan teachers out of the classroom.

When secondary schools for girls were suspended in September 2021 — a month after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan — it resulted in about 1.1 million girls being denied access to formal education and scores of female teachers losing their jobs, as the new policies only allowed them to teach in girls’ primary schools.

“We had this fear but didn’t know it would happen so soon. It was the hardest thing to know that I wouldn’t be able to teach anymore,” Najiba, an English teacher in Kabul, told Arab News.

“The change happened so suddenly and so quickly that it was difficult for me to cope with it. I developed very serious levels of stress and depression as a result of losing my job and my profession.”

For the 37-year-old who used to teach at a local high school, the consequences on her mental health were “irreversible” not just for her, but also for her family, as she was forced to stay at home most of the time.

“I feel I am becoming illiterate because I don’t study. I miss my students and colleagues every day and every moment. I feel lonely most of the time at home,” she said.  

When the policy went into force, all female teachers from secondary and high schools were reassigned to elementary schools “where there was a shortage of teachers,” an official from the Afghan Ministry of Education told Arab News, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

“In addition, some of them were assigned to mixed schools, where boys and girls study in different shifts, to teach in the girls’ shift. The rest are staying at home,” the official said.

“The ministry’s plan is that only female teachers will teach in girls’ schools and male teachers will be transferred to boys’ schools. This has been successfully implemented in Kabul and other provinces.”

A year after their takeover, the Taliban had eliminated 14,000 government jobs held by women, the majority of which were teaching positions, according to a report published by the US government’s oversight authority on Afghanistan’s reconstruction known as SIGAR.  

Yet despite the increasing uncertainty over the future of education for girls in Afghanistan, Najiba is still holding out hope.

“I really hope and pray something good happens and girls’ schools reopen so we can go back to where we belong, in the classroom and school. Nothing else will make us happy and help us get back to our normal condition,” she said.

For Khaperai, who used to teach at a secondary school in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Nangarhar province, the Taliban’s policies were taking a toll on her mental health and financial situation.

The 42-year-old has tried to no avail to get transferred to a primary school as there are no vacancies in her area.  

“And I couldn’t leave my family. The change in my condition has not only impacted me psychologically but has posed economic challenges as well,” she told Arab News, adding that her husband has also lost his job due to the ongoing economic crisis.

“I was supporting my children’s education with my salary but since the last few months, our salaries have decreased. We only receive 5,000 afghanis ($70) in our accounts now. It’s not sufficient to support myself and my children. I don’t know what I will do.”

With women also restricted from many workplaces under the Taliban, Khaperai found herself with no other alternative.

“I can’t do any other job. Women have very few work opportunities under the Taliban, making it almost impossible for female heads of the family to support their families,” she said.

“I can only hope for a positive change. I can’t do anything else. No one seems to listen to us or care about us. We are left to the mercy of God.”