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Russia Fired 'More Than 50 Missiles', Hit Critical Infrastructure: Ukraine

KYIV, Oct 31: Ukraine said it was targeted by "more than 50" cruise missiles from Russia on Monday morning, resulting in power cuts across several regions.

"From 7am on October 31, Russian occupiers carried out several waves of missile attacks against critical infrastructure in Ukraine," the Ukrainian army said on Telegram, adding that "more than 50 X-101/X-555 cruise missiles were launched" from Russia.

'Two-Finger Test To Confirm Rape Patriarchal, Sexist': Supreme Court

NEW DELHI, Oct 31: The Supreme Court today slammed the use of "two-finger test" in cases of rape and sexual assault and asked the centre to ensure the practice is stopped.

The practice has no scientific basis to ascertain the sexual history of women, and it instead re-traumatises them, the Supreme Court said as it ruled that any individual conducting this test on a survivor will be held guilty of misconduct.

"It is patriarchal and sexist to suggest that a woman cannot be believed when she states that she was raped merely because she is sexually active," the top court said.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli made these observations while restoring conviction in a rape case.

The bench overturned a Jharkhand High Court's ruling acquitting a rape and murder convict, and upheld a decision of a trial court holding him guilty.

The top court directed the centre and the states to review curriculums in all government and private medical colleges and have the study materials on "two-finger test" removed.

The Supreme Court also asked the health ministry to conduct workshops for health service providers in all states in order to communicate the appropriate procedure for examining the survivors of sexual assault.

In 2013 too, the Supreme Court had held that "two-finger test" violated a woman's dignity and privacy.

Lula elected Brazil President; Urges 'Peace And Unity'

SAO PAULO, Oct 31: President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for "peace and unity" Sunday in bitterly divided Brazil, saying the country was no longer an international pariah, and highlighting the need for a "living Amazon".

"It is in no one's interest to live in a divided nation in a permanent state of war," the 77-year-old leftist said in a victory speech after a polarizing runoff election against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, vowing to serve all 215 million Brazilians, and not only those who voted for him.

"Today we tell the world that Brazil is back," he said, adding that the country is "ready to take back its place in the fight against the climate crisis, especially the Amazon."

120 Dead In Halloween Stampede In South Korea, 100 Injured

SEOUL, Oct 29: At least 120 people died and over 100 were injured in a stampede at a prominent market in South Korea's capital Seoul, where a massive crowd had gathered for Halloween festivities, officials said.

Police and firemen were seen trying to revive people who'd gone into cardiac arrest amid chaos in narrow streets. The crowd, estimated to be around 1 lakh, had gathered on Saturday night in Itaewon, a central district of the megacity which has hundreds of shops and party places, local news outlets said.

Excitement was heightened in the run-up to October 31, the first Halloween after two years of muted celebrations due to Covid restrictions.

It was just before midnight local time that dozens of people fell unconscious near a hotel, reported The Korea Herald. Fire authorities said they received 81 reports regarding breathing difficulties as of 11.30 pm, said the report. Common people also attempted resuscitation — by pressing the chest to revive the heart — in videos that showed the scenes of panic.

The first deaths were reported over two hours later. The number went from initially reported nine to 59 and then 120 within an hour.

The injured had many women in their 20s, local media reports said.

Hyunsu Yim, a journalist with The Korea Herald, tweeted: "Absolute scenes of chaos in Itaewon right now as the Halloween night has turned into a major safety hazard with at least several party-goers being carried into ambulances." He shared two photos, too.

He added: "I'm seeing pictures that I don't think is wise to share here but they are heartbreaking... What's certain now is tonight is going to go down as one of the most terrible and sad nights for Halloween in this country."

Before the stampede, some Twitter users had been posting warning to people not to come to the area as it was crowded beyond control.

'Don't Need Nuclear Strike On Ukraine,' Says Putin

MOSCOW, Oct 28: Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the US and Europe over his war in Ukraine, heaped praise on Saudi Arabia and reiterated support for China's claim to Taiwan as he sought to cast Russia as a champion of conservative values against Western liberalism.

He accused the US and its allies of seeking global domination by pouring weapons into Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia's invasion, in an annual meeting Thursday with the Kremlin's Valdai discussion club of foreign-policy experts outside Moscow. He denied intending to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

"We don't need a nuclear strike on Ukraine," Vladimir Putin said, claiming Russia had only dropped "hints" in response to US and European discussion of a possible atomic conflict. "There is no point, either military or political."

In fact, Kremlin officials including former President Dmitry Medvedev have warned in recent weeks about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine as Moscow's faltering war enters its ninth month with its forces in retreat from territory that President Putin annexed as "forever" part of Russia last month.

US and European defense officials said this week that a claim by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Ukraine may use a so-called "dirty bomb" may be an indication the Kremlin is planning such an operation. President Joe Biden warned Tuesday that Russia would be making an "incredibly serious mistake" if it used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

President Putin said he still hasn't decided whether to go to next month's Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, as the US and its allies have pushed for him to be excluded over the invasion. "Russia definitely will be represented at a high level," he told a questioner from Indonesia. "I may still go."

In a rambling speech and discussion than ran for more than 3.5 hours, Vladimir Putin said Russia stands for "multipolarity" and "traditional values" that he said were shared by most of the world in opposition to liberal attitudes on questions such as same-sex relationships. He claimed American supporters of such conservative values also backed Russia. He accused US and European leaders of high-handedness and claimed the era of American domination is coming to an end, even as he insisted Russia wasn't an enemy of the West.

Appearing relaxed and confident, the Russian leader praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as "a young man, resolute, with character," adding that he deserved "respect" for pursuing a balanced position on the oil market in line with his country's national interests even in the face of US criticism. Russia would support Saudi membership of the BRICS group alongside Brazil, India, China and South Africa, if Riyadh wanted to join, he said.

Vladimir Putin said he didn't warn Chinese President Xi Jinping in advance about his intention to invade Ukraine when they met in Beijing weeks before the war started in February. He denounced recent visits by US officials to Taiwan as "provocations" and said Russia continued to fully support Beijing's claim to the democratically governed island amid rising tensions with Washington on the issue.

Even as Russian troops have suffered a series of recent defeats against Ukrainian forces, President Putin said his plan for what he calls his "special military operation" remained to ensure the security of Kremlin-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region. He made no mention of the sweeping goals of "de-Nazification" and "de-militarization" that he'd cited at the start of the invasion, when Russia failed in a lightning attempt to seize Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

President Putin, whose public statements of his goals for the war have shifted in the months since he dispatched troops, didn't explain the apparent omission. He described the neighboring regions of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed last month as part of a historic 'Novorossiya' territory.

His comments came in response to a question from the host of the Valdai event, foreign policy analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, who noted that "society doesn't really understand what the plan is."

As President Vladimir Putin spoke, the independent Levada Center released a poll showing that for the first time, a majority of Russians now support talks to end the war, rather than continuing the invasion.

Modi, Rishi Sunak Discuss India-UK Trade Deal

NEW DELHI, Oct 27: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today. Modi and his British counterpart discussed the need to close a balanced free-trade deal between India and the UK soon.

"Glad to speak to Rishi Sunak today. Congratulated him on assuming charge as UK PM. We will work together to further strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also agreed on the importance of early conclusion of a comprehensive and balanced FTA," Modi tweeted this evening, referring to the talks for a free-trade agreement, or FTA.

Sunak tweeted a "thank you" and tagged Modi.

"Thank you Prime Minister Narendra Modi for your kind words as I get started in my new role. The UK and India share so much. I'm excited about what our two great democracies can achieve as we deepen our security, defence and economic partnership in the months and years ahead," tweeted the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of Britain and the youngest leader to hold the top post in the UK in over 200 years.

Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is also coming to India on Friday to hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The two will discuss strengthening diplomatic ties, Britain's Foreign Office said today.

Britain has completed the majority of sections of the free-trade agreement with India but will only sign off on the deal once happy that it is fair and reciprocal, Trade Department Minister Greg Hands said yesterday.

"We have already closed the majority of chapters and look forward to the next round of talks shortly," Hands told parliament. The government had previously said it wanted to complete the deal by Diwali, a deadline which passed earlier this week.

The UK's controversial Home Secretary Suella Braverman, an Indian-origin leader and hardline Brexiteer who had opposed a more generous visa policy for immigrants, has come out in support of the India-Britain FTA in what is being seen as an attempt to defuse tensions over her policy stance.

Ms Braverman had earlier expressed "reservations" about the UK's trade deal with India. In an interview, she said she feared the deal would increase migration to the UK, when Indians already represented the largest group of visa overstayers.

At a Diwali event organised by the India Global Forum in London on Tuesday, Ms Braverman said the UK has been "profoundly enriched by immigration from India" - the group she called "visa overstayers".

"Naturally, there is an economic imperative for our countries to work together, which is why we are so eager to secure a trade deal," said Ms Braverman, according to news agency Press Trust of India.

India and the UK aim to increase bilateral trade to $100 billion by the end of this decade.

North Korea Nuclear Strike Will 'End' Kim Jong Un's Regime: US

WASHINGTON, Oct 27: The United States intends for its nuclear arsenal to deter "all forms of strategic attack," including those involving conventional weapons, the Pentagon said in a strategy document released on Thursday.

"This includes nuclear employment of any scale, and it includes high-consequence attacks of a strategic nature that use non-nuclear means," a senior defense official told journalists.

The unclassified version of the US military's Nuclear Posture Review also contains a stark warning for North Korea's Kim Jong Un against employing the country's growing atomic arsenal.

"Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime. There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive," the strategy says.

Kim has declared the country an "irreversible" nuclear power, effectively ending negotiations over his banned arms programs.

Russia's Putin Says West Playing 'Dangerous, Bloody, Dirty Game' In Ukraine

MOSCOW, Oct 27: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the world faced the most dangerous decade since World War Two as Western elites scrambled to prevent the inevitable crumbling of the global dominance of the United States and its allies.

In a broadside against Washington and its allies, which he accused of inciting the conflict in Ukraine, Putin said the West was playing what he cast as a "dangerous, bloody and dirty" geopolitical game that was sowing chaos across the world.

Ultimately, Putin said, the West would have to talk to Russia and other major powers about the future of the world.

"The historical period of the West's undivided dominance over world affairs is coming to an end," Putin, Russia's paramount leader, told the Valdai Discussion Club.

"We are standing at a historical frontier: Ahead is probably the most dangerous, unpredictable and, at the same time, important decade since the end of World War Two."

Russia did not consider the West to be an enemy of Russia despite the current phase of confrontation, he added.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, triggering the biggest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in the depths of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the United States came closest to nuclear war.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed while the West has imposed the most severe sanctions in history on Russia, one of the world's biggest suppliers of natural resources.

Asked about a potential nuclear escalation, Putin said the danger of nuclear weapons usage would exist as long as nuclear weapons existed.

Quoting a 1978 Harvard lecture by Russian dissident and novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Putin said the West was openly racist and looked down on other peoples of the world.

"Power over the world is what the so-called West has put on the line in its game - but the game is dangerous, bloody and I would say dirty," Putin "The sower of the wind, as they say, will reap the storm."

"I have always believed and believe in common sense so I am convinced that sooner or later the new centres of the multipolar world order and the West will have to start an equal conversation about the future we share - and the earlier the better," Putin said.

Putin cast the conflict in Ukraine as a battle between the West and Russia for the fate of the second largest Eastern Slav country. It was, he said, partly a "civil war" as Russians and Ukrainians were one people. Kyiv flatly rejects both those ideas.

Putin said he thought constantly of the Russian losses in Ukraine. But only Russia could guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine, he said.

Russia Launches Ballistic Missile As Part Of Nuclear Drills

MOSCOW, Oct 26: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday surveyed drills carried out by his nuclear-capable forces as Moscow pressed unfounded claims to India and China that Ukraine was developing a "dirty bomb."

The drills are the latest in a series of escalatory comments from Moscow and Putin -- who observed the drills from a control room -- that the eight-month conflict in Ukraine could turn nuclear.

"Under the leadership of... Vladimir Putin, a training session was held with ground, sea and air strategic deterrence forces, during which practical launches of ballistic and cruise missiles took place," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian state-run media ran footage of a submarine crew preparing the launch of a Sineva ballistic missile from the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

The drills also included launching test missiles from the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East.

Footage of the drills across state media came after Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu pressed ahead with telephone calls to his counterparts globally, claiming that Ukraine was developing a "dirty bomb".

Shoigu, who has made these claims in recent days to counterparts from NATO countries, reiterated them to Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe on Wednesday.

Shoigu also voiced the same "concerns" in a phone with India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh earlier on Wednesday, Moscow said.

Ukraine has dismissed the allegations as "absurd" and "dangerous," suggesting the claims could be cover for Russia's own plans on the battlefield, as have its western allies, including Britain, France and the United States.

A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb laced with radioactive, biological or chemical materials which are disseminated in an explosion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Wednesday that Russia had information pertaining to the "existing threat" of Ukraine using a "dirty bomb" and that Kyiv was "preparing for such a terrorist act of sabotage".

He added: "We will continue vigorously bringing our point of view to the world community to encourage them to take active steps to prevent such irresponsible behaviour."

Nuclear rhetoric from Russia began building in September, when Moscow said it was annexing four regions of Ukraine over which its forces have partial control. Putin warned Russia could use nuclear weapons to defend them.

One of those regions is Kherson, in southern Ukraine near Moscow-annexed Crimea, where Kyiv has been clawing back territory since a counter-offensive it announced at the end of the summer.

Russian-backed authorities in recent days urged residents to flee what they say is an oncoming onslaught. They claimed to have turned the city of Kherson into a "fortress", vowing to defend it at all costs.

A Moscow-installed official in the region, Vladimir Saldo, said Wednesday that at least 70,000 people have left their homes within the last week.

Ukraine's capture of the Kherson region would give Kyiv back important access to the Sea of Azov. It would also cut off Moscow's land bridge to Russian-annexed Crimea.

Saldo banned entry to the right bank area of the region for a period of seven days "due to the tense situation on the contact line", according to a statement on his social media on Wednesday.

Russia's offensive to capture Ukrainian territory spurred a wave of international solidarity with Kyiv, including hundreds of foreigners who volunteered to help fend off Russian advances.

Kyiv said Wednesday that Russia had returned the remains of US citizen Joshua Alan Jones, who was killed fighting Moscow's forces in August, along with 10 Ukrainian servicemen in a prisoner swap.

15 Killed, 40 Wounded In Iran Mosque Terror Attack: Report

TEHRAN, Oct 26: At least 15 people were killed Wednesday by armed "terrorists" who attacked a Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, state television said.

Forty others were wounded when "terrorists attacked the Shah Cheragh mausoleum in Shiraz", the state broadcaster said, updating an earlier toll from the judiciary's news website of nine dead.

At least one woman and two children were among those killed, Fars news agency said.

Local media reported three assailants carried out the attack and that two had been detained, with Fars news agency saying "the terrorists are not Iranian".

But a local official said there was only one attacker.

"Only one terrorist was involved in this attack," judiciary chief Kazem Mousavi told state television.

The state broadcaster also reported one arrest and said that the assailant was "a terrorist affiliated with takfiri groups'.

The term takfiri in Iran and in several other countries refers to radical Sunni Islamist groups.

The Shah Cheragh mausoleum is home to the tomb of Ahmad, brother of Imam Reza, the eighth Shiite imam, and is considered the holiest site in southern Iran.

Iran in June hanged a Sunni extremist who was sentenced to death for killing two Shiite clerics and wounding another in early April, the judiciary said at the time.

A 21-year-old national of Uzbek origin carried out the April 5 stabbing attack at the Imam Reza shrine, which honours one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

The killings happened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when large crowds of worshippers had gathered at the shrine, in Iran's second-largest city Mashhad.

The assailant stabbed one of the victims 20 times, Tasnim news agency reported earlier.

That attack came days after two Sunni clerics were shot dead outside a seminary in the northern Iranian town of Gonbad-e Kavus.

The three suspects in that case, also Sunnis, were arrested in late April but were said to have "no connection with terrorist groups", state media reported at the time.

Wednesday's attack comes as Iran has been rocked by street protests since the death of Mahsa Amini last month after she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women.

Rishi Sunak Sacks Several Ministers, Appoints Dominic Raab As Deputy PM

LONDON, Oct 25: New UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak started delivering on his "work would begin immediately" promise within an hour of his meeting with King Charles III.
A string of members of Liz Truss's team of ministers were asked to step down as a precursor to the announcement of his new cabinet. Two crucial appointments were made by evening -- Dominic Raab as the Deputy Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt as finance minister.

So far four ministers have been asked to step down. Among them are Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis, Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith and Development minister Vicky Ford, sources said.

Dominic Raab -- -- who was the Deputy Prime Minister for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- will also hold the Secretary of State for Justice portfolio.

Jeremy Hunt -- who replaced Kwasi Kwarteng -- will stay on as the finance minister, tweeted the Prime Minister's official twitter handle.

He also included Suella Braverman as the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The hardline interior minister had quit last week over a technical breach of government rules.

In his first address as Prime Minister, Sunak promised to place "economic stability and competence" at the heart of his government's agenda. "Trust is earned and I will earn yours," he said, describing his election as a measure to correct the "mistakes" of his predecessors.

His government, Sunak also said, will deliver on the promise of stronger NHS (National Healthcare system), schools, safer streets, supporting armed forces, levelling up and create jobs. It will have "integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level," he had said.

UK is currently facing a huge economic slump that's rapidly progressing towards recession. Critics have accused the Conservative party of failing to address the situation.

Last week, Sunak's predecessor Liz Truss stepped down after her mini budget -- which had a large component of unfunded tax cuts -- spooked the markets. The U-turn made by Jeremy Hunt, whom she appointed after sacking Kwasi Kwarteng, was unable to reverse the economic tumult.

Bond yields had spiked and the pound collapsed to a record dollar-low on fears of spiralling debt. Mr Sunak's takeover had stabilised the situation to an extent, but Mr Hunt had warned of "difficult decisions" in the days ahead.

In his address today, Sunak echoed the sentiment. But he said it would be tempered with "compassion".

"You saw me during Covid doing everything I could to protect people and businesses with schemes like furlough. There are always limits, more so now than ever. But I promise you this, I will bring that same compassion to the challenges we face today," he said.

Any Nuke Attack Would Be 'Incredibly Serious Mistake': Joe Biden Warns Russia

WASHINGTON, Oct 25: US President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday against using a nuclear weapon in the war with Ukraine, saying such an escalation would be a grave error.

Asked by reporters whether he thinks Russia is preparing a dirty bomb attack that it would then blame on Ukraine, Biden said: "Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake were it to use a tactical nuclear weapon."

Russia said this week that Ukraine could use a so-called dirty bomb on its own territory.

A dirty bomb is a conventional bomb laced with radioactive, biological or chemical materials which get disseminated in an explosion.

The US and its allies suspect Russia might itself use a dirty bomb in a "false flag" attack, possibly to justify use of conventional nuclear weapons by Moscow as it finds itself on the back foot in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Biden said Tuesday, "I'm not guaranteeing that it's a false flag operation yet. We don't know."

India Advises Its Citizens In Ukraine To Leave Immediately

KYIV, Oct 25: In a fresh advisory, the Indian embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday asked all Indians there to leave the country immediately in view of increasing hostilities.
The new advisory came less than a week after a similar advisory was issued following the deteriorating security situation in Ukraine. "In continuation of the advisory issued by the embassy on October 19, all Indian citizens in Ukraine are advised to immediately leave Ukraine by available means," the embassy said.

It said some Indian nationals have already left Ukraine pursuant to the earlier advisory.

The embassy has asked the Indian nationals to contact it for any guidance or assistance to travel to the Ukrainian border for exiting the country.

There has been an intensification of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine with Moscow carrying out retaliatory missile strikes targeting various Ukrainian cities in response to a huge blast in Crimea around three weeks back.

Rishi Sunak Is New UK Prime Minister

LONDON, Oct 24: Rishi Sunak is the next Prime Minister of UK, tasked to steer the economically floundering nation days after his predecessor Liz Truss stepped down, conceding defeat. At age 42, he is the youngest and the first person of colour to hold the post.

In his first address to the people after being named Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said it was the "Greatest privilege of my life...Will work day in and out to deliver".

Congratulating Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the 'living bridge' of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership".

Rishi Sunak is the third Prime Minister UK had in seven months. Liz Truss -- who pipped him to the post in the party's internal election and succeeded Boris Johnson -- quit on October 20 after only 45 days in office.

Johnson, who entered the race again last week, cutting short a Caribbean holiday, ended his bid for the post yesterday in a surprise decision. He said he would not be able to lead "a united party in parliament".

The other contender, Penny Mordaunt, failed to secure the numbers and dropped out of the race. Sunak has the support of 180-plus members of the parliament - far above the 100-mark required to bag the top job.

Liz Truss had quit the top post after her plan for a mini-budget -- featuring massive unfunded tax cuts -- spooked markets. "Given the situation, I cannot carry out the mandate for which I was elected," she had told the media.

UK is facing an economically toxic combination of recession and rising interest rates. Critics blame the economic downturn on the Conservative Party and what they call its "series of miscalculations".

The pound rose briefly today as it became clear that Sunak will be the next Prime Minister. "I want to fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country," the Indian-origin former chancellor had said earlier.

Rishi Sunak had criticised Liz Truss's tax-cutting agenda during the contest for leadership earlier this year. He said he would cut taxes only after bringing inflation under control. He had also outlined a plan to cut income tax from 20% to 16% by 2029.

Sunak's being named to the UK top post on Diwali has elated many in India, where he is better known through his wife. Akshata Murty is the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy.

'World Needs China: Xi Jinping After Securing Historic Third Term

BEIJING, Oct 24: Xi Jinping secured a historic third term as China's leader on Sunday and promoted some of his closest Communist Party allies, cementing his position as the nation's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party elected Xi as its general secretary for another five-year term, tilting the country decisively back towards one-man rule after decades of power-sharing among its elite. Xi Jinping said "the world needs China" as he spoke to the press.

"China cannot develop without the world, and the world also needs China," Xi said. "After more than 40 years of unflagging efforts towards reform and opening up, we have created two miracles -- rapid economic development and long-term social stability."

He promised to "work diligently in the performance of our duties to prove worthy of the great trust of our party and our people."

Xi was also reappointed head of China's Central Military Commission.

The 69-year-old is now all but certain to sail through to a third term as China's president, due to be formally announced during the government's annual legislative sessions in March.

His anointment came after a week-long Congress of 2,300 hand-picked party delegates during which they endorsed Xi's "core position" in the leadership and approved a sweeping reshuffle that saw former rivals step down.

The 20th Congress elected the new Central Committee of around 200 senior party officials, who then gathered on Sunday to elect Xi and the other members of Standing Committee -- the apex of Chinese political power.

Some of Xi's closest allies were announced in the seven-man committee.

Former Shanghai party chief Li Qiang, a confidante of Xi's, was promoted to number two, making him likely to be named premier at the government's annual legislative sessions next March.

Since becoming the country's leader a decade ago, Xi has achieved a concentration of power like no modern Chinese ruler other than Mao.

He abolished the presidential two-term limit in 2018, paving the way for him to govern indefinitely.

Xi has also overseen China's rise as the world's second-biggest economy, a huge military expansion and a far more aggressive global posture that has drawn strong opposition from the United States.

Despite nearly unchecked power, Xi faces huge challenges over the next five years, including managing the nation's debt-ridden economy and the growing US rivalry.

Sunday's vote brought to an end a triumphant week at which China's top brass hailed their leadership of the country over the last five years.

In his opening speech to its 20th Congress last Sunday, Xi lauded the party's achievements while glossing over domestic problems such as the stalling economy and the damage inflicted by his harsh zero-Covid policy.

Heavy on ideological rhetoric and light on policy, a defiant Xi also urged party members to steel themselves against numerous challenges including a hardening geopolitical climate.

Analysts had closely watched for whether the party charter would be amended to enshrine "Xi Jinping Thought" as a guiding philosophy, a move that would put Xi on a par with Mao.

That did not take place, though a resolution did call the creed "the Marxism of contemporary China and of the 21st century", adding that it "embodies the best Chinese culture and ethos of this era".

Saudi Crown Prince To Visit India Next Month On PM's Invitation: Sources

NEW DELHI, Oct 24: Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Mohammed bin Salman, will visit India to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in mid-November on his way to the G20 summit in Indonesia's Bali, sources said.
He will arrive early morning on November 14 and leave later in the day.

The visit is on an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sent him a letter through the External Affairs Minister in September.

The Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman visited India this week, ahead of the Crown Prince, as OPEC+ took a decision on cutting oil production. He had simultaneously held talks with Chinese officials online.

The visiting minister had held discussions with top Indian ministers including Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, and Power Minister RK Singh.

'Leave At The Earliest': India To Citizens In Ukraine As War Escalates

NEW DELHI, Oct 19: India on Wednesday issued an advisory asking all its citizens to avoid travelling to Ukraine, citing the "deteriorating security situation" in the country.

"In view of the deteriorating security situation and recent escalation of hostilities across Ukraine, Indian nationals are advised against travelling to Ukraine," the Indian embassy in Ukraine said on its Twitter handle.

"The Indian citizens, including students, currently in Ukraine are advised to leave Ukraine at the earliest by available means," it added.

The advisory came as Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced martial law on Wednesday in four Ukrainian regions he says Russia has annexed, while some residents of the occupied city of Kherson left by boat following warnings of a looming assault.

The images of people fleeing Kherson were broadcast by Russian state TV which portrayed the exodus - from the right to left bank of the River Dnipro - as an attempt to clear the city of civilians before it became a combat zone.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the local Russia-backed administration, made a video appeal after Russian forces in the area were driven back by 20-30 km in the last few weeks. They risk being pinned against the western bank of the 2,200-km-long Dnipro river that bisects Ukraine.

In a move which looked designed to help Russia firm its grip on the Ukrainian regions it partly occupies - including Kherson - Putin told his Security Council he was introducing martial law in them.

Beyond much tighter security measures on the ground, it was unclear what the immediate impact of that would be.

Kyiv, which does not recognise Moscow's self-styled annexations of the four regions, derided the move.

"'Martial law' implementation on the occupied territories by Russia should be considered only as a pseudo-legalisation of (the) looting of Ukrainians' property," tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser.

"This does not change anything for Ukraine: we continue the liberation and deoccupation of our territories."

Eight months after being invaded, Ukraine is prosecuting major counter-offensives in the east and south to try to take as much territory as it can before winter after routing Russian forces in some areas.

The conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions, pulverised Ukrainian cities, shaken the global economy and revived Cold War-era geopolitical fissures.

Putin also issued a decree restricting movement in and out of eight regions adjoining Ukraine and ordered the creation of a special coordinating council under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to step up the faltering war effort.

Kherson is the biggest population centre Moscow has seized and held since it began its "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president's office, accused Russia of laying on a propaganda show there.

"The Russians are trying to scare the people of Kherson with fake newsletters about the shelling of the city by our army, and also arrange a propaganda show with evacuation," Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian cities have also been struck in recent days by drones and missiles, and Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv's mayor, said the capital's air defences were in action once again on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelenskiy, who has said a third of his country's power stations have been hit by Russian strikes, on Wednesday discussed security at power supply facilities with senior officials.

"We are working to create mobile power points for the critical infrastructure of cities, towns and villages," Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"We are preparing for various scenarios of possible consequences. Ukraine will defend itself. No matter what the enemy plans and does."

In Kherson, Stremousov said the city and especially its right bank could be shelled by Ukrainian forces, adding that residents who left would be given accommodation inside Russia.

"I ask you to take my words seriously and to interpret them as a call to evacuate as fast as you possibly can," he said.

"We do not plan to surrender the city, we will stand until the last moment."

The Russian-installed chief of Kherson region, Stremousov's boss, said about 50,000-60,000 people would be evacuated in the next six days. The city of Kherson had a pre-war population of around 280,000 people but many of them have since fled.

"The Ukrainian side is building up forces for a large-scale offensive," Vladimir Saldo, the official, told state TV. "Where the military operates, there is no place for civilians."

Saldo, who said Russia had the resources to hold Kherson and even counter attack if necessary, also said he was banning civilians from entering the region for seven days.

Staff at Kherson's Russian-backed administration were also being relocated to the left bank of the Dnipro, he said.

The evacuation calls followed a gloomy assessment of Russia's prospects in the area from General Sergei Surovikin, the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.

"The situation in the area of the 'Special Military Operation' can be described as tense," Surovikin told state-owned Rossiya 24 news channel. "The situation in this area (Kherson) is difficult. The enemy is deliberately striking infrastructure and residential buildings."

Suella Braverman Resigns As UK Home Secretary

LONDON, Oct 19: Britain's hardline interior minister Suella Braverman has left the government of Prime Minister Liz Truss, UK media reported on Wednesday, adding to the air of chaos engulfing the new leader.

The circumstances of Ms Braverman's departure were not immediately made clear but the BBC and others reported the exit of the right-winger, who had stood herself in the recent Conservative leadership election.

Russia Destroys Energy, Water Infrastructure Across Ukraine

KYIV, Oct 18: Russia has destroyed almost a third of Ukraine's power stations in the past week, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday, as Moscow rained more missiles down on infrastructure in what Kyiv and the West call a campaign to intimidate civilians.

Missiles struck power stations in the capital Kyiv where they killed three people, and in Kharkiv in the east, Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih in the south and Zhytomyr in the west, causing blackouts and knocking out water supplies. One man was killed in his flat that was destroyed in Mykolaiv in the south.

Russia has openly acknowledged targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes since the start of last week, in what President Vladimir Putin said was legitimate retaliation for a blast on a bridge.

Kyiv and the West say intentionally attacking civilian infrastructure is a war crime, and the attacks, aimed at leaving Ukrainians with no heat and power as winter arrives, are Putin's latest tactic to escalate a war his forces are losing.

"The situation is critical now across the country ... The whole country needs to prepare for electricity, water and heating outages," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, told Ukrainian television.

In Mykolaiv, three explosions were heard in the early hours of Tuesday. A missile completely destroyed one wing of a building in the downtown area, leaving a massive crater. A fire crew was seen pulling the dead body of a man from the rubble.

The Russians "probably get pleasure from this," said Oleksandr, the owner of a nearby flower shop.

Zelenskiy said Russia was continuing to try to terrorise and kill Ukrainian civilians.

"Since Oct 10, 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country," he wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskiy reiterated his refusal to negotiate with Putin who he says heads a "terrorist state".

Zelenskiy ruled out negotiations with Putin last month after the Russian leader announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces. Putin has also called up hundreds of thousands of reservists and repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons since mid-September, after his forces faced humiliating battlefield losses.

There was no immediate word on how many people had been killed in Tuesday's strikes overall. A day earlier, Russia sent swarms of drones to attack infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities, killing at least five people.

Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, though it has pummelled villages, towns and cities across Ukraine in what it initially called a "special military operation" to disarm its neighbour.

The Russian defence ministry repeated earlier statements that it was carrying out attacks using high precision weapons on what it described as military targets and energy infrastructure across Ukraine.

Ukraine accuses Russia of using Iran-made Shahed-136 'kamikaze drones', which fly to their target and detonate. Iran denies supplying them and on Tuesday the Kremlin also denied using them.

However, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters that Tehran had promised to provide Russia with more drones as well as surface-to-surface missiles, a move sure to infuriate the United States and its allies.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would ask Zelenskiy to formally cut diplomatic ties with Iran in protest over the drones. "The actions of Iran are vile and deceitful," he said.

NATO will deliver air defence systems to Ukraine "in the coming days" to help the country defend itself against drones, the alliance's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said.

Russia earlier this month named General Sergei Surovikin as overall commander of Moscow's forces in Ukraine. Surovikin, nicknamed "General Armageddon" in Russian media, served in Syria and Chechnya where Russian forces pounded cities to rubble in a brutal but effective scorched earth policy against its foes.

His appointment was quickly followed on Oct. 10 by the biggest wave of missile strikes against Ukraine since the start of the war.

Putin cast those strikes as revenge for an explosion that damaged Russia's bridge to Crimea - the peninsula Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for that attack but celebrated the destruction of what it considers a military target used to transport arms and troops.

British Armed Forces minister James Heappey told BBC Radio that Surovikin was pursuing a cruel and pointless strategy that he said would fail in its aim of trying to "break the will of the Ukrainian people".

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that four Ukrainian regions it claims to have annexed in recent weeks were under the protection of its nuclear arsenal.

The statement comes as both NATO and Russia prepare to hold annual military exercises to test the readiness of their nuclear weapons forces. Russia's defence ministry said on Tuesday two of its nuclear-capable Tu-95MS strategic bombers had conducted a flight of more than 12 hours over the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Putin has previously said he is prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend Russia's "territorial integrity".

The governors of Russia's Kursk and Belgorod regions, which border Ukraine, on Tuesday reported cross-border shelling.

In Belgorod, a train station was shelled and train links suspended, and two villages were shelled in Kursk, leading to electricity outages, they said.

Pakistan 'One Of The Most Dangerous Nations': Biden

WASHINGTON, Oct 15: In perhaps the most candid statement made against it, US President Joe Biden described Pakistan as "one of the most dangerous nations" in the world which holds "nuclear weapons without any cohesion."

The US President made these remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Reception in Los Angeles (California), during which he berated both China and Russia.

The remarks on Pakistan were made while Biden was talking about US foreign policy with regard to China and Vladimir Putin's Russia. Biden concluded by saying he considered Pakistan to be the most dangerous country in the world.

"This is a guy (Xi Jinping) who understands what he wants but has an enormous, enormous array of problems. How do we handle that? How do we handle that relative to what's going on in Russia? And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion," said Biden, as quoted in a White House press release of his remarks at the Democratic party event.

Biden's remarks could be seen as a setback to the Shehbaz Sharif government's bid to improve ties with the US.

At the event, Biden said there were enormous opportunities for the US to change the dynamic in the second quarter of the 21st century.

"So, folks, there's a lot going on. A lot going on. But there's also enormous opportunities for the United States to change the dynamic in the second quarter of the 21st century," the US President said.

These comments come two days after the release of the US' National Security Strategy. The 48-page document makes no reference to Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration released the Congress mandated key policy document, underlining the threat posed to the US by both China and Russia.

The National Security Strategy states that China and Russia who earlier this year announced a "no-limits partnership" are increasingly aligned with each other but the challenges they pose are distinct.

"We will prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia," it adds.

The policy document contends that competition with China is most pronounced in the Indo-Pacific, but it is also increasingly global.

The US Security Strategy highlighted that the next ten years will be a decisive decade of competition with China.

On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the document says Moscow's "imperialist foreign policy" culminated "in a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to topple its government and bring it under Russian control."

Pak 'Surprised' By Biden's 'Dangerous Nation' Remark

ISLAMABAD, Oct 15: Pakistan's foreign minister on Saturday said the US ambassador to the country had been summoned after President Joe Biden said in a speech that Pakistan is "maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world" as it has "nuclear weapons without any cohesion".

The minister, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was surprised by Biden's comments and a misunderstanding was created by a lack of engagement.

Bhutto-Zardari said he didn't think the decision to summon the US Ambassador will negatively affect relations with the United States.

Biden made the remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception on Thursday.

King Charles To Be Crowned On May 6, 2023

LONDON, Oct 11: The coronation of King Charles III will take place on May 6 next year, Buckingham Palace announced on Tuesday, vowing to reflect the monarchy's historic traditions and its modern role.

Charles, 73, will be formally crowned at London's Westminster Abbey, following a long tradition dating back more than 900 years.

The monarch's wife, Queen Consort Camilla, 75, will also be crowned, the palace confirmed.

May 6 is the fourth birthday of Charles' grandson Archie, the son of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

"The coronation will reflect the monarch's role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry," royal officials said in a short statement.

The much-anticipated confirmation of the date comes just over a month after the death of Charles' mother Queen Elizabeth II, and speculation about when the ceremony might be held.

Charles immediately became king when Elizabeth died on September 8. He also took over as head of state of 14 Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The queen, who was 96, passed away at her remote Scottish estate Balmoral after a year of declining health. She was on the throne for a record 70 years.

World leaders attended her state funeral at Westminster Abbey before she was laid to rest after a ceremony at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to watch, with the same number queueing round the clock over four days to pay their final respects as her coffin lay in state.

Similar crowds will be expected for the first coronation since 1953 and the accompanying display of closely choreographed pomp and pageantry.

The coronation of British monarchs is both a solemn religious service while also being an occasion for celebration.

The priceless Crown Jewels form the centrepiece, symbolising the history and power of the British monarchy over the centuries.

Charles is expected to sign a proclamation formally declaring the coronation date at a meeting of the Privy Council formal body of advisers later this year.

During the ceremony, he will be "anointed, blessed and consecrated" by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England, who has crowned the monarch since 1066.

The incumbent, Justin Welby, is the 105th cleric to hold the role.

The coronation traditionally takes place some months after a new sovereign has ascended to the throne, following a period of national and royal mourning as well as intense preparation.

Elizabeth II's own coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953 -- some 16 months after she had become queen -- was the first major televised international event.

Charles, who was four at the time, recalled in 2006 that crowds outside Buckingham Palace chanting "We want the Queen" kept him awake the night before.

Some 27 million people -- more than half the population at the time -- followed it on television and was for many the first time they had watched TV.

The ceremony lasted almost three hours, drew 8,251 official guests crammed into temporary tiers and included representatives from 129 nations and territories.

In recent days, British media has speculated that Charles wants a slimmed-down ceremony, mindful that a lengthy display of wealth may not sit well in a country in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis.

Buckingham Palace has not commented on the exact format of the coronation nor the guest list, saying only: "Further details will be announced in due course".

Charles, who waited virtually his entire life to succeed his mother, began his reign with debate over whether the new king can play the same unifying role his mother did after World War II.

She inherited a more homogenous country -- largely white, mostly Christian and still socially conservative.

Since then, successive waves of immigration, particularly from Britain's former colonies and the Commonwealth, have brought huge social changes.

More people now class themselves as British Asian, black British or of mixed heritage, with one in seven people born outside Britain.

In his first full day as king, Charles said he was a "committed Anglican Christian" but considered Britain, which has become more multi-faith and multicultural, "a community of communities".

"That has led me to understand that the sovereign has an additional duty... to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself," he told faith leaders.

Officially, the British monarch is "Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England" but Charles has repeatedly promised to defend all faiths as king.

Russia Fired 84 Missiles, 10 Dead, Says Ukraine; 'Massive Strike,' Says Putin

KYIV, Oct 10: Mass retaliatory Russian strikes across Ukraine today killed 10 people and injured dozens more. Ukraine's capital Kyiv was hit by multiple Russian strikes today - the first since late June.

According to Ukraine's Prime Minster Denys Shmygal, 11 "important infrastructure facilities" had been damaged across eight regions and Kyiv. "It is necessary to be prepared for temporary power, water and communication cuts," he said on social media.

Ukraine's army said Russia launched 84 cruise missiles at them, two days after a large explosion damaged a bridge connecting Russia to Crimea in an attack Moscow blamed on Kyiv.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the series of strikes showed Russian President Vladimir Putin was "desperate because of battlefield defeats" after recent gains by Ukrainian forces.

Russia's former President Dmitry Medvedev warned the retaliatory mass strikes were only the "first episode". "The first episode has been played. There will be others," Medvedev, now deputy head of Russia's Security Council, said on social media.

Ukraine alleged Moscow used Iranian-made drones sent from neighbouring Belarus as part of the multiple deadly strikes. "The enemy used Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] in strikes launched from Belarus" and the Crimean peninsula, the Ukraine military said in a statement on Facebook, adding nine drones were "destroyed".

Putin said the strikes knocked out Ukraine's energy infrastructure. "This morning, on the advice of the defence ministry and according to a plan from the general staff, a massive strike was carried out with high-precision, long-range weapons...on energy, military command and communications facilities in Ukraine," Putin said during a meeting with his Security Council.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the Russian strikes across Ukraine and against civilians signalled a "profound change" in the conduct of the war. The "deliberate strikes by Russia over the whole of Ukraine's territory and against civilians, it's a profound change in the nature of this war," Macron told reporters during a trip to the Mayenne region of France.

In another related escalation, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Putin, said Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine were training Belarusian "radicals" for terror attacks, after announcing plans to deploy joint troops with Moscow.

The three countries, of which Lithuania and Poland are European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) members, share a border with Belarus.

The EU believes Russia's missile attacks on civilians in Ukraine "amounts to a war crime," a spokesman for the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said today. "Indiscriminately targeting people in a cowardly, heinous hail of missiles on civilian targets is indeed a further escalation," the spokesman, Peter Stano, said.

Ex-cop kills 38, including 22 kids, at children’s day-care centre in Thailand; dies by suicide

BANGKOK, Oct 6: At least 38 people, including 22 kids, were killed Thursday in a mass shooting at a children’s day-care centre in a northeastern province of Thailand, reported news agency Reuters citing a police official. The gunman was an ex-police officer and he took his own life following the shooting, it added.

The official confirmed the gunman killed his wife and child and himself during the incident. He was reportedly discharged from the police force last year.

Police added that children as young as 2 years old were among the victims.

The gunman reportedly opened fire early in the afternoon in the centre of the town of Nongbua Lamphu.

A report in Thailand-based Bangkok Post identified the gunman as former Pol Cpl Panya Khamrab and said that he carried guns and knives as he forced his way inside the centre and opened fire.

He had been discharged from the service for drug-related reasons, said a report quoting the police. About 30 children were at the centre when the gunman came in around lunchtime. A district official Jidapa Boonsom said that he first shot four or five staff, including a teacher who was eight months pregnant.

“At first people thought it was fireworks,” she added.

Videos posted on social media showed sheets covering what appeared to be the bodies of children lying in pools of blood at the centre in the town of Uthai Sawan in the northeastern province of Nong Bua Lamphu, said the report.

The rate of gun ownership in Thailand is high compared with some other countries in the region but official figures do not include huge numbers of illegal weapons, many of which have been brought in across porous borders over the years from strife-torn neighbours.

Mass shootings are rare but in 2020, a soldier angry over a property deal gone sour killed at least 29 people and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.

As Putin Ups Nuclear Rhetoric, Modi Speaks With Ukraine's Zelensky

NEW DELHI, Oct 4: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on phone today and raised concerns over safety of nuclear installations in the east European nation that is battling Russian forces.

The two leaders spoke nearly two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilisation, calling up some three lakh reservists in a major escalation of his tapering invasion of Ukraine, which he portrayed as a fight to the death with the US and its allies, especially members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"Prime Minister reiterated his call for an early cessation of hostilities and the need to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy. He expressed his firm conviction that there can be no military solution to the conflict and conveyed India's readiness to contribute to any peace efforts," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement today.

Modi said endangerment of nuclear facilities in Ukraine "could have far-reaching and catastrophic consequences for public health and the environment." The latest escalation came when Putin less than two weeks ago announced Russia would annex "four new regions" from Ukraine and threatened the use nuclear weapons if it came to Russia's survival.

Zelensky's office in a statement said he discussed with Modi the "holding of the so-called referenda by Russia in the temporarily occupied territories of our country". "The President noted that all the aggressor's decisions aimed at attempting illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories are null and void and do not change reality," the Ukraine government statement said.

India walks a tightrope. It abstained on a draft resolution tabled in the UN Security Council on September 30, which condemned Russia's "illegal referenda" and annexation of four Ukrainian territories.

India has also been buying Russian oil, which drew criticism from the West. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar in a strong statement in August said every country will try to ensure the best deal possible to cushion high oil prices and India was doing the same.

Before that, Jaishankar told reporters in Washington that India's total oil purchase from Russia in a month is probably less than what Europe does in an afternoon.
India has been calling for an end to the war that Ukraine has been fighting for seven months, initially against incoming Russian forces, and now on the offensive after retaking key cities from Russian control.

Zelensky on Saturday pledged to retake more areas in the country's eastern Donbas region from Russian forces. "Throughout this week, more Ukrainian flags have been raised in the Donbas. There will be even more in a week," he said in his evening address last week.

He spoke after Kyiv said its forces had begun moving into the key eastern town of Lyman and Ukraine's Defence Ministry posted a video of soldiers holding up a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag there. Russia's Defence Ministry said it had "withdrawn" troops from the town "to more favourable lines".

North Korea fires missile over Japan, some residents warned to take cover

TOKYO, Oct 4: North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years on Tuesday, prompting a warning for residents to take cover and a temporary suspension of train operations in northern Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese coast guard reported on the missile test, which was launched over North Korea’s east coast.

The Japanese government warned citizens to take cover as the missile appeared to have flown over and past its territory before falling into the Pacific ocean. It said it did not use any defence measures to destroy the missile, which was the first to fly over or past Japan from North Korea since 2017.

“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threatens the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community, and poses a serious challenge to the entire international community, including Japan,” Japan’s top government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno, said in a brief news conference.

Speaking to reporters shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called North Korea’s actions “barbaric”, and that the government would continue to gather and analyse information.

South Korea’s JCS said it appeared to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launched from North Korea’s Jagang Province. North Korea has used that province to launch several recent tests, including multiple missiles that it claimed were “hypersonic.”

TV Asahi, citing an unnamed government source, said North Korea might have fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and it fell into the sea some 3,000 km (1,860 miles) from Japan.

The latest launch was Pyongyang’s fifth in 10 days, amid military muscle-flexing by the United States and South Korea, which conducted trilateral anti-submarine exercises last week with Japanese naval forces.

South Korea staged its own show of advanced weaponry on Saturday to mark its Armed Forces Day, including multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, drones and F-35 fighters.

The North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, which it might look to undertake sometime between China’s Communist Party Congress this month and U.S. mid-term elections in November, South Korean lawmakers said last week.

Kremlin Welcomes Elon Musk's Proposed Peace Deal To End Russia-Ukraine War

MOSCOW, Oct 4: The Kremlin praised Tesla boss Elon Musk on Tuesday for suggesting a possible peace deal to end the war in Ukraine, after Kyiv rebuked Musk for proposing terms it views as rewarding Russia.

"It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

"Compared to many professional diplomats, Musk is still searching for ways to achieve peace. And achieving peace without fulfilling Russia's conditions is absolutely impossible," he added.

In a Twitter poll posted on Monday, the Tesla boss proposed Ukraine permanently cede Crimea to Russia, that new referendums be held under U.N. auspices to determine the fate of Russian-controlled territory, and that Ukraine agree to neutrality.

Kyiv says it will never agree to cede land taken by force, and lawful referendums cannot be held in occupied territory where many people have been killed or driven out. After Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces last week, Kyiv said it was applying to join NATO, and would not negotiate with Russia as long as Putin is president.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded to Musk's proposal with his own Twitter poll asking: "Which @elonmusk do you like more? One who supports Ukraine (or) one who supports Russia."

As of 1030 GMT on Tuesday, Musk's original poll had garnered more than 2.5 million votes, with some 60% opposed to the plan.

Peskov said on Tuesday that "bots" - phoney twitter accounts - were "actively participating in the voting". He provided no evidence.

Moscow had always been open to a negotiated end to the conflict, Peskov added. He criticised a new Ukrainian decree, signed by Zelenskiy on Tuesday, which says Kyiv will not negotiate directly with Putin for an end to the conflict.

Ukraine Punches Through Russian Lines In Biggest Advance Since War Began

KYIV, Oct 3: Ukrainian forces achieved their biggest breakthrough in the south of the country since the war began, bursting through the front and advancing rapidly along the Dnipro River on Monday, threatening supply lines for thousands of Russian troops.

Kyiv gave no official confirmation of the gains, but Russian sources acknowledged that a Ukrainian tank offensive had advanced dozens of kilometers along the river's west bank, recapturing a number of villages along the way.

The breakthrough mirrors recent Ukrainian successes in the east that have turned the tide in the war against Russia, even as Moscow has tried to raise the stakes by annexing territory, ordering mobilisation and threatening nuclear retaliation.

"The information is tense, let's put it that way, because, yes there were indeed breakthroughs," Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in occupied parts of Ukraine's Kherson province told Russian state television.

"There's a settlement called Dudchany, right along the Dnipro River, and right there, in that region, there was a breakthrough. There are settlements that are occupied by Ukrainian forces," he said.

Dudchany is around 30 km (20 miles) south of where the front stood before the breakthrough, indicating one of the fastest advances of the war and by far the most rapid in the south, where Russian forces had been dug into heavily reinforced positions along a mainly static front line since the early weeks of the invasion.

While Kyiv maintained almost complete silence, as it has in the past during major offensives, some officials did describe what they referred to as unconfirmed reports of gains.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior ministry, posted a photo of Ukrainian soldiers posing with their flag draping a golden statue of an angel. He said it was the village of Mikhailivka, around 20 km beyond the previous front.

"In the last days, we have seen the first photo of Osokorivka... we have seen our troops near the entrance to Mykhailivka, we have seen our troops in Khreschenivka, next to the monument. This means that Zolota Balka also is under the control of our armed forces, and it means that our armed forces are moving powerfully along the banks of the Dnipro nearer to Beryslav," Serhiy Khlan, a Kherson regional council member, told Reuters, naming villages in the area.

"Officially, there is no such information yet, but the (Russian) social media pages which are panicking... absolutely confirm these photos."

The advance in the south mirrors the tactics that have brought Kyiv major gains since the start of September in eastern Ukraine, where its forces swiftly seized territory to gain control of Russian supply lines, cutting off larger Russian forces and forcing them to retreat.

Just hours after a concert on Moscow's Red Square on Friday where Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be Russian territory forever, Ukraine recaptured Lyman, the main Russian bastion in the north of Donetsk province.

That has opened the way for it to advance deep into Luhansk province, threatening the main supply routes to territory Moscow captured in some of the war's bloodiest battles in June and July.

In the south, Ukraine's advance targets supply lines for thousands of Russian troops - perhaps as many as 25,000 - on the west bank of the Dnipro. Ukraine has already destroyed the main bridges, forcing Russian forces to use makeshift crossings. A substantial advance down river could cut them off entirely.

"The fact we have broken through the front means that ... the Russian army has already lost the ability to attack, and today or tomorrow it could lose the ability to defend," said Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv.

"A month of our work destroying their supplies and reducing the combat effectiveness of this group means that they are functioning on minimal rations in terms of ammunition, fuel and food."

Putin has been responding to Russia's failures on the battlefield over the past month by escalating: proclaiming the annexation of occupied territory, calling up tens of thousands of men as reservists and threatening nuclear retaliation.

On Monday, Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament which is firmly under the control of Putin's ruling party, passed bills endorsing the annexation of the four partly occupied Ukrainian provinces.

But Russia's flagging fortunes have led to a shift in mood on once triumphal state media, where talkshow hosts have been acknowledging setbacks and searching for scapegoats.

"For a certain period of time, things won't be easy for us. We shouldn't be expecting good news right now," said Vladimir Solovyov, the most prominent presenter on state TV.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Putin leader of Russia's Chechnya province who commands a personal army, demanded the commander of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine be stripped of his medals and sent to the front line.

Kadyrov also said Russia should use a nuclear weapon. Putin and other officials have said they could use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory including newly annexed provinces, but had so far stopped short of explicitly saying they will do so. Asked about Kadyrov's remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "This is a very emotional moment."

"The heads of regions have the right to express their point of view," Peskov told reporters. "Even at difficult moments, emotions should still be excluded from any assessments."

Putin's other big gamble, Russia's first mass military mobilisation since World War Two, has been mired in chaos. Tens of thousands of Russian men have been called up, while similar numbers have fled abroad. Western countries say Moscow lacks the supplies and manpower to train or equip the new conscripts.

Mikhail Degtyarev, governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia's Far East, said on Monday around half of those called up there had been found unfit and sent home. He fired the region's military commissar.

Ukraine's NATO Move As Russia Annexes 4 Regions

KYIV, Sept 30: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that Kyiv is requesting fast-track NATO membership after Russia formally annexed four Moscow-held regions of Ukraine.

"We have already proven our compatibility with (NATO) alliance standards," Zelensky said in a video posted by the Ukrainian presidency on social media.

"We are taking a decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO," he added.

He also said that Kyiv would not negotiate with Russia -- which sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 -- as long as President Vladimir Putin was in power.

"Ukraine will not hold any negotiations with Russia as long as Putin is the president of the Russian Federation. We will negotiate with the new president," Zelensky said.

His remarks come after Putin signed treaties to annex four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions -- Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia -- at a grand ceremony in the Kremlin.

The pro-Kremlin leaders of the annexed territories claimed the regions voted in favour of becoming part of Russia in referendums that Western capitals and international organisations did not recognise.

US Announces 'Severe' Sanctions On Russia Over Annexations

WASHINGTON, Sept 30: The United States on Friday announced "severe" new sanctions on Russia in response to what President Joe Biden called Moscow's "fraudulent" claim to have annexed four Ukrainian regions.

"The United States is imposing swift and severe costs on Russia," the White House said in a statement. It also announced that G7 allies support imposing "costs" on any country that backs the Kremlin's attempt to incorporate the Ukrainian regions.

In a statement, Biden said "the United States condemns Russia's fraudulent attempt today to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory. Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere."

"The United States will always honor Ukraine's internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine's efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week," he continued.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said "the United States unequivocally rejects Russia's fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine's internationally recognized borders."

"In response, the United States and our allies and partners are imposing swift and severe costs," he said.

The Biden administration said the sanctions will target scores of Russian parliament members, government officials, family members and also industries supplying the Russian military, "including international suppliers."

In a warning to the small number of countries potentially willing to recognize Russia's self-declared sovereignty over the four invaded regions, the administration said the G7 -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- had agreed to punish any such support.

"We are also issuing a clear warning supported by G7 Leaders: We will hold to account any individual, entity, or country that provides political or economic support for Russia's illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory," Blinken said.

The sanctions announcement -- which comes after multiple rounds of earlier measures designed to isolate Russia's economy and cripple its ability to maintain the military -- followed Putin's speech earlier Friday in which he declared Russian annexation of four territories.

The regions -- Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia -- are currently under partial Russian occupation, with Ukraine's Western-armed military pushing hard to recapture the land.

In 2014, Putin annexed another region, Crimea, where Russian troops faced almost no opposition from the then badly organized Ukrainian military.

This February, he launched a full-scale invasion of eastern, southern and northern Ukraine in a bid to topple the pro-Western government, but the revamped Ukrainian military has since partly repelled the invaders and continues to push Russian lines back.

Russia-Staged Annexation Votes 'Null And Worthless': Ukraine

KYIV, Sept 28: Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russian-staged votes in four Ukrainian regions on becoming part of Russia were "null and worthless", and that Kyiv would press on with efforts to liberate Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

Urging its international partners to impose tough new sanctions on Moscow and provide Kyiv with more military aid, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ukraine would never agree to Russian ultimatums.

"Forcing people in these territories to fill out some papers at the barrel of a gun is yet another Russian crime in the course of its aggression against Ukraine," it said.

Describing the "referendums" organised by Russia as a sham, it said they had "nothing to do with expression of will" and had no implications for Ukraine's "administrative-territorial system and internationally recognized borders."

"Ukraine and the international community condemn such actions of Russia and consider them null and worthless," the statement said.

"Ukraine has every right to restore its territorial integrity by military and diplomatic means, and will continue to liberate the temporarily occupied territories. Ukraine will never agree to any Russian ultimatums. Moscow's attempts to create new separation lines or weaken international support for Ukraine are doomed to fail."

China Opens Illegal Police Stations Across Globe: Report

BEIJING, Sept 28: In a quest to emerge as a global superpower, the Chinese government has opened numerous illegal police stations across the world including in developed countries like Canada and Ireland, triggering concerns among human rights campaigners.

Such informal police service stations affiliated with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) across Canada have been set up to antagonize China's adversaries, Investigative Journalism Reportika stated citing the local media.

According to local media reports, Fuzhou has established informal police service stations affiliated with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) across Canada. At least three of these stations are located in the Greater Toronto Area only.

Moreover, the Chinese government is also influencing the elections in certain countries through these illegal police stations, according to Investigative Journalism Reportika.

The Fuzhou police say it has already opened 30 such stations in 21 countries.

Countries like Ukraine, France, Spain, Germany, and the UK have such arrangements for Chinese Police Stations and the leaders of most of these countries question the rise of China and its worsening human rights records on public platforms and are themselves a part of that issue.

Human rights campaigners have accused the ruling Communist Party of China of committing widespread abuses across the country in the name of security, steps which include confining people to internment camps, forcibly separating families and carrying out forced sterilization.

For its part, China has said these facilities are "vocational skills training centres" that are necessary to "counter" extremism and improve livelihoods. Chinese officials said in late 2019 that most "trainees" had "graduated" from the centres.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet recently visited China and Xinjiang.

Saudi King names Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as Prime Minister

RIYADH, Sept 28: Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s new role is in line with the king’s previous delegation of duties to him, including representing the kingdom in foreign visits and chairing summits hosted by the kingdom, a Saudi official said.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz named his son and heir Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom's Prime Minister and his second son Prince Khalid as Defence Minister, a royal decree said on Tuesday.

The reshuffle kept another son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, as Energy Minister, the royal decree, carried by state news agency SPA, said.

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan and Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih remained unchanged, the decree showed.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s new role is in line with the king’s previous delegation of duties to him, including representing the kingdom in foreign visits and chairing summits hosted by the kingdom, a Saudi official said on Tuesday.

“HRH the crown prince, based on the king’s orders, already supervises the main executive bodies of the state on a daily basis, and his new role as prime minister is within that context,” the official said.

The crown prince, known as MbS, had been the Defence Minister and has been the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and a major U. S. ally in the Middle East.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, MbS's younger brother, previously served as deputy defense minister.

King Salman will still preside the cabinet meetings that he attends, the decree said.

The 86-year-old King, the custodian of Islam's holiest sites, became ruler in 2015 after spending more than two-and-a-half years as the crown prince. He has been hospitalised several times over the last two years.

Prince Mohammed has changed Saudi Arabia radically since he rose to power in 2017 as he led efforts to diversify the economy from dependence on oil, allowed women to drive and curbed the clerics' power over society.

His reforms, however, have come with a massive crackdown on dissent, with activists, royals, women rights' activists and businessmen jailed.

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018 has tarnished his reputation and strained the kingdom's relations with the United States and other Western allies.

'Death To The Dictator: Protests In Iran Rage For 10th Consecutive Day

PARIS, Sept 25: Iranians took to the streets for a tenth consecutive night Sunday, in defiance of a warning from the judiciary, to protest the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic republic's security forces, according to an official toll, although other sources say the real figure is higher.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) on Sunday evening said the toll was at least 57, but noted that ongoing internet blackouts were making it increasingly difficult to confirm fatalities in a context where the women-led protests have in recent nights spread to scores of cities.

Echoing a warning the previous day by President Ebrahim Raisi, judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei on Sunday "emphasised the need for decisive action without leniency" against the core instigators of the "riots", the judiciary's Mizan Online website said.

Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested amid the mostly night-time demonstrations since unrest first broke out after Amini's death on September 16.

Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that for allegedly breaching the rules that mandate tightly-fitted hijab head coverings and which ban, among other things, ripped jeans and brightly coloured clothes.

Images circulated by IHR showed protesters on the streets of Tehran, shouting "death to the dictator", purportedly after nightfall on Sunday.

Witnesses said that protests in several locations were ongoing.

Iran's largest protests in almost three years have seen security forces fire live rounds and bird shot, rights groups charge, while protesters have hurled rocks, torched police cars and set ablaze state buildings.

Some Iranian women protesters have removed and burnt their hijabs in the rallies and cut off their hair, some dancing near large bonfires to the applause of crowds that have chanted "zan, zendegi, azadi" or "woman, life, freedom".

The world has learnt of the violence largely through shaky mobile phone footage posted on social media, even as authorities have throttled internet access.

Web monitor NetBlocks noted "rolling blackouts" and "widespread internet platform restrictions", with WhatsApp, Instagram and Skype having already been blocked.

This followed older bans on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Telegram.

Protests abroad have been held in solidarity with Iranian women in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul, Madrid, New York and Paris, among other cities.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell deplored the security forces' response to the unrest late Sunday as "disproportionate... unjustifiable and unacceptable".

Iran -- which is ruled by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, and which has been hit with tough economic sanctions over its nuclear programme -- has blamed "foreign plots" for the unrest.

The foreign ministry said Sunday it had summoned Britain's ambassador over what it described as an "invitation to riots" by Farsi-speaking media based in London, and Norway's envoy over "unconstructive comments" made by his country's parliament speaker.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Amir-Abdollahian criticised "the US interventionist approach in the affairs of Iran... including its provocative actions in supporting the rioters".

Iran has also organised large rallies in defence of the hijab and conservative values.

Pro-government rallies were held Sunday, with the main event taking place in Enghelab (Revolution) Square in central Tehran, where demonstrators voiced support for mandatory hijab laws.

"Martyrs died so that this hijab will be on our head," said demonstrator Nafiseh, 28, adding that she was opposed to making the wearing of the hijab voluntary.

Another demonstrator, 21-year-old student Atyieh, called for "strong action against the people who are leading" the protests.

The main reformist group inside Iran, the Union of Islamic Iran People's Party, however, has called for the repeal of the mandatory dress code.

Human rights groups based abroad have sought to shine light on the turmoil rocking Iran, citing their own sources in the country.

IHR reported on Sunday that an umbrella of Iranian teachers' unions were calling on teachers and students to boycott classes on Monday and Wednesday in support of the protests.

Iranian authorities have yet to state the cause of death of Amini, who activists say died as a result of a blow to the head.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has said Amini was not beaten and that "we must wait for the final opinion of the medical examiner".

US Warns Russia Of 'Catastrophic Consequences' If Nuclear Weapons Used

WASHINGTON, Sept 25: The United States would respond decisively to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and has spelled out to Moscow the "catastrophic consequences" it would face, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said today.

Sullivan's remarks represented the latest American warning following the thinly veiled nuclear threat made by Vladimir Putin last Wednesday in a speech in which the Russian president also announced his country's first wartime military mobilization since World War Two.

"If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively," Jake Sullivan told NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

Sullivan did not describe the nature of the planned U.S. response in his comments today but said the United States has privately to Moscow "spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean." Sullivan said that the United States has been in frequent, direct contact with Russia, including during the last few days to discuss the situation in Ukraine and Russian President Putin's actions and threats.

U.S. President Joe Biden in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday accused Vladimir Putin of making "overt nuclear threats against Europe" in reckless disregard for nuclear nonproliferation responsibilities.

Russia also is staging a referendum in four eastern Ukrainian regions with the goal of annexing territory that Russian forces have taken during their invasion of Ukraine launched in February. Ukraine and its allies have called the referendums a sham designed to justify an escalation of the war and Putin's mobilization drive after recent battlefield losses.

By incorporating the areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into Russia, Moscow could portray attacks to retake them as an attack on Russia itself, a warning to Ukraine and its Western allies.

After suffering setbacks on the battlefield, Putin is mobilizing 300,000 troops while also threatening to use "all available means" to protect Russia.

"This is not a bluff," President Putin said in the remarks viewed on the world stage as a threat on the potential use of nuclear weapons.

Sullivan said on Sunday: "Putin remains intent ... on wiping out the Ukraine people that he does not believe have a right to exist. So he's going to keep coming and we have to keep coming with weapons, ammunition, intelligence and all the support we can provide."

India's economy 5th biggest in the world: Jaishankar

NEW YORK, Sept 24: External affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday while in the 20th century, colonialism ensured that India was one of the poorest nations, it stood proudly as the 5th biggest economy in the world at the moment.

In his address in New York on a special ‘India@75’ Showcasing India-UN Partnership in Action’ event on the sidelines of UNGA in New York, Jaishankar said India today envisions itself as a developed country by 2047, the 100th year of its independence.

"In the 18th century, India accounted for a quarter of the global GDP. By the middle of the 20th, colonialism ensured that we were one of the poorest nations in the world. That was our state when we became the founding member of the United Nations," the minister said.

Jaishankar said in the 75th year of its independence, India stands before the UN today "proudly as the fifth biggest economy in the world" and is still rising as the "strongest, most enthusiastic and definitely the most argumentative democracy".

On September 2, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that India had surged past the United Kingdom to become the fifth largest economy in the world. The latest change in rankings is based on quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) numbers in current dollars for the period ending December 2021. India increased its lead over the UK in the quarter ending March, IMF data showed.

Jaishankar also spoke of the progress of digital public infrastructure in India and said it is designed to ensure that "no one is left behind."

“In recent days digital technology has successfully advanced our food safety net to 800 million Indians. More than USD 300 billion of benefits have been distributed digitally, 400 million people get food regularly,” he said.

"India today envisions itself as a developed country by 2047, at the 100 years of our independence. We dream of digitising our most remote villages and landing on the moon," he said and smiled saying "perhaps digitising" the moon as well.

India stands committed to strengthen its partnership with United Nations to ensure a brighter future for the planet, he said. “We have full faith in the principles of UN and its charter. The world in our view is one family today,” Jasihankar said.

“The conflict in Ukraine has aggravated food and energy inflation to make it one of the biggest challenges of our times. India has responded by supplying food grains including as grant assistance in recent years to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Yemen and several other countries,” he said.

The event was attended by dignitaries from the UN, including president of the 77th session of UN General Assembly Csaba Korosi, UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed, Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid and UNDP administrator Achim Steiner.

Jaishankar said India believes that development is a public good and open sourcing is the best way forward.

China Blockade Would Be An Act Of War; Won't Surrender, Says Taiwan: Report

TAIPEI, Sept 23: A Chinese blockade of Taiwan or the seizure of an offshore island would be considered an act of war and Taiwan would not surrender, a senior Taiwanese security official said using unusually strong and direct language.

While Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and others in her administration have repeatedly said that while they want peace they would defend themselves if attacked, the details of what Taiwan would consider an attack warranting a response have generally been left unsaid, given the many scenarios.

Chinese military action might not be as straightforward as a full frontal assault on Taiwan: it could include actions like a blockade to try to force Taiwan to accept China's rule, strategists say.

Tension between Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own territory, and Taipei have spiked since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in early August.

To show its anger, China mounted military exercises around Taiwan that included firing missiles and steps to mount a blockade. China has since then continued its military activities, though on a smaller scale.

That has focused attention in Taiwan and capitals of friendly countries, like the United States and Japan, on how a any conflict with China could play out, and how Taiwan and its allies might respond.

The senior Taiwanese security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China's drills after the Pelosi visit had shown what might happen in case the worst came to the worst, and focused thought on how Taiwan would react.

"A blockade is an act of war; seizing an offshore island is an act of war," the official said, adding Taipei believed Beijing was unlikely to take either of those actions at the moment.

"Their only purpose to seize (offshore islands) is to force us to negotiate or surrender. But we will not surrender or negotiate."

Short of an outright invasion, many military strategists, and even Taiwan's defence ministry, have said China could try and seize one of Taiwan's offshore islands, like the Kinmen and Matsu archipelagos, just off China's coast.

"Those are military actions. There is no room for ambiguity," the official said.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The official said Taipei did not rule out the possibility of Beijing launching large-scale military exercises near Taiwan next year, when the island gears up for a presidential election in early 2024.

"This is what we are worried about at the moment," the official said, adding other possible Chinese actions could include stepping up its "grey-zone" tactics near Taiwan including incursions with militia boats or cyber attacks.

The official said countries other than the United States, which sails warships through the Taiwan Strait about once a month, should show Beijing that an attack on Taiwan would not go unanswered.

"Building up deterrence is very important. Not just America, European countries and Japan should join the force of deterrence."

US President Joe Biden said in comments broadcast on Sunday that US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement on the issue.

With the world's most advanced semiconductors produced in Taiwan, it is in the world's interest to ensure stability, the official said. "Pressure in the Taiwan Strait is pressuring chip supplies."

Tsai, who has said Taiwan would not provoke China or "rashly advance", has made bolstering defence a priority, including a double-digit increase in defence spending next year.

While China has said it prefers peaceful "reunification" and has offered Taiwan a Hong Kong-style autonomy deal, it has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Taiwan's democratically elected government says only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

50 killed in Iran protest crackdown, says NGO; thousands join pro-hijab rallies

TEHRAN, Sept 23: Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from Tehran to Mahsa Amini's hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.

At least 50 people have been killed after Iranian security forces cracked down on protests which erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the morality police, Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said on Friday.

The NGO said the number of deaths went up after six people were killed by fire from the security forces in Rezvanshahr town, northern Gilan province, on Thursday night, with other deaths recorded in Babol and Amol, also in northern Iran. State TV, meanwhile, suggested the death toll from this week's unrest could be as high as 26.

There had been protests in some 80 cities and other urban centres since the demonstrations started one week ago, it added.

Iranian counterprotesters gathered across the country on Friday in a show of support for authorities after nearly a week of anti-government protests and unrest over the death of a young woman who was being held by the morality police.

A few thousand people attended a rally in the capital, Tehran, where they waved Iranian flags, and similar demonstrations were held in other cities. The government claimed the demonstrations of support were spontaneous. Similar rallies have been held during past periods of widespread protests.

The pro-government demonstrators chanted against America and Israel, according to state media, reflecting the official line that foreign countries are fomenting the latest unrest.

The crisis unfolding in Iran began as a public outpouring of anger over the death of Amini, a young woman who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.

Amini's death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations and touched a national nerve. Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from Tehran to Amini's northwest Kurdish hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.

Videos on social media show protesters in Tehran torching a police car and confronting officers at close range. Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire sounding out as protesters bolt from riot police, shouting: “They are shooting at people! Oh my God, they're killing people!”

Biden vows to defend Taiwan, shatters Xi’s unification dream

WASHINGTON, Sept 20: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream of unifying the breakaway Republic Taiwan with the mainland may turn into a nightmare with President Joe Biden saying that US troops would defend Taipei in case of an “unprecedented attack” by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Despite clarification by the White House post Biden statement, this is the fourth time that the US President and Chief Executive has openly said that America would defend Taiwan. White House, as in the past, added that there was no change in US policy towards Taiwan post statement.

In his most explicit statement, President Joe Biden in an interview with CBS’s 60 minutes, aired on Sunday, said ‘yes’ to US forces defending the island republic if there was an unprecedented attack by the Chinese Army.

Despite the convulsions with the US State Department over his statement, President Joe Biden’s emphatic words provide much-needed succor to Taiwan, Japan and some Southeast Asian countries who are at the receiving end of Beijing’s wolf warrior diplomacy and military belligerence of the PLA in the Indo-Pacific.

The PLA has also been involved in a 28-month military stand-off with the Indian Army in the East Ladakh sector after Beijing decided to unilaterally change the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in East Ladakh sector beefing up its military positions all along the 3488 km line.

President Biden’s statement clearly indicates that America is as much focused on China in the context of Taiwan as it is on Russia in the context of the ongoing Ukraine war.

But the fundamental difference is that while in Ukraine, the US is supplying billions of dollars worth of weapons to Kyviv to defend itself from the Red Army invasion, the US President in case of Taiwan is willing to commit American troops on the ground to defend against the PLA. This means that US military presence in the Indo-Pacific will grow to deter any Chinese aggression against Taiwan or Japan.

President Biden’s unequivocal statement will add more strength to the QUAD grouping as all the four partners face either military or diplomatic or trade friction with China. Given the proximity of Japanese territory to Taiwan, any military emergency on Taipei will drag Tokyo into the conflict and this was reflected in Chinese missiles landing in the Japanese EEZ post visit of Nancy Pelosi to the island republic.

The continued pressure from President Biden will also refrain China from opening fronts with other democratic countries and deter newfound supporters of Beijing in the Indian sub-continent and within the Asean.

Queen Elizabeth Laid To Rest At Windsor Castle

LONDON, Sept 20: Queen Elizabeth II's coffin was on Monday lowered into the Royal Vault at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle - her final resting place, bringing to an end public mourning for Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

The "instruments of state" with which she was crowned in 1953 -- the Imperial State Crown, orb and sceptre -- were removed from the coffin and placed on the high altar.
Her eldest son and successor, King Charles III, placed The Queen's Company Camp Colour of the Grenadier of Guards on the coffin. As the coffin was lowered, a lone piper played a haunting lament.

The queen's titles were read publicly for the last time: "The late Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter."

Later in the evening, in a private family service, the coffin of Elizabeth and her husband of more than seven decades, Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99, will be buried together in the same chapel where her parents and sister, Princess Margaret, also rest.

Queen Elizabeth's coffin arrived at Windsor Castle, her final resting place, on Monday after a day of matchless pageantry that drew world leaders to her funeral and hundreds of thousands of people to the streets to say farewell to a revered monarch.

Inside the majestic Westminster Abbey where the funeral was held, some 500 presidents, prime ministers, foreign royal family members and dignitaries, including Joe Biden of the United States, were among the 2,000 congregation

After the funeral, her flag-draped casket was pulled by sailors through London's streets on a gun carriage in one of the largest military processions seen in Britain, involving thousands of members of the armed forces dressed in ceremonial finery.

Hundreds of thousands of well-wishers lined the route her hearse took from London, throwing flowers, cheering and clapping as it passed from the city to the English countryside that she so loved much.

Queen Elizabeth died on September 8 at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish highlands. Her health had been in decline, and for months the monarch who had carried out hundreds of official engagements well into her 90s had withdrawn from public life.

She was photographed just two days before she died, looking frail but smiling and holding a walking stick as she appointed Liz Truss as her 15th and final prime minister.

Putin, Xi Agree To Inject Stability, Positive Energy into World

SAMARKAND, Sept 15: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for their first face-to-face talks since the start of the conflict in Ukraine on Thursday, hailing their strategic ties in defiance of the West.

Sitting across from each other at two long rounded tables and flanked by aides, the two leaders met on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan.

The meeting was part of Xi's first trip abroad since the early days of the pandemic and for Putin a chance to show Russia has not been fully isolated despite Western efforts.

"China is willing to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers, and play a guiding role to inject stability and positive energy into a world rocked by social turmoil," Xi told Putin at the talks.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV also quoted Xi as saying China was willing to work with Russia to support "each other's core interests".

Putin took a clear broadside at the United States, which has been leading efforts to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.

"Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently acquired an absolutely ugly form and are completely unacceptable," Putin said.

"We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis," Putin told Xi, while reiterating Moscow's backing for China on Taiwan.

"We adhere to the principle of one China. We condemn the provocation of the US and their satellites in the Taiwan Strait," Putin said, after a US Senate committee on Wednesday took the first step towards Washington directly providing billions of dollars in military aid to Taiwan.

It was the first in-person meeting between the two leaders since Putin saw Xi in early February for the Winter Olympic Games, days before the Russian leader launched the military offensive in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has touted the SCO summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand as showing there is an "alternative" to Western dominated international institutions.

The SCO -- made up of China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions.

The leaders of those countries were to attend, as well as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.

Putin met with the leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan earlier Thursday, as well as with Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

With both Raisi and Sharif he said ties were "developing positively", while the Iranian leader told Putin that US-backed sanctions on both countries would only make their relationship "stronger".

"The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped, their perception is a wrong one," Raisi said.

For Putin, the summit comes at an important time, as his forces face major battlefield setbacks in Ukraine and amid a continued Western push to make Russia an international pariah.

For Xi, it is an opportunity to shore up his credentials as a global statesman ahead of a pivotal congress of the ruling Communist Party in October.

The Chinese leader also met Thursday with Belarus's strongman leader Lukashenko, who was quoted by state news agency Belta as thanking Xi for China's "serious support in these difficult times".

Lukashenko has been shunned by Western leaders after a fierce crackdown on the opposition two years ago and for backing Russia on Ukraine.

Formerly Cold War allies with a tempestuous relationship, China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years as part of what they call a "no-limits" relationship acting as a counterweight to the global dominance of the United States.

The two countries have also stepped up military cooperation, with China sending hundreds of troops to take part in military exercises last month in Russia's Far East.

The defence ministry in Moscow said Thursday that Russian and Chinese warships were on a joint patrol in the Pacific and planning a live-fire artillery exercise at sea.

The main day of the SCO summit will be on Friday, with sessions involving all the attending leaders.

Putin was also set to hold talks Friday with Erdogan and Indian premier Narendra Modi.

Security was tight in Samarkand, a city of grand tiled mosques that was one of the hubs of Silk Road trade routes between China and Europe, with a huge police presence on the streets and armoured vehicles parked downtown.

Modi To Meet Putin In Samarkand

SAMARKAND, Sept 15: Trade and geopolitics will be on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a regional summit in Uzbekistan's Samarkand on Friday.

Putin and Modi will attend the two-day 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that begins on Thursday.

This is the first in-person summit of the bloc in two years, shaking off the Covid fears and providing a rare opportunity for all its eight heads of state to meet on the sidelines of the event to have face-to-face talks on pressing global and regional issues of common concern.

"Russian President Putin is going to participate in the forthcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit. PM Modi is also going. We've already announced that there will be a number of meetings in Samarkand, including with PM Modi," said Russian Ambassador to India Denis Alipov.

Earlier, the official Russian news agency TASS had quoted Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov as saying, "A conversation on the international agenda with Modi will also take place, the sides will discuss issues of strategic stability, the situation in the Asia Pacific Region, and, of course, cooperation within major multilateral formats, such as the UN, the G20 and the SCO."

"This is particularly important, because India will preside in the UN Security Council in December, and, in 2023, India will lead the SCO and will also chair the G20," Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

The two leaders had spoken to each other in July and reviewed the implementation of the decisions taken during President Putin's visit to India in December 2021. Before that, Modi and Putin talked over the phone on February 24 after Russia attacked Ukraine.

Modi left for Samarkand on Thursday, tweeting, "Leaving for Samarkand, Uzbekistan to attend the SCO Summit, which will witness the exchange of views on a wide range of regional and global issues."

In his pre-departure statement, Modi said he was looking forward to exchanging views on topical regional and international issues, as well as on expansion and further deepening of multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation within the grouping.

The Beijing-headquartered SCO is an eight-member economic and security bloc consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

‘One problem less’: Jaishankar’s measured response on Hot Springs disengagement'

NEW DELHI, Sept 14: The disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops at Patrolling Point (PP)-15 in the Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has resulted in “one problem less at the border”, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.

Jaishankar’s remarks, made at a joint media interaction with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna, came a day ahead of the participation of the leaders of India and China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Samarkand in Uzbekistan. There has been no official word of a possible bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the margins of the summit.

Colonna said the situation in the Indo-Pacific and the “many challenges that have emerged because of China” figured in her discussions with Jaishankar. “We have basically the same analyses, we share the same concerns because we know the role that the Chinese are playing and we want to make sure there is no imbalance in the Indo-Pacific,” she said, speaking in French.

Referring to the withdrawal of Indian and Chinese troops at PP-15 in Hot Springs area, Jaishankar said: “I don’t think I would say anything new...today except I would recognise that we have had disengagement at PP-15. The disengagement, as I understand, was completed. And that is one problem less on the border.”

The two sides completed pulling back their troops at PP-15 on September 12. Indian officials have described the disengagement at this friction point as a “positive development” but have said the two sides need to take forward their talks to address the remaining friction points on the LAC.

Responding to a question on China blocking efforts by India and its partners to sanction Pakistan-based terrorists at the UN Security Council, Jaishankar said India and France have cooperated on this issue for many years.

“I think the listing of terrorists is done because the terrorists are a threat to the entire international community. So it is not something which countries necessarily do in pursuit of a narrow national agenda. If somebody blocks listing, particularly in cases where the merits of going ahead are very apparent, I think they do so frankly at peril to their own interests and to their own reputation,” he said.

Colonna highlighted France’s interests in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean and said France and India will continue to support each other to ensure a “balance of powers” in the region. This will also enable both countries to develop their own strategic autonomy to secure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere, she said.

“Of course, we need to do more with India and with other partners as well so that we are more present [in the Indo-Pacific],” Colonna said. “We want to be more active so that we can present an alternative to the countries in the Pacific, whether it is in development, culture or any other areas.”

France has stepped up its engagement in the Indo-Pacific as the region is home to some 1.5 million French citizens on its island territories and 93% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Ukraine Recaptures More Ground After Russia's Stunning Military Setback

KRAMATORSK, Sept 12: Ukrainian forces said Monday their lightning counter-offensive took back yet more ground in the past 24 hours, as Russia responded with strikes on some of the recaptured areas.

The territorial shifts marked one of Russia's biggest reversals since its troops were turned back from Kyiv in the earliest days of the nearly seven months of fighting, yet Moscow signalled it was no closer to agreeing a negotiated peace.

The retreat of Russian troops in recent days has drawn weeping and relieved locals into bomb-cratered streets, including on Sunday in the strategic but heavily damaged town of Izyum.

"It's not enough to say I'm happy. I just don't have enough words to express myself," said Yuriy Kurochka, 64.

Yet by Monday Moscow had announced air, rocket and artillery attacks on reclaimed areas in the Kharkiv region, a day after Kyiv said Russian strikes on electricity infrastructure caused power failures.

The retaliatory fire came as Ukraine said forces had retaken more than 20 additional settlements, claiming "Russian troops are hastily abandoning their positions and fleeing".

Kyiv had already announced the recapture of Izyum in the country's east, while Ukraine said 3,000 square kilometers of its territory (1,158 square miles) had been prised from Russian control since September's start.

"Ukraine has turned the tide in its favour, but the current counter-offensive will not end the war," US think tank Institute for the Study of War tweeted.

Ukraine also said on Monday its forces recaptured 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) in the southern Kherson region which were in addition to the huge gains in the east at the weekend.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told French daily Le Monde, in an interview published Monday, the war has entered a new phase with the help of Western weapons.

"We started by using the HIMARS mobile artillery systems [from the US] to cut off enemy supply lines and destroy fuel and weapon depots," he reportedly said.

Moscow conceded having lost territory, which experts saw as a serious blow to its war ambitions, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saw no prospects for negotiations.

"The special military operation continues and will continue until the objectives that were originally set are achieved," he added, using Russia's terminology for the internationally condemned war.

Eastern parts of Ukraine were hit with widespread electricity blackouts on Sunday evening, which President Volodymyr Zelensky said deliberately hit civilian infrastructure. He blamed "Russian terrorists".

The blackouts hit regions with an estimated combined population of nine million people -- including territory controlled by Russia.

'Weapons, weapons, weapons'

The Russian strikes hit 15 locations on Sunday, from Kramatorsk in the east to Mykolaiv in the south and Dnipro in between, Ukraine's military said.

Ukraine had already lost all power from the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, threatened by shelling since February's invasion.

The country's nuclear energy agency said the final reactor at the plant, Europe's largest nuclear power station, had been shut off as a safety measure.

Kyiv and Moscow have shown "signs that they are interested" in creating a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant, the UN atomic watchdog said Monday.

"What we need here really is Ukraine and Russia to agree on a very simple principle of not attacking or not shelling the plant," IAEA director general Rafael Grossi told reporters.

The speed of Ukraine's fightback has apparently caught Russia's military off-guard, bringing swathes of territory Moscow had controlled for months back into Kyiv's fold.

Images posted by the Ukrainian military showed crates of munitions and military hardware scattered across territory abandoned by Russian forces.

In his evening address Sunday, Zelensky praised the soldiers who had "liberated hundreds of our cities and villages... and most recently Balakliya, Izyum and Kupiansk".

Around Balakliya, one of the first towns to be retaken by Ukrainian troops, AFP journalists saw evidence of fierce battles, with buildings destroyed or damaged and streets mostly deserted.

The country's foreign minister used the momentum to appeal to Western allies for more stockpiles of sophisticated weapons.

"Weapons, weapons, weapons have been on our agenda since spring. I am grateful to partners who have answered our call: Ukraine's battlefield successes are our shared ones," Dmytro Kuleba said.

King Charles Leads Procession Of Queen Elizabeth's Coffin

EDINBURGH, Sept 12: On foot and flanked by his three siblings, King Charles III on Monday led a sombre procession carrying Queen Elizabeth II's body through hushed Edinburgh streets packed with mourners.

The queen's oak coffin had on Sunday been driven to the Scottish capital from the Balmoral estate where she died last week aged 96, and held overnight at the royal residence of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

After a regimental band played "God Save The King", her four children -- Charles, Princess Anne, Princes Edward and Andrew -- stepped out behind the hearse flanked by kilted soldiers.

Thousands of people lined the route to watch as the procession made its way to the 12th-century St Giles' Cathedral as cannon fired at one-minute intervals from Edinburgh Castle.

The royals were joined by Prime Minister Liz Truss and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a service of prayer and reflection for the monarch who reigned for a record-breaking 70 years.

Later, the king and senior royals will stand vigil at the cathedral, with the coffin draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland and topped with a wreath including heather from Balmoral, and the ancient Crown of Scotland.

The public will also be able to pay their respects to the monarch known as "Queen of Scots" until the coffin is flown to London on Tuesday ahead of the state funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 19.

Russia Loses Key Ukraine City, May Prove To Be War's Turning Point

KYIV, Sept 11: Moscow abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, in a sudden collapse of one of the war's principal front lines after Ukrainian forces made a rapid advance.

The swift fall of Izium in Kharkiv province was Moscow's worst defeat since its troops were forced back from the capital Kyiv in March. This could prove a decisive turning point in the 6-month-old war, with thousands of Russian soldiers abandoning ammunition stockpiles and equipment as they fled.

Russian forces used Izium as the logistics base for one of their main campaigns - a months-long assault from the north on the adjacent Donbas region comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The state-run TASS news agency quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying it had ordered troops to leave the vicinity and reinforce operations elsewhere in neighbouring Donetsk.

The head of Russia's administration in Kharkiv told residents to evacuate the province and flee to Russia to "save lives," TASS reported. Witnesses described traffic jams of cars with people leaving Russian-held territory.

The Russian withdrawal was heralded by Ukrainian leaders.

"The Russian army these days is demonstrating its best ability - to show its back," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address Saturday evening.

Ukraine's armed forces have liberated around 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) of territory since a counter-offensive against Russia started earlier this month, he said.

Ukrainian officials stopped short of confirming they had recaptured Izium, but Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, posted a photo of troops on its outskirts and tweeted an emoji of grapes. The city's name means "raisin."

"The Russian army is claiming the title of fastest army in the world ... keep running!" Yermak wrote on Twitter later.

The Russian withdrawal announcement came hours after Ukrainian troops captured the city of Kupiansk farther north, the sole railway hub supplying Russia's entire front line across northeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials posted photos early on Saturday of their troops raising the country's blue-and-yellow flag in front of Kupiansk's city hall.

That left thousands of Russian troops abruptly cut off from supplies along a front that has seen some of the most intense battles of the war.

There were signs of trouble for Russia elsewhere along its remaining positions at the eastern front, with pro-Russian officials acknowledging difficulties at other locations.

Ukrainian armed forces are continuing to advance in different areas along the front, Zelenskiy said.

Days ago, Kyiv's forces burst through the front line and have since recaptured dozens of towns and villages in a swift mechanised assault, surging forward dozens of kilometres (miles) a day.

"To achieve the stated goals of the Special Military Operation for the liberation of Donbas, it was decided to regroup the Russian troops located in the districts of Balakliia and Izium for the purpose of increasing efforts in the Donetsk direction," TASS quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying.

Russian forces had already abandoned Balakliia days ago.

Ukraine's deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, sounded a cautionary note, urging people not to report prematurely that towns have been "taken" just because Ukrainian troops have entered, as in Balakliia.

"A few days ago it was reported that troops had entered the town. Today we have finally established control in the city, carried out all the necessary activities, and raised the flag," she said.

In Hrakove, one of dozens of villages recaptured in the Ukrainian advance, Reuters saw burnt-out vehicles bearing the "Z" symbol of Russia's invasion. Boxes of ammunition were scattered along with rubbish at positions the Russians had abandoned in evident haste.

"Hello everyone, we are from Russia," was spray-painted on a wall. Three bodies lay in white body bags in a yard.

The regional chief of police, Volodymyr Tymoshenko, said Ukrainian police moved in the previous day, and checked the identities of local residents who had lived under Russian occupation since the invasion's second day.

"The first function is to provide help that they need. The next job is to document the crimes committed by Russian invaders on the territories which they temporarily occupied," he said.

A witness in Valuyki, a town in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, said she saw families from Kupiansk eating and sleeping in their cars along roads.

"I was at the market today and saw a lot of people from Kupiansk. They say half of the city was taken by the Ukrainian army and Russia is retreating... the fighting is getting closer," the witness said.

Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said officials were giving food and medical aid to people queuing at a crossing into Russia. Senator Andrey Turchak, from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, reported more than 400 vehicles at the frontier.

Russian rocket fire hit Kharkiv city on Saturday evening, killing at least one person and damaging several homes, part of a surge in shelling since Kyiv's counter-offensive, Ukrainian officials said.

Russia's abrupt abandonment of the front line south of Kharkiv city brought a sudden end to a period when the war was fought as a relentless grind on a static front, favouring Moscow's advantage in raw firepower.

Macron asks Putin to withdraw weapons from Ukraine nuclear plant

PARIS, Sept 11: French President Emmanuel Macron asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to withdraw Russian heavy and light weaponry from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in a Russian-controlled area of Ukraine, Macron's office said.

The Elysee said Macron had told the Russian leader in a call that "the Russian occupation was the reason for the risks" facing the largest nuclear power plant in Europe which has been a focal point of fighting in recent weeks, raising concerns of a potential nuclear incident.

 

Named King At Royal Ceremony, Charles Says 'Deeply Aware' Of Duties

LONDON, Sept 10: Charles III was formally proclaimed Britain's new king by the Accession Council on Saturday in a history-laden ceremony following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.

The council, televised for the first time, is a centuries-old formality to recognise the new king's sovereignty even though he automatically became monarch after the queen's passing.

The 73-year-old Charles officially took his vow as the new king, saying he was "deeply aware" of the "duties and heavy responsibility of sovereignty".

Several hundred privy councillors including current Prime Minister Liz Truss and all of her living predecessors, Charles's wife Camilla and his eldest son and heir William all attended.

King Charles said his mother, who died on Thursday in Balmoral aged 96, "gave an example of lifelong love and of selfless service" that he promised to emulate.

"I know that I shall be upheld by the affection and loyalty of the peoples whose sovereign I have been called to be," he said.

He added he was "profoundly encouraged by the support of my beloved wife".

Held in a grand room at St James's Palace decked out in crimson and gold, the Accession Council took place in two parts, the first of which Charles was absent while they proclaimed him king.

The clerk of the council announced that "Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now, by the death of our lady sovereign of happy memory, become our King Charles III... God save the king!"

The assembled councillors then repeated "God save the king".

Ukraine Makes 'Lightning' Advances In Russia-Held East, Says Kyiv

KYIV, Sept 10: Kyiv said Saturday its forces were making lightning gains in the east of the country in a shock counter-offensive to recapture territory that fell to Russia shortly after Moscow's February invasion.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meanwhile arrived in the Ukrainian capital for a surprise visit, which she said was to demonstrate Berlin's support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

"Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more cities and villages. Their courage coupled with Western military support brings astonishing results," foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on social media.

"It's crucial to keep sending arms to Ukraine. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine," he added.

His assessment of the pace of the Ukrainian gains came after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced late Friday that his troops had retaken some 30 towns and villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region as part of the sweep.

Ukraine's push appears to have caught Russian troops largely off guard.

Moscow made the surprise announcement it was dispatching reinforcements to Kharkiv, with images on state media showing tanks and artillery and support vehicles moving in columns on dirt roads.

The largest city so far to fall into Ukrainian hands again is Balakliya with an estimated pre-war population of around 30,000.

There were unconfirmed reports that Ukrainians were advancing further east.

The capture of urban hubs like Kupiansk and Izium would be a significant blow to Russia's ability to effectively supply positions on the eastern frontline.

In one village captured by the advancing Ukrainians, electric pylons were toppled and cables strewn lay across the ground and houses were destroyed, journalists reported.

"It was frightening," said 61-year-old Anatoli Vasiliev recalling the battle earlier this week that saw Ukrainian forces recapture the village from the Russians.

"There were bombings and explosions everywhere."

'We will stand by Ukraine'

Baerbock was in Kyiv Saturday for her second trip to Ukraine, which comes a week after Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal's trip to Berlin where he had repeated Kyiv's call for weapons.

"I have travelled to Kyiv today to show that they can continue to rely on us. That we will continue to stand by Ukraine for as long as necessary with deliveries of weapons, and with humanitarian and financial support," she said.

Over the last weeks, Germany has sent howitzers, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles to Kyiv, part of an arsenal of Western-supplied weapons that observers say have hurt Russia's supply and command abilities.

Baerbock's visit comes on the heels of a trip from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who promised a nearly $3 billion military package for Ukraine.

In a meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Blinken said Russia's push to send reinforcements showed Moscow was paying "huge costs" in its bid to capture and then hold Ukrainian territory.

However, Russian forces were still inflicting serious damage with a campaign of shelling in Kharkiv city and in the industrial region of Donbas in the east.

Oleg Synegubov, the head of the Kharkiv said Russian shelling had left 14 civilians injured.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region, which is part of Donbas, said Russian shelling meanwhile had left two dead.

King Charles Vows Lifelong Service, Says 'Thank You' To 'Darling Mama'

LONDON, Sept 9: Britain's new monarch, King Charles III, addressed a mourning nation and the Commonwealth for the first time Friday, a day after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Here is his statement, pre-recorded in the Blue Drawing Room in Buckingham Palace during the afternoon and broadcast at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) on UK television:

"I speak to you today with feelings of profound sorrow. Throughout her life, Her Majesty the Queen -- my beloved Mother -- was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother; for her love, affection, guidance, understanding and example.

"Queen Elizabeth's was a life well lived, a promise with destiny kept, and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.

"Alongside the personal grief that all my family are feeling, we also share with so many of you in the United Kingdom, in all the countries where the queen was head of state, in the Commonwealth and across the world, a deep sense of gratitude for the more than 70 years in which my mother, as queen, served the people of so many nations.

"In 1947, on her 21st birthday, she pledged in a broadcast from Cape Town to the Commonwealth to devote her life, whether it be short or long, to the service of her people.

"That was more than a promise: it was a profound personal commitment which defined her whole life. She made sacrifices for duty.

"Her dedication and devotion as sovereign never wavered, through times of change and progress, through times of joy and celebration, and through times of sadness and loss.

"In her life of service, we saw that abiding love of tradition, together with that fearless embrace of progress, which make us great as nations. The affection, admiration and respect she inspired became the hallmark of her reign.

"And, as every member of my family can testify, she combined these qualities with warmth, humour and an unerring ability always to see the best in people.

"I pay tribute to my mother's memory and I honour her life of service. I know that her death brings great sadness to so many of you and I share that sense of loss, beyond measure, with you all.

"When the queen came to the throne, Britain and the world were still coping with the privations and aftermath of the Second World War, and still living by the conventions of earlier times.

"In the course of the last 70 years, we have seen our society become one of many cultures and many faiths.

"The institutions of the State have changed in turn. But, through all changes and challenges, our nation and the wider family of Realms -- of whose talents, traditions and achievements I am so inexpressibly proud -- have prospered and flourished. Our values have remained and must remain, constant.

"The role and the duties of monarchy also remain, as does the Sovereign's particular relationship and responsibility towards the Church of England -- the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted.

"In that faith and the values it inspires, I have been brought up to cherish a sense of duty to others, and to hold in the greatest respect the precious traditions, freedoms and responsibilities of our unique history and our system of parliamentary government.

"As the queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.

"And wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the Realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.

"My life will of course change as I take up my new responsibilities.

"It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply. But I know this important work will go on in the trusted hands of others.

"This is also a time of change for my family. I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla.

"In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort.

"I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much.

"As my heir, William now assumes the Scottish titles which have meant so much to me.

"He succeeds me as Duke of Cornwall and takes on the responsibilities for the Duchy of Cornwall which I have undertaken for more than five decades.

"Today, I am proud to create him Prince of Wales, Tywysog Cymru, the country whose title I have been so greatly privileged to bear during so much of my life and duty.

"With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the centre ground where vital help can be given.

"I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.

"In a little over a week's time, we will come together as a nation, as a Commonwealth and indeed a global community, to lay my beloved mother to rest.

"In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.

"On behalf of all my family, I can only offer the most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your condolences and support.

"They mean more to me than I can ever possibly express.

"And to my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.

"Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.

"May 'flights of angels sing thee to thy rest'."

Charles To Be Formally Proclaimed King Tomorrow

LONDON, Sept 9: Charles III will be officially proclaimed monarch on Saturday morning at a meeting of the Accession Council, Buckingham Palace said.

The formal body overseeing the succession from Queen Elizabeth II will meet from 10:00 am (0900 GMT), with a first public pronouncement from a balcony of St James's Palace in London at 11:00 am.

Queen Elizabeth, Britain's longest-serving monarch died at the age of 96 on Thursday, with her son succeeding her as the king.

Charles succeeds to the throne immediately after the death of the monarch. An Accession Council is convened as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours and held at St James's Palace, the official residence of the sovereign, to proclaim the successor.

The new King Charles III is the third British monarch to share the name. Charles I was the only British monarch to be executed, Charles I's reign led to a brutal civil war and the abolition of the royal family.

The man who would become King Charles II joined his father in battle during the Civil War but left England as it became clear that defeat was inevitable and moved to The Hague in 1649.

Despite the abolition of the monarchy in England following his father's execution, Charles was crowned King of Scotland on January 1, 1651.

Prince Harry And Meghan Markle's Children Can Now Use Royal Titles

Under protocols established by King George V in 1917, the children and grandchildren of a sovereign have the automatic right to the title Her Royal Highness or His Royal Highness (HRH) and prince or princess.

LONDON, Sept 9: Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, the son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, is now technically a prince following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, according to media reports on Friday, over an year after his mother controversially claimed that he was denied the title because of his race.

His younger sister, Lilibet “Lili” Mountbatten-Windsor, is also entitled to be a princess after the death and the accession of her grandfather Charles, the Prince of Wales, to the throne, The Guardian newspaper reported.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan Markle will see no change in their Royal titles.

Meghan had spoken during an interview in March last year with the US broadcaster Oprah Winfrey of her shock at being told Archie would not get police protection because he did not have a title, and suggested that the decision was taken because of his mixed race.

The Sussexes indicated in the interview that they had expected Archie would be given the title of prince after Charles acceded the throne, but that they had been told that protocols would be changed – in line with Charles's wish for a slimmed-down monarchy – so that the child would be excluded from becoming an HRH and prince.

Under protocols established by King George V in 1917, the children and grandchildren of a sovereign have the automatic right to the title Her Royal Highness or His Royal Highness (HRH) and prince or princess.

At the time Archie was born, he was the great-grandchild of a sovereign, not a grandchild. But to prevent him from becoming a prince, the King would have to issue a Letters Patent amending Archie's right to be a prince and Lili's right to be a princess.

George V's declaration meant that only Prince George, as a great-grandson of the monarch down the direct line of succession to the throne, was originally entitled to be a prince, as he is the eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.

The line of succession has also been reshuffled after the Queen's death, and sees Prince William move up to next in line for the throne, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

He is followed by Prince George (9), Princess Charlotte (7), Prince Louis (4), Prince Harry, and Master Archie, (3).

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's Longest Reigning Monarch, Dies At 96

LONDON, Sept 8: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest serving monarch, has died at 96. She reigned for 70 years.

The royal family - the Queen's son and heir Prince Charles, grandsons William and Harry and their families - have gathered at her Balmoral retreat in the Scottish highlands, where she spent her last days.

The UK celebrated the Queen's Platinum Jubilee to mark 70 years of service to the nation with grand events in June.

In 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the longest-serving British monarch, surpassing her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria. This year, she became the world's second longest reigning monarch.

As UK celebrated her Platinum Jubilee milestone with royal parades, street parties and pageantry, the Queen thanked the nation in a letter, saying that she had been "humbled and deeply touched".

"When it comes to how to mark 70 years as your Queen, there is no guidebook to follow. It really is a first," she wrote.

The Queen missed some of the events because of her health, and Prince Charles and second in line Prince William attended them. She did appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the end of the Jubilee Pageant.

For most of her subjects, she was the only monarch they had ever known, featuring on stamps, banknotes and coins, and immortalised in popular culture.

She lived through some of the biggest royal scandals - from the divorce of Charles and Diana to her second son Prince Andrew's alleged links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Harry and Meghan quitting royal life.

But she was witness to some of the most eventful moments in modern history, from the assassination of US President John F Kennedy, to the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin wall and the Covid pandemic. She saw 14 Prime Ministers of UK during her reign, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. In a first, she appointed Liz Truss in Balmoral in Scotland as she was too ill to return to London.

Her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, died in April 2021, just weeks short of his 100th birthday.

An image of the Queen sitting alone in the quire of St. George's Chapel during his funeral, due to COVID protocol, moved the world.

Charles Is King

LONDON, Sept 8: Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son, Charles, 73, succeeds as king immediately, according to centuries of protocol, beginning a new, less certain chapter for the royal family after the queen's record-breaking 70-year reign.

Charles' coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic surroundings, as it has for centuries, on a date to be fixed.

Russia Halts Europe Gas Pipeline, Putin Says Not Using Energy As 'Weapon'

MOSCOW, Sept 7: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday denied that Moscow was using energy as a "weapon", days after Russia halted natural gas deliveries via a key pipeline to Europe.

"They say that Russia uses energy as a weapon. More nonsense! What weapon do we use? We supply as much as required according to requests" from importers, Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said Friday that the Nord Stream pipeline due to reopen at the weekend after three days of maintenance would remain shut for repairs.

The Kremlin says sanctions have blocked the return of a Siemens turbine that had been undergoing repairs in Canada.

"Give as a turbine, we will turn Nord Stream on tomorrow, Putin said.

"We are ready to do this tomorrow, just need to press a button. But we were not the ones who introduced sanctions," Putin added.

Speaking about the possibility of a price cap on Russian natural gas, Putin said it was "another stupidity" and "another non-market solution with no prospects".

"If European countries want to give up their competitive advantages, that's up to them," Putin said, adding that Russia is ready to cooperate with "any country".

Following the imposition of economic sanctions over the Kremlin's offensive of Ukraine, Russia has reduced or halted supplies to different European nations, causing energy prices to soar.

The EU has accused Moscow of using energy as blackmail.

Liz Truss Promises Imminent Action On Energy Crisis

LONDON, Sept 7: At her first parliamentary grilling as British prime minister, Liz Truss on Wednesday confirmed plans to stem huge rises in the cost of energy that threaten to plunge her new government into a winter of discontent.

Jousting with opposition Labour chief Keir Starmer for the first time since she succeeded Boris Johnson, Truss also revelled in her status as the UK government's third female prime minister, noting Labour has still to elect a woman leader.

Truss ruled out a windfall tax on energy firms' gargantuan profits, but said details of her plan would be released on Thursday to ensure consumers and businesses can still afford heating in the coming months.

Whereas Johnson used the weekly session of "Prime Minister's Questions" to theatrically attack Starmer, Truss was more business-like as she pledged a right-wing programme of tax cuts to revitalise the UK economy.

Starmer cast Truss as the inheritor of 12 years of Tory government leading up to the present crisis in inflation, which is tied to Russia's war in Ukraine, and said there was "nothing new" about her policies.

"There's nothing new about a Labour leader who is calling for more tax rises," Truss retorted, earning roars of approval from Conservative MPs -- most of whom had initially backed her leadership rival, Rishi Sunak.

Johnson's predecessor Theresa May archly asked Truss why only the Conservatives had managed to elect women leaders -- May herself, and Margaret Thatcher. One Tory backbencher shouted "3-0!"

Starmer's deputy Angela Rayner looked on with a pained expression as Truss said it was "extraordinary" that Labour could not find a woman leader, or one who did not live in left-leaning North London.

Earlier Wednesday, Truss convened her new-look cabinet, which includes the most diverse top team in British history: Kwasi Kwarteng as finance minister, James Cleverly as foreign secretary and Suella Braverman as interior minister.

Under the costly plans developed by Truss and Kwarteng, gas and electricity bills for both households and businesses are expected to be capped near current levels for the coming winter at least.

The government would lend or guarantee private-sector loans to energy providers to make up the difference they pay from soaring global wholesale prices, which have driven UK inflation above 10 percent.

The spike in inflation to 40-year highs has stoked a wave of strikes, including by railway workers and criminal lawyers, with more sectors threatening to walk out in an early challenge to Truss's administration.

On the eve of Truss's energy plan announcement, the British pound slumped to its lowest dollar level since 1985, tanking to $1.1406 at about 1400 GMT.

Along with the urgent issue of energy prices, Truss's government must also navigate the combustible problem of post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

In her first contacts with foreign leaders, the new Conservative leader spoke late Tuesday by phone to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky and then US President Joe Biden.

According to Downing Street, she agreed with Biden "on the importance of protecting" peace in Northern Ireland.

In parliament, Truss said she was "determined" to break through the impasse, and favoured a "negotiated settlement" with the EU.

To Zelensky, Truss vowed to maintain the full-throated support for Ukraine against Russia given by Johnson before he was forced out following a series of scandals.

Truss, 47, won an internal ballot of Tory members on Monday, securing 57 percent of the vote, after a gruelling contest against former finance minister Sunak that began in July.

She now faces a tough challenge reuniting the ruling Tories following the leadership battle, but observers noted that she had expelled almost every Sunak supporter from the cabinet.

IAEA report says safety principles were violated at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and calls for safety zone

VIENNA, Sept 6: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it remains “gravely concerned” about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Ukraine and says there is an “urgent need” for measures to prevent a nuclear accident, namely the establishment of a nuclear safety and protection zone around the Russian-occupied site, Director General Rafael Grossi said in a report following a visit to the site.

The agency emphasized the urgent need for interim measures "to prevent a nuclear accident arising from physical damage caused by military means."

To achieve this, the IAEA called for the establishment of "a nuclear safety and security protection zone.”

The agency says its team saw first-hand the damage shelling has caused to the facility and “noted with concern that the shelling could have impacted safety related structures, systems and components, and could have caused safety significant impacts, loss of lives and personnel injuries.”

In addition to the danger of the continued fighting around the facility, the agency says staff at Zaporizhzhia and other nuclear plants in Ukraine “have continued to show endurance and resilience in keeping the sites running in a safe and secure way amid the conflict.”

"While the ongoing shelling has not yet triggered a nuclear emergency, it continues to represent a constant threat to nuclear safety and security with potential impact on critical safety functions that may lead to radiological consequences with great safety significance," the report notes about the situation at the plant.

It listed some damages that the inspectors observed during their mission to the plant.

The UN agency's report recommended that shelling on site and its vicinity "should be stopped immediately to avoid any further damages to the plant and associated facilities, for the safety of the operating staff and to maintain the physical integrity to support safe and secure operation. This requires agreement by all relevant parties to the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP."

Liz Truss Brings Tougher UK Stance On China

LONDON, Sept 6: One of British politics' firmest critics of China became prime minister on Tuesday as Liz Truss, a self-styled defender of the post-war western world order, replaced Boris Johnson whose policy towards Beijing failed to harden fast enough for many in his party.

Relations between London and Beijing have worsened in the last decade as Britain has grown worried that an open door to Chinese investment could pose national security risks, and that China's military and economic assertiveness may be acting against its post-Brexit free trade agenda.

Truss views China as a threat to the rules-based international order that has governed post-World War Two trade and diplomacy, and she sees it as her role to build a bulwark against that.

"Countries must play by the rules and that includes China," she said in a high-profile speech earlier this year, adding that Beijing was "rapidly building a military capable of projecting power deep into areas of European strategic interest".

Truss warned that if China failed to play by global rules it would cut short its rise as a superpower and it should learn from the West's robust economic response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

She said that China's rise was not inevitable and the West should ensure that Taiwan, which Beijing says is its own territory, can defend itself.

The Global Times, published by China's Communist Party's official newspaper the People's Daily, has dubbed Truss a "radical populist" and said she should drop the "outdated imperial mentality".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Tuesday that she hopes relations with Britain will remain "on the right track".

James Rogers, co-founder of the London-based Council on Geostrategy think tank, said Truss would impose more restrictions on China buying up British companies and would do more to bind together countries to counter China's rise.

"She understands the way short-term economic benefits may have a long-term strategic and political impact, and will try to balance those more effectively than in the past," he said.

Under Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain and China forged what he called the "golden era" of relations. He said in 2015 he wanted to be Beijing's closest friend in the West.

But in the last seven years, with three changes of prime minister along with growing criticism of Beijing's trade practices and rows over freedoms in Hong Kong and Xingang, Britain has moved from being China's greatestsupporter in Europe to one of its fiercest critics.

The Conservative Party has become more hostile to China even as Johnson called himself "fervently Sinophile".

The government has recently moved to limit China's involvement in Britain's nuclear power sector. Truss also signed the defence pact to supply Australia with the technology to build nuclear submarines to help push back against China's growing power and influence.

Last year as trade secretary, Truss warned that the West could lose control of global trade unless it got tough with Beijing and drove through World Trade Organization reform.

"If we fail to act, then we risk global trade fragmenting under the tyranny of the largest," she said.

Later in 2021, she convinced fellow G7 foreign ministers to include a line in their closing communique that condemned China's economic policies - a reference to Beijing's global investment policy that critics say can leave poorer countries caught in debt traps.

Truss is expected to appoint a foreign secretary aligned with her world view - with ally James Cleverly tipped to be in line for the job and assisted by Tom Tugendhat, a known China hawk, as security minister.

Charles Parton, a former UK diplomat who spent 22 years analysing China and is now an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said although China was likely to make threats about withdrawing investment this is unlikely to happen.

"China is not a charity. It doesn't invest because it likes the colour of our eyes. It does it with very specific reasons," he said. "It will continue to invest, and our job is to see if that investment continues to suit our interests."

Liz Truss Is New UK PM

LONDON, Sept 5: UK foreign secretary Liz Truss defeated Indian-origin former chancellor Rishi Sunak to be named the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest on Monday and will now go on to formally take charge as British Prime Minister as Boris Johnson's successor.

The 47-year-old senior Cabinet minister was widely expected to clinch the ballot of an estimated 160,000 online and postal votes cast by Tory members, ending Sunak's historic run as the first member of Parliament of Indian heritage to compete for the top job at 10 Downing Street.

She is the third female Prime Minister in Britain, after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The result was formally announced by the returning officer of the leadership contest and chair of the Conservative Party's powerful 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre near Downing Street.

He said Truss won 81,326 votes compared to Sunak's share of 60,399 votes.

However, for pollsters, political analysts and media outlets it came as little surprise as Truss was widely expected to beat 42-year-old Sunak in pre-poll surveys and bookmaker odds on the race.

A combination of the Tory membership base's lingering loyalty towards outgoing Prime Minister Johnson, whom they see as being betrayed by former close ally Sunak, and Truss' pledge to cut taxes are among the key factors behind the British Indian MP failing to clinch the race.

While the over 1.5-million-strong Indian diaspora stood firmly behind the UK-born MP for Richmond in Yorkshire, other sections of the Conservative Party including those who trace their roots to other parts of the sub-continent were expected to be more divided.

Truss' campaign pledge to reverse Sunak's tax hike plans while he was Chancellor to tackle the cost-of-living crisis facing the country seems to have worked in favour. While Sunak's approach of wanting to focus on fighting soaring inflation and using targeted measures to offer support to those most in need did connect with audiences at the nearly dozen party hustings, that clearly wasn't enough to turn the tide in his favour.

Now elected party leader, it won't be until Tuesday afternoon that Truss can formally lay claim to her new office at 10 Downing Street - after predecessor Boris Johnson hands in his formal resignation to the Queen at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

It will be followed soon after by Truss' first audience as PM-elect with the 96-year-old monarch, after which she will be flown back to London to begin announcing her new Cabinet top team.

Ukraine Nuclear Plant's Last Reactor Disconnects After Shelling: Operator

KYIV, Sept 5: The final working reactor at the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was disconnected from Ukraine's grid on Monday after Russian shelling disrupted power lines, state nuclear company Energoatom said.

The imperilled six-reactor facility in southern Ukraine, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, was captured by Moscow in March, but is still run by Ukrainian staff.

"Today, as a result of a fire caused by shelling, the (last working) transmission line was disconnected," Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.

"As a result, (reactor) unit No. 6, which currently supplies the (plant's) own needs, was unloaded and disconnected from the grid," it said.

Ukraine was unable to repair the power lines now because of fighting raging around the station, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on Facebook.

"Any repairs of the power lines are currently impossible- fighting is ongoing around the station," he said.

Galushchenko complained that the fresh shelling had hit soon after most of the inspectors from a mission by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, left the plant earlier on Monday.

"As soon as the IAEA mission left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant- the station has once again been disconnected," he added.

Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other of risking a nuclear disaster as the plant's territory has been regularly shelled over the past month.

Ukraine has also repeatedly accused Russia of basing troops and military equipment at the power station.

Two reactors at the plant, number five and six, remain in use but are currently disconnected from the grid. They have suffered repeated disconnections due to shelling over the last fortnight.

46 Dead In 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake In China

BEIJING, Sept 5: At least 46 people were killed when a strong earthquake struck southwestern China on Monday, state media reported, as violent tremors in a remote region damaged homes and left some areas without electricity.

The magnitude 6.6 quake hit about 43 kilometres (26 miles) southeast of the city of Kangding in Sichuan province at a depth of 10 kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey.

Tremors shook buildings in the provincial capital of Chengdu -- where millions are confined to their homes under a strict Covid lockdown -- and in the nearby megacity of Chongqing, said local residents.

"I felt it quite strongly. Some of my neighbours on the ground floor said they felt it very noticeably," said Chen, a resident of Chengdu.

"But because Chengdu is currently under epidemic management, people aren't allowed to leave their residential compounds, so many of them rushed out into their courtyards," she added.

At least one town had suffered "severe damage" from landslides triggered by the quake, CCTV reported.

A road to another town was blocked and telecommunications lines in areas home to more than 10,000 people were severed, the broadcaster said, adding that shocks also forced some power stations offline in the areas of Garze and Ya'an.

Footage broadcast by CCTV appeared to show damaged buildings and a street strewn with fallen masonry in Garze.

A video posted online by the China Earthquake Networks Center showed boulders thundering down mountainsides in Luding county, kicking up clouds of dust as tremors swayed roadside telephone wires.

State media reported that several aftershocks were recorded in nearby areas. A smaller magnitude 4.6 tremor hit eastern Tibet less than an hour after the initial quake, according to the USGS.

UN Inspection Team Heads To Ukraine Nuclear Plant Despite Shelling

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Sept 1: UN inspectors pressed on towards a Russian-held nuclear plant in southern Ukraine Thursday despite an early shelling attack, as the ICRC warned the consequences of a strike on the facility could be "catastrophic".

Just before the 14-strong team from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) left for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Ukraine said Russian troops had shelled the town next door.

The area around the plant -- Europe's largest nuclear facility -- has suffered repeated shelling, with both sides accusing the other of responsibility, sparking global concern over the risk of an accident.

"It is high time to stop playing with fire and instead take concrete measures to protect this facility.. from any military operations," ICRC chief Robert Mardini told reporters in Kyiv.

"The slightest miscalculation could trigger devastation that we will regret for decades."

Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom said later that one of the six reactors at the Russian-held nuclear plant was shut down Thursday as an emergency protection measure following the shelling in the area.

"Today at 4:57 am (0157 GMT), due to another mortar shelling by the Russian occupying forces at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant site, the emergency protection was activated and operating power unit 5 was shut down," it said.

Mardini said it was "encouraging" that the IAEA team was en route to inspect the plant because the stakes were "immense".

"When hazardous sites become battlegrounds, the consequences for millions of people and the environment can be catastrophic and last many years," he said.

Just before leaving the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said his team had been updated about the shelling but would press on anyway.

"We are not stopping," he vowed, despite being aware there that in crossing the frontline into Russian-held territory, there was a security "grey area.. where the risks are significant".

"I believe we have to proceed with this. We have a very important mission to accomplish."

Earlier, the mayor of Energodar, the town next to the plant, said it had come under sustained attack early on Thursday.

In an 8:00 am (0500 GMT) update on Telegram, Mayor Dmytro Orlov said that since dawn, Russian troops had "shelled Energodar with mortars and used automatic weapons and rockets," posting images of damaged buildings and spiralling smoke.

But Moscow accused Kyiv of smuggling in up to 60 military "saboteurs", saying they reached the area near the plant just after dawn and that Russian troops had taken "measures to annihilate the enemy".

Grossi on Wednesday said the IAEA would seek to establish a "permanent presence" at the plant to avoid a nuclear disaster at the facility which is located on the frontline of the fighting.

"My mission is... to prevent a nuclear accident and preserve the largest nuclear power plant in Europe," he said.

Although Zaporizhzhia is normally about a two-hour drive from the plant, it was not immediately long it would take the IAEA team to get there after crossing the frontline into Russian-held areas.

The plant has been occupied by Russian troops since March and Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying hundreds of soldiers and storing ammunition there.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of staging "provocations" aimed at disrupting the work of the IAEA mission.

"Sadly, Russia is not stopping its provocations precisely in the direction the mission needs to travel to reach the plant," President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday after meeting Grossi.

And in Moscow, the Russian defence ministry accused Kyiv of "continued provocations aimed at disrupting the work of the IAEA mission" saying it had shelled the area around the plant on Tuesday hitting a building containing "the solid radioactive waste processing complex".

Meanwhile, intensive fighting raged across the nearby southern region of Kherson where Ukraine began a counteroffensive on Monday.

Most of the region and its provincial capital of the same name were seized by Russian forces at the start of the invasion six months ago.

With the war in the eastern Donbas region largely stalled, analysts have said for weeks that combat is likely to shift south to break the stalemate before winter comes.

Meanwhile, a British medic volunteering in Ukraine died in the fighting, the foreign ministry in London said on Thursday. It said he had died on August 24 but gave no further details.

 

 

 
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Archive
Taiwan Vows Counter-attack If Chinese Forces Enter Its Territory
EU Foreign Ministers Agree To Suspend Visa Deal With Russia
'State Of Border' Will Determine India-China Ties: S Jaishankar
Russia Doesn't Acknowledge Radiological Risk At Ukraine Nuclear Plant: US
U.S. sails warships through Taiwan Strait in first since Pelosi

 

 
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