US President Joe Biden on Tuesday imposed an immediate ban on Russian oil and other energy imports in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, amid strong support from American voters and lawmakers, even though the move will drive up US energy prices.
“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas energy,” Biden said, Reuters reported.
“That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine.”
The ban caps sweeping US and European sanctions imposed on Moscow for launching the largest war in Europe since World War Two. Russian strikes have targeted Ukrainian cities and killed hundreds of civilians, some as they tried to flee their homes.
Biden, who has pledged that US soldiers will not go to Ukraine to fight, voiced America’s support for the Ukrainian people, and predicted their ultimate victory.
Biden signed an executive order on the ban soon after his remarks. The ban goes into effect immediately, but gives buyers 45 days to wind down existing contracts, Reuters reported.
The United States consulted closely with allies on the ban, but did not ask them to join in, and did not expect that they would, the official said.
Biden said sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies had already caused the Russian economy to “crater” and vowed to continue ratcheting up pressure on Moscow to stop a war that forced more than 2 million people to flee the country.
Earthquake jolts Indonesia’s Java island
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia’s main island of Java on Thursday with no immediate reports of damage, less than a month after another quake in the same province killed more than 300 people.
The quake struck at 07:50 am local time around 15 kilometers from the town of Cianjur, the epicenter of November’s devastating tremor, the United States Geological Survey said.
USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties or damage following the quake, which struck at a depth of 123 kilometeres.
No damage was immediately reported in Cianjur or Sukabumi, the city nearest the epicentre, local disaster mitigation agency officials told AFP Thursday.
But schools were temporarily evacuated in Sukabumi, according to local TV.
“The epicenter of the earthquake is in Sukabumi, so it was only lightly felt in Cianjur. No reports of damage to houses or casualties,” Wawan Setawan, a disaster agency official in Cianjur told AFP.
“We have yet to receive reports of damage caused by the earthquake”, Imran Wardhani, an official in Sukabumi, said soon after the tremor.
Last month, a shallow 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Cianjur, triggering landslides and collapsing buildings, killing at least 334 people, injuring thousands and leaving tens of thousands more homeless.
Save the Children warned this week that evacuees faced a “ticking time bomb” of disease and infection due to poor living conditions. Thousands of cases of respiratory infections and hundreds of cases of diarrhea have been reported.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo is visiting the area on Thursday to distribute aid to affected residents.
The tremor that struck Cinajur on November 21 was the deadliest in the archipelago nation since a 2018 quake and resulting tsunami killed more than 4,000 people on the island of Sulawesi.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.
China’s Xi to meet with Saudi and Arab leaders in Riyadh
Saudi Arabia aims to increase trade with Beijing and discuss regional security when China’s president visits Riyadh this week, with the kingdom seeking to expand superpower ties beyond the increasingly fractious alliance with the United States.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to mark Xi Jinping’s arrival on Wednesday with a lavish welcome that diplomats in the region have said may contrast starkly with the muted reception offered to U.S. President Joe Biden in July, Reuters reported adding the world’s biggest oil exporter is reshaping its foreign policy to reflect the new realities of global power.
Besides rolling out the red carpet for bilateral meetings with Xi during his two-day visit, the Saudi rulers will also convene fellow Gulf dynasts for a summit with him, followed by a wider gathering with other Arab leaders.
The United States, which for decades has been Saudi Arabia’s main security guarantor and which remains its main defense supplier, has expressed concerns about growing Chinese involvement in sensitive infrastructure projects in the Gulf.
The Chinese delegation this week is expected to sign agreements worth $30 billion with Saudi Arabia, SPA reported.
China sees Saudi Arabia as its key ally in the Middle East due not only to its oil exports but also a shared suspicion of Western interference, especially on issues such as human rights.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in October that Saudi Arabia was a “priority” in China’s overall and regional diplomatic strategy.
Although China has taken a more involved role in global politics in recent years, its relationship with Saudi Arabia remains firmly rooted in trade.
Besides oil sales, Saudi and Chinese state companies have joint ventures in refining and petrochemicals, and Riyadh is seeking foreign investment to help it diversify its economy into manufacturing, including of cars and arms.
Its plans for massive infrastructure development, including the $500 billion NEOM megaproject in the northwest, could also create new opportunities for Chinese construction companies that have grown increasingly active in the Gulf.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden gets a Russian passport
Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), has sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport, TASS reported on Friday.
“Yes, he got [a passport], he took the oath,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told the state news agency TASS.
“This is still a criminal investigative matter,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, referring any questions about the report on Snowden to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
US authorities have for years wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges, Reuters reported.
President Vladimir Putin in September granted Russian citizenship to Snowden, who fled the United States after leaking secret files that revealed the extensive eavesdropping activities of the United States and its allies, read the report.
“I’m in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They downed the President of Bolivia’s diplomatic aircraft to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day,” Snowden, 39, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to events from 2013.
Snowden was referring an incident in July 2013, when Bolivia complained that its presidential jet carrying Evo Morales from Russia to Bolivia had been rerouted and forced to land in Austria over suspicion that Snowden was on board.
According to Reuters defenders of Snowden hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying and alleged violation of privacy. Opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives by exposing the secret methods that Western spies use to listen in on hostile states and militants.
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