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Biden hits Russia with new sanctions for ‘premeditated’ Ukraine attack

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2022)

President Joe Biden hit Russia with a wave of sanctions on Thursday after Moscow invaded Ukraine, measures that impede Russia’s ability to do business in major currencies along with sanctions against banks and state-owned enterprises, Reuters reported.

Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as an aggressor with a “sinister vision of the world” and a misguided dream of recreating the Soviet Union.

But he held back from imposing sanctions on Putin himself and from disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international banking system, amid differences with Western allies over how far to go at this juncture and criticism from Republicans that he should have done more.

According to Reuters Ukrainian forces battled Russian invaders on three sides on Thursday, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

“This is a premeditated attack,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

Biden said the sanctions were designed to have a long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and its allies. And he said Washington was prepared to do more.

The sanctions are aimed at limiting Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen. Among the targets were five major banks, including state-backed Sberbank and VTB, as well as members of the Russian elite and their families. Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, will no longer be able to transfer money with the assistance of U.S. banks.

The White House also announced export restrictions aimed at curbing Russia’s access to everything from commercial electronics and computers to semiconductors and aircraft parts, read the report.

‘DANGEROUS MOMENT’

Biden said NATO would meet on Friday to map out further measures and reiterated that the United States would not engage in war with Russia. But he said the United States would meet its Article 5 commitments, in which NATO members agree an armed attack against one of them in Europe or North America will be considered an attack against them all. Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, those protections do not apply.

Biden said this was “a dangerous moment for all of Europe,” and that he had authorized troops that had been placed on standby to deploy to Germany. He declined to comment on whether he would urge China to join the West’s drive to isolate Russia.

U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the world was watching how Washington responds, Reuters reported.

He said Congress would support “truly devastating sanctions” against the Kremlin, but he said Biden should have imposed tough sanctions early enough to deter an invasion and weaken Russia.

“Sadly, deterrence after the fact is not deterrence at all,” McConnell said in a statement.

Biden met with his counterparts from the Group of Seven allies and his National Security Council on Thursday, after speaking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy late on Wednesday.

His announcement represented the second major tranche of sanctions against Russia since Putin earlier this week declared two breakaway regions of Ukraine independent and sent troops there.

The United States had warned it would initiate waves of sanctions against Moscow if it further invaded Ukraine, and Russia’s full-on military assault launched on Thursday led to the latest round of Western penalties, read the report.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters the Biden administration believes Putin has “grander ambitions than Ukraine” without offering further details.

On Wednesday Washington imposed sanctions on the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and on Tuesday it sanctioned two large Russian financial institutions and Russian sovereign debt along with some members of the Russian elite and their family members.

The moves are aimed at pushing up inflation and interest rates in Russia, lowering purchasing power, investment, growth and living standards, White House economic adviser Daleep Singh told reporters on Thursday.

Biden has become the face of the Western response to Russian aggression at a time when he is battling low poll numbers at home, rising inflation that could be exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict, and looming midterm elections that could hand control of the Senate and House of Representatives from his fellow Democrats to Republicans, Reuters reported.

Officials said he briefed leaders in the U.S. Congress about the Ukraine crisis during a secure call on Thursday.

The White House has warned Americans that the conflict could lead to higher fuel prices in the United States, though it is taking measures to help soften that blow. U.S. officials have been working with counterparts in other countries on a combined release of additional oil from global strategic crude reserves, two sources said on Thursday.

Biden warned oil and gas companies not to “exploit” this moment to raise prices.

World

Death toll from Indonesian earthquake rises to 310

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

The death toll from this week’s earthquake that shook Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 310, the country’s national disaster mitigation agency said on Friday.

Monday’s earthquake triggered landslides, collapsed roofs and walls and buried victims in mounds of earth.

The agency’s chief Suharyanto, who goes by one name, said 24 people are still missing in the West Java town of Cianjur.

On Wednesday, a six-year-old boy, Azka, was rescued alive from the rubble – a rescue that was described as a “miracle” after he survived more than two days without food or water.

Heavy rain and potentially deadly aftershocks have hampered the rescue effort.

Henri Alfiandi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told RTE: “The problems are the unstable soil, the thickness of the landslide pile aggravated by continuous rain, and the concerns of aftershocks.”

He said the emergency period for the search and rescue effort would last a week until Monday and authorities would evaluate if it needed to be extended if all the missing had not been found.

Many of those killed in the quake were children, some in classes at school, according to officials.

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Pakistan appoints former spy as new army chief

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2022)

Pakistan’s former spy chief, Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, was on Thursday named Pakistan’s new army chief after months of speculation.

Munir was approved by Pakistani President Arif Alvi after being nominated for the post by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

He replaces Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires next week. The job is widely seen as Pakistan’s most powerful government posting.

Munir is the country’s most senior general and closely aligned with Bajwa. He was picked from a list of six candidates.

Once he takes office, Munir will oversee relations between neighboring India and Afghanistan.

He takes over as the country continues to deal with the fallout of devastating floods during its most recent monsoon season. More than 1,300 people died within a few weeks of the start of monsoon season while millions have been displaced.

Pakistan is also in the midst of an economic crisis, coping with soaring inflation.

Though technically separate, the position of army chief often wields significant political power in Pakistan. The army has seized power three times in Pakistan’s history and directly ruled the country for almost four decades.

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Indonesian child rescued from earthquake rubble after two days

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2022)

A six-year-old boy was rescued on Wednesday night from the rubble of Monday’s deadly earthquake in Indonesia in what has been described as a miracle rescue.

The boy, who was trapped under rubble without food or water, was pulled out alive by emotional rescue workers.

“Once we realized Azka was alive everybody broke into tears, including me,” 28-year-old local volunteer Jeksen told AFP on Thursday.

“It was very moving, it felt like a miracle.”

Video showed rescue workers pulling the boy Azka free from a destroyed home in Cianjur’s worst-hit district of Cugenang, wearing the blue shirt and trousers he had on when he became trapped.

The man who pulled him out of a hole cut in the debris clasped him in both arms, as another rescue worker in an orange hard hat ran after them to hold the boy’s hand, footage released by the administration of West Java’s Bogor district showed.

Azka — who like many Indonesians goes by one name — was then shown calmly sipping a drink, held by a soldier as another emergency worker stroked his hair.

His mother died in the earthquake and her body was found hours before Azka’s rescue, a volunteer told AFP on Thursday.

The boy was then found next to his dead grandmother, Jeksen said.

“We didn’t expect him to still be alive after 48 hours, if we knew we would have tried harder the night before,” he said.

“For all the years since I became a volunteer, I’ve never seen anything like this. How can you not cry?”

At least 271 people died in Monday’s quake and authorities have warned that time is running out to find survivors.

“Today for the search and rescue operation we deployed 6,000 people. It was raining but we keep searching,” said Suharyanto, head of the national disaster mitigation agency, or BNPB.

“Please pray for us so the 40 missing people could be found.”

Authorities are continuing to search for dozens who remain buried under debris, including a missing seven-year-old girl.

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