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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

Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

Twelve people were killed in Croatia on Saturday when a Polish bus filled with religious pilgrims slipped off a road and crashed near Varazdin, authorities said, Reuters reported.

Thirty-two people were injured in the crash which happened at 5:40 a.m. (0340 GMT) on the highway between Varazdin, in northwest Croatia, and capital Zagreb.

Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said 19 people were in a serious condition.

According to Reuters Marcin Przydacz, deputy head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, who was travelling to the site on Saturday, said the injured were being treated at five hospitals in Croatia.

He said there were 44 Polish pilgrims on the bus driving from Poland to Medjugorje, a Roman Catholic shrine in southern Bosnia, including two drivers. Among them were three priests and six nuns, a ministry spokesman said.

Police cleared the area where the accident took place after firefighters and medical teams recovered all the occupants of the vehicle which had Warsaw registration plates, read the report.

Polish police officers, in Croatia as part of project “Safe Tourist Destination” project, were helping Croatian authorities in communicating with the survivors.

An investigation has been started into the cause of the accident.

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World

Taiwan official leading missile production dies of heart attack

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2022)

The deputy head of Taiwan defence ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning in a hotel room, succumbing to a heart attack, according to the official Central News Agency.

Ou Yang Li-hsing, deputy head of the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, had died in a hotel room in southern Taiwan, CNA reported.

Authorities said 57-year-old Ou Yang died of a heart attack and the hotel room showed no sign of any ‘intrusion’, CNA said.

His family said he had a history of heart disease and had a cardiac stent, according to the report, Reuters reported.

Ou Yang was on a business trip to the southern county of Pingtung, CNA said, adding that he had assumed the post early this year to supervise various missile production projects.

The military-owned body is working to more than double its yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year, as the island boosts its combat power amid what it sees as China’s growing military threat.

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Four people critically injured in lightning strike near White House

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(Last Updated On: August 5, 2022)

Four people were in critical condition on Thursday after a lightning strike at Washington’s Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Reuters quoted a D.C. fire official said.

The injured – two adult males and two adult females – were transported to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries, Vito Maggiolo, a D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson, said.

According to Reuters Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park that lies directly north of the White House, is often crowded with visitors, especially in the summer months. The lightning struck the four people near a tree that stands yards away from the fence that surrounds the presidential residence and offices.

Temperatures in Washington exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, although, with the high humidity, the heat felt like more than 100F, forecasters said. A violent thunderstorm swept through the capital late in the day, read the report.

Officers of the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police, which have a regular presence in the square, went to the assistance of the victims immediately, Maggiolo said.

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