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Blast at Pakistan bank branch constructed on sewage drain kills at least 10

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: December 18, 2021)

 At least 10 people were killed and 11 others injured in an explosion on Saturday at a Karachi bank branch constructed on a sewage drain in the city’s industrial area, police said.

The cause of the blast, at a branch of Pakistan‘s largest bank, Habib Bank Limited, could be a gas leak, a senior police officer said.

“Our explosives teams are at work trying to ascertain the nature of the blast, but apparently the structure was constructed on drain and gas could be a probable cause,” Sarfaraz Nawaz told reporters.

A petrol station located next to the bank in the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate, and cars parked nearby, were badly damaged.

Television footage showed the bank’s floor ripped apart, exposing twisted iron bars.

Another senior police officer, Sharjeel Kharal, told reporters it was not immediately clear how many were dead or injured in the explosion as the bank had a skeleton staff on Saturday.

Construction laws are often flouted in Pakistan. Several sewage drains have been concreted over in Karachi to make way for parking lots.

Last month, the country’s Supreme Court ordered the demolition of a multi-storey apartment building found to have been constructed on an illegal plot at Karachi’s main thoroughfare.

World

Turkey detains Islamic State’s new leader

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

Senior Turkish officials said Islamic State’s new leader has been captured raid in Istanbul.

Anti-terrorism police and intelligence agents detained a man they believe has led the group since its previous chief was killed in a US operation in Syria in February, the officials said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, Bloomberg reported.

Turkish news website OdaTV identified the arrested man as Abu al-Hassan al-Qurayshi without saying how it obtained the information.

Previous reports have given a similar name for the new Islamic State (ISIS) leader.

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‘Stop playing’ with Russia, end war: Zelenskiy tells West

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the West to stop playing around with Russia and impose tougher sanctions on Moscow to end its “senseless war” in Ukraine, adding his country would remain independent, the only question was at what price.

Zelenskiy’s criticism of the West has mounted in recent days as the European Union moves slowly towards a possible Russian oil embargo and as thousands of Russian forces try to encircle two key eastern cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Three months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has abandoned its assault on the capital Kyiv and is trying to consolidate control of the industrial eastern Donbas region, where it has backed a separatist revolt since 2014.

Western military analysts see the battle for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk as a potential turning point in the war after a shift in momentum towards Russia following the surrender of Ukraine’s garrison in Mariupol last week.

“Ukraine will always be an independent state and it won’t be broken. The only question is what price our people will have to pay for their freedom, and what price Russia will pay for this senseless war against us,” said Zelenskiy in a late-night address on Thursday.

“The catastrophic unfolding events could be still stopped if the world treated the situation in Ukraine as if it were facing the same situation, if the powers that be did not play around with Russia but really pressed to end the war.”

Zelenskiy complained about disagreements within the EU on more sanctions against Russia and asked why some nations were being allowed to block the plan.

The EU is discussing a sixth round of punitive measures,including an embargo on Russian oil imports. Such a moverequires unanimity but Hungary opposes the idea for now on thegrounds its economy would suffer too much.

“How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree ona sixth package?” Zelenskiy asked, noting Russia was receiving one billion euros a day from the 27-nation bloc for energy supplies.

“Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives.Every day of procrastination, weakness, various disputes orproposals to ‘pacify’ the aggressor at the expense of the victimmerely means more Ukrainians being killed.”

Zelenskiy’s comments mark the second day in a row that hehas sharpened his criticism of the world’s approach to the war.

On Wednesday, he savaged suggestions that Kyiv makeconcessions to bring peace, saying the idea smacked of attemptsto appease Nazi Germany in 1938.

ADVANCING RUSSIAN TROOPS

Russian forces attacked from three sides to try to encircle Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on Thursday, said Ukraine’s military. If the two cities straddling the Siverskiy Donets river fall, nearly all of the Donbas province of Luhansk would be under Russian control.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said around 50 Russian soldiers had reached the highway and “managed to gain a foothold”, even setting up a checkpoint.

“The checkpoint was broken, they were thrown back … the Russian army does not control the route now, but they are shelling it,” he said. It was possible Ukrainian troops would leave “one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle,” he said.

“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we need to hold back this horde.”

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denisenko told a briefing 25 Russian battalions were attempting to surround the Ukrainian forces.

Reuters journalists in Russian-held territory further south saw proof of Moscow’s advance in Svitlodarsk, where Ukrainian forces withdrew earlier this week.

The town is now firmly under control of pro-Russian fighters, who have occupied the local government building and hung a Soviet hammer and sickle flag at the door.

Reuters drone footage of the nearby abandoned battlefield showed craters pockmarking a green field surrounded by wrecked buildings. Pro-Russian fighters were milling about in trenches.

The Donbas advance has been backed by massive artillery bombardment. Ukraine’s military said 50 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces came under shelling on Thursday.

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, called on Telegram for more Western arms, particularly “weapons that will allow us to hit the enemy at a big distance”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later warned that any supplies of weapons that could reach Russian territory would be a “a serious step towards unacceptable escalation”.

DANGER OF ESCALATION

Western countries led by the United States have provided Ukraine with long-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers from Washington and Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.

Washington is even considering providing Kyiv with a rocket system that can have a range of hundreds of kilometres, and has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, U.S. and diplomatic officials told Reuters.

“We have concerns about escalation and yet still do not want to put geographic limits or tie their hands too much with the stuff we’re giving them,” said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow expects Ukraine to accept its demands at any future peace talks. It wants Kyiv to recognise Russian sovereignty over the Crimea peninsula Moscow seized in 2014, and the independence of separatist-claimed territory.

‘Stop playing’ with Russia, end war: Zelenskiy tells West

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the West to stop playing around with Russia and impose tougher sanctions on Moscow to end its “senseless war” in Ukraine, adding his country would remain independent, the only question was at what price.

Zelenskiy’s criticism of the West has mounted in recent days as the European Union moves slowly towards a possible Russian oil embargo and as thousands of Russian forces try to encircle two key eastern cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Three months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has abandoned its assault on the capital Kyiv and is trying to consolidate control of the industrial eastern Donbas region, where it has backed a separatist revolt since 2014.

Western military analysts see the battle for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk as a potential turning point in the war after a shift in momentum towards Russia following the surrender of Ukraine’s garrison in Mariupol last week.

“Ukraine will always be an independent state and it won’t be broken. The only question is what price our people will have to pay for their freedom, and what price Russia will pay for this senseless war against us,” said Zelenskiy in a late-night address on Thursday.

“The catastrophic unfolding events could be still stopped if the world treated the situation in Ukraine as if it were facing the same situation, if the powers that be did not play around with Russia but really pressed to end the war.”

Zelenskiy complained about disagreements within the EU on more sanctions against Russia and asked why some nations were being allowed to block the plan.

The EU is discussing a sixth round of punitive measures,including an embargo on Russian oil imports. Such a moverequires unanimity but Hungary opposes the idea for now on thegrounds its economy would suffer too much.

“How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree ona sixth package?” Zelenskiy asked, noting Russia was receiving one billion euros a day from the 27-nation bloc for energy supplies.

“Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives.Every day of procrastination, weakness, various disputes orproposals to ‘pacify’ the aggressor at the expense of the victimmerely means more Ukrainians being killed.”

Zelenskiy’s comments mark the second day in a row that hehas sharpened his criticism of the world’s approach to the war.

On Wednesday, he savaged suggestions that Kyiv makeconcessions to bring peace, saying the idea smacked of attemptsto appease Nazi Germany in 1938.

ADVANCING RUSSIAN TROOPS

Russian forces attacked from three sides to try to encircle Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on Thursday, said Ukraine’s military. If the two cities straddling the Siverskiy Donets river fall, nearly all of the Donbas province of Luhansk would be under Russian control.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said around 50 Russian soldiers had reached the highway and “managed to gain a foothold”, even setting up a checkpoint.

“The checkpoint was broken, they were thrown back … the Russian army does not control the route now, but they are shelling it,” he said. It was possible Ukrainian troops would leave “one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle,” he said.

“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we need to hold back this horde.”

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denisenko told a briefing 25 Russian battalions were attempting to surround the Ukrainian forces.

Reuters journalists in Russian-held territory further south saw proof of Moscow’s advance in Svitlodarsk, where Ukrainian forces withdrew earlier this week.

The town is now firmly under control of pro-Russian fighters, who have occupied the local government building and hung a Soviet hammer and sickle flag at the door.

Reuters drone footage of the nearby abandoned battlefield showed craters pockmarking a green field surrounded by wrecked buildings. Pro-Russian fighters were milling about in trenches.

The Donbas advance has been backed by massive artillery bombardment. Ukraine’s military said 50 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces came under shelling on Thursday.

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, called on Telegram for more Western arms, particularly “weapons that will allow us to hit the enemy at a big distance”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later warned that any supplies of weapons that could reach Russian territory would be a “a serious step towards unacceptable escalation”.

DANGER OF ESCALATION

Western countries led by the United States have provided Ukraine with long-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers from Washington and Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.

Washington is even considering providing Kyiv with a rocket system that can have a range of hundreds of kilometres, and has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, U.S. and diplomatic officials told Reuters.

“We have concerns about escalation and yet still do not want to put geographic limits or tie their hands too much with the stuff we’re giving them,” said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow expects Ukraine to accept its demands at any future peace talks. It wants Kyiv to recognise Russian sovereignty over the Crimea peninsula Moscow seized in 2014, and the independence of separatist-claimed territory.

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Ukraine says Russia shells more than 40 towns in Donbas push

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2022)

Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Ukraine’s military said, threatening to shut off the last main escape route for civilians trapped in the path of their invasion, now in its fourth month.

After failing to seize Ukraine’s capital Kyiv or its second city Kharkiv, Russia is trying to take full control of the Donbas, comprised of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.

Russia has poured thousands of troops into the region, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces holding out in the city of Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk. Their fall would leave the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war aim.

“The occupiers shelled more than 40 towns in Donetsk and Luhansk region, destroying or damaging 47 civilian sites, including 38 homes and a school. As a result of this shelling five civilians died and 12 were wounded,” the Joint Task Force of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook.

The statement said 10 enemy attacks were repelled, four tanks and four drones destroyed, and 62 “enemy soldiers” were killed.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian troops “heavily outnumber us” in some parts of the east.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the battlefield reports.

As Moscow seeks to solidify its grip on the territory it has seized, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of newly captured districts to acquire Russian citizenship and passports.

The Russian parliament scrapped the upper age limit for contractual service in the military on Wednesday, highlighting the need to replace lost troops.

In a late night video address, Zelenskiy, commenting on the new Russian enlistment rules, said: “(They) no longer have enough young men, but they still have the will to fight. It will still take time to crush this will.”

Zelenskiy said this week the conflict could only be ended with direct talks between him and Putin.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

MASS GRAVES

Police in Lysychansk are collecting bodies of people killed in order to bury them in mass graves, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Some 150 people have been buried in a mass grave in one Lysychansk district, he added.

Families of people buried in mass graves will be able to carry out a reburial after the war, and police are issuing documents enabling Ukrainians to secure death certificates for loved ones, Gaidai said.

A missile blasted a crater in a railway track and damaged nearby buildings in Pokrovsk, a Ukrainian-held Donbas city that has become a major hub for supplies and evacuations.

In Kramatorsk, nearer the front line, streets were largely deserted, while in Sloviansk further west, many residents took advantage of what Ukraine said was a break in the Russian assault to leave.

“My house was bombed, I have nothing,” said Vera Safronova, seated in a train carriage among the evacuees.

Further north, two people were killed and seven wounded by Russian artillery shelling of the town of Balakliya in the Kharkiv region, an aide to its governor said on Facebook.

Russia is also targeting southern Ukraine, where officials said shelling had killed a civilian and damaged scores of houses in Zaporozhzhia and missiles had destroyed an industrial facility in Kryviy Rih.

FOOD CRISIS

Moscow has blockaded ships from southern Ukraine that would normally export Ukrainian grain and sunflower oil through the Black Sea, pushing up prices globally. The African Union urged the two countries on Wednesday to unblock exports of grains and fertiliser to avoid widespread famine.

Russia has blamed Western sanctions for the food crisis. It said on Wednesday it was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine but wanted sanctions to be lifted in return.

Western nations have imposed severe sanctions on Russia.

The United States pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default on Wednesday by not extending its licence to pay bondholders. That waiver has allowed Moscow to keep up government debt payments till now.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to make breaking EU sanctions against Russia a crime.

The EU also said it hoped to agree sanctions on Russian oil before the next meeting of EU leaders.

But Russia, for now at least, is not short of money. Oil and gas revenues stood at $28 billion in April alone thanks to high energy prices.

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