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First part of $200 million U.S. defence aid arrives in Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2022)

The first shipment of the United States’ $200 million security support package for Ukraine arrived in Kyiv, the U.S. Embassy said on Saturday, Reuters reported.

The delivery followed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Kyiv this week amid concerns from Kyiv and its Western allies over tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine. Russia denies planning a new military offensive.

Washington approved the $200 million package in December, Reuters reported.

“The United States will continue providing such assistance to support Ukraine’s Armed Forces in their ongoing effort to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russian aggression,” it said on Facebook.

Ukraine’s defence minister thanked the United States for the aid.

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China’s Xi to meet with Saudi and Arab leaders in Riyadh

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(Last Updated On: December 7, 2022)

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.

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US whistleblower Edward Snowden gets a Russian passport

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

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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Estonia to buy US rocket artillery system in $200 million deal

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2022)

NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced US rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday.

A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment such as ammunition and rockets as well as training, Associated Press reported.

The package includes HIMARS rockets with ranges of 70-300 kilometers, the Estonian Center Defense Investment said in a statement. Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to make the first deliveries in 2024.

“The HIMARS multiple rocket launchers are a new important step in the development of Estonia’s defense capabilities,” Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, head of the capability development department at the Estonian Defense Forces. “This makes it possible to decisively influence the enemy even before coming into contact with our infantry units.”

Estonia’s Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania either have or are currently in the process of acquiring their own HIMARS.

Washington has provided Ukraine with the rocket launchers during Russia’s invasion of the country. The Estonian Defense Ministry said the HIMARS systems “have helped to destroy Russian military ammunition warehouses, transport nodes, and command and control centers with pinpoint accuracy beyond the range of the howitzers Ukraine has been using.”

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