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Global nuclear arsenal to grow for first time since Cold War

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2022)

The global nuclear arsenal is expected to grow in the coming years for the first time since the Cold War while the risk of such weapons being used is the greatest in decades, a leading conflict and armaments think-tank said on Monday, Reuters reported.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western support for Kyiv has heightened tensions among the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think-tank said in a new set of research.

According to Reuters while the number of nuclear weapons fell slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, SIPRI said that unless immediate action was taken by the nuclear powers, global inventories of warheads could soon begin rising for the first time in decades.

“All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies,” Wilfred Wan, Director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, said in the think-tank’s 2022 yearbook.

“This is a very worrying trend.”

Three days after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin calls a “special military operation”, President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert.

He has also warned of consequences that would be “such as you have never seen in your entire history” for countries that stood in Russia’s way. 

Russia has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal with a total of 5,977 warheads, some 550 more than the United States. The two countries possess more than 90% of the world’s warheads, though SIPRI said China was in the middle of an expansion with an estimated more than 300 new missile silos, Reuters reported.

SIPRI said the global number of nuclear warheads fell to 12,705 in January 2022 from 13,080 in January 2021. An estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2,000 – nearly all belonging to Russia or the United States – were kept in a state of high readiness.

“Relations between the world’s great powers have deteriorated further at a time when humanity and the planet face an array of profound and pressing common challenges that can only be addressed by international cooperation,” SIPRI board chairman and former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said.

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Dozens of migrants die in truck in Texas

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

More than 40 migrants were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in Texas State of the United States on Monday, reports said.

Sixteen other people found inside the trailer were taken to hospital for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, Reuters reported citing the fire department of the San Antonio city where the truck was found.

Officials also said three people were arrested following the incident.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter and said the local consulate was en route to the scene, though the nationalities of the victims had not been confirmed.

There have been a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, which has sparked criticism of the immigration policies of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 250 km from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 39.4 degrees Celsius on Monday with high humidity.

In July 2017, ten migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The driver was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.

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G-7 leaders set to commit to long haul in backing Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers are set to commit themselves to the long haul in supporting Ukraine as they meet in the German Alps and confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The G-7 leaders will begin Monday’s session of their three-day summit with a focus on Ukraine. Later, they will be joined by the leaders of five democratic emerging economies — India, Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina — for a discussion on climate change, energy and other issues, AP reported.

The war in Ukraine was already at the forefront of the G-7 leaders’ minds as they opened their summit at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel on Sunday — just as Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time in weeks.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G-7 would splinter, but we haven’t and we’re not going to.” Britain’s Boris Johnson warned the leaders not to give in to “fatigue.”

On Monday, they have the opportunity to demonstrate that unity to Zelenskyy and reaffirm their commitment to supporting Kyiv financially and otherwise, AP reported.

Biden hopes to use his trip to Europe to proclaim the unity of the coalition pressing to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as much as he is urging allies to do even more — seeking to counter doubts about its endurance as the war grinds into its fifth month.

The summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said last week that he wants to discuss the outlines of a “Marshall plan for Ukraine” with his G-7 counterparts, referring to the U.S.-sponsored plan that helped revive European economies after World War II.

With the war still in progress and destruction mounting by the day, it’s unlikely to be a detailed plan at this stage. Scholz has said that “rebuilding Ukraine will be a task for generations.”

The G-7 already is committed to help finance Ukraine’s immediate needs. Finance ministers from the group last month agreed to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to help Kyiv keep basic services functioning and prevent tight finances from hindering its defense against Russian forces, AP reported.

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G7 nations announce Russia gold ban as summit starts under shadow of war

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Members of the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Sunday announced a ban on imports of Russian gold as the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps kicked off under the shadow of the war in Ukraine and consequences ranging from energy shortages to a food crisis.

The move by Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada is part of efforts to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow and cut off its means of financing the invasion of Ukraine more than four months into a conflict Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a special military operation, Reuters reported.

“The measures we have announced today will directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

“We need to starve the Putin regime of its funding. The UK and our allies are doing just that.”

A senior U.S. administration representative said the G7 would make an official announcement on the gold import ban on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

“This is a key export, a key source of revenue for Russia in terms of their ability to transact with the global financial system,” the U.S. official said.

Russian gold exports were worth $15.45 billion last year and wealthy Russians have been buying bullion to reduce the financial impact of Western sanctions, the British government said.

As well as the gold import ban, G7 leaders were also having “really constructive” talks on a possible price cap on Russian oil imports, a German government source said.

The three-day summit takes place against an even darker backdrop than last year, when British, Canadian, French, German, Italian, Japanese and U.S. leaders met for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soaring global energy and food prices are hitting economic growth in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, with the United Nations warning of an “unprecedented global hunger crisis”.

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