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Hundreds of Ukrainian troops reportedly killed in Russian invasion

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(Last Updated On: February 24, 2022)

Hundreds of Ukrainian troops have reportedly been killed after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion early Thursday.

However, the Ukrainian military has claimed to be fighting back by shooting down planes in the east of the country.

The Ukrainian military claimed they downed five Russian planes and a helicopter in the east of the country near a rebel-held enclave.

“According to the Joint Forces Command, today, February 24, in the area of the Joint Forces operation, five planes and a helicopter of the aggressors were shot down,” a senior military official told AFP.

Airports in the country have meanwhile been temporarily shut down in a bid to prevent potential Russian aircraft landings, while Russia has also closed its own airspace around the border from civilian access for the next four months.

All airspace over Ukraine has also been closed to passenger and cargo flights.

Russia’s defense ministry, however, has denied reports that any of its aircraft have been shot down.

Sky News correspondent Stuart Ramsay said it is ‘possible but unlikely’ that Russian planes have been shot down.

The US embassy in Kyiv meanwhile issued a security alert on Thursday for Americans in Ukraine to take shelter.

“US citizens in Ukraine are advised to shelter in place and take necessary action,” the alert read.

India’s embassy in Kyiv has also advised its nationals in Ukraine to refrain from traveling to the capital.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday tweeted: “I continue negotiations with the leaders. Received support from the Emir of Qatar.”

Earlier he said he had tried to reach Putin but “was met with silence”.

Loud explosions were heard across numerous cities through Thursday morning, including in Kyiv. Citing an “advisor to the Ukrainian interior ministry,” CNN reported that the explosions were from Russian missile strikes.

After an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday night, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded with Putin to stop his troops from attacking.

“I have only one thing to say, from the bottom of my heart. President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine.

“Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died,” he said.

Despite global condemnation of the invasion, Putin continued Thursday with his offensive sending Ukrainians into panic mode.

Visuals from Kyiv showed people standing in long queues outside medical stores and other shops as they tried to stock up on supplies. Visuals of a massive traffic jam, where cars stood motionless, in the center of Kyiv, were also broadcast around the world as terrified residents tried to flee west.

By late morning Kabul time, air raid sirens rang out in Kyiv and emergency TV broadcasts were being aired. Photographs of terrified residents were also distributed on social media showing hundreds taking shelter in the city’s underground metro stations.

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Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Wednesday at the age of 96, Chinese state media reported.

Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukaemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua news agency said, publishing a letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, Cabinet and the military, Reuters reported.

“Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying its announcement was with “profound grief”.

According to Reuters Jiang’s death comes at a tumultuous time in China, where authorities are grappling with rare widespread street protests among residents fed up with heavy-handed COVID-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic.

The zero-COVID policy is a hallmark or President Xi Jinping, who recently secured a third leadership term that cements his place as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and has taken China in an increasingly authoritarian direction since replacing Jiang’s immediate successor, Hu Jintao.

China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-COVID, read the report.

Numerous users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform described the death of Jiang, who remained influential after finally retiring in 2004, as the end of an era.

“I’m very sad, not only for his departure, but also because I really feel that an era is over,” a Henan province-based user wrote.

“As if what has happened wasn’t enough, 2022 tells people in a more brutal way that an era is over,” a Beijing Weibo user posted.

The online pages of state media sites including People’s Daily and Xinhua turned to black and white in mourning, read the report.

Wednesday’s letter described “our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin” as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter.

Jiang was plucked from obscurity to head China’s ruling Communist Party after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.

He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China’s top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he also assumed in 1989.

According to Reuters when Jiang retired, it was said by sources close to the leadership at the time that everywhere Hu looked he would see the supporters of his predecessor.

Jiang had stacked China’s most powerful leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, with his own protégées, many of them from the so-called “Shanghai Gang”.

But in the years after Jiang retired from his final post, the military commission chairmanship in 2004, Hu consolidated his grip, neutralised the Shanghai Gang and successfully anointed Xi as a successor, Reuters reported.

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Pakistan suicide blast targeting police kills 3, wounds 28

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

A suicide bomb blast in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta targeted a police patrol on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 28, police said.

The explosion, claimed by the Pakistani Taliban militant group, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a text message to Reuters, came after the group ended a ceasefire with the government this week.

“A bomb blast that targeted a police patrol wounded more than 30 people, including 15 police,” a police official, Abdul Haq, told Reuters. “Out of them, a policeman, a woman and a child died.”

The patrol had been guarding a polio vaccination team at the time of the suicide blast, he added.

Islamist militants in Pakistan often target polio vaccination teams, in the belief that the immunisation effort is a Western tool to spy on them.

Quetta is the capital of Pakistan’s province of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan and Iran, where both Islamist and separatist insurgents operate.

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China likely to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

China will likely have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 if it continues with its current nuclear buildup pace, according to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The figure underscores mounting US concerns about China’s intentions for its expanding nuclear arsenal, even though the projections do not suggest China is accelerating the pace of its already-brisk warhead development, Reuters reported.

“They’ve got a rapid buildup that is kind of too substantial to keep under wraps,” a senior US defense official said during a news briefing on the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military.

“It does raise questions about whether they’re kind of shifting away from a strategy that was premised on what they referred to as a lean and effective deterrent.”

The report, which primarily covers activities in 2021, said China currently has a nuclear stockpile of more than 400 warheads.

The Pentagon’s projection for China’s nuclear arsenal of 1,000 warheads by 2030 remained unchanged, the official said, adding the projection for 2035 was based on an unchanged pace of expansion.

China says its arsenal is dwarfed by those of the United States and Russia, and that it is ready for dialogue, but only if Washington reduces its nuclear stockpile to China’s level, read the report.

The United States has a stockpile of about 3,700 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,740 were deployed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think-tank.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping signaled during a Communist Party Congress in October that China would strengthen its strategic deterrent, a term often used to describe nuclear weapons.

The report reiterated concern about increasing pressure by Beijing on self-ruled Taiwan, an island China sees as a breakaway province.

The US official said Washington did not see an invasion of Taiwan as imminent, Reuters reported.

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