Russia said on Saturday (March 19) that it had used hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles to destroy a large weapons depot in Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
Russia’s Interfax news agency said it was the first time Russia had deployed the hypersonic Kinzhal system since it sent its troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that the underground depot hit by the Kinzhal system on Friday housed Ukrainian missiles and aircraft ammunition, according to a recording of the briefing shared by Russian news agencies.
Reuters was not able to independently verify Konashenkov’s statements.
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia prides itself on its advanced weaponry, and President Vladimir Putin said in December that Russia was the global leader in hypersonic missiles, whose speed, maneuverability and altitude make them difficult to track and intercept.
The Kinzhal missiles are part of an array of weapons unveiled in 2018.
Konashenkov added on Saturday that Russian forces had also destroyed military radio and reconnaissance centers near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa using the Bastion coastal missile system.
Moscow refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to weaken its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and Western countries have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96
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.
Pakistan suicide blast targeting police kills 3, wounds 28
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.
China likely to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon
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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