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Russia warns of nuclear, hypersonic deployment if Sweden, Finland join NATO

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(Last Updated On: April 15, 2022)

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in a European exclave.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-km border with Russia, and Sweden are considering joining the NATO alliance. Finland will decide in the next few weeks, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that should Sweden and Finland join NATO then Russia would have to strengthen its land, naval and air forces in the Baltic Sea, Reuters reported.

Medvedev also explicitly raised the nuclear threat by saying that there could be no more talk of a “nuclear free” Baltic – where Russia has its Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

“There can be no more talk of any nuclear–free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” said Medvedev, who was Russian president from 2008 to 2012.

Medvedev said he hoped Finland and Sweden would see sense. If not, he said, they would have to live with nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles close to home, Reuters reported.

When asked how Washington views the potential addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO in light of Russia’s warning, the U.S. State Department said there was no change in Washington’s position and repeated that “NATO’s open door is an open door.”

“Without speaking to any countries in particular, we would not be concerned that the expansion of a defensive alliance would do anything other than promote stability on the European continent,” Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing.

Russia has the world’s biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads and along with China and the United States is one of the global leaders in hypersonic missile technology.

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Death toll from Indonesian earthquake rises to 310

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

The death toll from this week’s earthquake that shook Indonesia’s main island of Java has risen to 310, the country’s national disaster mitigation agency said on Friday.

Monday’s earthquake triggered landslides, collapsed roofs and walls and buried victims in mounds of earth.

The agency’s chief Suharyanto, who goes by one name, said 24 people are still missing in the West Java town of Cianjur.

On Wednesday, a six-year-old boy, Azka, was rescued alive from the rubble – a rescue that was described as a “miracle” after he survived more than two days without food or water.

Heavy rain and potentially deadly aftershocks have hampered the rescue effort.

Henri Alfiandi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told RTE: “The problems are the unstable soil, the thickness of the landslide pile aggravated by continuous rain, and the concerns of aftershocks.”

He said the emergency period for the search and rescue effort would last a week until Monday and authorities would evaluate if it needed to be extended if all the missing had not been found.

Many of those killed in the quake were children, some in classes at school, according to officials.

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Pakistan appoints former spy as new army chief

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2022)

Pakistan’s former spy chief, Lt. Gen. Asim Munir, was on Thursday named Pakistan’s new army chief after months of speculation.

Munir was approved by Pakistani President Arif Alvi after being nominated for the post by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

He replaces Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retires next week. The job is widely seen as Pakistan’s most powerful government posting.

Munir is the country’s most senior general and closely aligned with Bajwa. He was picked from a list of six candidates.

Once he takes office, Munir will oversee relations between neighboring India and Afghanistan.

He takes over as the country continues to deal with the fallout of devastating floods during its most recent monsoon season. More than 1,300 people died within a few weeks of the start of monsoon season while millions have been displaced.

Pakistan is also in the midst of an economic crisis, coping with soaring inflation.

Though technically separate, the position of army chief often wields significant political power in Pakistan. The army has seized power three times in Pakistan’s history and directly ruled the country for almost four decades.

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Indonesian child rescued from earthquake rubble after two days

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2022)

A six-year-old boy was rescued on Wednesday night from the rubble of Monday’s deadly earthquake in Indonesia in what has been described as a miracle rescue.

The boy, who was trapped under rubble without food or water, was pulled out alive by emotional rescue workers.

“Once we realized Azka was alive everybody broke into tears, including me,” 28-year-old local volunteer Jeksen told AFP on Thursday.

“It was very moving, it felt like a miracle.”

Video showed rescue workers pulling the boy Azka free from a destroyed home in Cianjur’s worst-hit district of Cugenang, wearing the blue shirt and trousers he had on when he became trapped.

The man who pulled him out of a hole cut in the debris clasped him in both arms, as another rescue worker in an orange hard hat ran after them to hold the boy’s hand, footage released by the administration of West Java’s Bogor district showed.

Azka — who like many Indonesians goes by one name — was then shown calmly sipping a drink, held by a soldier as another emergency worker stroked his hair.

His mother died in the earthquake and her body was found hours before Azka’s rescue, a volunteer told AFP on Thursday.

The boy was then found next to his dead grandmother, Jeksen said.

“We didn’t expect him to still be alive after 48 hours, if we knew we would have tried harder the night before,” he said.

“For all the years since I became a volunteer, I’ve never seen anything like this. How can you not cry?”

At least 271 people died in Monday’s quake and authorities have warned that time is running out to find survivors.

“Today for the search and rescue operation we deployed 6,000 people. It was raining but we keep searching,” said Suharyanto, head of the national disaster mitigation agency, or BNPB.

“Please pray for us so the 40 missing people could be found.”

Authorities are continuing to search for dozens who remain buried under debris, including a missing seven-year-old girl.

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