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U.S. gives Ukraine $800 million more in military aid, adds heavy weapons

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2022)

U.S. President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, expanding the scope of the systems provided to include heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The package, which brings the total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than $2.5 billion, includes artillery systems, artillery rounds, armored personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defense boats, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying equipment provided to Ukraine “has been critical” as it confronts the invasion.

“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden said in a written statement.

According to Reuters the new package includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters that had been earmarked for Afghanistan before the U.S.-backed government collapsed last year. It also includes 18 155mm howitzers, along with 40,000 artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, 200 armored personnel carriers and 300 additional “Switchblade” drones.

This was the first time howitzers have been provided to Ukraine by the United States, read the report.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the systems, like the howitzers and radars, will require additional training for Ukrainian forces not accustomed to using American military equipment.

“We’re aware of the clock and we know time is not our friend,” Kirby said when asked about the speed of deliveries.

The new aid – first reported by Reuters on Tuesday – will be funded using Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

John Spencer, a retired U.S. Army major and expert on urban warfare at the Madison Policy Forum, said he was excited to see that the United States was sending artillery and artillery rounds.

“You need these bigger, more powerful weapons … to match what Russia is bringing to try to take eastern Ukraine,” Spencer said.

As news of the latest security assistance came out, executives from the top U.S. weapons makers met with Pentagon officials to discuss the industrial challenges in the event of a protracted Ukraine conflict, Reuters reported.

These included executives from BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L), General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII.N), L3Harris Technologies (LHX.N), Boeing Co (BA.N), Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said the discussion “focused primarily on accelerating production and building more capacity across the industrial base for weapons and equipment that can be exported rapidly, deployed with minimal training, and prove effective in the battlefield.”

Zelenskiy has been pleading with U.S. and European leaders to provide heavier arms and equipment. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the seven-week-long invasion, Reuters reported.

Russia has been unable to achieve most of its military goals as Ukrainians have put up a fiercer-than-expected resistance, read the report.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it views as dangerous nationalists, but Ukraine and the West say Russia began an unprovoked war of aggression.

According to Reuters on Wednesday, Russia said it had taken control of the southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol and that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered.

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Two killed, 14 wounded in Norway nightclub shooting

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

Two people were killed and 14 injured on Saturday in a shooting at a nightclub and in nearby streets Norway’s capital Oslo, according to reports.

A suspect believed to be the sole perpetrator was arrested, police said.

The crime scene extended from the London Pub via a neighbouring club and onwards to a nearby street where the suspect was apprehended a few minutes after the shooting began in the early hours of Saturday, police spokesman Tore Barstad told newspaper Aftenposten.

The London Pub is a popular gay bar and nightclub in the centre of Oslo.

“I saw a man arrive with a bag, he picked up a gun and started to shoot,” journalist Olav Roenneberg of public broadcaster NRK reported.

The motive behind the attack was not immediately clear.

Oslo is due to hold its annual Pride parade later on Saturday, just months after Norway marked 50 years since the abolition of a law that criminalised gay sex.

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Pakistan’s central banks tells staff to work from home to save fuel

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(Last Updated On: June 23, 2022)

Pakistan’s central bank asked its employees to work from home two days a week and hold more virtual meetings as the country looks to conserve fuel and ensure it doesn’t run out of US dollars, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

In a Twitter message on Thursday, State Bank of Pakistan told its staff to opt for virtual meetings, car pooling and cutting down on air-conditioning. It also suspended purchases of furniture and restricted travel.

“These measures are intended to help with the energy bill while not compromising work,” the authority said.

“We encourage the banking industry and other stakeholders to save energy as much as possible.”

Pakistan’s government has already ordered shopping malls and factories to shut early in various cities including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and cut the working week by a day.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration has increased pump prices by as much as 83 percent in less than a month as he tries to curb subsidies and win a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg reported.

The south Asian nation’s energy needs are largely met through imports and in July-May, its total petroleum import bill increased by 99 percent, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ data.

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Rwanda’s president urges other countries to follow UK migrant deal

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2022)

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said Tuesday that a controversial deal with Britain to take in migrants could be extended to other countries as the asylum system is “broken.”

Kagame, who is to host the Commonwealth summit in Kigali this week, said he believed the British deal could still go ahead despite being blocked by the European Court of Human Rights, AFP reported.

Britain has wanted to send some migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda, in a proposal criticized by the UN refugee agency, rights groups and British church leaders.

Earlier this month, the first flight carrying asylum seekers was canceled following a European court ruling, AFP reported.

But Rwanda’s president told the Qatar Economic Forum: “I think the agreement is still on and may be implemented as well.”

Kagame said Rwanda has been hosting more than 100,000 refugees for decades, “so we are not new to this problem.”

“In fact most Rwandans have experienced being a refugee at some point in their lives. We know what it means and we are doing this for the right reasons.”

Kagame highlighted his country’s experience in giving “safe haven” to more than 1,000 people from Libya with help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The arrangement with the UK is really connected to that experience. There is no doubt that the asylum system is broken and it needs innovative solutions and we are happy to be contributing to those solutions.”

He added that when Britain approached Rwanda, “we talked about it, we looked at all the merits and thought it was something we could try to help out on as we have done in the past.”

Kagame said the model could be used with other countries, AFP reported.

“We need to try something new. What has been in place has not worked very well and that is why people are complaining about all kinds of things and we are seeing increased migration.”

“We need to really take a new look at the problem.”

Kagame said other solutions were possible but insisted “the problem has been running for a long time and hasn’t been sorted out.”

Rwanda will host the Commonwealth summit on Friday and Saturday, and Kagame praised the 54-nation group.

He said it helps “direct attention to challenges” facing smaller, developing countries, and that there would be “meaningful” meetings at the summit.

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