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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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Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan says party will quit all assemblies

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(Last Updated On: November 27, 2022)

Pakistan’s former prime minister and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan announced late Saturday that his party has decided to quit all legislative assemblies in the country in a bid to force the incumbent rulers to announce early elections.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune reportedthat Khan, 70, said he discussed the matter of stepping down from all legislative assemblies with the chief ministers and the final decision will be announced after the party’s parliamentary party meeting.

“Instead of causing harm to our country, it is better to leave this corrupt system,” he said.

Khan also said that the party’s long march to Islamabad will also stop as he does not want chaos and anarchy to grip the country.

“They [the government] cannot afford the Islamabad march… they cannot stop millions from entering Islamabad. We could have created a Sri Lanka-like situation,” he said, addressing his party’s gathering in Rawalpindi on Saturday.

“If riots take place then things will get out of everyone’s hands. I tried my best not to take any step which could create chaos in the country,” he added.

“Today I am deciding against marching on Islamabad because we don’t want to spread anarchy in the country,” he announced. “We will not remain part of this corrupt system. We have decided to quit all legislative assemblies.”

This comes after Khan was shot in the leg at a rally earlier this month.

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Kim Jong Un says N. Korea aims to have the world’s strongest nuclear force

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(Last Updated On: November 27, 2022)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country’s intends to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force as he promoted dozens of military officers involved in the recent launch of a new ballistic missile, state media reported on Sunday.

The announcement comes after Kim inspected a Nov. 18 test of the Hwasong-17, North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and pledged to counter what he called US nuclear threats, Reuters reported.

North Korea’s “ultimate goal is to possess the world’s most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century,” Kim said in the order promoting the officers, adding that building up the country’s nuclear capabilities would reliably protect the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people.

He described the Hwasong-17 as the “world’s strongest strategic weapon” and said it demonstrated North Korea’s resolve and ability to eventually build the world’s strongest army, read the report.

According to Reuters North Korean scientists have made a “wonderful leap forward in the development of the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles,” and were expected to expand and strengthen the country’s nuclear deterrent capabilities at an extraordinarily rapid pace, Kim was also quoted as saying.

Kim was pictured in photos posing with scientists, engineers and military officials involved in the test.

According to state media, those workers pledged to defend the “absolute authority” of the party and Kim, and vowed that “our missiles will fly vigorously only in the direction indicated” by Kim.

Capable of reaching the US mainland, the launch of the Hwasong-17 prompted the United States to call for a United Nations Security Council presidential statement to hold North Korea accountable for its missile tests, which are banned by Security Council resolutions, read the report.

State media also showed Kim Jong Un’s daughter accompanying him as he reviewed the officers. Her unexpected first appearance at the Hwasong-17 test has raised the prospect that leadership of the totalitarian state could pass to a fourth generation of Kims.

North Korea’s powerful Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly awarded the Hwasong-17 missile the title of “DPRK Hero and Gold Star Medal and Order of National Flag 1st Class”, state news agency KCNA reported in another statement, using the initials of the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“(The missile) clearly proved before the world that the DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear power capable of standing against the nuclear supremacy of the U.S. imperialists and fully demonstrated its might as the most powerful ICBM state,” KCNA said.

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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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