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Ukraine’s president vows to stay put as Russian invaders approach

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2022)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed on Friday to stay in Kyiv as his troops battled Russian invaders advancing toward the capital in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two, Reuters reported.

Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea on Thursday following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin. An estimated 100,000 people fled as explosions and gunfire rocked major cities. Dozens have been reported killed.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States. Russian troops seized the Chernobyl former nuclear power plant north of Kyiv as they advanced along the shortest route to Kyiv from Belarus to the north.

“(The) enemy has marked me down as the number one target,” Zelenskiy warned in a video message as heavy fighting was reported on multiple fronts. “My family is the number two target. They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of state.”

“I will stay in the capital. My family is also in Ukraine.”

According to Reuters Putin says Russia is carrying out “a special military operation” to stop the Ukrainian government from committing genocide against its own people – an accusation the West calls baseless. He also says Ukraine is an illegitimate state whose lands historically belong to Russia.

Asked if he was worried about Zelenskiy’s safety, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS: “To the best of my knowledge, President Zelenskiy remains in Ukraine at his post, and of course we’re concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine – government officials and others.”

SANCTIONS BUILD

A democratic nation of 44 million people, Ukraine voted for independence at the fall of the Soviet Union and has recently stepped up efforts to join the NATO military alliance and the European Union, aspirations that infuriate Moscow, Reuters reported.

The United States, Britain, Japan, Canada, Australia and the EU unveiled more sanctions on Moscow on top of penalties earlier this week, including a move by Germany to halt an $11 billion gas pipeline from Russia.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the bloc’s measures as “the harshest package of sanctions we have ever implemented”.

China came under pressure over its refusal to call Russia’s assault an invasion, read the report.

U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House, said: “Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.” He declined to comment directly on China’s position.

Russia is one of the world’s biggest energy producers, and both it and Ukraine are among the top exporters of grain. War and sanctions will disrupt economies around the world.

According to Reuters oil prices soared as much as $2 per barrel on Friday as markets brace for the impact of trade sanctions on major crude exporter Russia.

U.S. wheat futures hit their highest in nearly 14 years, corn hovered near an eight-month peak and soybeans rebounded on fears of grain supply disruptions from the key Black Sea region.

Airlines were also facing disruptions, with Japan Airlines (9201.T) cancelling its Thursday evening flight to Moscow and Britain closing its airspace to Russian carriers.

MILITARY ADVANCES

Zelenskiy said 137 military personnel and civilians had been killed in the fighting, with hundreds wounded. Ukrainian officials had earlier reported at least 70 people killed.

Ukrainian forces downed an aircraft over Kyiv early on Friday, which then crashed into a residential building and set it on fire, said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister. It was unclear if the aircraft was manned, read the report.

A missile hit a Ukrainian border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhya, killing and wounding some guards, the border guard service said.

The United States and other NATO members have sent military aid to Ukraine but there is no move to send troops for fear of sparking a wider European conflict.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded for “more weapons to continue fighting … the amount of tanks, armoured vehicles, airplanes, helicopters that Russia threw on Ukraine is unimaginable”.

Some 90 km (60 miles) north of Kyiv, Chernobyl was taken over by forces without identifying marks who disarmed a Ukrainian military unit guarding the station, Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator said, Reuters reported.

It said there had been no casualties, that nothing had been destroyed and that radiation levels were unchanged. It informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had lost control of the plant.

The U.N. Security Council will vote on Friday on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia’s invasion and require Moscow’s immediate withdrawal.

However, Moscow can veto the measure, and it was unclear how China would vote.

World

Five Chinese citizens killed in California shooting – consulate

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2023)

Five Chinese citizens were among the victims in a shooting in the California town of Half Moon Bay, Reuters quoted the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco said.

The Half Moon Bay shooting on Monday, in which seven people died, was the second of two gun rampages in California in recent days in which a total of 18 people were killed.

“The Consulate General is in communication with the relevant U.S. authorities to follow up on the progress of the investigation,” a spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the Consulate General strongly condemned the violence.

Chunli Zhao, a Chinese citizen and 66-year-old immigrant farm worker, was the lone suspect in the massacre at two mushroom farms in the northern California seaside town, read the report.

He was formally presented with seven counts of murder and a single count of attempted murder during his first court appearance in nearby Redwood City on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

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Israeli troops kill 7 Palestinian gunmen, 2 civilians in Jenin clash

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2023)

Israeli commandos killed seven gunmen and two civilians in a raid on a flashpoint town in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian officials said, stirring fear of further flare-ups after the largest single death toll in years of fighting, Reuters reported.

The Palestinian Authority said it was ending its security coordination with Israel, which is widely credited with helping to keep order in the West Bank and preventing attacks against Israel. It has frozen the cooperation numerous times in a sign of protest.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation, though he ordered security forces “to prepare for all scenarios in the various sectors”.

U.N. and Arab mediators spoke with Israel and Palestinian factions to try to keep the clash in Jenin, among areas of the West Bank that have seen intensified Israeli operations, from sparking a broader confrontation.

Israel’s military said it sent special forces into Jenin to detain members of the Islamic Jihad armed group suspected of having carried out and planning “multiple major terror attacks”, shooting several of them after they opened fire.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank next week to discuss the situation, read the report.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that more than 20 people were injured in the Israeli counterterrorism operation and there was an “urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.”

Islamic Jihad said two of its men died battling the unusually deep raid on Jenin’s refugee camp, a militant bastion. Four slain gunmen were claimed by Hamas, another by an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction.

The two other dead were a civilian man and woman, local residents said.

“We consider that security coordination with the Israeli occupation government no longer exists as of now,” the Palestinian leadership who gathered to discuss Jenin said in a statement.

Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, said they were pushing to calm tensions and that the security coordination should be deepened, not cut.

The United Arab Emirates, China and France have asked the U.N. Security Council to meet behind closed doors on Friday over the violence, diplomats said.

According to Reuters during the three-hour clash, gunfire echoed through the camp’s cramped alleys, as well as occasional explosions from improvised bombs set off by militants. Youths pelted army vehicles with rocks. There were no Israeli casualties.

After the troops withdrew and the smoke and tear gas cleared, civilians who had kept away streamed into the camp to check on casualties. A two-storey building that had been the focus of the fighting was heavily damaged.

Separately, a Palestinian was killed during a clash with Israeli security officers in the city of Ramallah, Palestinian health officials said. A spokesperson for Israel’s border police was not reachable for comment on the report, read the report.

Violence has surged since a series of lethal Palestinian street attacks in Israel in March and April. The attendant diplomatic stalemate has helped rally Palestinian support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which refuse coexistence with Israel – where Netanyahu’s new hard-right government includes members opposed to Palestinian statehood.

An Islamic Jihad official told Reuters the group had told international mediators to warn Israel that the Jenin violence “could spread everywhere”. Deputy Hamas chief Saleh Al-Arouri said in a statement that an armed response “will not take long”.

Tor Wennesland, a U.N. mediator, said on Twitter that he was “actively engaged with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm and avoid further conflict”.

Israeli officials gave no public indication they were in truce talks. Lauding Israeli forces on the Jenin raid, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said: “Any terrorist who tries to harm our personnel should know that his blood is forfeit.”

According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 30 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since Jan. 1.

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At least one dead, several injured in machete attack at southern Spain churches

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

Spanish authorities said they were investigating what they called a possible “terrorist” incident after a machete-wielding man attacked several people at two churches in the southern port city of Algeciras, killing at least one person, Reuters reported.

The man attacked clergymen at two different churches – San Isidro and Nuestra Senora de La Palma, around 300 metres (1,000 feet) apart – just after 8pm on Wednesday evening in downtown Algeciras, a spokesperson for the city said. A source at Madrid’s High Court said the incident was being investigated as terrorism.

Police said the attacker had been arrested, and a police source shared footage showing two officers escorting a man in a hooded sports top in handcuffs through a police station. Police have not released details of his name or nationality. Local media, including El Pais newspaper, said he was a 25-year-old Moroccan.

According to Reuters the man who was killed was Diego Valencia, a sacristan at the Nuestra Senora de La Palma church, while the titular priest of the parish church of San Isidro, Antonio Rodriguez, was among the injured and is in serious condition, the Algeciras city spokesperson said.

An unknown number of others were also injured. El Mundo newspaper reported that four people were hurt in the attack.

Police said the suspect first entered the San Isidro church and attacked Rodriguez. A statement by the Algeciras Salesians said Rodriguez, 74, had been celebrating Eucharist when he was attacked, read the report.

The assailant then went into the Nuestra Senora de La Palma church where he damaged property before attacking Valencia, who fled the church but was chased by the suspect, who inflicted further, fatal injuries on him outside, police said in a statement.

The parish priest at Nuestra Senora de La Palma, Juan Jose Marina, told broadcaster SER the suspect went straight for Valencia after the mass had finished, suggesting he might have believed Valencia was the priest.

“Possibly, this death was meant for me and it found him instead,” said a tearful Marina.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed his condolences to the victims of the “terrible attack” on his Twitter account, while the secretary general of Spain’s Episcopal Conference, Francisco Garcia, spoke of his “great pain” on hearing the news.

“These are sad times of suffering, we are united by the pain of the victims’ families and for the Cadiz Diocese,” he said on Twitter.

Jose Ignacio Landaluce, the mayor of Algeciras, has declared a day of mourning in the city for Thursday and a rally outside Nuestra Senora de La Palma church at midday, Reuters reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, two people were killed and several others injured when a 33-year-old stateless Palestinian man attacked them with a knife on a regional train travelling between Kiel and Hamburg in northern Germany, authorities said.

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