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Pentagon chief rings Russian counterpart, urges 'immediate' Ukraine ceasefire

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the call, saying the two sides discussed current international security issues, "including the situation in Ukraine"

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Pentagon chief rings Russian counterpart, urges 'immediate' Ukraine ceasefire
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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine Friday in talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, but their first call since the war began resolved no immediate issues, the Pentagon said.

Shoigu spoke with Austin at the Pentagon chief's request for about an hour, their first direct discussion since February 18, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

"Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the call, saying the two sides discussed current international security issues, "including the situation in Ukraine."

No other details were offered officially by either side, but a senior US defense official dampened expectations that any progress was made on the war situation beyond the reopening of a crucial line of communication between Moscow and Washington.

"The call itself didn't specifically solve any acute issues or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or what they are saying," the official said.

The official added that the US call for a ceasefire was not a change in US policy toward the war, even as Washington has said it wants to support Ukraine with arms and funding in a longer effort to weaken the Russian military.

"Our call for a ceasefire is very much in line with what other allies and partners want to see happen," the official said.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently urged the two sides to negotiate a settlement.

On Friday German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations, according to his office.

Scholz called for a ceasefire "as soon as possible to improve the humanitarian situation and make progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict," his office said.

The call also came as Finland and Sweden have expressed the desire to join the NATO defense alliance, a direct consequence of Russia's attack on Ukraine, which is not part of NATO.

Neither side would say whether NATO's expansion, which Russia has opposed, was discussed in the defense chiefs' call.

At the UN Security Council Friday, the United States branded as "ludicrous" Russian allegations that the US government had run a secret biological and chemical weapons program in Ukraine.

The allegations "are categorically false and ludicrous," said US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills.

The defense chiefs' conversation came as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle along a long front line in eastern and southern Ukraine, with the Pentagon maintaining that Russia is weeks behind goals set in its war plan.

The Pentagon official said the Russians are "not making any major gains in the Donbas" region where the fighting is heaviest.

"Ukrainian artillery is frustrating Russian efforts to make much ground," the official said.

But Moscow has shown no indication of pulling back and is believed by Western intelligence to want to take control of a wide swath of southern Ukraine stretching along the Black Sea to Moldova.

SOURCE: AFP

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

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Imran Khan condoles deceased PTI worker Ahmed Jan's family in Mardan

"Syed Ahmed is a martyr of Azadi March"

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Imran Khan condoles deceased PTI worker Ahmed Jan's family in Mardan

Mardan: Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan offered condolence to the family of deceased PTI worker Syed Ahmed Jan.

According to details, Chairman PTI Imran Khan arrived in Mardan on a short visit. Imran Khan has expressed his condolences to the family of Syed Ahmed Jan, a worker who lost his life in a PTI rally yesterday.

Imran Khan said that Syed Ahmed is a martyr of Azadi March and with the sacrifice of people, real freedom is achieved.

He said that Allah has given the highest status to the martyrs. "Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and I will take full care of the family of Ahmad Jan", Imran Khan added.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood and other party leaders also accompanied Imran Khan.

On Thursday, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan offered condolences to the families of two deceased workers of the party.

Taking to Twitter, Imran Khan said that two PTI workers were martyred including Faisal Abbas Chaudhry from Lahore and Syed Ahmed Jan from Mardan.

PTI Chairman claimed the two workers were martyred as a result of Punjab police violence during PTI’s peaceful ‘Azadi March’.

Imran Khan said PTI will take full financial responsibility for the bereaved families.

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Pakistan

PM Shehbaz Sharif to address nation today

New prices include Petrol 179.86 rupees per liter, High-Speed Diesel 174.15, Kerosene 155.56 and Light Diesel 148.31 rupees per liter.

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PM Shehbaz Sharif to address nation today

Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will address the nation today amid the country's current economic situation.

In his address, the Prime Minister will take the nation into confidence over the difficult economic situation of the country while he will also discuss the facts regarding the rising prices of petroleum products.

Sources said that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif will brief the nation on the future plan of action. He is also expected to announce a relief package.

It is pertinent to mention that the federal government has decided to raise the prices of petroleum products by 30 rupees per litre, with the hike set to go into effect at midnight tonight.

This was announced by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail while addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Thursday night.

He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has taken this difficult decision in the larger interest of national economy.  He said that it is a hard decision for the government to impose such kind of burden on general public.

The Minister said that new prices include Petrol 179.86 rupees per liter, High-Speed Diesel 174.15, Kerosene 155.56 and Light Diesel 148.31 rupees per liter.

He said the government is providing 56 rupees per liter subsidy on petroleum products as the previous government had fixed these prices which caused to increase in inflation in the country.

Miftah Ismail said that IMF Program cannot be approved for Pakistan without an increase in petroleum prices.

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Pakistan

Law Minister Tarar dispels impression of depriving overseas Pakistanis of right to vote

"Recent legislation is only aimed at enabling the Election Commission of Pakistan to devise a strategy to ensure the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis"

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Law Minister Tarar dispels impression of depriving overseas Pakistanis of right to vote

Islamabad: Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar has dispelled the impression that the government is going to deprive overseas Pakistanis of the right to vote.

Talking to the media, along with PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi and Senator Kamran Murtaza in Islamabad on Friday, he said overseas Pakistanis are a precious asset of the country and we cannot deprive them of their right to vote.

He said recent legislation is only aimed at enabling the Election Commission of Pakistan to devise a strategy to ensure the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis in a transparent manner.

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