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17 dead in southern Ukraine strikes after Russia quits Snake Island

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared surging diplomatic tensions to the Cold War

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17 dead in southern Ukraine strikes after Russia quits Snake Island
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Kyiv: At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded Friday in missile strikes on Ukraine’s Odessa region, a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion. 

The news came after NATO leaders wrapped up a summit in Madrid, with US President Joe Biden announcing $800 million in new weapons for Ukraine.

“We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance are going to stick with Ukraine, as long as it takes to make sure they are not defeated by Russia,” he said.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared surging diplomatic tensions to the Cold War, telling reporters: “As far as an Iron Curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending… The process has begun.”

There was a glimmer of hope however, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited Moscow on Thursday after a trip to Kyiv, said he had given Russian President Vladimir Putin a message from their Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Neither side has revealed what was in the note.

Hours after the summit ended, missiles were fired at an apartment building and recreation centre in the southern region of Odessa, a strategic flashpoint that is home to Ukraine’s historic port city of the same name. 

The nine-storey apartment building was partially destroyed, leaving 14 people dead and 30 wounded, including several children, the emergency services said. 

Three people, including a child, were killed and one wounded in the attack on the recreation centre, they said. 

The strikes, in the Bilgorod-Dnistrovsky district, were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea, said Odessa military administration spokesman Sergiy Bratchuk.

“The worst case scenario played out and two strategic aircraft came to the Odessa region,” he said in a TV interview, adding they had fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles. 

Bratchuk urged people not to post online information about the rescue operation. 

‘Goodwill gesture’ -

The early Friday strikes came a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on Snake Island, off the coast of Odessa.

The island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, when the rocky outcrop’s defenders told a Russian warship to “go f*ck yourself” after it called on them to surrender – an incident that spurred a defiant meme.

It was also a strategic target, sitting aside shipping lanes near the port of Odessa. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones.

The decision to abandon Snake Island “changes the situation in the Black Sea considerably,” Zelensky said in his daily address Thursday.

“It does not yet guarantee security. It does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupiers.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited Snake Island as he warned the Russian president that any eventual peace deal would be on Ukraine’s terms.

“We’ve seen what Ukraine can do to drive the Russians back. We’ve seen what they did around Kyiv and Kharkiv, now on Snake Island,” Johnson said.

The Russian defence ministry statement described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports from Ukraine.

But Ukraine officials claimed it as a win.

“They always downplay their defeats this way,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but Russia’s invasion has damaged farmland and seen Ukraine’s ports seized, razed or blockaded – threatening grain importers in Africa with famine.

Western powers have accused Putin of using the trapped harvest as a weapon to increase pressure on the international community, and Russia has been accused of stealing grain. 

‘Direct threat’

On Thursday, a ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain sailed from Ukraine’s occupied port of Berdyansk, said the regional leader appointed by the Russian occupation forces.

Evgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Moscow administration, said Russia’s Black Sea ships “are ensuring the security” of the journey, adding that the port had been de-mined.

Separately, the Russian defence ministry said its forces are holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war who have been captured since the February 24 invasion.

The conflict in Ukraine dominated the NATO summit in Madrid this week, as the alliance officially invited Sweden and Finland to join, and Biden announced new deployments of US troops, ships and planes to Europe.

Russian missiles continued to rain down elsewhere in Ukraine and a United Nations official said Thursday that 16 million people in Ukraine were in need of humanitarian aid. 

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, rescuers found the bodies of seven civilians in the rubble of a destroyed building, emergency services said. 

The city of Lysychansk in the eastern Donbas region – the current focus of Russia’s offensive – is also facing sustained bombardment.

The situation in Lysychansk – the last major city the Russians need to take over in the Lugansk region – was “extremely difficult” with relentless shelling making it impossible to evacuate civilians, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said. 

“There is a lot of shelling… The Russian army is approaching from different directions,” he said in a video posted on Telegram. 

SOURCE: AFP

Pakistan

PM Shehbaz Sharif orders immediate formulation of agricultural reforms plan within two days

The recommendations were presented including both short and long-term plans

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PM Shehbaz Sharif orders immediate formulation of agricultural reforms plan within two days

Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday directed the authorities concerned to formulate an emergency agricultural reforms plan within two days to facilitate the farmers and uplift the sector. 

The prime minister, who was presented the recommendations of eight sub-committees of different relevant sectors, said the reforms plan should be based on the recommendations of the said sub-committees. 

The prime minister, while chairing a high-level meeting, said he would announce a comprehensive agricultural reforms plan very soon to achieve prosperity of the farmers, enhance agricultural production and reduce input prices.

The recommendations presented to the prime minister included both short and long-term plans.

The prime minister resolved that the government would provide facilities to the farmers on emergency basis including low-cost seeds and fertilizers.

The meeting resolved that the companies selling substandard seeds and pesticides would be done away with and that the relevant institutions would be facilitated the introduction of quality seeds.

The prime minister said the government would also provide modern equipment and facilitate the process of loans.

Moreover, the silos would be constructed to help the farmers store wheat and agricultural produces.

The prime minister also called for measures to enhance per acre yield before the cotton sowing season and ensure the provision of subsidies to the farmers on the agriculture inputs.

He asked the authorities concerned to keep into consideration the impacts of climate change, during the formulation of agricultural reforms.

Moreover, he also called for running an awareness campaign to acquaint the farmers with modern agricultural methods.

The sub committees constituted on the subjects including wheat, cotton, edible oil, fertilizers, agricultural research, usage of water, climate change and agricultural equipment briefed the prime minister.

At the meeting, the recommendations were presented on the yield of wheat, cotton and edible oil, provision of modern machinery on reduced rates, subsidy on urea and DAP, expected production and import, quality seeds, better utility of water and timely provision of loans to the farmers. 

Federal ministers Tariq Bashir Cheema, Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Miftah Ismail, Special Assistants to PM Ahad Cheema and Muhammad Jahanzeb and senior officers attended the meeting.

The secretaries of agriculture of all provinces also joined the meeting through video link. 

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Pakistan

PM directs to speed-up relief operations in flood-affected areas immediately

"50000 rupees should be provided immediately to each victim's family"

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PM directs to speed-up relief operations in flood-affected areas immediately

Islamabad: Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has directed NDMA, PDMA, and the provincial government to speed up relief operations in the flood-affected areas immediately.

According to PM Office, Shehbaz Sharif said the first priority in a flood situation is the rescue of the affected people and their immediate assistance.

He also directed that 50000 rupees should be provided immediately to each victim's family.

The Prime Minister directed for immediate provision of accommodation, medical facilities, food, and clean drinking water to the victims.

He expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives and properties due to floods in southern Sindh.

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Pakistan

New aircraft being inducted into PIA to improve performance, Senate told

The house will now meet tomorrow at 10:30 am.

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New aircraft being inducted into PIA to improve performance, Senate told

Islamabad: Minister for Aviation Khawaja Saad Rafique says new aircraft are being inducted into the PIA to improve its performance.

Speaking in the Senate on Thursday, he said there is no proposal under consideration to sell out the assets of the national flag carrier.

Saad Rafique said it is our effort to operationalize this year about three hundred rooms of Hotel Roosevelt. He said we want to enter into a joint venture for the complete revival of this hotel which will help bring revenue to the country.

The Minister for Railways and Aviation said one hundred and thirty four kilometers rail track of the Sibi-Harnai-Khost section has been completed. He said we have to install a bridge on this section. However, operationalization of this section is linked with the security situation.

Minister of State for Law Shahadat Awan assured the house during question hour that the present government has initiated strict action against illegal housing societies.

He said those who hoodwinked the masses will not be spared and they will land in prisons.He said cases of illegal housing societies are before the NAB and FIA. He said a campaign has also been started to create awareness amongst masses about these illegal housing societies.

The Minister of State told the house that Pakistanis enjoy visa free access to forty six countries. He said efforts are afoot to further improve the image of Pakistan in the world.

Shahadat Awan further informed that the Korang Bridge project on Islamabad Expressway will be completed by the end of this year.

Minister of State for Law said the contract for the project was awarded in September 2020. However, the contractor slow down work on the project due to price escalation in construction material. He said the contract has now been assigned to Frontier Works Organization.

Responding to another question, the Minister of State for Law said beggary has been reduced to a great extent in the federal capital territory. He said two anti-beggary squads have been established to apprehend the beggars. He said the patrolling system within Islamabad has been revamped and SHOs of all the police stations have been strictly directed to utilize their mobiles as well as staff from Rescue 15 to curb this menace.

Shahadat Awan said action has also been taken against the gang leaders of beggars. Cases have been registered against them and they have also been sentenced.

The Minister of State said the government has also established shelter homes in the federal capital for the poor and needy people. He said there are also centers for rehabilitation of women and children.

Responding to points raised by the opposition leader Shahzad Wasim, Leader of House in the Senate Azam Nazeer Tarar said it was the PTI government which victimized political opponents during its tenure. He said a case was registered against Shehbaz Gill as per the law for inciting mutiny in a state institution.

Assuring there will be no custodial torture of the PTI leader, he, however said nobody can be allowed to escape investigation and that the law will take its course in the case.

The house will now meet tomorrow at 10:30 am.

 

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