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European Gas Deals at Risk as Qatar Corruption Scandal Deepens 

The corruption scandal at the European Parliament deepened this week as officials said they would seek to lift immunity on two more lawmakers accused of taking bribes from Qatar.

The Gulf state has warned that the investigation could impact economic ties between Europe and Qatar, a key emerging supplier of energy to the EU as it tries to reduce reliance on Russia.

Andrea Cozzolino, an Italian member of the European Parliament, and his Belgian colleague, Marc Tarabella, are the latest suspects in a corruption scandal that has rocked Brussels. Both men deny taking bribes from Qatar.

Following a yearlong investigation, Belgian police last month raided offices and homes linked to current and former members of the European Parliament. They discovered around $1.6 million in cash.

Police said nearly $158,000 was discovered inside the home of Greek MEP Eva Kaili, one of 14 vice presidents of the parliament. She is accused of taking bribes from Qatar.

“The purpose of the bribery was to favor this Gulf country in the economic, financial and political decisions of the European Parliament,” Eric van Duyse, a spokesperson for the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters December 13.

Qatar links

The European Parliament voted last month to strip Kaili of her role as vice president.

In November, following a visit to Qatar ahead of its hosting of the FIFA World Cup, Kaili spoke strongly in favor of the Gulf state during a debate with other European lawmakers, accusing its critics of hypocrisy.

“Today the World Cup in Qatar is a proof actually of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historical transformation of the country, with reforms that inspired the Arab world. I alone said that Qatar is a front-runner in labor rights,” Kaili said November 21.

“[Qatar] committed to a vision by choice and they opened to the world. Still, some here are calling to discriminate [against] them — they bully them and they accuse everyone that talks to them or engages [with them] of corruption. But still they take their gas,” she added.

Kaili’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, an Italian parliamentary assistant, is also accused of involvement in the bribery allegations. It’s reported that police found $789,000 in his hotel room, stashed in a suitcase. Both Kaili and Giorgi deny the accusations and are being held in custody pending the investigation.

An Italian former member of the European Parliament, Pier Antonio Panzeri, and an Italian lobbyist named as Niccolo Figa-Talamanca are also being investigated by Belgian police. They also deny the accusations.

Visa deal

There are growing demands for recent policy decisions on Qatar to be re-examined in the wake of the bribery allegations, said Andre Wolf of the Berlin-based Centre for European Policy, an expert on EU-Qatar relations.

“In the last couple of months, there was a legislative procedure regarding the liberalization of visas for citizens of Qatar to Europe, to the EU, and apparently [Qatar] tried to exert influence on the decision-making regarding this legislation,” Wolf told VOA. “This legislation has already been passed. It has been suspended now as a consequence of the ongoing investigation.”

Qatar denies trying to bribe EU officials. It has warned that relations with Europe are at risk.


Gas shortage

Germany and Belgium are among European nations that have signed deals to buy Qatari liquified natural gas, or LNG, as the bloc tries to wean itself off Russian energy in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement, the Qatari mission to the EU said last month, “The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction that limits dialogue and cooperation on Qatar before the legal process has ended will negatively affect regional and global security cooperation, as well as discussions around global energy.”

Analyst Wolf said the timing of the scandal was delicate. “Qatar, with its developed infrastructure and its relative proximity to Europe, will be an important player and will be ever more important for overall gas imports to Europe,” he said.

World Cup

Wolf added that Qatar was angered by European criticism of its human rights and equality laws during its hosting of last month’s World Cup.

“It also affected, I think, some rather deeply rooted issues related to culture and religion, which should better not be blended with the World Cup or other political issues. But I think the bilateral relations can overcome this period because it’s in both their interests to cooperate,” he told VOA.

The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, warned last month that the criminal proceedings were damaging trust in the EU. “Trust that has taken years to build but only moments to destroy will need to be rebuilt, and this work starts now,” Metsola said.

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Білорусь: Лукашенко підписав закон про позбавлення громадянства за екстремізм

Білоруського громадянства, згідно з формулюванням закону, можна буде позбавляти навіть тих осіб, які не мають іншого паспорта

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European Gas Deals at Risk as Qatar Corruption Scandal Deepens

The corruption scandal at the European Parliament deepened this week as officials said they would seek to lift the immunity of two more lawmakers accused of taking bribes from the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. As Henry Ridgwell reports, the investigation could impact economic ties between Europe and Qatar, a key supplier of energy.

Posted by Ukrap on

Зеленський: Кремль використовує перепочинок, щоб продовжити війну

Раніше аналогічну з Зеленським оцінку ідей Путіна дали інші представники його адміністрації, а також президент США Джо Байден

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Путіну потрібна пауза – Байден про російський заклик до перемирʼя в Україні

«Він, Путін, був готовий бомбити лікарні, дитячі садки та церкви» і 25 грудня, і на Новий рік, сказав президент США

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In Photos: Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Mourners pour into St. Peter’s Square for the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to pay their final respects to the German theologian who made history by retiring and to participate in a rare requiem Mass for a dead pontiff presided over by a living one, The Associated Press reports.

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US, Turkey Target Financial Network Linked to Islamic State, US Treasury Says

The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday it was taking joint action with Turkey against a network it said played a key role in money management, transfer and distribution for the Islamic State group operating in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has frozen the assets of members to the network, who also were added to the U.S. sanctions list, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Those sanctioned included an Iraqi national living illegally in Turkey, Brukan al-Khatuni, his two sons, and two businesses they used to transfer money on behalf оf the Islamic State between Turkey, Iraq and Syria, it said.

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Путін доручив Шойгу встановити «різдвяне перемир’я»

Раніше сьогодні патріарх РПЦ Кирило закликав до «різдвяного перемир’я»

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Співпраця Росії та Ірану може загрожувати не лише Україні, а й США – Білий дім

У Білому домі констатують: ми продовжуємо спостерігати поглиблення відносин у сфері оборони між Іраном і Росією

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Білорусь планує провести спільні з Росією авіаційні навчання

У Міноборони Білорусі також кажуть, що на територію країни продовжать прибувати особовий склад, озброєння та військова техніка збройних сил РФ

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Nate Thayer, Journalist who Interviewed Pol Pot, Dead at 62

Nate Thayer, the larger-than-life American freelance journalist who scored a massive scoop with his 1997 interview with Pol Pot, the genocidal leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, has died at 62, his family said Wednesday.   

Thayer was discovered dead by his brother Rob Thayer at his Falmouth, Massachusetts home Tuesday.   

“He had a lot of ailments, he was seriously ill for many months,” the brother told AFP.   

Nate Thayer spent years reporting on Cambodia politics and society, including the Khmer Rouge, the brutal communist regime that left more than one million people dead between 1975 and 1979.   

Beginning in 1989, he worked for The Associated Press, and then publications like the Phnom Penh Post and the Far Eastern Economic Review, building contacts in the dangerous jungle border region of Thailand and Cambodia.   

With his shaven head, chewing tobacco and handiness with guns, he gained a reputation as a gonzo journalist, setting out on crazy adventures, like traveling with a well-armed reporting team from Soldier of Fortune magazine into eastern Cambodia in search of a likely extinct forest ox called a kouprey.   

In the wild west frontier of Thailand and Cambodia, he braved firefights and was severely injured by a landmine in 1989 while riding with Cambodian guerillas.   

His work paid off in 1997 when he sent a cryptic message to Far Eastern Economic Review editor Nayan Chanda that he would interview “uncle,” or Pol Pot, whom no journalist had met for two decades.   

From Thailand Thayer slipped into Pol Pot’s Anlong Veng jungle redoubt, beating out a New York Times team that had arrived near the border thinking they would see the shadowy Cambodian.   

Days later, he broke the story in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Pol Pot, blamed for murdering over a million people, told him: “Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.”   

Chanda attributed his journalistic success to a distinct “doggedness.”   

“He was very intense, very focused on the story he was working on, almost like a force of nature,” Chanda said.   

“He actually knew quite a few of the Khmer Rouge. … Nobody else spent as much time pursuing those guys, going to dangerous places, being with them in a firefight,” he added.   

A year later Thayer scooped others with Pol Pot’s death and an interview with the one-legged Khmer Rouge army commander and Pol Pot rival Ta Mok.   

But by then he was embroiled in a fight with ABC News’ Nightline program over its use of his video footage and reporting on the Khmer Rouge, which Thayer said violated their agreement.   

Thayer rejected a prestigious Peabody Award which cited him as a correspondent for Nightline, and the two sides later settled his suit.   

The son of a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, Thayer spent most of his career focused on Asia, reporting from combat situations like the Myanmar border and investigating North Korea.   

He also traveled to Iraq to report on the 2003 U.S. invasion.   

He won a number of journalism awards, including the ICIJ Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting, and was proud of being a freelancer, calling for more respect and better pay for reporters not employed full-time.   

Slowed by the long-term ailments, some dating to his injuries from the mine explosion, in the past decade Thayer reported online on right-wing extremism from Washington and Massachusetts.   

With his health failing, he spent his final months posting poetic odes to his “best pal,” his dog Lamont. 

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Pope Benedict to be Buried Under St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis presided at the funeral of former Pope Benedict on Thursday, delivering a homily comparing his predecessor to Jesus before tens of thousands of mourners in St. Peter’s Square.

To the sound of tolling bells, 12 pallbearers had carried the wooden coffin holding Benedict’s remains out of St. Peter’s Basilica and placed it on the ground before the largest church in Christendom.

Applause broke out across the vast cobbled esplanade,  in a sign of respect for Benedict, a hero to Roman Catholic conservatives who shocked the world by resigning nearly a decade ago.

Francis arrived in the square in a wheelchair. Troubled by a bad knee, the pontiff sat in a chair looking down on the coffin, slightly hunched and glum-faced as choirs sang in Latin.

In his homily read from the same spot, Francis used more than a dozen biblical references and church writings in which he appeared to compare Benedict to Jesus, including his last word before he died on the cross: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Francis also referred to Benedict indirectly in paraphrases of other biblical references to Jesus, including “love means being ready to suffer” and that the congregation was “commending our brother into the hands of the father.”

Also referring to Benedict during the Mass concelebrated by 125 cardinals, 200 bishops and about 3,700 priests, Francis spoke of “wisdom, tenderness and devotion that he bestowed upon us over the years.”

He mentioned Benedict by name only once, in the last line, saying: “Benedict, faithful friend of the bridegroom, (Jesus) may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”

Clergy from around the world, a handful of heads of state and thousands of faithful attended the ceremony as the sun slowly broke through the fog.

More than 1,000 Italian security personnel were called up to help safeguard the event, and air space around the tiny Holy See has been closed off for the day. Italy ordered flags around the country be flown at half staff.

Left his mark

People from all over the world, many from Benedict’s native Germany, began arriving the dark of the night to say farewell to Benedict.

“Even though at our age we were just children when he was pope, he left his mark,” Xavier Mora, 24, a Spaniard who is studying for the priesthood in Rome, told Reuters as he approached the square with two other seminarians.

“We have been studying his theology for three years, and even though we did not know him personally, we have great affection and esteem for him,” he said.

About 200,000 people filed past Benedict’s body while it was lying in state until Wednesday evening.

An account of Benedict’s papacy, along with other items, including Vatican coins minted during his reign, was also tucked into the coffin.

The account of his life and papacy, written in Latin, says he “fought with firmness” against sexual abuse by clergy in the church.

While many leading figures have praised Benedict since his death, criticism has also been aired, including by victims of clergy sexual abuse, who have accused him of seeking to protect the church at all costs.

After the funeral ceremony, the coffin will be taken back inside the basilica and encased in zinc before being sealed in a wooden casket.

Because Benedict was no longer a head of state when he died, only two countries, Italy and his native Germany, sent official delegations Thursday.

Francis himself has made clear that he would not hesitate to step down some day if his mental or physical health prevented him from carrying out his duties, but Vatican officials always doubted he could do this while Benedict was still alive.

Even though Benedict largely avoided public appearances in subsequent years, he remained a standard-bearer for Catholic conservatives, who felt alienated by reforms ushered in by Francis, including cracking down on the old Latin Mass.

At his request, Benedict will be buried later Thursday in the underground Vatican grottoes in the niche where first Pope John XXIII and then John Paul II were interred before their remains were transferred to more prominent places in the basilica above.

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Thousands Gather in St. Peter’s Square for the Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Mourners poured into St. Peter’s Square early Thursday for the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to pay their final respects to the German theologian who made history by retiring and to participate in a rare requiem Mass for a dead pontiff presided over by a living one.

Thick fog shrouded the Vatican before dawn as police manned metal detectors and barricades and herded well-wishers into the square. Heads of state and royalty, clergy from around the world and thousands of faithful are flocking to the Vatican, despite Benedict’s requests for simplicity and official efforts to keep the first funeral for an pope emeritus in modern times low-key.

Many hailed from Benedict’s native Bavaria and donned traditional dress, including boiled wool coats to guard against the morning chill.

“We came to pay homage to Benedict and wanted to be here today to say goodbye,” said Raymond Mainar, who traveled from a small village east of Munich for the funeral. “He was a very good pope.”

The former Joseph Ratzinger, who died December 31 at age 95, is considered one of the 20th century’s greatest theologians and spent his lifetime upholding church doctrine. But he will go down in history for a singular, revolutionary act that changed the future of the papacy: He retired, the first pope in six centuries to do so.

Pope Francis has praised Benedict’s courage to step aside, saying it “opened the door” to other popes doing the same. Francis, for his part, recently said he has already left written instructions outlining the conditions in which he too would resign.

Francis was due to preside over the funeral, which authorities estimated some 100,000 would attend, higher than an original estimate of 60,000, Italian media reported, citing police security plans.

Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, but other heads of state and government took the Vatican up on its offer and come in their “private capacity.” They included several other heads of state, at least four prime ministers and two delegations of royal representatives.

Early Thursday the Vatican released the official history of Benedict’s life, a short document in Latin that was placed in a metal cylinder in his coffin before it was sealed, along with the coins and medallions minted during his papacy and his pallium stoles.

The document gave ample attention to Benedict’s historic resignation and referred to him as “pope emeritus,” citing verbatim the Latin words he uttered on February 11, 2013, when he announced he would retire.

The document, known as a “rogito” or deed, also cited his theological and papal legacy, including his outreach to Anglicans and Jews and his efforts to combat clergy sexual abuse “continually calling the church to conversion, prayer, penance and purification.”

The funeral rite calls for Benedict’s coffin to be carried out from the basilica and placed before the altar as the faithful recite the rosary. The ritual itself is modeled on the code used for dead popes but with some modifications given Benedict was not a reigning pontiff when he died.

After the Mass, Benedict’s cypress coffin was to be placed inside a zinc one, then an outer oak casket before being entombed in the crypt in the grottos underneath St. Peter’s Basilica that once held the tomb of St. John Paul II before it was moved upstairs.

While the ritual is novel, it does have some precedent: In 1802, Pope Pius VII presided over the funeral in St. Peter’s of his predecessor, Pius VI, who had died in exile in France in 1799 as a prisoner of Napoleon.

Some 200,000 paid tribute to Benedict during three days of public viewing in the basilica, with one of the last, Friar Rosario Vitale, spending an hour praying by his body. He said Benedict had given him a special dispensation to begin the process of becoming a priest, which was required because of a physical disability.

“So today I came here to pray on his tomb, on his body and to say ‘thank you’ for my future priesthood, for my ministry,” he said.

Benedict never intended his retirement to last as long as it did — at nearly 10 years it was longer than his eight-year pontificate. And the unprecedented situation of a retired pope living alongside a reigning one prompted calls for protocols to guide future popes emeritus to prevent any confusion about who is really in charge.

During St. John Paul II’s quarter-century as pope, Ratzinger spearheaded a crackdown on dissent as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, taking action against the left-leaning liberation theology that spread in Latin America in the 1970s and against dissenting theologians and nuns who didn’t toe the Vatican’s hard line on matters like sexual morals.

His legacy was marred by the clergy sexual abuse scandal, even though he recognized earlier than most the “filth” of priests who raped children, and actually laid the groundwork for the Holy See to punish them.

As cardinal and pope, he passed sweeping church legislation that resulted in 848 priests being defrocked from 2004-2014, roughly his pontificate with a year on either end. But abuse survivors still held him responsible for the crisis, for failing to sanction any bishop who moved abusers around and identifying him as embodying the clerical system that long protected the institution over victims.

“Any celebration that marks the life of abuse enablers like Benedict must end,” said the main U.S. survivor group SNAP.

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Australia to Buy Long-Range US-Made Missiles

Australia is boosting its long-range strike capability with the purchase of a U.S. missile system, the same long-range military technology Ukraine is using in its war with Russia. 

Australia has signed an agreement to buy 20 High Mobility Artillery Rockets, also known as HIMARS, by 2026. 

Canberra also has a deal to acquire the Norwegian-made Naval Strike Missiles — anti-ship and land-attack missiles — for Australian warships next year. 

The HIMARS system is made in the United States by Lockheed Martin Corp. It has proved its deadly efficiency in the war in Ukraine. On New Year’s Day, Ukrainian forces used the missile system donated by the United States to kill dozens, possibly hundreds of Russian soldiers in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. 

Australian officials have said that HIMARS have a range of 300 kilometers. 

Canberra is also working with Lockheed Martin to make a new generation of missiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers. 

Australian Defense Industry Minister Pat Conroy told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Thursday that the technology will give the military firepower it has never had before. 

“We will have an Army ground-launched missile that can reach targets up to 300 kilometers away.” Conroy said.  

He added that, “We are part of a developmental program with the United States called the Precision Strike Missile that will allow [the] army to hit targets in excess of 499 kilometers. So, this will give the Australian army a strike capability they have never had before.” 

The Naval Strike Missiles are made by Norwegian company Kongsberg. 

They will replace Harpoon anti-ship missiles on the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart-class destroyers and Anzac-class frigates from 2024. 

Australian officials have said both missile systems would help Australian forces “deter conflict and protect our interests.” 

In August 2022, the federal government announced a review of Australia’s defense capabilities. 

The assessment is being carried out by retired Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston and former Defense Minister Stephen Smith. 

They are expected to hand their report to the government next month. 

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The Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict: What to Expect

Pope Francis will preside at a funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Thursday for his predecessor, former Pope Benedict, who died Saturday at 95.

More than 60,000 people are expected to attend. There will be official delegations from Italy and Benedict’s native Germany. Other leaders, including the king and queen of Belgium and the queen of Spain, and about 13 heads of state of state or government, will attend in a private capacity. Most countries will be represented by their ambassadors to the Vatican.

Here is a guide to what is expected to happen:

End of lying in state

Since Monday, the body of the emeritus pope has been lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica, where more than 160,000 people had filed past to pay their respects as of midday Wednesday.

The viewing is due to end at 7 p.m. local time (1800 GMT). The body will then be placed in a coffin made of cypress wood, along with several papal items such as vestments symbolizing his role as pope and bishop, and coins and medals that were minted during his pontificate. Also included will be a lead tube with a deed in Latin listing the key points in his pontificate.

The cypress coffin will be closed privately in the presence of a few close aides, such as Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who was Benedict’s longtime secretary, and other members of the household where he lived after he resigned the papacy in 2013, the first pope to do so in 600 years.

Procession, prayers and Mass

At 8:45 a.m. local time (0745 GMT) Thursday, ushers known as papal gentlemen will carry the coffin in procession out of the basilica and place it on the steps facing St. Peter’s Square. The faithful will pray the rosary for about 45 minutes.

The funeral Mass presided over by Pope Francis is to start at 9:30 a.m. local time (0830 GMT). At first, the pope will sit before the coffin facing the crowd. The Sistine Chapel choir will start its singing with the introductory rites.

The pope will then move to a chair to the side of the altar and preside from there, sitting most of the time because of a knee aliment that impedes him from standing for too long. The celebrant standing at the altar will be Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals.

Francis will deliver the homily at the Mass, which will be con-celebrated by 120 cardinals, 400 bishops and nearly 4,000 priests.

At the end of the Mass, Francis will recite The Final Commendation and Farewell asking God to “console the Church.”

The liturgy for the funeral Mass is based mostly on that for a pope who dies while reigning, with some minor modifications, particularly in a few prayers and readings.

One prayer will include petitions to God for both Benedict and Francis.

Near the end of the Mass, Francis will sprinkle holy water on the coffin and wave incense around it.

He will say in Latin: “Gracious Father, we commend to your mercy Pope Emeritus Benedict, whom you made successor of Peter and shepherd of the Church, a fearless preacher of your word and a faithful minister of the divine mysteries.”

The choir will then sing in Latin: “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come and welcome you and take you into the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.”

Private service and burial

The pallbearers will then carry the cypress coffin back into the basilica for a private service in which it will be sealed and wrapped in ribbons.

It will then be placed into a zinc coffin, which will be soldered shut. Both will then go into a larger, wooden coffin.

Benedict will then be buried according to his wishes in the same spot in the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II was originally interred in 2005 before his body was moved up to a chapel in the basilica in 2011.

The burial will also be a private service. 

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Russia’s Hypersonic Missile-Armed Ship to Patrol Global Seas

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a trans-ocean cruise in a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine.

Russia says the Zircon missile can evade any Western air defenses by flying at an astounding 11,265 kilometer per hour.

Here is a glance at the ship and its weapons.

Pride of the Russian navy

Commissioned by the navy in 2018 following long trials, the Admiral Gorshkov is the first ship in the new series of frigates that were designed to replace the aging Soviet-built destroyers as a key strike component of the Russian navy.

Armed with an array of missiles, the ship is 130 meters long and has a crew of about 200.

In 2019, it circled the world oceans on a 35,000-nautical mile journey.

Intensive tests

The Admiral Gorshkov has served as the main testbed for the Zircon, Russia’s latest hypersonic missile.

In recent years, Zircon has undergone a series of tests, including being launched at various practice targets. The military declared the tests successful, and Zircon officially entered service last fall.

Zircon is intended to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines and could be used against both enemy ships and ground targets. It is one of several hypersonic missiles that Russia has developed.

Putin praises Zircon as ‘unique’

Putin has hailed Zircon as a potent weapon capable of penetrating any existing anti-missile defenses by flying nine times faster than the speed of sound at a range of more than 1,000 kilometers.

Putin has emphasized that Zircon gives the Russian military a long-range conventional strike capability, allowing it to strike any enemy targets with precision.

Russia’s hypersonic weapons drive emerged as the U.S. has been working on its own Conventional Prompt Global Strike capability that envisions hitting an adversary’s strategic targets with precision-guided conventional weapons anywhere in the world within one hour.

Putin heralded Zircon as Russia’s answer to that, claiming that the new weapon has no rival, giving Russia a strategic edge.

Months before ordering the invasion of Ukraine, Putin put the U.S. and its NATO allies on notice when he warned that Russian warships armed with Zircon would give Russia a capability to strike the adversary’s “decision-making centers” within minutes if deployed in neutral waters.

Speaking via video link during Wednesday’s sendoff ceremony, Putin again praised Zircon as a “unique weapon” without an “equivalent for it in any country in the world.”

Other Russian weapons

Russia has commissioned the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles for some of its ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles that constitute part of Russia’s strategic nuclear triad. Putin has hailed Avangard’s ability to maneuver at hypersonic speeds on its approach to target, dodging air defenses.

The Russian military also has deployed the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on its MiG-31 aircraft and used them during the war in Ukraine to strike some priority targets. Kinzhal reportedly has a range of about 1,500 kilometers.

Patrol duty

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin on Wednesday that the Admiral Gorshkov will patrol the Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea but didn’t give further details.

Shoigu said the Admiral Gorshkov’s crew will focus on “countering the threats to Russia, maintaining regional peace and stability jointly with friendly countries.” He added the crew will practice with hypersonic weapons and long-range cruise missiles “in various conditions.”

Some military experts say a single, hypersonic missile-armed warship is no match for the massive naval forces of the U.S. and its allies.

But others noted that the frigate’s potential deployment close to U.S. shores could be part of Putin’s strategy to up the ante in the Ukrainian conflict.

“This is a message to the West that Russia has nuclear-tipped missiles that can easily pierce any missile defenses,” pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov wrote in a commentary.

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Представники США та ЄС відвідають Сербію для послаблення напруженості навколо Косова

«Я вірю в створення кращих відносин зі Сполученими Штатами, ми побачимо, як це піде. Це буде непроста розмова, але я вірю, що ми можемо говорити», – сказав президент Сербії Александар Вучич

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У Польщі росіянина та білоруса звинувачують у роботі на ГРУ

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Розслідувачі назвали імена військових РФ, які є інструкторами з використання іранських дронів

За даними української влади та кількох іноземних розвідок, Іран регулярно постачає Росії дрони-камікадзе, які надалі використовуються для атаки на Україну

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Migrants Crowd Mexico’s Refugee Offices Amid Fears of US Policy Change

Thousands of migrants have flocked to government offices in southern Mexico seeking asylum since the United States said it would keep restrictions used to quickly expel hundreds of thousands of migrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would maintain a pandemic-era measure for expediting expulsions of undocumented migrants to Mexico until it had time to consider Republican arguments against its repeal, which U.S. President Joe Biden said could extend the curbs until at least June.  

Meanwhile, Biden administration officials told Reuters the measure known as Title 42 could soon be applied to more nationalities, including Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians, stirring fears of expulsions and encouraging migrants to seek asylum to safeguard freedom of movement inside Mexico, analysts and officials say. 

Cuban migrant German Ortiz, who is waiting to apply for asylum in the Mexican city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border, wants to make his way quickly to the United States. 

“Once the new law is enforced, they’ll close the road to us,” said Ortiz, who arrived in Tapachula on December 31. “We don’t want to risk it, we must get to the border now.” 

Up to 5,000 in two days

Mexico currently accepts only certain nationalities expelled from the United States, but it is expected to take in more soon under Title 42 as Washington deals with a record 2.2 million migrants arrests at the U.S. southwest border in 2022.  

Title 42 was originally put in place to curb the spread of COVID, but U.S. health authorities have since said it is no longer needed for public health reasons. Immigrant advocates say the policy is inhumane and it exposes vulnerable migrants to serious risks, like kidnapping or assault, in Mexican border towns. 

Andres Ramirez, head of Mexico’s Commission for Refugee Assistance, estimated that up to 5,000 migrants turned up at the Tapachula offices of the commission — known as COMAR — on January 2 and 3, among the largest groups the agency has ever seen in such a short time. Many of the migrants included Haitians and Nicaraguans. 

Ramirez said many migrants seek asylum to obtain documents they believe are necessary to traverse Mexico so they can then go to the U.S.-Mexico border later. Mexico has sought to contain mass movement of migrants toward the U.S. border by breaking up caravans and setting up checkpoints throughout the country. 

Ramirez believed the mass of recent arrivals could be migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti seeking to reach the United States before rules change. 

“They’re trying to run,” he said. 

Migration on agenda

Police in Tapachula and the National Guard erected fences around COMAR offices to block large crowds of migrants, Reuters images show. 

“I’ve been sleeping here since January 1, waiting for them to help me, to give me shelter,” said Mauricio Hilario, a 27-year-old Salvadoran migrant camping outside the COMAR building with dozens of other people, including small children. 

Nearly 400,000 migrants were detained in Mexico through November, twice as many as in 2019, official data show. 

Migration is expected to feature prominently on the agenda when U.S. President Joe Biden meets his Mexican and Canadian counterparts for a leaders’ summit next week in Mexico City. 

Lorena Mena, director of Continente Movil, a think tank specializing in migration issues, said any expansion of Title 42 would likely increase risky migration because traffickers will encourage expelled migrants to keep crossing the border as they have not been officially deported. 

“The fact that people cross borders does not take away their rights, among them, to request asylum,” she added, saying many will try again. 

Some migrants, such as Raquel, a 44-year-old Venezuelan who was selling boiled eggs with salt to pay for a small, shared room in Tapachula, expressed hope the summit could yield a plan that will make it easier to reach the United States. 

“I’d like both countries to help us and give us a chance to get in … legally without having to risk crossing Mexico or turning ourselves in,” she said.