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Pentagon’s New High-Tech Deal with Australia, Britain, Aims to Counter China

From underwater drones to electronic warfare, the U.S. is expanding its high-tech military cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom as part of a broader effort to counter China’s rapidly growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defense chiefs from Australia and the United Kingdom at the U.S. military’s defense technology hub in Silicon Valley on Friday to forge a new agreement to increase technology cooperation and information sharing. The goal, according to a joint statement, is to be able to better address global security challenges, ensure each can defend against rapidly evolving threats and to “contribute to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”

Austin met with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Grant Shapps, the British secretary of state for defense, at the Defense Innovation Unit headquarters.

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Austin said the effort will, for example, rapidly accelerate the sophistication of the drone systems, and prove that “we are stronger together.”

The new technology agreement is the next step in a widening military cooperation with Australia that was first announced in 2021. The three nations have laid out plans for the so-called AUKUS partnership to help equip Australia with a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is an acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Under the deal, Australia will buy three Virginia-class submarines from the United States and build five of a new AUKUS-class submarine in cooperation with Britain. The subs, powered by U.S. nuclear technology, would not carry nuclear weapons and would be built in Adelaide, Australia with the first one finished around 2040.

Marles said there has been an enormous amount of progress in the submarine program. He added that as an island nation, Australia has a need for improved maritime drones and precision strike capabilities.

And Shapps said that with China “undermining the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, we’ve never had a greater need for more innovation.” He said that open navigation of the seas, including in the Pacific and the South China Sea is critical.

According to officials, Australian Navy officers have already started to go through nuclear power training at U.S. military schools.

Also, earlier this year the U.S. announced it would expand its military industrial base by helping Australia manufacture guided missiles and rockets for both countries within two years. Under that agreement, they would cooperate on Australia’s production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems by 2025.

The enhanced cooperation between the nations has been driven by growing concerns about China’s burgeoning defense spending and rapidly expanding military presence in the region. Last year Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands and raised the prospect of a Chinese naval base being established there.

The U.S. has increased U.S. troop presence, military exercises and other activities in the region. U.S. relations with China have been strained in recent years, over trade, U.S. support for self-governing Taiwan, Beijing’s military buildup on a series of manmade islands, and a numbers of aggressive aircraft and ship encounters.

High-tech demonstrations were set up across a large parking area at DIU and inside the headquarters, allowing Austin to take a few minutes before the start of the meeting to see a number of projects being developed, including a virtual training device that will help Ukrainian pilots learn to fly F-16 fighter jets and swarming drones being developed for warfighters. The projects aren’t tied to the Australian agreement, but reflect the ongoing effort by the three nations to improve technology — an area where China often has the lead.

As Austin walked through the exhibits, he was able to watch a swarm of five drones lift off from the pavement and hover over the onlookers — all controlled by a single worker with a small handheld module. The short range reconnaissance drones — called the Skydio X2D — are already in use in combat, but the swarming technology and ability to control them all from a single device is still in development, said Skydio CEO Adam Bry.

Inside the DIU offices, Air Force Maj. Alex Horn demonstrated a new portable, pilot training module that will allow instructors in the United States to remotely coach trainees overseas using a virtual reality headset. Four of the so-called “Immersive Training Devices” will be delivered to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona next month and will be used to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.

Horn said the devices, which are cheaper than other systems, will help accelerate the training for Ukrainian pilots who are used to flying Soviet aircraft and need schooling on F-16 basics before moving to cockpit training.

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Finland Closes Russian Border Over Migrant Influx; Estonia May Follow

Finland has closed its entire 1,340 kilometer-long border with Russia after accusing Moscow of “instrumentalizing” asylum-seekers by sending them across the frontier in a hybrid attack, in retaliation for Finland’s joining of NATO. Russia denied the accusation and warned that the deployment of any military units at the border would be seen as a threat by Moscow.

The Finnish Border Guard said more than 900 asylum-seekers from countries including Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entered Finland from Russia in the month of November. Previously, the rate was less than one per day.

The Finnish government responded by closing all but one of the official border crossings in mid-November. On Thursday, Finland closed the last remaining crossing, at Raja-Jooseppi, inside the Arctic Circle, sealing off the entire frontier for at least the next two weeks.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said his country would not accept Russian interference.

“Instrumentalized migration from Russia has continued. I would like to stress that it is not just the number of arrivals that is at issue, but the phenomenon itself,” Orpo said at a news conference Thursday.

“In recent days, there has been a growing understanding that this is an organized activity, not a genuine emergency. … We don’t accept any attempt to undermine our national security.”

Russia is clearly trying to weaponize migration, said analyst Charly Salonius-Pasternak of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

“There are interviews [with migrants] saying that some of these people have been given an option: Either go to the front in Ukraine, or then jump in a bus or military truck, be driven up to the Arctic Circle or further north, and then be forced to buy a bicycle and try to get across,” he told VOA. “So, it’s very structured how the Russian authorities have done this.”

Russia’s actions are seen as retaliation for Finland’s joining of NATO in April following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Its membership of the alliance ended decades of nonalignment.

“Finland is considered by Russia to be a hostile state,” Salonius-Pasternak said. “And as we’re seeing through this weaponization of people and flows, it is actively trying to destabilize Finland and maybe cause other kinds of havoc. It hasn’t succeeded yet, but clearly there’s some intent here.”

The head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Jacek Siewiera, wrote on the social media site X on Tuesday that his country would send military advisers to Finland in response to “an official request for allied support in the face of a hybrid attack on the Finnish border.” Finland said it had no knowledge of the offer.

Poland accused Belarus of sending tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to their shared border in 2021, creating a humanitarian crisis. Belarus is a close ally of Moscow.

Russia denies accusations that it is driving the migrant flows to the Finnish border.

“There is no threat there, in reality there is no tension,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Reuters Thursday. “Tension may actually arise during the concentration of additional units on our border, because the Finns must be clearly aware that this will pose a threat to us.”

There are concerns in Finland that some migrants may try to cross the border illegally, risking their lives. Dozens of migrants died on the Belarus-Poland border in 2021, prompting accusations that Europe was turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.

“It’s been down to minus-25 [degrees Celsius]. It will go there again. It’s supremely inhospitable to anyone seeking to cross the border,” said analyst Salonius-Pasternak. “So there is this fear — will we start seeing video or pictures of people just having frozen in the wilderness?”

Estonia said Thursday it was also ready to close its border with Russia if there is a big influx of migrants. The government warned its citizens against traveling to Russia in case they are unable to return.

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Снайпери воювали за «дорогу життя» до Бахмута: в СБУ вперше розкрили деталі

Очільник СБУ підкреслив, що більшість снайперів ЦСО «А» є чемпіонами світу зі снайпінгу. Вони виконують «найскладніші» завдання під час війни

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США прагнуть дати Україні «більше зброї», але потрібне рішення Конгресу – Кірбі

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Spanish Police Arrest Man Wanted by US in North Korean Crypto Case 

Spanish police said Friday that they had arrested a Spaniard wanted by U.S. officials for working with an American to provide cryptocurrency and blockchain technology services to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions against the rogue state.

In a statement, Spanish police said they had arrested Alejandro Cao de Benos, 48, in Madrid on Thursday as he got off a train from Barcelona. He appeared before a judge Friday and was then released, pending the formal extradition process.

The U.S. Justice Department, in April of last year, indicted Cao de Benos along with British citizen Christopher Emms, then 30, accusing them of conspiring with a third man, U.S. cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith, to provide North Korea with training in the technology — in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Griffith was arrested and pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to 63 months in prison in April 2022. Emms remains at large.

According to a Justice Department statement following the indictments, Emms allegedly told North Korean officials the cryptocurrency technology they were offering to advise them on would have “made it ‘possible to transfer money across any country in the world, regardless of what sanctions or any penalties’ ” might be in place. In effect, they could evade U.S. sanctions.

If tried and convicted, Cao de Benos could face 20 years in prison. The extradition process, which the Justice Department must initiate and Spanish courts and officials must approve, could take months to complete.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse. 

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Зустріч щодо імплементації формули миру: Єрмак розповів про результати

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Chad’s Opposition, Civil Society Ask French Troops to Leave

Chad’s opposition and civil society groups are asking France to immediately withdraw troops who arrived in Chad after being ordered to depart neighboring Niger by that country’s military junta.

Ordjei Abderahim Chaha, president of the opposition party Rally for Justice and Equality, said Thursday that military ruler Mahamat Idriss Deby has failed to heed calls to ask French troops to leave.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital, N’Djamena, Chaha said he believes Deby wants French troops to keep Chad’s military junta in power by intimidating or cracking down on civilians who are ready to protest should Deby fail to hand power to civilian rule by November 2024 as agreed.

Opposition and civil society groups have asked Deby to ensure some 1,000 French troops already stationed in Chad — plus those who have arrived from Niger — leave the central African state no later than December 28, Chaha said.

All colonial-era agreements and newly negotiated deals between France and Chad should be canceled, he said, adding that citizens are fed up with France’s overbearing influence in many African nations.

Deby, a general in Chad’s army, was proclaimed head of an 18-month transitional council on April 21 to replace his late father, Idriss Deby Itno, who had run Chad as a dictator for 30 years.

Opposition and civil society groups say Deby cannot be trusted because he failed to hand power to a civilian government in October 2022 as agreed and instead extended the transition period by two years.

Deby insists he will hand power to civilian rule.

The Chadian government says there have been at least six protests against French military presence in Chad this year. In February, there were widespread protests against French troops after civilians accused the foreign military of brutality against civilians.

In early September, a French military medic opened fire and killed a Chadian soldier who reportedly attacked him with a scalpel as he received care in a military base. Anti-French protests then erupted in Faya-Largeau, a northern town, and Chad’s military used live ammunition and injured several people as it struggled to disperse protesters, according to civil society groups.

Koursami Albert, an international affairs lecturer in Chad’s University of N’Djamena, told VOA via a messaging app that civilians are unhappy because French troops restrict or arrest people who come close to their bases — an indication, he said, that the French do not want anyone to know their activities.

He said even Chadian troops are restricted from going near French military bases.

France has always claimed that its troops are in Africa to ensure peace and stability in friendly countries, especially where it was the former colonial power, but people struggle to see what services their troops render, Koursami said.

French troops have not intervened in the communal violence and armed conflicts Chad faces, observers say.

On October 19, Colonel Pierre Gaudillière, spokesperson for the French military, announced that the first convoy of French troops that left Niger by land had arrived in N’Djamena.

France did not disclose the final destination of their forces leaving Niger. Chad said the troops were to leave for Paris via N’Djamena International airport, while their equipment was to transit through the Douala Seaport in neighboring Cameroon.

French President Emmanuel Macron in September promised to pull all 1,500 French troops from Niger and end military cooperation with the landlocked western African country.

Nigerien military leader General Abdourahamane Omar Tchiani and junta supporters accused France of failing to resolve the security crisis that has killed thousands and displaced millions across Niger.

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Уряд схвалив два документи для функціонування Міжнародного реєстру збитків, завданих Росією – Шмигаль

Кабмін схвалив два документи, які сприятимуть функціонуванню Міжнародного реєстру збитків, завданих Росією, повідомив прем’єр-міністр Денис Шмигаль.

«Для легітимної конфіскації заморожених російських активів Україна запропонувала чітку і зрозумілу дорожню карту. Один із ключових елементів – це робота Міжнародного реєстру збитків, який був створений рішенням Ради Європи та працюватиме в Нідерландах. Сьогодні затвердимо два документи, які сприятимуть якісному функціонуванню реєстру», – сказав він на засіданні уряду.

За його словами, Мінцифри та Мін’юст України мають розробити й передати технічні вимоги для створення програмного забезпечення такого реєстру, також Мінцифри має розробити можливість для українців подавати через «Дію» заяви про відшкодування збитків або втрат.

«Другий документ у цьому напрямку – це наші пропозиції щодо класифікації категорій збитків, що підлягають компенсації. Це дозволить системно підійти до передачі всієї інформації про збитки, втрати та шкоду, яку заподіяла Росія як державі Україна, так і кожному з наших громадян та українським юридичним особам», – додав прем’єр.


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Блокування кордону: українські водії наразі не голодуватимуть, польські протестувальники частково пішли на поступки

Українські водії вимагали, щоб учасники блокади пропускали 14 машин на  годину, натомість польські перевізники погодилися лише на 7

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Через російський обстріл Херсонщини поранена людина – ОВА

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Virtual Reality Holograms Could Transform Learning, Arts

Developers at the University of Maryland are using a holographic camera to capture people’s movements in three dimensions for what could be high-impact training, education and entertainment. It is technology with the power to transform how we learn and entertain ourselves. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more. VOA footage by Adam Greenbaum.

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US Lawmakers Say Chinese Disinformation Operations a Growing Threat

US lawmakers warned Thursday that the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to spread disinformation will only increase ahead of the 2024 elections in the United States. As VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports, social media giant TikTok is lawmakers’ top concern.
Camera: Saqib Ui Islam

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Japan Concerned About US Osprey Aircraft Continuing to Fly

Japan’s top government spokesperson expressed concern on Friday that the U.S. military is continuing to fly Osprey aircraft in the country without providing adequate information about a fatal crash this week in southwestern Japan despite repeated requests that it do so.

One crew member was killed and seven others are missing, along with the aircraft. The cause of Wednesday’s crash, which occurred during a training mission, is still under investigation. Search operations widened Friday with additional U.S. military personnel joining the effort, while Japanese coast guard and military ships focused on an undersea search using sonar.

The Pentagon said Thursday that U.S. Ospreys continue to operate in Japan, and Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said she was not aware of an official request from Japan to ground them.

“We are concerned about the continuing Osprey flights despite our repeated requests and the absence of a sufficient explanation about their safety” from the U.S. military, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Friday.

The U.S.-made Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster, like an airplane, during flight.

Ospreys have had a number of crashes, including in Japan, where they are used at U.S. and Japanese military bases, and the latest crash rekindled safety concerns.

Japanese officials say they asked the U.S. military to halt Osprey flights in Japan except for those involved in the search operations.

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said he met with the commander of U.S. Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, on Thursday afternoon and repeated his request that flights be allowed only after the aircraft’s safety is confirmed. He acknowledged that he did not specifically use the words “grounding” or “suspension.”

Kihara said he asked Rupp to explain what measures are being taken for Osprey flights in Japan in response to the crash.

On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and asked the United States “to promptly provide information to the Japanese side.”

U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command said the CV-22B Osprey that crashed was one of six deployed at Yokota Air Base, home to U.S. Forces Japan and the Fifth Air Force, and was assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Wing.

The aircraft had departed from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture and crashed on its way to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japanese officials said.

A total of 44 Ospreys have been deployed at U.S. and Japanese military bases in Japan. In Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are based, Gov. Denny Tamaki called on Japan’s defense and foreign ministries to request the U.S. military to suspend all Osprey flights in Japan, including in search operations.

“It is extremely regrettable that Ospreys are still flying in Okinawa,” Tamaki said in a statement Thursday. “I have serious doubts about Osprey safety even for their search and rescue operations.”

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«Євроінтеграція – це ж не ресторан, коли можеш обрати»: Потураєв про законопроєкт щодо нацменшин

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Росія: суд у Казані продовжив арешт журналістці Радіо Свобода Курмашевій до 5 лютого 2024 року

«Алсу провела 45 днів за ґратами в Росії, і сьогодні її несправедливий, політично мотивований висновок було продовжено»

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Світовий банк затвердив пакет допомоги на 1,2 мільярда доларів для соцвиплат в Україні

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About Half of Nicaragua’s Population Wants to Emigrate, Study Says

Lawyer Isabel Lazo’s jobs are being systematically canceled by Nicaragua’s increasingly repressive government.

Lazo worked at a university before the government of President Daniel Ortega closed it. She now is employed at a nongovernmental organization that she fears will soon be shuttered too.

Nicaragua’s poisonous mix of economic decline and repression has led to about half of the country’s population of 6.2 million saying they want to leave their homeland, according to a new study, and 23% saying they had contemplated the possibility deeply enough to consider themselves “very prepared” to emigrate.

“A large proportion of them have already taken concrete steps to try to get out,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, the director of the AmericasBarometer study “The Pulse of Democracy in the Americas.”

The study, which was released on Wednesday, shows that the number of Nicaraguans wanting to leave rose from 35% five years ago to almost half today, and that about 32% of people in 26 Latin American countries surveyed say they want to migrate.

Lazo, 42, and her husband Guillermo Lazo, 52, a systems engineer, both taught at the University of Northern Nicaragua until the Ortega government shut it down in April. It was one of 26 universities that closed because Ortega accused them of being centers of revolt, or failing to register or pay special taxes to the government, which has feuded with the Roman Catholic church, as well.

The couple lives in the northern city of Somoto, where Isabel Lazo now works for a European-backed NGO. Ortega’s government has outlawed or closed more than 3,000 civic groups and NGOs.

In May, the government ordered the Nicaraguan Red Cross shut down, accusing it of “attacks on peace and stability” during anti-government demonstrations in 2018. The local Red Cross says it just helped treat injured protesters.

Lazo said Thursday she is worried that it’s only a matter of time for the group where she now works.

“This will be ending soon,” she said dispiritedly, The couple is now awaiting a decision on a U.S. application for “humanitarian parole,” a program under which up to 30,000 people are being allowed each month to enter the U.S. from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Until then, there are few prospects for them, even though they are among Nicaragua’s educated elite.

“We were left without jobs from one day to the next,” Lazo said. “And even though we have graduate degrees and master’s degrees, we haven’t found decent jobs. You can kill yourself studying here and it’s worth nothing.”

Thousands have already fled into exile since Nicaraguan security forces violently put down mass anti-government protests in 2018. Ortega says the protests were an attempted coup with foreign backing, aiming for his overthrow.

Rosemary Miranda is another educated Nicaraguan who wants to leave. A psychologist, she graduated from the Jesuit-run University of Central America, also closed and confiscated by the government.

Miranda, 24, works for a microfinancing firm at an office in Managua, the capital, but the $402 per month she earns there doesn’t even cover the cost of commuting, meals and clothing.

“In this country, the majority of people work just to eat. They can’t buy clothing or shoes without waiting a month between purchases,” Miranda said.

She has wanted to emigrate for some time, but she helps her family by giving them some of what little money she earns. With the purchasing power of wages falling, she is now rethinking her decision to stay.

“The situation here is very difficult. Every month the price of food, electricity, water and transportation rises,” she said. “What have I gotten in return for studying so much and graduating?”

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США співпрацюють з Україною, щоб підготуватися до очікуваних атак Росії взимку – Кірбі

«Ми можемо і повинні зробити більше, щоб Україна була в найкращому становищі для захисту себе та своєї енергетичної інфраструктури протягом зими» – Джон Кірбі

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Блінкен закликає Ізраїль створити зони безпеки для цивільного населення в Газі

За його словами, це передбачає визначення районів і місць у південній і центральній частині Гази, де вони «можуть бути в безпеці та поза лінією вогню»

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Фінляндія та Росія розірвали договір про прикордонну співпрацю