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Ukraine War: Russian Tactics on Eastern Front ‘crazy’, Says Zelensky

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian commanders of “craziness” in their efforts to capture the eastern town of Bakhmut.

The town – which sits in the Donetsk region and had a pre-war population of 70,000 – has been the centre of Russian attacks for months.

Despite a looming Ukrainian advance on the key city of Kherson, Mr Zelensky said the attacks continued in force.

Taking the town would be a symbolic victory for Russia.

“This is where the craziness of the Russian command is most evident,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address from Kyiv. “Day after day, for months, they are driving people to their deaths there, concentrating the highest level of artillery strikes.”

Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior advisor to Mr Zelensky, said on one day Russian forces launched eight separate attacks on Bakhmut before lunchtime and had been pushed back on each occasion.

The town sits on a main road leading to the Ukrainian-held cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Analysts say the town has little military value in itself, though if Bakhmut were to fall it would bring other cities back within range of Russian artillery and help change the narrative of a conflict in which Moscow’s forces have been gradually retreating.

Regular Russian troops in the region are reportedly being supported by Wagner paramilitary mercenaries. The group’s founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin is said to want to capture the town as a political prize.

On Sunday, the mercenary chief acknowledged the slow pace of the Russian advance on Bakhmut, saying troops were gaining only “100-200 meters a day”.

“Our units are constantly meeting with the most fierce enemy resistance, and I note that the enemy is well prepared, motivated, and works confidently and harmoniously,” Mr Prigozhin said in a statement published by one of his companies. “This does not prevent our fighters from moving forward, but I cannot comment on how long it will take.”

Despite the intense attacks, Mr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were holding their ground and hailed his troops as “heroes”.

Ukrainian forces also continue to advance in the south towards Kherson, where Russia has ordered civilians to evacuate.

While Mr Zelensky did not offer a direct update on the advance, he said his troops were “strengthening our positions everywhere at the front, reducing the capabilities of the occupiers, destroying their logistics and preparing good news for Ukraine”.

But officials in Kyiv have warned that Russian forces are digging in around the city and intercepted radio reports suggest that newly “mobilised” Russian recruits have been sent there to shore up defences.

Mr Arestovych said on Tuesday that no Russian forces were preparing to withdraw from the city and predicted that “the heaviest of battles is going to take place for Kherson”.

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, said the pace of the advance was being hampered by wet conditions, making the counter-offensive more difficult than the eastern advance that pushed Russian troops rapidly back in September.

Elsewhere, pro-Russian administrators in the eastern Luhansk province said Ukrainian forces had again started to advance in the region. They said heavy fighting is taking place around the towns of Kreminna and Svatove, which fell to Russia earlier this year.

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Original Article: bbc.co.uk

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Three Women Among Dozen Publicly Flogged in Afghanistan – Taliban Official

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Reuters

Twelve people, including three women, have been flogged in front of thousands of onlookers at a football stadium in Afghanistan.

The group were guilty of “moral crimes” including adultery, robbery and gay sex, a Taliban official told the BBC.

This is thought to be the second time in a month the Islamist group has carried out public lashings.

The move could signal a return to the hard-line practices seen in the previous Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Omar Mansoor Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman for Logar region in eastern Afghanistan, where the lashings happened, said that all three women were freed after they were punished. Some of the men were jailed, he said, but it is not clear how many.

The men and women received between 21 and 39 lashes each. The maximum number a person can receive is 39, another Taliban official said.

Nineteen people were also punished last week in a similar flogging in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan, reports say.

The flogging in Logar province comes a week after the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, ordered judges to enforce punishments for certain crimes in line with the group’s strict reading of Islamic Sharia law.

This interpretation of Islamic law includes public executions, public amputations and stoning – although exact crimes and corresponding punishments have not been officially defined by the Taliban.

The supreme leader’s order is the latest sign that the Taliban is taking a tougher stance on rights and freedoms; after promising to rule more moderately when they took power last year.

During their rule from 1996-2001, the Taliban were condemned for regularly carrying out punishments in public, including floggings and executions at the national stadium in Kabul.

The government also vowed that they would not repeat the brutal repression of women; but since the group’s return to rule women’s freedoms have been severely curbed and a number of women have been beaten for demanding rights.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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Ukraine War: Zelensky Denounces Russian ‘terror’ in UN Address

Cassandra Sherman

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Image source, Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “crimes against humanity” after a bombardment caused blackouts across Ukraine.

At least six civilians were killed in the barrage, and officials were forced to shut down three nuclear reactors due to power outages.

Neighbouring Moldova also experienced blackouts, but it was not directly hit.

With winter setting in, Moscow has stepped up strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Officials say Russia’s missile strikes on energy stations has caused “colossal” damage and left more than half of the country’s power grid in need of repair.

Addressing an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council in New York, Mr Zelensky said the latest strikes had forced “millions of people to stay without energy supplies, without heating, without water” as temperatures started to drop below zero.

“That’s the Russian formula of terror,” he told delegates in New York via video link.

On Wednesday, an air-raid alert was issued across Ukraine, followed by reports of explosions in a number of locations – including in the capital Kyiv and in the Western city Lviv.

In the southern Zaporizhzhia region, a newborn baby was killed when a missile hit a maternity unit, emergency services said.

General Valeriy Zaluzhniy – the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces – said 67 cruise missiles were launched by Moscow, with air defences successfully intercepting 51 projectiles.

But the attack has caused significant damage to infrastructure across the country.

In Kyiv, parts of the city were left without water and completely without power. By nightfall Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least 80% of residents remained without power or water.

Most thermal and hydro-electric power plants were forced to shut down as well, Ukraine’s energy ministry said.

Shortly before the fresh reports from Kyiv and Lviv, officials said southern Ukraine had come under renewed assault.

The governor of the Mykolaiv region warned of “many rockets” arriving from the south and east.

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Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov did not comment on the attacks during a visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan, but he pledged that the “future and the success of the special operation (Moscow’s term for its war in Ukraine) are beyond doubt”.

Moscow has said that attacking Ukraine’s power grid could weaken its ability to fight and drive its leaders to the negotiating table.

But French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that such strikes against “civilian infrastructure” constituted a war crime, following similar comments from the US.

Blackouts in Moldova

More than half of Moldova was left without electricity, deputy prime minister Andrei Spinu wrote on Twitter. He said the attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has caused a “massive blackout”.

Within a few hours power was restored in much of the capital, Chisinau, where a third of the Moldovan population lives.

Moldova also experienced widespread power cuts as a result of strikes on Ukraine on 15 November, Mr Spinu said. Mobile networks were also badly affected.

Energy policy analyst Sergiu Tofilat said that because Moldova and Ukraine were connected to the European grid in March, one of the connection points on the power line between Moldova and neighbouring Romania shut down automatically if Ukraine was hit to protect the system: “We reconnect once Ukraine has assessed the damage.”

In response to the outages, Moldovan President Maia Sandu said Russia had “left Moldova in the dark”.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine kills people, destroys residential blocks and energy infrastructure with missiles…” she wrote on Facebook. “But the electricity supply can be restored. We will solve the technical problems and we will have light again. All state institutions are working in this direction.”

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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G20: Xi Accuses Trudeau of Leaks to Media About China-Canada Relations

Cassandra Sherman

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China’s Xi Jinping has been filmed accusing Justin Trudeau of leaking meeting details, days after they held talks at the G20 summit in Bali.

President Xi told the Canadian PM, via a translator, this was inappropriate and accused him of lacking “sincerity”.

He was likely referring to reports that Mr Trudeau discussed alleged Chinese espionage and interference in Canadian elections at the sit down.

The talks, which happened behind closed doors, were the pair’s first in years.

In the footage, filmed by journalists at the now finished gathering of world leaders, President Xi and Mr Trudeau can be seen standing close to each other and conversing via a translator.

“Everything we discussed has been leaked to the papers and that is not appropriate,” the Chinese leader told Mr Trudeau in Mandarin.

It captures a rare candid moment of President Xi, whose image is normally carefully curated by Chinese state media.

After smiling and nodding his head, the Canadian PM responded by saying “in Canada we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have”.

“We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we disagree on,” he added.

Before Mr Trudeau could finish, President Xi cut his counterpart off and asked that he first “create the conditions” – eventually shaking Trudeau’s hand and walking away.

The short but revealing exchange highlighted tensions between China and Canada, running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were later released.

But tensions recently resurged following the arrest of Yuesheng Wang, a public utility worker at Hydro-Quebec, who was charged with espionage.

Mr Wang “obtained trade secrets to benefit the People’s Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” Canadian police said in a statement.

At the time, Mr Trudeau and President Xi were at the G20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

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