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Putin warns West of harsh response if it crosses Russia’s ‘red lines’

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(Last Updated On: April 21, 2021)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Wednesday not to cross Russia’s “red lines”, saying Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to any provocations and those responsible would regret it.

At a time of acute crisis in ties with the United States and Europe, with Russian troops massed near Ukraine and opposition leader Alexei Navalny on hunger strike in jail, the Kremlin leader used his state of the nation speech to project a message of Russian strength and defiance in the face of outside threats.

“We want good relations…and really don’t want to burn bridges,” Putin told both houses of parliament.

“But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn down or even blow up these bridges, they should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and harsh.”

Russia would determine where its red line lay in each specific case, he said, comparing those who attack it to hyenas led by a tiger.

His comments came at the climax of a speech dominated by Russia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic hardship. Putin announced new social support measures for families with children ahead of a September parliamentary election.

He adopted a sterner tone when setting out foreign policy.

“In some countries, they have developed a highly unseemly habit of picking on Russia for any reason, and most often for no reason at all – a kind of sport,” said Putin, standing alone on a vast stage flanked by white, blue and red national flags and a backdrop of a giant double-headed eagle.

“Organisers of any provocations that threaten our core security interests will regret what they have done like they’ve never regretted anything for a long time.”

Putin, who is 68 and has dominated Russia for two decades, made no mention of Navalny. The opposition politician is ill in prison after starving himself for three weeks to demand access to his own doctors.

The rouble firmed after Putin’s speech, with markets interpreting it as not escalating tensions with the West.

Recent weeks have seen an intensification of confrontation between Russia and Western countries, which are alarmed by Navalny’s worsening condition and by what they say is the massing of tens of thousands of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Washington last week tightened sanctions on Russia over accusations of computer hacking and election interference, and the Czech Republic accused Moscow of a role in explosions at an arms depot in 2014. Both expelled Russian diplomats. Russia denied wrongdoing and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

Moscow summoned a senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday and said 10 embassy staff it expelled last week had a month to leave and that it would be disclosing the details of other punitive measures it had promised soon.

Tensions are also strained over the fate of Navalny, whose supporters rallied across Russia on Wednesday in his support.

Two of Navalny’s closest allies were arrested on Wednesday, their lawyers said. Lyubov Sobol, one of the faces of Navalny’s popular YouTube channel, and Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman, were both detained in Moscow.

One Navalny aide, Ruslan Shaveddinov, tweeted: “Right now across the whole of Russia they are detaining potential protesters. This is repression. This cannot be accepted. We need to fight this darkness.”

European Council President Charles Michel called the arrests “deplorable” and urged Russian authorities to respect people’s right to assemble.

OVD-Info, a group that monitors protests and detentions, said that nearly 300 people had been detained over the rallies in dozens of different places. The figure was expected to climb.

The Russian government has said the gatherings are illegal. Previous pro-Navalny rallies have been dispersed by force, with thousands of arrests.

Four doctors from outside Russia’s federal prison service visited Navalny on Tuesday and found his health to be satisfactory, Russian human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said.

In his speech, Putin urged all citizens to get vaccinated and predicted that Russia would achieve collective immunity by the autumn.

On the eve of an online climate summit to be hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, Putin also called for tougher “polluter pays” rules and set a goal for Russia to cut its greenhouse gas emissions below those of the European Union in the next 30 years.

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Fighting resumes in Afghanistan after three-day ceasefire ends

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2021)

The Afghan National Army has launched offensives and started clearance operations in the south western parts of the country after the three-day Eid ceasefire ended at midnight Saturday.

The 215th Maiwand Military Corps said in a statement, operations were launched simultaneously in besieged western areas of Lashkargah, Nawa and Nahri Saraj districts.
“The Afghan defense forces are committed to suppressing, clearing and destroying terrorists in the country,” read the statement.

The Taliban has so far not commented on this.

The three-day ceasefire was declared by the Taliban last Sunday to mark the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday and to “provide a peaceful and secure atmosphere” so Afghans could celebrate with “a greater peace of mind.”

The ceasefire was largely observed by both the Afghan government and the Taliban.

But the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Saturday that Taliban had violated the three-day ceasefire in seven provinces across the country – killing and wounding dozens of civilians.

“The ceasefire has been violated in several cases and several points of the country and terrorist groups under Taliban leadership violated the ceasefire. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to the ceasefire, but enemies are not committed and violated the ceasefire,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the MoD.

This comes after an IED was reportedly detonated inside a mosque in Shakardara district in Kabul during Friday prayers. On Saturday, sources said 14 people were killed, including the mosque’s Imam.

The three-day ceasefire was widely welcomed by the Afghan people but most called for the tenuous truce to be extended and to become permanent.

However, going into the ceasefire, the Taliban said it would observe the truce but would resume hostilities after the Eid holidays.

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Day 3 of ceasefire: MoD accuses Taliban of violating ceasefire

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Saturday that Taliban has violated the three-day ceasefire in seven provinces across the country that killed and wounded dozens of civilians.

“The ceasefire has been violated in several cases and several points of the country and terrorist groups under Taliban leadership violated the ceasefire. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to the ceasefire, but enemies are not committed and violated the ceasefire,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the MoD.

This comes after an IED was reportedly detonated inside a mosque in Shakardara district in Kabul during Friday prayers. On Saturday, sources said 14 people were killed, including the mosque’s Imam.

The following incidents were reported on Saturday, day three of the ceasefire.

1 – One policeman and two civilians were wounded in an explosion in Surobi district of Kabul province on Saturday.

2- Two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in Kunduz province in an IED explosion.

3- Two civilians killed in Ghazni province in an explosion

4- Two explosions were reported in Kandahar province that killed and wounded civilians.

5- An explosion in Kapisa reportedly killed and wounded civilians.

In addition to this, Mohammad Omar Sherzad, the governor of Uruzgan province said that Taliban attacked Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the province.

“In two areas of Uruzgan province the ceasefire has been violated. One attack was on a security forces convoy along the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway and second they (Taliban) attacked an ANDSF check post close to Tarin Kot city, that wounded Afghan forces. The Taliban are not committed to their commitments,” said Sherzad.

Meanwhile, some members of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) said that all the attacks are not carried out by the Taliban.

“Shakardara attack was a series of killings of religious scholars; such attacks are carried out by Takfiri (non-believing) groups; but attacks in Uruzgan, Kandahar and other provinces are Taliban actions,” said Mohammad Arif Rahmani, an MP.

The three-day ceasefire was widely welcomed by the Afghan people but most called for the tenuous truce to be extended and to become permanent.

However, going into the ceasefire, the Taliban said it would observe the truce but would resume hostilities after the Eid holidays.

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Atmar conveys condolences to Palestine just hours before media offices bombed

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, Riyad Al-Maliki, on Saturday and condemned the escalation of attacks and encroachment on the Palestinian people during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.

In a statement issued by his office, Atmar said the bloody attacks were unacceptable for Islamic countries and the world’s peace-loving nations. 

He also called for an immediate end to the violence in the region.

Expressing the Afghan people’s solidarity with the people of Palestine, Atmar stated that Afghanistan supported the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to an independent state, within the borders set out in the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution.

Atmar’s conversation came just hours before Israel bombed a building in Gaza City that houses The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of other foreign media outlets. 

The airstrike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed residential apartments. 

The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked, AP reported

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. 

AP reported the strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon after the building’s owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that it would be hit. AP’s staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.

Al-Jazeera, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

 

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