Russia Halts Gas Supplies to Finland

A model of the natural gas pipeline is seen in front of displayed Finnish and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
A model of the natural gas pipeline is seen in front of displayed Finnish and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
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Russia Halts Gas Supplies to Finland

A model of the natural gas pipeline is seen in front of displayed Finnish and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
A model of the natural gas pipeline is seen in front of displayed Finnish and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken April 26, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Russia on Saturday halted providing natural gas to neighboring Finland, which has angered Moscow by applying for NATO membership, after the Nordic country refused to pay supplier Gazprom in rubles.

Natural gas accounts for about eight percent of Finland's energy consumption and most of it comes from Russia, AFP said.

Follwing Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has asked clients from "unfriendly countries" -- including EU member states -- pay for gas in rubles, a way to sidestep Western financial sanctions against its central bank.

Finnish state-owned energy company Gasum said it would make up for the shortfall from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline, which connects Finland to Estonia, and assured that filling stations would run normally.

"Natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum's supply contract have been cut off," the company said in a statement.

Gasum said Friday that it had been informed by Gazprom Export, the exporting arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, that the supply would stop on Saturday morning.

In April, Gazprom Export demanded that future payments in the supply contract be made in rubles instead of euros.

Gasum rejected the demand and announced on Tuesday it was taking the issue to arbitration.

Gazprom Export said it would defend its interests in court by any "means available".

Gasum said it would be able to secure gas from other sources and that gas filling stations in the network area would continue "normal operation."

In efforts to mitigate the risks of relying on Russian energy exports, the Finnish government on Friday also announced that the country had signed a 10-year lease agreement for an LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal ship with US-based Excelerate Energy.

On Sunday, Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic claimed payment arrears, although the shortfall was quickly replaced.

Finland, along with neighboring Sweden, this week broke its historical military non-alignment and applied for NATO membership, after public and political support for the alliance soared following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has warned Finland that any NATO membership application would be "a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences".



Germany Accuses Russia of ‘Information War’ after Military Recording

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrives to give a statement at the Defense Ministry in Berlin on March 3, 2024 following leaks of secret Ukraine war talks. (AFP)
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrives to give a statement at the Defense Ministry in Berlin on March 3, 2024 following leaks of secret Ukraine war talks. (AFP)
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Germany Accuses Russia of ‘Information War’ after Military Recording

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrives to give a statement at the Defense Ministry in Berlin on March 3, 2024 following leaks of secret Ukraine war talks. (AFP)
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius arrives to give a statement at the Defense Ministry in Berlin on March 3, 2024 following leaks of secret Ukraine war talks. (AFP)

Germany's defense minister said on Sunday Russia was conducting an "information war" aimed at creating divisions within Germany, his first reaction to the publication in Russia of an audio recording of a meeting of senior German military officials.

Russian media on Friday published a 38-minute recording of a call in which German officers were heard discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea, prompting Russian officials to demand an explanation.

On Saturday, Germany called it an apparent act of eavesdropping and said it was investigating.

"The incident is much more than just the interception and publication of a conversation ... It is part of an information war that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is waging," Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Sunday.

"It is a hybrid disinformation attack. It is about division. It is about undermining our unity."

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied accusations of spreading false or misleading information when faced with allegations from other countries.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said on social media on Friday: "We demand an explanation from Germany," without detailing its particular concerns.

Russia's embassy in Berlin has not responded to an emailed request for comment.

Participants in the call discuss the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz has publicly so far firmly rejected. They also talk about the training of Ukrainian soldiers, and possible military targets.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to journalists on Saturday about "cunning plans of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces), which became apparent due to the publication of this audio recording. This is a blatant self-exposure."

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said on Sunday the recording indicated that Berlin was preparing to fight Moscow.


Turnout at Record-low in Iran’s Parliamentary Elections

An Iranian cleric casts his vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, March 1, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
An Iranian cleric casts his vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, March 1, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Turnout at Record-low in Iran’s Parliamentary Elections

An Iranian cleric casts his vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, March 1, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
An Iranian cleric casts his vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, March 1, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran's hard-liners are leading in an initial vote count in the capital Tehran, state media reported Sunday, following a record-low turnout in a parliamentary election.
State-run IRNA news agency and state TV said 1,960 from 5,000 ballots in Tehran had been counted so far, based on an Interior Ministry report updated hourly, The Associated Press said.
Officials have not yet released turnout figures from Saturday's election. However, IRNA said it was 41%, based on unofficial reports.
In the last parliamentary election in 2019, only 42% of eligible voters cast a ballot in what was considered to be the lowest turnout since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Hard-liners have controlled the parliament for the past two decades — with chants of “Death to America” often heard while in session.
Under Iranian law, the parliament has a variety of roles, including overseeing the executive branch and voting on treaties. In practice, absolute power in Iran rests with its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
Friday's election was the first since the bloody crackdown on the 2022 nationwide protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Amini, 22, died on Sept. 16, 2022, after her arrest by Iran’s morality police.
The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. In the severe clampdown that followed, over 500 people were killed and nearly 20,000 arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran.


Trump Wins Caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and Sweeps Michigan GOP Convention

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures during a "Get Out the Vote" rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures during a "Get Out the Vote" rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
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Trump Wins Caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and Sweeps Michigan GOP Convention

Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures during a "Get Out the Vote" rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
Former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump gestures during a "Get Out the Vote" rally at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)

Former President Donald Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination on Saturday, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.

Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.

The next event on the Republican calendar is Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.

The steep odds facing Haley were on display in Columbia, Missouri, where Republicans gathered at a church to caucus.

Seth Christensen stood on stage and called on them to vote for Haley. He wasn't well received.

Another caucusgoer shouted out from the audience: “Are you a Republican?”

An organizer quieted the crowd and Christensen finished his speech. Haley went on to win just 37 of the 263 Republicans in attendance in Boone County.

Here's a look at Saturday's contests:

MICHIGAN Michigan Republicans at their convention in Grand Rapids began allocating 39 of the state’s 55 GOP presidential delegates. Trump won all 39 delegates allocated.

But a significant portion of the party’s grassroots force was skipping the gathering because of the lingering effects of a monthslong dispute over the party's leadership.

Trump handily won Michigan’s primary this past Tuesday with 68% of the vote compared with Haley’s 27%.

Michigan Republicans were forced to split their delegate allocation into two parts after Democrats, who control the state government, moved Michigan into the early primary states, violating the national Republican Party’s rules.

MISSOURI Voters lined up outside a church in Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, before the doors opened for the caucuses. Once they got inside, they heard appeals from supporters of the candidates.

“Every 100 days, we’re spending $1 trillion, with money going all over the world. Illegals are running across the border,” Tom Mendenall, an elector for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said to the crowd. He later added: “You know where Donald Trump stands on a lot of these issues.”

Christensen, a 31-year-old from Columbia who came to the caucus with his wife and three children aged 7, 5, and 2, then urged Republicans to go in a new direction.

“I don’t need to hear about Mr. Trump’s dalliances with people of unsavory character, nor do my children,” Christensen said to the room. “And if we put that man in the office, that’s what we’re going to hear about all the time. And I’m through with it.”

Supporters quickly moved to one side of the room or the other, depending on whether they favored Trump or Haley. There was little discussion between caucusgoers after they chose a side.

This year was the first test of the new system, which is almost entirely run by volunteers on the Republican side.

The caucuses were organized after GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed a 2022 law that, among other things, canceled the planned March 12 presidential primary.

Lawmakers failed to reinstate the primary despite calls to do so by both state Republican and Democratic party leaders. Democrats will hold a party-run primary on March 23.

Trump prevailed twice under Missouri's old presidential primary system.

IDAHO Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed cost-cutting legislation that was intended to move all the state’s primaries to the same date in May. But the bill inadvertently eliminated the presidential primaries entirely.

The Republican-led Legislature considered holding a special session to reinstate the presidential primaries but failed to agree on a proposal in time, leaving both parties with presidential caucuses as the only option.

"I think there’s been a lot of confusion because most people don’t realize that our Legislature actually voted in a flawed bill,” said Jessie Bryant, who volunteered at a caucus site near downtown Boise. “So the caucus is really just the best-case scenario to actually get an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate and nominate them for the GOP.”

One of those voters was John Graves, a fire protection engineer from Boise. He said the caucus was fast and easy, not much different from Idaho’s usual Republican primary. He anticipated the win would go to Trump.

“It’s a very conservative state, so I would think that Trump will probably carry it quite easily,” Graves said. “And I like that.”

The Democratic caucuses aren’t until May 23.

The last GOP caucuses in Idaho were in 2012, when about 40,000 of the state’s nearly 200,000 registered Republican voters showed up to select their preferred candidate.


Russia Says Ukraine Attacked Crimea with 38 Drones

 A mural depicting a serviceman with a Z letter patch, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, on his uniform holding a kid decorates the facade of a building in the settlement of Chernomorskoye, some 150 km from Simferopol, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
A mural depicting a serviceman with a Z letter patch, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, on his uniform holding a kid decorates the facade of a building in the settlement of Chernomorskoye, some 150 km from Simferopol, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
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Russia Says Ukraine Attacked Crimea with 38 Drones

 A mural depicting a serviceman with a Z letter patch, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, on his uniform holding a kid decorates the facade of a building in the settlement of Chernomorskoye, some 150 km from Simferopol, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)
A mural depicting a serviceman with a Z letter patch, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, on his uniform holding a kid decorates the facade of a building in the settlement of Chernomorskoye, some 150 km from Simferopol, on March 2, 2024. (AFP)

Russian air defense systems destroyed all 38 drones that Ukraine launched at the Crimean Peninsula early on Sunday, Russia's defense ministry said, after reports on Ukrainian and Russian social media of powerful explosions in the port of Feodosia.

The Russian defense ministry did not say whether there was any damage or casualties in its statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Road traffic near Feodosia was significantly restricted, Russian-installed officials in Crimea had said earlier. Traffic on the bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian mainland was halted for couple hours before resuming at around 0140 GMT, Russian-installed officials in Crimea said on Telegram.

Russian and Ukrainian social media cited Feodosia residents as reporting powerful explosions were heard in the area of the seaport and an oil depot at about 2 a.m. local time on Sunday (2300 GMT on Saturday).

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports of explosions. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.

The Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in a move condemned by Kyiv's allies in 2014, and the Black Sea that the peninsula borders have become a crucial theatre in the two-year war.

Ukraine's increased air and sea drone attacks on Russian military targets there have damaged or destroyed ships and naval repair yards in the port of Sevastopol and struck other targets.

Moscow uses its fleet in the Black Sea to launch long-range strikes on Ukraine. But for Russia's President Vladimir Putin, the waters that connect to the Mediterranean Sea are also an important springboard for projecting power into the Middle East and Europe.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said his troops have succeeded in diminishing Moscow's military strength in the Black Sea, which he said with greater support from Kyiv's allies could lead to his country's ultimate victory over Russia.


Recordings of German Officers Discussing Aid to Ukraine is Leaked in Russia

FILED - 27 July 2019, Russia, Sewastopol: A submarine and warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet lie at anchor in the port city which is a symbol of the defense of the Crimea as an impregnable fortress. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is positioning itself for a blockade of Ukrainian ports after Moscow halted an international grain agreement, according to British defense analysts in London. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa
FILED - 27 July 2019, Russia, Sewastopol: A submarine and warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet lie at anchor in the port city which is a symbol of the defense of the Crimea as an impregnable fortress. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is positioning itself for a blockade of Ukrainian ports after Moscow halted an international grain agreement, according to British defense analysts in London. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa
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Recordings of German Officers Discussing Aid to Ukraine is Leaked in Russia

FILED - 27 July 2019, Russia, Sewastopol: A submarine and warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet lie at anchor in the port city which is a symbol of the defense of the Crimea as an impregnable fortress. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is positioning itself for a blockade of Ukrainian ports after Moscow halted an international grain agreement, according to British defense analysts in London. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa
FILED - 27 July 2019, Russia, Sewastopol: A submarine and warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet lie at anchor in the port city which is a symbol of the defense of the Crimea as an impregnable fortress. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is positioning itself for a blockade of Ukrainian ports after Moscow halted an international grain agreement, according to British defense analysts in London. Photo: Ulf Mauder/dpa

German authorities on Saturday said they were investigating after an audio recording, in which German military officers purportedly discussed support for Ukraine, including the potential use of Taurus missiles, was published in Russia.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was in Rome on Saturday, called it a “very serious matter" and said that German authorities were working to clarify the matter “very carefully, very intensively and very quickly.” His comments were carried by Germany's dpa news agency.
In the 38-minute recording, military officers discuss the question of how the Taurus long-range cruise missiles could be used by Ukraine. A debate has been taking place in Germany over whether to supply the missiles as Ukraine faced setbacks on the battlefield after two years of war, and with military aid from the United States being held up in Congress, The Associated Press said.
Earlier this week Scholz said he remains reluctant to send the Taurus missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of Germany becoming directly involved in the war. His hesitancy is a source of friction in his three-party coalition and also annoyed Germany’s conservative opposition.
But in the purported audio recording, German officers discuss the theoretical possibility of the missiles being used in Ukraine.
Germany’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether communications within the air force were intercepted by Russia. In a statement carried by dpa, it said: “According to our assessment, a conversation within the Air Force was intercepted. We cannot currently say with certainty whether changes have been made to the recorded or written version that is circulating on social media."
Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russian state-funded TV channel RT, posted the audio on social media.
“In this (...) recording, high-ranking Bundeswehr officers discuss how they will bomb (attention!) the Crimean bridge,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the conversation took place on Feb. 19. Within the conversation, she said, one of the officers mentioned a planned trip to Ukraine on Feb. 21 to coordinate strikes on Russian targets.
Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is further stepping up its support this year. But Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.
The chancellor has long emphasized his determination to help Ukraine without escalating the war and drawing in Germany and NATO, stressing that no German soldiers will go to Ukraine.
“We will not send European soldiers to Ukraine. We don’t want a war between Russia and NATO. And we will do all we can to prevent it,” Scholz told a meeting of the Party of European Socialists in Rome on Saturday.
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the future deployment of Western troops on the ground in Ukraine was not “ruled out," a suggestion quickly dismissed by Germany, Poland and other allied countries.


Moscow Says Russia, China Agree That Russia Must Be Present in Ukraine Talks

 A general view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. (Reuters)
A general view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. (Reuters)
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Moscow Says Russia, China Agree That Russia Must Be Present in Ukraine Talks

 A general view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. (Reuters)
A general view shows an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. (Reuters)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin and China's special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, said it was impossible to discuss a Ukraine settlement without Moscow's participation, the Russian foreign ministry said on Sunday.

The Chinese envoy met with Galuzin during his second trip to Europe promoting a political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, a tour that will also include Poland, Ukraine and Germany.

"A very engaged and thorough exchange of views took place on the topic of the Ukrainian crisis," the Russian foreign ministry said in the statement posted on its website.

"It was stated that any discussion of a political and diplomatic settlement is impossible without the participation of Russia and taking into account its interests in the security sphere."

China is ready to "continue its efforts to promote peace talks, mediate and build consensus among Russia, Ukraine and other relevant parties, and promote a final political settlement of the Ukraine crisis," China's foreign ministry said in a readout from the meeting.

Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, calling it a "special military operation" to "denazify" its neighbor.

Kyiv and its Western allies call the war, which two years later continues to kill civilians nearly on daily basis, an unprovoked land grab.


Six Militants Killed in Special Operation in Russia’s Ingushetia Region

Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
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Six Militants Killed in Special Operation in Russia’s Ingushetia Region

Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
Russian policemen control the area near a damaged multi-storey residential building following an alleged drone attack in Saint Petersburg, Russia, 02 March 2024. (EPA)

Russian security forces killed six alleged militants in a special operation in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, TASS news agency reported on Sunday, citing local law enforcement agencies.

On Saturday, authorities introduced counter-terrorism emergency powers in the town of Karabulak after the alleged militants had opened fire on law enforcement forces in a residential building.

"The special operation has ended. The counter-terrorism operation regime is still in place," a law enforcement source told TASS.

Identities of the alleged militants were being established, RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a source.

Ingushetia, the smallest region in Russia, is wedged between North Ossetia and Chechnya. It has a population of about half a million people.

For almost a decade until 2017, Russian security forces were battling an armed insurgency conducted by an array of extremist militant groups in Ingushetia as well as in Dagestan and Chechnya.


Heavy Winter Rains in Pakistan Kill at Least 29 People, Collapse Buildings, Trigger Landslides

People collect their belongings from their house that collapsed following heavy downpour in Peshawar, Pakistan, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
People collect their belongings from their house that collapsed following heavy downpour in Peshawar, Pakistan, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
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Heavy Winter Rains in Pakistan Kill at Least 29 People, Collapse Buildings, Trigger Landslides

People collect their belongings from their house that collapsed following heavy downpour in Peshawar, Pakistan, 02 March 2024. (EPA)
People collect their belongings from their house that collapsed following heavy downpour in Peshawar, Pakistan, 02 March 2024. (EPA)

Heavy rains that swept across Pakistan have left at least 29 people dead and 50 others injured, collapsed houses and triggered landslides that blocked roads, particularly in the northwest, authorities said Sunday.

About 23 rain-related deaths were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan since Thursday night, the provincial disaster management authority said.

Five people died in southwestern Baluchistan province after floods swamped the coastal town of Gwadar, forcing authorities to use boats to evacuate people.

Casualties and damage were also reported in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the National Disaster Management Authority said.

Authorities were sending emergency relief and heavy machinery to remove debris blocking highways, the agency added.

The country's Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan with China, was still blocked in some places due to landslides triggered by rain and snow, according to the spokesman for the northern Gilgit Baltistan region, Faizullah Faraq. He said the snowfall was unusually heavy for this time of year.

Authorities advised tourists against traveling to the scenic north due to weather conditions. Last week, several visitors were stranded there because of heavy rains.

Pakistan this year has witnessed a delay in winter rains, which started in February instead of November. Monsoon and winter rains cause damage in Pakistan every year.

In 2022, unprecedented rainfall and flooding devastated many parts of Pakistan, killing more than 1,739 people, affecting around 33 million and displacing nearly 8 million people. The disaster also caused billions of dollars in damage.

In neighboring Afghanistan, authorities said Sunday that harsh winter weather had killed more than 5,000 livestock and destroyed 403 homes in different parts of the country in the past three days. The Taliban-run administration said it allocated 50 million afghanis ($681,000) in assistance.

Mohammad Naseem Moradi, head of the national meteorological department, said similar weather conditions were last observed in 2015.


Türkiye Expresses Continued Support for Somalia, With Emphasis on Defense

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Saturday with his Somalian counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Turkish presidency)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Saturday with his Somalian counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Turkish presidency)
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Türkiye Expresses Continued Support for Somalia, With Emphasis on Defense

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Saturday with his Somalian counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Turkish presidency)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Saturday with his Somalian counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Turkish presidency)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday affirmed his country’s ongoing commitment to supporting Somalia across various domains, with a specific emphasis on defense.
During talks with his Somalian counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Erdogan also expressed Türkiye's readiness to engage in any mediation efforts to address the tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia.
The two presidents met on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.
The meeting addressed Türkiye-Somalia relations, Israel's massacres in the Palestinian territory as well as humanitarian aid, the fight against terrorism, and regional and global issues, the country’s Communications Directorate said on X.
The meeting was attended by Türkiye’s National Defense Minister Yasar Guler, the country’s National Intelligence Organization’s head Ibrahim Kalin, and the president’s chief advisor Akif Cagatay Kilic.
On February 8, the two countries signed the Defense and Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, which involved cooperation in the fight against terrorism as well as military-financial cooperation. The deal was signed between Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler and his Somali counterpart, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, in Ankara.
The ten-year agreement will see Ankara train and provide equipment to the Somali Navy, and will also support economic infrastructure construction, marine resource protection, counterterrorism efforts, and prevention of all illegal activities along Somalia's coastline.
In a televised address on the day of the signing, the Somali President noted that the deal is not aimed at confronting Ethiopia or invading any other country.
Under the deal, Türkiye will protect Somalia’s 3,000-kilometer coastline, bordering Kenya and Ethiopia to the west and Djibouti to the northwest.
It is still unclear whether such protection will include the Gulf of Aden and the Somaliland, which declared its independence in 1991 but is still recognized internationally as part of Somalia.
Though Ankara does not officially recognize Somaliland, it maintains a good relationship with the small state on the coast of the Gulf of Aden.
In an opinion published last month, Somalian Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said the agreement signed with Türkiye proclaims “our shared commitment to collaboration, our deep-seated trust in each other, and our collective affirmation of the significance of global security.”
He noted that the strategic implications of this agreement are poised to safeguard the interests of the wider international community.
“As evidenced by the situation in Yemen, Somalia's strategic geopolitical location and the surrounding political dynamics are crucial to global welfare and peace,” Nur added.
Strategic experts, including former Turkish ambassador to Chad and Senegal Ahmet Kavas, say the agreement between Türkiye and Somalia has significant repercussions in the Horn of Africa.
Kavas said Yemen, Djibouti, and Somalia are located on both sides of the Gulf of Aden. He explained that Britain, France, the US, and Israel have great influence in the Horn of Africa where they built military bases in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti.
“Now, Türkiye will have a military presence in Somalia and therefore, it is possible that Ankara will start to protect the coastal waters in the Gulf of Aden using its warships. Of course, this will lead to a change of power balances,” he explained.
 


Pakistan's Shehbaz Sharif Set to Take Oath as Prime Minister for Second Term

 Pakistan's former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference in Lahore on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
Pakistan's former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference in Lahore on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
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Pakistan's Shehbaz Sharif Set to Take Oath as Prime Minister for Second Term

 Pakistan's former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference in Lahore on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
Pakistan's former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a press conference in Lahore on February 13, 2024. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

Pakistani politician Shehbaz Sharif was set on Sunday to become prime minister for the second time in a vote by the country's newly formed parliament, three weeks after uncertain national elections led to the formation of a coalition government.
Pakistan went to the polls on Feb. 8 in a vote marred by a mobile internet shutdown on election day; arrests and violence in its build-up; and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged, Reuters said.
Sharif will return to the role he held until August when parliament was dissolved ahead of the elections and a caretaker government took charge.
The vote in the country's parliament, which first met on Thursday, will take place amidst tight security as candidates backed by former jailed premier Imran Khan have protested against the election result and called for his release.
Sharif, 72, is the younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who spearheaded their Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party's election campaign.
Candidates backed by Khan gained the most seats but the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party agreed to form a coalition government, which enabled Shehbaz Sharif to be elected as prime minister as his brother stepped aside.
In his previous term, Sharif's government was able to negotiate a critical International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal but the process was mired in challenges and measures required by the agreement - which expires in April - have contributed to rising prices and added pressure on poor and middle class households.
The new government will have to immediately start talks with the IMF for the next agreement to shore up the country's economy whilst also dealing with the growing discontent over deepening poverty.