Russia Could Repeat Syria’s Ghouta, Aleppo Scenarios in Ukraine

A Russian army RS-24 Yars ballistic missile system moves through Red Square during a military parade in 2020. (AFP)
A Russian army RS-24 Yars ballistic missile system moves through Red Square during a military parade in 2020. (AFP)
TT

Russia Could Repeat Syria’s Ghouta, Aleppo Scenarios in Ukraine

A Russian army RS-24 Yars ballistic missile system moves through Red Square during a military parade in 2020. (AFP)
A Russian army RS-24 Yars ballistic missile system moves through Red Square during a military parade in 2020. (AFP)

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former commander of the UK and NATO chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) forces, warned that strategic nuclear weapons can change the planet as we know it.

Russia and the West, including the US, UK, and France, have nearly 6,000 warheads between them. If launched, these warheads can lead to Mutually Assured Destruction, he added.

These warheads are mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which can travel thousands of miles and are aimed at key locations and cities in the US, UK, France, and Russia, he explained.

Tactical nukes, meanwhile, are much smaller warheads with a yield, or explosive force, of up to 100 kilotons of dynamite—instead of about 1,000 kilotons for strategic warheads, he said.

That said, tactical nuclear weapons can still cause massive amounts of damage, and if fired at a nuclear power plant—for example, Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine—could create a chain reaction and pollution on the scale of a nuclear attack.

Moreover, Russians could even attack this plant with a conventional weapon that might have the effect of a tactical nuclear explosion, warned Bretton-Gordon.

He believes that the Russians developed their unconventional warfare tactics in Syria.

“I don’t think President Bashar al-Assad would still be in power if he hadn’t used chemical weapons,” he said.

The massive nerve agent attack on August 21, 2013 on Ghouta stopped the opposition factions from overpowering Damascus. The four-year conventional siege of Aleppo was ended by several chlorine attacks.

According to Bretton-Gordon, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not seem to have any reason not to repeat this experience again in Ukraine.



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)
TT

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)
TT

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)
TT

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)
TT

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)
TT

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.


Norway's King Gets Pacemaker in Malaysia after Falling Ill During Vacation

FILE PHOTO: Norway's King Harald during a press conference on the royal yacht Norge in Aarhus, Denmark June 16, 2023. Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Norway's King Harald during a press conference on the royal yacht Norge in Aarhus, Denmark June 16, 2023. Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup via REUTERS
TT

Norway's King Gets Pacemaker in Malaysia after Falling Ill During Vacation

FILE PHOTO: Norway's King Harald during a press conference on the royal yacht Norge in Aarhus, Denmark June 16, 2023. Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Norway's King Harald during a press conference on the royal yacht Norge in Aarhus, Denmark June 16, 2023. Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup via REUTERS

King Harald of Norway was implanted with a temporary pacemaker Saturday at a hospital in Malaysia’s resort island of Langkawi, where Europe’s oldest monarch was being treated for an infection during a vacation this week, the Norwegian royal house said.
“The pacemaker was implanted due to a low heart rate,” the Royal House of Norway said in a brief statement, adding that the procedure was successful.
Following the operation, Harald, 87, would likely be transported back to Norway “within the next couple of days,” The Associated Press quoted the statement as saying.
“His Majesty is doing well under the circumstances but still requires rest. The procedure will make the return back home safer, according to His Majesty The King’s personal physician, Bjørn Bendz,” the palace in Oslo said.
The royal house said on Tuesday that Harald, Europe’s oldest reigning monarch, was hospitalized after he fell ill during a private vacation in Langkawi. Norwegian media outlets said Harald traveled to the Malaysian resort island to celebrate his 87th birthday.


Navalny's Mother Brings Flowers to his Grave Day After Moscow Funeral

People come to the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny the day after his funeral at the Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
People come to the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny the day after his funeral at the Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
TT

Navalny's Mother Brings Flowers to his Grave Day After Moscow Funeral

People come to the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny the day after his funeral at the Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
People come to the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny the day after his funeral at the Borisovskoye cemetery in Moscow, Russia, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

The mother and mother-in-law of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were among mourners who brought flowers to his grave in Moscow on Saturday, a day after thousands attended his funeral.
Police kept a heavy presence at the cemetery but the situation was calm, Russian independent TV channel Dozhd (Rain) reported.
“The police let those wishing to bid farewell to the politician pass through and do not rush anyone,” the outlet wrote on the Telegram messaging app, quoting one of its readers on the scene.
Dozhd also reported that “spontaneous memorials” to Navalny had been destroyed in several Russian cities. Flowers were removed in cities including St. Petersburg and Voronezh, it said.
Under a heavy police watch, thousands bid farewell Friday to Navalny after his still-unexplained death two weeks ago in an Arctic penal colony. The crowds who thronged to honor Navalny outside a church and cemetery in a snowy southeastern suburb of the capital chanted slogans for him and against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.
Police did not act against them, but at least 106 people were detained at events across Russia in Navalny’s memory, said OVD-Info, a rights group that tracks political arrests. It said most were stopped while trying to lay flowers at monuments dedicated to victims of Soviet repression.
Navalny was buried after a short Russian Orthodox ceremony, with vast crowds waiting outside the church and then streaming to the fresh grave with flowers.
Navalny’s widow, Yulia, was not seen at the funeral. She has vowed to continue his work, lovingly thanked him for “26 years of absolute happiness.”


Improvised Explosive Device Found Attached to Bottom of Car Entering Crimea From North

Russian soldiers near the tombs of fellow soldiers who died in the war in Crimea (Reuters)
Russian soldiers near the tombs of fellow soldiers who died in the war in Crimea (Reuters)
TT

Improvised Explosive Device Found Attached to Bottom of Car Entering Crimea From North

Russian soldiers near the tombs of fellow soldiers who died in the war in Crimea (Reuters)
Russian soldiers near the tombs of fellow soldiers who died in the war in Crimea (Reuters)

An improvised explosive device made of foreign-made components has been found attached to the bottom of a car at the entrance to Crimea at the Dzhankoi checkpoint, a spokesperson for regional law enforcement agencies have told Sputnik, adding that the device has been defused.

The Dzhankoi checkpoint is located in the north of Crimea and borders the Kherson Region.

"At the Dzhankoi checkpoint, in the course of inspection measures on a car traveling to the territory of the Republic of Crimea, employees of the Federal Security Service of Russia have found an object similar to an explosive device attached to the bottom of a car under the driver's seat driven by a law enforcement officer of the Kherson region," the spokesperson said.

The car was immediately moved to a safe distance, where specialists who arrived at the scene neutralized the explosive device.


5 Killed by Russian Drone Attack on Ukraine's Odesa

Rescuers work at the site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescuers work at the site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
TT

5 Killed by Russian Drone Attack on Ukraine's Odesa

Rescuers work at the site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
Rescuers work at the site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

At least five people including a three-year-old child were killed and others feared still trapped under rubble when a Russian drone hit an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Saturday, authorities said.
At the scene, smoke poured from rubble strewn across the ground where the drone had ripped a chunk several stories high out of the building.
"My husband quickly ran out to help people ... then I saw people running out and I understood people had died in there," said Svitlana Tkachenko, who lives in a neighboring building.
Clothes and furniture were scattered in the ruined mass of concrete and steel hanging off the side of the apartment block, Reuters said.
"Russia continues to fight civilians ... One of the enemy drones hit a residential building in Odesa. Eighteen apartments were destroyed," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Telegram post.
Ukraine's State Emergencies Service posted photos including of a dead toddler being placed in a body bag by rescuers.
"This is impossible to forget! This is impossible to forgive," it wrote. It said five people including a child had been rescued alive.
Odesa region governor Oleh Kiper said eight people were wounded, and rescuers were still looking for more people under the debris.
According to Zelenskiy, the drone was a Shahed supplied by Iran. 


Iranians Vote for ‘Inconsequential’ Parliament

Iranian women cast their votes at a polling center in southern Tehran on Friday (AFP)
Iranian women cast their votes at a polling center in southern Tehran on Friday (AFP)
TT

Iranians Vote for ‘Inconsequential’ Parliament

Iranian women cast their votes at a polling center in southern Tehran on Friday (AFP)
Iranian women cast their votes at a polling center in southern Tehran on Friday (AFP)

Iranians headed to polls on Friday to choose a new parliament, but the outcome isn’t expected to change foreign policy or ease tensions with the West over the nation’s nuclear program.

These elections are seen as a test of the religious establishment’s popularity in Iran, following protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody a year and a half ago.

According to the semi-official news agency in Iran associated with the Revolutionary Guard, polling stations opened Friday morning for the twelfth parliamentary elections, alongside the selection of the Assembly of Experts, which oversees Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, calling voting a “religious duty,” was among the first to cast their ballot. Government officials echoed his message, urging Iranians to vote.

“Vote as soon as possible... Make our friends happy and disappoint our enemies,” said Khamenei.

On his part, Chief Justice Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i remarked: “Voting brings joy to people and sadness to the enemy.”

Meanwhile, Mohammad Reza Aref, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, thanked God for making enemies “foolish.”

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi voted at the Interior Ministry’s polling station, calling the elections a “national celebration” symbolizing “unity and solidarity.”

“In our elections, both candidates and voters act out of duty,” said Raisi.

Esmail Qaani, who commands the Revolutionary Guard’s foreign arm, affirmed that enthusiastic participation ensures security, likening it to “fighting a battle against enemies trying to weaken morale.”

Turnout in the 2022 parliamentary elections dropped to 42.5%, a significant decline from around 62% in 2016.

Over 15,000 candidates are vying for the 290 parliamentary seats, with the term set to begin in April for four years.

It goes without saying that it is difficult to confirm the actual voter turnout without independent monitoring. Media relies on official Iranian sources for information.

Polling stations were supposed to close at 6 p.m. local time on Friday (15:00 GMT), but authorities extended the voting time, which could suggest lower turnout.