Fulya OZERKAN Turkey's inflation slowed in November for the first time since May 2021, official data showed on Monday, delivering a boost to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of next year's election.The rate slowed to 84.39 percent, according to state statistics agency TUIK, down from 85.51 percent in October.Turkey's inflation has risen steadily since reaching a low of 16.6 percent in May 2021.The emerging market's troubled economy has turned into a major stumbling block on Erdogan's path to a third decade in power in a presidential poll due by next June.Erdogan's approval rating began to suffer when he set off on an unusual economic experiment last year that tried to bring down chronically high consumer prices by lowering borrowing costs.Conventional economic theory embraced by almost every other big nation pursues the exact opposite approach.Turkey's lira began to drop in value almost immediately, as consumers rushed to buy up dollars and gold to try and protect their savings.The price of imports such as oil and gas soared, creating an inflationary spiral that the nominally independent central bank fed further by continuing to lower interest rates.Erdogan has maintained that his unwavering focus on economic growth at all costs -- achieved through cheap lending and state support -- will eventually pay off."We will witness the rapid descent of inflation soon and we will see together that the dirty scenarios built on this trouble are torn and thrown away," he repeated over the weekend.Erdogan has blamed inflation on outside factors such as the global spike in food and energy prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.- Election strategy –Erdogan's much-criticised economic team hailed Monday's announcement as vindication of their approach."As we have previously stated in various media, we have entered a downward trend in inflation, leaving the peak behind, unless there is an unexpected global development," Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati tweeted.Most economists believe that Turkey's inflation rate will continue to slow but remain elevated for many months to come, unless Erdogan radically changes his approach.An accompanying inflow of funding from the Kremlin and Turkey's former rivals in the Middle East, which Erdogan secured through a major diplomatic reversal this year, will help the government prop up the lira, economists believe.Erdogan's strategy aims at "keeping the lira relatively strong this side of elections with foreign money", Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management said in a tweet."But that will destroy competitiveness with massive real appreciation."Yet many also question Turkey's official statistics, which are produced by an agency whose leader has been replaced by Erdogan twice in the past year.According to a respected monthly study released by independent economists from Turkey's ENAG research institute, the annual rate of consumer price increases reached 170.70 percent in November.A separate poll earlier this year showed the overwhelming major of Turks believing the ENAG figures over ones released by the government.
South Korea's military said it scrambled fighter jets Wednesday as six Russian and two Chinese warplanes entered its air defence zone without notice.Japan's military also said it had scrambled jets in response to flights over the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, by Russian and Chinese aircraft.Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the Chinese H-6 bombers repeatedly entered and exited the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) near South Korea's southern and northeastern coasts early Wednesday.Hours later they returned to the zone from the East Sea, accompanied by Russian warplanes including two Su-35 fighter jets and four TU-95 bombers, it added.All the warplanes eventually left the zone and none violated South Korea's airspace, Seoul said.An ADIZ is an area wider than a country's airspace in which it tries to control aircraft for security reasons, but the concept is not defined in any international treaty."Our military deployed air force fighter jets even before Chinese and Russian aircraft entered the KADIZ to take tactical measures in case of contingency," the JCS said in a statement.Beijing and Moscow appeared to have "engaged in a combined air exercise", Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed "observers".Japan's Joint Staff said two Chinese H-6 bombers "entered the Sea of Japan and then flew north" on Wednesday morning."Around the same time, what appears to be two Russian aircraft flew south over the Sea of Japan and then turned around," it said, adding that it had scrambled jets in response.The incident comes as Washington pushes China, North Korea's most important ally, to use its influence to help rein in Pyongyang, which has conducted a record-breaking blitz of missile launches this year.Chinese President Xi Jinping recently told Kim Jong Un that he was willing to work with the North Korean leader for "world peace".Pyongyang earlier this month fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in one of its most powerful tests yet, declaring it would meet perceived US nuclear threats with nukes of its own.The United States has accused Beijing and Moscow of protecting Pyongyang from further punishment.The two countries in May vetoed a US-led effort to tighten sanctions on North Korea in response to the North's earlier missile launches.
US President Joe Biden headed to UN climate talks in Egypt on Friday armed with major domestic achievements against global warming but under pressure to do more for countries reeling from natural disasters. Biden will spend only a few hours at COP27 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, three days after US midterm elections that have raised questions about what the result could mean for US climate policy. Climate action in the United States -- the world's second biggest emitter -- was given a major boost this year when Congress passed a landmark spending bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $369 billion for clean energy and climate initiatives. "We're living in a decisive decade –- one in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves and advance the global climate fight," Biden said on Twitter. "Let this be a moment where we answer history's call. Together," said the US leader, who skipped a two-day summit of some 100 world leaders at COP27 earlier this week that coincided with the US election. New research shows just how dauntingly hard it will be to meet the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels -- requiring emissions to be slashed nearly in half by 2030. The new study — published on Friday in the journal Earth System Science Data -- found that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are on track to rise one percent in 2022 to reach an all-time high. COP27 talks have been dominated by the need for wealthy polluters to stop stalling on helping developing countries green their economies and prepare for future impacts -- as well as calls to provide financial help for the damage already being caused by climate-induced catastrophes. "The world needs the United States to be a climate leader in our fight for climate justice," prominent Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, a 25-year-old Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef, told AFP. Germany's climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, said Biden's attendance at COP27 was a "very good sign". "I think it reassures countries, people, that the United States at the highest level takes this issue incredibly seriously and we need that," Morgan told reporters. - Climate-sceptic Republicans - White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden will "underscore the need to go further, faster, to help the most vulnerable communities build their resilience" and push major economies to "dramatically" cut emissions. "How long do we have to sit around to wait before we say, 'Hey let's get really serious'," US climate envoy John Kerry told a COP27 panel. Kerry presented this week a public-private partnership aimed at supporting the transition to renewable energy in developing nations and based on a carbon credit system. But the plan has been panned by activists wary of firms using these to "offset" their carbon emissions. With Republicans apparently poised to retake the House of Representatives, part of Biden's climate agenda could take a hit. Democrats have a chance to retain the Senate. Biden pledged to contribute $11.4 billion to a $100 billion per-year-scheme through which rich countries will help developing ones transition to renewable energies and build climate resilience. But Democrats would have to rush it through Congress before climate-sceptic Republicans take office in January. "We're going to be pressing for passage of the appropriations bills," US lawmaker Kathy Castor, who chairs a special climate crisis committee in the House, told AFP. "Hopefully Republicans in the Congress will not block it," she said. - 'Loss and damage' - The United States has for years resisted attempts to establish a "loss and damage" fund in which rich polluters would compensate developing nations for the destruction from climate-related disasters. Emerging countries successfully put the issue on the official COP27 agenda, with fraught negotiations likely before talks end on November 18. Biden will also use the trip to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and discuss the human rights situation in the country, where the case of jailed dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah was raised by other leaders earlier this week. Ahead of his trip, the White House expressed "deep concern" for the jailed British-Egyptian activist, who is on a hunger strike. After COP27, Biden will head to an ASEAN regional summit in Cambodia at the weekend before travelling to Indonesia for G20 talks. Biden may have a chance to revive cooperation with China when he meets President Xi Jinping at the G20. US-Sino co-operation has been crucial to the fight against global warming, but Beijing cut off climate talks with Washington after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.
Democratic former President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned that "more people are going to get hurt" unless the US political climate changes, after the husband of the Speaker of the House was attacked by a man wielding a hammer. A 42-year-old man has been charged with breaking into the home of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday and, in her absence, attacking her 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, fracturing his skull and causing other injuries. The suspect pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and a host of other state charges. Campaigning at a rally for Democratic candidates in Nevada, the former president said he had spoken to Paul Pelosi recently and "he's going to be OK." But Obama expressed grave concern about "this erosion of just basic civility and democratic norms," in a country where supporters of Republican former President Donald Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. "This increasing habit of demonizing political opponents creates a dangerous climate," Obama said, faulting elected officials who fail to reject the violence, make light of it, or inflame the situation with heated rhetoric. "If that's the environment that we create, more people are going to get hurt." Obama was in Las Vegas to lend his star power to candidates who are in extremely close races for US Senate and governor ahead of the Nov. 8 election. He also backed candidates further down the ballot in races for the U.S. Congress, state attorney general and secretary of state. The two-term president, who left office in 2017, remains the Democratic Party's most popular figure and has already made campaign stops in Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia. The Obama tour will continue on Wednesday in Arizona and Saturday in Pennsylvania, two more states with tight races for governor and senator. In Nevada, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is facing a fierce challenge from Republican Adam Laxalt, a former attorney general who supported Trump's false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by fraud. The Nevada race could determine which party controls the Senate, which is split 50-50 and in Democratic hands only because Vice Present Kamala Harris can break any ties. In the race for governor, Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak is locked in a close race with Republican challenger Joe Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff.
Airbnb on Tuesday reported its highest quarterly profits ever, confirming that the travel industry continues its pandemic recovery in the face of historic inflation. In the third quarter, the home rental platform saw its net profit climb 46 percent year-over-year to $1.2 billion -— a result that would have been even higher without the negative impact of foreign exchange rates, the California-based company said. "Guest demand remains strong," it said, arguing that new revenue growth will stay strong in the long term and trips to non-urban areas "are here to stay as millions of people have newfound flexibility in where they live and work." "At the same time, we’ve also seen recovery of urban and cross-border travel, which comprised the vast majority of our business before the pandemic," Airbnb said. The company noted that the number of new "hosts" — people listing properties on its site — is also rising. "Just like during the Great Recession in 2008 when Airbnb started, people are especially interested in earning extra income through hosting," the company said. In the third quarter of 2022, Airbnb said it recorded nearly 100 million overnight stays and experience bookings -- such as guided tours -- 25 percent more than the same period last year. Its quarterly revenue jumped 29 percent to $2.9 billion, beating market expectations. Airbnb says it expects its revenue to continue growing in the fourth quarter. The platform expects revenue of between $1.80 billion and $1.88 billion during the holiday season, a range slightly below what analysts were hoping for. The company's stock lost more than 5 percent in after-hours trading.
Shanghai's Disney Resort abruptly suspended operations on Monday to comply with COVID-19 prevention measures, with all visitors at the time of the announcement directed to stay in the park until they return a negative test for the virus. The resort said at 11:39 a.m. local time (03:39 GMT) it would immediately shut the main theme park and surrounding areas including its shopping street until further notice to comply with virus curbs. The Shanghai government said on its official WeChat account the park was barring people from entering or exiting and that all visitors inside the site would need to await the results of their tests before they could leave. Anyone who had visited the park since Oct. 27 would need to test for Covid-19 three times in three days, it said. The theme park continued to operate rides for visitors stuck in the park during the closure on Monday, social media users reported. A Shanghai Disney Resort spokesperson said the resort was still operating "limited offerings" and that they were following measures in line with guidelines from Chinese health authorities. The resort had on Saturday said that it had started operating with a reduced workforce to comply with Covid measures. Shanghai reported 10 locally transmitted cases for Oct. 30, all of which it said were people without symptoms. The closure marks the latest disruption for the Shanghai Disney Resort, which was shut for over three months during Shanghai's lockdown earlier this year. The park was also closed for two days in November last year with more than 30,000 visitors stuck inside, after authorities ordered all of them to be tested in a contact tracing exercise. Videos circulating on China's Weibo platform on Monday showed people rushing to the park's gates, which were already locked. Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the videos and the Shanghai Disney Resort did not respond when asked about on how many visitors were inside. Local authorities across China have continued to impose abrupt and extreme measures to cut any possibility of virus transmission once cases arise, in line with the country's ultra-strict zero-tolerance approach towards Covid-19. The Universal Resort in the country's capital of Beijing reopened on Monday after a five day closure, which was also prompted by virus measures.
Russia's weekend backtrack from a UN-brokered deal to export Black Sea grains is likely to hit shipments to import-dependent countries, deepening a global food crisis and sparking gains in prices. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wheat booked for delivery to Africa and the Middle East are at risk following Russia's withdrawal, while Ukrainian corn exports to Europe will get knocked lower, two Singapore-based traders said. Russia on Saturday suspended participation in the U.N. grain deal for an "indefinite term", after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Crimea. "If I have to replace a vessel which was due to come from Ukraine, what are the options? Not much really," said one Singapore-based grains trader who supplies wheat to buyers in Asia and the Middle East. Chicago wheat futures on Monday jumped more than 5% and corn rose over 2% from the fears over supplies. Earlier this year global wheat prices jumped to an all-time high and corn hit a 10-year top as Russia's invasion of Ukraine added fuel to a rally set off by adverse weather and COVID-19 supply disruptions. Australia, a key wheat supplier to Asia, is unlikely to be able to fill any supply gap, with shipping slots booked right up to February, traders said. Shares in Australia's Graincorp (GNC.AX) - which posted a five-fold jump in H1 profit due to supply constraints arising from the Russia-Ukraine conflict - rose more than 7%. No ships moved through the established maritime humanitarian corridor on Sunday. The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine, however, pressed ahead to implement the Black Sea grain deal and agreed on a transit plan for Monday for 16 vessels to move forward, despite the withdrawal of Russia. "We have to see how the situation unfolds. It is not clear if Ukraine will continue to ship grains and what happens to Russian exports," said the Singapore-based grains trader. WHEAT, CORN & VEGOILS Asian buyers booking Ukrainian wheat cargoes include Indonesia, the world's second-largest importer of the grain, although the region typically relies on Australia and North America. In recent deals, Indonesian millers bought four cargoes or around 200,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat for November shipment in deals signed over the last few weeks, traders said. Some Vietnamese feed mills that bought Ukrainian wheat are also likely to suffer. Last week, a government agency in Pakistan bought about 385,000 tonnes of wheat in a tender likely to be sourced from Russia and Ukraine. "We are not sure if Russia will continue to export wheat or it will be safe for vessels carrying Russian wheat to ship from the Black Sea even as Ukrainian exports remain blocked," said a second Singapore-based trader at an international company. Ukraine's corn exports to Europe booked for November are likely to be hit as well. "As far as Europe is concerned, corn is a bigger issue than wheat as we are getting into peak season for Ukrainian corn in November," said the second trader. Russia's decision is expected to support world vegetable oil prices as it threatens Ukraine's sunflower oil exports to key destinations, including top edible oil importer India. Malaysian palm oil futures jumped more than 4% on Monday. Under the U.N.-brokered grains deal, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) made up of U.N., Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials agrees on the movement of ships and inspects the vessels. More than 9.5 million tonnes of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soy have been exported from the Black Sea since July. Although global agricultural commodity prices have come off record highs in recent months, local retail food prices remain high and now face further upside. "Typically, it takes about two months for higher grain prices to filter through the supply chain and impact consumers at the retail level," said a Sydney-based analyst. "But food processors do not have much forward coverage, so it is likely to be a lot quicker."
A two-day meeting of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in India has ended with the adoption of a document committing Member States to prevent and combat digital forms of terror, notably using drones, social media and online terrorist financing. The non-binding document, known as The Delhi Declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes was adopted in the Indian capital on Saturday, following a series of panels that involved Member States representatives, UN officials, civil society entities, the private sector, and researchers. The declaration aims to cover the main concerns surrounding the abuse of drones, social media platforms, and crowdfunding, and create guidelines that will help to tackle the growing issue. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, underscored that there must be "concrete measures to reduce these vulnerabilities while committing to protect all human rights in the digital sphere." In a video message, Guterres added that human rights could only be achieved through effective multilateralism and international cooperation, with responses that are anchored in the values and obligations of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Representing the Human Rights Office, Scott Campbell, who leads the digital technology team, echoed the Secretary-General, explaining that "respecting rights when countering terrorism is fundamental to ensuring sustainable and effective efforts to protect our security." "Approaches that cross these important lines not only violate the law, but they also undermine efforts to combat terrorism by eroding the trust, networks, and community that is essential to successful prevention and response," he said. He stressed that companies and States should be cautious when filtering and blocking social media content, as it can "affect minorities and journalists in disproportionate ways." During the closing session of the meeting, the Committee chairperson, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, stated that the outcome document takes note of the challenges, and proposes "practical, operational, and tactical possibilities of addressing the opportunities and the threats posed by the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes."
Visiting FIFA president Gianni Infantino pledged to help "reform and transform" Indonesian football on Tuesday, two weeks after the country suffered one of the worst disasters in the sport's history. Infantino met President Joko Widodo in the capital Jakarta, a year before the Under-20 World Cup is due to be held in the Southeast Asian nation. "We will reform and transform football in this country", Infantino said, flanked by Widodo. His assurances came as hospital officials said a 33-year-old man had died from injuries sustained in the Kanjuruhan stadium crush, bringing the confirmed death toll to 133. More than 40 children were among those killed in the city of Malang, East Java on October 1, in what Infantino described as "one of the darkest days for football". After supporters invaded the pitch at the end of a league match between Arema FC and rivals Persebaya Surabaya, police fired tear gas into packed stands, sparking a stampede. "What I can guarantee to all the people of Indonesia: FIFA is here with you, FIFA is here to stay, FIFA is here to work in a very close partnership with the government, with the Asian Football Confederation and with the federation of Indonesia," Infantino said after meeting Widodo. The main focus would be improving stadium operations and fan behaviour, Infantino said, as well as creating programmes for football in schools. "We will bring our experts, we will help and invest and we will make sure that Indonesia shines on the global football stage," he added. Widodo said he agreed with FIFA "on a thorough transformation of Indonesian football to ensure all aspects of the matches follow the international safety standards set up by FIFA". "The safety for both the players and fans must be guaranteed," he said. Infantino said FIFA would work with the Indonesian government to ensure the Under-20 World Cup can go ahead safely. The youth tournament is scheduled to take place in May-June 2023, in multiple cities across the archipelago nation. Three police officers are among six people who have been charged over the tragedy. An investigating task force has called on the country's football association chief and all of its executive committee members to resign. It also found that more than three hours of footage from CCTV in the main lobby and parking area of the stadium had gone missing. Representatives from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have been in Jakarta since last week to investigate what happened, along with the national FA and the government. Widodo has suspended all football matches until the investigation is complete and ordered a safety review of all stadiums.
Twelve people were killed and three others injured in a shooting in central Mexico on Saturday. Unknown gunmen opened fire in a restaurant in the city of Irapuato in Mexico's central state of Guanajuato, killing 12 people, including six women, and wounding three others, Mexican media quoted local authorities as saying. The motive behind the shooting is unclear, and search operation for the attackers is underway. On Oct. 6, at least 18 people were killed, and two others were injured, in an armed attack that took place in the municipality building of the city of San Miguel Totolapan in Guerrero State in southwestern Mexico. (QNA)
A fire broke out on Saturday in Tehran's Evin prison, where many of Iran's political and dual-national detainees are held, and witnesses reported hearing gunfire. State news agency IRNA said eight people were injured in the unrest, which erupted after nearly a month of protests across Iran over the death in detention of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman. The protests have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution, with demonstrations spreading across the country and some people chanting for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. An Iranian judiciary statement said a prison workshop was set on fire "after a fight among a number of prisoners convicted of financial crimes and theft". Tehran's fire department told state media the cause of the incident was under investigation. The prison, located in the foothills at the northern edge of the Iranian capital, holds criminal convicts as well as political detainees. "Roads leading to Evin prison have been closed to traffic. There are lots of ambulances here," said a witness contacted by Reuters. "Still, we can hear gunshots." Another witness said families of prisoners had gathered in front of the main prison entrance. "I can see fire and smoke. Lots of special forces," the witness said. A security official said calm had been restored at the prison, but the first witness said ambulance sirens could be heard and smoke still rose over the prison. "People from nearby buildings are chanting 'Death to Khamenei' from their windows," the witness said. Early on Sunday, IRNA carried a video it said showed prison areas damaged by fire. Firemen were seen dousing the debris with water, apparently to prevent the blaze from re-igniting. The prison mostly holds detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality. It has long been criticised by Western rights groups and was blacklisted by the U.S. government in 2018 for "serious human rights abuses". Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American imprisoned for nearly seven years on espionage-related charges rejected by Washington as baseless, returned to Evin on Wednesday after being granted a brief furlough, his lawyer said. Other U.S. citizens held in Evin include environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who also has British nationality, and businessman Emad Shargi, according to human rights lawyer Saeid Dehghan. He added that several other dual nationals are held at Evin, including French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and Iranian-Swedish Ahmadreza Djalali, a disaster medicine doctor. Asked about the prison fire, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters during a campaign trip to Portland, Oregon: "The Iranian government is so oppressive." He said he was surprised by "the courage of people and women taking (to) the street" in the recent protests and had enormous respect for them. "It's been really amazing," he added. "They're not a good group, in the government." U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price tweeted, "we are following reports from Evin Prison with urgency. We are in contact with the Swiss as our protecting power. Iran is fully responsible for the safety of our wrongfully detained citizens, who should be released immediately." Human Rights Watch has accused authorities at the prison of using threats of torture and of indefinite imprisonment, as well as lengthy interrogations and denial of medical care for detainees. "No security (political) prisoner was involved in today's clash between prisoners, and basically the ward for security prisoners is separate and far from the wards for thieves and those convicted of financial crimes," an unnamed official told the Tasnim news agency.
Missile strikes on "many" Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv left people dead and wounded on Monday, the country's presidency said, a day after Moscow blamed Ukraine for an explosion on a bridge connecting Crimea to Russia. "Ukraine is under missile attack. There is information about strikes in many cities of our country," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said on social media, calling on the population to "stay in shelters". In Kyiv, AFP reporters heard several loud explosions starting at around 8:15 am local time (0515 GMT) -- during Monday morning rush hour. Russia's last strike on Kyiv took place on June 26. One AFP journalist in the city said one of the projectiles landed near a children's playground, and that smoke was rising from a large crater at the impact site. Several trees and benches nearby were charred from the blast, while several ambulances had arrived in the area. "The capital is under Russian terrorists' attack!" Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media, adding that the strikes had hit the city centre. "If there is no urgent need, it is better not to go to the city today. I am also asking the residents of the suburbs about this –- do not go to the capital today." Videos posted on social media showed black smoke rising above several areas in the city. "Air raid sirens are not subsiding around Ukraine... Unfortunately there are dead and wounded. Please do not leave the shelters," President Volodymyr Zelensky said on social media, accusing Russia of wanting to "wipe us from the face of the Earth". "Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Let's hold on and be strong." - Bridge attack - The strikes came a day after Moscow blamed Ukraine for the blast on a bridge linking Crimea to Russia, leaving three people dead. "The authors, perpetrators and sponsors are the Ukrainian secret services," Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Saturday's Crimea bridge bombing, which he described as a "terrorist act". Putin was speaking during a meeting with the head of the investigation committee he has set up to look into the bombing, Russian news agencies reported. The Russian leader is gearing up for a meeting with his Security Council later Monday, the Kremlin told local news agencies. "Tomorrow the president has a planned meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The blast that hit the bridge sparked celebrations from Ukrainians and others on social media. But Zelensky, in his nightly address on Saturday, did not directly mention the incident, and officials in Kyiv have made no direct claim of responsibility. On Saturday, Russia said some road and rail traffic had resumed over the strategic link, a symbol of the Kremlin's 2014 annexation of Crimea. The 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge is a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula. Some military analysts argue that the blast could have a major impact if Moscow sees the need to shift already hard-pressed troops to Crimea from other regions -- or if it prompts a rush by residents to leave. Mick Ryan, a retired Australian senior officer now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that even if Kyiv was not behind the blast, it constituted "a massive influence operation win for Ukraine". "It is a demonstration to Russians, and the rest of the world, that Russia's military cannot protect any of the provinces it recently annexed," he said on Twitter.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived on Wednesday in the city of Malang, where a stadium stampede killed at least 131 people in one of the deadliest disasters in football history. He greeted relatives of the victims after arriving at the Saiful Anwar hospital in the East Javan city. He will then travel to the Kanjuruhan stadium, the scene of the disaster on Saturday evening, according to an official from the presidential office. The Indonesian leader's visit came as anger grew over police officers' response to a pitch invasion after fans of Arema FC tried to approach players following their defeat to fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya. Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting. Officers responded to the pitch invasion with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and video footage, pushing fans back into the stands where many were trampled or suffocated to death after tear gas was fired. In response to the tragedy, Widodo ordered all matches suspended, an investigation into what happened, and compensation for victims. Indonesia's chief security minister said a task force had been created and that the probe would take two to three weeks. Police said the investigation was focusing on six gates at the stadium using CCTV footage from cameras placed outside them. It said the exits were open but too small for the crowds attempting to pass through them. But Indonesia's football association spokesperson said Tuesday some gates that should have been opened 10 minutes before the final whistle remained closed. They stayed shut "because of late commands" and officers "had not arrived", he told a press conference. The Malang police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation over the disaster in the stadium, according to police. - 'Not going there' - Witnesses described being shrouded in smoke, their eyes stinging as they rushed for small exit doors. Several present said police stood by and refused to help victims. "The place looked like a mass cemetery. Women and children were piling on top of one another," Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP. Indonesia's football association also moved Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, banning its organising committee chairman and a security officer from football for life and fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,500). Maike Ira Puspita, the association's deputy secretary-general, told AFP the away fans were banned due to fears of fan violence and said the match passed without incident until fans entered the pitch after the final whistle. She said the association sanctioned the club and its officials "due to the... negligence of the whole situation". The actions of the police were outside of the association's scope, the official said. "We are not going to go there," she said, refusing to answer questions about their conduct after the match.
At least 125 people died at an Indonesian football stadium when thousands of angry home fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas that triggered a stampede, authorities said Sunday. The tragedy on Saturday night in the city of Malang, which also left 180 injured, was one of the world's deadliest sporting stadium disasters. Arema FC supporters at the Kanjuruhan stadium stormed the pitch after their team lost 3-2 to the visiting team and bitter rivals, Persebaya Surabaya. Police, who described the unrest as "riots", said they tried to force fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed. Many of the victims were trampled or choked to death, according to police. At least 125 people died, East Java deputy governor Emil Dardak told broadcaster Metro TV on Sunday evening, significantly lowering officials' earlier death toll of 174 because of double counting. "124 have been identified and one has not. Some names were recorded twice because they had been referred to another hospital and were written down again," he said, citing data collected by local police from 10 hospitals. Survivors described panicking spectators in a packed crowd as tear gas rained down on them. "Officers fired tear gas, and automatically people were rushing to come out, pushing each other and it caused many victims," 43-year-old spectator Doni, who declined to give his last name, told AFP. "Nothing was happening, there was no riot. I don't know what the issue was, they suddenly fired tear gas. That's what shocked me, didn't they think about kids, women?" President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a safety review into all football matches and directed the country's football association to suspend all matches until "security improvements" were completed. "I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this football tragedy will be the last in our country," Widodo said. A hospital director told local TV that one of the victims was five years old. Images taken from inside the stadium during the stampede showed police firing huge amounts of tear gas and people clambering over fences. Amnesty International called for an investigation into why tear gas was deployed in a confined space. "Tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People must be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse," it said in a statement. People carried injured spectators through the chaos and survivors lugged lifeless bodies out of the stadium. "It was so terrifying, so shocking," 22-year-old survivor Sam Gilang, who lost three friends in the crush, told AFP. "People were pushing each other and... many were trampled on their way to the exit gate. My eyes were burning because of the tear gas. I fortunately managed to climb up the fence and survived," he said. - Enduring violence - Video footage circulating on social media showed people shouting obscenities at police, who were holding riot shields and wielding batons. Torched vehicles, including a police truck, littered the streets outside the stadium on Sunday morning. Police said 13 vehicles in total were damaged. The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sell-out. Police said 3,000 people stormed the pitch. Fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have previously turned into deadly confrontations. Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals. Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for the game due to fears of violence. However Indonesia's coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organisers ignored a recommendation to print fewer tickets and hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening. On Sunday, Arema fans threw flower petals at the club's lion mascot monument outside the stadium in tribute to the victims. - Football world mourns - The football world mourned the disaster with Gianni Infantino, president of world football governing body FIFA, calling the stampede "a tragedy beyond comprehension". Clubs Manchester United and Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Sergio Ramos also posted tributes online. Spanish football clubs will also observe a minute's silence before matches on Sunday as a mark of respect for the victims. The Asian Football Confederation, the governing body for football in the region, expressed its regret at the loss of life. The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) was in touch with FIFA about the stampede and hoped to avoid sanctions, PSSI secretary general Yunus Yussi told a press conference. FIFA's safety guidelines prohibit the carrying of crowd control gas by police or stewards at pitchside. Indonesia is to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May. It is also bidding to replace China as host of the 2023 Asian Cup alongside South Korea and Qatar, with a decision due this month. Other stadium disasters include a 1989 crush at Britain's Hillsborough Stadium, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt where 74 people died in clashes. In 1964, 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during a stampede at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima's National Stadium.
Typhoon Noru made landfall in Vietnam early Wednesday morning, causing the closure of ten airports, damaging thousands of homes and causing widespread flooding. The Vietnam National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting (NCHMF) said that Typhoon Noru made its path directly towards the coastal province of Quang Nam and Da Nang city in the early hours of this morning, bringing winds of 117 km per hour before making landfall. Ten airports were closed due to the typhoon, as the national airline, Vietnam Airlines, told local media that it had canceled 148 flights, affecting about 14,000 passengers. Schools and offices were also closed in central provinces. The NCHMF has warned that central areas from Quang Tri to Quang Ngai provinces will suffer more heavy rains, which could cause landslides and flash floods. On Tuesday, Vietnamese authorities mobilized more than 270,000 military personnel to deal with the storm, while residents prepared by fortifying their homes with sandbags. Hundreds of thousands of people living in vulnerable areas along the central coast were evacuated before the typhoon. Typhoon Noru hit the Philippines last Sunday, killing at least six people and damaging infrastructure estimated at one million Philippine pesos in the Mimaropa region. (QNA)
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said on Monday prices of apps and in-app purchases on its App Store will increase in several countries including Japan, Malaysia and all territories that use the euro currency, from next month. The new prices, excluding auto-renewable subscriptions, will be effective as early as Oct. 5, Apple said in a blog post. These changes will also reflect new regulations for Apple in Vietnam to collect and remit applicable taxes, being value added tax (VAT) and corporate income tax (CIT) at 5% rates respectively, the company added.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived Saturday in Armenia, days after the Caucasus country's deadly border clashes with Azerbaijan jeopardised Western efforts to broker lasting peace between the arch foes. The worst clashes since Yerevan's 2020 war with Baku erupted on Tuesday, claiming the lives of 215 people, before hostilities ended on Thursday after international mediation. Pelosi said her visit "is a powerful symbol of the United States firm commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Armenia, and a stable and secure Caucasus region." She is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Armenia since the tiny impoverished nation's 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. The three-day visit "will play a big role in ensuring our security," Armenian parliament Speaker, Alen Simonyan, told journalists ahead of her arrival. Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars -- in 2020 and in the 1990s -- over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan's Armenian-populated enclave. Together with France and Russia, the US co-chairs the Minsk Group of mediators, which had led decades-long peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under the OSCE aegis. "We will convey the strong and ongoing support of the United States, as an OSCE Minsk Chair and longtime friend to Armenia, for a lasting settlement to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh," Pelosi said in a statement. The latest escalation came as Armenia's closest ally Moscow is distracted by its nearly seven-month war in Ukraine. Analysts have said the hostilities have largely undone Western efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace deal. With Moscow increasingly isolated on the world stage following its February invasion of Ukraine, the European Union had taken a lead role in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process. The six weeks of fighting in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce. Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.
Kyrgyzstan said Friday it had agreed a ceasefire with Tajikistan after deadly clashes on their disputed border escalated and raised fears of all-out conflict between the Central Asian nations. Russia has offered to mediate between the two ex-Soviet countries, where recent fighting has left dozens injured and several dead, and called for "urgent" measures to halt the fighting. Kyrgyzstan had accused Tajikistan's forces of escalating the fighting by firing rockets on the border town of Batken, with a population of around 30,000 people in the south east of the country. Shortly after, Kyrgyzstan's border guards said in a statement that the two countries' national security chiefs had agreed a ceasefire that would begin at 16:00 local time (1000 GMT). The clashes escalated while the leaders of both countries were participating in a regional summit in Uzbekistan, with Central Asian power brokers Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping both in attendance. Russia's foreign ministry repeated an offer to oversee talks between the countries as the ceasefire was announced and asked them to negotiate an end to the dispute. "We call on both sides to take urgent and comprehensive measures to bring the situation to political and diplomatic channels and to stop any attempts at escalation including by provocations from third parties," the foreign ministry said. The fighting flared on Friday, Kyrgyz officials said, with both sides accusing the other of responsibility and of using heavy weapons. "The area around the Batken airport and sites on the outskirts of the city have come under fire from Tajik multiple rocket launcher systems," Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said. "Civilian infrastructure in the city of Batken was destroyed," a statement added. The head of a security alliance led by Moscow said earlier Friday that officials in both capitals had supported the implementation of a ceasefire and negotiations. However, Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said "violent clashes" had broken out "along the entire perimeter of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in the Batken region". It accused Tajikistan of using heavy weapons, including rocket launchers and jets, but said its forces were repelling the attacks "making it impossible for them to capture settlements in Kyrgyzstan." The health ministry said 42 people had been injured and that medical facilities in the border region of Batken had been put on alert. It appealed to border-region residents to donate blood. Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces meanwhile of opening fire early Friday with "intensive" shelling of homes and civilian infrastructure. It did not give information about casualties. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, citing official sources, however reported that one Tajik border guard was killed and three more were injured. Kyrgyzstan said it was launching civilian evacuations from the border region. Fighting regularly flares up between the two countries that share a 970 kilometre-long border, with around half of the frontier contested. In 2021, unprecedented clashes between the two sides killed 50 people. The fighting has raised fears of yet another conflict in the ex-Soviet region with clashes this week between Armenia and Azerbaijan leaving more than 200 dead. Ukraine meanwhile claims sweeping gains in a counter-offensive against Russia's invasion. The authoritarian leader of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, and his Kyrgyz counterpart Sadyr Japarov were this week attending a regional summit of leaders in Uzbekistan. The leaders were seen together in official images distributed by the press service of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an alliance that Putin and Xi said offered an alternative to Western-led international organisations.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on Friday accused each other of using heavy weaponry such as tanks and mortars in an escalating border conflict that has killed at least three people and injured 27 since fighting broke out two days ago. Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said Tajik forces once again opened fire on several of its outposts early on Friday, and clashes took place along the whole length of the border with Tajik forces using tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and mortars. In turn, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces of shelling one of its outposts and seven villages with "heavy weaponry". A civilian was killed and three injured, authorities in the Tajik city of Isfara said. Kyrgyzstan reported 11 wounded overnight. Kyrgyz and Tajik foreign ministers have discussed the matter, the Bishkek government said, but the border guard service said two ceasefire agreements have already failed. The governors of Kyrgyz and Tajik provinces adjacent to the border were set to meet at a border crossing point in another attempts to end the conflict, Kyrgyz border guards set. Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon are both attending a regional security summit in Uzbekistan and featured among the leaders in a group photograph taken at dinner on Thursday. Clashes over the poorly demarcated border between the two former Soviet republics are frequent, but usually de-escalate quickly, although last year they almost led to an all-out war. Both host Russian military bases and have close ties with Moscow, which urged a cessation of hostilities this week.
* Armenia, Azerbaijan trade blame for clashes * Putin trying to calm the situation, Kremlin says * Intensity of fighting has decreased - Armenian PM * US and France urge end to hostilities Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sought to end fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan after border clashes killed at least 49 Armenian soldiers and raised fears of another fully-fledged war in the former Soviet Union. Russia, the United States and France called for restraint after the most deadly fighting since Armenia and Azerbaijan waged a six-week war over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Armenia said several towns near the border with Azerbaijan, including Jermuk, Goris and Kapan, were shelled in the early hours of Tuesday. Yerevan said it had responded to what it called a "large-scale provocation" by the Azerbaijan. Baku said it was attacked by Armenia. Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield accounts from either side. "It is difficult to overestimate the role of the Russian Federation, the role of Putin personally," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "The president is naturally is making every effort to help deescalate tensions at the border," Peskov said. Russia, which in February sent troops into Ukraine in the biggest European land invasion since World War Two, is the main powerbroker in the Caucasus and an ally of Armenia through the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which convened on Tuesday to discuss the situation. Russia, which operates a military base in Armenia, sent thousands of peacekeepers to the region in 2020 as part of a deal to end a war during which Azerbaijan made significant territorial gains in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey backs Azerbaijan politically and militarily. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of attacking Armenian towns because it did not want to negotiate over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave which is inside Azerbaijan but mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. He said the intensity of hostilities had decreased but attacks from Azerbaijan continued. Azerbaijan, which accused Armenia of carrying out intelligence activity along the border and moving weapons, said its military positions came under attack by Armenia. It said it sustained losses but did not disclose the number of casualties. Azerbaijani media reported that a ceasefire agreement had been broken almost immediately after being enforced early on Tuesday. Both Russia and the United States, at loggerheads over the Ukraine war, called on Baku and Yerevan to observe restraint. "As we have long made clear, there can be no military solution to the conflict," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. "We urge an end to any military hostilities immediately." The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan "should be resolved exclusively through political and diplomatic means". The defence ministers of Armenia and Russia spoke on Tuesday morning and agreed to take steps to stabilise the situation on the border. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu talked to his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov and called for Armenia to "cease its provocations". Charles Michel, president of the European Council, also urged Pashinyan to prevent further escalation. Michel met with Pashinyan and Azerbaijaini President Ilham Aliyev last month in Brussels for talks on the normalisation of ties between the countries, humanitarian issues and the prospect of a peace treaty over Nagorno-Karabakh. France will bring up the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the U.N. Security Council, the office of President Emmanuel Macron said, adding that Macron continued to urge both sides to stick to a ceasefire.