Nearly half of Ukraine's electricity grid remains damaged, a private operator said on Thursday, a week after the latest Russian strikes on the country's energy infrastructure disrupted power to millions of people."Russia has destroyed 40 percent of the Ukrainian energy system with terrorist missile attacks. Dozens of energy workers were killed and wounded," DTEK company said in a statement on social media.After suffering military defeats on the ground, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy facilities in October, causing severe damage and power shortages.Last week, a latest series of massive strikes on these sites left entire regions across Ukraine cold and dark."Electrical engineers are doing everything possible and impossible to stabilise the situation regarding energy supply," the company said, saying its technical teams are working "day and night" to quickly repair the infrastructure.Authorities said Wednesday that nine people had died in fire-related accidents in the country over the past 24 hours, as Ukrainians are forced to find alternate heating sources.
French emergency services rescued 240 migrants heading in small boats across the Channel to the southern coast of England within a 24 hour period this week, local authorities said.The 240 were rescued in five different operations between Monday and Tuesday off Calais on France's northern coast, France's Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea said in a statement late Tuesday.According to the UK authorities, 426 migrants were detected crossing the Channel on Monday after very few crossed the week earlier during a period of bad weather.Britain and France this month signed a deal for UK authorities to increase what their French counterparts are paid to prevent the crossings, as ties warm under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.UK police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of playing a "key role" in the deaths of at least 27 people who drowned attempting to cross the Channel in a dinghy last November in the deadliest such tragedy.Among the 27 - aged seven to 47 - were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.Attention has however now switched to Albanian nationals, who have been crossing the Channel in unprecedentedly high numbers.
Britain's government on Wednesday rejected union pay demands after ambulance workers joined nurses in voting to go on strike."Our economic circumstances mean unions' demands are not affordable," Health Secretary Steve Barclay said, after the Unison union confirmed the ambulance service faced its biggest strike in 30 years.Paramedics, ambulance technicians and emergency call handlers will walk out for 24 hours before Christmas, Unison announced late Tuesday after its members held a strike ballot.The strike will affect London and four other regions of England as the ambulance service joins nurses across most of Britain in striking over government pay offers, which fall well short of double-digit inflation.The Royal College of Nursing is holding the first strike in its 106-year history on December 15 and 20.Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said it was a "tough call" for the ambulance workers to also strike."But thousands of ambulance staff and their NHS (National Health Service) colleagues know delays won't lessen, nor waiting times reduce, until the government acts on wages," she said.The nurses' strike will be sandwiched between the first of a series of two-day walkouts by national railway workers, while postal service employees will stage fresh stoppages in the run-up to Christmas.Numerous other public and private-sector staff, from lawyers to airport ground personnel, have also held strikes this year as Britain contends with its worst cost-of-living crisis in generations.
Amazon confirmed on Thursday that it is laying off staff, after days of rumors that the e-commerce behemoth would become the latest tech giant to unleash a large-scale redundancy plan amid a souring economic environment."The economy remains in a challenging spot and we've hired rapidly the last several years," wrote chief executive Andy Jassy in an internal memo published on the Amazon website.US media have previously reported that the platform and its various branches will lay off about 10,000 employees.Jassy did not confirm the figure, but he said that the process had begun and would continue early next year.The first teams affected were those dealing with the brand's electronic devices such as Kindle e-readers. Physical shops will also be impacted."There will be more role reductions as leaders continue to make adjustments," he wrote."Those decisions will be shared with impacted employees and organizations early in 2023. We haven't concluded yet exactly how many other roles will be impacted."Jassey said that in the roughly 18 months he has been CEO, "without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we've made."He continued: "It's not lost on me or any of the leaders who make these decisions that these aren't just roles we're eliminating, but rather, people with emotions, ambitions, and responsibilities whose lives will be impacted."A reduction of 10,000 employees would represent a little less than one percent of the group's total payroll, which had 1.54 million employees worldwide at the end of September, not counting seasonal workers who are recruited during periods of increased activity like the Christmas holidays.The layoffs follow an aggressive hiring spree.With business booming due to the coronavirus pandemic as cooped up people turned in earnest to online shopping, Amazon doubled its workforce from the first quarter of 2020 to 1.62 million employees two years later.But with the economy souring, two weeks ago Amazon announced a hiring freeze and its workforce has already decreased compared to the beginning of the year.The US retail giant saw its net profit fall by 9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter.And for the current quarter, the crucial holiday season, the group expects growth to be anemic by its standards, between 2 and 8 percent year-on-year.Many technology companies that had been hiring heavily during the pandemic have recently announced job cuts, including Meta, Twitter, Stripe and Lyft.
Nato, Poland say missile likely from Ukraine air defenceMoscow says missile was Ukrainian air defence S-300Zelenskiy demurs, says 'no doubt' missile not UkrainianNato says Russia bears ultimate responsibilityA missile that crashed inside Poland was probably a stray fired by Ukraine's air defences and not a Russian strike, Poland and military alliance Nato said on Wednesday, easing international fears that the war could spill across the border.Nevertheless, Nato's chief said that Moscow, not Kyiv, was still to blame for starting the war in the first place with its February invasion and launching scores of missiles on Tuesday that triggered Ukrainian defences."This is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine," Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.Nato ambassadors held emergency talks to respond to Tuesday's blast that killed two people at a grain facility in Poland near the Ukrainian border, the war's first deadly extension into the territory of the Western alliance."From the information that we and our allies have, it was an S-300 rocket made in the Soviet Union, an old rocket and there is no evidence that it was launched by the Russian side," Polish President Andrzej Duda said. "It is highly probable that it was fired by Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence."Stoltenberg also said it was likely to have been a Ukrainian air defence missile. Earlier, US President Joe Biden had said the trajectories suggested the missile was unlikely to have been unleashed from Russia.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demurred, saying "I have no doubt that it was not our missile", Ukrainian media reported on Wednesday. He said he based his conclusion on reports from Ukraine's military which he "cannot but trust".He gave no evidence for his position, while saying he believed Ukraine should already have been given access to the site of the explosion as Kyiv had the right to be there.The incident occurred while Russia was firing scores of missiles at cities across Ukraine, targeting its energy grid and worsening power blackouts for millions, in what Kyiv says was the most intense volley of such strikes of the nine-month war.Kyiv says it shot down most of the incoming Russian missiles with its own air defence systems. Ukraine's Volyn region, just across the border from Poland, was one of the many Ukraine says was targeted by Russia's countrywide fusillade.The Russian Defence Ministry said none of its missiles had struck closer than 35 km (20 miles) from the Polish border, and that photos of the wreckage in Poland showed elements of a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile.The Kremlin said on Wednesday some countries had made "baseless statements" about the incident, after having accused Poland of an "absolutely hysterical" reaction on Tuesday, but that Washington had been comparatively restrained.Zelenskiy also said Kyiv had received no offer from Moscow to start peace talks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this week Ukraine was not interested in such talks.Zelenskiy's top adviser Mykhailo Podoloyak dismissed the notion of talks. "Putin's Russia is a key threat to the global world. Ukraine is trying to restrain Russian outrages, stop the escalation and growth of the war. Do not look for 'compromises' between the killer-country (Russia) and the civilized world. This is the path to a global tragedy," Podolyak tweeted.The news that Western officials had concluded the missile was Ukrainian brought some relief to the inhabitants of the Polish village hit by the missile, with some saying they had feared being dragged into the war."Everyone has in the back of the head that we are right near the border and that an armed conflict with Russia would expose us directly," said Grzegorz Drewnik, the mayor of Dolhobyczow, the municipality to which Przewodow belongs."If this is a mistake of the Ukrainians, there should be no major consequences, but I'm not an expert here."Some Western leaders at a summit of the G20 big economies in Indonesia suggested that whoever fired the missile, Russia and President Vladimir Putin would ultimately be held responsible for an incident arising from its invasion.G20 leaders issued a closing declaration saying "most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine", although it acknowledged that "there were other views".Moscow carried out Tuesday's missile volley just days after abandoning the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital it had captured since the invasion.The barrage echoed a pattern of Moscow lashing out with longer-range missile salvoes after losses on the battlefield to a continuing Ukrainian counter-offensive in the east and south.However, the top US general played down the odds of any near-term, outright military victory by Ukraine, cautioning that Russia still had significant combat power inside Ukraine despite a string of setbacks."Politically, there may be a political solution where, politically, the Russians withdraw. That's possible," Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference in Washington.Russia "right now is on its back", Milley added.
President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday said Ukraine’s recapture of Kherson marked “the beginning of the end of the war” as he hailed the liberation of the city of Kherson in a surprise visit. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg nonetheless cautioned that Ukraine was facing difficult months ahead and said that Russia’s military capability should not be underestimated. And US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping — a key ally of Vladimir Putin — agreed in talks yesterday that nuclear weapons should never be used, including in Ukraine. The Ukrainian presidency distributed images of Zelensky singing the national anthem with his hand over his chest as the country’s blue and yellow flag was hoisted next to Kherson’s main administrative building. “This is the beginning of the end of the war,” Zelensky said. “It is a long way, difficult way, because the war took the best heroes of our country. We are ready for peace but our peace, for our country it’s all our country, all our territory,” he added. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied that the Ukrainian leader’s visit had any impact on the status of the Kherson region, which Moscow formally annexed into Russia at a ceremony last month. In Kherson, Zelensky said that “the price of this war is high”. “People are injured. A large number of dead. There were fierce battles, and the result is — today we are in Kherson region.” His visit came just days after Ukrainian troops entered the city — the Kherson region’s administrative centre — after Russia pulled back its forces on Friday.
King Charles III turned 74 yesterday, with ceremonial gun salutes booming across the British capital to mark his first birthday as monarch. The former prince of Wales has thrown himself into his new role following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8. His birthday fell a day after Remembrance Sunday, when he led a sombre tribute to Britain’s war dead at London’s Cenotaph for the first time as monarch. Liveried troops fired salutes in London parks and from the Tower of London on the banks of the River Thames. A military band played Happy Birthday at the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. Charles has not scheduled any public appearances for his birthday. But he was pictured in a new photograph wearing a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers posing by an ancient oak tree to mark his appointment as Ranger of Windsor Great Park, west of London. The post was previously held by his father, Prince Philip, who died in 2021. In May next year, Charles, who was born on November 14, 1948, will become the oldest British monarch ever crowned. He became heir to the throne aged just three and spent most of his life waiting to succeed his mother. Since doing so in September he has immersed himself in his new role, although has held true to his word that he would not “meddle” in politics as king. Despite being an outspoken advocate of environmental causes, he has not gone the United Nations COP27 summit on climate change, following government advice. He has met a string of foreign dignitaries, including ambassadors and heads of state, as well as making public appearances around the country. Last week, he hosted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, met refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan, and visited Northern Ireland. Queen Elizabeth II saw 15 British prime ministers come and go during her record-breaking 70-year reign. Charles has already had two — Liz Truss, whose short-lived tenure ended in a furore over her tax plans, and Rishi Sunak, who was defeated by Truss during a party leadership contest but ended up replacing her. When he met Truss, who accompanied Charles on a tour of the nation after his mother’s death, the monarch was picked up saying: “Back again. Dear oh dear.” Last week, he had to dodge eggs thrown by a student opponent of the monarchy during a walkabout in York, northern England. Yet his first months have been relatively well received. An Ipsos poll in late October found Charles’s approval rating had risen 11% since March, to 54%, behind his eldest son, William, daughter-in-law Catherine, and his only sister Anne. Right-wing tabloid The Sun headlined a story for his birthday: Bonnie King Charles. “Two months have gone extremely well,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told AFP, praising Charles’s energy and “the way he handled events after his mother’s death, which I thought was excellent”. At a time of political turmoil, the royals provide a “symbol of national unity, which the politicians frankly have not provided”, Fitzwilliams added. Obstacles loom ahead though, most notably the contents of the confessional memoir Spare, penned by Charles’s estranged younger son Prince Harry, which is set to come out in January 2023. The royal-themed drama The Crown this month released its fifth series, covering the most scandalous years of the breakdown of Charles’s marriage to his first wife, Diana.
An explosion tore through a busy Istanbul shopping street yesterday, killing six and wounding dozens in what Turkiye’s president said bore the signs of a “terror” attack. Police cordoned off an area around Istiklal, where there were dense crowds yesterday afternoon, and helicopters flew over the city centre as sirens sounded. “I was 50-55m away, suddenly there was the noise of an explosion. I saw three or four people on the ground,” witness Cemal Denizci, 57, told AFP. “People were running in panic. The noise was huge. There was black smoke,” he said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned what he called a “vile attack”. “It might be wrong if we say for sure that this is terror but according to first signs... there is a smell of terror there,” Erdogan told a press conference. Turkiye’s vice president Fuat Oktay said: “We believe that it is a terrorist act carried out by an attacker, whom we consider to be a woman, exploding the bomb”. Authorities offered few details and nobody immediately claimed responsibility, but Turkish cities in the past have been struck by Islamists and other groups. Istiklal Avenue had been hit in the past during a campaign of attacks in 2015-2016 that targeted Istanbul and other cities including the capital Ankara. Those bombings were mostly blamed on the Islamic State group and outlawed Kurdish militants, and killed nearly 500 people and injured more than 2,000. Yesterday’s explosion occurred shortly after 4pm in the famous shopping street which is popular with locals and tourists. According to images posted on social media at the time of the explosion, it was followed by flames and immediately triggered panic, with people running in all directions. A large black crater was also visible in those images, as well as several bodies lying on the ground nearby. According to an AFP correspondent on the scene, police established a large security cordon to prevent access to the damaged area for fear of a second explosion. Istiklal, in the historic district of Beyoglu, is one of the most famous arteries of Istanbul, entirely pedestrianised for 1.4km (nearly a mile). Criss-crossed by an old tramway, lined with shops and restaurants, it is used by large crowds during the weekend.
Ukrainians yesterday hailed Russia’s retreat from Kherson as Kyiv said it was working to de-mine the strategic southern city, record Russian crimes and restore power across the region. Kherson was one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed in September. But weeks later, the Russian retreat from the city of Kherson has boosted Ukrainian resistance after nearly nine months of fighting and hardship. In the formerly occupied village of Pravdyne, outside Kherson, returning locals embraced their neighbours with some unable to hold back tears, a correspondent saw. “Victory, finally!” Svitlana Galak told AFP in Pravdyne. “Thank God we’ve been liberated and everything will now fall into place,” said the 43-year-old woman who lost her eldest daughter in the war. “We are Ukraine”, added her husband Viktor, 44. Several disabled anti-tank mines as well as grenades could be seen in the settlement that is home to a Polish Roman Catholic church and a number of damaged buildings. Ukrainians in Kherson danced around a bonfire in darkness and sang “Chervona Kalyna”, a patriotic song, according to images distributed by the Ukrainian military. “All of us are elated,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday after declaring the day before that the Black Sea city was back in Kyiv’s hands. Kherson city the first major urban hub to fall after Russia’s invasion. “Before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all critical infrastructure — communication, water supply, heat, electricity,” Zelensky said, adding that nearly 2,000 explosives had been removed. He said Ukraine’s armed forces had established control over more than 60 settlements in the Kherson region. After an eight-month Russian occupation, Ukrainian television resumed broadcasting in the city and the region’s energy provider said it was working to restore power supplies. Ukraine’s police chief Igor Klymenko said around 200 officers were erecting roadblocks and recording “crimes of the Russian occupiers”. He urged Kherson residents to watch out for possible landmines laid by the Russian troops, saying one policeman had been wounded while de-mining an administrative building. A woman and two children were taken to hospital with injuries after an explosive device went off near their car in Mylove, a regional village, police said. In Berislav district of the Kherson region, Ukrainian police said Russian shelling left “dead and wounded,” without providing further details. Yesterday, an increasingly isolated Putin spoke by phone with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, pledging to intensify political and trade co-operation, the Kremlin said. Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev hinted again that Moscow could use nuclear weapons. “For reasons that are obvious to all reasonable people Russia has not yet used its entire arsenal of possible means of destruction,” Medvedev said on messaging app Telegram. “There is a time for everything.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv and the West were on their way to “joint victory”. “This is coming, and our victory will be our joint victory,” Kuleba said as he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian summit in Cambodia. Kherson’s full recapture would open a gateway for Ukraine to the entire Kherson region, with access to both the Black Sea in the west and Sea of Azov in the east. Blinken hailed the “remarkable courage” of Ukraine’s military and people and vowed US support “will continue for as long as it takes” to defeat Russia. In London, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia’s “strategic failure” in Kherson could prompt ordinary Russians to question the war. “Ordinary people of Russia must surely ask themselves: ‘What was it all for?’” Kuleba warned, however, that Russia is still “mobilising more conscripts and bringing more weapons to Ukraine” and called for the Western world’s continued support. The Kremlin has insisted that Kherson remains part of Russia. “This is a subject of the Russian Federation. There are no changes in this and there cannot be changes,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. A full Ukrainian recapture of the Kherson region would disrupt a land bridge for Russia between its mainland and the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed a “historic day”, saying yesterday that military special forces were inside the southern city of Kherson following Russia’s announced retreat. “Today is a historic day. We are taking back Kherson. As of now, our defenders are on the outskirts of the city. But special units are already in the city,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram, posting video footage that appeared to show Ukrainian troops gathering with residents of the city. Joyous residents welcomed arriving Ukrainian troops in the centre of Kherson after Russia abandoned the only regional capital it had captured since its invasion in February. Russia said it had withdrawn 30,000 troops across the Dnipro River without losing a single soldier. However, Ukrainians painted a picture of a chaotic retreat, with Russian troops ditching their uniforms, dropping weapons and drowning while trying to flee. The withdrawal marked the third major Russian retreat of the war and the first to involve yielding such a large occupied city in the face of a major Ukrainian counter-offensive that has retaken swathes of the country’s east and south. Video footage verified by Reuters showed dozens of people cheering and chanting victory slogans in the southern Ukrainian city’s central square, where the apparent first Ukrainian troops to arrive snapped selfies in the throng. Two men hoisted a female soldier on their shoulders and tossed her into the air. Some residents wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags. One man was weeping with joy. Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency said Kherson is being restored to Ukrainian control and ordered any remaining Russian troops to surrender to Kyiv’s forces entering the city. Locals had placed Ukrainian flags in the square as news of the end of more than eight months of occupation filtered out. “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes! Glory to the Nation!” one man shouted in another video verified by Reuters. As Ukrainian forces surged forward during one of the most humiliating Russian retreats of the war, villagers came out of hiding and, amid tears of relief and joy, described how Russian troops had killed residents and looted homes. Reuters could not independently verify the accounts and Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to questions about allegations made by residents of the recaptured village of Blahodatne, 20km (12 miles) north of Kherson. Serhii Kalko, 43, one of roughly 60 people who stayed in Blahodatne out of a pre-war population of 1,000, was struck by how quiet the final Russian retreat had been. “They left silently. They didn’t even speak with each other,” he said. Previously, “there was shooting all the time from three directions”, said a tearful but ecstatic Halyna, a diminutive 81-year-old woman standing beside her rusty bicycle. “But they left two nights ago. Now they need to leave Kherson.” Serhiy Khlan, a member of Ukraine’s regional council for Kherson, said the regional capital is now almost fully under the control of Ukrainian forces. A large number of Russian soldiers had drowned in the river trying to escape and others had changed into civilian clothing, he said, advising residents not to leave their homes while searches for remaining Russian troops took place. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, said “saboteur operations cannot be ruled out” by Russian troops in civilian clothes. Earlier, the Russian defence ministry said it had finished its withdrawal from the western bank of the Dnipro river, where Kherson city lies, two days after Moscow announced the retreat. “Not a single unit of military equipment or weapons have been left on the right (western) bank. All Russian servicemen crossed to the left bank,” it added, saying that Russia had not suffered any loss of personnel or equipment. Ukrainian social media brimmed with celebratory messages and elation. Many businesses and official institutions, from national mail carrier Ukrposhta to the National Anti-corruption office, inserted images of watermelons into their profiles. The Kherson region is nationally renowned for its watermelons.
Austria will provide 50 million euros (dollars) to developing countries facing unavoidable damage and losses caused by climate change as it joins a small group of European nations to offer such funds, the country’s climate ministry told Reuters. Compensation linked to extreme weather and global warming has leapt up the political agenda at the UN climate conference taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Under pressure from developing nations, countries have agreed to hold their first formal talks on loss and damage, shorthand for cash rich polluters would pay to poorer states facing unavoidable damage from worsening floods, drought and sea level rise. Just four other governments - Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Scotland - have committed small amounts of loss and damage funding, breaking ranks with other rich nations that have resisted such payments for fear of spiralling liabilities for their outsized contribution to causing climate change. Austria will provide at least 50 million euros to tackle loss and damage over the next four years, the climate ministry said. The funds could support the "Santiago Network", a UN scheme providing technical support to countries faced with damages from climate-fueled natural disasters, and a programme providing early warning systems to countries prone to extreme weather. "The most vulnerable countries in the Global South are suffering particularly badly from the consequences of the climate crisis - and are rightly demanding more support from industrialised countries," climate minister Leonore Gewessler said. She said Austria would also add another 10 million euros to this year's budget for climate finance. "Austria is taking responsibility," Gewessler said. Climate campaigners have said, however, that the trickle of one-off commitments is no substitute for consistent support. So far, the amount pledged falls far short of the billions of dollars in losses already suffered by vulnerable countries hit frequently by extreme floods, drought and storms. Cyclone Idai caused some $1.4 billion in total damage and $1.39 billion in losses when it struck Mozambique in 2019, and some research suggests that by 2030, vulnerable countries' climate-linked losses could reach $580 billion per year. Developing countries want countries to agree at COP27 to launch a funding facility, dedicated to loss and damage. The United States and 27-country European Union - of which Austria is a member - have previously opposed the idea. Saleemul Huq, an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum group of 58 countries, welcomed Austria's funding, saying the forum expected Austria and others to support a deal on a dedicated loss and damage fund at COP27. "Every country announcing funding for the loss and damage from human induced climate change is most welcome," he said.
Migrants from one of the four charity rescue boats that Italy has denied safe port to, were allowed to disembark on Tuesday after a week at sea, the German group that operates the ship said. The Rise Above boat docked in the port of Reggio Calabria, in the toe of Italy, shortly after dawn and the 89 people it had picked up in the Mediterranean were let ashore. "We are relieved that the rescued people are finally safe on land," the German charity Mission Lifeline, which runs the Rise Above, said in a statement, condemning what it called an "undignified political game" that had kept them at sea. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's two-week-old administration has moved swiftly to impose a crackdown on boat migration, telling charity vessels that regularly ply the Mediterranean to take rescued people to other countries. The government initially kept four ships at sea and although it allowed two to dock in Sicily at the weekend, it has only let off the most fragile migrants, mainly women and children, leaving about 250 still onboard. The captains of the two boats, one operated by German charity SOS Humanity and the other by France's Doctors without Borders (MSF), have refused orders to put to sea again with the remaining migrants and are challenging the edict in the courts. A third ship, Ocean Viking, which is run by French charity SOS Mediterranee, remains off the coast of Sicily with some 234 migrants aboard. They were picked up from the sea off Libya 17 days ago and have repeatedly demanded access to an Italian port. It was not immediately clear why the Rise Above was given clearance to dock. However, Mission Lifeline said it was a much smaller boat than the three other rescue ships and its passengers had suffered badly in recent heavy seas. The U.N. agencies for migration and refugees appealed to Italy on Monday to let all the stranded migrants come ashore, adding that all "concerned states" should then take responsibility for the new arrivals. Italy has seen a sharp increase in migrant arrivals this year, with about 88,000 people landing in 2022 against 55,000 in the same period last year, official data showed. Most of them have come from Egypt and Tunisia and Italy says the vast majority of migrants are not fleeing war or discrimination but are seeking a rich life in Europe. Rescues by aid groups accounted for about 15% of migrants who disembarked in Italy this year, the United Nations says.
At least 19 people died when a passenger plane crashed into Lake Victoria in Tanzania yesterday while trying to land at a nearby airport, the prime minister and airline said. Flight PW494, operated by Precision Air, hit the water during storms and heavy rain, the state Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) reported. Rescuers in boats rushed to the wreckage, which was almost fully submerged, to pull out trapped passengers, local authorities said. “All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people ... who have lost their lives,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told reporters in the lakeside city of Bukoba, close to the scene of the crash. Investigators were looking into what happened, he added. The plane left the commercial capital Dar es Salaam and “crash-landed” at 8:53am (0553 GMT) as it was approaching Bukoba airport, Precision Air – Tanzania’s largest privately owned airline – said in a statement. The plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, as well as four crew members, the airline added. It initially said 26 of the 43 people on board were rescued but later said 24 survivors were reported by emergency services at the scene. A witness told TBC he saw the plane flying unsteadily as it approached the airport in poor visibility, saying it took a turn for the airport but missed and went into the lake. Video and pictures on social media showed the plane almost fully submerged, with only its green and brown-coloured tail visible above the waterline of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. Footage from the broadcaster and onlookers showed scores of residents standing along the shoreline and others wading into the shallow waters to try to pull the aircraft closer to shore with ropes. The two pilots survived the crash and were in touch with rescue workers from the cockpit before reporting that their oxygen supply was dwindling, Albert Chalamila, chief administrator of Tanzania’s Kagera region, told Reuters.
France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) elected Jordan Bardella as president yesterday, overwhelmingly backing the 27-year-old member of the European Parliament to succeed Marine Le Pen in the post. Bardella, a party loyalist who had already been interim president for a year, won nearly 85% of party members’ votes, against 15% for his challenger Louis Aliot, who is Le Pen’s former partner. Le Pen, who has diluted some of the party’s anti-immigrant, eurosceptic policies, stepped down from RN’s leadership in 2021 ahead of her unsuccessful bid for the presidency in this year’s election, which was won by incumbent Emmanuel Macron. “I am not leaving RN to take a holiday. I will be there where the country needs me,” Le Pen told yesterday’s party convention. She is widely expected to make another presidential bid in 2027. In a speech to the conference, Bardella — who hails from a working-class neighbourhood north of Paris — said he owed everything to two women: his Italian immigrant mother and Marine Le Pen, with whom he has worked for a decade. Bardella said he would continue Le Pen’s drive to attract voters beyond the party’s far-right core and turn it into a government-ready organisation. “Come with us on the road that leads to the conquest of power... we will succeed Emmanuel Macron,” he said. Bardella will be the first person to lead the party who is not a member of the Le Pen family. The former National Front party was founded in 1972 by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Marine Le Pen, who took over from her firebrand father in 2011, expelled him from the party in 2015 in a bid to distance it from its most radical, far-right fringe. Bardella told Reuters last week that the fact that someone from outside the Le Pen family could chair the RN represented a “small cultural revolution”. “Bravo Jordan,” Le Pen senior tweeted following his election. A boxing enthusiast raised in a social housing block, Bardella has risen quickly through the party ranks. In 2019, he led its campaign for European elections, where it took the top spot ahead of Macron’s centrist party. Bardella said sovereigntist forces were on the rise across Europe, notably in Sweden, Hungary and Italy, and he saluted Italian sympathisers at the conference. Italy’s hard-right League party head and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini congratulated bardella in a tweet. Bardella takes over after the French parliament on Friday cut the pay of a far-right lawmaker and temporarily banned him from the chamber for shouting racist remarks he made during a parliamentary session. Bardella defended the RN lawmaker and said immigration and national identity would remain key tenets of RN’s programme. “Once we are in charge, immigrant ships run by the mafia of people traffickers will not be allowed to dock in French ports,” he said, adding that welfare benefits would be reserved for French people because “our country’s calling is not to be the world’s hotel”. But Bardella called on party members to steer clear of “useless provocations” and to appeal to the entire political spectrum, by focusing on the struggle of citizens to make ends meet. RN member and long-time Le Pen ally Steeve Briois, who was not included in the party’s new executive committee, said there was a risk that under Bardella the party would “re-radicalise” and again become “obsessed by only one thing: identity”.
France's far-right National Rally Saturday designated Jordan Bardella, its 27-year-old rising star, to succeed Marine Le Pen as party chief and pursue efforts to secure the group's place in the political mainstream. Bardella, who was widely expected to win as Le Pen's protege, won 85 percent of the votes from party members, beating Louis Aliot, mayor of the southern city of Perpignan, who garnered 15 percent. A beaming Le Pen announced the result during a meeting in Paris, and Bardella is expected to address the gathering later Saturday. His nomination comes after the party had its best-ever showing in parliamentary elections earlier this year, gaining 89 seats even after Le Pen failed to unseat Emmanuel Macron in her third run for the presidency. "Over 40 years of struggle, the National Front succeeded in putting all the major issues facing our society at the heart of public debate," Le Pen said, referring to the party's former name. The National Rally was rocked this week by the suspension of one of its MPs, accused of making a racist outburst against a fellow lawmaker in parliament. Bardella also faces the daunting task of getting the party on solid financial footing as it faces inquiries over alleged misuse of public funds by party members, including Le Pen.
A fire Saturday killed at least 15 people at a bar in the Russian city of Kostroma, Russian news agencies reported. The night-time fire at the popular bar could have been started after a drunk man fired a "flare gun" on the dance floor, the TASS news agency reported. State television showed images of the bar - called "Poligon" and housed in a single-storey logistical centre - engulfed in flames. Authorities said the fire started at around 2:00 am local time and was put out at around 7:30 am. Governor Sergei Sitnikov earlier said 13 people were killed, but emergency services then said the remains of two other people were found. "Two more bodies were recovered. This means the number of victims is now 15," the TASS news agency quoted law enforcement sources as saying. Around 250 people were evacuated from the building when it caught fire in the city around 300 kilometres (180 miles) northeast of Moscow, authorities said earlier. The TASS news agency, citing sources in emergency services, said a drunk man with a "flare gun" was likely to have caused the fire. "He was spending time in the bar with a woman, ordered her flowers, with a flare gun in his hands," the source told the agency. "Then he went to the dance floor and fired it." Local emergency services said the blaze had spread out over 3,500 square meters. On its website, Poligon says it acts as an evening and night-time "place for recreation and entertainment". By day, it is a typical Russian "stolovaya" -- a casual restaurant serving traditional food. It says it is housed in a "distribution centre" and is popular with traffic police. State television showed images of dozens of emergency workers fighting a huge fire that had engulfed the single-storey building. The sign "Poligon" was visible amid the flames raging on its roof. One fire fighter told regional state television that it took 50 people to extinguish the fire and that they had used 20 fire engines. He said the fire was especially difficult to put out because of the risk of the building collapsing. Kostroma, a city on the Volga river of around 230,000 people, is one of Russia's oldest cities and is famous for its medieval architecture and monasteries.
Grain ships left Ukraine's ports on Thursday, a day after Russia rejoined an international agreement to guarantee their safe passage through the Black Sea. But Russia said it had yet to decide whether to extend the grain deal beyond November 19 - the renewal date set in the agreement. "Before making a decision on an extension, we will need to give an overall assessment of the effectiveness of the deal," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Russia on Saturday temporarily pulled out of the deal, accusing Ukraine of using the safe shipping corridor to launch a drone attack on its Black Sea fleet. Ukraine has denied this, accusing Russia of using a "false pretext" to quit the deal. Moscow's move drew global condemnation. The United Nations emphasised the importance of the deal for global food security, particularly for countries in the developing world dependent on Ukrainian food imports. The UN's coordination centre for the grain deal said seven vessels carrying a total of 290,102 metric tonnes of grain and food products were transiting through the shipping corridor on Thursday. Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain producers and the Russian invasion had blocked 20 million tonnes of grain in its ports until the UN and Turkey brokered the agreement. 'Words that Putin understood' Russia's defence ministry on Wednesday said it had received "sufficient" guarantees from Kyiv that it would not use the corridor to carry out attacks. In Kyiv, foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Ukraine had offered no additional guarantees beyond the ones already in the deal signed in July. "Ukraine has never endangered the grain route," he said on Facebook, indicating Moscow had rejoined the agreement thanks to "active diplomacy" by the UN and Turkey. "In coordination with Ukraine, they found words that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understood," he said. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday the resumption of the deal was "a significant diplomatic result for our country and the whole world". Russia's call for guarantees showed "both the failure of the Russian aggression and how strong we are when we remain united," he said. 'I feel less lonely' The frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine have remained broadly static in recent days but Russian missile strikes on energy facilities across the country have led to widespread blackouts as winter looms. In parts of the south recently recaptured by Ukrainian troops, volunteers said they were concerned by the numbers of residents returning despite the dangers. "It would be a lot easier if these people were not out here," said Yulia Pogrebna, a 32-year-old volunteer giving out boxes of food to pensioners in the village of Lymany. "But how can you ask someone who has lived in one place for 70 years -- where they know every blade of grass -- to leave? Especially if they have nowhere else to go." Natalia Panashiy, 54, a community leader, said: "Of course it is too early for them to be coming back. "But I am glad that they are because now I feel less lonely out here."
Denmark’s left-wing bloc led by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen appeared to take the lead in yesterday’s general election but without a majority, exit polls showed, setting the new centrist Moderate party up as likely kingmaker. Exit polls published by broadcasters DR and TV2 gave the left-wing “red” bloc between 85 and 86 of the 179 seats in parliament. Meanwhile the “blues” — an informal liberal and conservative alliance supported by three populist parties — were forecast to take between 72 and 73 seats. With neither side gaining their own majority, both sides will need the backing of the Moderates Party — a party founded earlier this year by two-time prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and which was credited with 17 seats — to form a government. The election was triggered by the “mink crisis” that has embroiled Denmark since the government decided in November 2020 to cull the country’s roughly 1mn minks over fears of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus. The decision turned out to be illegal, however, and a party propping up Frederiksen’s minority Social Democrats government threatened to topple it unless she called elections to regain the confidence of voters. The election campaign was dominated by climate concerns, inflation and healthcare. “Climate issues and psychiatry (mental health issues), but mostly climate, are the reasons behind my vote,” 46-year-old Lone Kiitgaard told AFP after casting her ballot in central Copenhagen on Tuesday, without disclosing who she voted for. “This election could be really close and there is a risk that there will be a blue government after today,” Frederiksen admitted after she voted at a badminton centre-turned-polling station northwest of Copenhagen. Nikolaj Sommer, editor of Danish business daily Borsen, told AFP he made his choice after studying the parties’ economic programmes. “That we are not actually stimulating inflation in Denmark, I think that’s a very important thing for me. And of course the Danish welfare system and how we’re going to run it in the long run,” the 47-year-old journalist said. Both the left and the right have made repeated appeals to Lokke Rasmussen, who campaigned on reforming the healthcare system. Frederiksen has floated the idea of a coalition government, led by herself, and has said she is willing to discuss healthcare reforms. Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, her main challenger on the right, has called for Lokke Rasmussen to align with his former party colleagues. “We will... do our outmost to be the bridge, that’s the whole idea behind this,” Lokke Rasmussen told AFP after casting his ballot in central Copenhagen. Only two months ago, the party polled at around two percent but soared to between 9.3-10% support in final opinion polls. Lokke Rasmussen, who said “it’s better to be a joker than a joke”, does not envision becoming prime minister a third time, despite being a potential kingmaker. “That’s not in my mind,” he said. Protective of the prosperity and social cohesion of the Nordic welfare state, Denmark championed ever-stricter migration policies for over 20 years. Advocating a “zero refugee” policy, the Social Democrats government is working on setting up a centre to house asylum seekers in Rwanda while their applications are processed. As most parties back the restrictive policies, the issue is rarely up for debate. Climate, on the other hand, is of great concern to Danes. On Sunday, some 50,000 people, including the prime minister, gathered for the “People’s Climate March” in Copenhagen. But while there is widespread agreement on some issues, Denmark’s political landscape is splintered with a total of 14 parties vying for the 179 seats in parliament. Four seats are reserved for the overseas autonomous territories: Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In the 2019 election, 84.6% of some 4.2mn eligible voters cast a ballot.
Few took Elon Musk's tweeted threat to stop funding Starlink in Ukraine as seriously as the commander in charge of communications along much of the southern front. The world's richest man last month took to his favourite social media platform -- which he has since bought -- to wonder why he should keep providing Ukraine with free satellite internet service. The temperamental mega-billionaire appeared to change his mind a few days later. "The hell with it," Musk wrote after his initial threat created a geopolitical furore and underscored the Pentagon's growing dependence on private space technology. "Even though Starlink is still losing money and other companies are getting billions of taxpayer dollars, we'll just keep funding the Ukrainian government for free." Major Roman Omelchenko is still not sure if Musk's second tweet was ironic or if he really did intend to keep paying for the Ukrainian army's main line of communication. He just knows that Starlink's loss would leave him scrambling during the brewing battle for Kherson. "If we lose it, it will be a serious blow to our means of communication," the 59th brigade's communications chief said in an interview conducted at a secret location along the southern front. "It would be very difficult without it." Cult status Musk gained cult status in Ukraine by sending in thousands of Starlink terminals in the first days of Russia's invasion. Ukraine now has 20,000 of the little white dishes hidden away across the war zone. Their role became even more important when Russia began to target Ukraine's key infrastructure with long-range missile strikes. A loss of power usually shuts down most cell phone service and complicates even basic communications on the ground. The only other alternatives for soldiers are walkie-talkies and older types of satellites dishes that take much more time and effort to set up. "We still have those in reserve," Omelchenko said of the older technology. "But you have to keep tuning it constantly. Starlink tunes itself. You don't have to do it manually. It is very simple and very powerful." Undetectable The terminals' dishes link up to Musk's constellation of satellites by feeds that Omelchenko said are almost impossible for the Russians to detect. The dishes are then wired up to basic routers that create small wifi spots. Therein lies the danger. Omelchenko said the Russians can spot the wifi signal and use it to target their strikes. The hotspots thus need to be set up in covered locations than can mask the wifi signals. But the entire system is uniquely simple to use. Omelchenko said soldiers can set up a functioning satellite feed on the battlefield within minutes. This then helps connect everyone from remote drone operators to soldiers and commanders across the war zone. 'Thank you' Many interpreted Musk's tweets as an effort to put pressure on the Pentagon to foot at least a part of the Starlink bill. CNN reported that Musk sent a private letter to the Pentagon in September requesting that it take over funding for Ukraine's use of his terminals. Musk's SpaceX venture put the cost of operating the system in Ukraine over the coming 12 months at $400 million. Omelchenko said he would prefer not to guess Musk's real intentions. "It is up to him to decide if he keeps paying for it or not," said the 45-year-old career soldier. "In either case, I just want to say thank you. I am still grateful because he helped us a great deal in the war against the Russian aggressor."
Danes were voting on Tuesday in what promises to be a tight election in which the balance of power could be tipped by which side of the political divide manages to woo the middle ground. The election was triggered by the "mink crisis" that has embroiled Denmark since the government decided in November 2020 to cull the country's roughly 15 million minks over fears of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus. The decision turned out to be illegal, however, and a party propping up the minority Social Democrats government threatened to topple it unless it called elections to regain the confidence of voters. Grey skies covered the capital as voting stations opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT). They are scheduled to close at 8:00 pm and the first results are expected around 9:30 pm. "Climate issues and psychiatry (mental health issues), but mostly climate, are the reasons behind my vote," 46-year-old Lone Kiitgaard told AFP after casting her ballot in central Copenhagen, without disclosing who she voted for. The latest polls give the left-wing "red bloc", led by incumbent Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's Social Democrats, 49.1 percent against 42.4 percent for the "blues", an informal liberal and conservative alliance, supported by three populist parties. Frederiksen got her vote in early at Hareskovhallen, a badminton centre turned voting booth northwest of Copenhagen. "This election could be really close, and there is a risk that there will be a blue government after today," she said. After a campaign dominated by climate concerns, inflation and healthcare, almost a quarter of voters were still undecided heading into election day, according to polls. "There is a fairly high degree of volatility with Danish voters, about 40 percent change parties," Rune Stubager, a professor of political science at Aarhus University, told AFP. 'Moving to the middle' With neither bloc likely to gain an outright majority, they will be unable to govern without the help of the Moderates, a centrist party founded this year by two-time prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who is polling at 9.3 to 10 percent. "That's the most interesting part. If there is no majority, as seems to be the case, the Moderates are required to form a government," said Stubager. Ronja Gourlay, a 32-year-old social worker, said the fact that both sides were seeking favour with the Moderates made the decision harder. "It was difficult to make a choice. I feel the parties are moving to the middle," she told AFP after casting her vote. Both the left and the right have made repeated appeals to Lokke Rasmussen, who has campaigned on reforming the healthcare system. Frederiksen has floated the idea of a coalition government, led by herself, and has said she is also willing to discuss healthcare reforms. Liberal Party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has called for Lokke Rasmussen to align with his former party colleagues on the right. First-time voter Antesa Jensen told AFP she was still hesitant. "I don't know yet who I'm voting for," Jensen said. The 40-year-old American has just obtained Danish citizenship after what she described as an exhausting process, highlighting the Scandinavian country's restrictive policy towards foreigners. 'Zero refugee' Protective of the prosperity and social cohesion of the Nordic welfare state, Denmark championed ever stricter migration policies for over 20 years. Advocating a "zero refugee" policy, the sitting Social Democrats government is working on setting up a centre to house asylum seekers in Rwanda while their applications are processed. As most parties back the restrictive policies the issue is rarely up for debate. Climate, on the other hand, is of great concern to Denmark's 5.9 million inhabitants. On Sunday, some 50,000 people, including the prime minister, gathered for the "People's Climate March" in Copenhagen. The left has promised a biodiversity law and the government intends to introduce a carbon tax on agriculture, a measure supported by most other parties. On the right, the Liberal Party is betting on the development of green solutions, while the far-right "New Right" is open to the construction of nuclear power plants, of which there are none in Denmark. In total, no fewer than 14 parties are in the running for the 179 seats in parliament. Four seats are reserved for the overseas autonomous territories: Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Voter turnout is traditionally high in Denmark. In the 2019 election, 84.6 percent of some 4.2 million eligible voters cast a ballot.