KYIV: Ukraine said Friday it had downed an entire barrage of 13 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces overnight targeting an airfield in the west of the country.
“Thirteen of the occupiers’ cruise missiles were destroyed on June 23... This time the attack was aimed at a military airfield in the Khmelnytskyi region,” the Ukrainian air force said on social media.
Russia launched waves of aerial attacks with cruise missiles and attack drones over the winter, prompting Kyiv to appeal to its Western allies to bolster its air defense systems.
“The launches were carried out around midnight from the Caspian Sea from four Tu-95MS bombers,” the air force statement said.
The mayor of Khmelnytskyi Oleksandr Symchyshyn reported explosions in the town with a pre-war population of around 275,000 and praised Ukrainian air defense systems.
Ukraine also said that it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone overnight.
Ahead of election, Cambodia amends law to bar non-voters from contesting in future
Anyone who does not vote in the general election on July 23 will be barred from contesting any future elections
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party is virtually unopposed in next month’s polls
Updated 6 sec ago
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s parliament voted unanimously to amend an election law on Friday to penalize anyone who boycotts next month’s poll, which critics have said will be a sham because of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s efforts to stamp out all opposition. Hun Sen, who has held power in Cambodia for more than three decades, last week ordered the rubber-stamp parliament to revise the law so that anyone who does not vote in the general election on July 23 will be barred from contesting any future elections. “... Individuals wishing to stand for election must participate in voting events prior to their mandate,” Sar Kheng, deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page after the vote in parliament. “The amendments impose fines and punish individuals who disrupt and obstruct the voter registration process...(and) the election,” he added. At the last election in 2018, the Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won all of the parliamentary seats, having scored 4.8 million votes out of the 6.9 million cast. There have been no overt calls for an election boycott but critics have expressed alarm over what they see as a campaign of intimidation and public threats by Hun Sen and the CPP ahead of an election they are certain to dominate. “This really shows that this is a dictatorship that is playing in the democracy game,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said, adding that “civil rights and political liberty have been completely, totally restricted by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.” Hun Sen’s administration has denied targeting opponents and says it is enforcing the law. The election commission said earlier this month that anyone urging people not to vote would be fined or imprisoned. The CPP will run virtually unopposed next month, after the election commission disqualified the sole opposition Candlelight Party from running, citing improper paperwork.
Beijing issues highest heat alert as north China swelters
A day earlier Beijing logged its hottest June day since records began with the mercury edging up to 41.1C, breaking a record set in 1961
Updated 54 min 15 sec ago
BEIJING: China issued its highest-level heat alert for northern parts of the country on Friday as the capital baked in temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
A day earlier Beijing logged its hottest June day since records began with the mercury edging up to 41.1C, breaking a record set in 1961.
The city is accustomed to sweltering summers but temperatures across China have been unusually high in recent months, with scientists saying the heat is being exacerbated by climate change.
On Friday morning, 185 red alerts were issued across swathes of northern and eastern China including Beijing, the nearby city of Tianjin and the bordering provinces of Hebei and Shandong.
The red warning is the highest in a four-tier system.
It is the first time since 2014 that the red alert has been used in Beijing, according to government weather services.
Many neighboring areas had already been on a red alert by Thursday.
“This weather is not human and it is only the month of June!” wrote one user on the online platform Weibo, echoing numerous other posts.
On the streets of Beijing, pedestrians were seen wearing masks, hats and visors to protect themselves from the sun.
Along the city’s canals, some sought an escape from the heat by splashing around in the water.
In the coastal province of Shandong, which borders the Yellow Sea, the temperature reached 43C on Thursday, according to China’s meteorological service.
Local media reported that 17 weather stations around the region broke temperature records.
The severe heat is expected to persist in northern and eastern parts for at least eight days, forecasters warned.
Australia PM says no threat from Russian diplomat squatting on site of proposed embassy
Australian leader Anthony Albanese: Contested site of a proposed Russian embassy is secure
Updated 23 June 2023
SYDNEY: Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday the contested site of a proposed Russian embassy was secure, after it emerged a Russian diplomat was squatting on the land following the government’s decision to cancel the lease.
Earlier this month Australia passed a law to prevent Russia from moving its embassy from a Canberra suburb to a prime site close to parliament and the Chinese embassy, citing national security concerns.
The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday a Russian diplomat was squatting on the land under the watch of police, who are unable to arrest him as he has diplomatic immunity.
“Australia will stand up for our values and we will stand up for our national security, and a bloke standing in the cold on a bit of grass in Canberra is not a threat to our national security,” Albanese told a news conference on Friday.
“The site is secure and we are comfortable with our position.”
The Russian embassy in Canberra declined to comment.
Moscow on Wednesday barred 48 Australians from entering Russia, in what it said was retaliation for Australia’s own long-running sanctions regime against the country.
US warship Ronald Reagan to make rare port call in Vietnam amid South China Sea tensions
The combat ship will arrive on Sunday afternoon and stay at Danang until June 30
US carriers frequently cross the South China Sea, which contains crucial routes for global trade
Updated 23 June 2023
HANOI: The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan will stop at Central Vietnam’s port city of Danang on Sunday in a rare visit for a US warship to the southeast Asian nation, as tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea remain high.
The ship will arrive on Sunday afternoon and stay at Danang until June 30, local media reported the spokesperson for Vietnam’s foreign affairs ministry as saying. The spokesperson did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
The visit of the USS Ronald Reagan is only the third for a US aircraft carrier since the end of the Vietnam War.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt stopped in Vietnam in 2020 to mark 25 years since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
This year Washington is seeking to upgrade its formal ties with Vietnam, amid Hanoi’s frequent disputes with Beijing over boundaries in the South China Sea. China claims the waters almost in their entirety, including the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and other countries in the region.
US carriers frequently cross the energy-rich sea, which contains crucial routes for global trade. The warships are often shadowed by Chinese vessels.
On Wednesday, the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong and a group of escorting vessels sailed south through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.
Narendra Modi denies religious discrimination exists in India
US Senator Bernie Sanders said Modi’s “aggressive Hindu nationalism” has “left little space for India’s religious minorities”
Muslim women members of the US Congress and other progressive lawmakers boycotted Modi's address
Updated 23 June 2023
WASHINGTON: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi denied that discrimination against minorities existed under his government during a press conference with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, despite rights groups and State Department reports of abuses.
Biden said he discussed human rights and other democratic values with Modi during their talks in the White House.
Asked at the press conference what steps he was willing to take to “improve the rights of Muslims and other minorities in your country and to uphold free speech,” Modi suggested they did not need to be improved.
“Our Constitution and our government, and we have proved democracy can deliver. When I say deliver — caste, creed, religion, gender, there is no space for any discrimination (in my government),” Modi told reporters.
In reports on human rights and religious freedom, the State Department raised concerns over treatment of Muslims, Hindu Dalits, Christians and other religious minorities in India while also listing a crackdown on journalists.
Rights advocates and dozens of lawmakers from Biden’s Democratic Party urged him to raise the issue publicly with Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has held power since 2014.
Dozens of protesters gathered near the White House on Thursday.
“Modi should think why that was the first question asked to him in the press briefing. It’s obvious to all there is rights abuse in India,” said Ajit Sahi, a protester and advocacy director at the Indian American Muslim Council.
“Modi’s comments (that there is no religious discrimination by his government) is a complete lie. India has become a black-hole for religious minorities,” said Raqib Hameed Naik, the founder of Hindutva Watch, a group that monitors reports of attacks on Indian minorities.
India’s importance for the US to counter China and the economic ties between the countries make it difficult for Washington to criticize human rights in the world’s largest democracy, political analysts said. Biden rolled out the red carpet for Modi on Thursday.
The only two Muslim women members of the US Congress — Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — along with some other progressive lawmakers like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, boycotted Modi’s address to the Congress on Thursday, citing allegations of abuse of Indian dissidents and minorities, especially Muslims.
US Senator Bernie Sanders said Modi’s “aggressive Hindu nationalism” has “left little space for India’s religious minorities.”
The benefits of the Indian government’s policies are accessible to everyone, Modi said. Rights groups have asserted, however, that dissidents, minorities and journalists have come under attack since Modi took office.
India has slid from 140th in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014 to 161st this year, its lowest point, while also leading the list for the highest number of Internet shutdowns globally for five consecutive years.
The UN human rights office described a 2019 citizenship law as “fundamentally discriminatory” for excluding Muslim migrants. Critics have pointed to anti-conversion legislation that challenged the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief and the revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status in 2019 as well.
There has also been demolition of properties owned by Muslims in the name of removing illegal construction; and a ban on wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka when the BJP was in power in that state.
“The protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India, that is something worth mentioning,” former US President Barack Obama, whom Modi calls a close friend, told CNN in an interview aired on Thursday.
“If you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility that India at some point starts pulling apart,” Obama said of what he would have told Modi now.