An old World War II bomb “unexpectedly” exploded on Friday in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth in the United Kingdom, the Norfolk Police revealed in a statement.
The police said the 250kg bomb was discovered on Tuesday by a contractor working on the third crossing over the River Yare and exploded as workers attempted to diffuse it, though no one was hurt in the incident, which pre-empted an army disposal team’s plans for a controlled explosion.
Supply of more advanced United States weaponry to Ukraine will not end the war but only prolong it and trigger more retaliatory strikes from Russia, up to the extent of Russia’s nuclear doctrine, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said.
“All of Ukraine that remains under Kyiv’s rule will burn,” journalist Nadana Fridrikhson quoted him as saying in a written interview with her.
Fridrikhson asked Medvedev, who as deputy chairman of the Security Council has become one of Russia’s most hawkish pro-war figures since its invasion of Ukraine, whether the use of longer-range weapons might force Russia to negotiate with Kyiv.
“The result will be just the opposite,” Medvedev replied in comments that Fridrikhson posted on her Telegram channel.
“Only moral freaks, of which there are enough both in the White House and Capitol, can argue like that.”
The Pentagon said on Friday that a new rocket that would double Ukraine’s strike range was included in a $2.175 billion U.S. military aid package.
With the first anniversary of the invasion approaching on Feb. 24, Russian forces have been on the back foot for the last eight months. They do not fully control any of Moscow’s four Ukrainian provinces unilaterally declared part of Russia.
President Vladimir Putin casts Russia’s campaign in Ukraine as an existential defense against an aggressive West. He has, like Medvedev, several times brandished the threat of a nuclear response, saying Russia will use all available means to protect itself and its people.
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Asked what would happen if the weapons Washington promised Ukraine were to strike Crimea – which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 – or deep into Russia, Medvedev said Putin had addressed the matter.
“We don’t set ourselves any limits and, depending on the nature of the threats, we’re ready to use all types of weapons. By our doctrinal documents, including the Fundamentals of Nuclear Deterrence,” he said. “I can assure you that the answer will be quick, tough, and convincing.”
The United States has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine after months of agonizing, as Kyiv prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory Russia captured last year, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The new weapons will roughly have double the range of any other offensive weapon provided by America, officials confirmed.
The U.S. will provide ground-launched small diameter bombs as part of a $2.17 billion aid package it is expected to announce on Friday, several U.S. officials said.
The package also for the first time includes equipment to connect the different air defense systems Western allies have rushed to the battlefield, and integrate them into Kviv’s own air defenses to help them better defend against Russia’s continued missile attacks.
For months, U.S. officials have hesitated to send longer-range systems to Ukraine out of concern that they would be used to target inside Russia, escalating the conflict and drawing the U.S. deeper in.
The longer-range bombs are the latest advanced system, such as Abrams tanks and the Patriot missile defense system, that the U.S. has eventually agreed to provide Ukraine after refusing initially. U.S. officials, though, have continued to reject Ukraine’s requests for fighter jets.
Ukrainian leaders have urgently pressed for longer-range munitions and on Thursday, officials said the U.S. will send an undisclosed number of the ground-launched, small diameter bombs, which have a range of about 95 miles (150 kilometers). The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the aid package not yet made public.
To date, the longest-range missile provided by the U.S. is about 50 miles (80 kilometers). The funding in the aid package is for longer-term purchases, so it was not clear on Thursday as to how long it will take to get the bomb to the battlefield in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s defense minister Oleskii Reznikov said on Thursday the country is prepared to offer guarantees to its Western partners that their weapons will not be used to strike inside Russian territory, adding that Kyiv needs weapons with the range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) to expel Russian forces.
“If we could strike at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army wouldn’t be able to mount a defense and will have to withdraw. Ukraine is ready to provide guarantees that your weapons will not be involved in attacks on the Russian territory. We have enough targets in the occupied areas of Ukraine, and we’re prepared to coordinate on (these) targets with our partners,” Reznikov said at a meeting with EU officials.
The U.S. aid package includes $425 million in ammunition and support equipment that will be pulled from existing Pentagon stockpiles and $1.75 billion in new funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is used to purchase new weapons from industry.
The USAI, which will pay for the longer-range bombs and the air defense system integration, also funds two HAWK air defense systems, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, and counter-drone systems.
Since Russia’s invasion last February, Western allies have pledged a myriad of air defense systems to Ukraine to bolster Kyiv’s own Soviet-made S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems, and the latest aid package aims to provide the capability to integrate them all, which could improve Ukraine’s ability to protect itself against incoming Russian attacks.
The U.S. has pledged medium to long-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and truck-launched short-range Avenger air defense systems; the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S. are sending Patriot missile defense systems; Germany is sending medium-range IRIS-T air defense systems; and Spain is sending Aspide anti-aircraft air defense systems.
The addition of longer-range bombs into the latest aid package was first reported by Reuters.
Ukraine is still seeking F-16 fighter jets, which U.S. President Joe Biden has opposed sending since the beginning of the war. Asked on Monday if his administration was considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Biden responded, “No.”
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov was asked if Biden’s “no” to F-16s was the final word.
“All types of help first passed through the ‘no’ stage, which only means ‘no’ at today’s given moment. The second stage is, ‘Let’s talk and study technical possibilities.’ The third stage is, ‘Let’s get your personnel trained.’ And the fourth stage is the transfer (of equipment),” Reznikov underlined
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday night that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in the central Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Dramatic video footage widely shared on social media and published by Iranian state media showed a fireball lighting up the night sky, with people outside seen running and emergency service vehicles speeding towards the site.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Iran of supplying military drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine, a claim that is denied by Tehran
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Monday said that the country’s military will spend nearly $550 million on drones in 2023 and 16 supply deals have already been signed with Ukrainian manufacturers.
Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have used a wide array of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, for reconnaissance and assault purposes during 11 months of the war.
“In 2023, we are increasing the procurement of UAVs for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Reznikov wrote on Facebook. “We plan to allocate about 20 billion hryvnias ($547.05 million) to this segment.”
Ukraine has received significant supplies of UAVs from its partners, from Türkiye’s missile-equipped Bayraktar TB2 to the Norwegian-made Black Hornet reconnaissance drone, which weighs less than 33 grams (0.07 pounds).
Kyiv is now seeking to boost domestic production to build what officials cast as an “army of drones.”
“The independence of the military-industrial complex is one of the factors of the country’s defense capability,” Reznikov wrote.
Ukraine’s military announced last week it would begin creating assault drone companies within its armed forces, and Reznikov said the Defense Ministry had received applications proposing 75 different Ukrainian-made drones.
“After consultations with the General Staff of the Armed Forces, after tests, the Ministry of Defence has already concluded 16 state contracts with Ukrainian UAV manufacturers,” he wrote
Parents and nurseries in the U.K. are struggling to provide nutritious meals for children as food costs rise, according to a survey of over 500 childcare providers.
The Early Years Alliance and the London Early Years Foundation shared with the British daily The Guardian that nearly one in 10 childcare providers said they had turned to food charities for help. Nearly 62% said they had been forced to use cheaper ingredients in their meals.
As the cost of living crisis affects the affordability of childcare for many families, 56% of providers said they had had to pass on the costs to parents, while 49% of providers also said they had seen signs of food insecurity among families in their settings.
Parents in the U.K. pay more for nursery fees than for their mortgages or rent, with the average cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under 2 being 14,000 pounds ($17,327).
Although some poorer households in England receive 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds and all households receive 15 hours for 3- and 4-year-olds, the rates given for free hours are deemed insufficient by providers.
The survey also found that children or families in about half of the settings were showing signs of food insecurity.
“It’s strange that this debate is being held,” he said during a press conference in Santiago de Chile on Sunday evening, while on a four-day trip to South America.
A serious debate was now necessary and not “a bidding competition … in which perhaps domestic political motives play a bigger role than support for Ukraine,” Scholz said.
A debate on an issue as important as arms deliveries had to focus on the matter at hand as well as rational considerations, the German chancellor stressed.
Scholz and U.S. President Joe Biden had ruled out no-fly zones over Ukraine shortly after the beginning of the Russian invasion of its neighbor, Scholz pointed out because that would have lead to a conflict between Russia and NATO.
Asked whether she would rule out the delivery of combat aircraft, SPD leader Saskia Esken told German broadcaster ARD that Germany is not a party to the war, and the government wants to “avoid this in the future.”
“The decisive factor is that Germany and NATO are not party to this war,” which is why the German government is in very close consultation with US counterparts on these issues, said Esken, whose party leads a coalition government under Scholz.
At the same time, it was important for Germany to make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin with every decision “that we reject Russian aggression.”
The comments come after the German government promised Ukraine a delivery of 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Bundeswehr stocks on Wednesday, after a long period of waiting for a similar commitment from the U.S.
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, has urged South Korea to “step up” military support for Ukraine, citing other governments that have changed their policies on exporting weapons to countries in conflict following the Russian invasion.
Stoltenberg made the appeal in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Monday.
He is in the city on the first leg of an Asia trip that will also include stops in Japan and is aimed at boosting ties with the region’s democratic allies in the face of the war in Ukraine and rising competition with China.
In meetings with senior South Korean officials, Stoltenberg argued that events in Europe and North America are interconnected with other regions, and that the alliance wants to help manage global threats by increasing partnerships in Asia.
Speaking at the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies in Seoul, he thanked South Korea for its nonlethal aid to Ukraine but urged it to do more, adding there was an “urgent need” for ammunition. Russia calls the invasion a “special operation”.
He pointed to countries like Germany and Norway that had “longstanding policies not to export weapons to countries in conflict” that were revised after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
“If we believe in freedom, democracy, if we don’t want autocracy and totalitarian to win then they need weapons,” he said.
South Korea is an increasingly important global arms exporter and has recently signed deals to sell hundreds of tanks to European countries, including NATO-member Poland. But South Korean law bans the export of weapons to countries in active conflict, which Seoul has said makes it difficult to provide arms directly to Kyiv.
South Korea opened its first diplomatic mission to NATO last year.
Stoltenberg said it was unclear when the conflict in Ukraine would end, saying Putin was preparing for “more war” and actively acquiring weapons from countries, including North Korea.
In a statement carried by state media on Monday, North Korea called Stoltenberg’s visit a “prelude to confrontation and war as it brings the dark clouds of a ‘new Cold War’ to the Asia-Pacific region”.
Pyongyang on Sunday denied sending weapons to Moscow, accusing the United States of spreading a “groundless rumor”.
“Trying to tarnish the image of [North Korea] by fabricating a non-existent thing is a grave provocation that can never be allowed and that cannot but trigger its reaction,” said Kwon Jong Gun, director general of North Korea’s Department of US Affairs.
He also called it “a foolish attempt to justify its offer of weapons to Ukraine”.
Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden promised 31 Abrams tanks, one of the most powerful and sophisticated weapons in the US army, to help Kyiv fight off Moscow’s invasion
Retired NATO general and former Czech army chief Petr Pavel, a pro-Western candidate who backs aid for Ukraine, beat former prime minister and billionaire Andrej Babis, one of the country’s richest men, according to interim results.
Pavel, a former paratrooper, won 57% of votes while Babis scored 42%, with over 95% of the vote counted, according to the Czech Statistical Office.
Babis, 68, a combative business magnate who had been prime minister since 2017, has sought to attract voters struggling with soaring prices and has vowed to push the government to do more to help them.
Betting agencies say Pavel is 10 times more likely to win than Babis, and he led final opinion polls by double-digit margins.
Pavel said on Friday after casting his ballot that his motto was decency and cooperation.
“(I would be) a president who will hold office with dignity,” he said, and someone who “will not paint castles in the sky, but will describe reality as it is.”
Czech presidents do not have many day-to-day duties but they pick prime ministers and central bank heads, have a say in foreign policy, are powerful opinion makers and can push the government on policies.
Pavel has backed keeping the central European country of 10.5 million firmly in the European Union and NATO military alliance and supports the government’s continued aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded it last year.
“I believe it will be important to continue to explain to people why it is important to support Ukraine,” he said on Friday.
He favors adopting the euro, a long-dormant topic under numerous governments, and progressive policies such as gay marriage.
A career soldier, Pavel joined the army in Communist times, was decorated with a French military cross for valor during peacekeeping in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and later rose to lead the Czech general staff and become chairman of NATO’s military committee for three years before retiring in 2018.
Babis heads the biggest opposition party in parliament and has attacked Pavel for being the government’s candidate since the two emerged from the first round of the election with around 35% of the vote each.
He has labeled the election as a referendum on himself, saying people should support him if they felt “worse off” now than under his former government. “I would be their voice,” he said on Friday.
He campaigned on fears of the war in Ukraine spreading, and sought to offer to broker peace talks. He also suggested that as a former soldier, Pavel could drag the Czechs into a war, a claim Pavel has rejected as warmongering.
Babis also has the support of outgoing President Milos Zeman, a divisive figure over his 10 years in office who pushed for closer ties with Beijing and – until Russia invaded Ukraine – Moscow, as well as fringe forces including the pro-Russian Communist Party
Ukrainian missile strikes on a hospital in the Luhansk region killed 14 people and injured 24 others on Saturday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said that a U.S. Himars-type multiple rocket launcher shelled the hospital in Novoaydar.
The ministry’s statement came some 10 hours after it said the attack occurred. However, the ministry shared no videos or photos of the incident, and the information could not be independently verified.
The hospital has provided “necessary medical assistance to the local population and military personnel for many months.”
The Luhansk region is occupied mainly by Russia.
The ministry accused Ukrainian forces of a “deliberate missile strike” against the civilian hospital, saying it was a “serious war crime committed by the Kyiv regime.” The statement said those responsible would be found and held accountable.
Russian state television released unverifiable images showing a destroyed building. A board showing the clinic’s opening hours were overlayed. No people or ambulances were visible in the footage.
A man has been confirmed dead after he got trapped underneath a urinal in central London.
The workman had been operating on a “telescopic urinal” at Cambridge Circus, outside the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue ton Friday afternoon, Jan. 27, when he suffered “crush injuries”, police said.
Efforts to rescue him from the structure went on for more than an hour-and-a-half. Sadly, he didn’t survive.
This model of hydraulic urinal, designed to stop public urination, is stored beneath the pavement during the day and lifted up to street level for people visiting at night.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Twitter: “We’re sorry to have to update that, despite the efforts of emergency services, the man who was critically injured in Cambridge Circus was pronounced dead at the scene.
“His next of kin have been informed. Cordons remain in place at the location.”
Finland has issued the first commercial export license for military material to Türkiye since 2019, a key demand for Ankara to approve Helsinki’s NATO bid, the country’s defense ministry said Wednesday.
Riikka Pitkanen, a special adviser at Finland’s defense ministry, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the export license granted concerned steel that would be used for armor.
The move comes amid a spat that saw Türkiye on Tuesday indefinitely postponing upcoming talks with Finland and Sweden on their application to join the military alliance after a weekend protest in Stockholm that drew condemnation from Ankara.
The three nations reached an agreement on how to proceed in Madrid last June, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Sweden, in particular, is not keeping its side of the bargain.
On Monday, Erdoğan said that Sweden should not expect Türkiye’s support for its NATO membership after a protest near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on the weekend including the burning of the Quran.
Of NATO’s 30 members, only the parliaments of Türkiye and Hungary have not ratified entry for Sweden and Finland.
The two countries formally applied to join NATO last year after Russia invaded Ukraine, abandoning decades of military non-alignment.
Türkiye has voiced objections due to the two countries’ tolerance and support for terrorist groups.
Ankara also requested the lifting of the arms export restrictions that Sweden and Finland imposed after Türkiye’s military operation seeking to clear northern Syria east of the Euphrates of the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian offshoot YPG in 2019.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen previously said that they would consider resuming arms exports to Türkiye.
Swedish authorities in September last year authorized the resumption of exports of military equipment to Türkiye.
“Since October 2019, no commercial export licenses have been issued to Turkey,” Pitkanen said.
She said it was “shameful” that the German government was “making deals and compromises with fossil fuel companies”.
On Monday, the last two climate activists occupying the hamlet to stop it being razed left their underground hideout, marking the end of the police operation to evict them.
Around 300 activists had occupied the village, staking out emptied buildings and constructing positions in the trees, to try to prevent the expansion of the adjacent Garzweiler open-cast coal mine.
‘Stop coal’ Luetzerath has been deserted for some time by its original inhabitants, as plans move forward for the expansion of the open-cast mine, one of the largest in Europe, operated by energy firm RWE.
Police launched an operation last week to clear the protest camp, making quicker progress than expected, and by Sunday had succeeded in removed all but the last two, holed up in a self-built tunnel under the settlement.
The end of the operation came despite Saturday’sa demonstration, which was attended by thousands, with protesters holding banners with slogans including “Stop coal” and “Luetzerath lives!”
Protest planners accused authorities of “violence” after clashes between police and participants, which resulted in injuries on both sides.
RWE has permission for the expansion of the mine under a compromise agreement signed with the government, led by Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“They know that we mean business. They know that you are prepared to take action to protect your jobs, to protect your pay and costs and to protect your ability to remain in the profession,” added fellow joint general secretary Mary Bousted.
This week nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were also due to resume strike action on Wednesday and Thursday.
Paramedics and ambulance workers are set to decide this week on further strike action, heaping pressure on the state-run National Health Service as it battles to recover from Covid delays to treatment and a staffing crisis
Türkiye is ready to undertake the role of a mediator between Russia and Ukraine to facilitate permanent peace between the two countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Monday.
According to the Presidential Communications Directorate, Erdoğan told Putin that Ankara is ready for moderation and mediation between the two warring neighbors for permanent peace.
The two leaders confirmed cooperation, with priorities including Russian gas supplies and the creation of a regional gas hub in Türkiye, the Kremlin said.
“The exchange of views on the situation around Ukraine continued,” the statement said.
“Vladimir Putin drew attention to the destructive line of the Kyiv regime, which relies on the intensification of hostilities with the support of Western sponsors, increasing the volume of transferred weapons and military equipment,” the Kremlin said in its readout of the call.
Most recently, Türkiye enabled a prisoner swap between the warring countries. Also, Turkish mediation proved vital in facilitating the signing of a deal between Türkiye, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul to reopen certain Ukrainian ports to release grain that had been stuck for months because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war – a development that has been crucial in responding to a growing global food crisis.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Ankara has offered to mediate between the two sides and host peace talks, underlining its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. While Ankara has opposed international sanctions designed to isolate Moscow, it also closed its straits to prevent some Russian vessels from crossing through them.
Ankara refuses to join the West in imposing sanctions on Russia and has cited its reliance on Russian energy supplies. In the meantime, Türkiye has closed its straits to prevent some Russian vessels from crossing through them. Turkish officials have been actively working to ensure a permanent cease-fire between the warring sides and leading a delicately balanced mediator role by keeping communication channels with both sides open, calling for diplomatic efforts, and stressing that the war can only “end at the negotiation table.”
The country has been aiming to help establish a humanitarian corridor for a long while as well.
Since Russia launched its military operation in February last year, Turkish mediation has facilitated a swap of some 200 prisoners in September and the signing of a deal between Türkiye, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul that reopened specific Ukrainian ports for releasing grain that had been stuck for months, effectively fending off worsening a global food crisis.
Last week, Erdoğan discussed with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy issues related to humanitarian assistance, the grain corridor, and Türkiye’s readiness to contribute to the peace process diplomatically.
“We will be summoning the Iranian Charge d’Affaires to make clear our disgust at Iran’s actions. Our thoughts are with Akbari’s family,” he said shortly before the top Iranian diplomat in Britain was summoned.
According to Iran’s Mizan News Agency, Akbari has executed corruption charges and “extensive acts against the country’s internal and external security.”
U.S. condemns Iran’s execution On Saturday, the U.S. ambassador to London said the United States condemned the execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari, describing it as “appalling.”
“The execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari in Iran is appalling and sickening,” Ambassador Jane Hartley said on Twitter. “The United States joins with the U.K. in condemning this barbaric act. My thoughts are with Alireza’s family.”
Germany calls execution ‘another inhumane act’ by Iran The German Foreign Office expressed solidarity with the U.K., calling the execution “another inhumane act” by Tehran.
“The execution of Alireza Akbari is yet another inhumane act by the Iranian regime,” the office said on Twitter. “We stand with our British friends and will continue to closely coordinate our measures vis-a-vis the regime and our support for Iran’s people.”
French President Macron: Iran’s latest execution is a heinous and barbaric act The execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari is a heinous and barbaric act, French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday.
Macron said he stood in solidarity with Britain, which has condemned the execution and defied British and U.S. calls for the 61-year-old Akbari’s release after he was handed a death sentence on charges of spying for Britain
Russia claimed Friday that its forces had taken control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine overnight after days of relentless fighting, claiming Moscow’s first big battlefield gain after half a year of military setbacks.
Reuters could not immediately verify the situation in the town. Earlier on Friday, Kyiv said fighting was still continuing there, after what it described as a “hot” night.
“The capture of Soledar was made possible by the constant bombardment of the enemy by assault and army aviation, missile forces and artillery of a grouping of Russian forces,” Moscow’s Defence Ministry said.
Soledar, with a pre-war population of just 10,000, sits above cavernous salt mines. Bakhmut, 10 times larger, is a substantial provincial district hub.
“Even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, it’s not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House on Thursday, “and it certainly isn’t going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down.”
“The night in Soledar was hot, battles continued,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“The enemy threw almost all the main forces in the direction of Donetsk and maintains a high intensity of offensive. Our fighters are bravely trying to maintain the defense,” she said, referring to the Donetsk region which includes Soledar.
“This is a difficult phase of the war, but we will win. There is no doubt.”
Meat grinder The front lines in Ukraine have barely budged for two months since Russia’s last big retreat in the south. Meanwhile, the battles around Bakhmut and Soledar became what both sides called a “meat grinder” – a brutal war of attrition claiming the lives of thousands of soldiers needed for decisive battles ahead.
The new year has brought important pledges of extra Western weapons for Ukraine, which is seeking armor to mount mechanized battles against Russian tanks. Last week, France, Germany and the United States pledged to send armored fighting vehicles.
In recent days, the focus has been on main battle tanks, which Western countries have yet to provide. On Friday, Finland joined Poland in promising to send German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine as part of a Western coalition. That requires the permission of Berlin, which has so far been hesitant but has lately signaled a willingness to allow it.
Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24, saying Kyiv’s ties with the West threatened Russia’s security, and Russia has since claimed to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces. Ukraine and its allies call it an unprovoked war to seize territory, and Kyiv says it will fight until it recaptures all its land.
The Russian-Ukranian war is likely to escalate in the coming months, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın warned on Friday as Türkiye continues to press for a fair and peaceful solution to the conflict.
“More war means more destruction, and a deeper, longer crisis. This is not good for anyone,” Kalın wrote on Twitter.
“Türkiye will continue its efforts for negotiations, cease-fire, prisoner exchange, nuclear security and grain export,” he added.
Most recently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on the phone on Thursday.
Erdoğan told his Russian President Vladimir Putin that peace and negotiation calls must be supported by a unilateral cease-fire as well as a vision of a fair solution.
Putin said that Russia was ready for a dialogue on Ukraine but that Kyiv must fulfill the previously announced requirements and consider “new territorial realities,” according to the Kremlin.
Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February last year.
Türkiye has since enabled a prisoner swap between the warring countries. Also, Turkish mediation proved vital in facilitating the signing of a deal between Türkiye, the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul to reopen certain Ukrainian ports to release grain that had been stuck for months owing to the ongoing conflict. This development has been crucial in responding to a growing global food crisis.
Türkiye is one of the most active countries working to ensure a permanent cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia. Its delicately balanced act of assuming a mediator role by keeping communication channels with both warring sides open provides a glimmer of hope in diplomatic efforts to find a solution and achieve peace in the Ukraine crisis.
With its unique position of having friendly relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Türkiye has won widespread appreciation for its push to end the war.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Ankara has offered to mediate between the two sides and host peace talks, underlining its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. While Ankara has opposed international sanctions designed to isolate Moscow, it also closed its straits to prevent some Russian vessels from crossing.
In a breakthrough, Russian and Ukrainian delegations met for peace talks in Istanbul on March 29. Türkiye also hosted Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Antalya earlier in March.
Pope Francis led the funeral of his predecessor Benedict XVI on Thursday in front of tens of thousands of mourners in St Peter’s Square, an event unprecedented in modern times.
Scarlet-clad cardinals, dignitaries and thousands of priests and nuns from around the world gathered to say goodbye to the German theologian, who stunned the Catholic church in 2013 by becoming the first pontiff in six centuries to resign.
For the first time in modern history, the papal funeral was led by a sitting pope, Francis, who delivered the homily in Italian as part of a multi-lingual service with a Latin mass.
“Benedict … may your joy be complete as you hear his (God’s) voice, now and forever!” the pontiff said in tribute to his predecessor, who died on Saturday aged 95.
At the end of the service, Francis made the sign of the cross over Benedict’s simple cypress wood coffin and bowed his head, before pallbearers carried it into St. Peter’s Basilica.
Benedict will be interred in a tomb in the Vatican Grottoes beneath the basilica where John Paul II’s body lay before being moved for his beatification in 2011.
The Polish pontiff was made a saint in 2014.
In a private ceremony after Thursday’s funeral, Benedict’s coffin was tied with a red ribbon and placed in a zinc coffin, before being sealed and put inside a wood casket, according to the Vatican.
Coins and medals minted during his papacy and a written text describing his pontificate, sealed in a metal cylinder, were placed alongside his body.
Paying homage Born Joseph Ratzinger, the ex-pope had not been a head of state for a decade, but world leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were among those in attendance.
Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, also attended after being granted permission by a court to travel following his arrest last year under the city’s national security law.
An estimated 50,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square for the funeral, according to police, many of them having queued up since dawn in thick fog to bid farewell.
“Benedict is a bit like my father, so I had to pay homage to him,” said Cristina Grisanti, a 59-year-old from Milan, who hailed the former pope’s “purity, his candor, his mildness.”
An estimated 195,000 people had already paid their respects earlier in the week when the body lay in state at the basilica.
Many Germans – some in lederhosen – were in the crowd on Thursday as church bells rang out across Benedict’s native Germany at the funeral’s culmination.
“We owe him so much. We want to show that we stand behind him,” said Benedikt Rothweiler, 34, who came from Aachen with his family.
“He always accepted everything the way God wants it. This is a good example for us humans.”
Two popes Benedict was a brilliant theologian but a divisive figure who alienated many Catholics with his staunch defense of conservative doctrine on issues such as abortion.
His eight years as head of the worldwide Catholic Church was also marked by crises, from in-fighting within the Vatican to the global scandal of clerical sex abuse and its cover-up.
When he quit, Benedict said he no longer had the “strength of mind and body” necessary for the task, retiring to a quiet life in a monastery in the Vatican gardens.
His death brought an end to an unprecedented situation of having two “men in white” – he and Francis – living in the tiny city-state.
He and Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, were said to get on well, but Benedict’s later interventions meant he stayed a standard-bearer for conservative Catholics who did not like his successor’s more liberal stance.
The last time a pope presided over the funeral of his predecessor was in 1802, when Pius VII led the ceremony for Pius VI.
Pius VI died in 1799 in exile, a prisoner of France, and was buried in Valence. His successor had his remains exhumed and brought back for a papal funeral at St Peter’s.
European royals Beyond St Peter’s, many of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics had been expected to follow the funeral proceedings on television and the radio.
In the majority Catholic Philippines, churches held requiem masses for the former pontiff, including at Malolos Cathedral near the capital Manila.
“This is an unexplainable feeling to witness this,” said Cherry Castro, 67.
Portugal declared a national day of mourning on Thursday, while in Italy, flags were flown at half-mast on public buildings.
The only official delegations were from Germany and Italy.
But other dignitaries, including Belgian and Spanish royals, the presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Hungary, Slovenia and Togo, and the premiers of the Czech Republic, Gabon and Slovakia among others attended in a personal capacity.
The Colombian government said Wednesday it was suspending a ceasefire pact it had announced with the ELN armed group, which denied it had agreed to anything.
“In view of the position publicly assumed (by the ELN)… we have decided to suspend the legal effects of the decree,” Interior Minister Alfonso Prada told reporters in Bogota.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro announced on New Year’s Eve that a truce had been agreed with the country’s five largest armed groups, including the National Liberation Army (ELN), from January 1 to June 30.
The government subsequently said the truce, hailed by the international community, would be monitored by the United Nations, Colombia’s human rights ombudsman and the Catholic Church.
But on Tuesday, the ELN said it had “not discussed any bilateral ceasefire with the Gustavo Petro government, therefore no such agreement exists.”
This prompted the government Tuesday to concede that a proposed ceasefire decree had yet been signed.
Negotiations between the government and the ELN, the country’s last recognized rebel group, have been under way since November.
A first round of peace talks since Petro came to power in August concluded in Caracas, Venezuela on December 12 without a truce being agreed.
Another round of talks is due to take place in Mexico, although no date has been set.
Prada said the issue of a ceasefire will be taken up again in Mexico.