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G7 warns Russia of ‘massive consequences’ if Ukraine attacked

The Group of Seven richest democracies warned Russia on Sunday of “massive consequences” if President Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

At a summit in the northern English city Liverpool, the G7 delegates said they were united in their condemnation of Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine and they called on Moscow to de-escalate.

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“Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost,” the draft statement said, confirmed by G7 sources.

Ukraine is at the center of a crisis in East-West relations as it accuses Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops in preparation for a possible large-scale military offensive.

Russia denies planning any attack and accuses Ukraine and the United States of destabilizing behavior, and has said it needs security guarantees for its own protection.

The G7 comprises Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States, and includes a representative from the European Union.

Iran

Resumed talks to save the Iran nuclear deal are the Islamic republic’s “last chance” to take a “serious” position, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said at a G7 foreign ministers meeting on Sunday.

“This is the last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue, which has to be agreeing the terms” of the deal, she said.

China

G7 countries are concerned about the “coercive” economic policies of China, Truss said on Sunday.

“We have been clear at this meeting this weekend that we are concerned about the coercive economic policies of China,” Truss said at a G7 news conference in Liverpool.

“And what we want to do is build the investment reach, the economic trade reach, of like-minded, freedom-loving democracies.”

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Audit underway after corruption scandals in Ukraine: Defense minister


Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Sunday that an audit of procurement contracts was underway after corruption scandals but declined to confirm reports that he could soon be forced to resign.

“We have started an internal audit” of all procurement contracts, Reznikov told reporters, but declined to say if he would stay on as defense minister.

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“It is one person — the commander-in-chief, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — who decides whether I will be defense minister or not,” he said.

“My specialization as a lawyer allows me to think optimistically that I will definitely find an interesting project for myself that will allow us not only to win the war, but also to punish the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation later,” he added.

The Ukrainska Pravda news website, citing unidentified sources, reported that Reznikov, 56, could next week be replaced by Kyrylo Budanov, the 37-year-old head of military intelligence.

Reznikov, who studied law, might be appointed justice minister, Ukrainska Pravda said.

One of the best-known faces of Ukraine’s war effort, Reznikov was appointed defense minister in November 2021 and has been overseeing the armed forces throughout Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 last year.

He has also helped secure Western weapons to buttress Ukrainian forces.

But his ministry has lately been beset by corruption scandals, and defense officials were among a dozen figures forced to resign last month in the biggest political shakeup in Ukraine since the launch of Moscow’s assault.

Reznikov’s deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who worked on providing logistical support for the army, resigned after the defense ministry was accused of signing food contracts at prices two to three times higher than current rates for basic foodstuffs.

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Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooper-ation, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Lavrov, who is leading a delegation that includes oil and gas companies’ representatives, is scheduled to meet his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein on Monday, Ahmed al-Sahhaf said in a statement.

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Sahhaf said the visit will focus on “strategic relations with Russia and to encourage investment opportunities, especially in relating to energy sectors.”
The Russian foreign minister will also meet on Monday Iraqi top officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, Presi-dent Abdul Latif Rashid and parliament speaker, Sahhaf said.

Read more: Iran’s military helping smuggle weapons from Iraq to Russia: Report

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China’s power in Asia diminished by COVID-19 zero: Lowy Institute study


China’s standing in the Asia-Pacific has been damaged by its de-cision to stick with COVID-19 Zero for most of 2022, leaving the US to cement its position as the most influential power in the re-gion, according to an Australian research group.

The Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index for 2023 shows that China registered the greatest decline out of the 26 na-tions and territories in the report, while strong economic links and defense ties solidified the US as the leading power in the Asia-Pacific.

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The index measures power based on 133 indicators across eight core themes, assessing how much sway is held diplomatically, economically and militarily. Overall, the US was placed first, fol-lowed by China, Japan, India, and Russia.

Susannah Patton, project lead for the Asia Power Index at Lowy, said China’s score had dipped across almost every indicator, as the country’s connections with the rest of Asia declined “sharply during COVID-19 Zero.”
“We’ve heard about the economic impact of China’s border closures but this really shows us for the first time I think the strate-gic impact of the border closures,” she said.

China’s rankings on cultural influence and economic capability fell the most, due to Beijing shutting off its citizens and businesses from the world for much of the year. One area where it did see improvement was in its military capability, closing the gap with the US from 27 points in 2018 to 23 points in 2022. The report notes its extensive military drills around Taiwan.

Patton said almost all countries had seen a dip in their rankings in 2022, driven partly by the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, with only Australia and Indonesia bucking the trend in the top 10 powers in the Asia Pacific.

While the US ranking declined slightly overall, Patton said it had kept its top position thanks to the Biden administration’s diplomat-ic posture and the relatively strong American economy.

On the outlook for the year ahead, Patton said China’s rapid re-opening and diplomatic outreach to countries such as Australia could shape the next set of rankings, while the US will need to work to solidify its alliances with the Philippines and South Korea.

“China is going to be a much more formidable competitor to the United States over the next year,” she said.

Read more: China protests US downing of balloon, reserves right for any necessary reaction

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