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General who ran Syria operation to lead Russia troops in Ukraine

Russia has appointed a new commander for its operations in Ukraine as it refocuses its war effort in the east, having failed to secure territory around the capital, Kyiv.

General Alexander Dvornikov, commander of the Southern Military District, will now lead Russian troops on the ground, according to Western security officials and diplomats with knowledge of the change. The Kremlin has not announced the appointment.

Dvornikov, 60, has held several senior positions in the Russian military, including army commander of the Far Eastern Military District. He notably oversaw Moscow’s forces in Syria in 2015 and 2016, where they fought alongside Syrian government troops in a conflict where President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons against his own people.

With the war in its seventh week, Russia has largely withdrawn its forces from the north after its troops faced fierce resistance and became bogged down outside Kyiv. Moscow also lost numerous tanks and aircraft due to missile attacks by Ukraine.

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Now, Moscow is focused on the eastern Donbas regions and taking towns and cities in the Black Sea area, including Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks already. Doing so would allow it to create a land bridge between Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and Russia.

Dvornikov had been responsible so far for operations in the south and east of Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War. The lack of a single overall commander had “clearly hindered the cooperation of Russian forces, it said in a report dated April 9.

Despite a more simplified structure, Russia will probably continue to struggle with its command and control arrangements, the institute added. Most of the reinforcements headed to Donbas are drawn from other military districts than those headed by Dvornikov, it said.

“No appointment of any general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced a strategic failure in Ukraine, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.

“It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint, he said. “But, as you noted, this particular general has a resume that includes brutality against civilians in other theaters, in Syria. And we can expect more of the same in this theater.

Ukraine, the US and other nations have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes in towns they occupied in the north, including Bucha, where mass graves were discovered of civilians as Russian forces withdrew.

US General David Petraeus, a former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan who headed the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, told CNN on Sunday the more streamlined command structure reflected Russia’s desire to have something to claim as a win by May 9, its World War II victory day.

Petraeus also said more civilians were likely to be targeted. “The Russians were known in Syria basically for — quote — ‘depopulating’ areas. That’s what they did to Aleppo. That’s what they did to other areas. And I think we can expect that, he said.

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Hundreds of stolen cars recovered in global Interpol operation funded by the UAE

A United Arab Emirates-funded global police operation targeting stolen vehicle trafficking has led to the recovery of hundreds of cars, trucks and motorbikes and almost half a million stolen cigarettes in just two weeks, Interpol announced on Wednesday.

Operation Carback saw frontline police at seaports and land border crossings in 77 countries use Interpol’s secure global police communications network – I-24/7 – to check vehicles and their owners against Interpol’s databases and instantaneously detect potential criminals or criminal activity.

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Interpol launched its ‘Reducing Vehicle Crime and Theft’ Program in 2016 with funding from the United Arab Emirates via Interpol’s ‘Foundation for a Safer World’, which financed Operation Carback 2022.

Since May 2016, the foundation has been supporting seven key Interpol initiatives by donating $52 million over a period of five years, as part of a contribution agreement between the Foundation and the UAE government.

In just over two weeks, Operation Carback led to the identification of 1,121 stolen cars and 64 motorcycles, the arrest or detention of 222 suspected stolen vehicle traffickers, the detention of eight suspected people smugglers, the detection of 26 fraudulent vehicle documents and the seizure of 480,000 stolen cigarettes.

Officers raided chop shops – places where stolen vehicles are dismantled into parts that are smuggled or sold online – with confiscations triggering further investigations into car crime gangs globally.

Interpol supported the operation by crosschecking information collected in the field against its international databases, with Frontex also supporting the European leg of frontline operations.

Experts from Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit were deployed to key locations to assist national law enforcement with database checks in the field as well as in exchanging, analyzing and acting on operational data.

With the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) typically removed from stolen cars, on-the-ground assistance from Interpol enabled national law enforcement to connect with car manufacturers to identify vehicle origin.

Because stolen vehicles are frequently trafficked to finance and carry out crime ranging from drug trafficking, arms dealing and people smuggling to corruption and international terrorism, the Interpol General Secretariat headquarters is analyzing intelligence gathered during Operation Carback to identify links with other crime areas.

“With vehicles usually smuggled beyond borders and ending up thousands of miles away from where they were stolen, an international operation like Carback is crucial to enabling police to tackle the networks behind global car trafficking,” said Ilana de Wild, Interpol’s director of organized and emerging Crime.

“The main key to the success of Operation Carback is the wealth of information contained in Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicle database, and the fact that throughout the operation police in the field were able to access this crucial data.”

Last year, Interpol identified some 248,000 stolen vehicles thanks to the SMV database. More than 130 countries shared their national data with Interpol, and carried out more than 280 million searches.

The UAE has close links with Interpol and in November it was announced that the country’s Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, of the UAE’s interior ministry, had been elected as the new President of Interpol.

The senior police official will serve the four-year term in Lyon, France.

The new appointment makes him the first candidate from the Middle Eastern region to be elected into the position since the global crime fighting agency was founded in the 1920s.

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‘If Putin was a woman, there would be no Ukraine war’: UK’s Johnson

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have started the war in Ukraine if he was a woman, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has,” Johnson told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.

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Putin's invasion of Ukraine is “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”, he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for “more women in positions of power”.

The British Prime Minister acknowledged that “of course people want the war to end”, but for the moment “there's no deal available. Putin isn't making an offer of peace”.

Western allies must support Ukraine to enable it to be in the best possible strategic position in the event that peace negotiations with Moscow do become possible, he added.

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Spain begins natural gas exports to Morocco following diplomatic row

Natural gas has started flowing from Spain toward Morocco through a pipeline that stopped flowing in November amid a diplomatic row between Morocco and Algeria, data from Spanish gas grid operator Enagas showed on Wednesday.
Algeria decided last year not to extend a deal to export gas through a pipeline running through neighboring Morocco to Spain, halting nearly all of Morocco’s gas supply, as relations between Rabat and Algiers worsened.
In April, Algeria warned Madrid not to re-export Algerian gas supplies to its Southern neighbor after Energy Minister Teresa Ribera confirmed plans to reverse the flow of the Maghreb Europe pipeline and begin exportation of natural gas to Morocco.
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“A certification process guarantees that this gas is not of Algerian origin,” a spokesperson for Enagas said on Wednesday.
In March, Spain angered its main gas supplier Algeria by supporting a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara, prompting Algiers to suspend its 20-year-old friendship treaty with Madrid and causing a diplomatic crisis.
The shift was well received in Rabat as Morocco decided to return its ambassador to Spain after almost a year of absence following a long diplomatic dispute.
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