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Tanks for Ukraine in sight as holdout Germany says new minister to decide

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Tanks for Ukraine in sight as holdout Germany says new minister to decide
GLOBALTIMESPAKISTAN

Ukraine came a step closer on Tuesday to winning the fleet of modern battle tanks it hopes could turn the course of the war against Russia, after the West s big holdout Germany said this would be the first item on its new defence minister s agenda.

In the central city of Dnipro, authorities called an end to the search for survivors in the ruins of an apartment building destroyed during Russian missile attacks on Saturday.

Forty-four people were confirmed killed and 20 more still unaccounted for in the attack, the deadliest for civilians of a three-month Russian missile bombardment campaign. Seventy-nine people were wounded and 39 rescued from the rubble.

Nearly 11 months after Russia invaded, Kyiv says a fleet of Western battle tanks would give its forces the mobile firepower they need to drive Russian troops out in decisive battles in 2023.

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German-made Leopard battle tanks – the workhorse of armies across Europe – are widely seen as the only plausible choice to supply Ukraine with the large-scale tank force it needs. But they cannot be delivered without authorisation from Berlin, which has so far stalled.

With Western allies meeting at a U.S. airbase in Germany on Friday to pledge military support for Ukraine, Berlin is under intense pressure to lift its objections this week, in what would be one of the most consequential shifts in Western aid so far.

The decision will be the first item on the agenda for Boris Pistorius, announced on Tuesday as the replacement for German Defence Secretary Christine Lambrecht, who quit on Monday.

“When the person, when the minister of defence, is declared, this is the first question to be decided concretely,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Deutschlandfunk radio broadcaster on Tuesday, before the appointment was announced.

Germany has been cautious about approving weapons that could be seen as an escalation. Many allies say that concern is misplaced, with Russia showing no sign of backing down from its assault on its neighbour.

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Britain broke the taboo over sending heavy tanks over the weekend, pledging a squadron of its Challengers. But it has too few for them to form the basis of a Ukrainian force. Washington s Abrams tanks are also seen as inappropriate in large numbers because they run on turbine engines that burn too much fuel to be practical for Ukraine.

That leaves the Leopards, which Germany made in the thousands during the Cold War and which are now fielded by armies across Europe. Poland and Finland have already said they would send Leopards if Berlin gives re-export approval.

“We hope and are trying to organise bigger support for Ukraine. We hope a few partners, allies, will give tanks to Ukraine,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Germany s new defence minister is expected to host U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday ahead of Friday s big meeting of allies at Ramstein air base, where big pledges of new military support for Ukraine are expected.

CUDDLY TOYS AT MEMORIAL

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Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven from their homes since Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February last year.

Ukrainian forces drove Russian troops back during the second half of 2022, but over the past two months the front lines have largely been frozen in place despite both sides enduring heavy losses in relentless fighting. Ukrainian officials say tanks would be key to breaking the stalemate.

Russia claims to have captured the small mining town of Soledar on the outskirts of the eastern city of Bakhmut last week. Kyiv has said it is still fighting there.

“The situation is the same as yesterday. Our units are located in Soledar and are constantly hitting the enemy with fire,” Serhiy Cherevaty, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said.

Moscow, meanwhile, has turned since October to a tactic of raining missiles down on Ukrainian cities far from the front, mainly targeting electricity infrastructure.

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Russia says it aims to reduce Ukraine s ability to fight; Kyiv says the attacks serve no military purpose and are intended to harm civilians, a war crime.

In Dnipro, residents left flowers and cuddly toys at a makeshift memorial near the apartment block destroyed during Russia s wave of missile attacks on Saturday.

A soldier staggered away, wiping away tears, after laying flowers on the seat of a transport shelter turned into a temporary monument to the victims. A candle burned beside the growing pile of toys and bouquets.

“We came here to look, pay our respects. It is very tough, such a shame about lives lost,” said 63-year-old Viktoria.

Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians and blamed Ukraine s air defences for the missile that hit the apartment block. Kyiv says it was hit by a notoriously inaccurate Russian anti-ship missile for which Ukraine has no defences.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Monday night video address that the attack on Dnipro and Russia s attempts to gain the initiative in the war underscored the need for the West “to speed up decision-making” in supplying weapons.

Russia attacked Ukraine in February last year, saying Kyiv s close ties with the West created a security threat. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unprovoked war to seize land and impose Russia s will on its neighbour.

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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