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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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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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