Welcome to Monday, where the death toll surpasses 33,000 in Turkey and Syria a week after the earthquake hit, U.S. jets shoot down a fourth UFO in two weeks, and Rihanna (and the two teams) put on a memorable Super Bowl show. Meanwhile, Clemens Wergin for German daily Die Welt writes that the rushed Russian winter offensive thought to be underway in eastern Ukraine could actually play in Ukraine’s hands.
[*Salom - Uzbek]
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• Russian forces claim gains along Ukraine frontline: Russia said on Monday its troops had pushed forward several kilometers along the frontlines in Ukraine, while Kyiv said its forces had repelled Russian attacks. The Ukrainian military on Monday reported heavy Russian shelling all along the frontline and said 16 settlements had been bombarded near Bakhmut.
• U.S. military shoots down fourth flying object: U.S. military fighter jets shot down an octagonal object Sunday over Lake Huron, at the border with Canada. It was the fourth flying object to be downed over North America in a little more than a week. China's foreign ministry said Monday it had no information on the latest three flying objects and accused the United States of “illegally” flying high-altitude balloons into its own airspace more than 10 times since January 2022.
• Earthquake rescue phase ending: The death toll in Turkey and Syria from the Feb. 6 earthquake has surpassed 33,000, as hope of finding more survivors is fading despite some miraculous rescues in the past 48 hours. After a visit to Aleppo, UN's aid chief Martin Griffiths said that the rescue phase would soon be "coming to a close". Syria has so far received little assistance as frontlines with the government are sealed off and there is only a single border crossing to Turkey.
• Cyprus elects new president: Former Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides was elected president on Sunday in a runoff vote, promising a unity government tasked with breaking a deadlock in peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots. Christodoulides ran as an independent with the backing of centrist and right-of-center parties which typically take a hard line on solving the long-running division of Cyprus.
• Israel authorizes nine West Bank outposts: Israel granted retroactive authorization on Sunday to nine Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and announced mass-construction of new homes within established settlements. It is the first such move by the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the most right-wing in Israel's history. The international community regards all settlements as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
• New Zealand cyclone: Around 58,000 homes are without power in New Zealand’s upper North Island on Monday as the approach of Cyclone Gabrielle brings strong winds, heavy rain and huge swells to Auckland and nearby regions, although its most destructive winds missed the island.
• Chiefs Win Super Bowl, Rihanna shines bright: The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling 38-35 shootout at Super Bowl LVII. Rihanna gave a 13-minute performance of her greatest hits during the halftime show, skipping the typical guest appearances and revealing that she’s pregnant with her second child.
Istanbul-based daily Ekonomim writes that one million containers and temporary shelters are urgently needed to house the survivors of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated southern Turkey and Syria a week ago, killing more than 33,000 people and destroying thousands of buildings.
European countries have spent nearly 800 billion euros since September 2021 to protect households and businesses from rising energy costs due to fallout from Russia cutting off most of its gas supplies in 2022. According to the new study by Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, Germany tops the spending chart, having allocated almost 270 billion euros, followed by the UK, Italy and France although each spent less than 150 billion euros, and other EU members spending only a fraction of that.
This is how Russia's new offensive could backfire
Latest reports show that Russia is stepping up its operations in eastern Ukraine, with a major offensive looking to be imminent. But international military strategists and tactical experts think that instead of sealing Kyiv's fate, this rushed assault could precipitate the demise of Vladimir Putin and his war, Clemens Wergin reports for Die Welt.
❄️ There are growing signs that a Russian winter offensive in eastern Ukraine is underway. Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said recently that his country expected a full-blown assault around Feb. 24, on the anniversary of the Russian invasion. “Of course we expect there may be Russian offensives, as they love symbolism,” Reznikov said.
👉 According to Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Russia has sent half of its 300,000 newly mobilized soldiers straight to the front, to shore up the Russian lines over winter. In the Bakhmut region, these forces have been mercilessly used as cannon fodder by their leaders, which caused consternation even among their Ukrainian enemies.
🇷🇺 Given the Russian army’s poor performance, however, some skeptics doubt whether the offensive could take significant ground. “Russian forces have only managed to gain several hundred meters of territory per week. This is almost certainly because Russia now lacks the munitions and maneuver units required for successful offensives,” according to the British Ministry of Defense.
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“If we sit down at the negotiating table with Zelensky, yes, I think that’s wrong.”
— Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Russian region of Chechnya and close Putin ally, declared that any peace talks between Russia and Ukraine would not be the right option. In an interview broadcasted on Monday on state-owned Rossiya-1 channel, the strongman declared that Russia has the forces to take Kyiv as well as Kharkiv and Odessa, and that the operation would be over by the end of 2023. "I believe that, by the end of the year, we will 100% complete the task set for us today," Kadyrov said.
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