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XINHUA (China), NEW YORK TIMES, AP (USA), RADIO AUSTRALIA, (Australia)

Worldcrunch

BEIJING – China is mobilizing its security apparatus and tightening its grip over the public space ahead of the 18th Communist Party Congress, which begins on Nov. 8.

A volunteer security force of 1.4 million people has been assembled for the congress.

Workers and retirees have been mobilized, reports Xinhua, quoting a street photographer named Chen: "I have been taking shots for tourists for five years, and I am willing to be a security volunteer. With this armband, I am authorized to stop bad behavior among tourists."

Heightened security isn't unusual ahead of government events, but this year authorities aren’t taking any chances: Kitchen knives have disappeared from shops, and vehicles carrying toxic or dangerous chemicals have been banned from entering Beijing, reports Xinhua.

The Chinese government is also locking down the skies above the capital, says Radio Australia. The city has banned balloons, remote control helicopters and planes, as well as homing pigeons. In the late 1990s, dissidents released pigeons with slogans tied to their feet.

The AP reported that a memo on Chinese migroblogging site Weibo warned cabdrivers to be on guard against passengers “who may want to cast balloons with slogans or throw Ping-Pong balls with reactionary words." Cabdrivers were told to remove window handles and not to open their windows or doors near "important venues." They were also asked to report "suspicious" passengers to the authorities.

Internet has also slowed down to a snail’s pace, reports the New York Times, with many websites being blocked. International TV channels like CNN and BBC have disappeared from television sets in health clubs. In English bookstores, books on Chinese politics and history have been replaced with thrillers and weight-loss guides. “They’ll be back after the Congress,” said an employee.

On Thursday, said the AP, China sentenced Cao Haibo, a democracy advocate, to eight years in prison on the charge of inciting subversion for starting several online groups and participating in political discussions.

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In The News

War In Ukraine, Day 222: Ukrainian Army Makes New Gains In Regions Annexed By Russia

The Ukrainian army is pushing the front line forward in several directions.

Fire after a rocket attack by Russian troops in Kharkiv

Anna Akage, Meike Eijsberg and Sophia Constantino

The Ukrainian army is pushing the front line forward in several directions, including the liberation of two more cities – Arkhangelske and Myrolyubivka – in the southern region of Kherson. There were also reports Monday of major breakthroughs by Kyiv forces along the Dnipro River in the south.

Ukraine has also made progress in the past 48 hours in the region of Luhansk. Notably, these are two of the four regions that Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had annexed on Friday.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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With these advances by Ukrainian forces, along with gains in Donetsk (see below) and Zaporizhzhia, Russia does not hold the full territory of any of the areas of occupied Ukraine that Moscow now claims as its own.

Fighting has also intensified in the northeastern Kharkiv region, where Ukraine has also made significant advances and Russia continues shelling in response.

The successful counterattacks by the Ukrainian military in Kherson and the Kharkiv region since last month has left Russian forces controlling less Ukrainian land than they did at the start of the war in February 2022, an analysis by CNN found. Russia’s first massive push overnight into February 24 allowed it to secure or advance on one fifth of Ukrainian territory, or about 119,000 square kilometers. Russia now controls roughly 3,000 square kilometers less land than it did in the first five days of the war.

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