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China 'watching' for US weakness amid Russia invasion of Ukraine, experts warn

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Top foreign policy experts told Fox News Digital Thursday that China is “watching” to see how the U.S. and its Western allies handle Russian aggression against Ukraine and whether there is “any sign of weakness.””They have done the calculus as to what this would ‘cost them’ if they were to move against Taiwan. And they are getting more data points now looking at what the West is doing now vis-à-vis Russia,” said Heino Klinck, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia during the Trump administration.”It will inform and potentially shape Chinese decision-making,” he continued in reference to the U.S. response in Eastern Europe. “Any sign of weakness…will be taken into account by the Chinese.”RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATES
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. 
(REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)CHINESE MEDIA ACCIDENTALLY POSTS CCP RULES ON RUSSIA-UKRAINE COVERAGE, HINT AT TAIWAN TAKEOVERMoscow’s aggression toward Kyiv prompted the U.S. and its Western allies to respond with severe sanctions and the deployment of Western forces to NATO-member nations that surround Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Critics of the Biden administration, like former President Trump, have claimed the inability to deter a Russian invasion will “embolden” China to act more aggressively toward Taiwan.But Isaac Stone Fish, CEO of Strategy Risks, a China-focused risk firm, told Fox News he disagrees with this calculus. “I think in some ways it’s the opposite,” Stone Fish, who focuses on issues involving U.S.-China national security, said, adding that China could interpret increased military involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as opportune timing.”They would calculate that the United States is unlikely to go to war with Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan at the same time. The more involved the United States gets in the Ukraine crisis from a military perspective, the more it incentivizes China to act now,” he added.Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have expressed nostalgic desires to rebuild previous empires that were broken up during the 20th century – but experts argue this is where the parallel between the Russian-Ukraine conflict and Beijing’s desire for dominance over Taiwan ends.The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long sought to reunify Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), with mainland China, but this goal has been met with opposition from Western nations like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.Taiwan has been described by Western allies as the beacon of democracy in Asia and identifies as a sovereign nation. But Taiwan is officially recognized by China, the United Nations and the U.S. as part of the one-China policy. 
Chinese Air Force personnel march past the Chinese military’s J10C fighter and JH-7A2 fighter bomber during 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China 2021, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Zhuhai in southern China’s Guangdong province. 
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)RUSSIAN INVADES UKRAINE IN LARGEST EUROPEAN ATTACK SINCE WWIIThe Chinese government has repeatedly pushed back on questions linking Ukraine with Taiwan and on Wednesday Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “Taiwan for sure is not Ukraine.””Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China. This is an indisputable legal and historical fact,” she added. The experts agreed that pushing a strategy of economic deterrence as witnessed in Europe by NATO would prove much more difficult with an adversary like China. “What we see now in Europe demonstrates a failure of deterrence,” Klinck said. “The West, in essence, used the threat of sanctions to try to push back on Putin’s military aggression, and it hasn’t worked.””And the stakes, with respect to economic sanctions in a Ukraine-Russia scenario, are a lot less than they would be with China,” he added. Klinck, who also previously served as a military attaché in China, pointed to the challenge the U.S. encountered when convincing Germany to block the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the face of Russia’s violation of international law.”Could you imagine what it would be like to try and put together an international coalition that would be willing to levy meaningful economic sanctions against China when the Chinese economy is literally at least 10 times the size of the Russian economy?” he questioned.”It demonstrates the limited value that sanctions can have in deterring an authoritarian regime,” Klinck added.
In this handout photo taken from video released by Ukrainian Police Department Press Service, Military helicopters apparently Russian, fly over the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. 
(Ukrainian Police Department Press Service via AP)Stone Fish told Fox News Digital that it comes down to how China wants to be perceived on the global scale and not necessarily how its economy could be impacted by an international conflict over Taiwan. “It’s less [about] its economy and more the perception of China in the eyes to the world as a responsible global player – a reputation that I would argue it doesn’t deserve – but China and Chinese companies and Chinese actors are far more integrated into the international system than Russia’s are,” he said.But Taiwan appears to remain concerned that China could seek an opportunity to take advantage of the current distraction in Eastern Europe by making a move on Taipei.In a meeting with a working group regarding the Ukraine crisis this week, the Taiwanese president said military and security units “must raise their surveillance and early warning of military developments around the Taiwan Strait,” according to a report by Reuters. Former strategist at the Pentagon Matthew Kroenig, who also sits as a Vandenberg Coalition Advisory Board member, told Fox News Digital that fending off a Chinese invasion of Taiwan comes down to strategy. “What we need is a defense strategy to defend our interests and peace and stability in both Europe and Asia,” he said. “China should be the priority as it’s the biggest long-term threat, but the United States is still a global power we still have interest in Europe and the Middle East, and we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”Kroenig argued the best way to deter China from taking military action is to increase the U.S. naval presence in the region, beef up Taiwan’s missile striking abilities and encourage allies to do the same.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe former Pentagon official also said the issue of nuclear deterrence needs to be leaned on more heavily if the U.S. is serious in preserving Taiwan’s autonomy from a Beijing aggression. “I think we need to be prepared to deal with Russia in Europe and China in Asia at the same time,” he added. “I think if Xi perceives a weak response in Ukraine he might take that as a green light.”

World leaders react to Ukraine-Russia invasion

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared martial law Thursday and announced the country had severed diplomatic ties with Russia after the giant neighboring nation launched a military invasion into Ukraine.Beijing on Thursday refused to criticize Russia’s attack on Ukraine, instead calling for a diplomatic solution. China also approved the importation of Russian wheat, a move that could blunt the effects of sanctions levied on the Kremlin.South Korea will sanction Russia over its attack on Ukraine, President Moon Jae-in said Thursday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.Reaction from leaders in those three countries is just the tip of the iceberg to news that Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATESFRANCE
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Feb. 7, 2022.
(Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)French President Emmanuel Macron says France and its European allies did everything to try to head off the attack on Ukraine. He said they will show “no weakness” in their response.Macron said in a televised address to the nation Thursday that Russia’s attack is a “turning point in European history” and as a result “there will be profound consequences for our continent and changes in our lives.”RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE IN LARGEST EUROPEAN ATTACK SINCE WWIIHe said that “to this act of war, we will reply without weakness, we will reply calmly and in a determined and united manner.””We have tried everything to avoid this war, but it is here and we are ready,” Macron said.He said sanctions will be “proportionate” to Russia’s military operations, targeting its economy and its energy sector.”We will show no weakness,” Macron said. “We will take all measures necessary to defend the sovereignty and stability of our European allies.”ITALY
Italian Premier Mario Draghi arrives to make a statement on the Russian attack on Ukraine at the end of a Cabinet meeting in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Remo Casilli pool Photo via AP)

Russia invades Ukraine in largest European attack since WWII

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Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday by land, air and sea in the largest military attack of one state against another on the European continent since the Second World War. Russia’s all-out attack on Ukraine has killed at least 57 people and wounded 169 during the first day of President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s Health Minister Oleh Lyashko said Thursday.President Biden said Thursday afternoon that he’s reached a full agreement with G7 leaders to limit Russia’s ability to be part of the global economy, stunt their ability to finance and grow Russia’s military and impair their ability to compete in a high-tech, 21st century economy.RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATESIn a public address from the White House, Biden said Putin has much larger ambitions than Ukraine and wants to “reestablish the Soviet Union.” Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin ordered the deployment of approximately 7,000 additional U.S. troops to Germany in a move aimed at bolstering NATO defense and deterring Russian aggression. The wide-ranging attack on Ukraine hit cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee the country. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order. After several hours of fierce battle, Russian forces seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier Thursday raised concerns of repeated of the 1986 disaster.A senior U.S. Defense Department official told reporters earlier Thursday that Putin’s goal appears to be seizing the capital of Kyiv, “decapitating the government” and “installing his own method of governance.” He claimed Putin indicated this himself during his overnight speech. RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATESAccording to the U.S. Embassy Riga, U.S. troops from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Latvia Thursday morning. They were the first U.S. forces being repositioned to the Baltics to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Allies and bolster NATO’s eastern flank.However, the defense official emphasized that, “U.S. troops are not going to be fighting the war in Ukraine.” The U.S. military has no aircraft in Ukrainian airspace as of Wednesday morning, he said. Russia has launched more than 100 ballistic missiles into Ukraine since its initial onslaught overnight. Starting around 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, Russian forces began launching missiles from land and sea-based platforms from the Black Sea toward key cities in central and eastern Ukraine, the official said. The official said Russian forces were fighting all three major axes “designed to take key population centers.” The heaviest fighting has been occurring near an axis from northeast of Ukraine to the south, starting from Belarus to an advance on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. A second axis extends from north central Ukraine to the south from Belarus toward Kyiv. A third axis in the south is spreading from Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to the Ukrainian city of Kherson. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, called for Russia to be removed from SWIFT, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, and for allies to support them through devastating financial sanctions against Russia, through defensive anti-air supplies, and by cutting all diplomatic ties with Russia. Recognizing Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Markarova said she did not expect U.S. troops to defend Ukraine but expected other support give their “strategic friendship.” RUSSIA CRACKS DOWN ON ANTI-WAR PROTESTS, MORE THAN 1,700 DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine before the House of Commons Thursday and moved to freeze assets of Russian banks. He announced the “largest ever” set of sanctions against Russia and vowed to eliminate Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas. Anti-Russian demonstrations have popped up across Europe and in the U.S. in cities including New York, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris and Berlin. Meanwhile, Russian authorities began cracking down on anti-war protests across the country, reportedly arresting more than a thousand demonstrators in several cities. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the country severed diplomatic relations with Russia and called “on all our partners to do the same. By this concrete step you will demonstrate that you stand by Ukraine and categorically reject the most blatant act of aggression in Europe since WWII.”While the attack on Ukraine was largely condemned by the West, it’s unclear whether forces will intervene, something Russian President Vladimir Putin warned would show grave consequences. NATO is sending additional forces to bolster defenses in eastern Europe.Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said Thursday about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack on the country, The Associated Press reported. Several dozen people have been wounded. He didn’t specify whether casualties included civilians.Zelenskyy said he would be providing weapons to citizens who want to help defend the country, instructing them on Twitter to “be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.”RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE IN LARGEST EUROPEAN ATTACK SINCE WWII”The future of the Ukrainian people depends on every Ukrainian,” he said Thursday, urging all those who can defend the country to come to the Interior Ministry’s assembly facilities.Russia “has embarked on a path of evil,” the president said, but Ukraine “is defending itself & won’t give up its freedom no matter what Moscow thinks.” Zelenskyy said sanctions would be lifted “on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands.” “Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in #2WW years,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history.” The attacks came first from the air. Later, Ukrainian authorities described ground invasions in multiple regions, and border guards released security camera footage Thursday showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine’s government-held territory from Russian-annexed Crimea in the south.In the north, video showed tanks rolling over the border from the Russian ally of Belarus through Senkivka. Russian forces also landed in the port cities of Odessa and Mariupol. The Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, and European authorities declared the country’s airspace an active conflict zone. Russia’s claims could not immediately be verified, nor could Ukrainian ones that it had shot down several Russian aircraft, according to The Associated Press. The Ukrainian air defense system and air force date back to the Soviet era and are dwarfed by Russia’s massive air power and precision weapons.Western counties were anticipating hundreds of thousands of people to flee from the attack on Ukraine, Reuters reported. Highways outside of Kyiv swelled with traffic Thursday leading to Poland, and lines of people waited for gasoline, to withdraw money or to purchase other supplies, such as food and water. Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko advised residents to stay home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate.Ukraine said columns of Russian troops were passing over the border into the Ukrainian regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk, Reuters reported. Russian missiles also targeted several Ukrainian cities, and explosions could be heard before dawn in the capital of Kyiv, home to 3 million people. After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin justified his actions in an overnight televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion. He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. In a reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, Putin said “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”Among Putin’s pledges was to “denazify” Ukraine. World War II looms large in Russia, after the Soviet Union suffered more deaths than any country while fighting Adolf Hitler’s forces. Kremlin propaganda sometimes paints Ukrainian nationalists as neo-Nazis seeking revenge — a charge historians call disinformation. Ukraine is now led by a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe head of the National Police of Ukraine on Thursday raised all units to combat alarm and warned civilians not to go outside in uniform or tactile clothing and to report all suspicious objects or people, especially those with red items on their clothing, to a special police line. Zelenskyy has declared martial law in the country. “Regarding the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, police have intensified measures to ensure law and order on the streets,” Ukrainian national police said in a statement. “The Head of the National Police of Ukraine also ordered the issuance of weapons to the veterans of Internal Affairs who have expressed willing to protect Ukraine from the Russian Federation’s armed aggression.”The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Pakistan court sentences man to death over woman's beheading

A Pakistani court has sentenced a man from a prominent industrialist family to death after finding him guilty of beheading a childhood friend who had refused to marry himBy MUNIR AHMED Associated PressFebruary 24, 2022, 1:15 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleISLAMABAD — A Pakistani court sentenced a man from a prominent industrialist family to death on Thursday, after finding him guilty of beheading a childhood friend who had refused to marry him. The ruling will likely be appealed.Zahir Jaffar’s killing of Noor Mukadam last year shocked the country and drew nationwide condemnation, with the subsequent trial widely covered in the media. The verdict was quickly hailed by civil society groups.The prosecution had alleged that Jaffar, 30, had a long-running friendship with Mukadam, 27, the daughter of a diplomat, but she rejected his romantic advances.Prosecutors said Mukadam leapt from a window at Jaffar’s home in an upscale area of Islamabad last July when Jaffar refused to accept her rejection. He ordered a security guard and a cook to capture her before he killed her, prosecutors said. A video that surfaced on social media at the time showed Jaffar dragging her back to his home.Jaffar raped Mukadam before brutally murdering her, police said in reports submitted to the court during the trial. Mukadam had gone to Jaffer’s house to say goodbye as he was planning to travel abroad. Jaffar has both Pakistani and American citizenship.The court also sentenced two domestic workers to 10 years’ prison time each for complicity in the killing.Mukadam’s family and friends along with human rights activists organized a movement around her death, demanding justice, holding candlelight vigils, and launching a social media campaign, #justicefornoor.The trial shed light on the pervasiveness of violence against women in Pakistan, which usually affects the lower and middle classes. Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan each year in similar cases, and the numbers of those subjected to violence and sexual assaults are growing.Mukadam’s father, Shaukat Ali, welcomed the verdict, saying he would issue a detailed statement after fully reading the court’s ruling. There was no immediate comment from Jaffar’s family.His parents, who had been charged with conspiracy and evidence tampering, were both acquitted Thursday, said Shah Kawar, lawyer for Mukadam’s family.During the trial, Jaffer’s lawyer portrayed him as mentally unstable, with the defendant often seen unkempt in the courthouse and occasionally shouting at court personnel. Soon after his arrest he told the court he couldn’t be put on trial in Pakistan because he was a U.S. citizen. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, however, said it has no involvement in criminal cases against its citizens overseas other than to provide information on available legal counsel, check that they are not being mistreated and offer to contact family members.In a statement, Amnesty International welcomed the conviction, but argued against the death penalty. The statement also said the conviction “was all the more significant” because Pakistan’s track record for prosecuting gender based crimes is low.“This conviction underscores the importance of ensuring that the criminal justice system responds effectively at all levels,” the statement said.——————Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed to this report

How do Ukraine's military capabilities measure up against Russia?

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Russia after it launched an attack on the country overnight Wednesday that for the sake of Ukrainians’ “freedom,” “lives” and their “children’s lives, we will defend ourselves.”But how do Ukraine’s military capabilities measure up to Russia?Moscow has Kyiv both outgunned and outmanned – with at least three times the tanks of Zelenskyy’s defense forces, according to Reuters. Russia has around 900,000 active-duty troops in all branches of the military compared to less than 200,000 for Ukraine, Britain’s Sky News reported. 

Russia attacks Ukraine as defiant Putin warns US, NATO

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, as President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”Ukraine’s leadership said at least 40 people have been killed so far in what it called a “full-scale war” targeting the country from the east, north and south.Ukrainian border guards released footage of what they said were Russian military vehicles moving in, and big explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv in the east and Odesa in the west. As the Russian military claimed to have wiped out Ukraine’s entire air defenses in a matter of hours, Ukrainians fled some cities and European authorities declared Ukrainian air space an active conflict zone.World leaders decried the start of a long-anticipated invasion with far-reaching consequences, as global financial markets plunged and oil prices soared. Russia’s actions could cause massive casualties, topple Ukraine’s democratically elected government and upend geopolitics and Europe’s post-Cold War security balance.Governments from the U.S. to Asia and Europe readied new sanctions after weeks of failed efforts for a diplomatic solution — but global powers have said they will not intervene militarily to defend Ukraine.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cut diplomatic ties with Moscow and declared martial law, saying Russia has targeted Ukraine’s military infrastructure. Ukrainians who had long braced for the prospect of an assault were urged to stay home and not to panic even as Ukrainian authorities reported artillery barrages and airstrikes on targets around the country.An adviser to Ukraine’s president, Oleksii Arestovich, said about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack and several dozen wounded. He didn’t specify whether the casualties included civilians.“The Ukrainian military is waging hard battles, repelling attacks in Donbas and other regions in the east, north and south,” Zelenskyy said at a briefing. He said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country.After weeks of denying plans to invade, Putin justified his actions in an overnight televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion. He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. He also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to “demilitarize” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.The attacks came first from the air, but later Ukrainian border guards released security camera footage Thursday showing a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine’s government-held territory from Russian-annexed Crimea.Oleksii Arestovich, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said that Russian troops have moved up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) into the Ukrainian territory in the Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, and, possibly in other areas.President Joe Biden pledged new sanctions to punish Russia for the aggression that the international community had expected for weeks but could not prevent through diplomacy.Putin justified it all in a televised address, asserting that the attack was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine — a false claim the U.S. had predicted he would make as a pretext for an invasion. He accused the U.S. and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demands to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and for security guarantees. He also claimed that Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine but will move to “demilitarize” it and bring those who committed crimes to justice.Biden in a written statement condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified attack,” and he promised that the U.S. and its allies would “hold Russia accountable.” The president said he planned to speak to Americans on Thursday after a meeting of the Group of Seven leaders. More sanctions against Russia were expected to be announced Thursday.In the capital, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko advised residents to stay home unless they are involved in critical work and urged them to prepare go-bags with necessities and documents if they need to evacuate. An Associated Press photographer in Mariupol reported hearing explosions and seeing dozens of people with suitcases heading for their cars to leave the city.“We are facing a war and horror. What could be worse?” 64-year-old Liudmila Gireyeva said in Kyiv. She planned to head to the western city of Lviv and then to try to move to Poland to join her daughter. Putin “will be damned by history, and Ukrainians are damning him.”The Russian claims about knocking out Ukrainian air defenses and Ukrainian claims to have shot down several Russian aircraft could not immediately be verified. The Ukrainian air defense system and air force date back to the Soviet era and are dwarfed by Russia’s massive air power and its inventory of precision weapons.The Russian Defense Ministry said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons and claimed that “there is no threat to civilian population.”Zelenskyy urged global leaders to provide defense assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the “aggressor.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency told air operators of a high risk to civilian aircraft over Ukraine, reminding air operators that “this is now an active conflict zone.”Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Facebook that the Russian military had launched missile strikes on Ukrainian military command facilities, air bases and military depots in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro.After the initial explosions in Kyiv, people could be heard shouting in the streets. Then a sense of normality returned, with cars circulating and people walking in the streets as a pre-dawn commute appeared to start in relative calm.The consequences of the conflict and resulting sanctions on Russia started reverberating throughout the world.World stock markets plunged and oil prices surged by nearly $6 per barrel. Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and U.S. futures were sharply lower. Brent crude oil jumped to over $100 per barrel Thursday on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies. The ruble sankAnticipating international condemnation and countermeasures, Putin issued a stark warning to other countries not to meddle, saying, “whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.”In a stark reminder of Russia’s nuclear power, Putin warned that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”Though the U.S. on Tuesday announced the repositioning of forces around the Baltics, Biden has said he will not send in troops to fight Russia.Putin’s announcement came just hours after the Ukrainian president rejected Moscow’s claims that his country poses a threat to Russia and made a passionate, last-minute plea for peace.“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” Zelenskyy said in an emotional overnight address, speaking in Russian in a direct appeal to Russian citizens. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.”Zelenskyy said he asked to arrange a call with Putin late Wednesday, but the Kremlin did not respond.In an apparent reference to Putin’s move to authorize the deployment of the Russian military to “maintain peace” in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky warned that “this step could mark the start of a big war on the European continent.”“Any provocation, any spark could trigger a blaze that will destroy everything,” he said.He challenged the Russian propaganda claims, saying that “you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free.”At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council called by Ukraine because of the imminent threat of a Russian invasion, members still unaware of Putin’s announcement appealed to him to stop an attack. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting, just before the announcement, telling Putin: “Give peace a chance.”European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to hold the Kremlin accountable.“In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives,” they said on Twitter.Even before Putin’s announcement, dozens of nations imposed sanctions on Russia, further squeezing Russian oligarchs and banks out of international markets.The Russian Foreign Ministry has shrugged off the sanctions, saying that “Russia has proven that, with all the costs of the sanctions, it is able to minimize the damage.”The threat of war has already shredded Ukraine’s economy and raised the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across Europe and global economic chaos.———Isachenkov and Litvinova reported from Moscow. Angela Charlton in Paris; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Lorne Cook in Brussels, Frank Bajak in Boston, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Aamer Madhani, Eric Tucker, Ellen Knickmeyer, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed.———Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

UN food agency says 13 million Yemenis may face starvation

The head of the U.N. food agency has warned that 13 million Yemenis are headed for starvation due to a protracted civil conflict and a lack of funding for humanitarian aidBy MAAD AL-ZIKRY Associated PressFebruary 24, 2022, 9:56 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSANAA, Yemen — The head of the U.N. food agency has warned that 13 million Yemenis are headed for starvation due to a protracted civil conflict and a lack of funding for humanitarian aid.In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, David Beasley said that Yemen was “in a very bad situation” with more than 40 percent of the population already relying on food supplies from the World Food Program.”We’re feeding 13 million people out of a nation of 30 million people, and we are running out of money,” Beasley said, speaking from the capital, Sanaa.Since the pandemic hit, more people have been facing the threat of starvation globally, which put tremendous pressures on the WFP, Beasley said. Now, 285 million people around the world face the threat of starvation, which makes it more difficult to attend to Yemen’s needs, he added.“We’ve got twice the number of people struggling around the world now,” Beasley said. “So, what am I gonna do for the children in Yemen? Steal it from the children in Ethiopia, or Afghanistan, or Nigeria or in Syria? That’s not right,” he added.Beasley said his agency was forced to cut rations in half for eight million Yemenis due to the shortage of funds.“We may be cutting those down to zero. What do you think will happen? people will die. It will be catastrophic,” he said.According to the UN food agency, around 811 million people do not have enough food across the globe, and and estimated 45 million people in 43 countries are at risk of famine.Beasley said the WFP needs an extra 9 billion dollars to meet the rising demand for food aid around the world.“The $430 trillion worth of wealth in the world today, there should not be a single child dying anywhere on earth,” he contended.Yemen has been fighting a civil war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore Hadi and his internationally recognized government to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and caused a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.“In Yemen, these children and these families have paid the price long enough for the war they’re in. It is time for the war to end,” said Beasley. “Right now what I see is children and families begging for food.”