Erdogan Works to Deepen Ties With Putin Amid Allies’ Concerns

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday held talks by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to deepen relations. The talks are seen as likely to add to growing concerns among some of Turkey’s NATO partners over its relationship with Moscow and where its loyalties lie.  The phone call was announced in a press statement by Erdogan’s office.  It said the Turkish president reiterated his willingness to work toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine. The conversation came after Erdogan’s three face-to-face meetings with Putin in the past few months. The Turkish leader’s efforts to deepen ties, including his refusal to enforce Western sanctions against Russia, have spurred growing questions about Turkey’s commitment to its Western partners and NATO. But Turkish presidential adviser Mesut Casin, who is also a professor at Istanbul’s Yeditepe University, said such talks are normal between neighbors.  “Turkey is a NATO member and will continue to be so and this is very critical for Turkey,” he said. “The NATO alliance is one thing and Turkey’s relation with Russia is something else. They need to be seen as two separate things. Russia is our neighbor and we need maintain good ties. Turkey’s neutrality policy over Ukraine is to the benefit of NATO.” Ankara insists it also maintains close ties with Ukraine, to which it continues to supply military hardware, including drones. Such contacts with Moscow and Kyiv, Erdogan claims, allowed him to successfully assist the United Nations in brokering a deal to enable Russian-blockaded Ukrainian grain to reach world markets. That deal comes up for renewal in November. But Western concerns, especially over deepening Turkish-Russian financial ties, are growing. Under the threat of U.S. secondary sanctions, Turkish banks withdrew from Russia’s Mir payment system last month. Moscow was using the system to circumvent a ban on Russian use of international credit cards. But analysts say Ankara retains leverage over its Western allies, with Turkey’s permission required to allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO. On Thursday, Erdogan renewed his threat Thursday to block Sweden’s bid.  “As long as terrorist organizations demonstrate on Swedish streets and terrorists are present in their parliament, our approach to the issue will not be positive,” the Turkish leader told reporters. Erdogan accuses Stockholm of offering sanctuary to Kurdish separatists fighting the Turkish state and an organization that Ankara blames for carrying out the failed 2016 military coup. Sweden denies the … Continue reading “Erdogan Works to Deepen Ties With Putin Amid Allies’ Concerns”

2 Russians Seek Asylum in US After Reaching Remote Alaska Island

Two Russians who said they fled the country to avoid military service have requested asylum in the U.S. after landing in a small boat on a remote Alaska island in the Bering Sea, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office said Thursday. Karina Borger, a spokesperson for the Alaska Republican senator, said in an email that the office has been in communication with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection and that “the Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service.” Thousands of Russian men have fled since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine. While Putin said the move was aimed at calling up about 300,000 men with past military service, many Russians fear it will be broader. Spokespersons with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection referred a reporter’s questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security public affairs office, which provided little information Thursday. The office, in a statement, said the people “were transported to Anchorage for inspection, which includes a screening and vetting process, and then subsequently processed in accordance with applicable U.S. immigration laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” The agency said the two Russians arrived Tuesday on a small boat. It did not provide details on where they came from, their journey or the asylum request. It was not immediately clear what kind of boat they were on. Alaska’s senators, Republicans Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, on Thursday said the two Russians landed at a beach near the town of Gambell, an isolated Alaska Native community of about 600 people on St. Lawrence Island. Sullivan said he was alerted to the matter by a “senior community leader from the Bering Strait region” on Tuesday morning. Gambell is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the western Alaska hub community of Nome and about 36 miles (58 kilometers) from the Chukotka Peninsula, Siberia, according to a community profile on a state website. The remote, 100-mile (161-kilometer) long island, which includes Savoonga, a community of about 800 people, receives flight services from a regional air carrier. Residents rely heavily on a subsistence way of life, harvesting from the sea fish, whales and other marine life. A person who responded to an email address listed for Gambell directed questions to federal authorities. A message seeking comment also … Continue reading “2 Russians Seek Asylum in US After Reaching Remote Alaska Island”

COVID Wave Looms in Europe as Booster Campaign Makes Slow Start

A new COVID-19 wave appears to be brewing in Europe as cooler weather arrives, with public health experts warning that vaccine fatigue and confusion over types of available vaccines will likely limit booster uptake. Omicron subvariants BA.4/5 that dominated this summer are still behind the majority of infections, but newer Omicron subvariants are gaining ground. Hundreds of new forms of Omicron are being tracked by scientists, World Health Organization officials said this week. WHO data released late on Wednesday showed that cases in the European Union (EU) reached 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the prior week, despite a dramatic fall in testing. Globally, case numbers continue to decline. Hospitalization numbers across many countries in the 27-nation bloc, as well as Britain, have gone up in recent weeks. In the week ended Oct 4, COVID-19 hospital admissions with symptoms jumped nearly 32% in Italy, while intensive care admissions rose about 21%, compared to the week before, according to data compiled by independent scientific foundation Gimbe. Over the same week, COVID hospitalizations in Britain saw a 45% increase versus the week earlier. Omicron-adapted vaccines have launched in Europe as of September, with two types of shots addressing the BA.1 as well as the BA.4/5 subvariants made available alongside existing first-generation vaccines. In Britain, only the BA.1-tailored shots have been given the green light. European and British officials have endorsed the latest boosters only for a select groups of people, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Complicating matters further is the “choice” of vaccine as a booster, which will likely add to confusion, public health experts said. But willingness to get yet another shot, which could be a fourth or fifth for some, is wearing thin. “For those who may be less concerned about their risk, the messaging that it is all over coupled with the lack of any major publicity campaign is likely to reduce uptake,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. False sense of security “So on balance I fear that uptake will be quite a bit lower.” “Another confounder is that quite a high proportion of the population might have also had a COVID episode in recent months,” said Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London. Some may erroneously feel that having had a complete primary course and then having … Continue reading “COVID Wave Looms in Europe as Booster Campaign Makes Slow Start”

Activists from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus Win Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three recipients: Ales Bialiatski, one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s; and two human rights groups – Memorial, a Russian organization, and the Center for Civil Liberties, a Ukrainian group. Last year’s Peace Prize was awarded to Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov, a Russian. The Nobel Committee said the two received the award “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” The award is accompanied by a nearly $1 million prize and an 18-karat gold medal. Muratov sold his Noble medal to benefit Ukrainian children displaced by the war. An anonymous philanthropist bought the gold disc for $103.5 million. Other winners of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize have included: Martin Luther King Jr., The Red Cross, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Dag Hammarskjold, and Barack Obama. No prize was awarded during World War II, from 1940-45. …

Yacht Owned by Sanctioned Russian Tycoon Docks in Hong Kong

A superyacht connected to Russian tycoon Alexey Mordashov has anchored in Hong Kong this week amid moves by Western governments to seize yachts connected to sanctioned Russian businessmen. The megayacht Nord, worth over $500 million, arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday afternoon after traveling for over a week from Vladivostok, Russia, its last port of call. Mordashov is one of Russia’s richest billionaires, with an estimated wealth of over $18 billion according to an estimate by Bloomberg. He is the main shareholder and chairman of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel and mining company. He was sanctioned by the U.S., the United Kingdom and the European Union in February after Russia invaded Ukraine. Mordashov has since attempted to challenge the sanctions against him in European courts. U.S. and European authorities have seized over a dozen yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian tycoons to prevent them from sailing to other ports that are not affected by the sanctions. Russian oligarchs have begun docking their yachts at ports in places like Turkey, which has maintained diplomatic ties with Russia since the war began. The Nord, which measures 141.6 meters, has two helipads, a swimming pool and 20 cabins. The yacht is currently sailing under a Russian flag. …

Risk of ‘Armageddon’ Highest Since 1962, Biden Says

The risk of Armageddon is the highest it has been since the early 1960s, President Joe Biden said Thursday night as Russian losses in Ukraine prompt Russian officials to discuss the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In October 1962 the U.S. and the Soviet Union were seemingly on the verge of a nuclear conflict after the U.S. deployment of ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy were countered by the Soviet deployment of similar missiles in Cuba. The president said the Russia President Vladimir Putin, “a guy I know fairly well,” is not joking when he talks of using “nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.” “I don’t there is any such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said. Speaking to Democratic donors, Biden said he and U.S. officials were still “trying to figure out Putin’s off-ramp” in Ukraine. “Where does he find a way out?” Biden asked. “Where does he find himself in a position he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?” The president reiterated that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine. In Ukraine on Thursday, a Ukrainian official said Russian shelling struck residential buildings in Zaporizhzhia, killing at least two people. Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, posted on Telegram that five other people were trapped in rubble following the attack. Ukraine controls the city, but the Zaporizhzhia region is mostly occupied by Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Wednesday declaring Russia was annexing Zaporizhzhia and three other regions, a move denounced by Ukraine and its Western partners, as well as the United Nations, as a violation of international law. Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and shelling in the area in recent months has raised international fears of a nuclear disaster. Rafael Grossi, the head of the U.N.’s atomic energy agency, is due to visit Kyiv and Moscow this week for what he said would be important meetings. He said Wednesday that the need for a protective zone around the power plant is “now more urgent than ever.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Wednesday that his forces had … Continue reading “Risk of ‘Armageddon’ Highest Since 1962, Biden Says”

Putin Faces ‘Most Perilous Moment’ as Russian Forces Retreat in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is likely entering a critical phase as Kyiv’s forces advance in the south and east of the country, forcing invading Russian troops to retreat. In recent days, Ukrainian troops have broken through Russian lines in the southern region of Kherson, liberating several villages along the Dnieper River. Kyiv’s forces now control settlements about 30 kilometers beyond previous front lines. Reuters reported that Ukrainian forces are trying to cut off supply lines for 25,000 Russian troops deployed on the west bank of the river. ‘Superior’ forces Russia’s Defense Ministry admitted Monday that “superior tank divisions” near the town of Zolota Balka allowed Ukrainian forces to break through Russia’s defenses. Ukrainian forces are buoyed after recapturing territory lost during the early days of the Russian invasion. Yaroslav, a Ukrainian soldier manning the front lines outside Kherson, told Agence France-Presse that morale is high. “The mood of the boys, everything, has changed, compared to what it was before — it has become much better. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, inspired by victories,” he said. Ukrainian forces are also consolidating territorial gains in the east. Moscow’s forces retreated from Lyman in Donetsk Oblast over the weekend after Ukrainian troops almost surrounded the city. The streets were littered with burned-out Russian tanks and dead soldiers. Ukraine’s military claimed Thursday its troops had advanced as far 55 kilometers into previously Russian-occupied territory, liberating 93 villages and taking control of more than 2,400 square kilometers. The claim could not be verified by VOA. “The underpinning factors leading to the massive Ukrainian gains you’ve seen in the last 24 to 48 hours, and even before that, have been a combination of very poor Russian capabilities in these areas,” Karolina Hird, a Russia researcher at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said in an interview with VOA. “We’ve had reports that the units in northern Kherson Oblast are completely understrength, understaffed and stretched along a very, very long front line that the Russian troops just do not have the men to fill.” Western weapons The United States announced an additional $625 million of new security assistance for Kyiv this week, including four more precision-guided multiple rocket launchers known as HIMARS. Ukraine said such weapons have played a key role in the recent counteroffensive. Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human rights lawyer and chairperson of the Kyiv-based Center for Civil Liberties, … Continue reading “Putin Faces ‘Most Perilous Moment’ as Russian Forces Retreat in Ukraine”

‘Public Will Be Silenced’ by Turkey’s Proposed Disinformation Bill

Turkey’s disinformation bill is one step closer to being signed into law, despite protests by the country’s media. Parliamentary debate on the “proposal on the amendment of the press law and other laws” started Tuesday. The Turkish government says the bill, suggested in May by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is needed to tackle the “serious threat” from disinformation. The draft of 40 articles includes punishments for “spreading misleading information” on national security, public order and health in an attempt to spread panic or fear; requirements for social media companies to appoint Turkish representatives to handle requests related to content removal; a new committee to handle press accreditation; and a provision making digital media eligible to receive state advertising revenue. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first suggested legislation on disinformation after his government was criticized on social media over its handling of wildfires in Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coastal cities last year. “Personally, I do not have a positive view of social media, and I believe that with the opening of the parliament, it is necessary to work on new legislation on social media,” Erdogan said in a TV interview in August 2021. But journalists warn the provisions are vaguely worded and that the proposed bill could be used to repress critics. “The public will be silenced, and the journalists will censor themselves. Self-censorship, which already exists, will become more widespread, and freedom of expression will be completely stifled by this law,” Pinar Turenc, president of Turkey’s Press Council, told VOA. Editorial independence Critics warn that provisions in Article 29, which focuses on “misleading information,” could be used to further restrict independent news and social media as Turkey draws near to presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023. “We are faced with a blanket bill that aims to silence not only the digital media and the press but also the dissidents before the 2023 elections by intimidating them,” Yaman Akdeniz, a cyberlaw professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told VOA. “Because of their news articles, media outlets will face investigations for the crime of disinformation, and the journalists will be prosecuted,” Akdeniz said. Kemal Aktas, head of the Parliamentary Correspondents Association, raised concerns that the bill could make political reporting and access to sources difficult. “The bill mentions the terms of ‘public order, national security and public health,’ but it is unclear … Continue reading “‘Public Will Be Silenced’ by Turkey’s Proposed Disinformation Bill”

New European Political Community Forum Holds Inaugural Meeting in Prague

Leaders from 44 European countries met Thursday in Prague in the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community, a new regional group seeking to find strategies to address shared concerns such as energy, the economy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The group was the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron and includes all 27 members of the European Union, plus 17 other nations, some of which are seeking EU membership. The only two European nations not invited were Russia and its neighboring ally Belarus. In remarks to open the meeting, Macron said the group’s existence is aimed at sending a message of unity to all European nations by building “a strategic closeness” and finding common strategies. He indicated the group was not seeking to compete with the EU but to find complementary projects. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who closely supported Macron in creating the summit, said the meeting sends a strong signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It is very visible that all of us who are meeting here know that the Russian attack on Ukraine is a brutal violation of the security and peace that we have had in Europe over the last decades. And therefore, it is important that we reject this attack,” said Scholz. Thursday’s summit featured an opening ceremony, followed by a series of meetings where leaders discussed the key challenges Europe faces: security, energy, climate, the economy and migration. No formal policy statements, resolutions or declarations were expected from the summit. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. …

EU Lawmakers Condemn Myanmar’s Crackdown on Media Freedom

EU lawmakers on Thursday condemned the crackdown on media freedom in military-ruled Myanmar and called for the release of “every unfairly detained journalist.” Since the military seized power in February last year, it has forced at least 12 media outlets to shut down and arrested about 142 journalists, 57 of whom remain detained.  Most of those still detained are being held under an incitement charge for allegedly causing fear, spreading false news or agitating against a government employee. In its resolution adopted by show of hands, the EU Parliament cited the cases of BBC freelance producer Htet Htet Khine; Sithu Aung Myint, a Frontier Myanmar columnist and contributor to Voice of America; and freelancer Nyein Nyein Aye. “Strongly condemning the military junta’s violent and illegitimate rule in Myanmar, MEPs urge it to drop all politically motivated charges against the members of the press and media workers, and unconditionally release every unfairly detained journalist,” the EU Parliament said. “They also call on the junta to immediately end its abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence and other ill-treatment, as well as unfair trials against people working in the media.” According to Reporters Without Borders, Nyein Nyein Aye was sentenced in July to three years in prison with hard labor on charges of “causing fear, spreading false news and agitating crimes against a government employee.” Htet Htet Khine was sentenced on Sept. 15 to three years’ hard labor. On Sept. 27, a court sentenced her to a further three years, with a reduction for time served. She has been in detention since August 2021. “We remain concerned for her safety and wellbeing in detention, and call for the release of Htet Htet Khine and other media workers who have been unjustly detained in Myanmar,” said BBC Media Action Chief Executive Officer Caroline Nursey. Sithu Aung Myint was arrested in August 2021 along with Htet Htet Khine. Some of the closed media outlets have continued operating without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodge arrest. Others operate from exile. The army’s takeover led to mass public protests that the military and police responded to with lethal force, triggering armed resistance and escalating violence that have led to what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war. According to detailed lists by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group based in Thailand, 2,336 civilians have died in the … Continue reading “EU Lawmakers Condemn Myanmar’s Crackdown on Media Freedom”

Sweden: ‘Serious Sabotage’ Suspected in Baltic Sea Pipeline Explosions

Sweden’s domestic security agency said Thursday that its initial investigation into explosions last week along two Russian natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea “has strengthened the suspicions of serious sabotage” as the cause. Separately, a Swedish prosecutor said that “seizures have been made at the crime scene and these will now be investigated,” although he did not identify the seized evidence. Neither of the underwater Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines had been in use at the time of the blasts but for days sent methane from the pipes bubbling to the surface off the coasts of Sweden and Denmark. Some Scandinavian officials have speculated that Russia detonated the pipeline explosions as a way to punish Western allies for their support of Ukrainian forces in fighting Moscow’s seven-month invasion and to cut the possible flow of fuel for the coming winter months. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of attacking the pipelines, which the United States and its allies have vehemently denied. They have said that Russia had the most to gain by disrupting Europe’s energy supplies. The Swedish Security Service said its investigation confirmed that “detonations” caused extensive damage to the pipelines. The security agency said what happened in the Baltic Sea was “very serious,” but did not release further details of its investigation. Prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said he had given “directives to temporarily block [the area around the damaged pipelines to] carry out a crime scene investigation.” But he said that now that the initial probe is completed, the blockade around the pipelines off Sweden will be lifted. The Danish and Swedish governments had previously said they suspected that several hundred pounds of explosives were used to damage the pipelines. Some of the material in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. …

Brittney Griner at ‘Weakest Moment’ in Russia, Her Wife Says

WNBA star Brittney Griner is at her “absolute weakest moment in life right now” as she faces a hearing in Russia later this month for her appeal of a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession, Griner’s wife said in an interview aired Thursday. Cherelle Griner told “CBS Mornings” that her wife, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was playing in Russia during the WNBA offseason, is afraid of being forgotten by the United States. “She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Cherelle Griner said. She said Brittney Griner told her in a phone call that she felt “like my life just doesn’t matter.” “Like, y’all don’t see the need to get me back home? Am I just nothing?” Cherelle Griner quoted her wife as saying. It wasn’t clear when the call took place. Brittney Griner was convicted Aug. 4 after Russian police said they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Her defense lawyers said she had been prescribed cannabis for pain. The WNBA star said she had inadvertently packed them and had no criminal intent. She is appealing her prison sentence; the hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25. But Cherelle Griner said after that hearing, her wife could potentially be moved to a labor camp elsewhere in Russia. “My brain can’t even fathom it,” she said in the CBS interview. President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner at the White House last month. He also sat down with Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, another American currently imprisoned in Russia. The Biden administration said in July that it had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home. The administration has not provided specifics about its proposal, but a person familiar with the matter previously confirmed it had offered to release Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the U.S. Cherelle Griner said the president is “doing what he can, but there’s another party in this situation.” She said it’s going to take Russian President Vladimir Putin changing his mindset. Though Brittney Griner was arrested in February — amid escalated tensions because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine —- the couple did not speak on the phone until August. Cherelle Griner said the first conversation was “just so delightful” and felt optimistic that her wife would survive the … Continue reading “Brittney Griner at ‘Weakest Moment’ in Russia, Her Wife Says”

Study: Climate Change Made Summer Drought 20 Times More Likely

Drought that stretched across three continents this summer — drying out large parts of Europe, the United States and China — was made 20 times more likely by climate change, according to a new study. Drought dried up major rivers, destroyed crops, sparked wildfire, threatened aquatic species and led to water restrictions in Europe. It struck places already plagued by drying in the U.S., like the West, but also places where drought is more rare, like the Northeast. China also just had its driest summer in 60 years, leaving its famous Yangtze river half its normal width. Researchers from World Weather Attribution, a group of scientists from around the world who study the link between extreme weather and climate change, say this type of drought would only happen once every 400 years across the Northern Hemisphere if not for human-caused climate change. Now they expect these conditions to repeat every 20 years, given how much the climate has warmed. Ecological disasters like the widespread drought and then massive flooding in Pakistan, are the “fingerprints of climate change,” Maarten van Aalst, a climate scientist at Columbia University and study co-author, said. “The impacts are very clear to people and are hitting hard,” he said, “not just in poor countries, like the flooding Pakistan …. but also in some of the richest parts of the world, like western central Europe.” To figure out the influence of climate change on drying in the Northern Hemisphere, scientists analyzed weather data, computer simulations and soil moisture throughout the regions, excluding tropical areas. They found that climate change made dry soil conditions much more likely over the last several months. This analysis was done using the warming the climate has already experienced so far, 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit), but climate scientists have warned the climate will get warmer, and the authors of the study accounted for that. With an additional 0.8 degrees C degrees warming, this type of drought will happen once every 10 years in western Central Europe and every year throughout the Northern Hemisphere, said Dominik Schumacher, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland. “We’re seeing these compounding and cascading effect across sectors and across regions,” van Aalst said. “One way to reduce those impacts (is) to reduce emissions.” …

At Least 16 Dead After Migrant Boats Sink in Greek Waters 

Greece’s coast guard said Thursday at least 16 people were dead after two boats carrying migrants sank in separate incidents. Authorities said one boat carrying about 40 people went down near the eastern island of Lesbos, near Turkey. Fifteen bodies were recovered and five people were rescued, with a search ongoing for the rest of the migrants. A second boat went down off the island of Kythira after hit rocks. Authorities said they rescued 30 people from the second boat. Both vessels were operating amid winds as high as 100 kilometers per hour. Migrants typically reach Greece form neighboring Turkey, but smugglers have been utilizing longer and more dangerous routes to avoid patrols in the Aegean Sea. Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. …

Is Russia Moving Nuclear Weapons Toward Ukraine?

Amid unconfirmed reports that a train operated by Russia’s nuclear division was spotted heading toward Ukraine, the White House says that it has no indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Nuclear weapons experts tell VOA if Russia is moving nuclear weapons toward the Ukrainian border, the United States will know. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports. …

Russian Launches to Space From US, 1st Time in 20 Years

For the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut rocketed from the U.S. on Wednesday, launching to the International Space Station alongside NASA and Japanese astronauts despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.  Their SpaceX flight was delayed by Hurricane Ian, which ripped across the state last week.  “I hope with this launch we will brighten up the skies over Florida a little bit for everyone,” said the Japan Space Agency’s Koichi Wakata, who is making his fifth spaceflight.  Joining him on a five-month mission are three new to space: Marine Col. Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to orbit Earth; Navy Capt. Josh Cassada; and Russia’s lone female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina.  “Awesome!” said Mann as they reached orbit. “That was a smooth ride uphill. You’ve got three rookies who are pretty happy to be floating in space right now.”  They’re due to arrive at the space station Thursday, 29 hours after a noon departure from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and won’t be back on Earth until March. They’re replacing a U.S.-Italian crew that arrived in April.  Kikina is the Russian Space Agency’s exchange for NASA’s Frank Rubio, who launched to the space station two weeks ago from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. He flew up with two cosmonauts.  The space agencies agreed over the summer to swap seats on their flights in order to ensure a continuous U.S. and Russian presence aboard the 260-mile-high (420-kilometer-high) outpost. The barter was authorized even as global hostilities mounted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. The next crew exchange is in the spring.  Shortly before liftoff, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the key reason for the seat exchange is safety — in case an emergency forces one capsule’s crew home, there would still be an American and Russian on board.  In the meantime, Russia remains committed to the space station through at least 2024, Russia space official Sergei Krikalev assured reporters this week. Russia wants to build its own station in orbit later this decade, “but we know that it’s not going to happen very quick and so probably we will keep flying” with NASA until then, he said.  Beginning with Krikalev in 1994, NASA started flying cosmonauts on its space shuttles, first to Russia’s Mir space station and then to the fledgling space station. The 2003 Columbia reentry disaster put an end to it. But U.S. astronauts … Continue reading “Russian Launches to Space From US, 1st Time in 20 Years”