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British RAF pilot dies after aircraft crash

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London, May 26 (IANS) A British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot was killed after a Spitfire crashed near an RAF base in Lincolnshire, an RAF spokesperson has said.

“It is with great sadness that we must confirm the death of an RAF pilot in a tragic accident near RAF Coningsby today,” said the spokesperson on Saturday.

Earlier, a Lincolnshire police spokesperson said a “single occupant aircraft” is believed to have crashed and nobody else is thought to have been involved, Xinhua news agency reported.

British media reported that the plane went down shortly before 1220 GMT and the crashed Spitfire was taking part in a Battle of Britain memorial event.

RAF Coningsby is home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, a collection of wartime fighter and bomber aircraft that take part in air shows and memorial displays.

–IANS

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'Great power' India facing 'completely unjustified' pressure over Russia ties: Lavrov

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'Great power' India facing 'completely unjustified' pressure over Russia ties: Lavrov

'Great power' India facing 'completely unjustified' pressure over Russia ties: Lavrov

United Nations, July 18 (IANS) India, “a great power” pursuing its own national interests, is facing “completely unjustified” pressure over its relations with Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“India is a great power, sets its own national interests, determines its own national interests, chooses its own partners, and we know that India is being subjected to enormous pressure, completely unjustified, pressure in the international arena,” he said at a news conference here on Wednesday.

“I think India is doing everything right,” he said defending India’s ties with Russia, particularly energy cooperation, against the criticism during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow last week.

Lavrov called Ukraine President Volodymyr’s remarks about Prime Minister Modi’s Moscow visit “very insulting”.

He noted that India called Ukraine’s ambassador to India, Oleksandr Polishchuk, to the Ministry of External Affairs and protested Zelensky’s remark.

Zelensky had posted on X, “It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day” when a children’s hospital in Kyiv was hit by a Russian missile.

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Bracketing China with India, Lavrov attacked the West’s criticism of these “Asian giants”.

He said, “A multipolar world is a reality. It’s not just a made-up of fiction.”

“The fact that the West is exhibiting its displeasure to powers like China, like India, well, it shows the lack of erudition, the inability to partake in diplomacy, and also speaks to the failure of political analysts,” he said.

“It’s really beneath them, behaving this way … in particular when they’re speaking in this way to these two giants, these two great powers,” he added.

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during Prime Minister Modi’s Moscow visit, “We made quite clear directly with India our concerns about their relationship with Russia.”

“India is a strategic partner with whom we engage in a full and frank dialogue, and that includes on our concerns about the relationship with Russia,” he said.

Lavrov spoke of India’s External Affairs Minister’s unapologetic defence of buying energy products from Russia.

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“My colleague Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, after a tour of Western states, answering questions, including the question of why are you buying more oil from Russia, he cited statistics and those statistics showed that the West has also increased its purchases of gas from the Russian Federation despite some of the restrictions that have been imposed, gas and oil as well,” he said.

“And then he went on to say that India will decide for itself, how to trade with whom and how to defend its national interests,” Lavrov added.

In December 2022, during German Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock’s visit to New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar told a Western reporter that during a ten-month period that year, the European Union had imported more Russian oil than the next 10 countries combined and that its import was six times India’s.

The EU also imports gas and coal, he said.

Also at a media interaction in London, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said that India had “actually softened the oil markets and the gas markets through our purchase policies. We have, as a consequence, actually managed global inflation and people should be saying thank you”.

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(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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Covid-19 infection adds to Biden's re-election woes (Lead)

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Covid-19 infection adds to Biden's re-election woes (Lead)

Covid-19 infection adds to Biden's re-election woes (Lead)

Washington, July 18 (IANS) US President Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid-19 as his bid for re-election faced fresh opposition from within his own Democratic party.

“Earlier today following his first event in Las Vegas, President Biden tested positive for Covid-19,” Karine Jean Pierre, the White House Press Secretary said in a statement on Wednesday.

“He is vaccinated and boosted and he is experiencing mild symptoms,” she added.

The campaign event in the crucial swing state of Nevada was cancelled and the President headed for his home state Delaware where he will self-isolate and recover.

Biden’s re-election bid faced its severest challenge Wednesday when Adam Schiff, a senior Democratic member in the House of Representatives who is running for the US Senate, became the newest Democrat to call for the President to step aside. Schiff is very close to the former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who together with other leaders of the party, is trying to steer the President towards the exit.

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“Joe Biden has been one of the most consequential presidents in our nation’s history, and his lifetime of service as a Senator, a Vice President, and now as President has made our country better,” Schiff wrote in a statement. “But our nation is at a crossroads. A second Trump presidency will undermine the very foundation of our democracy, and I have serious concerns about whether the President can defeat Donald Trump in November,” he added.

Biden has rejected all calls for him to step aside and has vowed to stay in the race, but his Covid-19 infection could seriously challenge his resolve given his age.

The White House doctor said in the same statement as released by Jean-Pierre, “The President presented this afternoon with upper respiratory symptoms, to include rhinorhea (runny nose) and non-productive cough, with general mailaise. He felt okay for his first event of the day, but given that he was not feeling better, point of care testing for COVID-19 was conducted, and the results were positive for the COVID-19 virus. Given this, the President will be self-isolating in accordance with CDC guidance for symptomatic individuals. PCR confirmation testing will be pending.”

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“His symptoms remain mild, his respiratory rate is normal at 16, his temperature is normal at 97.8 and his pulse oximetry is normal at 97 per cent. The President has received his first dose of Paxlovid. He will be self-isolating at his home in Rehoboth,” the doctor said.

–IANS

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UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

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UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

United Nations, July 18 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged a renewed emphasis on a political resolution to the persistent crisis in Gaza.

“We must refocus on finding a political solution that will end the occupation and resolve the conflict in line with international law, and relevant United Nations resolutions,” Courtenay Rattray, chef de cabinet of the UN secretary-general, told the Security Council debate on Gaza, on behalf of the UN chief.

Rattray highlighted the severe circumstances in Gaza, characterised by ongoing conflict and lawlessness, and raised concerns about the escalating regional instability and the significant crisis in Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rattray provided a sombre update on the situation, stating, “In recent weeks, Israeli military operations and fighting intensified across Gaza. Rockets continue to be launched by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza towards Israeli population centres.”

“Rafah is in ruins — and the Rafah crossing remains closed, further hampering humanitarian operations,” he added.

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He noted the massive displacement within Gaza, where “almost 2 million people have been displaced — nearly the entire population of Gaza — and many of them multiple times.”

Highlighting the breakdown in public order and the increasing threat of a regional spillover, Rattray reiterated the UN’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

He stressed the critical need for consistent access to humanitarian aid across all crossing points to ensure the survival and well-being of the civilian population.

Rattray stressed the importance of immediate action to address these crises, stating, “We must change course. All settlement activity must cease immediately.”

He called for the restoration of governance in Gaza under a legitimate Palestinian government and the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority to lead recovery efforts.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting all efforts towards reaching a sustainable peace agreement that adheres to international law and UN resolutions.

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Rattray concluded with a call to all parties involved to intensify efforts to end the violence and to work towards a lasting resolution that respects the rights and dignities of all people involved.

–IANS

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Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

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Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

Minsk, July 18 (IANS) Belarus will introduce a visa-free policy for 35 European countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its official website.

The policy will take effect on Friday, July 19, and will last until December 31, 2024, according to the statement.

Citizens of the 35 countries, including members of the European Union and the UK, can stay in Belarus for 30 days at a time without a visa.

The statement said that in order to further demonstrate Belarus’s commitment to openness, peace and good neighbourliness, and to simplify personnel exchanges, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko supports citizens of 35 European countries to temporarily enter and stay in Belarus through road and rail checkpoints without a visa.

According to the State Border Committee of Belarus, the visa-free policy for citizens of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia entering Belarus which has taken effect since 2022, will be now extended to citizens of 35 other European countries. The visa-free policy can be used multiple times, and shall not exceed 90 days within a year.

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This policy does not apply to holders of special passports such as diplomatic and official passports.

–IANS

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UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

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UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

United Nations, July 18 (IANS) The UK at a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East has expressed its deep concern about the “risk of regional escalation, in particular along the blue line between Israel and Lebanon”.

UK Permanent Representative to the UN Barbara Woodward, during the meeting on Wednesday, said, “Nine months since the 7 October attacks, at least 120 hostages, alive and dead, remain held in horrific conditions. Innocent Palestinians continue to suffer and die in Gaza. A devastating humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day. There is an imminent risk of famine. And we are deeply concerned about the risk of regional escalation, in particular along the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.”

“In one of his first acts as UK Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer set out the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire, immediate release of all hostages, and an immediate surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza. We strongly support the ongoing efforts of Egypt, Qatar and the United States to this end – the deal on the table… is the best chance to support this,” she said.

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Woodward also urged both sides (Hamas and Israel) to show flexibility in negotiations and demonstrate a “clear and firm” commitment to ensure the implementation of the deal.

“We are calling on Israel to protect civilians, to allow unfettered aid into Gaza and to ensure the UN and humanitarian actors have the access and equipment necessary to safely get aid to those who need it most…,” she said.

“… We condemn recent Israeli expansion of settlements. We reject decisions by the Government of Israel to declare 2,357 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands’ so far this year — the largest of such declarations of state land since the Oslo Accords. Such acts are not only illegal under international law, but also undermine prospects for a two-state solution. We demand a halt to these illegal activities,” Woodward added.

She further said that reports of civilian casualties following Israeli strikes near schools and designated humanitarian zones in Gaza in recent weeks were appalling – as the Foreign Secretary said, urgent measures are needed to protect civilians.

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“Peace will be sustainable only if both Israelis and Palestinians recommit to a renewed peace process resulting in a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State – the undeniable right of the Palestinian people,” she said.

–IANS

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