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Indian woman Army major to receive UN award for gender advocacy

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United Nations, May 29 (IANS) Indian Army Major Radhika Sen has been selected to receive a UN award recognising her advocacy for women and girls while serving as a peacekeeper, Stephane Dujarric, the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, announced here.

Dujarric said that Guterres will present Sen with the 2023 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award on Thursday, which is observed as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

The award recognises the efforts of a military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of the 2000 Security Council resolution that calls for protecting women and girls from conflict-related sexual violence and sets gender-related responsibilities for the UN.

Congratulating her, Guterres called her “a true leader and role model. Her service was a true credit to the United Nations as a whole”.

Sen served with the Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) where she helped create the Community Alert Networks in North Kivu as a platform that brought in community leaders, young people, and women “to voice their security and humanitarian concerns”, according to the UN.

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With her MONUSCO colleagues, she worked to address those concerns.

Guterres said that “with humility, compassion and dedication”, she earned the trust of “conflict-affected communities, including women and girls” as her troops engaged with them “in an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu”.

Sen said, “Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everybody’s business – not just us, women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity.”

“This award is special to me as it gives a recognition to the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in the challenging environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and giving their best to bring a positive change in the society,” she added.

Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Sen is a biotech engineer who was studying for a master’s degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay when she decided to join the Army.

She was assigned to MONUSCO in 2023 as the Engagement Platoon Commander with the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion, and completed her tenure in April 2024.

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Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the honour after Major Suman Gawani, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan and received the award in 2019.

Of the 6,063 Indian personnel in UN peacekeeping operations, 1,954 serve with MONUSCO, 32 of them women.

The UN said that Sen, who led mixed-gender engagement patrols and activities, became a role model for both men and women by fostering “a safe space for men and women to operate together under her command”.

She also made sure that peacekeepers under her command operated with sensitivity to gender and sociocultural norms in the eastern DRC “to help build trust and thereby increase her team’s chance of success”, the UN said.

Among the activities she launched for women were English language classes for children, and health, gender, and vocational training for adults.

“Her efforts directly inspired women’s solidarity, providing safe spaces for meetings and open dialogue”, the UN said.

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She encouraged women in the village of Kashlira, near Rwindi town, to organise themselves to advocate for their rights, particularly in local security and peace discussions.

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

–IANS

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Ukraine plans solar expansion to stabilise energy security

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Kiev, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is planning to expand the country’s construction of solar systems to stabilise the energy grid, which has been significantly impacted by Russian attacks.

“The government has been tasked with immediately presenting a program to encourage the installation of solar generation and energy storage systems in Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his daily video address on Thursday.

According to the plan, citizens who install solar panels will be able to receive an interest-free loan.

The President said that measures were taken to protect energy facilities from ongoing attacks by Russia and specific deadlines were established for the completion of the protective structures.

Zelensky pledged to build more facilities for decentralised energy supply to ensure administration and critical infrastructure buildings had an alternative energy source during power outages.

Ukraine has been defending itself against a full-scale Russian invasion for more than two years.

Official figures show that about half of Ukraine’s energy production capacity has been lost due to systematic Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities with drones and missiles.

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Strict energy rationing and daily power cuts have been implemented, with concerns about the situation worsening in the winter.

–IANS/DPA

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Thousands of Israelis turn out in renewed rally against govt

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Jerusalem, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of Israelis turned out for fresh protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a renewed show of anger at the failure to agree on a ceasefire in Gaza and bring about the return of hostages.

According to Israeli media on Thursday, the largest rally took place in front of a private home of the Prime Minister in the city of Caesarea.

The demonstrators demanded new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds also gathered in Jerusalem for a protest, according to reports.

These are the latest in months of protests as people accuse Netanyahu of bowing to the demands of the ultra-orthodox partners in his right-wing coalition and obstructing a deal to release the Israeli hostages held by Palestinian Islamist organisation Hamas.

Some Ministers oppose an agreement with Hamas as it would also provide for a ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

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Israel continues to seek to eliminate Hamas, which attacked sites in southern Israel on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people and abducting about 250 more to Gaza.

Israel responded by pounding Gaza with airstrikes and launched a ground offensive into the sealed-off Palestinian territory at the end of October.

More than 37,300 people have been killed and more than 85,000 injured in the course of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority in Gaza.

Months of efforts have failed to bring about a breakthrough in indirect negotiations to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire and Hamas to release around 120 hostages.

–IANS/DPA

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WHO warns counterfeit diabetes drugs in circulation worldwide

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Geneva, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Counterfeit diabetes drugs have been in circulation since 2022, a problem affecting all regions of the world, the WHO warned in a statement.

The health authority on Thursday referred specifically to findings in Britain, the US and Brazil since October 2023.

The drug concerns Ozempic, a medicine containing the active ingredient semaglutide, which is also approved in the EU for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

The counterfeit version looks identical to the real medicine. Because the product also suppresses the appetite, it is increasingly being prescribed for weight loss.

But counterfeit drugs may not contain the right amount of active ingredients and could therefore lead to uncontrolled sugar in diabetics, the WHO said, adding they may also contain other active ingredients that pose health risks.

The WHO called on doctors, pharmacists, regulatory authorities and the public to be vigilant.

People should only buy medicines on prescription from pharmacies and not online, the WHO said.

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Users should ensure that the dosage scale on insulin pens is displayed correctly, the label looks correct and there are no spelling mistakes on the box, the global health agency added.

–IANS/DPA

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Putin warns S.Korea against arms deliveries to Ukraine

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Hanoi, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Russian President Vladimir Putin has said South Korea would be making a “big mistake” if it supplies arms to Ukraine.

“If that happens, then we will make corresponding decisions that will not please the current leadership of South Korea,” Putin said on Thursday during a trip to Vietnam.

The South Korean government had earlier expressed concern over a new Russia-North Korea strategic partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked.

Seoul said the security commitments violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

It also suggested it could reconsider its long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to Kiev.

North Korea, ruled by President Kim Jong Un, is subject to far-reaching UN sanctions and import bans due to its nuclear weapons programme, including the trade in weapons and the transfer of military technologies to the country.

During a state visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Putin signed the partnership agreement with Kim.

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At a press conference in Hanoi on Thursday, Putin called Seoul’s concerns unfounded.

He said South Korea had nothing to fear as the pact would only apply if either Russia or North Korea was attacked by a third country.

“As far as I know, (South Korea) is not planning any aggression” against North Korea, he said.

This means that “there is no need to fear our cooperation”.

Putin also said that he would not deploy any North Korean soldiers in Ukraine.

However, he threatened to deliver high-precision weapons to North Korea as a response to Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

–IANS/DPA

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Washington prioritises Ukraine, postpones military supplies to others

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Washington, June 21 (IANS/DPA) The US government plans to postpone the delivery of some military equipment to other countries to prioritise strengthening Ukraine’s air defences.

White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that given Kiev’s urgent needs, the US government had made the “difficult but necessary” decision to postpone certain planned arms sales to other countries, in particular missiles for the Patriot and NASAMS air defence systems.

These should go instead to Ukraine, whose armed forces urgently need additional air defence capacities, he added.

The countries concerned had been informed, Kirby said, though he did not say which countries were involved.

All are to receive what they had ordered, just a little later than originally planned, he added.

This was first mentioned by US President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a few days ago on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

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–IANS/DPA

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