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Russia says NATO conducting nuclear strike drills near its border

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Moscow, May 28 (IANS) NATO is practicing nuclear strikes against Russia, Army General Vladimir Kulishov, first deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service and head of the Border Service, said on Tuesday.

“Near the Russian border, NATO reconnaissance activity is increasing, and the intensity of operational combat training of the alliance’s troops is increasing, during which scenarios for conducting combat operations against the Russian Federation are being practiced, including launching nuclear strikes on our territory,” he said in an interview with Russia’s RIA Novosti.

“All this requires us to take adequate measures to protect and secure our borders,” Kulishov said as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

The Russian military earlier launched military drills involving tactical nuclear weapons as a “response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation,” according to the Defence Ministry.

–IANS

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China activates Level-IV emergency response to potential flooding

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Beijing, June 16 (IANS) China’s State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters activated a Level-IV emergency response to possible flooding in Zhejiang and Guizhou on Sunday as rainstorms are expected in these regions, the media reported.

Heavy downpours or rainstorms are forecast to hit parts of the Sichuan Basin, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangxi, Guangdong, Henan, Hubei and Heilongjiang from Sunday to Monday, said the HQ, Xinhua news agency reported.

The headquarters maintained a Level-IV emergency response to flooding in Fujian and Guangxi, and a Level-IV emergency response to drought in Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shandong and Henan.

At present, four work teams dispatched by the headquarters are providing instructions and assistance on flood prevention and drought control in some front-line regions.

China has a four-tier flood-control emergency-response system, with Level I being the most severe response.

–IANS

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349 prisoners pardoned in Afghanistan before Eid

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Kabul, June 16 (IANS) The Afghan caretaker government’s Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has pardoned 349 inmates before Eid al-Adha, according to a statement by the country’s Supreme Court.

The statement noted that 279 other inmates were also exempted from their remaining prison sentence, Xinhua news agency reported.

Eid al-Adha, the largest annual religious festival in Afghanistan, will be celebrated from Monday to Wednesday.

–IANS

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Energy vouchers for 1.3 mn S. Korean vulnerable households this summer

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Seoul, June 16 (IANS) The ruling People Power Party (PPP) and government officials on Sunday agreed to provide energy vouchers to 1.3 million vulnerable households as the country braces for a hotter-than-average summer.

The support scheme was announced during a meeting of senior officials of the government, the presidential office and the PPP, according to Rep. Jang Dong-hyuk, the PPP’s chief spokesperson.

The decision to provide support of up to 53,000 won ($38), up 10,000 won from last year, comes as South Korea’s weather agency has forecast this summer to be hotter than average, reports Yonhap news agency.

The officials also decided to extend an electricity freeze for 3.6 million households in vulnerable groups.

–IANS

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Zelensky calls for second event as Ukraine peace summit ends

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Vienna, June 16 (IANS/DPA) The two-day Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland should be quickly followed up with a second meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday towards the close of proceedings.

Preparations would take only months and not years, Zelensky said after representatives of some 100 countries and organisations came together at the Burgenstock mountain hotel resort near Lucerne.

Some countries had already signalled their willingness to host such a summit, according to Zelensky.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that a prerequisite for Russia’s participation would be Moscow’s commitment to the UN Charter.

The final declaration of the summit, which was signed by 80 of the countries present, makes no mention of a follow-up conference.

Swiss President Viola Amherd acknowledged diverse perspectives at the conference but emphasized that it marked the first high-level discussion on a peace process. Some substantive prerequisites for a path to an end to the war in Ukraine had been created, she said.

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The fact that the vast majority of the states present agreed on the Burgenstock Communique shows what diplomacy can achieve through patient work, Amherd added.

Russia had not been invited to the event and showed no interest in participating. The summit was also an attempt by the West to involve other countries in South America, Asia and Africa in peace efforts based on international law.

Ukraine is calling for a “just and lasting” peace.

–IANS/DPA

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Iran condemns G7 claims against its nuclear activities

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Tehran, June 16 (IANS) Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani slammed on Sunday the claims of the Group of Seven (G7) over the country’s nuclear activities as “anti-Tehran”.

Reacting to a G7 communique issued on Friday, Kanaani stressed in a statement that Iran’s nuclear programme is “exclusively peaceful”, reported Xinhua News Agency.

He said Iran would carry forward its “peaceful” nuclear projects and plans in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards agreement, regardless of political pressures and “propaganda campaigns.” He said the communique’s mention of an anti-Iran resolution of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was another proof of “the political approach pursued by those behind the resolution” and certain governments’ “abuse” of international mechanisms against independent states.

The communique called on Tehran to “cease and reverse nuclear escalations”, stop the continuing “uranium enrichment activities”, engage in serious dialogue, provide convincing assurances that its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful, fully cooperate with the IAEA, and comply with the agency’s monitoring and verification mechanism, “including the Board of Governors’ resolution of June 5”.

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The IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution urged Iran to “step up cooperation with the IAEA and reverse its recent barring of inspectors.”

Kanaani regretted that some countries with “political motivations” made baseless and unproven claims to continue the failed policy of sanctions on Iran, advising the G7 members to refrain from using outdated, “destructive” policies. He stressed that the United States and the E3 group of France, Britain and Germany should give proof of their goodwill and refrain from taking “futile politically-motivated” measures against Iran.

Iran signed a nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers including the United States and the E3 group in July 2015, accepting restrictions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. However, the United States withdrew from the agreement in May 2018, reinstating sanctions and prompting Iran to scale back some of its nuclear commitments. Efforts to revive the JCPOA commenced in April 2021 in Vienna, but despite multiple rounds of negotiations, no substantial progress has been reported since the last talks in August 2022.

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–IANS

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