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Adam Boulton: Pelosi’s Actions May Be About to Drastically Reshape the World

Taylor Johnston

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China’s determination to take control of Taiwan is often cited as one of the likeliest causes of World War Three – a conflict which, it is widely accepted, could even end human civilisation altogether.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in advance that the Speaker of the US House of Representatives was “playing with fire” with her planned visit to Taiwan.

Nancy Pelosi duly went ahead anyway.

She was cheered by crowds and praised by Taiwanese Prime Minister Tsai-Ing Wen on Wednesday for her “ironclad” commitment to defending democracy on the island.

She then continued her tour in other Asian countries, while the consequences of her visit are only just hotting up.

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On the economic front, China has already banned the import of fruit and fish from Taiwanese sources.

The Chinese government pre-announced that from Thursday it would conduct “live fire” military exercises in six areas of sea around Taiwan, including in what Taiwan claims as its territorial waters, as close as ten miles off the island’s coast.

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China has warned all ships and planes to stay out of the area, but the possibility cannot be ruled out that bystanders will be hit, followed by demands for retaliation.

Over the next few tense days and weeks, it remains to be seen whether Mrs Pelosi’s visit, beyond being a provocation to the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC), will actually inflame the decades-long stand-off over the future of the island.

Decades of threats over Taiwan

Image:
A Taiwan navy ship patrolling the waters between the island and the Chinese mainland

The split between Taiwan and mainland China dates back to the Second World War. The defeated Japanese handed Taiwan back to the non-communist government of the Republic of China in 1945. But that government itself was in retreat from the communist takeover. By 1949 it had been pushed back onto the island of Taiwan – roughly 100 miles off the mainland.

Taiwan has prospered as a capitalist democracy, with a highly educated population of some twenty million people.

In the strategic struggle between the superpowers, it is more valuable than ever, because its Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is the dominant supplier globally of high-end computer chips.

Taiwan was treated by the west as the legitimate representative of all of China, until 1971 when, as part of the “Nixon in China” opening of relations, UN Resolution 2758 recognized the PRC as “the only legitimate representative of China” and the PRC became a permanent member of the Security Council alongside the US, UK, USSR and France.

The status of Taiwan was unresolved except for various verbal commitments to help the island defend its de facto, but not de jure, independence from the communist PRC.

The PRC has never abandoned its insistence that Taiwan is a breakaway part of the nation which should legitimately be incorporated into its territory. There have been numerous threats and low level confrontations with Chinese forces over the decades especially in the Taiwan Straits separating the two countries.

There is concern now that the Chinese actions and exercises being taken in response to Pelosi’s visit could be harsher and more prolonged than any seen previously, coming close to a temporary blockade.

So far the Taiwanese people appear to be taking it all in their stride, less fearful that the situation will escalate catastrophically than outside observers.

Read more on Taiwan:Why is Nancy Pelosi’s visit so controversial?US is “playing with fire” and “will get burnt”

Why tensions are rising now

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4:52

The growing tensions between China and Taiwan explained

There is no doubt that the rhetoric and apparent threat of an armed invasion by China have increased recently.

Xi Jinping is about to hold a meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee confirming that he can stay on as president for life beyond two terms in office.

Nationalism has become central to his campaign to stay in power as China has struggled with COVID and a stalling economy.

Xi went beyond the careful language of his predecessors to state officially that “unification must be fulfilled” and soon, because the Taiwan issue “cannot be passed down from generation to generation”.

The West has responded by upping military co-operation in the region. NATO recently held a joint meeting with Japan and South Korea. The US, UK and Australia are participants in the controversial AUKUS project, so Australia can build up a nuclear submarine capability. The new British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and a strike carrier group were deployed last year to the South China Sea in spite of warnings from China.

This only amounts to gestures of defiance. In practice, nations worried about China still want to keep their position on Taiwan ambiguous.

President Biden rowed back from saying “Yes” to the use of US forces in response to a Chinese invasion. The White House did not endorse Mrs Pelosi’s visit pointing out that Congress is an independent branch of government. The president’s inability to control the behaviour of one of the most senior office holders in his Democrat Party drew criticism at home and abroad.

Lessons from the Ukraine crisis

Image:
F-16V fighter jets during a drill in Taiwan. File pic

To some, including Mrs Pelosi, the cautious approach taken to Taiwan is reminiscent of the attitude adopted, ineffectively, in the face of Russian threats against Ukraine.

The British Foreign Secretary was one who drew a parallel.

“There is always a tendency of wishful thinking to think that more bad things won’t happen and to wait until it’s too late,” Liz Truss said in June. “We should have been supplying the defensive weapons into Ukraine earlier. We need to learn that lesson for Taiwan.”

But now that she is front runner to become Prime Minister her campaign has clarified that this was not a suggestion that the UK should help arm Taiwan.

Boris Johnson was similarly evasive on the extent of Britain’s commitment to Taiwan, when challenged in the Commons by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Read more from Adam Boulton:Why Tories should pick a leader for the nation – not the partyNo turning back: The abortion divide between UK and USThe ties that bond the UK together are under stress

Why Pelosi is acting now

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1:02

Nancy Pelosi praised Taiwan for being ‘one of the freest societies in the world.’

Nancy Pelosi is running out of time.

Throughout her four decades in public life, representing California on the Pacific coast, she has been a champion of human rights and a strong critic of China including over Tibet, Hong Kong, the Uyghurs, and Taiwan.

The Speaker is third in line to be president and she wanted to make her point with the full weight of her current office.

She may well not be Speaker after November’s mid-term elections, when the Republicans are expected to replace the Democrats as the majority party in the House. Aged 82, she has also said she wants to wind down her leadership role soon.

Nancy Pelosi may have been indulging in gesture politics at the end of a long career but she has highlighted a moral and geopolitical quandary over Taiwan which may be about to drastically reshape the lives of rising generations around the world.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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‘It’s Been a Harrowing Time’: All Five Britons Released by Russia in Prisoner Swap Return Home to Families

Taylor Johnston

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Five Britons released from Russian detention in Ukraine after a prisoner swap have arrived back “safely” in the UK.

One of the men, Shaun Pinner, is now back at the family home near Sandy in Bedfordshire.

“It’s good to be home,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a steak dinner tonight!”

For his mother, Debbie Price, the relief is overwhelming.

She told Sky’s Emma Birchley: “It’s been a really, really hard time. We are just so happy to have him home. It’s hugely emotional.”

Aiden Aslin, John Harding, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill have been identified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as the other Britons released.

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Image:
Shaun Pinner (pictured in dark top in the middle) in a hotel with his family

Back in April, Mr Pinner and Aiden Aslin were captured by Russian forces who accused them of being mercenaries.

As a result, they appeared in court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, and were threatened with death by firing squad.

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At the time, Mr Pinner’s family stressed he was “not a volunteer nor a mercenary, but officially serving with the Ukrainian army”.

On their flight home, Mr Aslin and Mr Pinner recorded a message, thanking those who had worked to free them.

“We’re now out of the danger zone and on our way home to our families,” said Mr Aslin.

“By the skin of our teeth,” Mr Pinner, who is from Bedfordshire, added.

Prior to their release, four of the men featured in video clips posted online or on Russian state TV.

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Brits sentenced to death

The first hint Mr Pinner had that something was happening was after lunch on Tuesday.

“They said you have to roll your stuff up. They said you’re going on a long journey,” he said.

‘We were moved to another location. We didn’t have any idea what was happening.”

He was flown with other released captives to Saudi Arabia and at 5.30pm UK time on Wednesday, he was able to speak to his mother on the phone, from the Middle Eastern country.

Wedding anniversary

“It’s very emotional, as you can imagine,” he said.

However, the 48-year-old, who has been living in Ukraine since 2018, has many friends still there, as well as his wife.

Today is their second wedding anniversary.

It’s hoped she will be able to get a visa to also come to the UK.

In footage broadcast on Russian state TV in April, Mr Pinner said he had been fighting in the besieged port city of Mariupol for five to six weeks.

In the months before he appeared in court, he told Sky News he was on his fourth tour of duty in Ukraine after serving in the British Army for nine years.

After the news broke the Britons would be returning to the UK, Prime Minister Liz Truss said she “hugely welcomed” the move, adding it would end “months of uncertainty and suffering for them and their families”.

Image:
Shaun Pinner (centre) and Aiden Aslin (right). John Harding has his thumb up

Who else was released?

Almost 300 people were released in the prisoner swap, many of them from the Ukrainian Azov regiment, which gained fame for its defence of the final stronghold in Mariupol.

Mr Harding was among the small group of soldiers who were holed up inside the Azovstal steelworks in the southeastern city.

Ten other foreigners have been released to Saudi Arabia before they return home, including Moroccan Brahim Saadoun, Americans Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

Image:
Almost 300 people were freed after being held by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Pic: SPA – Saudi Press Agency

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “We remember all our people and try to save every Ukrainian.

“This is the meaning of Ukraine, our essence, this is what distinguishes us from the enemy.”

The exchange took place unexpectedly, coming as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons.

It was brokered with help from Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has close ties with Mr Putin.

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Behind Russia’s Abandoned Lines, Ammunition, Scattered Clothes and Wrecked Vehicles Found

Taylor Johnston

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The Ukrainian soldier stooped over an ammunition box and picked up what looked like a giant, metal cork. “Russian landmine,” he said.

He walked to another discarded crate inside a large warehouse.

“This is a mortar,” the serviceman, 39, said, holding up the deadly weapon, which was the shape of a stretched, grey-coloured balloon.

The haul was part of a stockpile of ammunition found at a sprawling, mud-splattered repair yard, which Russian soldiers had apparently used as a base on the edge of the Ukrainian city of Izyum.

It had been left behind, along with shabby-looking bits of body armour, boots and jars of food – signs of a hasty Russian retreat in the face of a Ukrainian offensive to take the city back.

Ukraine war latest updates: President Zelenskyy accuses Russia of turning occupied areas ‘into toilets’

The soldier – who went by the name Granitsya, the call-sign he said he used for the war – was part of the operation.

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“They just ran away,” he said, describing the advance, launched last week. “There was small arms fire but not the big combat that we saw in the first days or months of the invasion.”

Sky News met the volunteer soldier as he stood next to an abandoned Russian tank on a street leading further into Izyum.

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Asked how he felt before the operation to attack Russian positions across the Kharkiv region started, he said: “I wasn’t scared because of what they did to our country. They killed our women, our children, there is no fear. It is only hatred and a desire to tear them apart.

“We are a special unit – Kraken – everyone knows us. We are working to defend our country.”

Abandoned Russian equipment

The Kraken Regiment is a relatively well-known group of military volunteers within the Ukrainian armed forces.

Behind him, members of his unit were climbing over the top of the discarded tank, making sure it was safe. The vehicle will be given a wartime makeover, effectively switching sides.

Granitsya took Sky News to the nearby repair yard.

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Inside one enormous hanger, were two Russian military trucks. At least one had the tell-tale letter ‘Z’ daubed in white paint on a door.

Russian troops used the place to repair their military vehicles, the Ukrainian soldier said.

His side appeared to have been aware. A giant hole in the roof marked the point where a projectile looked to have struck the site, presumably as part of Ukraine’s offensive.

Pock marks caused by shrapnel dented the walls and twisted pieces of metal littered the floor.

Image:
More hastily discarded Russian military vehicles

On another part of the compound, inside a dingy, unlit cluster of makeshift rooms, was where the Russians slept and ate, according to Granitsya. “Russian, Russian, Russian,” he said, pointing to a heap of shabby green body armour and dirty boots.

There was also a long box containing jars of what could have been pickles.

Image:
Abandoned Russian food supplies

‘There is no one to fear them’

Stepping back outside, he exclaimed again: “Russian”, picking up parts of a rusty gun that he said had been fitted to a vehicle.

Granitsya had been a full-time soldier fighting in eastern Ukraine between 2017 and 2020, following Russia’s first invasion in 2014.

He had decided to leave the armed forces but joined the Kraken unit on 24 February after President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale war.

The soldier was scathing about the quality of the Russian military. “Their army is not big and powerful,” he said.

“It is a big fake. They create this fake [impression of strength] to make other countries afraid. But in reality there is no one to fear them.”

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Final Suspect in Canada Stabbing Rampage Kills Himself After Police Ram His Car Into Ditch

Taylor Johnston

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The final suspect in the recent mass stabbings in and around a Canadian reserve has died from self-inflicted injuries, an official has said.

Myles Sanderson, 32, was found near the town of Rosthern, in the central Saskatchewan province, as officers responded to reports of a stolen vehicle being driven by a man armed with a knife, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.

Officers rammed Sanderson’s vehicle off the road into a ditch, and he was taken into custody, but went into what a spokeswoman described as “medical distress”.

Image:
Myles Sanderson had been fleeing from police at almost 100mph in a stolen vehicle when he was arrested. Pic: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Saskatchewan

He was taken to hospital, but died shortly afterwards.

“All life-saving measures that we are capable of were taken at that time,” commander of the RCMP, assistant commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, said.

She gave no details on the cause of death, but an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Sanderson died of self-inflicted injuries, without giving any further details.

Video and photos from the scene showed a white SUV off to the side of the road with police cars all around.

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Ten people were killed and 18 injured after the attacks in and around the James Smith Cree Nation, an indigenous community in the central Saskatchewan province, on Sunday.

Ten victims remain in hospital, three of them in a critical condition.

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At a press conference confirming Myles Sanderson’s death, Ms Blackmore said she had been to visit James Smith Cree Nation, home to nine of the ten victims, and said many of them had “witnessed incredible trauma”.

Image:
Police and investigators gather at the scene where Sanderson was arrested

“Many people haven’t slept,” she said. “They told me, ‘every time I close my eyes, I hear noises’.

“I hope this gives them some sense of closure, and that they can rest easier tonight knowing Myles is no longer at large.

“I hope now they are able to start healing.”

Image:
Brian Burns’ wife Bonnie and son Gregory were killed in the attacks

Hundreds of police officers undertook an extensive manhunt for suspects, Myles and his brother Damien Sanderson, who had fled the crime scenes.

Damien was found dead in a grassy area of James Smith Cree Nation on Monday, with injuries police said were not self-inflicted.

Myles Sanderson, who officers described as armed and dangerous, remained on the loose until Wednesday afternoon and police are investigating if he killed his brother.

The stabbing rampage on Sunday was one of the deadliest attacks in Canada’s modern history.

Police said some of the victims appeared to have been deliberately targeted, while others were attacked at random.

Officers have not revealed a possible motive, but a statement from an indigenous group from the province suggested the stabbings could be drug-related.

But Ms Blackmore said: “Unfortunately now that Myles is deceased we may never have an understanding as to that motivation.”

Image:
Friends of victims at James Smith Cree Nation console each other

Violating parole

Questions are beginning to be asked about why Myles Sanderson – with 59 convictions and a long history of violence – was out on the streets.

The 32-year-old was released by a parole board in February while serving a sentence of more than four years on charges that included assault and robbery. But he had been wanted by police since May, apparently for violating the terms of his release.

Canadian public safety minister Marco Mendicino said there will be an investigation into the parole board’s assessment of Sanderson.

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