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China Begins Military Exercises Around Taiwan Hours After Two Suspected Drones Fly Over Island’s Territory

Taylor Johnston

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China has begun another series of military exercises around Taiwan as tensions continue to rise following a 24-hour visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Chinese state media is reporting the drills are under way hours after suspected drones flew over Taiwan’s territory on Wednesday and hackers targeted the defence ministry’s website.

Taiwan said before the military exercises began on Thursday morning that some of the drills were due to take place within its 12-nautical-mile sea and air territory.

That has never happened before and a senior ministry official described the potential move as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.

China’s Xinhua news agency had said the exercises, involving live fire drills, would take place in six areas which ring Taiwan from 5am UK time.

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It comes as China’s foreign minister described Ms Pelosi’s visit as “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational”.

Taiwan said before the latest round of drills began that it would respond by strengthening its self-defence capabilities and closely coordinate with the United States and like-minded countries.

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Taiwan also said its military is closely monitoring the situation in the strait between the island and mainland China.

The ministry added it will “react appropriately” to enemy behaviour to “safeguard national security and sovereignty”.

Taiwan has been on alert while China has been conducting military exercises in response to the 24-hour visit by Ms Pelosi, the most senior American politician to visit the island in 25 years.

China considers the island to be part of its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments.

On Thursday, Major General Chang Zone-sung, from the Taiwanese army’s Kinmen Defense Command, said a pair of suspected drones flew into the area of the Kinmen islands at around 9pm and 10pm local time (2pm and 3pm UK time) on Wednesday night.

The heavily fortified islands, governed by Taiwan, are just off the southeastern coast of China near the city of Xiamen.

“We immediately fired flares to issue warnings and to drive them away. After that, they turned around. They came into our restricted area and that’s why we dispersed them,” Major General Chang said.

“We have a standard operating procedure. We will react if they come in,” he continued.

Image:
Nancy Pelosi speaks at a meeting at the presidential office in Taiwan

Major General Chang said he believed the drones were intended to gather intelligence on Taiwan’s security deployment in its outlying islands.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s defence ministry said it is working closely with other authorities to enhance cyber security after hackers targeted its website and temporarily brought it offline.

The cyber attack comes after several of Taiwan’s government websites, including the presidential office, were targeted earlier this week.

Taiwanese authorities said some of the attacks were carried out by China and Russia.

The continuous cyber attacks on government websites “have not caused damage so far”, a Taiwan cabinet spokesman said.

Taiwan’s government is now urging the island’s companies to enhance their cybersecurity in the coming days as authorities were seeing a record number of attacks on their websites amid escalating tensions with China.

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Could Taiwan defend itself against China?

Earlier on Wednesday, Taiwan scrambled jets to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone, the island’s defence ministry said, adding that 22 of them crossed the median line separating the island from China.

Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.

It came before China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said punishment of pro-Taiwan independence diehards and external forces was reasonable and lawful.

Read more:Why is Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan so controversial – and why are US-China tensions so high?Analysis: Adam Boulton on the rising rhetoric stirred up by Nancy Pelosi’s visitPelosi leaves Taiwan as China is accused of invading territory in show on force

The Beijing-based office added that Taiwan is not a “regional” issue but China’s internal affair.

A suspected Taiwanese separatist was detained by state security in East China’s Zhejiang province on suspicion of endangering national security on Wednesday, China’s state media reported.

Ms Pelosi concluded her visit to Taiwan on Wednesday with a pledge that the US commitment to democracy on the self-governing island and elsewhere “remains ironclad”.

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Original Source: 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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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.

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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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