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Imminent Incursion Into Ukraine ‘entirely Possible’ – As Defence Sec Says Complacency From Some Has ‘whiff of Munich’

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Members of NATO will not tolerate the “bullying” of Ukraine by Russia but still seek a diplomatic solution amid rising tensions at the border, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said.

Speaking on Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday, Mr Lewis said the “threats” Russia is directing at Ukraine are “inappropriate”, adding that the UK and other western countries are “not going to put up with” them.

The Northern Ireland secretary also reiterated warnings that “an imminent incursion by Russia is entirely possible” after the country amassed 130,000 troops and heavy firepower along Ukraine’s border.

Mr Lewis’ comments came after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned it is “highly likely” that Vladimir Putin will order an attack on Ukraine, despite ongoing talks to avert a war.

Mr Wallace also compared diplomatic efforts to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine to appeasement

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Ukraine troops have been performing military drills amid fears of Russian invasion.

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Ukraine troops have been performing military drills amid fears of Russian invasion

No plan to send NATO forces into Ukraine

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There is no plan to send NATO forces into Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack as the country is not a member state.

But the alliance has made clear it would bolster NATO’s eastern and southeastern flank with more troops to shore up its own defences.

Pressed on the fact that the UK has said it would not put troops on the ground in Ukraine, Mr Lewis told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “Well it may well be that President Putin is testing the boundaries of where he can go.

“And I think it is why it has been important that the West – and I have to say that the prime minister and the foreign secretary and the defence secretary, the UK as a whole – have been leading the way in bringing that alliance together to be very clear to Russia that this is not something that we will tolerate.

“We do want to see a peaceful outcome to this, but NATO is very, very clear that it is right that a democratic, independent country like the Ukraine is allowed to continue as a democratic, independent country without this kind of bullying or threats from a state like Russia.”

Asked why the UK is not bringing in more sanctions on Russia amid fears of an invasion, Mr Lewis said: “We are not in that position yet.”

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Junior defence minister James Heappey has warned Britons to leave Ukraine

Wallace warns invasion is ‘highly likely’

Speaking in the Sunday Times, Mr Wallace said there is a “whiff of Munich in the air” – an apparent reference to the agreement that allowed the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, but failed to prevent the Second World War.

And he warned that it was “worrying” that Russia’s military build-up has continued despite high-level diplomatic talks increasing – prompting fears that the Kremlin is intent on invading Ukraine come what may.

British nationals in Ukraine are being urged by the Foreign Office to “leave now while commercial means are still available” – with Armed Forces minister James Heappey warning that the RAF would not carry out evacuations if war broke out.

Israel, Portugal and Belgium have also ordered their citizens to leave, while Australia has begun evacuating its embassy in Kyiv.

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Ben Wallace has warned that Russia has amassed 130,000 troops and heavy firepower along Ukraine’s border

Biden speaks to Putin amid rising tensions

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden spoke to his Russian counterpart Mr Putin for over an hour – warning America and its allies will “respond decisively” if there is an invasion.

Talks have gained a sense of urgency after US intelligence suggested that the Kremlin could take action before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing on 20 February – far sooner than analysts had expected.

The Russian president told Mr Biden that Washington’s response to Moscow’s security demands had not taken into account key concerns, and the West had not put enough pressure on Ukraine to abide by the Minsk agreements.

A senior official in the White House described the call as professional and substantive, but that there was no fundamental change.

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President Biden warns if any further action is taken to invade Ukraine then USA and allies will

Russia accuse US of stoking ‘hysteria’

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, has accused Joe Biden’s administration of stoking “hysteria”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also sought to downplay the threat, saying: “The best friend of our enemies is panic in our country. And all this information is just provoking panic and can’t help us.”

On Saturday, thousands of Ukrainians marched through the centre of Kyiv – chanting “Glory to Ukraine” and carrying banners that said “Ukrainians must resist” and “invaders must die”.

Although Mr Zelenskyy has urged Ukrainians to remain calm, he agrees with Washington’s assessment that a Russian attack could happen at any time, and attended police drills in the southern region of Kherson.

This has become the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War, and US officials believe they have a matter of days to prevent an invasion that could cause enormous bloodshed in the region.

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Article: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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