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US and Allies Will ‘respond Decisively’ If Russia Invades Ukraine, Biden Tells Putin in Phone Call

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The US and its allies will “respond decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine, President Joe Biden has told Vladimir Putin in a phone call.

Mr Biden told his counterpart the US remains prepared to engage in diplomacy despite the build up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, but was “equally prepared for other scenarios”.

He added that the US and its allies would “impose swift and severe costs on Russia” in the event of invasion.

The two leaders spoke for more than an hour on the crisis after a build up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and intelligence suggesting Moscow could stage an invasion.

It comes after British nationals in Ukraine were warned to leave the country “immediately by any means possible”.

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NATO forces in Estonia conduct drills as the Ukranian border remains tense

Junior defence minister James Heappey said on Saturday that British troops who are in Ukraine training local forces will depart this weekend and that Britons remaining in the country should not expect military evacuation.

Mr Heappey told Sky News: “British nationals should leave Ukraineimmediately by any means possible and they should not expect – as they saw in the summer with Afghanistan – that there would be any possibility of a military evacuation.”

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It comes after a similar warning was given to Americans by Mr Biden, as well as from the governments of Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand to their citizens in the country.

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The US has suspended consular services in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv

The US has suspended consular services in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and most staff have been told to return home, with a limited embassy presence remaining in Lviv, in the west of the country.

The UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, wrote on Twitter on Saturday: “I am staying in Kyiv and continue to work there with a core team. The embassy remains operational.”

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Military drills in Ukraine

Russia has said staff numbers at its embassy have been “optimised”, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying the move was in response to concerns for their safety.

She said: “We conclude that our American and British colleagues apparently know about some military actions being prepared in Ukraine that could significantly complicate the situation in the security sphere.

“In this situation, fearing possible provocations by the Kyiv regime or third countries, we actually decided to somewhat optimise the staffing of Russian foreign missions in Ukraine.”

According to the Associated Press news agency, US intelligence says a Russian invasion could take place as early as Wednesday.

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How would Russia invade Ukraine?

Earlier on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the US saying that Mr Blinken “made clear that a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis remained open, but it would require Moscow to deescalate and engage in good-faith discussions.

“He reiterated that should Moscow pursue the path of aggression and further invade Ukraine, it would result in a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response.”

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Ukrainians took part in the Unity March on Saturday to demonstrate patriotic spirit

Russia has massed troops near the Ukrainian border in recent months, also sending troops to exercises in neighbouring Belarus, despite denying it has plans to invade Ukraine.

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What are NATO spy planes doing to keep tabs on the Russians?

Analysis – US language hardens as Putin tests Western unity

It wants guarantees from the West, including a promise of no missile deployments near its borders, no NATO membership for Ukraine, and a scaling back of the alliance’s military infrastructure.

Although the West has described the Kremlin’s main demands as “non-starters”, it is prepared to discuss steps such as arms control.

In recent days, Russia moved six amphibious assault ships into the Black Sea, augmenting its capability to land marines on the coast.

When asked about the possibility of an invasion within days, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday: “I have to speak with our people, like a president, and say… the truth is that we have different information and now the best friend for enemies that is panic in our country, and all this information that helps only for panic doesn’t help us.”

US troops deployed to Poland

Mr Biden has said the US will not be involved in a war in Ukraine, but it is moving to reassure NATO allies.

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US: Ukraine invasion ‘any day now’

The US has ordered an additional 3,000 troops to Poland, and is moving 1,000 soldiers from Germany to Romania which, like Poland, shares a border with Ukraine.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said: “Russia has all the forces it needs to conduct a major military action.

“Russia could choose, in very short order, to commence a major military action against Ukraine.”

But Ms Zakharova responded by saying: “The hysteria of the White House is more indicative than ever.

“The Anglo-Saxons need a war – at any cost. Provocations, misinformation and threats are a favourite method of solving their own problems.”

In a virtual meeting on Friday evening, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with allies and, earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace met Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoygu.

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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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