Ukraine: US calls for Security Council meeting
The US has called for the UN Security Council to hold a public meeting on Monday to discuss Russia’s “threatening behaviour” against Ukraine. Russia has manoeuvred around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, though Moscow has denied it plans to invade its former Soviet neighbour. US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has claimed Russia was engaging in other destabilising acts against Ukraine, “posing a clear threat to international peace and security and the UN Charter”.
Biden warns Russia may invade next month
US President Joe Biden has warned there is a “distinct possibility” Russia might invade Ukraine next month, the White House says. Russia meanwhile says it sees “little ground for optimism” in resolving the crisis after the US rejected Russia’s main demands.
US seeks China’s help
The US has meanwhile urged China to use its influence with Moscow to discourage any Russian invasion of Ukraine. The US State Department said if there was a conflict in Ukraine, it would not be good for China, either. China has already called for a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, China’s Foreign minister has said NATO and the US should also take seriously “the reasonable concerns of the Russians” and advised all sides to avoid actions that” hype up the crisis”.
Biden calls Ukrainian president
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which they agreed on “joint actions for the future” and discussed possibilities of financial support. The US has also sought to reassure the EU it will help them find alternative gas supplies if Russia cuts them off. EU nations rely on Russia for around a third of their gas supplies. Another call will take place this morning – this time between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Lavrov: US, NATO avoided the main question
Russia has commented about the US and NATO written responses to its security demands. RIA Novosti quotes Foreign Minister Lavrov as saying the answers did not contain “any positive reaction on the main question – the inadmissibility of a further expansion of NATO to the east, and the deployment of attack weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation”. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had stressed that Washington and its allies would not agree to curb the NATO admissions process for new members.
Booster shots could cut Europe’s hospitalisations
Booster shots could reduce future hospitalisations in Europe by 500,000 to 800,000, the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) said Thursday. The figures cover the 27-nation EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Currently about 70% of the EU’s population of 450 million has been fully vaccinated and half of them have received a booster. Although Omicron cases in Europe are increasing at an unprecedented speed, with infection rates three times as high as the highest peak so far, many countries may already be at a turning point, the EU said.
First woman president of Honduras
Leftist Xiomara Castro was sworn in on Thursday as the first woman president of Honduras at a ceremony attended by international dignitaries and her choice for Congress president, Luis Redondo, who had been at the centre of a disruptive rivalry within her Libre party. Castro needs a loyal Congress to carry out her election promises to tackle corruption, crime and poverty. Her election last November brought an end to 12 years of right-wing National Party (PN) rule that followed the ousting of her husband, former president Manuel Zelaya, in a 2009 coup d’etat.
Partygate report will be published in full – Johnson
The report of the independent investigation entrusted to British official Sue Gray on the so-called Partygate scandal that threatens Boris Johnson will be published in full as soon as the government receives it. The Tory Prime Minister himself reiterated this on Thursday to reporters, on the sidelines of a visit to North Wales, responding with a yes to a question on the subject, but remaining buttoned on the time. Warnings not to postpone the report were also relaunched by the opposition, convinced that Johnson had lied to Parliament.
Italy again fails to elect president
Italy’s parliament again failed to elect a new president Thursday for a fourth day running, with the main political blocs floundering in their efforts to find a mutually-acceptable candidate for the powerful role. Neither the centre-right nor centre-left have put forward any names for today’s ballot after various parties had shot down a raft of possible contenders, opening the way for intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations in the hours ahead. Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains a contender for the job, but many lawmakers are clearly reluctant to back him, partly because they fear any change to the government could trigger an early election.
Football: Iranian women watch the national team
Iranian women have been authorised for the first time in three years to attend a football match for the national team at the Tehran stadium. Ten thousand tickets, of which two thousand reserved for women, were available for the 2022 World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Iraq, which ended 1-0. The last time Iranian women were allowed to attend a football match for their national team, after decades of being banned from stadiums, was in October 2019. Since then, the national team’s matches have been held without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.