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Russian strike on base brings Ukraine war close to NATO’s border

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A barrage of Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian base near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding 134, a local official said, in an escalation of the war to the west of the country as fighting raged elsewhere.

Russia’s defence ministry said the air strike had destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by foreign nations that were being stored at the sprawling training facility, and that it had killed “up to 180 foreign mercenaries”.

Reuters could not independently verify the casualties reported by either side.

The attack on the Yavoriv International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security, a base just 15 miles (25 km) from the Polish border that has previously hosted NATO military instructors, brought the conflict to the doorstep of the Western defence alliance.

Russia had warned on Saturday that convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukraine could be considered legitimate targets.

Britain called the attack as a “significant escalation,” and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded with a post on Twitter saying “the brutality must stop.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation”, warned any attack on NATO territory would trigger a full response by the alliance.

Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the Yavoriv facility.

Russian defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Russia had used high-precision, long-range weapons to strike Yavoriv and a separate facility in the village of Starichi.

“As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large amount of foreign weapons were destroyed,” he said.

The 360-square km (140-square mile) facility is one of Ukraine’s biggest and is the largest in the western part of the country, which has so far been spared the worst of the fighting.

Ukraine, whose aspirations to join NATO are a major irritant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, held most of its drills with Western countries at the base before the invasion. The last major exercises were in September.

In the weeks before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the Ukrainian military trained there, but according to Ukrainian media all foreign instructors left in mid-February, leaving behind equipment.

“The dining room and dormitory were destroyed. So were the barracks,” said Colonel Leonid Benzalo, an officer in the Ukrainian medical reserve who was thrown across the room by one of the blasts. “The most important thing is we’re still alive,” he told Reuters after treating the wounded there.

While Western nations have sought to isolate Putin by imposing harsh economic sanctions and have been supplying Ukraine with weapons, the United States and its allies are concerned to avoid NATO being drawn into the conflict.

“There are no NATO personnel in Ukraine,” the NATO official said, when asked if anyone from the alliance was at the base.

STOCKPILING FOOD

Heavy fighting was reported on multiple fronts.

Air raid sirens wailed across the capital Kyiv and authorities said they were stockpiling two weeks worth of food for the 2 million people who have not yet fled from Russian forces attempting to encircle the city.

Ukraine reported renewed air strikes on an airport in the west and heavy shelling on Chernihiv, northeast of the capital.

Interior Ministry official Vadym Denyenko said Ukrainian forces were counterattacking in the eastern Kharkiv region and around the southern town of Mykolayiv. Reuters was not able to verify those statements.

An American journalist was shot and killed by Russian forces in the town of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, and another journalist was wounded, the regional police chief said.

Britain’s defence ministry said Russian naval forces had established a distant blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, isolating the country from international maritime trade.

“We must hold on. We must fight. And we will win,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a nighttime video address.

Despite the violence, both sides gave their most upbeat assessment yet of prospects for progress at talks held periodically.

“Russia is already beginning to talk constructively,” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video online. “I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days.”

A Russian delegate to talks, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying they had made significant progress and it was possible the delegations could soon reach draft agreements.

Neither side said what these would cover. Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus, most recently last Monday, had focused mainly on humanitarian issues.

Zelenskiy said the countries’ delegations have been speaking daily by video link and a clear aim of his negotiators was to “do everything” to arrange for him to meet with Putin.

‘VIOLENT AND INHUMAN’

In the weeks since the invasion began, Russia has asked China – which has not condemned the assault on Ukraine – for military equipment, the Financial Times and Washington Post cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said he had not heard of such a request and that the priority was to prevent the situation “from escalating or even getting out of control.”

Russia’s invasion has sent more than 2.5 million people fleeing across Ukraine’s borders and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged cities.

“It is terrifying how violent and inhuman it is,” Olga, a refugee from Kyiv, told Reuters after crossing into Romania.

Ukraine’s human rights monitor said Russia used phosphorous bombs in an overnight attack on the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region, calling it a “war crime”. She shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack. Reuters could not immediately verify any of the reports.

Phosphorus munitions can be used legally in war to provide light, create smokescreens or burn buildings. But its use in populated areas has been a persistent source of controversy.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops were trying to surround Ukrainian forces as they advance from the port of Mariupol in the south and the second city Kharkiv in the north, the British Defence Ministry said.

The city council in Mariupol said 2,187 residents had been killed since the start of the invasion. Reuters was not able to verify that toll.

Kharkiv has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment. Videos from one resident, Teimur Aliev, showed bombed buildings lining streets, burned-out cars riddled with shrapnel holes and debris strewn around.

“We will stitch up the wounds and the pain of our country and our city,” said Aliev, a 23-year-old musician. “We’re not going anywhere.”

In Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, firefighters rescued residents from a burning building after heavy shelling, video from emergency service – and verified by Reuters – showed.

Moscow denies targeting civilians. It blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuate civilians from encircled cities, an accusation Ukraine and its Western allies strongly reject.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said more than 140,000 people had been evacuated from conflict zones, but a humanitarian convoy had been unable to reach Mariupol due to shelling.

The Kremlin describes its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “deNazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Michael Perry, Philippa Fletcher, Alex Richardson and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and Lincoln Feast.)

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Sanctioned Russians will be banned from entering Canada, government says – CBC News

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Russians sanctioned by Canada will be barred from entering the country, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) say.

In a statement from CBSA, Mendicino announced he’ll introduce changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) that will prevent those sanctioned individuals from coming into the country.

“These changes will allow the Canada Border Services Agency to deny entry to, and remove, individuals subject to sanctions, and will allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials to deny visas,” the statement reads.

“Once in force, these amendments to IRPA will apply to all foreign nationals subject to sanctions by Canada, and any accompanying family members.”

The government has sanctioned over 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Among those sanctioned are senior Russian government officials such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova, and Putin himself.

The sanctions prevent them from receiving financial and property services in Canada or from Canadians outside of Canada.

“In the face of the Putin regime’s brutal attack, Canada stands with Ukraine. Banning close associates and key supporters of Putin’s regime, including those responsible for this unprovoked aggression, from entering our country is one of the many ways in which we’re holding Russia accountable for its crimes,” Mendicino said in the statement. 

“We will continue to exhaust all options to uphold freedom and democracy, punish Russia and support Ukraine.” 

Russia has sanctioned Canadians in retaliation for Canada’s sanctions — including premiers, military officials and journalists.

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UFOs: More Canadian politicians briefed – CTV News

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Canadian members of Parliament are urging the government to pay more attention to recent U.S. news about “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAP: a term used for what are more commonly known as unidentified flying objects and UFOs.

According to Conservative MP Larry Maguire and a Texas-based researcher, at least three Canadian politicians have now sought UAP briefings from former Pentagon officials.

“When you see the information that’s come out of the United States, you’d have to take it seriously,” Maguire told CTV News from his Ottawa office. “We need to have a parallel program to what the United States already has.”

On Tuesday, a pair of senior U.S. military officials testified during the first public congressional hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years.

“We know that our service members have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena,” Ronald Moultrie, who oversees the Pentagon’s current UFO research office, said during the hearing. “We’re open to any conclusions that we may encounter.”

Earlier this month, CTVNews.ca revealed former Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan also received a UFO briefing ahead of the June 2021 release of an unclassified U.S. intelligence report on recent military sightings, which have included UAP that appeared to “maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion.” Military personnel, police and pilots have also filed reports in Canada.

“We need to identify the origins and the intent of these UAPs, and that certainly can’t hurt anything,” Maguire said Tuesday.

Maguire’s office states it arranged a Feb. 16, 2021 briefing for the Manitoba MP and another Conservative parliamentarian with Luis Elizondo, a former U.S. Army counterintelligence officer who reportedly ran a UAP research program before resigning from the Pentagon in 2017.

“Mr. Maguire is absolutely correct in his concern, because he knows that these reports do occur,” Elizondo told CTV News from Wyoming on Tuesday. “I think the time has come for us to have an open and honest dialogue about this topic without fear of retribution, without stigma and associated taboo.”

Maguire has penned a recent op-ed on the subject and has even used his committee work to raise questions about UAP sightings in Canada. Earlier this year, Maguire’s office arranged another briefing with members of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), an international think tank dedicated to applying scientific methods to UAP research.

Engineer and founding SCU board member Robert Powell was part of that Jan. 28 meeting and says he also participated in an Oct. 20, 2021 briefing for a Liberal member of Parliament.

“Both MPs were very interested in the subject,” Powell told CTVNews.ca from Austin, Texas. “The main thing I try to get across in these types of meetings is basically to give them as good an understanding as I can of the history and the current status of the UAP subject.”

According to Powell, the Oct. 2021 UAP briefing with the Liberal MP included former Pentagon intelligence official Christopher Mellon.

“We have no idea where they’re coming from or what their capabilities are, or what their intent is,” Mellon told CTV News in a June 2021 interview. Mellon did not respond to a request to comment on this story.

Internal briefing documents obtained by CTVNews.ca state the Canadian Armed Forces “does not typically investigate sightings of unexplained phenomena outside the context of investigating potential threats or distress.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., Pentagon UFO programs have operated under various acronyms for years. Questions about the national security implications of sightings have even sparked rare cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, which was evident during Tuesday’s congressional hearing and with a late 2021 Senate initiative to establish a new UAP research office.

“One of the interesting and noteworthy points about the study of UAPs is that everything I have seen both in Canada and the United States is that there is no partisanship on this question,” Powell said. “All parties seem to be interested in this subject, and it’s not a political issue.”

“If there’s any issue that we can be nonpartisan on in Canada, it should be this one,” Maguire added.

Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green agrees, saying Canada has nothing to lose by investigating UAP.

“If the testimony coming out of the States provides the public with a glimpse into the seriousness in which they’re taking it, then I think it would be well-advised for us to follow in the same pursuit,” Green told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday from Ottawa. “If they’re having public hearings of this nature, I can only begin to imagine what they already privately know.”

With files from CTV National News field producer William Dugan

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US’ easing of travel and remittances to Cuba met with contention

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The country’s recent announcement of a series of steps to loosen some Trump-era restrictions on travelling to Cuba and the transfer of family remittances between the two countries has been met with some contention.

Yesterday the government said it will aim to issue 20 000 visas under a family reunification programme for Cubans to join their relatives in the US and will also permit more commercial flights to destinations beyond Havana for group educational trips and lift a US$1 000 limit on quarterly remittances.

However, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, said the decision doesn’t change the embargoes which have been in place since 1962 nor most of Trump’s measures against the country.

“It’s a limited step in the right direction. To know the real scope of this announcement, we must wait for the publication of the regulation that will determine its application,” said Rodriguez.

At the same time, US Senator, Robert Menendez, chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of President Joe Biden‘s Democratic Party denounced the announcement.

“To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. Today’s announcement risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons. For decades, the world has been travelling to Cuba and nothing has changed,” said Menendez.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have hurt the Cuban economy, with fuel scarcity causing blackouts and limiting public transport.

According to statistics from the US Customs and Border Protection, the economic crisis has driven more Cubans to try to migrate to the US. Since October, almost 80 000 Cubans have crossed the US-Mexico border, more than double the number in 2021.

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