MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a meeting Friday with his Belarusian ally, who suggested that Minsk could join Moscow’s efforts to revive an old alliance with Pyongyang after this week’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made the proposal as he met with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the Russian leader said he would brief him about the talks with Kim on Wednesday at the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s Far East.
“I would like to inform you about the discussion on the situation in the region, which was quite important, and also to touch on the most acute issue, the situation in Ukraine,” Putin said at the start of the meeting.
Lukashenko responded by saying that “we could think about three-way cooperation,” adding that “I think a bit of work could be found for Belarus to do there as well.”
Kim on Friday continued his trip by visiting an aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur to see the latest Russian fighter jets.
On Saturday, he is scheduled to arrive in Russia’s port of Vladivostok where he is expected to see Russian Pacific Fleet warships and visit a university.
Kim Jong Un on Friday continued his trip by visiting an aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur to see the latest Russian fighter jets.
The US and its allies believe that Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia for use in Ukraine in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Moscow, a deal that would violate the UN sanctions against Pyongyang that ban any arms trade with North Korea.
Putin said after meeting Kim that Russia will abide by the UN sanctions and he reaffirmed the pledge on Friday.
“We never violate anything, and in this case we have no intention to violate anything,” he said.
“But we certainly will look for opportunities for developing Russian-North Korean relations.”
Putin’s meeting with Lukashenko was their seventh this year.
Lukashenko, who has relied on Russian subsidies and political support to rule the ex-Soviet nation with an iron hand for nearly three decades, allowed the Kremlin to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
While Belarus has continued to host Russian troops, Lukashenko has emphasized that his country will not join the fighting.
“Lukashenko demonstrates that Belarus only wants to be a military hub for Russia and profit on that to compensate for the closure of Western markets and the sanctions, but it does not want to send its soldiers to die in Ukraine,” said Belarusian analyst
LONDON: Qatar Airways has branded a decision by Australian authorities not to allow it to run extra flights to and from the country as “very unfair.”
The airline had sought to lay on 21 additional flights, but ministers rejected the proposals, citing national interest as one of the reasons.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said he was surprised at the decision considering the flag carrier had continued to operate flights during the coronavirus pandemic while Australia’s national airline, Qantas, was grounded.
He noted that the Doha-headquartered airline become a vital link for Australians as a result. Throughout the pandemic, University of Sydney Prof. Rico Merkert even dubbed Qatar Airways Australia’s “de facto international airline.”
Al-Baker told CNN: “We found it to be very unfair for our legitimate request to be not granted, especially at a time when we were so supportive of Australia.
“We were repatriating their stranded citizens from around the world to and out of Australia, helping them receive medical supplies and spare parts et cetera during the COVID-19 period.
“The national carrier and its partners completely stopped operating in Australia. We were there for the people of Australia,” he said.
Alan Joyce, a former Qantas CEO, said permitting Qatar Airways the extra flights would “distort” the region’s aviation sector.
However, Bridget McKenzie, chair of the Australian Senate’s committee investigating the issue, said Transport Minister Catherine King had failed to provide details as to why Qatar Airways’ request had been denied, accusing Qantas and the government of having a “cosy, personal and political relationship.”
McKenzie’s committee was due to hold public hearings into the decision next week.
King recently said: “There is a public interest in not disclosing such discussions so the government’s negotiations over air services agreements with a range of countries can continue unimpeded.”
Speaking to CNN, Al-Baker added: “We can never influence a government decision, but the fact remains is that we were very surprised for getting these rights blocked or unapproved.”
Several industry players, including Virgin Australia, as well as Australian state politicians, and members of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, have backed Qatar Airways’ bid for more flights with a view to expanding Australia’s aviation industry.
The Guardian reported that some had suggested that doing so could bring down fares and generate as much as $1 billion in new revenue.
The United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three automakers is set to enter its third day Sunday with no immediate resolution on the horizon.
On Saturday, negotiators for the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor had “reasonably productive discussions” toward a new contract, the union said, while Chrysler-parent Stellantis said it had boosted its contract offer.
About 12,700 UAW workers remain on strike as part of a coordinated labor action targeting three US assembly plants — one at each of the Detroit Three automakers after the prior four-year labor agreements expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday.
Union negotiators and representatives of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis resumed talks on Saturday, a day after the UAW initiated the most ambitious US industrial labor action in decades.
Stellantis said main bargaining talks are to resume Monday, while some subcommittee negotiations are set for Sunday at General Motors. UAW President Shawn Fain is scheduled to appear on two national news programs Sunday.
Stellantis said Saturday it hiked its offer, proposing raises of 20 percent over a four-and-a-half-year contract term, including an immediate 10 percent hike. That matches proposals from GM and Ford.
The proposals are about half the 40 percent wage hike the UAW is demanding through 2027, including an immediate 20 percent boost.
Mark Stewart, the North American chief operating officer for Stellantis, told reporters Saturday the UAW rejected a proposal to resume operations at an assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois, noting its offer had been contingent on reaching agreement before the contract expiration.
In late February, Stellantis indefinitely idled operations at the Belvidere plant, citing rising costs of electric vehicle production.
The UAW criticized the company position on the Illinois plant saying now “they are now taking it back. That’s how they see these workers. A bargaining chip.”
Stellantis said late Saturday is willing to negotiate about the plant’s future. “The truth is UAW leadership ignored Belvidere in favor of a strike,” the company said.
The strikes have halted production at three plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, along with other popular models.
On Friday, Ford said it was indefinitely laying off 600 workers at a Michigan plant because of the impact of the strike at the facility, which makes the Bronco, and GM told some 2,000 workers at a Kansas car plant that their factory likely would be shut down Monday or Tuesday due to a lack of parts, stemming from the strike at a GM Missouri plant.
Besides higher wages, the UAW is demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions and stronger job security as automakers make the EV shift.
MOSCOW: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left Russia on Sunday on his armoured train, Russian news agencies reported, wrapping up a six-day trip which has focused largely on military matters.
Kim’s first official visit abroad since the coronavirus pandemic has fanned Western fears that Moscow and Pyongyang will defy sanctions and strike an arms deal.
The Ria Novosti agency published a video of Kim’s departure, and said a “departure ceremony” was held at the Artyom-Primorsky-1 station, while TASS news agency said that Kim’s train was headed around 250 kilometres (155 miles) towards the border.
The footage shows Kim waving goodbye from his train to a Russian delegation led by Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov, before the Russian march “Farewell of Slavianka” is played as the train departs.
Earlier Sunday, TASS said Kim had been given five explosive drones, a reconnaissance drone and a bulletproof vest as gifts from a regional governor.
TASS said the “leader of the DPRK received five kamikaze drones and a ‘Geran-25’ reconnaissance drone with vertical takeoff”, using the official name of North Korea.
TASS said the governor of the Primorye region, which borders China and North Korea, also “offered Kim Jong Un a set of bulletproof protection” and “special clothing not detectable by thermal cameras”.
On Saturday he met the Russian defence minister in Vladivostok, where he inspected state-of-the-art weapons including a hypersonic missile system.
Kim’s extended tour of Russia’s far eastern region, which began on Tuesday, has focused extensively on military matters, as evidenced by his own officer-dominated entourage, a symbolic exchange of rifles with President Vladimir Putin and a tour of a fighter jet factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
Moscow is believed to be interested in buying North Korean ammunition to continue fighting in Ukraine, while Pyongyang wants Russia’s help to develop its internationally condemned missile programme.
The Kremlin has said no agreement has or will be signed.
Kim also met with North Korean students studying in Vladivostok on Sunday.
North Korean news agency KCNA has described the atmosphere during Kim’s visit as “fervent and warm” and said a “new era of friendship, solidarity and cooperation” was opening between North Korea and Russia.
DES MOINES, Iowa: Hoping to cut into Donald Trump’s support at a major Iowa gathering of evangelical Christians, several of his top rivals on Saturday mostly avoided direct criticism of him on abortion and other issues key to social conservatives.
The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual banquet is traditionally a marquee event on the Republican primary calendar. But the former president skipped it, leaving a mostly muted crowd of more than 1,000 pastors and activists to instead hear from several candidates running far behind Trump.
The primary field’s split on abortion was once again on display, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis saying restrictions on the procedure should be left to the stages — a position similar to Trump’s — while former Vice President Mike Pence referred to Trump as his “former running mate” and said he was wrong to oppose a national abortion ban.
While the audience was overwhelmingly anti-abortion, Pence’s push for a 15-week ban got only tepid applause, reflecting some national Republicans’ concerns that Democrats are winning on abortion rights issues after last year’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
DeSantis, who has struggled to solidify himself as the GOP primary’s No. 2 behind Trump, declined to say he’d back a federal abortion ban. Instead, he said, states have done more on the issue.
“Congress has really struggled to make an impact over the years,” DeSantis said.
That’s similar to Trump, who recently has refused to back a federal ban, arguing that the issue should be left up to the states. The former president also has also previously cautioned top Republicans from championing abortion positions that are outside the political mainstream.
Pence said he disagreed with Trump and argued all Republican presidential candidates should back a federal abortion ban at a minimum of 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“I believe it’s an idea whose time has come,” Pence said. “We need to stand for the unborn all across America.”
A Trump attack came from former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is a frequent critic of the former president. He said “there’s another candidate, that I respect, but who is not here tonight” before slamming Trump for saying he wants “to make both sides happy” on abortion.
Hutchinson said that unlike Trump, “both sides aren’t going to like me. This is going to be a fight for life.”
Unlike other high-profile events, no one in the audience booed that or any other comment Saturday. That might have been because Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, admonished the audience before things started: “Let’s conduct ourselves in a way that honors these candidates but honors our lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
Those criticizing Trump didn’t agree on everything. Hutchinson suggested that a House Republican push to open an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden might be premature given the facts that have been uncovered so far. Pence said he supported that effort.
The event featured many devout and well-connected social conservatives who can play a decisive role in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses in January. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz used strong appeals to evangelical Republicans to win the GOP’s 2016 caucuses.
This time, however, Trump’s rivals face a much tougher task because he has built a large early GOP primary lead. The former president has also remained popular with evangelical Christians and social conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere who were delighted to see his three Supreme Court picks vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Saturday’s banquet is the last scheduled opportunity for a large group of Iowa evangelical conservatives have the chance to see the candidates side-by-side, meaning they won’t see Trump. He skipped similar events with crowds of thousands in Iowa in April and June.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a longtime bachelor, was asked about reports that he has a girlfriend who hasn’t been publicly identified. On Saturday, he called her a “lovely Christian girl” and asked the crowd, “Can we just pray together for me?“
He added, “I just say praise the living God,” seemingly joking about the Lord’s work in finally ensuring he has a girlfriend.
DeSantis was asked specifically to talk about his personal faith and deeply held Catholic beliefs. He noted that when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he was thankful for “the amount of prayers we received. It lifted my wife’s spirits up.” He said prayer was a key reason she was now cancer-free.
Candidates discussing their personal faith has been a hallmark of successful Iowa caucus candidates for decades — including George W. Bush who in 1999 famously said, when asked to identify his favorite political philosopher, named Jesus Christ “because he changed my heart.”
Robin Star of Waukee, just west of Des Moines, attended DeSantis’ address at the church and said she was glad the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — but that Trump doesn’t deserve all the credit. Star said she’d nonetheless vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee, but fears he cannot unify the Republican Party enough heading into the general election against Biden.
“We’ve got to win,” Star said. “We’ve just got to win.”
Her husband, Jerry Star, was more definitive, saying “I believe it’s time for new leadership.”
A retired Air Force officer, Jerry Star said he was very supportive of most of Trump’s time in the White House until Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of the former president’s supporters overran the US Capitol.
“He did a heck of a job in his four years, but he knocked it all down that day,” he said. “It’s time for someone else.”
Five civilians were killed and one wounded as a result of intense Ukrainian shelling of the Donetsk region on Saturday, said a Russian-installed official in the eastern region of Ukraine.
The five were killed in the Kirov and Kuibyshevskyi districts and a woman was injured in Svetlodarsk, Denis Pushilin, the Russian-appointed head of the region, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Reuters could not independently verify the information out of Donetsk, which with some other parts of eastern Ukraine has been partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.
On Saturday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported heavy fighting and partial success of its forces as part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive to reclaim land occupied by Russia in its 19-month invasion.