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Ayman al-Zawahiri: From Cairo doctor to al-Qaeda leader

  • Join the teenage Muslim Brotherhood
  • From a respectable family in Cairo
  • He took control of al-Qaeda after the killing of bin Laden
  • He exercises his influence as an ideological and strategic organizer
  • I lack bin Laden’s charisma

DUBAI (Reuters) – Ayman al-Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden in the leadership of al Qaeda after years as a key al Qaeda organizer and strategist, but his lack of charisma and competition from rival Islamic State fighters hampered his ability to launch major attacks on al Qaeda. the West.

US President Joe Biden said in a live television broadcast on Monday evening that Al-Zawahiri, 71, was killed in a US drone strike. US officials said the attack took place on Sunday in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Read more

In the years following bin Laden’s death in 2011, US airstrikes killed a succession of Zawahiri’s deputies, weakening the veteran Egyptian militant’s ability to coordinate globally.

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He had seen al-Qaeda virtually marginalized by the Arab revolutions of 2011, launched primarily by middle-class activists and intellectuals opposed to decades of authoritarianism.

Despite his reputation as an inflexible and combative figure, al-Zawahiri succeeded in nurturing loosely affiliated groups around the world that had grown to wage devastating insurgencies, some rooted in the turmoil caused by the Arab Spring. The violence has destabilized a number of countries across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

But the days of al-Qaeda as the hierarchical, centrally directed network of conspirators that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, are long gone. Instead, militancy has returned to its roots in conflicts at the local level, spurred by a combination of local grievances and incitement by transnational jihadist networks using social media.

Al-Zawahiri’s origins in Islamic militancy go back decades.

The first time the world heard of him was when he stood in a cage in a courtroom after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

"We have sacrificed and we are still ready for more sacrifices until the victory of Islam," al-Zawahiri chanted, wearing a white abaya, while angry at Sadat’s peace agreement with Israel.

Al-Zawahiri served a three-year prison sentence for illegal weapons possession, but was acquitted of the main charges.

A trained surgeon – one of his nicknames was a doctor – al-Zawahiri went to Pakistan on his release where he worked with the Red Crescent treating wounded Islamic mujahideen in Afghanistan fighting Soviet forces.

During that time, he became acquainted with bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi who joined the Afghan resistance.

Al-Zawahiri took over the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Egypt in 1993, and was a leading figure in the mid-1990s campaign to overthrow the government and establish a purely Islamic state. More than 1,200 Egyptians were killed.

The Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown on Islamic Jihad after the attempted assassination of President Hosni Mubarak in June 1995 in Addis Ababa. Al-Zawahiri, a gray-haired man in a white turban, responded by ordering a 1995 attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. Two cars packed with explosives crashed into the gates of the complex, killing 16 people.

In 1999, an Egyptian military court sentenced al-Zawahiri to death in absentia. By that time he was living the Spartan life of the militants after he helped bin Laden form Al Qaeda.

A video broadcast by Al Jazeera in 2003 showed the two men walking on a rocky mountainside – an image that Western intelligence hoped would provide clues to their whereabouts.

Global jihad threats

For years it was believed that al-Zawahiri was hiding along the forbidden border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This year, US officials determined that al-Zawahiri’s family — his wife, daughter, and children — moved to a safe house in Kabul and identified al-Zawahiri at the same location, according to a senior administration official.

The official said he was killed in a drone attack when he emerged from the balcony of the house on Sunday morning. No one else was injured. Al-Zawahiri took over the leadership of al-Qaeda in 2011 after the US Navy killed bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan. He has since repeatedly called for global jihad, with an Ak-47 next to him during video messages.

In a eulogy for bin Laden, al-Zawahiri vowed to continue attacks on the West, recalling the threat of the Saudi-born mujahid that "you will not dream of security until we live it on the ground and until you leave Muslim lands."

As it turned out, the emergence of the more radical Islamic State in 2014-2019 in Iraq and Syria drew as much, if not more, attention from Western counterterrorism authorities.

Al-Zawahiri often tried to stir up feelings among Muslims by commenting online on sensitive issues such as US policies in the Middle East or Israeli actions against the Palestinians, but his extradition was deemed to lack bin Laden’s appeal.

On a practical level, al-Zawahiri is believed to be involved in some of al-Qaeda’s largest operations, as he helped orchestrate the 2001 attacks, when planes hijacked by al-Qaeda were used to kill 3,000 people in the United States.

He was charged with his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The FBI put a $25 million bounty on his most wanted list.

notable family

Al-Zawahiri did not emerge from the slums of Cairo, like others who were drawn to militant groups that promised a noble cause. Born in 1951 to a prominent family in Cairo, al-Zawahiri was the grandson of the imam of al-Azhar, one of Islam’s most important mosques.

Al-Zawahiri grew up in the leafy Cairo suburb of Maadi, a place favored by expats from the Western countries he criticizes. Al-Zawahiri, the son of a pharmacology professor, first embraced Islamic fundamentalism at the age of fifteen.

His ideas were inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the Egyptian writer Sayed Qutb, an Islamist who was executed in 1966 on charges of trying to overthrow the state.

People who studied with al-Zawahiri at Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine in the 1970s describe a lively young man who went to the movies, listened to music, and joked with friends.

"When he got out of prison he was a completely different person," said a doctor who studied with al-Zawahiri and declined to be named.

In a courtroom cage after Sadat was assassinated in a military parade, al-Zawahiri addressed the international press, saying that the militants had suffered severe torture including flogging and wild dog attacks in prison.

"They arrested wives, mothers, fathers, sisters and sons in a trial to put psychological pressure on these innocent prisoners," he said.

His fellow prisoners said that these conditions further radicalized al-Zawahiri and set him on the path of global jihad.

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Editing by Howard Guller, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Stephen Coates

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Russia pound Ukrainian port; Putin announces global naval ambitions

  • Putin’s naval ambitions include the Black Sea and the Arctic
  • Russian missiles bombed the port of Mykolaiv
  • Explosion at the base of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea
  • Ukrainian grain magnate Oleksiy Vadatorsky was murdered in Mykolaiv
  • Ukraine’s first grain ship may leave port on Monday

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian missiles bombed the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, where President Vladimir Putin signed a new naval doctrine that portrays the United States as Russia’s main rival and outlines global naval ambitions in the Black Sea and the Arctic.

Putin did not mention the conflict in Ukraine during a speech to mark Russian Navy Day on Sunday, but said the navy would receive Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles in the coming months. Missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound, outstripping air defenses. Read more

Naval Day celebrations in the port of Sevastopol were disrupted when five Russian Navy crew members were injured in an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the yard of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the governor of the coastal city of Crimea Mikhail Razvozaev told Russian media.

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Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

The attack was "undoubtedly carried out not from abroad, but from the Sevastopol region," Olga Kovitedi, a member of the Russian Senate, told the RIA news agency.

"Urgent searches are being conducted in the city to track down the organizers of this terrorist act," Kovitedi was quoted as saying.

More than a dozen rocket attacks on Sunday, possibly the most powerful on the city in five months of the war, hit homes and schools, killing two people and wounding three, Mayor of Mykolaiv Oleksandr Senkevich said. The missile strikes continued until Sunday evening.

Vitaly Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, said on Telegram that Ukrainian grain magnate Oleksiy Vadatorsky, founder and owner of the agricultural company Nipolon, and his wife were killed in their home.

Headquartered in Mykolaiv, a city of strategic importance located on the border of the predominantly Russian-occupied Kherson region, Nipolon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn, has its own fleet and shipyard.

grain shipments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Vadotorsky’s death "a great loss for the whole of Ukraine".

Zelensky added that the businessman – one of Ukraine’s richest people with Forbes estimated his net worth in 2021 at $430 million – was building a modern grain market with a network of recharging stations and elevators.

“It was these people, these companies, precisely in southern Ukraine, who ensured food security for the world,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech. "It has always been this way. And it will be so again."

Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, sparking a conflict that killed thousands, uprooted millions and severely strained relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Ukraine and Russia are the main suppliers of grain.

Zelensky said Ukraine could harvest only half the normal amount this year due to the disruption of agriculture.

But the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ship could leave Ukraine’s ports on Monday.

Eastern danger

Zelensky said Russia is moving some troops from the eastern Donbass region to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.

"But this will not help them there. None of the Russian strikes will pass without a response from our army and intelligence officers," he said.

After failing to quickly capture the capital, Kyiv, early in the war, Russia shifted its forces to eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with the Donbass region, linking it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatists controlled parts of the region before the invasion.

Russia said it had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion early on Friday that appeared to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the attack and said it had not been given permission to visit the site, adding that it was not within its competence to conduct a public investigation into the alleged war crimes. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. writing by Michael Berry; Editing by Robert Persell

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US House Speaker Pelosi begins her Asian tour, without mentioning Taiwan

  • Pelosi is touring Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan
  • Taiwan is not mentioned on its agenda
  • Chinese Air Force confirms determination to defend Earth
  • Chinese military exercises in the South China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off a four-nation Asian tour on Sunday without mentioning Taiwan, her office said, amid intense speculation that she might visit the self-governing island claimed by China.

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan," her office said. statement.

She said the visit would include those countries, but did not specify whether Pelosi, who is third in the presidential succession streak, would stop again.

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"The trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region," she added.

Gregory Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the delegation.

Pelosi is expected to arrive in Singapore on Monday for a two-day visit, CNA reported, citing the country’s foreign ministry. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore was scheduled to host a reception with her on Monday afternoon, on its website.

China views US officials' visits to Taiwan as an encouraging sign for the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is obligated by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Pelosi’s visit would be a dramatic, if not unprecedented, display of US support for Taiwan. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 1997.

President Xi Jinping warned his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday that Washington must adhere to the one-China principle and "those who play with fire will die because of it."

Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan has not changed and Washington is firmly opposed to unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Read more

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Friday after the call between Xi and Biden that Taiwan will continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States.

State media quoted Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinqi as saying on Sunday that Beijing "will resolutely maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

At a military air show, Chen said the Air Force has many types of combat aircraft capable of circling the "precious island of our motherland," referring to Taiwan.

"The Chinese Air Force has the firm will, full confidence and sufficient capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

A comment from a Chinese People’s Liberation Army unit on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like social media, posted on Friday – "Get ready for war!" He got 1.87 million thumbs up.

South China Sea

With the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group back in the South China Sea by Thursday, the Chinese military has stepped up exercises in the vicinity.

On Saturday, the Chinese military conducted live-fire exercises in the waters off Fujian Province, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Taiwan, according to local authorities.

The Chinese Coast Guard will conduct exercises in the South China Sea off Guangzhou Province on Monday, according to another notice issued by the Maritime Safety Administration.

Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin said on Saturday he had deleted a tweet warning of military retaliation if US fighter jets accompanied Pelosi on a visit to Taiwan, after Twitter blocked his account. Read more

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that the United States has not seen any evidence of looming Chinese military activity against Taiwan. Read more

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he believes the US military believes Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan "is not a good idea right now."

Pelosi’s Asian tour comes at a politically sensitive time for Chinese and American leaders.

Xi is expected to seek an unprecedented third term in Congress later this year, while in the United States, Biden’s Democratic Party will face a fierce battle to retain control of the US House of Representatives in the November midterm elections.

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(Reporting by Yu Lun Tian) Editing by William Mallard, Himani Sarkar and Sandra Maller

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WWF report says online wildlife trade is on the rise in Myanmar

Bangkok (AFP) – Illegal online purchases of wildlife are increasing in Myanmar, threatening public health and endangered species, a report by the World Wildlife Fund shows.

The Friday’s report was released It found that enforcement of the ban on such transactions has weakened amid the political turmoil following the military’s takeover in 2021.

The number of such transactions was up 74% from the previous year to 11,046, almost all of them relating to the sale of live animals. Of the 173 species in circulation, 54 are globally threatened, the report said.

The researchers identified 639 Facebook accounts belonging to wildlife traders. It added that the largest online trading group has more than 19,000 members and dozens of posts per week.

The animals and animal parts bought and sold were elephants, bears, gibbons, Tibetan antelopes, endangered pangolins, and the Asian giant tortoise. The most famous mammals were various types of langurs and monkeys, and they were often bought as pets.

Most of the animals advertised for sale were taken from the wild. It also included the civet cat, which along with pangolins have been identified as potential vectors for the spread of diseases such as SARS and COVID-19.

Sean Martin, who heads the WWF’s Asia Pacific Regional Cybercrime Project, said monitoring the wildlife trade online shows that different species were close to each other, sometimes in the same cage.

"With Asia’s record as a breeding ground for many modern zoonoses, this sharp rise in online trade of wildlife in Myanmar is deeply concerning," he said.

Unregulated trade in wild species and the resulting interactions between wild species and humans raise the risks of new and possibly vaccine-resistant mutations for diseases like COVID-19 that could evolve undetected in non-human hosts into more dangerous variants of the disease, according to experts say.

COVID-19 is one of the many diseases of animals. The killing and selling of so-called bushmeat in Africa was thought to be a source of Ebola. Bird flu likely came from chickens at a market in Hong Kong in 1997. Measles is believed to have evolved from a virus that infected livestock.

said Mary Elizabeth Miranda, an expert in diseases and zoonoses and executive director of the Alumni Field Training Program in Epidemiology at an institution in the Philippines.

Social media and other online platforms have joined forces in a global effort to eradicate the booming trade in birds, reptiles, mammals and animal parts. In Myanmar, most wildlife trade is done through Facebook, which as a member of the Coalition to End Online Wildlife Trade has taken measures to ban or remove the accounts of people involved in such transactions.

But as in other places, new accounts often appear once old accounts are closed, which hampers implementation, the report noted. Easy online access to animals also increases demand, which exacerbates the problem.

Discussions of buying protected species often take place in open groups on Facebook, the report said, indicating that such transactions remain "largely risk-free". Since payments and deliveries are often made using messaging apps, controlling the issue is very difficult.

To highlight the lack of enforcement, people in the illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar often use primitive methods of transporting animals and animal products – with buses being the usual form of transport.

The study by WWF in Myanmar focused on the online trade of animals and other creatures within the country, although there were some imports from neighboring Thailand, especially birds such as macaws, macaws and crocodiles, to India.

She added that some of the deals may include animals or parts being sent to China.

The conservation group said it plans to conduct future studies to better understand Myanmar’s role in the global trade of endangered species.

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The governor of Sevastopol said that Ukraine is attacking the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet

  • Ukraine bombs a Russian base on the Black Sea, according to the governor
  • Zelensky says the grain harvest may be halved because of the war
  • Zelensky orders the evacuation of Donetsk
  • Dozens of prisoners of war were killed in a strike at a separatist-controlled prison

Odessa, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces bombed the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Russian-controlled Sevastopol early on Sunday, while Ukraine reported intense Russian attacks on two southern cities, the governor of the coastal city of Crimea said.

Russian media quoted the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvogayev, as saying that five workers were wounded in the attack when a drone flew in the courtyard of the headquarters.

The attack coincided with Russian Navy Day commemorated by President Vladimir Putin by announcing that the Russian Navy would receive what he called "enormous" high-speed Zircon cruise missiles in the next few months. Hypersonic weapons can travel nine times the speed of sound. Read more

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He did not mention Ukraine directly.

Ukrainian authorities said intense Russian strikes hit the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Nikopol overnight and early Sunday morning.

Mykolaiv mayor Oleksandr Senkevich told Ukrainian television earlier that two people were killed and three wounded when 12 missiles hit homes and educational facilities, describing the strikes as "perhaps the strongest" on the city during the entire war.

Up to 50 Grad rockets hit residential areas of Nikopol on Sunday morning, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote on a telegram. One person was injured.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border on February 24, sparking a conflict that killed thousands, displaced millions and deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain.

The crop can be cut

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that the country’s crop could be half the usual amount this year due to the invasion.

"Ukraine’s crop this year is threatened to fall twice," Zelensky wrote in English on Twitter, indicating half of what is usual. "Our main goal is to prevent the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion. Grain is still finding a way to deliver it instead," he added.

Ukraine has struggled to get its products to buyers through its Black Sea ports because of the war.

But the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that there is a high probability that the first grain-exporting ship will leave Ukrainian ports on Monday. Read more

Eastern danger

In a televised address late Saturday night, Zelensky said hundreds of thousands of people were still subjected to heavy fighting in the Donbass region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and which Russia seeks to fully control. Vast areas of the Donbass were captured before the invasion by Russian-backed separatists.

"Many are refusing to leave, but it still has to be done," Zelensky said. "The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill."

On Sunday, Russia called on experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russia had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths "in order to conduct an objective investigation".

The ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with a US-made high-mobility artillery missile (HIMARS).

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery attacked the prison to cover up abuse there.

Reuters journalists confirmed some deaths in the prison, but were not immediately able to verify different accounts of the events.

The United Nations said it was ready to send experts to investigate whether it had obtained approval from both parties. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access and offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Russia denies that its forces deliberately attacked civilians or committed war crimes in the invasion, which it described as a "special operation".

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks were destroyed in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region which is the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in that part of the country and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.

Military Southern Command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.

Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range missile systems to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson and – according to British officials' estimation – leaving the 49th Russian army very weak on the western bank of the river.

Officials from the Russian-appointed administration that administers the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.

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Reporting by Reuters offices Writing by Lincoln Feast and William MacLean Editing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry

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Ukraine says dozens of Russians were killed fighting Kherson

  • Kherson is the center of the Ukrainian counterattack
  • Ukraine says railways to Kherson via Dnipro have been cut
  • Ukraine and Russia trade accusations over the killing of prisoners of war

Odessa/Kyiv, Ukraine, July 30 (Reuters) – The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that it had killed dozens of Russian soldiers and destroyed two stores of ammunition in the fighting in the Kherson region, which is focused on Kyiv’s counter-offensive in the south and a key mission. Link in Moscow supply lines.

Military Southern Command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.

Ukraine has used long-range missile systems from the West to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson – British defense officials estimate – leaving Russia’s 49th Army positioned on the river’s highly positioned west bank. vulnerable.

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"As a result of the fire that imposed control of the main transport lines in the occupied territories, the passage through the railway bridge crossing the Dnipro River was not possible," the Southern Command of Ukraine said in a statement.

It said more than 100 Russian soldiers and seven tanks were destroyed in Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region, the first major town occupied by the Russians after their February 24 invasion.

The first deputy chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, Yuri Sobolevsky, asked residents to stay away from Russian ammunition depots.

"The Ukrainian army is attacking the Russians, and this is only the beginning," Sobolevsky wrote on Telegram.

Dmitro Potry, the pro-Ukrainian governor of Kherson region, said the Pereslav region was hit hard. Pereslav lies across the river northwest of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station.

"In some villages, not a single house has been left intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, and people are living in basements," Pottery wrote on Telegram.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Officials from the Russia-appointed administration that administers the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russia likely erected two pontoon bridges and a ferry system to compensate for bridges damaged in the Ukrainian strikes.

It added that Russia-installed authorities in occupied territories in southern Ukraine may have been preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia later this year, and "likely to force residents to reveal personal details in order to make up voting records." Read more

Explosion in prison

The two sides also traded accusations on Friday over a missile attack or explosion that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the eastern Donetsk province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 40 prisoners were killed and 75 wounded in a prison in the frontline town of Olenivka and held by Moscow-backed separatists. Reuters journalists confirmed some of the deaths in prison.

A spokesman for the separatists put the death toll at 53 and accused Kyiv of targeting the prison with US-made Himmars missiles.

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery targeted the prison to conceal mistreatment of detainees there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the different accounts of events.

Reuters TV showed the remains of a burnt building, the cave filled with metal beds, some lying on charred bodies, while others were lined up on military stretchers or on the ground outside.

The fragments of the shell were placed on a blue metal bench. It was not immediately possible to detect any identification marks and it was not clear where the parts were collected.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access to the site and offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing atrocities and brutality against civilians since its invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians.

food diplomacy

Top US and Russian diplomats on Friday discussed a UN-brokered deal to resume shipments of grain from Ukraine and ease the global food crisis in their first phone call since before Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken that Washington was not keeping its promises regarding food exemption from sanctions. Read more

A Russian account of the phone call quoted Lavrov as telling Blinkin that Russia would achieve all the goals of its "special military operation," and said Western arms supplies to Ukraine would only prolong the conflict.

Blinkin warned Lavrov against any territorial claims by Russia during its war in Ukraine.

"The world will not recognize the annexations. We will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes ahead with its plans," he said.

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Analysis: The world’s largest bond markets are back in favour, as recession fears mount

Global indices are displayed on a screen on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, US, August 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) – One day you get out of the house, the next you go in: Collapsing global sovereign bond markets are back for better as fears of a global recession mount.

Government borrowing costs from Germany to France and Australia fell sharply this month, with 10-year bond yields down nearly 50 basis points each in July, and braced for their biggest monthly drop in at least a decade.

US 10-year Treasury yields are down about 80 basis points from 11-year highs in June, as decades of high inflation fueled expectations of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

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Steady inflation certainly means that not everyone is buying bonds and Friday’s data that showed eurozone inflation at another record high was a catalyst for new bond sales.

But there appears to be a shift as signs of slowing economic growth point towards a peak in official interest rates. This means that government bond investors who shunned in the first half of 2022 are regaining their allure.

German bond yields head for biggest monthly drop since 2011

Bond funds saw inflows of $3.6 billion in the week to Wednesday, the largest since March, Bank of America’s weekly analysis of inflows released on Friday showed.

Antoine Buffett, chief interest rate strategist at ING, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the German 10-year bond yield tested 0.5% in the coming months. It was at 0.9% on Friday and rose to nearly 2% in June.

"The tide has really turned, and bonds are back to behaving like recession hedges," Buffett said.

Thursday’s data showed the US economy contracted again in the second quarter. Eurozone data on Friday showed that the bloc is holding up better than expected even though strong Germany is on the brink of deflation. Read more

Reuters graphics

long game

Investors are increasing their exposure to long-term debt due to growth concerns.

It is beginning to increase the term, which is sensitive to moves in base rates, said Flavio Carpenzano, chief investment officer at Capital Group, which manages $2.6 trillion in assets.

"We recently reduced the duration of the underweight (positions) because Europe may go into a recession, in which case we want to have core assets like German bonds," he said.

“From this perspective, we are gradually starting to increase the duration through German bonds in the 10-year part of the curve to protect the portfolio from a downside.”

Total returns, including capital gains and coupon payments, on Austria’s 100-year bonds rose 33% in July, according to Refinitiv data. But as with most very long-term debt, an investor who bought in at the start of 2022 would be down significantly so far.

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by 50 basis points last week and markets fully recovered in another big move in September. They now attribute a nearly 42% chance of raising another half a point.

Markets are pricing in the highest US interest rate of 3.2% by the end of this year and 50 basis points for rate cuts in 2023. Before the Federal Reserve raised rates by 75 basis points in mid-June, it had priced US interest rates at Peak by more than 4% in 2023 and cut the interest rate by a quarter point by the end of next year.

Earlier this week, the Fed introduced another rate increase of 0.75%. Read more

Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said the company had increased its exposure to US Treasuries and investment-grade corporate debt due to recession risks.

"We expect a recession in 2023 and believe the Fed will start cutting rates towards the end of next year, and it’s hard to see a higher move in US bond yields," she said.

Reuters graphics

Investors said the outlook for European bond markets such as Italy is more complex, given growth concerns and political instability.

It is still underweight in Italian bonds, Carpizano of the Capital Group said.

Others said the drop in bond yields wasn’t a one-way bet as the fight against inflation was a far cry from the won – eurozone price growth hit a new record high of 8.9% in July.

"I feel the rise in interest rates is overstated," said Tim Graf, head of macroeconomic strategy for EMEA at State Street.

“German 10-year bond yields at 0.9%, looking at the inflation picture, is not something I would like to have,” he said, noting that Bond yields could dip towards 1.25-1.5% by the end of the year.

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Reporting by Dara Ranasinghe. Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Sujata Rao; Editing by Tommy Rigory Wilkes and Thomas Janowski

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Russia assigns mercenaries to frontline sectors as infantry losses mount – UK

  • Wagner fighters are unlikely to change the course of the invasion – UK
  • Ukraine is trying to disrupt supply lines and bomb bridges
  • Russia strikes Kyiv region for the first time in weeks

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia has assigned mercenaries to keep parts of Ukraine’s front line, Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Friday, signaling it is short of combat infantry, as Kyiv ramps up a counter-offensive in the south. .

A greater reliance on paid fighters from Russia’s private military company Wagner Group to carry out front-line missions rather than their usual special operations work would be another sign that the Russian military is under pressure six months into its war in Ukraine.

But the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that it was unlikely that Wagner’s mercenaries would make up for the loss of regular infantry units or change the course of the Russian invasion.

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"This is a significant change from the group’s previous employment since 2015, when it normally carried out tasks different from regular, overt and large-scale Russian military activities," the ministry said on Twitter.

Outside normal business hours, Wagner and the Kremlin could not be reached for comment.

Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed an "intense redeployment" of Russian forces in the south, where British defense officials believe the 49th Russian Army, stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River, is at risk.

British intelligence said Thursday that the southern city of Kherson, key to Russia’s land supply lines from Russia-annexed Crimea, is now effectively cut off from other Russian-occupied territories.

The Kherson region fell to Russian forces shortly after the start of what Moscow calls a "special military operation" on February 24. Ukraine describes the Russian invasion as an imperial-style war of conquest.

The Ukrainian military has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, making it difficult for Russia to supply its forces on the West Bank.

Ukraine said its planes bombed five Russian strongholds around Kherson and another nearby city on Thursday, the epicenter of its biggest counterattack in the conflict.

Russia bombed the outskirts of Kyiv for the first time in weeks on Thursday. District Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that 15 people were wounded when rockets landed on military installations in the Vyshhorod district, on the outskirts of the capital.

Sirens sounded as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Parliament alongside visiting Lithuanian President Gitanas Noseda.

The attack shattered the sense of life returning to normal in Kyiv since Russian forces abandoned attempts to capture the city in the early weeks of the war, in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

The region’s governor, Vyacheslav Chusov, told Ukrainian television on Thursday that more than 10 Russian missiles had hit the Chernihiv region, northeast of Kyiv. Like Kyiv, Chernihiv has not been targeted for weeks.

The Northern Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that more than 20 missiles were fired at the Chernihiv region bordering Russia from a base in Belarus, an ally of Russia.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

Eastern Front

Ukraine’s counterattacks in the south come as Russia continues its battle for control of the entire Donbass industrial region in the east, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Telegram that Russian forces bombed the town of Bakhmut, which Russia described as a key target in its advance through Donetsk, four times on Thursday. He added that at least three people were killed and three wounded.

As the fighting raged, international efforts continued to try to reopen Ukrainian ports and allow the export of grain and other goods.

Allowing the safe passage of grain shipments from Ukraine should alleviate shortages that have left tens of millions of people around the world facing soaring food prices and starvation.

Russia and Ukraine struck a deal last week to lift a ban on grain exports from Black Sea ports, but UN aid coordinator Martin Griffiths said "critical" details of safe passage for ships were still being worked out.

Griffiths had hoped the first shipment of grain would be shipped from a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea as early as Friday. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Stephen Coates. Lincoln Fest Editing.

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Biden begins his fifth call with the Chinese president, as he looks to de-escalate tensions in Taiwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping began their fifth call as leaders on Thursday, as concerns mounted over a possible visit to Taiwan demanded by China, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The White House said the call began at 8:33 a.m. (1233 GMT) and US officials said it would have a broad agenda, including a discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has not yet condemned.

In essence, US officials see the exchange as another opportunity to manage competition between the world’s two largest economies, whose relations are increasingly skewed by tensions over democratically governed Taiwan, which Xi has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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Beijing has issued mounting warnings of repercussions for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, a move that would be a dramatic, if unprecedented, display of US support for the island, which it says faces growing Chinese military and economic threats.

Washington has no official relations with Taiwan and follows a "one China" policy, which recognizes Beijing and not Taipei diplomatically. But it is obligated by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and pressure has grown in Congress for more visible support.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

One of the people briefed on the planning for the call said the Biden administration believes that leader-to-leader engagement is the best way to reduce tensions over Taiwan.

Some analysts believe Xi also has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office at China’s ruling Communist Party congress expected in the fall.

Biden also wants to discuss climate issues and economic competition, the person briefing said, as well as the idea of ​​capping the price of Russian oil to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, an issue Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised with her Chinese counterparts earlier. July. Read more

The Biden administration is debating whether to raise some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to mitigate rising inflation, but US officials said the decision was not expected before the call. Read more

When Biden last spoke to Xi in March, he warned of "consequences" if Beijing provided material support for Russia’s war, and the US government believes that red line has not been crossed in the months since.

Taiwan has complained of intensifying Chinese military exercises over the past two years to try to force it to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. Just before the phone call Thursday, Taiwan’s military said it had fired flares to warn a drone that had "peeked" at a strategically located and heavily fortified island near the Chinese coast that may have been searching its defenses. Read more

Toxic links

The White House has reiterated that the "one China" policy has not changed despite speculation about Pelosi’s possible visit, which the speaker has not yet confirmed.

The last time the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan was in 1997, and as an equal branch of government, the US executive has little control over travel within Congress.

China has grown militarily and economically powerful since then, and some analysts fear that such a visit at a time of fraught relations could lead to a crisis across the 100-mile (160 kilometer) wide waterway separating China and Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, said.

She said Biden and Xi need to focus their advocacy on de-escalation, including potential mechanisms to reduce the risk of mishaps.

Kirby said the administration is in touch with Pelosi’s office to make sure it has "all the context" it needs to make decisions about her travel.

China has offered little indication of specific responses it might take if Pelosi, a longtime critic of China, especially on human rights issues, goes to Taiwan.

Raising the Taiwan issue could serve as a domestic distraction from the slowing Chinese economy, said Martin Chorzimba, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, but "any reaction strong enough to impose US sanctions will do serious damage to China and the world economy." Read more

Chinese state media said Thursday that the country will try hard to achieve the best possible results for the economy this year, ignoring previous calls that it will strive to achieve its 2022 growth target. This came after a high-level meeting of the Communist Party chaired by Xi. Read more

Scott Kennedy, of the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he did not believe the two sides were on the brink of a crisis, but that "the risk of a major crisis is well above zero" and it was important to avoid Biden’s invitation to Xi. Unwelcome clash.

"Beijing, Taipei, and Washington are full of people immersed in how to send and interpret signals that convey threats and reassurance, and I’m sure no one wants war right now."

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Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Trevor Honeycutt, David Bronstrom and Garrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing. Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Philippa Fletcher and Bernadette Bao

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Russia-occupied Kherson cut off due to Ukraine counter-attacks – Britain

  • Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gaining momentum – UK
  • Ukraine says Russia is conducting "large-scale redeployment" in the south
  • Russian-backed forces take control of the Vohlhersk plant
  • Blinkin says he plans to make a call with Russian Lavrov

(Reuters) – British defense and intelligence officials said on Thursday that a Ukrainian counterattack had effectively cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River "extremely weakened".

Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to regain control of Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces likely established a bridge south of the Ingolets River, and used new, long-range artillery to destroy at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro River.

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"The 49th Russian army stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River now appears highly vulnerable," she said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter, adding that Kherson is effectively isolated from other Russian-occupied territories.

His loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to portray the occupation as a success.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, had earlier tweeted that Russia was concentrating "maximum number of forces" in the direction of Kherson, but gave no details.

Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia is conducting an "extensive redeployment" of forces from east to south in what amounts to a strategic shift from offensive to defense.

Zelensky said Ukraine would rebuild the Antonevsky Bridge over the Dnipro River and other crossings in the region.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure that the occupation forces do not have any logistical opportunities in our country," he said in a speech on Wednesday evening.

Russian officials had previously said they would instead go to bridges and pontoon ferries to ferry troops across the river.

Russia-backed forces said on Wednesday they had captured the Soviet-era Volhersk coal-fired power plant, Ukraine’s second largest, in what was Moscow’s first major gain in more than three weeks. Read more

Diplomacy

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow called a "special military operation" to disarm and "disarm" its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies describe the invasion as an unjustified war of aggression.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he plans to have a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – the first among diplomats since before the war began.

Blinken told a news conference that the call in the coming days would not be "negotiations on Ukraine," reiterating Washington’s position that any talks on ending the war should be between Kyiv and Moscow.

Russia has not received any official request from Washington regarding a phone call between Blinkin and Lavrov, TASS news agency reported.

Blinken said the US made a "big offer" to Russia to release US citizens, WNBA star Britney Grenier and former US Marine Paul Whelan, without giving details of what the US would offer in return. Read more

Blinken said he would pressure Lavrov to respond to the offer.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed a CNN report that Washington was willing to exchange Russian arms smuggler Victor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, as part of a deal.

Aside from discussing the Americans being held by Russia, Blinken said he and Lavrov would bring up the preliminary agreement on grain exports reached last week between Russia, the United States, Turkey and Ukraine.

Russia cut gas flows to Europe on Wednesday in an energy standoff with the European Union. It has blocked grain exports from Ukraine since the invasion, but agreed on Friday to allow shipments through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus strait in Turkey and to global markets. Read more

The deal became doubtful almost immediately when Russia launched cruise missiles at Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, on Saturday, just 12 hours after the deal was signed.

Before the invasion and subsequent sanctions, Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Fest.

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