Two blasts hit Kyiv as UN chief visits

Russia has fired two missiles into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv during a visit by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and one hit the lower floor of a residential building, injuring at least three people, its mayor says.

Reuters could not independently verify the cause of the explosions.

Kyiv has enjoyed relative calm since Russian invasion forces failed to capture it in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance and withdrew several weeks ago but remains vulnerable to longer-range Russian heavy weaponry.

The blasts shook Kyiv’s central Shevchenko district and the three injured have been hospitalised, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Twitter post.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba both said the blasts were caused by Russian missiles.

Reuters witnesses had earlier reported the sound of two blasts.

The explosions occurred after UN chief Guterres completed talks with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensiky focusing on efforts to allow civilians to leave the Russian-besieged southern port of Mariupol.

Guterres told Portuguese broadcaster RTP when asked about the blasts: “There was an attack on Kyiv…it shocked me, not because I’m here but because Kyiv is a sacred city for Ukrainians and Russians alike.”

Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said the blasts were “proof that we need a quick victory over Russia… We must act quickly – more weapons, more humanitarian efforts… because every day Ukraine pays a high price for the protection of democracy and freedom”.

Guterres had surveyed the destruction in small towns outside Kyiv on Thursday.

“Wherever there is a war, the highest price is paid by civilians,” Guterres lamented as he visited the bombed-out Kyiv suburb of Irpin.

Responding to repeated Ukrainian pleas for supplies of heavier weaponry and equipment, US President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for $US33 billion ($A46 billion) to support Ukraine, a massive jump in US funding that includes more than $US20 billion for weapons and ammunition and other military aid.

The package, also entailing $US8.5 billion in direct economic assistance and $US3 billion in humanitarian and food security aid, forms part of US efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which has flattened cities and forced more than five million people to flee abroad.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House after signing the request on Thursday.

“The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly.”

The US has said it hopes Ukrainian forces can not only repel Russia’s assault on the east but also weaken its military so that it can no longer menace neighbours.

Russia says that amounts to NATO waging “proxy war” against it and has made a number of threats this week of unspecified retaliation.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was stepping up its main military assault in the east, where it now aims to seize all of two provinces partially controlled by separatists.

“The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” it said.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday the military had fired missiles at six Ukrainian arms and fuel depots and destroyed them, and that 76 Ukrainian military facilities were also hit.

Reuters could not verify the latest battlefield reports.

President Vladimir Putin calls Russian actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine that became necessary as the United States was using the country to threaten Russia and it had to defend Russian-speaking people from persecution.

Ukraine says it is fighting an imperial-style land grab and that Putin’s claims of persecution are nonsense.

Russia has also reported what it says have been a series of Ukrainian strikes on Russian regions which border Ukraine, and has warned that such attacks risk significant escalation.

On Thursday, two big explosions were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, two witnesses told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear what caused them and whether there were any casualties or damage.

with reporting from AP

Russia announces ceasefire in Mariupol

Russia announced a new ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor on for civilians trapped in a steel plant in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

According to the Defence Ministry in Moscow, the Russian army was set to cease hostilities at 2 pm local time on Monday and civilians should then be able to leave the industrial zone via a humanitarian corridor.

The Azovstal steel plant became a last refuge for the people still trapped in Mariupol.

According to Russian sources, about 2,500 Ukrainian fighters and foreign mercenaries are still there. Kiev says there are also 1,000 civilians in the steel plant.

Early on Monday, a series of Russian offensives were blocked in eastern Ukraine, according to reports out of Kiev.

The news comes after a night of secretive meetings between Ukrainian officials and visiting US envoys.

Ukrainian sources also said that five railway stations in central and western Ukraine have been hit by missile strikes.

“Russian forces are systematically destroying the infrastructure of our railyways,” the head of the country’s railways, Olexandr Kamishin wrote on his Telegram channel.

Reports of missile attacks also emerged from Lviv in the west and Vinnytsia in the south-west of Ukraine.

The reports are impossible to confirm independently.

The civilian death toll amid the Russian invasion stands at 3,818 according to Ukrainian district attorney Iryna Venediktova, in comments reported by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

She noted, however, that the statistics are incomplete, as authorities are unable to investigate in many parts of the country due to the ongoing invasion.

Meanwhile, Kiev does not want to remove the goal of joining NATO from its constitution, even though this is one of the main targets of Russia’s aggression on its neighbour.

“Amendments to the constitution are not an end in themselves and will not become one,” Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk told the online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda in an interview published on Monday.

Stefanchuk also stressed that the territorial integrity of the country is a “red line,” as Moscow is also demanding Ukraine to officially renounce the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, and the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

US media reported after the late-night visit on Sunday by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that more high-level diplomatic visits are expected this week. More offers of military aid are apparently expected.

The two men met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as other high-ranking Cabinet officials. Most details about the visit – even its planning – were kept under tight wraps by the White House.

Blinken said after the visit to Kiev that Russia is coming up short in its attempts to conquer Ukraine.

“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding,” he said.

US President Joe Biden did say that he plans to return the US diplomatic presence to Ukraine.

He nominated Bridget Brink, the current US envoy to Slovakia, to be ambassador to Ukraine. This must now be approved by Congress.

© DPA 2022

Elon Musk is taking Twitter private

Elon Musk clinched a deal to buy Twitter Inc for $44 billion cash (A$61 billion) in a transaction that will shift control of the social media platform populated by millions of users and global leaders to the world’s richest person.

It is a seminal moment for the 16-year-old company that emerged as one of the world’s most influential public squares and now faces a string of challenges.

Discussions over the deal, which last week appeared uncertain, accelerated over the weekend after Musk wooed Twitter shareholders with financing details of his offer.

Under pressure, Twitter started negotiating with Musk to buy the company at the proposed $54.20 per share price.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement.

Shares were up about six per cent following news of the deal on Monday. It represents a near 40 per cent premium to the closing price the day before Musk disclosed he had bought a more than nine per cent stake. Even so, the offer is below the $70 range where Twitter was trading last year.

The transaction was approved by the board and is now subject to a shareholder vote.

It was not immediately clear what the breakup fee would be or who would run the new company.

Twitter’s outsized importance as a mouthpiece for politicians, political dissidents and activists belies its relatively small size.

Although it is only about a tenth of the size of far larger social media platforms like Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, it has been credited with helping spawn the Arab Spring uprising and accused of playing a role in the January 6, 2021, storming of the US Capitol.

After Twitter banned former president Donald Trump over concerns around incitement of violence following last year’s US Capitol attack by his supporters, Musk tweeted: “A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

Republicans on Monday cheered the news of a possible Musk buyout of Twitter, betting on Trump’s reinstatement on the service.

Trump, whose company is building a rival to Twitter called Truth Social, said he will not return to Twitter, according to a Fox News interview.

© RAW 2022

BREAKING: Man named as ‘formal suspect’ in Madeleine McCann case

There’s been a major breakthrough into the disappearance of missing child Madeleine McCann.

A man in Germany has reportedly been formally identified as a suspect in the little girl’s disappearance, with Portuguese prosecutors announcing the development this morning.

It’s the first time Portuguese prosecutors have identified an official suspect.

The breakthrough comes almost 15 years after Madeleine vanished during a holiday with her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie, in Portugal on May 3, 2007.

She was just days away from celebrating her fourth birthday when she vanished.

Despite ongoing investigations, there has been no signs of the youngster and no one has ever been charged.

More details are expected to be released throughout the day.

Mike Tyson reportedly punches man who harassed him on plane

Former boxing champion Mike Tyson is making headlines after allegedly unleashing several punches on a plane passenger accused of harassing him.

According to witnesses on the plane, Tyson took a selfie with the excited young man at first, however, it’s understood he then wouldn’t leave him alone.

Video obtained by TMZ backs up the witness accounts, showing the man appearing to pester the 55-year-old before he eventually loses his cool.

The incident is understood to have occurred on a late-night flight from California to Florida on Wednesday night.

It’s not yet known if the police have been contacted or if any charges will be laid over the mid-flight bust up.

Tyson, known as “Iron Mike”, is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, reigning as the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990.