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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will issue an executive order strengthening sanctions against Moscow related to its military operation in Ukraine to include the two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin and two of Russia’s largest banks, the White House said on Wednesday.

The new US sanctions on Russia came as NATO foreign ministers met in the Belgian capital, Brussels, for discussions, including on how to continue supporting Ukraine and ending the fighting.
The White House said in a statement that the United States, along with the Group of Seven (G7) and the European Union, would continue to “impose severe and immediate economic costs on the Putin regime for its atrocities in Ukraine, including Bucha city,” which press and intelligence reports say the Russian military has committed war crimes there before withdrawing from it. “As part of this effort, the United States is announcing devastating economic measures to block new investments in Russia and impose the most severe financial sanctions on Russia’s two largest banks and many of its most important state-owned enterprises, and on Russian government officials and their family members,” intelligence reports added.

According to the White House, the new US sanctions include a complete ban on Sberbank, the largest financial institution owned by the Russian state, and Alpha Bank, the largest private bank in Russia. Biden’s executive order includes a complete ban on new investment in Russia “by American people, wherever that is, which will isolate Russia from the global economy. ” So that this measure is based on “the decision taken by more than 600 multinational companies to leave Russia.”

The White House indicated that the Treasury Department would issue “complete ban sanctions against major Russian state-owned companies” and announce the names of those entities on Thursday.
The executive order also includes “a complete ban on sanctions against Russian elites and their family members, including on the adult children of President Putin, the wife and daughter of Foreign Minister (Sergei) Lavrov, and members of the Russian Security Council, including former Russian President and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.”

The White House noted the sweeping financial sanctions in the wake of the administration’s action earlier this week “to cut off Russian funds frozen in the United States to make (Russian) debt payments.” He noted that the United States and more than 30 allies and partners worldwide have so far imposed “the most effective, coordinated, and broadest economic restrictions in history.”

Regarding the effects of sanctions on Russia, the White House said, “Experts expect Russia’s gross domestic product to shrink by up to 15 percent this year, wiping out the economic gains of the past 15 years,” adding that “inflation is already rising above 15 percent, and it is expected that is accelerating.

More than 600 private sector companies have already left the Russian market” and “supply chains in Russia are severely disrupted.” “It is highly likely that Russia will lose its position as a major economy and will continue its long slide toward economic, financial and technological isolation,” he continued.

“As long as Russia continues its brutal assault on Ukraine, we will stand united with our allies and partners in imposing additional costs on Russia for its actions,” he stressed. US Treasury escalates sanctions against Russia for its atrocities in Ukraine. For its part, the Treasury Department said in a statement that the sanctions of its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) affected 42 subsidiaries “owned or controlled by (Sberbank),” among the new sanctions imposed by the United States “in response to Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine and atrocities against Ukrainian citizens.” (KUNA)

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president lost his parliamentary majority on Tuesday as former allies urged his resignation following days of street protests over the island nation’s crippling economic crisis.
Unprecedented shortages of food and fuel along with record inflation and blackouts have inflicted widespread misery in the country’s most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s once-powerful ruling coalition is in turmoil after a string of defections, capped on Tuesday by the new finance minister’s resignation just one day after taking office.
And as anti-Rajapaksa demonstrations continued for a fifth straight day, the government warned of retaliation if rallies turned violent.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s once-powerful ruling coalition in turmoil after string of defections

“Security forces will not hesitate to enforce the law against those involved in violence,” defence ministry secretary Kamal Gunaratne said in a statement.
More than 60 people had been arrested in connection with unrest since Friday and many have said they were tortured in police custody.

The UN Human Rights Council said it was closely watching the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka, which is already facing international censure over its human rights record.
“The drift towards militarisation and the weakening of institutional checks and balances in Sri Lanka have affected the state’s ability to effectively tackle the economic crisis,” the UNHRC said.
Public anger is at a fever pitch in Sri Lanka, where crowds have since the weekend attempted to storm the homes of several senior government officials.

“If we don’t act now, there will be a river of blood in the country,” said Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, a newly independent lawmaker who broke ranks with the president’s party and joined calls for the leader to step down. “We have to forget party politics and ensure an interim government.”

Tuesday’s parliamentary session was the first since dozens of MPs withdrew their support for Rajapaksa’s government, including 16 lawmakers from his own Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP).
The government is now at least five short of a majority in the 225-member house, but there has been no clear signal that legislators will attempt a no-confidence motion to topple it.
Opposition parties have already rebuffed Rajapaksa’s call to join a unity administration led by him and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Their government imposed a state of emergency last week in an effort to contain street protests, but the ordinance is set to expire next week unless ratified by parliament.
Rejecting calls for a vote on the emergency decree, the government cut short Tuesday’s proceedings by two hours, but promised a debate on Wednesday.

Nimal Lanza, a former minister who has also abandoned Rajapaksa’s administration, conceded that the ruling party no longer had a mandate to govern.
“I beg and appeal to you to take the side of the protesters,” he told parliament, addressing the prime minister, who attended the session but remained silent.
Every member of Sri Lanka’s cabinet except the president and prime minister resigned late Sunday.

Former justice minister Ali Sabry was appointed as finance minister on Monday, replacing the president’s brother Basil Rajapaksa, but abruptly resigned after just one day in office.

WASHINGTON: Despite growing tensions in bilateral ties, the United States still wants Pakistan to continue playing its role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
On March 31, both Pakistan and the United States participated in yet another meeting of the so-called Extended Troika for Afghan­istan, which also includes Russia and China.
All four countries sent their special envoys for Afghanistan to the ancient Chinese city of Tunxi which also hosted the foreign ministers of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for another meeting.
After the troika meeting, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, noted that “China, the US, Russia and Pakistan are all countries with significant influence on the Afghan issue,” a key point that also echoed at a US State Department’s latest news briefing.
“These are countries that have a good degree of leverage with the Taliban, and the ‘Extended Troika’ has, in the past, been a constructive forum, and it is critical that the international community remain united in its approach to Afghanistan,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
“It is especially critical with countries that have a good deal of leverage with the Taliban. The United States would be included in that, Russia would be included in that, the People’s Republic of China would be included in that, and Pakistan would be included in that.”
The US official said that it was “incumbent on all of these countries to use that leverage to push the Taliban in the right direction.”
Mr Price said that US interests in Afghanistan “are aligned with the members of the troika,” that includes Pakistan, which has the longest border with Afghanistan and policy makers in Washington believe that Islamabad still has enough leverage on the Taliban to influence their policymaking.
Mr Price also explained how the members of this Extended Troika should use their influence, highlighting two key issues that Washington has been pushing for since August last year when the Taliban captured Kabul: “Seeing girls return to secondary schools and encouraging inclusive governance.”
“We want to see to it that those are messages the Taliban received not only from us, not only from our European partners, with whom we’re coordinating closely on Afghan­istan and engagement with the Taliban, but also from a broader collection of countries, and certainly those countries that do have a good deal of leverage,” Mr Price added.
Acknowledging Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan indicates that Washington still wants to engage with Islamabad on issues where Pakistan can be a useful facilitator.
But diplomatic observers in the US capital no longer see a desire in Washington to revive once-close partnership with the South Asian nation.
Pakistan-US relations have been tense since 2011, when Americans found and took out Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad without informing Islamabad. But the discovery of an alleged letter, explicitly expressing US displeasure with the policies of the PTI government has further eroded the US desire to rebuild ties with Pakistan.
Although the alleged letter, which Wash­ing­ton says it never wrote or sent, says that the relationship could be restored if the PTI government is removed, diplomatic observers do not see that happening anytime soon.

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden refused on Monday to back down on his weekend declaration in a major speech that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power” — arguing that he was voicing personal “outrage.” “I’m not walking anything back... I want to make it clear, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I feel — I make no apologies for my personal feelings,” he told reporters at the White House. Biden’s remark — delivered in Warsaw at the close of three days of marathon diplomacy on Saturday — was seen as a gaffe by Republicans and some independent analysts concerned over a president going off-script when dealing with such a combustible conflict. Biden said he was not worried that it would ratchet up tensions with Putin over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, adding that he was “talking to the Russian people, telling them what we thought.” “I don’t care what he thinks,” Biden added. “This is guy who goes to the beat of his own drummer and the idea that he is going to do something outrageous because I called him for what he was and what he’s doing, I think is just not rational.” Ukraine’s government says that as many as 10,000 people may have died since the start of Putin’s invasion more than a month ago. Russian attacks near Kyiv have cut power to more than 80,000 homes, despite an apparent retreat in Moscow’s war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine. Biden left the door open to further diplomacy with Putin, however, saying US agreement to a meeting would depend “on what he wants to talk about.” “The question is, is there something to meet on that would justify him being able to end this war and being able to rebuild Ukraine,” Biden told reporters.

MADRID: An official in the municipality of Madrid said that the Spanish capital municipality is honored by the delegation of the Kuwaiti Municipal Council’s visit, headed by Engineer AbdulSalam Al-Randi. On the sidelines of the Kuwaiti delegation’s visit, head of the Spanish municipality’s international relations service Ricardo Iglesias, stated to KUNA today, Wednesday, that Madrid is the only European capital founded by Muslims, and that the municipality is proud of its Islamic heritage, as it opened its doors to Kuwaitis to exchange experiences in various specializations.
Iglesias pointed out that Madrid’s successful experiences in various fields makes it a station for official delegations from municipalities and countries worldwide, noting that more than 150 delegations visited the municipality to see its experiences in the previous year of the health crisis caused by coronavirus pandemic. Iglesias expressed his gratitude to continue cooperating with Kuwait’s municipality through sharing experiences that would contribute to improving the lives of residents. In a similar statement to KUNA, Head of the cultural center (Centro-Centro) Ana Loma, welcome the Kuwaiti delegation, which she accompanied through its visit that started with Centro-Centro, as she expressed interest to find out more about Kuwait’s municipality experiences and in managing and investing in cultural institutes.
The Kuwaiti delegation, headed by Eng. AbdulSalam Al-Randi accompanied by two Kuwaiti Municipal Council members, held meetings with officials in several fields such as planning, transportation, infrastructure, waste management and recycling, as well as visiting the safety and emergency center in the city and were accompanied by the First Secretary at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Madrid Mohammad Al-Shahoumi. Members of the delegation will travel to Marbella, Wednesday, in the Andalusian province of Malaga to meet with Mayor Maria Angelis to learn about the municipality’s experience in several fields and exchange ideas and experiences.
Cooperation The Municipalities in Kuwait and Madrid are seeking to expand cooperation and exchange experiences to attend to the needs of their respective populations and improve services, said a Kuwaiti official on Wednesday. Head of the Kuwaiti Municipality delegation visiting Madrid AbdulSalam Al-Randi told KUNA that the delegation was keen on benefiting from Spanish municipalities experience in implementing projects and legislating laws.
The visit, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was now in full swing and would contribute to the bolstering of ties, he affirmed. The delegation began its visit to the cultural center (CentroCentro) in Madrid, discussing with officials there ways to enhance cooperation between Kuwait and Spain, Al-Randi, adding that there was also a meeting with Madrid’s General Director of Planning, Mobility, and Infrastructure Maria Dolores Ortiz Sanchez, discussing matters pertaining to environment protection, reduction of pollution and traffic management. Members of the delegation will travel to Marbella in the Andalusian province of Malaga to meet with Mayor Maria Angelis to learn about the municipality’s experience in several fields and exchange ideas and experiences. , (KUNA)

BEIJING: China Eastern confirmed there had been fatalities after a jet carrying 132 people crashed into a mountain in southern China yesterday, shortly after losing contact with air traffic control and dropping thousands of meters in just three minutes. The Boeing 737-800 flight from the city of Kunming to the southern hub of Guangzhou “lost airborne contact over Wuzhou” city in the Guangxi region yesterday afternoon, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The jet was carrying 123 passengers and nine crewmembers. China Eastern confirmed late yesterday that at least some people involved in the crash had been killed, without providing more information or giving details on any survivors. “The company expresses its deep condolences for the passengers and crew members who died in the plane crash,” the airline said in a statement.
The disaster prompted an unusually swift public reaction from President Xi Jinping, who said he was “shocked” and ordered an immediate investigation into its cause. Hundreds of firefighters were dispatched to the scene in Teng county near Wuzhou, state media reported, as nearby villagers rushed to help the rescue effort. “Everyone went to the mountains,” Tang Min, who runs a restaurant a few kilometers from the crash site, told AFP by telephone.
Fears for the fate of the jet spread yesterday afternoon as local media reported that China Eastern flight MU5735 had not arrived as planned in Guangzhou after taking off from Kunming shortly after 1:00 pm. Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed no data for the flight after 2:22 pm. The tracker showed the plane sharply dropped from an altitude of 29,100 feet to 3,225 feet (8,870 to 982 m) in three minutes, before flight information ceased.
One villager told a local news site that the plane had “completely fallen apart” and he had seen forest areas destroyed by the fire it caused when crashing into the mountainside. China Eastern changed its website to black and white only yesterday afternoon. A January company report said China Eastern had 289 Boeing 737-series aircraft in its 751-strong fleet. State broadcaster CCTV said it had learned that China Eastern will ground all its 787-800 jets as a precaution after the crash. Boeing said in a statement that it was “aware of the initial media reports and… working to gather more information”.
Xi called for “all efforts” towards the rescue and to find out the “cause of the accident as soon as possible”, according to CCTV. “We are shocked to learn of the China Eastern MU5735 accident,” he said, calling for “the absolute safety of the sector and people’s lives”. The arrivals board at Guangzhou airport showed the jet’s flight information for hours after it had crashed, as staff in full PPE held up signs to direct distraught relatives to a separate area that had been set up to receive them.
One relative waiting in Guangzhou airport told local media that she had been due to board the flight, but had changed her booking at the last minute to an earlier plane. Her sister and four friends had taken the crashed plane, she added. Now she was just “waiting for news”, she said. “I feel very sad.” A villager near the crash site surnamed Liu told state-run China News Service that he had driven a motorbike to the scene after hearing a loud explosion. He said he saw debris on the ground, including an aircraft wing and fragments of clothing hanging from trees.
China had enjoyed an enviable air safety record in recent years as the country was crisscrossed by newly built airports and serviced by new airlines established to match breakneck growth over the last few decades. A Henan Airlines flight crashed in northeastern Heilongjiang province in 2010, killing at least 42 out of 92 people on board, although the final toll was never confirmed. It was the last Chinese commercial flight crash that caused civilian casualties.
The deadliest Chinese commercial flight crash was a China Northwest Airlines crash in 1994, which killed all 160 onboard. Jean-Paul Troadec, former director of the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, told AFP it was “far too early” to draw conclusions, but added that the Flightradar data was “very unusual”. – AFP

ANKARA (AP): The president of Turkey, South Korea’s prime minister and other officials inaugurated a massive suspension bridge Friday over the Dardanelles Strait that connects the European and Asian shores of the key waterway. With a a 2,023-meter (6,637 feet) span between its towers, the “1915 Canakkale Bridge” becomes the world’s longest suspension bridge, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. It connects the town of Gelibolu, located in the European side of Turkey’s northwestern province of Canakkale, with the town of Lapseki on the Asian side. The bridge allows travelers to cross the Dardanelles – which connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara – in just six minutes compared to the previous 1-1/2 hours by ferry, the president said.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses for photos in front of the 1915 Canakkale Bridge, in Çanakkale, western Turkey, March 18. The bridge links the Asian side of Turkey with European side over Dardanelles Strait. South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum also attended the opening ceremony. (AP)
“Turkey has overtaken Japan, which has the longest bridge in the world in terms of the midspan, and has taken the first place,” Erdogan said during the inauguration ceremony. The inauguration was timed to coincide with the 107th anniversary of Turkey’s World War I naval victory over a joint British and French fleet attacking the Dardanelles. The failure of the naval campaign led to the ill-fated 1915 landings on the Gallipoli peninsula by the allies led by Britain and France along with troops from Australia and New Zealand.
“The 1915 Canakkale Bridge will leave this history of collision and conflict behind and will be a bridge between East and West, starting a new era of peace and prosperity,” South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during the ceremony, in reference to the Canakkale region’s historic battlefields. The bridge, which was build by a consortium of Turkish and South Korean companies, will also strengthen the bonds between Turkey and South Korea, Kim said. The “1915 Canakkale Bridge” cost 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) to build but Turkey will save 415 million euros ($458 million) per year from a reduction of fuel consumption and carbon emissions, Erdogan said. He announced the bridge’s toll will be 200 Turkish lira ($13.60).

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