War: Top Russia, Ukraine diplomats arrive in Turkey for talks
The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine have arrived in Turkey for face-to-face talks set for Thursday morning, officials said, in the first high-level contact between the two sides since Moscow invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour.
Officials from Kyiv and Moscow have held several rounds of discussions in Belarus, but the meeting in the southern city of Antalya represents the first time Russia has sent a minister for talks on the crisis.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had landed in Antalya for talks “on Russia ceasing its hostilities and ending its war against Ukraine,” foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko tweeted Wednesday evening.
His Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov has also arrived for the talks, a Turkish official told AFP.
Dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow has so far yielded several local ceasefires and humanitarian corridors to evacuate residents, but Russia has been accused of breaching those agreements.
Kuleba confirmed in a Facebook video that he would travel to Turkey for the talks but said his expectations were “limited”, as Russia continues its brutal bombing campaign and siege of major cities.
He said the success of the talks would depend on “what instructions and directives Lavrov is under” from the Kremlin.
“I am not pinning any great hopes on them, but we will try and get the most out of” the talks with effective preparation, he said.
The sit-down comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed for Ankara to play a mediation role.
“We are working to stop this crisis from transforming into a tragedy,” Erdogan said Wednesday.
“I hope the meeting between the ministers will open the way to a permanent ceasefire.”
The Russian and Ukrainian ministers will be joined at Thursday’s meeting by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, with NATO member Turkey keen to maintain strong relations with both sides despite the conflict.
It is the first trip abroad for Lavrov since Russia was isolated by the Western world with biting sanctions that have also targeted President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving top diplomat.
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12 killed in Afghanistan-Pakistan earthquake
At least 12 people were killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by a strong earthquake felt across thousands of kilometres, but the region appeared Wednesday to have dodged the mass casualties usually associated with a tremor of such scale.
The United States Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.5 quake was centred near Jurm in northeastern Afghanistan, but the depth of 187 kilometres (116 miles) mitigated extensive damage.
The quake, which struck around 09:30 pm Kabul time on Tuesday and lasted more than 30 seconds, was felt from central Asia to New Delhi in India — more than 2,000 km away.
“It was a powerful earthquake and we feared maximum damage due to the intensity — that’s why we issued an alert,” Bilal Faizi, a spokesman for Pakistan’s emergency Rescue 1122 service in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told AFP.
“But fortunately our fears proved wrong. Residents panicked due to the magnitude of the earthquake, but the damage was minimal.”
The region is frequently hit by quakes — especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
– ‘Stayed awake’ all night –
In Jurm district, near the epicentre, a resident of one village reported no casualties despite the location.
“We are about 2,000 to 3,000 people in our village and we all spent the night outside under the sky,” said Inamullah, reached by phone.
“We were all scared and stayed awake the entire night.”
Panicked residents of cities and towns in Afghanistan and Pakistan also fled their homes to seek safety away from buildings — with many too scared to return.
“We stayed the night in our courtyard… it was cold outside, but we preferred to stay out rather than go back,” 24-year-old student Neda Raihan told AFP in Kabul.
Khudadad Heights, a vast multi-storey residential block in the Pakistan capital, was evacuated after huge cracks appeared in the building.
Over 55,000 people were killed by an earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria last month, heightening fears across the region.
“The children started shouting that there is an earthquake. We all ran out. The horrors of the earthquake in Turkey and neighbouring countries had a strong effect on our nerves,” said Ikhlaq Kazmi, a retired professor in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.
Officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, north of the Pakistan capital, said nine people had been killed in the quake, including two women and two children.
– High alert –
In Afghanistan, officials reported three dead and 44 injured — but phone and internet links to remote parts of the country had been severed and communication patchy.
Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said health centres across the country had been put on high alert.
In the Afghan capital Kabul, shopkeeper Noor Mohammad Hanifi set up tents in the street for his family to spend the night in.
“Nobody dares to go inside their homes,” Hanifi told AFP as his family, cloaked in blankets, took shelter.
In Afghanistan, many families were out of their homes celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, when the quake struck.
“I heard people screaming and yelling as they came out in the streets,” said Masieh, who was outside with his family when the tremor hit.
“It’s possible that there could be another tremor so I’m still waiting outside.”
Those indoors also quickly left their houses and apartments.
“They just fled without wearing shoes, just carrying their children in their hands,” an AFP correspondent said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the National Disaster Management Authority to be ready to deal with any emergency.
Last June more than 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands made homeless after a 5.9-magnitude quake — the deadliest in Afghanistan in nearly a quarter of a century — struck the impoverished province of Paktika.
Afghanistan is in the grips of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021.
International development funding on which the South Asian country relied dried up after the takeover and assets held abroad were frozen.
Tragedy as grandmother sets son, wife, 2 grandchildren ablaze in Ondo
A grandmother, identified as lforiti, has allegedly set her son, wife and two grandchildren ablaze in Apomu community, Akure, the Ondo state capital.
Sources said that the grandmother, who resides with his son in the same house, sets ablaze and complained that they starved her of food.
She reportedly set the house ablaze while the family members were asleep, killing three of them including her son, Victor; wife Racheal and one of the grandchildren while the other child is in critical condition at the Federal Medical Centre FMC, Owo.
Narrating the sad incident to newsmen, in Akure, an eyewitness, Korede Michael, said “we saw the house on fire around 2:00 am at the weekend and had to break the window to rescue everyone in the house.
“The woman, her son, Victor Oloro; wife, Rachael; and children, Toluwani and Blessing, were all in the house when the woman set it on fire. She got some dry palm fronds and the little petrol her son kept in a gallon (for generator), spread it around the house and then put fire to it.”
“I was the first person to notice the fire and jumped into the house before other members of the community joined me in rescuing them.
“We got a vehicle immediately to transport them to the government hospital in Akure.
“When we got to Akure (UNIMED annex), the doctors and nurses rejected the patients, saying they cannot take care of them due to the degree of the burn and advised that we take them to the Federal Medical Center in Owo.
“Unfortunately, we lost the last grandchild, who was just two and a half years old, immediately we got to Owo.
“The son and his wife, also, gave up the ghost while the only grandchild left is in a critical condition.”
Korede said that the suspect was not in any way affected by the fire.
” The children could not send the woman out of the house when she started behaving strangely because it was built by her late husband”.
Police sources said that the suspect confessed that she burnt her son and his family because they were starving her of food.
72-year-old woman dies after losing genitals to domestic worker
A septuagenarian, Mrs Charity Okoli, whose genitals were cut by her domestic worker, Onyebuchi Ezeh, alongside two other fleeing suspects, has died.
PUNCH Metro reports the deceased, last week, had her breasts, finger, tongue and private part cut off by the three suspects allegedly for ritual purposes after they had allegedly raped her at her home, in Umunze, in the Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
She was later rescued by her neighbours and rushed to the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku Awka, where she was said to be recuperating until her death.
The prime suspect hails from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Following the development, some women from the community on Tuesday, protested the death of the 72-year-old woman as they paralysed commercial and economic activities in the area while demanding the exit of all Abakaliki indigenes from their community.
The protesters wielding placards with various inscriptions and green leaves marched towards the Umunze Area Police Command headquarters, the palace of the community’s traditional ruler, Igwe Promise Eze, and the local government area as well as other relevant bodies.
Speaking to journalists, the spokesperson of the protesters, Mrs Enekwechi Bridget, said, “The entire Umunze community resolved to come together today for a peaceful protest because Abakaliki people resident in our community raped one of us in Ubaha village and cut off her tongue, one of her fingers, two nipples of her breasts and her private part.
“So, that is why we are here to complain to the transition committee chairman of the local government area so he can take our report to Awka, the state capital, for necessary action.
“We are demanding justice and that the suspects should face the full weight of the law because women are not supposed to face such torture and suffering in the hands of heartless criminal elements.”
The President-General of the Umunze Progressives Union, Chief Hippolite Olua, who also addressed the women, commended them for their peaceful conduct and urged them to go about their protest peacefully as their complaints would be given prompt attention by the police and other relevant authorities.
The traditional ruler of the Umunze community, Eze, in his reaction, lamented that his subjects have suffered so much at the hands of non-indigenes.
The monarch, however, urged the people of the community to remain calm as police and leaders of the community are working round the clock to ensure that justice is done at the end of the day.
“I have told the police command that the suspect must be charged to court for murder and they have assured me that the matter would not be swept under the carpet. I have instructed the youth to exercise restraint while awaiting the outcome of the case,” he added.
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