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At least 285 people feared dead after magnitude 5.9 earthquake hits eastern Afghanistan

At least 285 people were killed and many more wounded after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, according to the country’s disaster management authority.

The earthquake hit at 1.24 a.m. about 46 kilometers (28.5 miles) southwest of the city of Khost, which lies close to the country’s border with Pakistan, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The quake registered at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to USGS, which assigned the quake a yellow alert level — indicating a relatively localized impact.
Most of the deaths were in Paktika province, where 255 people were killed and 155 others were injured in the districts of Giyan, Nika, Barmal and Zirok, according to the State Ministry for Disaster Management.
In neighboring Khost province, 25 people were killed and several others were injured, and five people were killed in Nangarhar province, the disaster management authority said.
Photos from Paktika province, just south of Khost province, show destroyed houses with only a wall or two still standing amid the rubble, and broken roof beams.
Local officials and residents have warned that the death toll is likely to rise, according to state-run news agency Bakhtar.
A team of medics and seven helicopters have been sent to the area to transport injured people to nearby hospitals, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water resources management expert, said the earthquake had coincided with heavy monsoon rain in the region — making traditional houses, many made of mud and other natural materials, particularly vulnerable to damage.
“The timing of the earthquake (in the) dark of night … and the shallow depth of 10 kilometers of its epicenter led to higher casualties,” he added.
A Taliban deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, said the earthquake had been “severe,” and asked aid agencies to “urgently send teams” to the area affected.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said its teams were on the ground for emergency response, including providing medicine, trauma services and conducting needs assessments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday. “Deeply grieved to learn about the earthquake in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”
Pope Francis said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and for their families,” during his weekly audience on Wednesday. “I hope aid can be sent there to help all the suffering of the dear people of Afghanistan.”
The earthquake comes as the country is in the throes of a hunger crisis. Almost half the population — 20 million people — are experiencing acute hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report in May. It is a situation compounded by the Taliban seizing power in August 2021, which led the United States and its allies freezing about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cutting off international funding.

At a secret airfield in Eastern Europe, a multinational effort to send weapons to Ukraine proceeds at high speed

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley went last week to an undisclosed airfield near the Ukrainian border that has become a hub for shipping weapons, a senior Defense Department official said, seeing firsthand the multinational effort to get weapons into Ukraine amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

While at the airfield, Milley met with troops and personnel and examined the shipment activity, the official said Friday. The site has become a beehive of activity in recent days, going from a handful of flights each day to as many as 17, the red wing shoes  field’s maximum capacity.
The airport’s location remains a secret to protect the shipments of weapons, including anti-armor missiles, into Ukraine. The Russian military has not targeted these shipments once they enter Ukraine, the official said, but there is some concern Russia could begin targeting the deliveries as its assault advances.
Since even before Russia’s invasion began late last month, the skies above Europe have been filled with military cargo aircraft of the US and others, particularly C-17s, the backbone of the US airlift fleet. The flights have been repositioning troops along NATO’s eastern flank, but also moving weapons to the transfer points where they can be delivered to Ukraine. The pace of the flights has only increased.
US European Command (EUCOM) is at the heart of the massive shipment operation, using its liaison network with allies and partners to coordinate “in real time” to send materials into Ukraine, a second Defense official said.
Blinken says US has seen reports of Russian abuses in Ukraine that 'would constitute a war crime'
EUCOM is also coordinating with other countries, including the United Kingdom, in terms of the delivery process “to ensure that we are using our resources to maximum efficiency to support the Ukrainians in an organized way,” the official added.
Since Russia’s invasion began, 14 countries have sent security assistance to Ukraine, the official said, some of whom had rarely sent such substantial equipment before.
The “vast majority” of a $350 million US security assistance package has already been delivered to Ukraine, according to the official, only one week after it was officially approved by the White House.
Approximately $240 million of the package has reached Ukraine, and the rest should arrive within days and maybe weeks, “but not longer,” the official said Friday. The components that have already been delivered include “the most needed capabilities, like anti-armor capabilities.”
Once in possession of the weapons, the Ukrainians have used them to slow and stall Russian assaults in different parts of Ukraine.
“I think all of us have been tremendously thorogood boots impressed by how effectively the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been using the equipment that we’ve provided them,” the official said.
Perhaps most notably, a massive Russian convoy spanning 40 miles of road north of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, has barely moved in days.
“We know that they have conducted attacks on that convoy, that those attacks were effective in slowing and stopping it,” another senior Defense official said Friday.
The equipment being sent in is equipment on which the Ukrainians have already received training, including some “just-in-time” training in late December and early January, the senior official said, adding that the Ukrainians can “use proficiently” the vast majority of the military equipment being sent in.
The speed at which the US now delivers weapons to Ukraine is dramatically faster than just two months ago. Most of a $200 million package approved in late December was delivered within a month, though some ammunition has yet to be shipped, the official said.
Meanwhile, the complete $350 million package, which the official described as the largest presidential drawdown in history, should be completed within days or weeks.

Putin orders troops into pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission, just hours after he signed decrees recognizing the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.

It is unclear if Russian troop movements marked the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine that Western leaders have warned about for weeks. But multiple US and Western officials warned Monday’s move could serve as the opening salvo of a larger military operation targeting the country.
In a fiery speech on Monday night, Putin hoka shoes for women blasted Kyiv’s growing security ties with the West, and in lengthy remarks about the history of the USSR and the formation of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, appeared to cast doubt on Ukraine’s right to self-determination.
“Ukraine has never had traditions of its own statehood,” he said, calling the eastern part of the country “ancient Russian lands.”
The decrees signed by Putin conveyed Moscow’s official recognition over two breakaway territories in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine — the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DPR and LPR). The decrees recognized them as independent states, and guaranteed their security with Russian troops. The decrees said that Russian so-called peacekeeping forces would be deployed in the regions.
A senior US administration official said the speech was meant to “justify war” to the Russian people and that it amounted to “an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine” using “a number of false claims” meant to justify military action.
“The human costs of a further Russian invasion and occupation will be devastating,” the official said.
Separatists in eastern Ukraine have long had substantial backing from the Kremlin, with the US, NATO and Ukrainian officials saying Moscow supplies them with advisory support and intelligence, and embeds its own officers in their ranks. Russia has always denied having its own troops on the ground.
Moscow has also distributed hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to people in Donbas in recent years, with Putin attempting to establish facts on the ground by naturalizing Ukrainians as Russian citizens. Kyiv and the West maintain that the region is part of Ukrainian territory, although the Ukranian government asserts the two regions have been in effect Russian-occupied since 2014, when the conflict in eastern Ukraine began.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s decision to recognize the breakaway regions “a clear attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty” and said US President Joe Biden would sign an executive order prohibiting “all new investment, trade and financing by US persons to, from, and in hoka shoes the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.”
Biden said last month that “if any assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
Earlier on Monday, Putin held a highly choreographed televised meeting with his top officials, accusing Kyiv of carrying out acts of aggression.
Putin also accused the West of threats and blackmail during the previously unscheduled convening of the Russian security council that, in unusually theatrical setting, was shown on television.
The broadcast aired just hours after the White House announced that US President Joe Biden agreed “in principle” to French-brokered talks with Putin as long as Russia does not further invade Ukraine. The Kremlin said earlier on Monday that there were “no concrete plans” for a meeting.
Speaking about the possibility of talks with Biden, Putin — who held two lengthy phone calls with the French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday — hinted he was skeptical.
The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis
“Yesterday I spoke with the French President on two occasions, with the second call lasting until 2:00 a.m. or so. He assured me that the American position has changed somewhat. But when I asked what these changes are, he, unfortunately, could not say.” Putin said.
He then referred to remarks made on Sunday by Blinken, who stressed once again that the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO is “an issue for Ukraine and for NATO.”
Assurances that Ukraine would not be admitted to NATO in the future are one of the central demands made by the Kremlin.
With his top officials assembled in front of him at the extraordinary meeting of the security council, Putin appeared following claims made by the Russian military earlier on Monday that troops and border guards engaged in a clash with a “sabotage and reconnaissance group from the territory of Ukraine” inside Russian territory.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Security Council on Monday.

“Russia has always tried to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means. Nevertheless, the Kyiv authorities conducted two punitive operations in these territories [Donetsk and Luhansk], and it seems that we are now witnessing an escalation for the third time,” Putin said, without further elaborating or providing specifics.
CNN has not independently verified olukai shoes reports of a clash inside Russia’s territory. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied a clash occurred, saying on Twitter, “I categorically refute the disinformation of the Russian Federation.”
Kuleba said Ukraine “did not attack Donetsk, Luhansk, did not send saboteurs or armored personnel carriers across the border, did not fire on the territory of the Russian Federation or the checkpoint at the border, did not commit sabotage, does not plan such actions.”
Russia blows past another off ramp in the Ukraine crisis
The increase in combative language from Putin came as tensions grew once again in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation said it recorded 32 ceasefire violations as of 4 p.m. local time, a number that was roughly in line with those over the weekend.
New satellite images showed intensified activity among Russian units close to Ukraine’s north-eastern border and the Ukrainian Defense ministry said it recorded dozens of ceasefire violations on Sunday.
Defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said Monday that Ukraine was not seeing any withdrawal of Russian forces from positions close to the border.
And in a further escalation, Belarusian officials announced Sunday that joint Russian military exercises in Belarus that were slated to end over the weekend would continue, implying that Russian forces may extend their stay.