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Afghanistan: Biden increases to 5,000 troops to be sent to Kabul

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Biden announced in a statement that after consulting his national security advisers, “about 5,000 soldiers” instead of 3,000 will be sent to Kabul airport to facilitate the withdrawal of troops after 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan.

Threatening the Taliban with a swift and decisive response in the event of an attack on US interests, Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and promised not to “leave” this war to another United States president.

The number of provincial capitals in Afghanistan under Taliban rule has increased to 23 hours in the last hours after the conquest of three more cities: Maiman, Mehtarlama and Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city.

The fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, is a heavy blow to the Afghan government after the second largest city, Kandahar, and the third, Herat, were also taken by the rebels, and Kabul remained the last stronghold. against the Taliban.

“All government facilities are currently under Taliban control and sporadic fighting is taking place in some parts of the city,” a Balkh spokesman, quoted by Spanish news agency Efe under cover of anonymity after the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, said today.

Afghan President Ashras Ghani defended the need to counter the great Taliban offensive that, in just a week, made the greatest progress in two decades of war, warning of the possible fall of Kabul.

In a televised speech, Ghani assured that the Afghan government’s “top priority” is to mobilize security forces to prevent the capture of much of the region’s capital in the country.

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The president’s statement came after many Afghan troops surrendered or fled Taliban-held territory, in some cases without resistance.

The Taliban’s swift offensive was motivated by the final phase of the withdrawal of troops from the country from the US and NATO, which began in May and is expected to end on August 31.

Since then, the Taliban have taken control of 140 regional centers, 23 provincial capitals and about 10 border posts, the biggest achievement in two decades of war.

The growing fear that the Afghan capital could fall into the hands of the Taliban at any moment has prompted several countries to quickly mobilize to withdraw their national staff from Kabul, as well as Afghan citizens who have worked closely with them over the past 20 years of conflict.

Most of the US military sent by the Pentagon to help evacuate most of the US embassy staff and other Afghan citizens is expected to arrive in Kabul over the weekend.

In addition to the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, among others, have also announced that they will take similar measures in the coming days, given the current situation as the Taliban move closer and closer to Kabul.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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