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Putin signs ‘independence’ decrees for Zaporizhia, Kherson

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the “independence” of the Ukrainian regions Zaporizhia and Kherson as Moscow prepares to formally proclaim the annexation of Ukrainian territory in a major escalation of its seven-month invasion.

“I order the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence” of Zaporizhia and Kherson in southern Ukraine, Putin said in presidential decrees issued late on Thursday.

The two regions are set to be incorporated into Russia, along with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, at a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin, on Friday, after hastily-organised referendums in the Russian-occupied regions, which claimed majorities of up to 99 percent in favour of joining Russia. Putin recognised the ‘independence’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in February.

The ceremony – eight years after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine following an invasion and a similar vote – will take place at 3pm local time  (12:00 GMT) in the columned Georgievsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, where marble plaques engraved in gold commemorate Russian military heroes.

In unusually strong language, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York City that Russia’s annexation would violate the United Nations Charter and had “no legal value”.

Guterres described Russia’s move as “a dangerous escalation” of the conflict that began on February 24 that “has no place in the modern world.”

“It must not be accepted,” he said.

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Friday ahead of another discussion on the leaks discovered in the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

The United States and Albania have been working on a draft resolution that “condemns the Russian Federation’s organization of illegal so-called referenda” in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson, saying they “have no validity,” according to the AFP news agency. It will also call for Russia’s immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine.

Given Russia has a veto in the security council, all eyes will be on the responses from India and China, as well as a later General Assembly vote.US President Joe Biden on Thursday reiterated the US would never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory.

“The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said of the referendums.Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

‘Freak show’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called an emergency meeting on Friday of his National Security and Defence Council. Few details were given, but officials said “fundamental decisions” were to be made amid concern about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons.

Kyiv earlier dismissed the plan as a “Kremlin freak show”, saying the only appropriate response from the West was to impose new sanctions and supply Ukrainian forces with more weapons.Ukraine embarked on a major counteroffensive this month that has pushed Russia out of the northeastern Kharkiv region. It is also making advances in the south and is on the doorstep of Lyman in the Donetsk region.

Russia controls only about 60 percent of Donetsk and 70 percent of Zaporizhia, where fighting has raged close to Europe’s biggest nuclear plant. The sudden annexations mean front lines will now run through territory that Russia is claiming as its own, and which Putin has said he is ready to defend with nuclear weapons if necessary.

Putin last week declared a mobilisation of reservists, a move which has led to huge queues at Russia’s borders as thousands of fighting-age men try to flee the country. Even staunch Kremlin allies have criticised the chaotic nature of the call-up, and Putin himself admitted on Thursday that “all mistakes must be corrected”. The Kremlin-installed leaders of the four Ukrainian regions, and their officials, have gathered in the Russian capital for the ceremony.

“Victory is ours. We are Russia,” Kirill Stremousov, an official from the Kherson region, declared in a video of himself next to Red Square.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told reporters that Putin will deliver a major speech on Friday, but did not say whether the president would attend a concert being held on the square, where giant video screens have been set up, and billboards proclaim the names of the regions: ‘Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Kherson – Russia!’. Putin is due to address parliament separately at a later stage, paving the way for it to ratify the annexation process on or before October 7, when he marks his 70th birthday. Source: Al Jazeera



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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premanath-c-Dolawatta

SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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