Increase in cases of COVID-19 in Israel, vaccines to be available after Sukkot

The Ministry of Health updated on Thursday that there is a moderate increase in the number of patients who have been hospitalized with the coronavirus in Israel.

Most of them are in light condition, but there is also an increase in the number of patients in serious condition, as well as a very moderate increase in mortality from the virus.

  • The statement from the Ministry of Health said that there are a number of variants of the virus, both in Israel and in the world, that cause morbidity, with the dominant variants in Israel being subvariants of Omicron.

The ministry recommends that the entire population be vaccinated, especially for patients suffering from immunosuppression for any reason.

In the first phase, which will begin after the holiday of Sukkot, Israelis 12 years of age and older will be able to be vaccinated, with people at risk for severe illness from the virus receiving preference, regardless of the type of vaccine or the number of doses they have received in the past. After that, when an additional supply of vaccines arrives, the populations that can be vaccinated will be expanded.

The Ministry of Health recommends that a booster dose be received in the fall months, as much as possible at the same time as receiving the flu shots. Later and when additional vaccine shipments arrive, the populations that can be vaccinated will be expanded.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Header: Israelis wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center operated by the Tel Aviv Municipality with Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov), at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, December 31, 2020. Photo by Miriam ALster/Flash90 *** Local Caption ***

US government and media lying about Ukrainian counteroffensive

US intelligence analysts believe that Ukraine has given up on its counteroffensive against Russia and the only thing prolonging the conflict is the unwillingness of Washington and Kiev to acknowledge its failure, a source has told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

Writing on Substack on Thursday, the veteran reporter cited an unnamed source, who “spent the early years of his career working against Soviet aggression and spying” as rejecting the Ukrainian narrative about slow but steady progress in its counteroffensive.

“‘It’s all lies,’” the source said, according to Hersh.

“‘The war is over. Russia has won. There is no Ukrainian offensive anymore, but the White House and the American media have to keep the lie going.’”

  • This sentiment is shared by many figures in the US intelligence community, and the CIA in particular has been skeptical of Kiev’s claims of a continued push forward, unlike the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), he explained.

Trent Maul, the director of analysis for the DIA, touted Ukraine’s success to The Economist earlier this month and claimed Kiev’s forces had a “realistic” chance to break through Russian defense lines this year.

  • The British outlet contrasted the assessment with that of an unnamed senior US intelligence official, who said the battlefield “could look broadly similar” in five years.

The source cited by Hersh blasted the leadership in both Moscow and Washington for acting “stupid” during the crisis.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin got “provoked [into] violating the UN charter” with a poorly-prepared military campaign, he argued. US President Joe Biden retaliated with a proxy war and has had to rely on the vilification of Putin by the media “in order to justify our mistake.”
  • “The truth is if the Ukrainian army is ordered to continue the offensive, the army would mutiny. The soldiers aren’t willing to die any more, but this doesn’t fit the B.S. that is being authored by the Biden White House,” the source concluded.

Moscow has denied the US claim that the operation against Ukraine was an act of “unprovoked aggression,” insisting that the people of Donbass had the right of self-determination under the UN Charter and acted accordingly when they broke away from Ukraine after the 2014 armed coup in Kiev.

The Russian government has maintained that it acted lawfully when it recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luganks People’s Republics in February 2022. Days later, after Kiev refused to stop attacks on Donbass and pull out its troops, Moscow launched its offensive.

Source: RT

EU country resolves grain dispute with Ukraine – Reuters

Slovakia and Ukraine have agreed to set up a new licensing system in order to settle a dispute over grain imports, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing the Slovak Agriculture Ministry.

  • The decision comes after Kiev filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary.

All three countries announced unilateral bans on the import of Ukrainian seeds and grain last week, arguing that deliveries undercut domestic prices and threatened the livelihoods of local farmers.

Earlier this summer, the EU allowed five Eastern European member states, including Romania and Bulgaria, to block the import of certain Ukrainian agricultural products for domestic sale.

However, the bloc announced it had refused to extend the ban this month.

  • Romania has not applied unilateral measures after the EU measures were lifted, while Bulgaria imposed an embargo on sunflower seeds from Ukraine on Wednesday after days of protests by farmers.

“[Ministers] agreed on creating a grain trade system based on issuing and controlling licenses,” the Slovak Agriculture Ministry said in an email to Reuters.

  • “Until this system is up and running and fully tested, the ban on imports of four commodities from Ukraine remains in place,” it added.

According to the ministry, Kiev has also agreed to drop its complaint against Slovakia at the WTO.

The Slovak ban on imports of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds was approved until the end of the year. Prime Minister L’udovit Odor previously said that Bratislava had been forced to “prevent excessive pressure on the Slovak market” to remain fair to local farmers.

According to the Financial Times, the European Commission is likely to defend Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia against the complaint filed by Ukraine, despite the three member states going against the EU policy of acting in unison on trade matters.

Source: RT

India to wake ‘sleeping’ lunar probe

India will attempt to wake the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s lander and rover from hibernation mode this week, two weeks after they successfully landed near the south pole of the Moon.

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists hope to revive the modules on either Thursday or Friday, when the Sun rises at the ‘Shivshakti Point’ – a location near the lunar south pole where Chandrayaan-3 landed in August, the Hindustan Times reports.

Space agency chairman S. Somanath said its scientists are hoping the equipment can be revived to continue collecting more data.

  • The mission objectives have already been completed and the modules were put in hibernation mode from September 2.

The chances of success appear to be slim, however, as it is unlikely that the instruments on the modules survived the extremely low temperatures of the lunar night, which can dip below -200 degrees Celsius at the Moon’s south pole.

The payload also had a mission life of just one lunar day, which is equivalent to around 14 days on Earth.

The modules’ batteries, powered by sunlight, were charged and solar panels were oriented to receive light at dawn.

Indian scientists are hoping that the batteries will have kept the instruments warm enough to survive the night.

  • Spacecraft designed to survive the night on the Moon are usually fitted with some onboard heating mechanism, which is not the case with the Chandrayaan-3.
  • India’s lunar mission, which was launched at a cost of around 6.1 billion rupees ($75 million), has been seen as a major success for the country. On August 23, the Chandrayaan-3 created history by landing near the little-explored south pole of the Moon.

A few days later, it confirmed the presence of sulfur in the region after on-site tests.

On Wednesday, the upper house of India’s parliament unanimously passed a resolution congratulating scientists on the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

  • “India has not only developed the capacity to launch its own satellites,” said Indian Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, “but has also extended its services to launch satellites for other countries, with 424 foreign satellites being launched to date.”
  • Speaking in the parliament, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said “the success of Chandrayaan-3 will have a big impact on India’s industrial and technological ecosystem.”

Close on the heels of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, India has deployed another space mission – the Aditya-L1 – this time, to study the Sun.

Source: RT

Russia’s Alrosa halts rough-diamond sales at India’s request

Russian mining giant Alrosa has placed a temporary suspension on sales of rough diamonds in September and October in a bid to prevent overstocking and avoid a drop in prices amid low demand, the company announced on Wednesday.

The move was taken at the request of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) following a meeting of leading Indian diamond cutters.

  • “The move to halt rough-diamond allocations reflects Alrosa’s commitment to stabilizing the market’s supply-and-demand balance. With the ongoing trend of declining demand, Alrosa believes that this decision will help prevent overstocking, especially as the industry approaches the Diwali season, when many manufacturers traditionally shut down,” GJEPC said in a press release.

Alrosa’s press service told RBK that it had a “solid and high-quality asset base and a stable financial position,” which will make it possible for the company to weather the suspension without incurring heavy losses.

  • “We expect that this will have a stabilizing effect to support the balance in the market and strengthen the stability of the links in the diamond supply chain by the beginning of next year,” the press service added.

Earlier this month, GJEPC chairman Vipul Shah said the country’s diamond industry was concerned about several problems affecting the gem trade, including declining demand pressures, the impact of lab-grown diamonds, polished inventory and production challenges, economic downturns in the US and China, overall geopolitical instability, and changing consumer preferences.

  • According to Shah, “exploring mechanisms to manage the supply and prices of natural diamonds through collaboration among miners can be instrumental in bringing balance to the market.”

Alrosa’s move does not appear to be connected with the proposed G7 and EU bans on Russian diamond sales.

The measures expected to be announced next month reportedly envisage restrictions on direct and indirect diamond exports from Russia, as well as a tracking mechanism that would facilitate Western states in determining the origin of gems. The measure, if introduced, may see Russian gems processed in India banned from Western markets.

India’s diamantaires had earlier warned that the ban could be disastrous for the entire sector.

  • According to a recent report by the Economic Times, the Indian diamond industry cuts and polishes nine out of every ten diamonds in the world at a processing hub in the city of Surat.

A potential embargo would put at risk Surat’s 4,000 diamond-processing companies, which employ at least one million people.

According to media reports, Indian exports of cut and polished diamonds have already slumped as US and EU firms shun buying diamonds sourced from Russia.

Source: RT

France bets on coal to ensure power supply

France may have to keep its last two coal-fired power plants on standby this winter to guarantee security of electricity supply, its national grid operator RTE announced on Tuesday.

According to RTE’s outlook of upcoming power needs, the country is heading into this winter in a “much” better situation than a year ago. However, growing demand during the country’s long-term energy transition will pressure supply, it warned, adding that in case of a shortage in nuclear-power production or of a lack of renewables, coal plants may have to be on hand.

  • “We’ll need solutions to meet longer imbalances in 2030, given Europe’s decarbonization goals,” said Thomas Veyrenc, RTE’s executive director in charge of strategy. Adding more “flexibilities” such as battery storage and tools to shift demand away from peak hours should be a priority, he stressed.

France generates roughly 70% of its electricity from a stable of 56 nuclear reactors, all operated by state-owned utility EDF.

  • Most of them have faced recurring corrosion issues and were either shut down or are undergoing maintenance, causing a sharp drop in power generation. The country used to be a net power exporter and is now expected to rely heavily on electricity imports from neighboring states to meet winter demand.

Last month, the French government extended permission for power generating companies to burn more coal in order to prevent shortages this winter.

  • At the same time, authorities have tightened requirements for the operation of the plants. Electricity producers will only be allowed to operate for up to 1,800 hours in the coming winter, or about 11 weeks, down from 2,500 hours last winter, the French Ecological Transition Ministry has said.
  • The remaining two coal-fired plants reportedly accounted for just 0.6% of the country’s power output last year. According to Veyrenc, the facilities could ultimately be converted to process biomass or be replaced by smaller units running on biofuels or green hydrogen.

Source: RT

Wagner chief’s grave under 24/7 guard – media

Security measures have been stepped up at the grave of former Wagner private military company chief Evgeny Prigozhin, a cemetery worker has told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

According to a report on Wednesday, a guard post and a CCTV camera have been installed after a violin was stolen from the burial site at the Prokhorovskoe cemetery in St. Petersburg.

  • The instrument is among the symbols of the Wagner Group, whose fighters are nicknamed ‘the Musicians’ due to the name that the PMC shares with classical German composer Richard Wagner.
  • A violin and a sledgehammer – another symbol of the PMC – appeared at Prigozhin’s grave a few days after his burial on August 29, the cemetery worker recalled. However, he claimed that the musical instrument, which he described as looking “pricey,” had been “snatched” the following day.
  • According to the worker, a cyclist was seen “racing away” from the site at the time of the incident, but the perpetrator has not been found.

“After that, a CCTV camera and a guard booth were set up at Prigozhin’s grave,” the employee revealed. “Now there’s a security guard on duty there 24/7.”

The worker said it was his understanding that the measures had been organized by Wagner members, who received approval from the cemetery’s administration.

When asked about the whereabouts of the sledgehammer, the cemetery worker replied that it was still at the grave.

Prigozhin and several other high-ranking Wagner figures were killed in a plane crash in Russia’s Tver Region on August 23. The cause of the incident is being investigated, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late last month that a “deliberate atrocity” could not be ruled out.

The Wagner PMC was instrumental in the Russian capture of the strategic city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) from Ukrainian forces in May, making Prigozhin a household name.

However, the PMC leader launched a short-lived mutiny against the Russian military in mid-June, after which a deal was reached for him to move to Belarus. Under an agreement with the Kremlin, Wagner fighters avoided prosecution and were provided with a choice of moving to Belarus together with their leader, joining the Russian armed forces, or retiring.

Source: RT

The return of the ‘Bakhmut meat grinder’: How Ukraine fell back into a familiar trap

While Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the direction of Zaporozhye has practically stalled in the past few months, its forces have made some progress on the eastern section of the front. The battle for Artyomovsk (also known as Bakhmut), which began in August 2022, continues despite the fact that Russian troops fully liberated the city in May of this year.

After four months of fruitless attempts by Kiev to counterattack, in September the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) finally entered the ruined villages of Andreevka and Kleshcheyevka, southwest of the infamous ‘Bakhmut meat grinder’. Ukraine needs to gain control over these settlements in order to launch a new offensive on Artyomovsk and rehabilitate its image after a damaging media defeat.

However, it is still too early to talk about a Russian retreat – the fighting in this area continues and Moscow’s forces hold the line of defense along the Artyomovsk-Gorlovka railway line. The outcome of the battle will determine whether Ukraine can avenge its previous failure.

An unfinished story

The AFU’s operation near Artyomovsk began a month before its main counteroffensive. On May 10, while battles were still raging, inside the city, Ukrainian troops attempted to reach its flanks.. The Russian command was concerned that the attack would lift its blockade and disrupt its storming of the city, but on May 20, it came under the full control of Moscow’s forces.

Despite the fact that the Ukrainian authorities never officially admitted the loss of Artyomovsk, the Institute for the Study of War noted, on May 23, that Kiev’s General Staff did not mention the city in its situational report for the first time since December 2022.

At the end of May, during a major redeployment of Russian troops and the replacement of private and volunteer units with regular army units, Ukrainian forces continued their counteroffensive attempts on the flanks of the city, hoping that the new defenders would prove to be a weaker, less resilient enemy than their combat-hardened predecessors.

By the beginning of the summer, the AFU had concentrated powerful forces around Artyomovsk, including its 3rd and 5th Assault Brigades, the 80th Air Assault Brigade, the 22nd and 24th Mechanized Brigades, and the ‘Lyut’ (Rage) Assault Brigade of the National Guard – all on the southern flank of its counteroffensive. The forces accumulated on the northern flank were somewhat weaker and included the 77th Airmobile Brigade, the 57th Motorized Brigade, and the 60th and 92nd Mechanized Brigades.

Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive

On June 7, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maliar claimed that the AFU had switched from defensive to offensive tactics near Artyomovsk and had occupied up to 1,100 meters in different areas. Similar reports were later repeated, but by the end of the summer, the Ukrainian army had yet to capture a single settlement. The AFU also decided not to attack both flanks of Artyomovsk throughout the summer and instead focused on the southern direction.

  • In the north, Russian troops launched a localized counterattack and regained some of their lost positions.

The situation at this section of the front forced Russia to change its plans in Donbass. Several units of the 150 Motorized Rifle division near Maryinka were transferred to Artyomovsk. This slowed down Moscow’s task of driving the AFU away from Donetsk, which was being shelled almost daily. Other forces, including airborne units and the ‘Espanola’volunteer brigade, largely made up of soccer and ice hockey fans, were also transferred there.

During the summer, the AFU managed to push Russian troops away from their line of defense along the left bank of the Seversky Donets–Donbass canal, significantly expanding the counteroffensive front line. While the AFU had initially only posed a threat to the village of Kleshcheyevka, in July the fighting approached Andreevka and Kurdyumovka.

The battles in this area were almost as fierce as those on the southern front. Russia lost several commanders, including one from the ‘Prizrak’ (Ghost) Battalion – a unit of the Lugansk militia which has been fighting Ukraine since the spring of 2014, and that` was integrated into the Russian army in 2023.

The 4th Brigade of the 2nd Army Corps, which included the ‘Prizrak’ Battalion, was transferred to Artyomovsk in May, when troops were rotated and replaced units from the Wagner private military company. The brigade took over defensive positions near the village of Kleshcheyevka, which at the time was the main focus of the Ukrainian army. Gradually, the AFU managed to occupy several dominant heights around the village, which became something of a ‘gray zone’.

  • By September, the Russian army had built defenses east of the Artyomovsk-Gorlovka railway line. To the west of it, Moscow’s forces controlled the villages of Andreevka and Kleshcheyevka in order to prevent the positioning of Ukrainian troops near the railway line.

The significance of Russia’s line of defense

To the east of the railway line, heights give way to lowlands formed by the flow of the Bakhmutka River. The goal of the Ukrainian army here was to occupy the higher ground, which would allow it to exert pressure on Artyomovsk and push Russian troops southeast of the city.

  • Ukraine claims that it has established fire control over Artyomovsk’s supply routes, but for this to really happen, the AFU would need to move a lot further east. The Artyomovsk-Gorlovka highway, which the Ukrainian military approached, is not used for supplies.
  • According to the Ukrainian Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) community Deep State, Russian troops are supplied via the Artyomovsk-Debaltsevo highway (southern flank) and the Artyomovsk-Popasnaya highway (Artyomovsk and its northern flank).

If Ukraine were to establish control over Kleshcheyevka and Andreevka, as well as the surrounding heights, the AFU would be able to reach the Russian army’s current line of defense. This may happen at some point, but for Russian troops, it’s best to keep the Ukrainians as far away from the railway as possible – if the enemy succeeds in breaking through, the next line of defense can be set up only along the eastern bank of the Bakhmutka River.

September battles

Four months after the start of its counteroffensive near Artyomovsk, the Ukrainian army managed to occupy part of Kleshcheyevka and edge close to Andreevka. During this time, Russian forces greatly increased their use of FPV drones in the direction of Artyomovsk and elsewhere. On the evening of September 17, Ukrainian General Aleksandr Syrskiy announced full control over Kleshcheyevka, and photos of Kiev’s forces standing in the center of the village appeared online. The same evening, President Vladimir Zelensky commented on the supposed success of the Ukrainian army.

  • War correspondent Anna Dolgareva refuted these statements and said that Russian troops retained their positions in the north of the village.
  • There was also no visual evidence that the northern part of the village was controlled by Ukrainian forces. On September 18, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the AFU’s attempted attack near Kleshcheyevka had been successfully repelled.

Despite the fact that the Russian army retains the main line of defense near the railway, the area it controls to the west of it has been gradually shrinking.

Russian troops launched a series of counterattacks to prevent the AFU from gaining a foothold in Kleshcheyevka, but control over the village remained divided between the two sides: while the northern part was mostly controlled by the Russians, the southern areas were under Kiev’s control.

On September 14, Maliar prematurely reported that the village of Andreevka had been captured by Ukrainian forces, prompting a wave of criticism in her homeland from politicians, journalists, and the military. After the incident, Verkhovna Rada Deputy Aleksey Goncharenko advised the public not to read Maliar’s posts. She soon retracted her statement, blaming a communication failure between her sources.

Maliar then admitted that fighting continued in Andreevka but insisted that the AFU was performing well. Later, footage appeared online of Ukrainian forces standing amidst the ruins of Andreevka.

Falling into the same trap

Launching a new counteroffensive near Artyomovsk was a matter of honor for Ukraine after it lost a major media symbol – the ‘Bakhmut Fortress’.

Potentially recapturing the city could neutralize that bitter defeat, and for that reason, Zelensky transferred one of his best generals, Syrskiy, and elite units such as the 3rd Assault Brigade and 80th Airborne Assault Brigade, to Artyomovsk.

  • Western experts and officials have been critical of the continuous ‘meat grinder’ battles in the Artyomovsk area. In the spring, they repeatedly advised Kiev to abandon the exhausting defense of the city and instead prepare a counteroffensive in Zaporozhye Region.

Zelensky’s unwillingness to follow this advice was among the reasons why the counteroffensive was delayed, and why progress in the Melitopol direction and in the area of the Vremevsky salient has been so slow.

  • In the summer, Western experts continued to criticize Ukraine’s strategy, encouraging it to abandon the counteroffensive south of Artyomovsk and instead transfer forces to the southern section of the front.

Generally speaking, the problems faced by Ukrainian troops in the course of their counteroffensive in Artyomovsk and in the south are similar: the AFU doesn’t have sufficient forces and means to break through Russian defense.

As a result, battles have turned into a ‘meat grinder’ of infantry units supported from afar by armored vehicles, artillery, and, in Russia’s case, aviation. The AFU’s advance near Artyomovsk is much slower than that of Russian troops when they captured the city. And even then, it took the Russians ten months to establish full control. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s counteroffensive is over four months old already.

The Ukrainian command cannot count on a speedy victory which would allow it to crush Russian troops and achieve significant changes.

  • It also cannot transfer forces near Artyomovsk to another direction, as if the Ukrainian army stops advancing, Russian troops will seize the initiative. At the tactical level, this has already happened near Berkhovka, when the AFU refused to advance on the northern flank and focused on the southern direction.
  • If anything, making progress near Artyomovsk would only harm Ukrainian forces – the price of advancing in this direction is growing by the day while the odds of achieving real success remain minimal. Yet instead of learning from the mistakes of the first ‘Bakhmut meat grinder’, Kiev continues to fall into the same trap.

Source: Vladislav Ugolny – RT

Poland stops weapons supplies to Ukraine – PM

Poland will no longer provide arms to the Ukrainian military, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said, adding that Warsaw would instead shift focus to its own security.

The decision follows a diplomatic row over Ukrainian grain imports, which were banned in Poland after flooding local markets.

Morawiecki told reporters on Wednesday that the government would halt the weapons shipments, highlighting a growing rift between the two neighbors after more than a year of heavy support from Warsaw.

  • “We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Morawiecki said. He later warned that additional trade bans could be imposed on Kiev, given that the “Ukrainian authorities do not understand the degree to which Poland’s farming industry has been destabilized” by foreign imports.
  • The comments came after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky appeared to make a thinly veiled jab at Poland during a speech before the UN General Assembly earlier this week, saying that “some [countries] in Europe play out solidarity in a political theater” and are “making a thriller for the grain.”

The trade spat has steadily escalated in recent months. As major Black Sea shipping lanes were closed off due to the conflict with Russia, Ukrainian grain poured into Central and European markets, tanking prices and wreaking havoc for local producers.

The grain glut prompted a formal import ban among five EU members to protect domestic farmers – Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Though the bloc-wide ban expired last week, Warsaw, Budapest and Bratislava have opted to keep the policy in place on an individual basis, each arguing it is needed to stabilize prices.

  • Kiev has insisted that the bans are illegal, with Economy Minister Yulia Sviridenko stating that “it is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods.”

The government has since filed lawsuits with the World Trade Organization, seeking to halt the trade restrictions, though Warsaw dismissed the move, saying that a “complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us.”

Poland has been among Ukraine’s most vocal supporters throughout the conflict with Moscow, repeatedly urging other EU members to step up military aid while approving a long line of its own arms shipments. Polish President Andrzej Duda recently urged Kiev to “remember” his country’s status as a logistical hub for weapons deliveries and compared Ukraine to a drowning man, who might drag his rescuers under the water with him.

The decision to stop the flow of weapons comes as Kiev’s summer counteroffensive continues to lag into the fall, with Ukrainian forces struggling to penetrate Russia’s heavy front-line fortifications despite more than a year of Western arms transfers, training and intelligence support.

Source: RT

Germany demands explanation from Poland over migrants

Germany summoned Polish ambassador Dariusz Pawlos to the Interior Ministry in Berlin on Tuesday, demanding that he explain an alleged scheme whereby migrants from Asia and Africa were sold EU visas for thousands of euros each.

In addition to summoning Pawlos, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser held a meeting with her Polish counterpart, Reuters reported.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry and consulates are accused of issuing visas to migrants from Asia and Africa without adequate background checks, as long as bribes were paid to intermediaries.

The scheme was uncovered by Polish media outlets earlier this month, who claimed that up to 350,000 visas have been issued this way since 2021, with visas costing $4,000-5,000 each.

  • Poland is a member of the EU’s visa-free Schengen zone, meaning that anyone who obtains a Polish visa can freely enter 26 other EU nations.

It is unclear how many migrants took advantage of this arrangement to enter Germany. However, hundreds of extra border police have been deployed on the frontier with Poland to scan for suspicious travelers, Reuters reported.

According to one report from Poland’s Onet news site, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Piotr Wawrzyk arranged visas for a group of Indians posing as a Bollywood film crew.

  • The Indians paid up to $40,000 each for these visas, before using them to attempt to enter the US via Mexico. US immigration agents reportedly tipped off the Polish government when they encountered the group at the American border.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has dismissed the scandal as “fake news,” insisting that only around 200 documents were issued with any “irregularities.” However, Wawrzyk was dismissed from his post last month, and eleven other suspects were arrested last week. Wawrzyk was hospitalized after attempting to commit suicide last week, Polish media reported.

The controversy erupted one month ahead of parliamentary elections in Poland, where the ruling PiS party has positioned itself as being tough on migration. The government also plans to hold a referendum on immigration and border security, in which citizens will be asked whether they support accepting “thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa” as part of an EU relocation plan.

Source: RT

IDF unveils new ‘Barak’ tank

The Defense Ministry and IDF today (Tuesday) unveiled for the first time the new ‘Barak’ tank.

The joint statement reads:

  • “Sensing and front-end processing capabilities based on artificial intelligence, the ability to reveal the enemy and create targets for combat troops on the battlefield, full combat in closed ranges based on 360-degree peripheral observation and a “pilots” helmet for the commander, multi-touch screens, advanced operation controllers, adaptation to changing combat situations and improved survivability – these are just some of the capabilities of the new tank that was recently brought to service in the IDF.”

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said:

  • “It is very meaningful that during the period when we mark 50 years since the ‘Yom Kippur War’, and the heroic battles fought during this war by the soldiers of the Armored Corps in defense of our country- we receive further proof of the relevance and power of the tank as an essential tool. The Barak tank is very innovative – it takes our maneuvering capabilities to another level, and it is a clear expression of our technological capabilities. I would like to express my appreciation to the engineers of the Tank and APC Administration, the Israeli Ground Forces and all those involved in the professional process.”

The 5th generation Barak, the first battle tank of the IDF, was developed by the Tank and APC Directorate in the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the Weapons Department of the Israeli Ground Forces and the Armored Corps.

The tank incorporates systems from Elbit Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the ELTA Systems Ltd. of Israel Aerospace Industries, and additional defense industries from Qiryat Shemona to Mitzpe Ramon.

  • The first mass-produced Barak Tanks were received this month in the 52nd Battalion of the 401st Armored Brigade and will become the main battle tanks of the Armored Corps and weapon systems for deciding maneuvers.

The exposure, operation and processing capabilities of the Barak will cause a dramatic change on the battlefield.

The commander will be equipped with a combat helmet developed by “Elbit Systems”, similar to pilot helmets, which will display on the lens all of the relevant combat data, when they are anchored in the combat space.

  • The system will allow 360-degree scanning by moving the head and locating targets in real time with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. To this will be added an improved tank and artillery sight with advanced observation and night capabilities, with an improved net cross. New capabilities that will allow the tank crew to fight in closed ranges, with better protection throughout the entire battle, partly thanks to the advanced defense system ‘WindGuard” manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, whose role is to deal with anti-tank missiles. The tank’s fire capabilities have also undergone a significant upgrade.

The Barak Tank will enhance the capabilities needed to expose an enemy and will enable combat against an enemy with a low profile and in all combat situations on the current and future battlefield, against the set of threats that exist for the maneuvering force. The Barak will be equipped with a commander’s sight and a gunner and with continuous and up-to-date intelligence collection, fusion and sharing capabilities. The Barak will allow the battalion combat team to fight continuously at a fast pace while exposing the enemy, combined with the activation of independent, organic or spatial fire, which will increase the achievements of the combat team. The “Barak” Tank has capabilities and means to close circles of fire between all the forces fighting on land and in the air, in a way that will reduce time and increase accuracy in battle.

The Barak Tank will have the ability to quickly produce and extract information and transfer it to strike assemblies, as part of a target bank, as well as the ability to transfer intelligence in real time between the branches. For this purpose, the Barak Tank was equipped with a wide and reliable sensor infrastructure, which will allow it to grasp an area in a more extensive way, acquire targets in the environment and close circles of fire in short and precise times.

  • The Barak Tank will be equipped with advanced connectivity capabilities for other tanks and weapons on the battlefield. The Barak Tank will also be equipped with touch screens, similar to smartphone devices and the use of unique applications with simple operation for the future recruiting generations, which will allow easy and accessible operation for the tank crew.

The restoration and maintenance center in the Technological and Logistics Directorate (J4) is the body entrusted with the production of the Barak Tank. From steel plates into a powerful tank that constitutes a significant part of land maneuvering,

The restoration and maintenance center takes a significant part in the project and enables the production of the most advanced tanks in the world and their delivery directly to the operational end.

IMOD Director General, MG (res) Eyal Zamir said:

  • “For the past four decades, Merkava Tanks have formed the backbone of the Armored Corps and on-ground fighting, today we are entering a new era on the ground’s battlefield, the era of the Barak. The Barak Tank is the most advanced combat machine of its kind In the world, which will bring to the IDF, the Israeli Ground Forces and the soldiers of the Armored Corps fire capabilities, AI, intelligence, connectivity between tools and active defense, a breakthrough on the modern battlefield.
  • “I congratulate the engineers of the Tank and APC Administration, the experts of the Armored Corps, the Israeli Ground Forces and the Merkava Industries, who made the technological leap together. On this occasion, it is necessary to mention “Talik” MG, Israel Tal who began the development and building of Israel’s Merkava Project and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff during the Yom Kippur War, thanks to his vision, today we are privileged to inaugurate the fifth generation of battle tanks of the Merkava model.”

Commanding Officer of the Israeli Ground Forces, MG Tamir Yadai:

  • “The Barak Merkava Tank is a source of pride and an expression of the strength of the IDF, the Ministry of Defense, the Tank and APC Administration and the defense industries in Israel. The Barak Tank incorporates ground-breaking technologies, which enable soldiers of the Armored Corps unique defense and attack capabilities that improve maneuverability tremendously. The reception of the Barak Tanks alongside the Eitan AFV and the Namer is part of the process of equipping ourselves with the best and most adapted tools that will allow the Israeli Ground Forces to operate at a high rate of operations and significantly reduce the attrition ratio”

Head of the Ministry’s Defense Merkava and Armored Vehicles Directorate, Brig. Gen. Oren Giber:

  • “In the development of the Barak, Israel sets a very high standard of technological excellence. A battle tank that is a unique weapon system, based on a high-quality sensing array, artificial intelligence engines, and an adapted and intuitive operating interface. The Barak Tank was designed based on a concept of anti-fragility, with the aim of providing the IDF soldiers a weapon system with built-in flexibility, which will allow them to win in all combat situations. I am proud of the genius of the development and the strength of the commitment of the people of the Merkava and Armored Vehicles Directorate, the weapon system division of the Israeli Ground Forces and of the Israeli defense industry, which is unparalleled in the world, and I wish to bless the soldiers of the Armored Corps with the blessing that they have risen and succeeded because it is also clear to us, the developers of the Armored Combat Vehicles, that today, as in the past, it is the man in the tank who will win.”

Commanding Officer of the Armored Corps, Brig. Gen. Hisham Ibrahim:

  • “A few days before a new year, and in the 50th year mark of the Yom Kippur War, the Armored Corps is equipping itself with the Barak Tank, which is the pride of the Israeli industry, a tank that is an Israeli design. In my eyes, this is far more exhilarating, that in the year in which we celebrate the heroism of the 1973’s generation of the soldiers of the Armored Corps, who stopped the attacks of the Arab armies with their bodies, demonstrated bravery and a fighting spirit worthy of mentioning, this is a historic event. The Barak Tank is based on breakthrough technologies. Combining these technologies with the quality of our people, the soldiers of the Armored Corps, will result in a tremendous advantage in continental superiority, and in defeating our enemy in the following systems. I am proud of the privilege to be at the head of the corps at such a historic moment.”

Commanding Officer of the 401st Armored Brigade, COL Beni Aharon: “In the last year, the 401st Armored Brigade dealt with the absorption and assimilation of the Barak Tank into the brigade. The brigade invested in learning the capabilities of the tank against the nature of combat and its use in battle, in the training of the crew members and those in charge, and in the cooperation of the tank with other advanced anti-tank weapons, such as the Namer and the Engineering Namer. The absorption of the tank is a tremendous opportunity to improve operational effectiveness in preparation for the next campaign and a significant force multiplier for the IDF, the Israeli Ground Forces and the Armored Corps. The 401st Armored Brigade sees the Barak Tank as a historic event and a national mission for victory in the next campaign. We were privileged to be the first Armored Brigade to receive the Barak Tank and therefore a great responsibility rests on our shoulders – our mission is to fulfill it with distinction.”

Source: Arutz Sheva

Netanyahu meets Erdogan: ‘Our ties are improving’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

  • This is the first meeting between the two leaders since 2016.

The Prime Minister said at the start of the meeting, “Our ties are improving.”

The meeting lasted about an hour. The Prime Minister was accompanied by the head of the Mossad, David Barnea.

  • The Prime Minister’s Office stated following the meeting that Netanyahu and Erdogan “discussed the promotion of relations in various fields as well as regional and international issues, including the normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
  • It also added that Netanyahu thanked Erdogan for the cooperation between the security organizations of the two countries that resulted in thwarting the malicious intentions of terrorist groups to harm Israeli tourists in Istanbul.

In addition, the two mutually invited each other for visits to Israel and Turkey and it was agreed that these visits will be coordinated and will take place soon.

  • Netanyahu was supposed to visit Turkey this past July and meet with Erdogan, but canceled the visit after undergoing a procedure to implant a pacemaker.
  • Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with the Turkish President this past February, and Netanyahu spoke with him on the phone in June and congratulated him on his election victory.

Israel and Turkey formally announced last year that they would normalize relations by returning the ambassadors and consuls, after years of tensions.

  • In December, Israel’s Ambassador to Turkey, Irit Lillian, presented her credentials to Erdogan. In March, the new Turkish Ambassador to Israel, Şakir Özkan Torunlar, presented his credentials to President Herzog.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Netanyahu meets Zelenskyy, who says: ‘I expect a lot from Israel’

For the first time since the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

  • Seconds after shaking hands with the Prime Minister, Zelenskyy rushed to give Mossad head David Barnea a warm hug, something that sparked worldwide attention and speculation that the two know each other.

At the start of the meeting between the two leaders, Zelenskyy said, “I expect a lot from Israel, but there are no problems in our relations.”

  • When asked if he was satisfied with Israel’s policy vis-à-vis Ukraine, the Ukrainian President replied, “We will sit down now and talk about relations and important things and see what happens next.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, which lasted about half an hour, the teams left the room and the two leaders remained to speak face to face.

The Prime Minister’s Office said following the meeting, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met today during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The meeting was friendly.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will continue to help Ukraine with humanitarian issues,” the statement added.

Source: Arutz Sheva

Iconic US clothing brands may return to Russia

The stores of US clothing brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein may reopen in Russia this year under new names, according to Pavel Lyulin, the vice president of the Russian Union of Shopping Centers.

  • Lyulin told RIA Novosti on Monday that discussions regarding the sale of the chain of stores have been ongoing ever since PVH Corp., the American brands’ parent company, handed over its operations in the Russian market to local management in mid-August.

This locally registered entity, which was rebranded as ‘Retail Excellence,’ is set to oversee operations for over 150 outlets in the country, as reported by Kommersant daily last week.

  • “The stores’ assortment will be based on goods from the brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein since they are included in the list of parallel imports. Prices are unlikely to be adjusted significantly, no more than by inflation,” Lyulin explained.
  • The industry insider also noted that a Tommy Hilfiger store already operates in Moscow’s Aviapark shopping center without the brand logo.

PVH joined other Western firms in an exodus from the Russian market last year due to sanctions imposed on Moscow. At the end of February 2022, the company announced the suspension of commercial operations and, later, the closure of its stores in the country.

Due to these businesses departing from the country, Russia has had to transition to parallel imports of goods from Western markets and explore opportunities from non-Western markets. Consequently, brands from Türkiye, China, India, and other ‘friendly’ nations have increased their presence within Russia.

Source: RT

EU reveals number of Ukrainian refugees in the bloc

The EU migration crisis is a challenge that should be handled not by a single European country or region, but by the entire bloc as it deals with millions of asylum seekers, particularly from Ukraine, Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, has said.

  • Speaking to Sud Radio on Monday, the official suggested that migration – which has recently been on the rise, especially in Italy – “affects us all,” including southern and eastern countries. “

We have welcomed … almost 10 million Ukrainian refugees,” he said, adding that the Czech Republic stands out in terms of the number of people it has hosted.

  • “Four percent of its population – 440,000 Ukrainian migrants for a population of 9 million people. Could you imagine that?” he said, noting that Hungary and Poland have also played a major role in providing shelter to Ukrainians fleeing from hostilities in their home country.

In early March 2022, shortly after the start of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, the EU for the first time in its history invoked the Temporary Protection Directive, which can be used only in exceptional circumstances to deal with a “mass influx of refugees.”

The legislation guarantees Ukrainians access to accommodation, welfare, and healthcare and gives them the right to enter the labor market, and enroll children in educational institutions.

  • In terms of absolute numbers, Russia accommodates the most Ukrainian refugees (1.27 million), followed by Germany (1.09 million), and Poland (968,000), according to Statista.

Breton’s comments come as some 7,000 migrants swarmed the small Italian island of Lampedusa last week, which itself has a population of less than 7,000 people. Local mayor Filippo Mannino said that the crisis had reached a “point of no return,” while the UN Refugee Agency described the situation as “critical,” adding that moving people off the island was “an absolute priority.”

According to official data, more than 127,000 refugees have arrived in Italy as of September this year, double the number for the same period in 2022.

Source: RT

Thousands protest against EU state’s pro-Western government

Thousands of supporters of the Czech non-parliamentary PRO (Law, Respect, Expertise) party gathered in the center of Prague on Saturday to demand the resignation of the country’s government over its pro-Western policies.

It is estimated that some 10,000 people attended the rally, which was held at Prague’s Wenceslas Square, according to local reports cited by Reuters.

The PRO party, however, claims that over 100,000 people participated in the anti-government demonstrations, which were the third of their kind organized by the populist group this year.

  • The head of the party, Jindrich Rajchl, claimed during the event that the Czech Republic’s current five-party ruling coalition, headed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, was “following orders from Brussels” and criticized the government’s continued military support for Ukraine, as well as its close ties with the United States.
  • “They are agents of foreign powers, people who fulfill orders, ordinary puppets. And I do not want a puppet government any more,” Rajchl told the crowd, adding that the Czech Republic should also veto any attempts by Ukraine to join NATO. Some of the demonstrators flat out demanded Prague exit the US-led military bloc.
  • Protesters also took issue with the way the current government has been handling inflation – which has hit double digits – tax changes, pension adjustments, measures to reduce fossil fuel usage in the automotive industry, and COVID-19 restrictions that were adopted under PM Fiala.

Rajchl insisted that the Czech government should represent the interests of its citizens and voiced concerns about the country’s social and health system’s capacity, particularly in light of a recent influx of economic migrants from Ukraine.

The last time the PRO party organized such demonstrations back in April, protesters also criticized the Czech government for devoting too many resources to helping Ukraine fight Russia rather than tackling issues at home. Back then, the demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the country’s leadership, which some accused of being “full of warmongers” who are making the Czech people suffer economically.

Prague has been one of Kiev’s closest allies in the ongoing conflict with Moscow. Since hostilities broke out in February 2022, the Czech Republic has supplied Ukraine with tanks, rocket launchers, helicopters, artillery shells and other military aid.

  • The country has also taken in some 460,000 Ukrainian refugees since the crisis broke out, with 300,000 of them still living there, according to a Euronews report earlier this year.

Source: RT