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A driver of an autorickshaw sleeps inside his rickshaw while waiting in a line to buy petrol at a fuel station, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka on May 16, 2022. — Reuters COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s new prime minister said on Monday the crisis-hit nation was down to its last day of petrol, as the country’s power minister told citizens not to join the lengthy fuel queues that have galvanised weeks of anti-government protests.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed prime minister on Thursday, said in an address to the nation the country urgently needed $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports.

“At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” he said.

“We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.” Two shipments of petrol and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, he added, but the country is also facing a shortage of 14 essential medicines.
The crisis led to widespread protests against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family, culminating in the resignation of his elder brother Mahinda as prime minister last week after fighting between government supporters and protesters killed 9 people and wounded 300.

The president replaced him with Wickremesinghe, an opposition parliamentarian who has held the post five times previously, in a desperate bid to placate protesters.
But the protesters have said they will keep up their campaign as long as Gotabaya Rajapaksa remains president.

A heavily armed 18-year-old white gunman shot 10 people dead on Saturday at a Buffalo, New York grocery store in a "racially motivated" attack that he live-streamed on camera, authorities said.

The gunman, who was wearing a helmet and tactical gear, was arrested after the massacre, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia told a news conference.
Gramaglia put the toll at 10 dead and three wounded. Eleven of the 13 people struck by gunfire were Black, officials said. The two others were white. The racial breakdown of the dead was not made clear.

The gunman first shot four people in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket, three of them fatally, then went inside and continued firing, Gramaglia said.
Among those killed inside the store was a retired police officer who was working as an armed security guard.
The guard "engaged the suspect, fired multiple shots," but the gunman — who was protected by body armor — shot him, Gramaglia said.

When police arrived, the shooter put the gun to his neck, but was talked down and ultimately surrendered, he added.

Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo field office, told the news conference that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
"We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism," Belongia said.
Eerie County Sheriff John Garcia described the attack as "pure evil."

"It was straight up racially motivated hate crime form somebody outside of our community," he said.

'Day of great pain'
John Flynn, the district attorney for Eerie County, where Buffalo is located, said the suspect would be arraigned on charges of murder in the first degree, which carries a sentence of life without parole.

Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo — which is located in western New York, along the US border with Canada — said the shooter "traveled hours from outside this community to perpetrate this crime."

"This is a day of great pain for our community," Brown said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the "horrific shooting."

Biden "will continue to receive updates throughout the evening and tomorrow as further information develops. The president and the first lady are praying for those who have been lost and for their loved ones," Jean-Pierre added.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senior US senator from New York, said in a tweet: "We are standing with the people of Buffalo."

The governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, also tweeted that she was monitoring the situation, and asked people in Buffalo to "avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials."

Last month, a "sniper-type" shooter opened fire in an upscale Washington neighborhood, wounding four people before taking his own life.

Police suspected that graphic video of that shooting which circulated online shortly afterward was filmed by the shooter himself, but have not confirmed the authenticity or if it was live-streamed.

New UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. — Photo courtesy WAM The UAE's long-time de facto ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as president on Saturday, official media said, a day after the death of former leader Sheikh Khalifa.

Sheikh Mohamed was elected by the Federal Supreme Council, WAM news agency said, becoming the ruler of the oil-rich country founded by his father in 1971.

Sheikh Mohamed, often known as 'MBZ', met members of the Federal Supreme Council, made up of rulers of the UAE's seven emirates, as the oil-rich country enters a period of mourning for his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa.

His ascension, which was widely expected, formalises his position as leader of the desert state of 10 million after years of calling the shots while Sheikh Khalifa was sidelined by poor health.

Under his low-key direction, the United Arab Emirates has put a man in space, sent a probe to Mars and opened its first nuclear reactor, while using its oil-funded clout to develop a more assertive foreign policy.

Closely allied with Saudi Arabia, it has emerged as a leader of a reshaped Middle East since the retreat of traditional powers and the reduced involvement of the United States, forging ties with Israel and joining a war against Iran-backed militants in Yemen.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed's death

Sheikh Mohamed's predecessor, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, passed away on Friday.

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced the death of Khalifa, who was also ruler of the UAE's richest emirate, Abu Dhabi, but gave no details.

“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs mourns to the UAE people, Arab and Islamic nations and the world the death of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on Friday,” the ministry said in a statement on state media.

The UAE would observe a 40-day mourning period with flags flown at half-mast as of Friday and suspend work at all public and private sector entities for three days, the ministry added.

Condolences started pouring in from Arab leaders including Bahrain's king, Egypt's president and Iraq's prime minister soon after Khalifa's death.

In his condolence message, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was deeply grieved to hear about Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed's death.

WASHINGTON: A deadly fire at an aerospace research institute in Tver, northwest of Moscow. Another blaze at a munitions factory in Perm, more than 1,100 kilometres to the east. And fires in two separate oil depots in Bryansk, near Belarus.

Coincidences, or a sign that Ukrainians or their supporters are mounting a campaign of sabotage inside Russia to punish Moscow for invading their country? Since the blaze at the central research institute of the Aerospace Defence Forces in Tver on April 21, which killed 17 people, social media has leapt on every report of a fire somewhere in Russia — especially at a sensitive location — as a sign that the country is under covert attack.

No one is claiming responsibility, but analysts say at least some of the incidents, particularly those in Bryansk, point to a possible effort by Kyiv to bring the war to their invaders.

In a post on Telegram, Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, called the fires “divine intervention”, “Large fuel depots periodically burn... for different reasons,” he wrote.

“Karma is a cruel thing.”
‘We don’t deny’
In a massive country such as Russia, a fire at a remote factory or building would normally not be particularly eyebrow-raising.
But since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, more than a dozen blazes noted by people who document the war have drawn huge attention on social media, amid fears there is a concerted campaign of arson by the Ukrainians.
Even fires late last month in Russia’s far east — at an airbase north of Vladivostok and at a coal plant on Sakhalin — raised suspicions.
And on Wednesday, a massive conflagration struck a chemical plant in Dzerzhinsk, east of Moscow.

“Russian saboteurs against Putin continue their heroic work,” said Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian racecar driver who regularly posts photos and videos on Twitter of alleged acts of sabotage inside Russia, but offers no proof they were deliberate.
Another Zelensky adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, was equally opaque to The New York Times, noting that Israel never admits its covert attacks and assassinations.
“We don’t confirm, and we don’t deny,” he said.
Part of the strategy?
War analysts believe the infernos in Bryansk, which hit facilities sending oil to Europe, were deliberate and tied to the war.
The anonymous analysts behind “Ukraine Weapons Tracker”, a Twitter account that posts detailed accounts with supporting videos of attacks by both sides, said they received “reliable” information that the Bryansk fires were the result of attacks by Ukrainian Bayraktar drones.
“If accurate, then this story again shows the ability of Ukrainian forces to conduct strikes in Russian territory using long-range assets,” they wrote.
“I think it was probably a Ukrainian attack, but we cannot be certain,” Rob Lee, another war analyst, told The Guardian.
Added to that have been a number of apparent shelling by helicopters and drones and evident acts of sabotage against infrastructure in Kursk and Belgorod Oblast on the Ukrainian border, close to the fighting.
The governors of Belgorod and Kursk have both blamed the fires and destruction of infrastructure such as railway bridges on saboteurs and attackers from Ukraine.
An April 1 attack on a Belgorod fuel depot, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel, was the result of “an air strike from two helicopters of the armed forces of Ukraine, which entered the territory of Russia at a low altitude”.

“Nothing that would confirm Ukrainian sabotage, except for the fact that many of the fires seemed to hit strategic/military targets,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
Such attacks “certainly seem to be a part of their strategy,” he said.
Pentagon officials have said that Russian forces inside Ukraine are hobbled by weak supply chains, and attacks on their infrastructure would further affect their war effort.

But US officials would not comment on whether, deeper inside Russia, there is an active campaign of sabotage hitting targets not-so-directly related to the invasion.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz will stay in hospital for some time to rest on doctors’ advice after undergoing colonoscopy on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the royal court.
It said the results of the colonoscopy were fine, and did did not say exactly how long the king would be in hospital.
The king was admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hos­pital, in Jeddah, on Saturday to undergo medical tests.
The king, 86, underwent gallbladder surgery in 2020 and had the battery of his heart pacemaker replaced in March.
King Salman became ruler of the world’s top oil exporter in 2015 after spending more than two years as crown prince and deputy premier.

Peja (Kosovo): Ukrainian women attend a demining training programme in Kosovo, far from their homeland. Ukrainian women are taking intensive demining courses to help their country get rid of a huge amount of explosives that would probably take decades. For now, six women will do the almost three-week training while two others will join them later.—AFP

KYIV: Russia has warned of the “real” threat of World War III breaking out, ahead of a Tuesday meeting between the United States and allies over sending further arms to war-torn Ukraine.

Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has triggered an outburst of support from Western nations that has seen weapons pour into the country to help it wage war against Russian troops.
But Western powers have been reluctant to deepen their involvement, for fear of sparking a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the risk of a World War III “is serious” and criticised Kyiv’s approach to floundering peace talks. “It is real, you can’t underestimate it,” Lavrov said.

‘It’s real, you can’t underestimate it,’ says FM Lavrov
For months, President Volodymyr Zelensky has been asking Ukraine’s Western allies for heavy weapons — including artillery and fighter jets -- vowing his forces could turn the tide of the war with more firepower.

The calls appear to be resonating now, with a host of Nato countries pledging to provide a range of heavy weapons and equipment, despite protests from Moscow.
In a landmark trip to Kyiv over the weekend, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Zelensky and promised $700 million in new aid to Ukraine.

“The first step in winning is believing that you can win,” Austin told a group of journalists after meeting the Ukrainian leader. “We believe that we can win — they can win — if they have the right equipment, the right support.”
And on the invitation of the United States, 40 countries will also hold a security summit in Germany on Tuesday to discuss further arms to Ukraine — as well as to ensure the country’s longer-term security once the war is over.

Among the invited countries are European allies of the United States, but also Australia and Japan — who fear that a Russian victory in Ukraine will set a precedent and encourage the territorial ambitions of China.
Finland and Sweden — traditionally neutral countries that have been considering Nato membership since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — are also on the guest list.

And on the Russian side, President Vladimir Putin is due to hold talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, his spokesman told RIA Novosti.

TEHRAN: Iran said Monday that the latest round of talks with its regional rival Saudi Arabia was “positive and serious” and voiced hope for further progress soon. Tehran and Riyadh, which severed diplomatic ties in 2016, held four rounds of talks in Iraq between April and September last year, with a fifth meeting last Thursday.

“The fifth round of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad … was positive and serious and saw progress,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters. Iran and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia support rival sides in several conflicts, including in Yemen, where Tehran backs the Houthi rebels and Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government.

In 2016, Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic after the kingdom executed revered Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. Riyadh responded by cutting ties with Tehran. Iran’s Nour news agency reported the latest talks were attended by “senior officials from the secretariat of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and the head of the Saudi intelligence service”.

It added that the foreign ministers of the two countries were expected to meet “in the near future”. Khatibzadeh said that “if the negotiations are upgraded to first-class political level, it can be expected that progress can be made swiftly in different sectors of the talks”. The spokesman also said “an agreement was reached to hold the next round of negotiations” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but he did not specify a date. – AFP

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