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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama blasts Russia in tense call with Putin over Ukraine

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Phuket Gazette World News: Obama blasts Russia in tense call with Putin over Ukraine | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obama blasts Russia in tense call with Putin over Ukraine
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that Russia’s actions in Ukraine were not conducive to a diplomatic solution of the crisis in that country, and the White House warned that Moscow would suffer further costs for its behaviour.

Obama spoke to Putin at the Russians’ request, a senior administration official said, describing the call as “frank and direct,” a diplomatic construction that usually means tense.

“The president made clear that the diplomatic path was open and our preferred way ahead, but that Russia’s actions are neither consistent with or conducive to that,” the official said.

Obama told Putin that Kiev had made “real offers” to address concerns about the decentralization of powers to local governments in the country.

“That is a matter for Ukrainians to decide,” the official said. “We have always and will continue to support an inclusive process.”

Earlier, U.S. officials stopped short of announcing a new set of sanctions against Russia but said they were in consultations with European partners about the prospect.

The European Union agreed on Monday to step up sanctions against Moscow by expanding a list of people subjected to asset freezes and visa bans.

“Russia continues to engage in provocative actions in eastern Ukraine. The mere presence of the troops, in addition to what else they’ve done inside Ukraine, creates a threat of destabilization within Ukraine,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“I can assure you that Russia’s provocations – further transgressions and provocations will come with a cost. And I’m not here to specify what cost will come from which specific action, but there have already been costs imposed on Russia; there will be further costs imposed on Russia.”

The next round of U.S. sanctions, which would be the fourth imposed since the Ukraine crisis began, is likely to target Russians close to Putin as well as Russian entities, three sources familiar with the discussions said on Sunday.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that the United States was prepared to impose sanctions on individuals and entities in the financial services, energy, metals, mining, engineering and defence sectors.

The sanctions have been the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine last month, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

Obama spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the crisis on Monday and praised Ukraine’s government for showing “great restraint” and working to unify the country, the White House said.

Carney also confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, had been in Kiev over the weekend and decried what he called “false claims” levelled at the CIA by Russian authorities.

“Senior level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation including U.S.-Russian intelligence collaboration going back to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era,” Carney said.

“U.S. and Russian intelligence officials have met over the years. To imply that U.S. officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd,” he said.

According to media reports, Russia has urged Washington to explain what Brennan was doing in Ukraine

Pro-Russian rebels have seized buildings in around 10 other towns and cities across other eastern provinces that form the heartland of Ukraine’s heavy industry.

In the town of Slaviansk, where the authorities failed to follow through with their announced “anti-terrorist” operation, rebels called for Putin’s help.

Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksander Turchinov, said on Monday the offensive against the rebels would still go ahead. But in a sign of discord behind the scenes in Kiev, he sacked the state security chief in charge of the operation.

In one of the first signs of a military deployment by Kiev’s forces, a Ukrainian column of two tanks and more than 20 armoured personnel carriers packed with paratroops was seen about 70 km (50 miles) northwest of Slaviansk on Monday evening, according to video journalist Maksim Dondyuk who filmed them.

In Donetsk, rebels holed up in the administrative headquarters of a province that is home to 10 percent of Ukraine’s population said they planned to seize control of infrastructure and the levers of state power. They have declared an independent “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and sought Putin’s protection if they are attacked.

In a bid to undercut the rebels’ demands, Turchinov held out the prospect of a countrywide referendum on the future shape of the Ukrainian state. Pro-Russian secessionists want separate referendums in their regions, which Kiev says is illegal.

‘RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT’

The uprising in eastern Ukraine began eight days ago but has accelerated sharply in the past 48 hours, with separatists seizing ever more buildings, including arsenals filled with weapons. They have met little opposition.

Kiev says the separatists are organised by Moscow, seeking to repeat the seizure of the Crimea region.

Russia says the armed men are all locals acting on their own, but Western officials say the uprising is too well-coordinated to be entirely spontaneous, and bears too many similarities to the Russian operation in Crimea.

Moscow says it has the right to intervene to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine, and has portrayed the people of the east as under threat from gangs of Ukrainian-speaking “fascists”.

NATO says Russia has tens of thousands of troops massed on the frontier, able to capture eastern Ukraine within days.

“I don’t think denials of Russian involvement have a shred of credibility,” British Foreign Minister William Hague said, before a meeting with EU counterparts.

Hague later announced that the ministers had agreed to expand a list of Russians barred from travelling or doing business in the EU. Work would begin to come up with new names for the sanctions list, Hague said.

Russian stocks and the rouble fell sharply on Monday, reflecting fears of further Russian military intervention in Ukraine and more western sanctions against Moscow.

Kiev is also facing economic disarray. The central bank nearly doubled its overnight interest rate to 14.50 percent from 7.50 percent. Ukraine’s hryvnia currency has lost 38 percent of its value against the dollar this year.

ULTIMATUM EXPIRES

Turchinov had threatened to launch a military crackdown by 9 a.m., but as the deadline expired there was no sign of any action in Slaviansk.

Russia’s foreign ministry called Turchinov’s planned military operation a “criminal order” and said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine’s government under control.

Turchinov’s website said he told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon he would welcome U.N. peacekeepers in Ukraine. The proposal was rhetorical as no such deployment has been proposed or could ever take place over Russia’s Security Council veto.

Turchinov’s announcement he was sending in the army was the first time the military has been activated in six months of internal disorder. The plan implies a lack of confidence in the 30,000-strong interior ministry troops, pa

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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