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Top Belarus opposition leader reportedly in 'intensive care'

Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

(LONDON) -- A top jailed Belarus opposition leader, who became the face of its pro-democracy movement, is reportedly in intensive care after being hospitalized for an unknown reason, according to her supporters.

Maria Kalesnikava was one of three women who found themselves at the head of mass street protests in 2020 that came close to toppling Belarus' long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Kalesnikava, 39, was imprisoned after she tore up her passport to prevent Lukashenko's security forces from forcibly deporting her in 2020. She became one of Belarus' most prominent political prisoners, sentenced to 11 years in prison in September 2021 on charges of extremism and seeking to illegally seize power that were widely condemned by western countries as politically motivated.

On Tuesday, an official Twitter account linked to another jailed opposition figure Viktor Babariko, tweeted that Kalesnikava was now in intensive care.

"Masha Kalesnikava is in intensive care. The reason is unknown," the account tweeted, saying the information was confirmed by her lawyer.

The account said Kalesnikava is in a hospital in the city of Gomel, saying she was brought there on Monday and hospitalized in a surgical department before being transferred to intensive care.

The account added that Kalesnikava's lawyers had been complaining to authorities about the state of her health but that they had been ignored.

A former professional musician, Kalesnikava was initially a spokeswoman for Babariko, but teamed up with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to challenge Lukashenko in a 2020 presidential election after Babariko and Tsikhanouskaya's husband were barred from running and jailed. She became one of the faces of the protests that erupted after Lukashenko declared victory in the vote that was widely criticized as rigged, becoming known for the heart shape sign she often flashed with her hands.

Lukashenko's regime was shaken by the protests-- that saw hundreds of thousands demonstrate peacefully for weeks— but he eventually succeeded in smothering the uprising with a relentless crackdown, during which security forces have arrested thousands of people. Kalesnikava became one of the only top leaders of the protests who remained in the country, after most were driven into exile.

After Kalesnikava was sentenced last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned it, calling it "further evidence of the regime's total disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Belarus."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Russia-Ukraine live updates: No regrets starting war, Putin tells soldiers' mothers

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Nov 29, 11:47 AM EST
US to send $53M in energy aid to help Ukraine through winter

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with more than $53 million to acquire critical electric grid equipment to help its citizens get through the winter, the State Department announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes amid Russia's continued attacks against Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

"This new assistance is in addition to $55 million in emergency energy sector support for generators and other equipment to help restore emergency power and heat to local municipalities impacted by Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s power system," the State Department said in a release.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Nov 28, 4:36 PM EST
UN lays out 'dire' situation in southern Ukraine

Denise Brown, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, traveled to the Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv over the weekend to get an update on the humanitarian issues affecting the southern part of the country, according to the U.N.

Although repairs to the area's water system are finally able to commence, there is still a lot of work to be done to help the people in those cities, the U.N said.

"We continue to be concerned about the plight of civilians in Ukraine especially as winter sets in," a U.N. spokesperson said in a statement.

Some heating points have already been established in Mykolaiv to help people who cannot heat their homes, according to the U.N.

"Aid workers are providing supplies and generators to make these places functional," the U.N. said in a statement.

The agency added that donations and funding for humanitarian efforts are critical as the cold weather sets in.

Nov 25, 1:13 PM EST
Power restored in all regions, Ukraine grid operator says

All of Ukraine's regions are now connected to the European Union's energy system and all three nuclear power plants located in the Kyiv-controlled area are working, CEO of Ukrenergo grid operator Volodymyr Kudrytskyi announced.

"In one to two days, they will reach their normal planned capacity, and we expect to introduce planned rolling blackouts instead of emergency outages," Kudrytskyi said.

Power is slowly returning to all Ukrainian cities, but blackouts and emergency shutdowns continue. Power issues are the worst in Kyiv, Kirivigrad, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Poltava and Lviv, according to Kudrytskyi.

Kyiv's critical infrastructure receives electricity, the water supply is fully restored and heating is being restored, but 50% of residential houses remain without power. Only one-third of houses currently have heating, according to the mayor.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Nov 25, 12:08 PM EST
Putin says he has no regrets over launching war in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with more than a dozen mothers of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, telling those who had lost sons that he and the entire leadership shared their suffering.

Putin said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia's "special military operation" against Ukraine.

-ABC News' Tanya Stukalova

Nov 24, 11:28 AM EST
Journalists and monitors are being silenced in Russia, Amnesty International says

Russian authorities have developed a sophisticated system to suppress any reporting of protests by journalists and independent monitors, according to a new report released by Amnesty International.

These restrictions have increased since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The report documented dozens of cases of unlawful obstruction of journalists and monitors during public protests, including arbitrary arrests, use of force, detentions and heavy fines.

“We can see that the Russian authorities are hellbent not only on preventing and severely penalizing any protest, however peaceful, but also on minimizing any public awareness of it,” said Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia researcher.

-ABC News' Guy Davies

Nov 24, 7:37 AM EST
European Parliament approves $18.7 billion loan to Ukraine

The European Parliament on Thursday approved a loan of 18 billion euros (about $18.7 billion) to help Ukraine "survive" Russia's ongoing invasion and "restore its critical infrastructure."

The move came one day after the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and as a state that "uses means of terrorism."

The loan would cover roughly half of the estimated 3 to 4 billion euros of monthly funding that Ukraine needs in 2023.

"The loan is conditional for Ukraine," the European Parliament said in a press release on Thursday. "It requires reforms to strengthen the country's institutions and prepare it both for reconstruction and its path towards EU membership."

Next, the loan must be unanimously approved by the European Council on Dec. 6, before the European Commission can tap the markets and disburse the support early next year.

Since the start of the war, the European Union and its member states have provided 19.7 billion euros to support Ukraine, a large part of which has come in the form of macro-financial assistance approved by the European Parliament in September and July.

Nov 23, 11:26 AM EST
US announces additional $400 million in aid for Ukraine

The U.S. announced a new $400 million military aid package for Ukraine to "help defend itself," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Tuesday.

"With Russia’s unrelenting and brutal missile and [Unmanned Aerial Systems] attacks on Ukrainian critical energy infrastructure, additional air defense capabilities remain an urgent priority. The additional munitions for [National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems] and heavy machine guns will help Ukraine counter these urgent threats," the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The U.S. has provided Ukraine with more than $19 billion in aid since the beginning of the war in February.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler and Luis Martinez

Nov 23, 11:20 AM EST
Newborn killed in Russian strike on hospital in Zaporizhzhya

A newborn baby was killed and two doctors wounded after a Russian strike on the town of Vilniansk, in the Zaporizhzhya region hit a hospital, including a maternity ward, according to the region's governor.

The baby was only 2 days old. His mother survived the attack.

The hospital staff was evacuated, the emergency service workers are clearing the debris.
Both wounded doctors were hospitalized and one of them is in critical condition, according to the local authorities.

-ABC News' Yulia Drozd

Nov 23, 8:34 AM EST
Cities across Ukraine hit with missile strikes

Missile strikes have been reported in a number of cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv.

Residential buildings and an infrastructure object in Kyiv were hit with missile strikes leaving one person dead north of the city, according to Ukrainian officials.

Nov 23, 7:04 AM EST
European Parliament declares Russia a terrorist state

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Wednesday recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

"The European Parliament adopts a resolution declaring Russia a terrorist state," Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament from Belgium, said in a Twitter post. "Putin's regime is a state sponsor of terrorism, complicit in war crimes [and] must face the international consequences."

Nov 22, 4:14 PM EST
Investigation launched after claim that Russian soldiers who surrendered were killed

Ukraine's prosecutor general launched an investigation after a video emerged on social media of the Kremlin claiming Russian soldiers were killed after surrendering to Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine claimed Russia staged the attack, but Ukrainian authorities said they will investigate.

The videos, verified by the New York Times as authentic, have been circled online and in Ukrainian and Russian media show moments before and after a group of at least 11 Russian troops were killed by Ukrainian fighters after one of their fellow fighters suddenly opened fire on Ukrainian soldiers standing nearby.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general said law enforcement opened the criminal case "after Russian occupiers pretended to give up and then opened fire on fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," according to a statement.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Nov 22, 2:27 PM EST
Ukraine liberated over 1,800 settlements from Russian occupation, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Ukrainian forces have liberated over 1,800 settlements that were occupied by Russian forces. Zelenskyy claimed that more than 3,700 settlements have been occupied, he said in an address Tuesday.

Zelenskyy claimed that Russian soldiers mined and looted everything they could, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged by shelling.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Nov 19, 12:49 PM EST
US warns Russia's eroding situation could lead to 'more nuclear saber-rattling'

Russia's eroding situation could lead Russian President Vladimir Putin to "more nuclear saber-rattling," U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Saturday.

"The ripples of Russia’s invasion has traveled far beyond Europe. Beijing, like Moscow, seeks a world where autocrats can stamp out the flame of freedom," Austin said while addressing the Halifax International Security Forum.

Austin said the deadly explosion in Poland this week was the result of the "recklessness of Putin’s war of choice."

"Russia’s invasion offers a preview of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil that none of us would want to live in. And it’s an invitation to an increasingly insecure world haunted by the shadow of nuclear proliferation," Austin said.

He went on, "Putin’s fellow autocrats are watching and they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting license of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation."


Nov 18, 2:36 PM EST
Trace of explosives found at Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish prosecutors say

An investigation into the cause of a leak from the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea revealed "extensive damage" and several "foreign items," some with detectable "explosive residue," the Swedish Security Service and a prosecutor said Friday.

"The advanced analysis work is still in progress – the aim is to draw more definitive conclusions about the Nord Stream incidents. The investigation is extensive and complex and will eventually show whether anyone can be suspected of, and later prosecuted for this," prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist and the Swedish Security Service said in a statement.

Several blasts near the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines on Sept. 26 caused leaks. Officials are still investigating the cause of the blasts. Major pipelines which supply natural gas from Russia to Europe, were shut off in September. While they were not in use at the time of the blast, the pipelines were filled with natural gas.

Nov 17, 1:53 PM EST
Russian strike on Ukraine's Dnipro leaves 23 injured

A Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian city of Dnipro has left 23 people injured, 15 of whom are in hospital. One person is in grave condition, according to Valentyn Reznichenko, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.

Local officials earlier said the strike had left at least 14 people dead.

Air raid sirens went off in several Ukrainian cities including Odessa and Zaporizhzhia. Officials said four missiles were shot down in Kyiv.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky, Joe Simonetti and James Longman

Nov 17, 1:23 PM EST
Polish officials grant Ukrainian investigators access to site of missile explosion

Polish authorities have granted Ukrainian investigators access to site of the missile explosion, as an investigation into the origin of the missile continues, according to Jakub Kumoch, an aide to Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who denies that the missile originated from Ukrainian air defense, has been requesting access to the site.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Nov 17, 12:57 PM EST
Ukrainian officials refute US estimates on number of killed, injured soldiers

Top Ukrainian security officials are refuting U.S. estimates of how many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the war. Last week, the U.S. chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said around 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed or injured.

Ukrainian officials are now saying that figure is "not entirely true."

Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine's secretary of National Security and Defense Council, said the casualty figures are "definitely not those."

-ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge

Nov 17, 11:35 AM EST
Biden says Zelenskyy's statements on Poland missile incident are 'not evidence'

President Joe Biden was asked by reporters Thursday what his reaction was to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denying that the missile that landed in Poland was Ukrainian.

"That's not the evidence," Biden responded.

On Wednesday, the White House told reporters it had "seen nothing" to contradict the assessment that the explosion in Poland was likely caused by a Ukrainian defense missile.

"We will continue to assess and share any new information transparently as it becomes available. We will also continue to stay in close touch with the Ukrainians regarding any information they have to fill out the picture," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

-ABC News' Lauren Minore

Nov 16, 3:00 PM EST
Zelenskyy disputes claim that missile blast in Poland was fired by Ukraine's air-defense system

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed back Wednesday against claims that a Ukrainian defense missile landed in Polish territory on Tuesday, killing two.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday that the Russian-made missile likely came from Ukraine's air-defense system.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he backs Duda's assertion.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez, Matt Seyler and Tom Soufi Burridge

Nov 16, 12:48 PM EST
Ukrainian air defense missile likely caused deadly blast in Poland: US official

The U.S. believes that the missile strike was likely due to a Ukrainian air defense missile, according to a U.S. official. The missile strike killed two Polish civilians.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Nov 16, 9:08 AM EST
CIA director met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv after meeting Russian counterpart

CIA Director Bill Burns traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday, following a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Turkey, according to a U.S. official.

Burns was in the Ukrainian capital during Tuesday's widespread Russian missile strikes.

"He is safe and was safely in the U.S. embassy during the strikes," the official said.

While in Kyiv, the official said, Burns "discussed the U.S. warning he delivered to the head of Russia's SVR not to use nuclear weapons and reinforced the U.S. commitment to provide support to Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression."

Nov 16, 7:27 AM EST
Polish police share photo of large crater from missile

Poland's national police force posted an image on Twitter on Wednesday purportedly showing the site of Tuesday's missile blast, which left two people dead.

The photo showed authorities collecting evidence from a large crater in the ground, alongside debris and a destroyed vehicle.

The Polish Police said in the tweet that its "officers have been securing the area" since the blast happened in the southeastern village of Przewodow, which is close to the border with Ukraine. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, but Polish President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday that the projectile was "probably a Russian-made S-300 missile" and, so far, appeared to be an "unfortunate accident."


China to have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035: Pentagon

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- China continues to rapidly build its stockpile of nuclear warheads, according to the Pentagon's latest annual report on China's military that now estimates China could have as many as 1,500 warheads by 2035.

The U.S. is also concerned by what a senior defense official described as China's establishment of "a new normal" of heightened military activity around the island following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August.

Formally known as the "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China," the congressionally mandated annual report reaffirms the National Defense Strategy's assessment that China "presents the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system."

"Based on the trend lines in the report, I think we can judge that the PRC (People's Republic of China) has increasingly turned to the PLA (People's Liberation Army) as kind of one of the key instruments of statecraft that it wants to use to pursue its interests," a senior defense official told reporters about the report. "And that has serious implications for U.S. security interests, our allies and partners' interests, and for the international rules-based order more broadly."

Last year's Pentagon report highlighted that China had set in motion a four-fold increase of its nuclear weapons arsenal and projected that it could have 700 warheads by 2027 and possibly 1,000 by 2030.

The new report released on Tuesday describes China as now having more than 400 nuclear warheads and continuing with the accelerated build-up of its arsenal, projecting that it could have 1,500 warheads by 2035. Even with China's dramatic increase, it's larger nuclear arsenal will still be much less than the United States' declared stockpile of 3,750 warheads capable of being deployed by hundreds of land-based and sea-launched missiles and a strategic bomber fleet.

China has publicly set 2027 as a target date for its military to have the capabilities for the People's Liberation Army to be "a more credible military tool for the Communist Party (CCP) to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification."

The year 2035 is targeted for the completion of the PLA's modernization and 2049 as the year that China's military becomes a global force.

Earlier this month, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley stressed that, regardless of China's publicly stated goal, the United States will not fall behind China militarily.

"China is not going to be a better military than the United States military is, but they're going to try but they're not going to get there," Milley said at a Pentagon news conference. "The United States military is number one now, and we are going to be number one five years from now -- 2027 is not going to be the date that China becomes number one. And we're going to stay number one the entire time. And as long as we remain number one, then we will deter the war that people worry about, a great power war between China and the United States."

The report also noted China's heightened military activity around Taiwan over the last two years as it "increased provocative and destabilizing actions in and around the Taiwan Strait, to include increased flights into Taiwan's self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and conducting island seizure exercises."

Those activities peaked in August when China also conducted missile launches and naval operations during Pelosi's visit to the island that China considers to be a breakaway province.

While the military activity around Taiwan has lessened in intensity, it remains higher than it had been before it appears that it has become "a new normal," according to the senior defense official.

"That gives us a concern, even though we don't see an imminent invasion, obviously, about sort of an elevated level of intimidating and coercive activity around Taiwan," said the official.

"We see the PLA doing things like the increased crossings over the center line, and behavior that appears to be intended to kind of intimidate or sort of wear down Taiwan," said the official. "Which, obviously, is just not what we want to see."

The report released Tuesday comes two weeks after President Joe Biden met with China's President Xi Jinping in Indonesia a week after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Gen. Wei Fenghe, China's top military official, in Cambodia.

In his meeting with Wei, Austin was said to have "raised concerns about the increasingly dangerous behavior demonstrated by PLA aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region," according to a Pentagon readout of the meeting.

The senior defense official said that Chinese military ships and aircraft "have exhibited an increase in unsafe and unprofessional behavior in the Indo-Pacific region" and highlighted aerobatic maneuvers and the discharge of chaff "that could make it dangerous for nearby aircraft to maneuver safely."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prince William, Kate head to Boston: Everything to know about the couple's first US trip in eight years

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- The Prince and Princess of Wales are coming to America.

Prince William and Kate will travel to Boston this week, marking their first visit to the United States since 2014, when they visited New York City and famously shook hands with Beyoncé and Jay-Z at a New York Knicks game.

This will be their first overseas trip since the death of William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September.

The royals will arrive in Boston on Wednesday, two days ahead of the second annual awards ceremony for the Earthshot Prize, an initiative William launched in 2019 to create solutions for environmental problems.

Their itinerary in the city includes everything from meeting Caroline Kennedy to visiting Harvard University.

"The Prince and Princess are looking forward to spending time in Boston, and to learning more about the issues that are affecting local people, as well as to celebrating the incredible climate solutions that will be spotlighted through The Earthshot Prize," Kensington Palace said in a statement.

Here is what to watch on each day of William and Kate's three-day visit.

Wednesday: Welcome celebration in Boston

William and Kate will be welcomed to Boston on Nov. 30 in a ceremony at City Hall attended by Kennedy and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who made history last year as the first woman and first person of color to be elected mayor.

In honor of the Earthshot Prize's focus on the environment, landmarks across the city, including City Hall, will be lit up in the color green.

Thursday: Visiting with high-risk youth

The royal couple will start their second day in Boston with a visit to Greentown Labs, a climate technology start-up incubator, in nearby Somerville, Massachusetts.

According to Kensington Palace, William and Kate will learn during the visit about "climate innovations" being incubated in Boston.

From there, the couple will travel just a few miles to Chelsea, where they will visit Roca, nonprofit organization that focuses on helping high-risk young people between the ages of 16 and 24, according to the palace.

William and Kate will meet with leaders of the organization and with participants in the young mothers' and young men's programs.

Friday: Earthshot Awards at MGM Music Hall

Friday's main event will be the 2022 Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony, which will be held Friday night at MGM Music Hall at Fenway, located close to Fenway Park.

The ceremony, which will air around the world on Dec. 4, will see five winners awarded $1 million grants each to scale their solutions to help repair planet Earth.

The ceremony will also include live performances by Billie Eilish, Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and Chloe.x.Halle, and will feature actors including Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara, Shailene Woodley and Daniel Dae Kim as hosts and presenters.

Earlier in the day Friday, Kate and William will each attend separate events.

Kate, who has made early childhood education a focus of her royal work, will meet with researchers at The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

William plans to tour the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum along with Caroline Kennedy.

William has said that President John F. Kennedy's "moonshot" challenge in 1962 to land a man on the moon within 10 years was the inspiration behind his Earthshot Prize, which has a goal to find solutions to repair the planet within the next 10 years.

The John F. Kennedy Foundation partnered with Earthshot Prize to bring this year's awards ceremony to Boston, according to the organization.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How a deadly apartment fire fueled anti-zero-COVID protests across China: ANALYSIS

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

(HONG KONG) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is facing the greatest challenge to his signature zero-COVID strategy as unprecedented anti-lockdown protests have spread across the country over the weekend, popping up in major cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and even the capital Beijing.

Anger stemming from a deadly apartment fire Thursday night in the far western city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang region that killed 10, including a 3-year-old child, have brought Chinese citizens out to the streets calling for an end to lockdowns. Some are even crying for the Communist Party and Xi himself to step down.

According to local officials, the deadly fire was caused by a faulty power strip that caught fire on the 15th floor of a high-rise apartment, but it took the fire department over three hours to put out the flames.

Videos of the blaze went viral on Chinese social media, showing firetrucks unable to get close to the flames. Many across the city questioned whether COVID restrictions had gotten in the way of first responders and left people trapped inside unable to flee.

The authorities denied this, but anger was already brewing as much of Xinjiang, including its regional capital Urumqi, had been under lockdown for over 100 days, since August.

On Friday night, videos emerged of hundreds Urumqi citizens pushing through the lockdowns around their residential compounds and marching towards the local government, demanding them to lift the lockdown. Social media videos showed crowds, wrapping themselves in patriotism as protection, marching through the frigid night alternatively singing the Chinese national anthem, "March of the Volunteers," and the socialist hymn "The Internationale."

Hours after the crowds confronted the city officials, the Urumqi city government suddenly announced they would finally lift lockdowns in "low-risk" neighborhoods and restart public transportation Monday.

While Urumqi residents may have gotten some of their demands met, the deadly fire set something off across China, becoming a focal point of public anger towards the harsh COVID restrictions.

The late-Chinese leader Mao Zedong famously said, "a single spark can start a prairie fire." The "spark" of the Urumqi fire spread beyond the Chinese internet faster than censors could catch up, and by Saturday night, spontaneous protests and vigils popped up across the countries in college campuses and major cities.

This was prominent in Shanghai, where many residents still harbor fresh memories of their messy two-month lockdown earlier this year.

Hundreds of angry Shanghai residents gathered on consecutive nights over the weekend symbolically on Middle Urumqi Road in the tony former French Concession neighborhood, lighting candles and cursing zero-tolerance COVID measures with some openly daring to chant, "Communist Party step down" and "Step down, Xi Jinping, step down."

Police officers mostly let the crowd disperse Saturday night but made arrests in early morning hours of some of the remaining protesters.

On Sunday, the protests spread to more cities including Beijing, which was entering a de-facto lockdown dealing with a fresh outbreak.

Hundreds of students gathered outside the main dining hall of Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, which happens to be Xi's alma mater, raising blank sheets of paper to decry the growing censorship and calling for "freedom of speech." It was scene unseen on college campuses in China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

The blank-sheet protests were seen again near the Liangmaqiao diplomatic district, close to the U.S. and South Korean embassies in Beijing Sunday night, accompanied with cries of "no PCR tests, only freedom."

The scenes were repeated across the country from the first COVID epicenter of Wuhan to the tech center of Hangzhou to the far-flung and usually laidback backpacker hub of Dali in southwestern China.

Adding to the national frustration, many across the country have been glued to the Qatar World Cup games on China's state broadcaster, complete with cutaways of the raucous maskless crowds, leading to sarcastic discussions online whether China was "not the same planet" as Qatar.

By Sunday's game between Japan and Costa Rica, CCTV Sports stayed on close-up shots of the players, referees and coaches when the ball was not in play instead of showing the maskless fans in the stands.

On Nov. 11, Beijing had issued new guidelines to improve COVID measures, promising to lessen the impact of their restrictions. It was initially taken to be a signal that Beijing was laying the groundwork to open up.

Record outbreaks across the country, however, have snapped many cities shut again. Most local jurisdictions are in charge of their own COVID enforcement and the officials' jobs are on the line if they mismanage an outbreak, leading them to err on the side of harsher measures no matter the effect on residents.

For nearly three full years, China's "dynamic zero-COVID" strategy meant one infection is too much.

By Sunday night, some city governments were tweaking their restrictions in real time. As the protesters gathered in Liangmaqiao, Beijing officials said they lifted lockdowns on 75 neighborhoods and announced new guidelines for enforcement that included no snap-lockdown lasting more than 24 hours.

While China's record daily case numbers are not high by international standards, running 39,906 cases Sunday with no new deaths, the Japanese investment bank Nomura estimates that more than 21.1% of China's total GDP is under lockdown, on par with the economic impact of Shanghai's lockdown in the spring.

China, in a way, is a victim of its own success. The zero-COVID policy undoubtedly saved lives during the pandemic, with only 5,232 official COVID deaths over nearly three years, but has also isolated much of the Chinese population from any type of natural immunity.

For Xi Jinping and the Chinese government, it remains a question of which would cause more instability: loosening up and letting a COVID "exit wave" quickly cause up to hundreds of thousands of deaths and overwhelm the national health system in the very best-case scenario presented by some health officials, or tolerate the whack-a-mole of still-sporadic and unorganized protests across the country.

For a country that spends more on public domestic security than on their military, the answer is still on the side of zero-COVID. But as the anger spreads, many believe time may not be on zero-COVID's side.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


18 rescued from broken-down boat after days without food or water, authorities say

U.S. Coast Guard

(SAN DIEGO, CA) -- Eighteen people aboard a broken-down and adrift boat were rescued off the coast of the United States-Mexico border on Wednesday evening after days without food or water, authorities said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it received a report around 4 p.m. about a small, motorized boat full of people drifting in international waters about 16 nautical miles offshore of San Diego, near California's border with Mexico, and dispatched a helicopter crew to help rescue them. The helicopter recovered five women and two young children from the boat, while a Mexican naval vessel rescued the remaining 11 men on board, according to the Coast Guard.

Three people were subsequently transported to nearby U.S. hospitals, the Coast Guard said. Their conditions were unknown.

The occupants -- "presumed migrants" -- told officials that their boat had broken down and they had been without food and water for five days, the Coast Guard said. Their boat was taking on water but not enough to sink it entirely. They were unable to call for help but a passerby spotted them and contacted authorities, according to the Coast Guard.

None of the individuals were in the water and all were wearing life jackets at the time of their rescue, the Coast Guard said.

 

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Grey wolves infected with this parasite are more likely to become pack leaders, scientists say

Yellowstone Cougar Project

(YELLOWSTONE, WYOMING) -- Researchers studying grey wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park have discovered an intriguing reason why some wolves may be more inclined to become pack leaders.

Grey wolves exposed to Toxoplasma gondii -- the parasite that causes the disease toxoplasmosis -- are more than 46 times more likely to become a pack leader than uninfected wolves, according to a study published Thursday in Communications Biology.

The researchers analyzed behavioral and distribution data from 1995 to 2020 as well as blood samples from 229 anaesthetized wolves to study the association between risk-taking behaviors and infection with Toxoplasma gondii. They identified associations between parasite infection and high-risk behaviors in both males and females.

Wolves that tested positive for T. gondii were 11 times more likely to disperse from their pack and more than 46 times more likely to become a pack leader than uninfected wolves, according to the findings. Males were 50% more likely to leave their pack within a six-month period if infected with the parasite but that length of time jumped to 21 months if unaffected. Females displayed a 25% chance of leaving their pack within 30 months if infected, extending to 48 months if uninfected.

Infection with T. gondii often has no negative effects on the fitness of healthy individuals but can be fatal to young or immunosuppressed wolves, according to the researchers. They don't yet know how this parasite influences things like survival rates, according to Connor Meyer, a wildlife biology Ph.D. student at the University of Montana and one of the authors of the study.

The findings are the first to demonstrate parasite infection affecting decision-making and behavior in the species, the researchers said.

Previous research has identified associations between T. gondii infection and increased boldness in hyenas as well as increased testosterone production in rats, the authors speculate that similar mechanisms could drive the risky behaviors observed in wolves that tested positive for the parasite.

The wolves occupying areas that overlapped with a higher population density of cougars were more likely to be infected with T. gondii than those not living near cougars, suggesting that wolves may become infected with the parasite as a result of direct contact with cougars and their environments, the researchers found. Cougars in Yellowstone National Park are known to be hosts of the parasite.

The findings "tell the story of this entire ecosystem and how species interact with each other," said Kira Cassidy, one of the authors and a research associate for Yellowstone National Park and Yellowstone Forever, a nonprofit associated with the national park.

The researchers hypothesized that the infection would have wider implications on the wolf population, as infected pack leaders could lead their packs into more high-risk areas that overlap with cougars, potentially increasing the risk of further infection for uninfected wolves.

"So that's probably the the link there with the actual mechanism behind the parasite and the infection," Meyer said.

The study, only the second of its kind to look at how a toxoplasmosis infection can affect a species of predators, is a "powerful kind of testament to what long-term research is able to answer," Meyer noted.

Added Cassidy: "Taking an ecosystem approach to a research question can be really difficult in a lot of places but Yellowstone is one of these places where we see all of the species that were here hundreds of years ago."

Grey wolves were widely eradicated in the western U.S. in the 1940s but populations have begun to rebound in recent decades. Some say the increase is detrimental to humans due to the wolves' ability to travel vast distances and therefore spread diseases. The wolves can also be a significant factor in the decline of big game herds and the killing of livestock.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Montana temporarily restricted wolf hunting and trapping near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Wolves, however, are typically cautious of people. At Yellowstone, they are "the most shy and cautious" of all the large mammals, Cassidy said.

"If you see one, you're incredibly lucky," she said. "I would say overall, they are essentially no danger to people."

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Bidens make surprise call into Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

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(NEW YORK) -- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden made a surprise call into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the second year in a row they phoned into the broadcast.

The president teased his call later with military service members and gave thanks to first responders.

"I want to say thanks to the firefighters, the police officers, first responders -- they never take a break," he said. "And by the way, we're gonna be talking to some of our troops later today, both here and abroad."

The call to service members was the only thing listed on Biden’s schedule for Thursday but he said he would also be "spending some time on the island thanking those first responders here."

Spending the holiday on Nantucket is a long-standing tradition for the Bidens, who have been going there since the president and first lady were married. Jill Biden said the family will have Thanksgiving dinner and probably take a walk on the beach today.

Earlier this week the couple flew to North Carolina to celebrate "Friendsgiving" with members of the Marine Corps and their families.

"You are literally, not figuratively, the greatest fighting force, the best fighting force in the history of the world," the president told them. "That's not hyperbole -- in the history of the world. It's not a joke. And you really are incredible group of women and men. And again, I want to thank the spouses as well, because they put up with an awful lot because of your service."

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Queen Camilla delivers Paddington bears left after Queen Elizabeth's death to children's charity

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(LONDON) -- The hundreds of Paddington teddy bears left at royal residences following Queen Elizabeth II's death in September have found a new home.

The teddy bears were hand-delivered Thursday by Camilla, the Queen Consort, to Barnardo's, a children's charity that will distribute the bears to kids in need across the United Kingdom.

Camilla -- who was given the role of royal patron of Barnado's in 2016 by the queen -- arrived to Barnardo's Bow Nursery school in East London in a fleet of taxis, along with the bears.

The taxis were symbolic because taxi drivers in the U.K. often transport children to and from the hospital for free.

At the nursery school -- which provides child care and education to kids up to age 5 -- Camilla joined a teddy bear tea party with students and two stars of the "Paddington" movie, Hugh Bonneville and Madeleine Harris.

Camilla also helped distribute some of the Paddington teddy bears, which paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth's surprise appearance alongside Paddington in a special video recorded for her Platinum Jubilee celebration last June.

Following the end of the official mourning period after the queen's death, the teddy bears left at royal residences were collected and cleaned by Royal Parks staff members and volunteers, according to Buckingham Palace.

Earlier this month, the bears, each in their signature blue duffle coats and red bucket hats, got to explore the inside of two royal residences, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

The royal family's official Twitter account shared a video showing the bears' journey from outside to inside the palaces.

"They have been doing some light reading at Clarence House," the video noted at one point, "and exploring the Buckingham Palace State Rooms."

 

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Shanquella Robinson death: Authorities share details differing from autopsy report

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(PUERTO LOS CABOS, MEXICO) -- As FBI officials investigate the death of an American woman vacationing in Mexico, Mexican authorities revealed Tuesday night that 25-year-old Shanquella Robinson may have been alive and received care from a medical professional for several hours before authorities arrived and she was pronounced dead, ABC News has learned.

The medical professional at the scene allegedly told Robinson's friends that Robinson was drunk, dehydrated and that they should take her to a hospital. However, they declined to do so, according to authorities.

The new report differs significantly from the original autopsy report obtained by ABC News, which said medical professionals arrived at Robinson's villa at 3 p.m. and she was declared dead within 15 minutes. The autopsy said Robinson died from a severe spinal cord injury and a dislocated neck.

Authorities have not responded to ABC News' request for comment on the difference between their report and the autopsy.

According to the new police report, Robinson's friends requested a medical consultation at 2:13 p.m. After a general practitioner from the American Medical Center arrived at the address in Puerto Los Cabos, Robinson's friends told the medical professional that she had drank a lot of alcohol.

Medican personnel said they noticed Robinson had a poor verbal response, was in a state of drunkenness and was dehydrated, but had stable vital signs, according to the police report. The medical professional at the scene advised Robinson's friends to transfer her to a hospital but her friends insisted she stay at the villa, the report said.

At 4:20 p.m., Robinson began seizing, which is when one of Robinson's friends, Wenter Essence Donovan, dialed 911. As emergency medical professionals arrived, the police report said Robinson began having difficulty breathing and had a decreased pulse.

At 4:49 p.m., the general practitioner said they stopped feeling Robinson's pulse and started CPR until paramedics arrived. They continued with 14 CPR sessions and five doses of adrenaline without success. Robinson went into an asystole state (type of cardiac arrest), according to the police report. Robinson was declared deceased at 5:57 p.m., the report said

According to the new police report, Mexican authorities were notified by Donovan around 5 p.m. local time of Robinson's condition.

Donovan, and all of Robinson's friends who were with her in Cabo, have not responded to ABC News' repeated requests for comment.

The FBI opened a probe into Robinson's death earlier this month, which is being investigated by Mexican authorities as a femicide, a form of gender-based violence.

Robinson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, went to the resort city of San Jose del Cabo on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula with six friends on Oct. 28.

They stayed at a rental villa in Fundadores, an exclusive gated community with vacation homes and a private beach club, according to Robinson's family.

The next day, Robinson's parents said they got a frantic telephone call from their daughter's friends saying she had died.

With all the new and developing information, Robinson's family is still seeking answers from her friends who know what happened that weekend in Cabo. Sallamondra Robinson, the mother of Shanquella Robinson, said she's happy the FBI has stepped in to help solve her daughter's case so it "won't go in vain."

"I would like to see each one of them sent back to Mexico because their plan was to come back here thinking that they wasn't going to be prosecuted," Robinson told ABC News. "She was a caring person ... and I want them to always remember that. We're going to keep her legacy alive."

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Workers clash with police at iPhone factory in China

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(HONG KONG) -- Violent clashes erupted between workers and hazmat-suited police officers at China’s so-called "iPhone city," where about half of Apple's smartphones are assembled.

Accounts on Chinese social media point to a combination of strict "zero-COVID" measures, a brewing labor dispute and the pressure for factory workers to deliver ahead of a busy holiday season that caused frustration among employees at the manufacturing plant in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

Videos that appear to show hundreds of angry workers throwing sticks and bricks at security forces and then officers subduing and beating protestors popped up on Chinese social media Tuesday night into Wednesday as quickly as Chinese government censors raced to delete them.

The enormous factory complex is operated by Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that is the world’s largest technology manufacturer.

COVID-19 infections across China are nearing record levels this week, testing Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature "zero-COVID" strategy -- a program that seeks to track and eliminate every new COVID case -- as well as the slowing Chinese economy.

In late October, tens of thousands of Foxconn workers walked off the job at the same factory fearing a COVID lockdown after widespread claims that the city of Zhengzhou had mismanaged a COVID-19 outbreak. This led to Apple issuing a statement earlier this month that shipments of its latest lineup of iPhones will be "temporarily impacted" by COVID restrictions in China.

In an effort to keep remaining workers to stay on, the local government and Foxconn offered generous incentives and started an aggressive recruitment drive for new workers willing to move to the Zhengzhou campus.

Recruitment ads circulating on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, touted a 6,000 to 10,000 Yuan (roughly $840 to $1400) signing bonus. Those ads began being censored late in the day Wednesday.

Last week, an executive at the Foxconn campus told the Chinese business outlet Yicai that they had successfully recruited more than 100,000 new workers who began arriving from around China last weekend.

Video on TikTok-like app Kuaishou said the workers who arrived over the weekend having to first quarantine at an isolation facility for four days.

When the new crop of workers emerged out of quarantine, many started to accuse Foxconn on social media of changing the terms of their contract and withholding the incentive bonus until they work through May of next year.

Foxconn in a statement to ABC News acknowledged the "violence" at the plant and said "on the evening of November 22, some new hires to the Zhengzhou Park campus appealed to the company regarding the work allowance, which they had doubts about."

The statement added, "[Foxconn] has emphasized that the allowance has always been fulfilled based on contractual obligation."

Foxconn also highlighted "speculation" among the new recruits that they would be sharing dorms with COVID positive employees, calling it "untrue."

The new employees will only be allowed in once a government inspection clears the facility, the company said.

Foxconn said that they "will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again."

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Twin blasts in Jerusalem kill at least one, injure over a dozen others: Police

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(JERUSALEM) -- Twin blasts near bus stops in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning killed at least one person and injured 15 others in what Israeli police described as a suspected "coordinated terror attack."

"Not an easy morning," Israel Police Commissioner R.N. Yaakov Shabtai said. "This kind of attack has not been seen for many years -- two attacks in a row. The main effort of the Israel Police is currently scanning all areas -- bus stops, transportation and crowd gatherings -- at the same time as the manhunt to get hold of the perpetrator of the attack. We will do everything in our power together with all the other security forces to reach this cell."

Both explosions went off near separate bus stops during rush hour -- the first on the edge of Jerusalem and the second in the city's northern Ramot neighborhood. Four of the wounded were hospitalized in serious condition, according to police.

"It is a rolling terror incident," Jerusalem District Commander Superintendent Doron Turgeman said. "We are currently still in the stages of scanning and activity at the scene of the incident and in the wider scope. The investigation is in its infancy with all the force, both the district forces and national reinforcements."

A manhunt for the perpetrators is underway, with hundreds of police officers and border guards working with security forces to conduct searches on the ground and in the air, according to police.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement, "We condemn unequivocally the acts of terror overnight in Jerusalem. The United States has offered all appropriate assistance to the Government of Israel as it investigates the attack and works to being the perpetrators to justice."

Members of the public were asked to avoid the areas of the blasts, where investigators and bomb squads remain on scene, police said.

The apparent attacks came amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as well as an uptick in deadly violence. For the past several months, Israeli security forces have been conducting nightly raids in the occupied West Bank, prompted by a string of attacks against Israelis that have left 19 people dead.

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Newborn killed in missile strike on Ukrainian maternity ward

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(KYIV, Ukraine) -- A newborn baby was killed in an attack on a hospital in the town of Vilniansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukraine, overnight Tuesday, the local mayor told ABC News.

The attack on the maternity hospital came before a wave of Russian strikes across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, which struck residential areas and infrastructure. The strikes have led to significant power outages, including in neighboring Moldova, as Russia continues to strike Ukraine's power grid ahead of what experts warn will be a punishing winter.

The baby boy, named Kyrylo Kamyanskyi, was born two days ago. His mother, Maria, survived the attack.

"She is shocked and asked to take her home," Natalia Musienko, the mayor of the city told ABC.

"It's a horrible attack," she said, while taking shelter from Russian missiles.

"Our hearts are overwhelmed with grief," Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia region posted on his Telegram channel.

According to the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration, Oleg Buriak, the Russian forces launched S-300 missiles around 2 a.m. local time. Two of those missiles hit the maternity ward at the Vilniansk hospital and a nearby clinic.

Both facilities have been completely destroyed, officials said. At the time of the attack, five people were in the buildings. According to the mayor, one doctor, pulled from the rubble, suffered burns but is in stable condition. Two other doctors trapped in the building were later rescued, and about 60 other hospital staffers were evacuated. In total, three people have been killed, and six people injured.

"We are now trying to save some of the expensive equipment from the maternity ward," Musienko said. "But, of course, the biggest loss is the death of a baby. Human lives are the most precious. we can't return them."

The attack on the hospital came just a week after a deadly Russian strike on a residential building in Vilniansk that killed 11 people, including children.

This week, Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe, told an audience in Kyiv that his organization had so far verified 703 attacks on health centers since the war -- attacks that are in breach of international law.

"Continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and health care facilities are no longer fully operational - lacking fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs," he said.

And on Wednesday, the European Parliament voted to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism in response to its "brutal war of aggression in Ukraine."

The EU cannot officially designate states as sponsors of terrorism, but the resolution calls for the bloc to adopt a legal framework to formally designate Russia, which would restrict diplomatic relations.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ukrainian families reunite with children they say Russia kidnapped, put up for adoption

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After being imprisoned by Russian authorities for 45 days, Yevhen Mezhevyi told ABC News he was finally freed and quickly suffered another trauma: his children had disappeared.

Mezhevyi had been separated from his family at a checkpoint in Mariupol as they were attempting to escape the besieged city. Officials imprisoned him because they thought he might have connections to the military.

Mezhevyi's three children, Matvii, Sviatoslava and Sascha, were sent to Moscow, where they told ABC News Correspondent Britt Clennett they had been pressured to choose between being sent into the foster care system or an orphanage.

Mezhevyi traveled through Russia for two days, communicating with a network of volunteers through the encrypted messaging service Telegram, and staying on strangers’ couches, before he finally reached his children.

Mezhevyi's 9-year-old daughter Sviatoslava told ABC News that at the boarding house they were being spoiled with gifts and being pressured to choose whether to go to an orphanage or with a foster family.

“I said to the staff, ‘No foster families,’” she said. “‘I already have a daddy and he is alive!’”

According to Mezhevyi, his children were being told, “‘Your father can’t make it. You have to decide.’”

Mezhevyi's children are just three of the more than 11,000 children the Ukrainian government says have been deported by Russia thus far, taken from areas it has invaded and then brought back to be raised as Russian.

According to the official tally on the state-sponsored website, only 119 children have been returned to date.

Last week, 52 children at an orphanage in the Kherson region, deemed “medically fragile,” were taken to an unspecified “safe” area in Russia. Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova publicized the news.

Additionally, Russian officials in Zaporizhzhia announced they would soon transfer 40,000 Ukrainian children to Russia, saying that the system of care in occupied Ukraine is inadequate.

“The removal of children is one of the specified acts which are necessary to be established in order to prove genocidal intent,” said Wayne Jordash, a humanitarian lawyer based in Ukraine. “This is a very clear example of that.”

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making it easier for Russian families to adopt Ukrainian children.

Another Ukrainian parent, Larysa Yagodynska, described to ABC News how her sons were abducted while riding their bikes through a Russian checkpoint.

She said she spent an hour trekking through the forest at night to try to reach Russian soldiers, to get information from them about where her sons had gone.

“I couldn’t see where I was going because I was crying so much,” she said.

One of her sons, 17-year-old Slava, said that he and his brother were put into a car and taken to Chernobyl with “plastic bags over our heads.” He said they were beaten, and then taken further to Belarus.

He was brought to an orphanage in Minsk, where his mother said he was beaten again, and tortured with electric shock.

The Russian soldiers “threw him away like a small kitten,” she said.

Although the family was eventually reunited, his mother said Slava still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I just can't understand how it’s possible,” she said. “How you can treat people like that?”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Death toll from Indonesia earthquake rises to 271 as search effort intensifies

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(JAKARTA, Indonesia) -- At least 271 people have died since a 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia’s main island of Java on Monday, while dozens of others remain missing, according to Indonesian authorities.

The death toll has continued to rise in the days since the disaster hit, as thousands of rescuers search for the dead and missing.

Lt. Gen. Suharyanto, head of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency, confirmed the latest casualty figures during a press conference on Wednesday evening. He told reporters that the 271 bodies were counted by Indonesia's Ministry of Health as well as hospitals and medical clinics in West Java's Cianjur Regency. He said the actual toll could be even higher if families took it upon themselves to bury their dead without alerting authorities.

About 37% of the 271 confirmed deaths were children, according to Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

"So there are indeed a lot of children," Suharyanto told reporters. "But if looked at it as a whole, there are still a lot [of deaths] outside of children."

Meanwhile, the number of injured has risen to 2,043 and 40 others are still missing or unaccounted for, mostly in the village of Cugenang in hard-hit Cianjur regency, according to Suharyanto. He said rescuers found a 6-year-old boy alive in the rubble beside his dead grandmother on Wednesday.

Monday's quake damaged at least 56,320 homes, displacing 61,908 people. Damages were also reported at 31 schools, 124 places of worship and three health facilities, according to Suharyanto.

The 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck at a depth of about 10 km, with an epicenter about 18 km southwest of Ciranjang-hilir, West Java, Indonesia, according the U.S. Geological Survey. Indonesia's Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency also measured the quake at a magnitude of 5.6. Preliminary data from the USGS had previously placed the quake at a magnitude of 5.4.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the devastated communities in Cianjur regency on Tuesday. He vowed to rebuild infrastructure and provide government assistance up to 50 million rupiah ($3,180) to each resident whose home was damaged.

"On behalf of myself, on behalf of the government, I would like to express my deep condolences for the earthquake in Cianjur Regency, West Java Province," Widodo said. "And most importantly, I am happy that the road access that was buried yesterday until this morning has been able to be opened, thank God, and this will be continued with speed in handling -- especially [the] rescue [and] evacuation for those who are still buried."

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country of more than 270 million people and the world's largest archipelagic state, is frequently struck by earthquakes as well as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location the "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped belt of seismic activity around the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

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