Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday the Russian Navy would be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones, which the defence ministry said were in their final phase of testing.
Putin, who says he does not want an arms race, has often spoken of a new generation of Russian nuclear weapons that he says are unequalled and can hit almost anywhere in the world. Some Western experts have questioned how advanced they are.
The weapons, some of which have yet to be deployed, include the Poseidon underwater nuclear drone, designed to be carried by submarines, and the Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, which can be deployed on surface ships.
The combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude of hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound, makes them difficult to track and intercept.
Speaking in St Petersburg at an annual naval parade that showcases Russia’s best ships, nuclear submarines and naval aviation, Putin said the navy’s capabilities were growing and it would get 40 new vessels this year.
Trump Orders $400-per-week Unemployment Payment Amid Covid19 Crises
President Trump signed four executive orders Saturday aimed at delivering relief to Americans struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus while accusing Democrats of stonewalling greater aid efforts.
Trump announced a $400-per-week supplemental unemployment payment to out-of-work Americans — short of the $600 weekly benefit that expired at the end of July. He unveiled an extension of student loan relief and protections from evictions for renters and homeowners.
Trump also signed a payroll tax holiday to Americans earning less than $100,000 through the end of the year, while promising more relief if he wins a second term.
Lebanon President Rejects Global Probe Into Port Blast
Lebanon’s president has rejected any international probe into the catastrophic Beirut port blast, saying a missile or negligence could have been responsible as rescuers desperately combed the rubble for survivors.
The entrenched ruling class has come under fire once again since Tuesday’s explosion, which killed at least 154 people and devastated swathes of the capital.
The revelation that a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years in a warehouse in the heart of the capital served as shocking proof to many Lebanese of the rot at the core of their political system.
Even Lebanese President Michel Aoun admitted Friday that the “paralysed” system needed to be “reconsidered”.
He pledged “swift justice”, but rejected widespread calls for an international probe, telling a reporter he saw it as an attempt to “dilute the truth”.
“There are two possible scenarios for what happened: it was either negligence or foreign interference through a missile or bomb,” he said, the first time a top Lebanese official raised the possibility that the port had been attacked.
What ignited the massive shipment of the chemical remains unclear — officials have said work had recently begun on repairs to the warehouse, while others suspected fireworks stored either in the same place or nearby.
Near the site of the explosion, by the carcass of the port’s giant grain silos, rescue teams from France, Russia, Germany, Italy and other countries coordinated their search efforts.
The World Food Programme has promised food for affected families and wheat imports to replace lost stocks from the silos, and US President Donald Trump said he would join other leaders in a conference call Sunday to discuss coordinating international aid.
Four bodies were uncovered near the port’s control room Friday, where a significant number of people were expected to have been working at the time of the blast.
No one has been found alive.
“I am waiting to hear that you have been rescued alive, my dear,” tweeted Emilie Hasrouty, whose brother is among the missing.
“I am paralysed with fear.”
100,000 children homeless
At the port, reduced to an enormous scrapyard, excavators removed mangled shipping containers to clear a path for rescuers.
Civil defence teams anxiously watched a sniffer dog pace around a gap under a fallen crane.
Beirut has received a stream of international assistance since the blast.
On Friday, relief flights from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates landed in Lebanon, following others from France, Kuwait, Qatar and Russia.
International police agency Interpol has said it will send a team of experts who are specialised in identifying victims.
The World Health Organization, meanwhile, called for $15 million to cover immediate health needs.
Lebanon’s hospitals, already strained by rising coronavirus cases and a severe economic crisis, were heavily damaged by the blast and overwhelmed by casualties.
Two days after the explosion, Lebanese were flocking to a 20-tent Russian field hospital newly established in the capital’s largest sports stadium.
The United Nations said up to 100,000 children are among the 300,000 people made homeless, including many who have been separated from their families.
‘We have nothing’
With destruction from the blast engulfing half of the capital and estimated to cost more than $3 billion, world leaders, advocacy groups and Lebanese have demanded an international probe to ensure impartiality.
But Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement said Friday the army should lead such a probe because it was “trusted” by all.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah denied accusations the Shiite party had been storing arms at the port, saying: “We have nothing in the port.”
Lebanon’s probe has so far led to 21 arrests, including the port’s general manager Hassan Koraytem, other customs officials and port engineers, a judicial source told AFP.
Dozens more were being interrogated by Lebanon’s military court, which is focusing on administrative and security officials at the port as well as government authorities who may have ignored warnings about explosive materials.
“The list of arrests will reach the top guys, who are now among the suspects,” the source said.
Lebanon’s central bank also ordered asset freezes for seven port and customs officials, an official and a banking source told AFP.
The measures did not dampen the anger in Beirut’s streets, where dozens of demonstrators scuffled with security forces firing tear gas late Thursday.
And volunteers clearing debris have chased out two government ministers who tried to visit devastated neighbourhoods with furious chants of “resign”.
An anti-government protest is planned for Saturday afternoon under the slogan, “Hang them by the gallows”.
Number Of Wounded From Beirut Blast Rises To 6,000 As Thousands Protest Leadership
The estimated number of people wounded in the monster explosion at Beirut’s port has shot up to 6,000, the health ministry said Saturday in a statement.
The death toll rose to 158 and the number of missing dropped to 21 from 60 in the latest ministry figures.
The authorities had previously put the number of people wounded in Tuesday’s blast at 5,000, stressing that at least 120 of them were considered to be in critical condition.
Several thousand protesters gathered in central Beirut on Saturday to vent their anger at a political elite they blame for a deadly explosion that turned the city into a disaster zone.
The large crowd of demonstrators, some of them brandishing nooses, called for revenge as a large deployment of security forces tried to contain some groups seeking to advance towards parliament, AFP correspondents reported.
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