Hong Kong to give away 500,000 free airline tickets worldwide

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Hong Kong to give away 500,000 free airline tickets worldwide

Hong Kong to give away 500,000 free airline tickets worldwide

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2023

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will distribute 500,000 free airline tickets to woo visitors “from every part of the world” to visit the financial hub in a bid to revive the battered economy and boost its global image.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced the project on Thursday during the launch of the global promotional campaign Hello Hong Kong, saying that the giveaway is “the world’s biggest welcome ever”.

“Hong Kong is now seamlessly connected to the Chinese mainland and the whole international world,” Lee said in his welcome remarks. “Attracting arrivals across the globe will help reinvigorate Hong Kong’s economy.”

The city’s leader highlighted a slew of mega sports and art events in the coming months, including the Hong Kong Marathon and Art Basel, and introduced iconic cultural places such as the West Kowloon Cultural District.

China Daily

Asia News Network

“We are inviting prominent guests from business heavyweights and leaders in the political sector to meet the chiefs and influencers to come to Hong Kong and see for themselves the welcoming atmosphere,” he said.

At a news briefing after the ceremony, Airport Authority CEO Fred Lam Tin-fuk said that the free airline tickets will be given out via overseas offices and agents of three local airlines – Cathay PacificHK Express and Hong Kong Airlines – in their major markets. The giveaway will start on March 1 and last for six months.

Based on the pre-pandemic data of inbound arrivals, about three-quarters of the tickets will be distributed to Asian visitors. First will be Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, followed by Northeast Asian nations and the Chinese mainland.

An additional 80,000 free air tickets will be given to Hong Kong residents while another 80,000 will be dispersed to visitors from the GuangdongHong KongMacao Greater Bay Area, Lam said.

Dane Cheng Ting-yat, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said at least one million gifts, or “Hong Kong Goodies”, are given to tourists, who can redeem them for free “welcome drinks” and get discounts off tourism, retail, catering and transportation expenses.

Bangkok: City of smog gasps for breath

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2023

Bangkok: City of smog gasps for breath

Bangkok residents are struggling through thick smog this week as PM2.5 dust levels surge to dangerous levels.

PM2.5 is rising due to pollution from traffic and other sources accumulating in stagnant air. The resulting smog is taking a toll on people’s health, impacting the lungs, eyes, heart and blood vessels.

So how are Bangkokians coping with some of the world’s worst air pollution?

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

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Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2023

As the Covid-19 crisis restricted most activities in the last two years, socializing online has taken off, especially in the Philippines, where 77 % of the population has become more engaging online than in real life.

Telenor Asia, an international telecommunications company, said this on Tuesday (Jan. 31) as it released the findings of its study, Digital Lives Decoded, that surveyed 8,000 consumers across eight markets in South and Southeast Asia.

Based on the results of the study, socializing online has “strengthened connections between people,” stressing that overall, 66 % of respondents engage more online than in real life.

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

Filipino consumers are the “most virtually social” at 77 %. Next are respondents from Indonesia (75 %), Bangladesh (74 %), Vietnam (71 %), Pakistan (66 %), Malaysia (60 %), and Thailand (56 %).

As pointed out by Jørgen C. Arentz Rostrup, head of Telenor Asia, some of the habits formed in the over two years of the COVID-19 crisis “are becoming hard-wired in the way we live our lives today.”

“Younger generations tend to spend more time socializing online, but Baby Boomers (people who were born after World War II) say that mobile technology is helping them feel more connected to their loved ones,” he said.

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

This, as 55 % of the respondents said mobile technology is helping them feel more connected to people they know, with Thailand topping the list at 63 %, followed by Bangladesh (61 %), and the Philippines (58 %).

When it comes to respondents saying that they regularly meet new people online, Thailand is still first on the list with 66 %, while the Philippines is second to last with 39 %.

Downtime mostly spent on phones

Telenor Asia said in previous reports, “we have seen the role mobile connectivity has played in helping people supercharge their careers and earning potential as well as how it improves daily life.”

However, as the pandemic started taking a heavy toll on people’s lives in 2020, nine in 10 respondents are more dependent on their mobile phones for leisure now than two years ago.

It stressed that almost half – 47 % – said their reliance has increased significantly, while 42 % said it somewhat increased. Only 10 % said their dependence on mobiles did not change.

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life
Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

Based on the results of the study, consumers from Bangladesh have the highest reliance at 62 %, followed by Thailand (58 %), Vietnam (50 %) and Pakistan (48 %).

At least 47 % of respondents from the Philippines said their dependence on their mobile phones for downtime activities has significantly increased, while 42 % said it somewhat increased. Some 11 % said there was no change.

Telenor Asia pointed out that one of the key reasons for this is socializing online because, for a lot of people, this was the only way to stay connected with loved ones when the health crisis brought the world to a standstill.

But it stressed that while social media have become the mainstay of people’s downtime, “it is not the only use of their mobile phones as respondents are increasingly looking to their devices for personal upskilling (sic) and development.”

This, as 40 % said they use mobile phones to tap into learning and educational applications or websites, with women and younger generations most likely to experience the benefits.

Telenor Asia said some 82 % believe that these learning opportunities “positively impact their quality of life,” which is reflected by 45 % of respondents who spend at least an hour a day listening to podcasts.

Filipinos spend the most time on social media

According to the international telecommunications company, Filipinos take the most time engaging in social media using mobile phones, with 23 % of consumers, which is the highest in the region, spending more than seven hours a day.

Trailing the Philippines is Thailand, with 19 % of consumers spending seven hours a day. Next are Indonesia (13 %), Bangladesh (12 %), Pakistan (12 %), Malaysia (8 %), Singapore (6 %), and Vietnam (5 %).

The Philippines, meanwhile, is second to Indonesia when it comes to the percentage of respondents who spend three to six hours a day engaging online—39 % against 43 %.

Some 38 % of consumers in Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand likewise spend three to six hours a day, Telenor Asia said, stressing that out of the overall 36 %, most are millennials and Gen Z at 39 % and 36 $, respectively.

Based on the results of the study, only 12% of consumers in the Philippines spend less than an hour engaging in social media using mobile phones, the second lowest in the region, next to Thailand’s 8 %.

Looking back, the Digital 2022 report of social media management firm Hootsuite and creative agency We Are Social stated that on average, internet users aged 16 to 64 all over the world spend an average of six hours and 58 minutes using the internet each day.

Then based on the findings, internet users in the Philippines in the same age range spent an average of 10 hours and 27 minutes connected to the internet each day last year.

The figure was lower compared to the 2021 data which found that Filipinos spent an average of 10 hours and 56 minutes connected to the internet, making it then the top country that has the most active internet users all over the world.

What to expect in the next 2 years

Telenor Asia said “all generations expect to increase time spent on social media in the next two years,”, especially on social media, alternative investments, and online social gaming.

It said 80 % of consumers each in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia will spend more time on their mobile phones to engage with people through social media. Next were Thailand (77 %) and Bangladesh (75 %).

When it comes to online social gaming, 46 %of respondents from the Philippines said they will spend more time on their mobile phones for this purpose, Telenor Asia said. Thailand topped the list with 62 %.

Philippines social media craze: Survey finds 77% of Filipinos more engaging online than in real life

At least 56 % of Filipino consumers, meanwhile, will dedicate more time to alternative investments, next to Thailand, where 57 % will use their mobile phones more often to invest.

“Contrary to widely-held beliefs, mobile phones do not detract us from having social lives. In fact, people point to the positive impact of mobile phones on their lives,” the telecommunications company said.

This, as 93 % said mobile phones improve their lives, 82 % stated that it enables greater connectivity with friends, family, and colleagues, and 57 % said it is a source of personal entertainment.

“Modern mobile phone users have grown up with social media, therefore it should be no surprise that many of our apps and habits are inherently bound to social usage,” Telenor Asia said.

It stressed that people are using mobile technology to connect more with loved ones, keeping open the channels of communication even when they cannot physically be together.

“As Asia steadily becomes a more urban society with younger generations moving away from their more rural homes, this is a trend that will help bind families and friends together.”

Challenges ahead

But as more people are expected to stay on social media, Rostrup said “this growth comes with even higher expectations of mobile operators as people seek more dependable, faster mobile networks.”

“The trends from this Digital Lives Decoded study highlight the opportunity for operators to expand beyond the traditional towards new capabilities and services, becoming not only an enabler of the technology but also a partner in the virtual world,” according to Rostrup.

Likewise, as Filipino consumers were said to be the most “virtually social,” calls for the government and telecommunications companies to strengthen cybersecurity have become more relevant than ever.

This, as a study from e-security firm Kaspersky, urged the Philippine government to take “a more active stance in prioritizing cybersecurity against the backdrop of constantly evolving cyber threats.”

While Kaspersky stressed that data leaks in Singapore and Australia are by far the largest when looking at the weighted gross domestic amounts of orders, the Philippines has one of the highest counts of dark web advertisements that are indicating an attack executed.

An attack executed, it said, is the initial access broker activity on the dark web, which is an overlay network, where insiders sell access to a network, and malware logs with domain credentials.

Singapore agri-genomics firm launches world’s first climate-resilient strawberry variety

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Singapore agri-genomics firm launches world's first climate-resilient strawberry variety

Singapore agri-genomics firm launches world’s first climate-resilient strawberry variety

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2023

Singrow is currently developing other crop segments that will address food security challenges around the world, especially in Asia and Africa, that were impacted by climate change. 

Singrow, a Singapore-based agri-genomics firm that has developed a proprietary genomics technology platform, has just announced the launch of the world’s first climate-resilient strawberry variety. The novel strawberry variety is the first application of this transformative technology. 

The success of the novel strawberry variety and other innovations can be a game-changer in this global fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. These new growing methods that are based on advanced genomics science will help create nutrient-dense crop varieties that are resilient to drought and disease.

Seasonal strawberries traditionally grown in temperate climates are exported across the world to Southeast Asia, leading to the fruit being expensive in the region. More importantly, the exports leave a huge carbon footprint. With its climate-resilient and high-yield producing qualities, Singrow Strawberries can now be grown at scale in tropical countries, breaking seasonal and temperature barriers and unlocking huge potential for growers while also reducing costs for consumers.

“Singrow is the first company to successfully utilise genomics technology to develop a sustainable commercial strawberry variety that can grow in a tropical climate such as Singapore and Southeast Asia. The success of this strawberry variety is the culmination of several years of research and we are excited to share this announcement with the global agricultural community,” said Bao Shengjie, CEO and Chief Scientist at Singrow.

Singrow uses advanced genomics technology that leverages a deep understanding of plant genomes to improve crop nutrition and yield with varieties that are also disease and climate-resilient. These methods are more productive than conventional breeding. Numerous benefits of this technology have led to increasing adoption across the globe as can be seen in China’s recent approval of gene-edited crops, and the planting of nutrient-enriched “Golden Rice” in the Philippines.

The scalable technology presents a significant opportunity for the agriculture industry as it can be applied to many staple crops that are facing challenges brought about by climate change. Singrow has started work on producing new crop varieties via the same technology and is working on expanding the list of products to other crop segments such as rice, corn, sustainable palm oil and other staple vegetables that form a huge part of everyday diet.

Bao concludes, “Warmer temperatures caused by climate change have had a significant impact on food production. We believe that molecular and genomics crop-breeding technologies are the future for agriculture and we are proud to invent the future of agriculture in Singapore and tackle the toughest problems to secure the future of food.” 

Armoured vehicles arrive in Spain’s Bilbao before departing for Ukraine

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Armoured vehicles arrive in Spain's Bilbao before departing for Ukraine

Armoured vehicles arrive in Spain’s Bilbao before departing for Ukraine

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2023

Trucks carrying 20 M113 armoured personnel carriers arrived at Bilbao port in northern Spain on Thursday the evening before departing for Ukraine.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles announced on Wednesday (February 1) the armoured vehicles would leave for Ukraine on Monday (February 6).

The armoured personnel carriers will first go to a Nato base in Latvia, local Spanish media reported on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Spanish Defence Ministry did not comment further on the departure plans.

Spain also plans to send between four and six German-built Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, the newspaper El Pais reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.

The actual number will depend on the condition of the battle tanks in storage and how many other countries will eventually supply to Ukraine, the sources told El Pais.

Kyiv secured pledges from the West this month to supply main battle tanks to help fend off Russia’s invasion, with Moscow mounting considerable efforts to make incremental advances in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday (January 31) his government expects to receive 120 to 140 Western tanks from a coalition of 12 countries in a first wave.

Kuleba said those tanks would include German Leopard 2, British Challenger 2 and US M1 Abrams tanks, and that Ukraine was also “really counting” on supplies of French Leclerc tanks being agreed upon.

Reuters

‘Shameless’ – campaign group on Shell’s record profits

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'Shameless' - campaign group on Shell's record profits

‘Shameless’ – campaign group on Shell’s record profits

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2023

A campaign group described Shell’s record profits as ‘shameless’ on Thursday saying the energy giant is profiting at the expense of the planet.

Shell delivered a record $40 billion profit in 2022, the energy giant said on Thursday, capping a tumultuous year in which a surge in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine allowed it to hand shareholders unprecedented returns.

The British company’s record earnings, which more than doubled from a year earlier, mirror those reported by US rivals earlier this week and are certain to intensify pressure on governments to further raise taxes on the sector.

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy at Global Justice Now, said the profits were being made on ‘the backs of people in developing countries where energy companies often run operations from.

Guerrero says these communities are already paying an ‘extreme price,’ including the destruction of local environments.

Governments struggling with soaring energy bills have responded by imposing windfall taxes on the energy sector but opposition party leaders have said the measures are not enough.

Shell said it expects to incur around $2.4 billion in accounting costs related to the windfall levies in 2022, and that it will pay $500 million in cash tax in Britain this year.

Chief market analyst at CMC Markets, Michael Hewson, said poor long-term government policy has helped to facilitate the record profits energy companies are seeing in the UK.

ANN news highlights: Thur, Feb 2, 2023

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https://www.nationthailand.com/blogs/world/asia-pacific/40024566

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Thursday, February 2, 2023

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2023

Check out what’s hot in the region as The Nation puts together headlines from members of Asia News Network (ANN). Click to read more:

ANN news highlights: Thur, Feb 2, 2023
Bringing Asia Closer

Military 
India 
Defence outlay increased by 13% to acquire new weapon systems – The Statesman
 

NATO Japan-Korea
Amid Growing Global Risks, NATO Seeks Closer Ties with Japan, ROK – The Japan News
 

Geopolitics
Japan and NATO Building Ties to Counter China and Russia – The Japan News

Economy Asia-Pacific
China’s rebound to fuel Asia-Pacific outlook: Moody’s – The Star
 

Myanmar Crisis 
Myanmar’s state of emergency extended by six months – Straits Times

Diplomacy Philippines-Japan
7 pacts to be inked during Marcos trip to Japan next week | Inquirer
 

Cities Malaysia
Malaysia aims to turn federal territories into smart cities by 2030 – The Star
 

Travel S Korea 
New visas, faster entries: Immigration changes in 2023 – Korea Herald
 

Terror Pakistan
Opinion: A treacherous deal – Dawn
 

ChatGPT
Opinion: What ChatGPT means for Korea – Korea Herald

Retail Japan
Department Stores Turn Fateful Corner Amid Closures – The Japan News
 

Tech S Korea 
Geopolitical conflicts pose risk to chip, battery industries: BOK – Korea Herald
 

EV China
Tesla’s China revenue jumps 31% in 2022 – China Daily
 

Energy Bangladesh
Talks ongoing to generate hydrogen power from seawater: PM The Daily Star
 

Finance China
Major steps in reform of capital market made – China Daily
 

Travel Cambodia
Cambodian travel agents recruit tourists on Thai trip | Phnom Penh Post

China’s caffeinated consumption looks to grow further as more companies start to expand their presence

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China’s caffeinated consumption looks to grow further as more companies start to expand their presence

China’s caffeinated consumption looks to grow further as more companies start to expand their presence

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2023

It is no secret that coffee consumption has been rising exponentially in China over the past few years, and industry players have forecasted that this growth will continue for years to come as more coffee companies and startup cafes are poised to make their entry into smaller cities.

According to Daxue Consulting, Chinese coffee consumption saw a staggering 500 % increase between 2006 and 2018. Business intelligence service provider China Briefing also reported that China’s coffee market surged by 31 % over the previous year in 2021, and is likely to have a compound annual growth rate of 9.63 % between 2022 and 2025.

Though the number of coffee drinkers in China has ballooned in recent years, most coffee consumers are from well-developed tier-1 and tier-2 cities like ShanghaiBeijing, and Shenzhen of Guangdong province, and this explains why top domestic coffee brands like Manner Coffee and M Stand have just a few stores in lower-tier cities.

But as an increasing number of people across the country develop a taste for coffee, smaller cities and towns are being viewed as gold mines.

Furthermore, statistics from Meituan, a major online food and beverage delivery platform, show that the growth of cafes in lower-tier markets, including small cities, towns and even rural areas, was much higher than that in major cities last year.

According to National Business DailyStarbucks’ expansion plan for the Chinese market involves opening new stores in nearly 3,000 counties, county-level cities and city districts. It has also been reported that local coffee giant Luckin will be opening new stores in small cities like Xinxiang in HenanDaqing in Heilongjiang and Dezhou in Shandong province.

A young driving force

One such city where the popularity of coffee has been steadily growing is Zhejiang province’s Tongxiang, which is a 52-square-kilometre county-level city famous for its wool fashion industry and ancient water towns.

One of the key coffee promoters in the city is He Jie, owner of Xiaoman Cafe, which is located in a charming century-old two-story house with a small courtyard.

“At the beginning, my cafe had almost no local guests – most of the customers were tourists from big cities, such as nearby Hangzhou and Shanghai,” she said. “Gradually, more and more young locals started coming. Now, I get dozens of locals ordering coffee every day.”

He, who quit her job five years ago to pursue her new passion of making coffee, said she does not regret the move one bit even though she works longer hours – from 11 am to 9 pm, six days a week. She cites her interesting interactions with like-minded customers as one of the key reasons why she enjoys running this business.

The business has been brisk, too. According to He, Xiaoman Cafe can sell about 150 cups of speciality coffee on a busy day. She took two and a half years to recoup her investment of nearly half a million yuan ($74,050).

He also pointed out that local palates have become more discerning over the years. For example, many local customers who dipped their toes in coffee drinking by ordering less intense options like mocha and latte now appreciate handmade black coffee.

Tarffy Cafe in Dongxing village, Shantou, Guangdong province, is highly popular among locals. [Photo provided to CHINA DAILY]Tarffy Cafe in Dongxing village, Shantou, Guangdong province, is highly popular among locals. [Photo provided to CHINA DAILY]

Mechanical engineer Chen Yu is one of Xiaoman’s regular customers. After drinking coffee to lose weight, he gradually became addicted to the drink and now visits the cafe after the gym almost every day.

“Sitting in a nice cafe and sipping my favourite Americano after a day’s work is my joy,” said the 28-year-old man who lives in Tongxiang. He has also learned handmade coffee-making from He and makes fresh coffee at home during the weekends.

Another young cafe owner who has been riding the growing wave of coffee consumption is Lin Junping, who together with her husband opened two cafes in a village in Guangdong that is now highly popular among locals.

Today, her Tarffy Cafe in Dongxing village of Gurao town in Shantou is almost always packed with enthusiasts every evening.

Lin said her cafe is more about providing a social space. Apart from coffee, her cafe also sells milk tea and cocktails. Unlike most cafes in the city, hers is open till midnight to cater to young villagers who like gathering with friends and colleagues and enjoying a drink after a day’s work.

Though located in a small village, Tarffy Cafe can sell over 550 drinks on a good day.

The location of Lin’s cafe is a small industrial centre featuring lingerie fashion and manufacturing instead of traditional agriculture. Many families here own plants and online stores selling lingerie and underwear.

“About 80 % of my guests are locals and this ratio is still growing,” she said. “Most of my customers are between 18 and 25 years old. They earn a decent income and generally face less pressure, unlike people from the big cities. They need a space to have a nice drink and chat and we offer the right place.”

Optimism abounds

The location of such cafes has also played a big part. In recent months, June Cafe, which is located in a village in Guangdong’s Dongguan, Kahf Cafe in Sangpo village of Jiaozuo in Henan province, and Two Tree Coffee in a village near Xi’an of Shaanxi province, have all gone viral in China’s social media platforms because they are located in scenic and tranquil locations.

Both He and Lin said they are confident that business will only get better despite seeing more competition recently.

Just last year, Lin’s two cafes were the only shops selling coffee in the town. Today, another 10 new cafes can be found. A similar situation has occurred in Tongxiang where several new cafes opened in recent years after Xiaoman. Some are community cafes selling speciality coffees and some focus on delivery services.

“More competition is good. We need a competitive business atmosphere. It’s difficult for a single store to stay afloat for long,” said He.

As such, both business owners are planning to expand their footprint.

He said she has already rented another house in Tongxiang, which she plans to convert into a cafe that sports a different style from the current one. She believes her customers under 35 years old are willing to try something different brewed by a privately owned cafe.

Meanwhile, Lin has been busy preparing for the opening of her third store in a nearby town located about 20 minutes’ ride away. This new store will be her biggest yet and will start interior renovations after Spring Festival.

“I believe in the consumption power of the villagers,” said Lin. “I’m sure I will be busier than ever when the third store opens after Spring Festival.”

China Daily

Asia News Network

Germany needs more Leopard tanks urgently, says defense minister

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Germany needs more Leopard tanks urgently, says defense minister

Germany needs more Leopard tanks urgently, says defense minister

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2023

Germany needs to order new Leopard tanks quickly to replace those going to Ukraine, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Wednesday, adding he did not care where the money came from.

“For me, the crucial fact is that we have to order new tanks, not in a year, but swiftly, so that production can begin,” he told reporters on a visit to a tank battalion in the western town of Augustdorf, which has been chosen to supply 14 of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.

Pistorius watched as the tanks manoeuvred on the terrain. He boarded one of the tanks and was driven around the base.

“Where will the money come from? Let me casually put it like this: Frankly, I don’t care. It is essential that we can provide them (the tanks) quickly,” Pistorius said.

The minister was responding to the question of whether he was pushing for an increase in a 100-billion-euro special fund set up for the modernisation of the military following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Pistorius aims to accelerate arms procurement and ramp up ammunition supplies in the long term after almost a year of arms donations to Ukraine has depleted German military stocks.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany was 20 billion euros short of reaching Nato’s target for ammunition stockpiling.

Asked about calls to reintroduce conscription, which was suspended in 2011 partly to save money, Pistorius said such a move would not plug short-term gaps in the Bundeswehr‘s manpower.

Reuters

Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown

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Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown

Ukraine raids home of billionaire in war-time anti-corruption crackdown

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2023

Security services searched the home of one of Ukraine’s most prominent billionaires on Wednesday, moving against a figure once seen as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s sponsor in what the authorities called a war-time anti-corruption purge.

The action, days before a summit with the European Union, appears to reflect a determination by Kyiv to demonstrate that it can be a steward of billions of dollars in Western aid and shed a reputation as one of the world’s most corrupt states.

Photographs circulating on social media appeared to show Ihor Kolomoiskiy dressed in a sweatsuit and looking on in the presence of an SBU security service officer at his home.

The SBU said it had uncovered the embezzlement of more than $1 billion at Ukraine’s biggest oil company, Ukrnafta, and its biggest refiner, Ukrtatnafta. Kolomoiskiy, who has long denied wrongdoing, once held stakes in both firms, which Zelenskiy ordered seized by the state in November under martial law.

“Every criminal who has the audacity to harm Ukraine, especially in the conditions of war, must clearly understand that we will put handcuffs on his hands,” Ukraine’s security service chief Vasyl Malyuk was quoted as saying on the SBU Telegram channel.

The prosecutor general’s office said the top management of Ukrtatnafta had been notified it was under suspicion, as were a former energy minister, a former deputy defence minister and other officials.

Kolomoiskiy, who faces a fraud case in the United States, has been at the centre of corruption allegations and court disputes for years that Western donors have said must be resolved for Kyiv to win aid.

Zelenskiy, who first came to fame as the star of a sitcom on Kolomoiskiy’s TV station, has long promised to rid Ukraine of so-called oligarchs but had faced accusations that he was unable to move decisively against his former sponsor.

In an address overnight before the raids, he alluded to new anti-corruption measures in time for Friday’s summit, at which Ukraine is expected to seek firm steps towards joining the EU.

“We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine. Reforms that will change the social, legal and political reality in many ways, making it more human, transparent and effective,” he said, promising to reveal the details soon.

Reuters