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Very optimistic about Russia visit: Modi

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that he is “very optimistic” about his visit to Russia and for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Today I will commence my visit to Russia, my first bilateral visit after we formed the Government. I am very optimistic about the outcome of this visit,” Modi said in a Facebook post.

Today, Modi leaves for Moscow where he will attend the 16th India-Russia annual summit meeting during which a number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed, with trade being a major focus area.

“My visit will deepen the cooperation between India and Russia in the economic, energy and security spheres. We also want to increase cooperation in science and technology, mining among other sectors. Trade ties between India and Russia can increase even further, to benefit not only our two nations but also the world,” the post said.

This will be the first meeting between Modi and Putin since their formal interaction at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Ufa in July, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.

There will be an interaction between Modi and Russian businesspersons to invite them to invest in India. He will also attend a ‘Friends of India’ programme. (IANS)

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Clash at UN with Russia, Syria over Syria Hospital Attacks

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria

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The destroyed building of Nabd Al-Hayat hospital that was hit by an air strike is seen in Hass, Idlib province, Syria, May 6, 2019 in this still image taken from a video on May 9, 2019. VOA

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria, prompting a confrontation between western powers and Russia and Syria at the Security Council over who is to blame.

While the area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed in September to avert a new battle, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces — backed by Russians — have launched an offensive on the last major insurgent stronghold. Some three million civilians are at risk, the United Nations said.

“Since we know that Russia and Syria are the only countries that fly planes in the area, is the answer … the Russian and Syrian air forces?” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said to the 15-member council on where the blame lay.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said Russia and Syria were responsible for the attacks on the health centers. He said it was “most alarming” that several of the centers attacked were on a list created by Russia and the United Nations in an attempt to protect them.

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United Kingdom Ambassador Karen Pierce address a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Oct. 23, 2018 at UN headquarters. VOA

Pierce said it would be “absolutely grotesque” if health facilities that provided their locations were “finding themselves being the authors of their own destruction because of deliberated targeting by the regime.”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the Syrian and Russian forces were not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and questioned the sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks on health centers.

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U. N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Mark Lowcock attends a news conference for the launch of the “Global Humanitarian Overview 2019” at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 4, 2018. VOA

“We categorically reject accusations of violations of international humanitarian law,” Nebenzia told the council. “Our goal is the terrorists.”

An array of insurgents have a foothold in northwestern Syria – Idlib province and a belt of territory around it. The most powerful is the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front which was part of al Qaeda until 2016.

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U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council he did not know who was responsible, but “at least some of these attacks are clearly organized by people with access to sophisticated weapons including a modern air force and so called smart or precision weapons.”

Lowcock said 49 health centers had partially or totally suspended activities, some for fear of being attacked, while 17 schools have been damaged or destroyed and many more closed. He said that in the past three weeks up to 160 people have been killed and at least 180,000 people displaced.

U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned the Security Council: “If the escalation continues and the offensive pushes forward, we risk catastrophic humanitarian fallout and threats to international peace and security.” (VOA)