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Putin sets partial military call-up, won’t ‘bluff’ on nukes – The Zimbabwe Mail

In this image made from a video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia on Wednesday, risking a deeply unpopular step that follows a string of humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine.

It’s the first call-up in Russia since World War II and is sure to further fuel tensions with the Western backers of Ukraine, who derided the move as an act of weakness. The move also sent Russians scrambling to buy plane tickets out of the country.

It comes after Russian authorities tried to recruit more fighters into volunteer battalions and amid reports of widespread recruitment in prisons, as the Kremlin has struggled to replenish its troops.

The Russian leader, in a seven-minute televised address to the nation aired Wednesday morning, also warned the West that he isn’t bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability. Putin has previously warned the West not to back Russia against the wall and has rebuked NATO countries for supplying weapons to help Ukraine.

The total number of reservists to be called up could be as high as 300,000, officials said.

Even a partial mobilization is likely to increase dismay, or sow doubt, among Russians about the war in Ukraine. Shortly after Putin’s address, Russian media reported a sharp spike in demand for plane tickets abroad amid an apparent scramble to leave despite exorbitant prices for flights.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was asked what had changed since he and others previously said no mobilization was planned, argued that Russia is effectively fighting against NATO because the alliance’s members have been supplying weapons to Kyiv.

The partial mobilization order came a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia — a move that could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war. The referendums will start Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.

Youtube video thumbnail

The ballots are all but certain to go Moscow’s way. Foreign leaders have described the ballots as illegitimate and nonbinding. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they were a “sham” and “noise” to distract public attention.

Putin’s speech is “definitely a sign that he’s struggling, and we know that,” U.S. national security council spokesperson John Kirby said.

Putin has suffered tens of thousands of casualties, has command and control issues, terrible troop morale, desertion problems and is “forcing the wounded back (into) the fight,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. He added about 25 million people fit this criteria but only around 1% of them will be mobilized.

Another key clause in the decree prevents most professional soldiers from terminating their contracts and leaving service until the partial mobilization is no longer in place.

Putin’s announcement came as the U.N. General Assembly was taking place in New York. Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has been the target of broad international criticism at the assembly that has kept up intense diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

Zelenskky is due to address the gathering in a prerecorded address on Wednesday. Putin didn’t travel to New York.

Putin’s gambit has a strong element of risk — it could backfire by making the Ukraine war unpopular at home and hurting his own standing. It also concedes that Russia has underlying military shortcomings.

A Ukraine counteroffensive launched this month has snatched the military initiative away from Russia, as well as capturing large areas in Ukraine that the Russians once held. The swiftness of the counteroffensive saw Russian forces abandon armored vehicles and other weapons as they beat hasty retreats.

A spokesman for Zelenskyy called the mobilization a “big tragedy” for the Russian people.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Sergii Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the front line in Ukraine would face a similar fate as ill-prepared Russian forces who were repelled in an attack on Kyiv in the first days of the war.

“This is a recognition of the incapacity of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks,” Nikiforov said.

The Russian mobilization is unlikely to produce any consequences on the battlefield for months because of a lack of training facilities and equipment.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, tweeted that the mobilization is a sign “of weakness, of Russian failure.” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace echoed that assessment, describing Putin’s move as “an admission that his invasion is failing.”

Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said Putin’s announcement smacked of “an act of desperation.” He predicted that Russians will resist the mobilization through “passive sabotage.”

“People will evade this mobilization in every possible way, bribe their way out of this mobilization, leave the country,” Oreshkin told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The announcement won’t go down well with the general public, Oreshkin said, describing it as “a huge personal blow to Russian citizens, who until recently (took part in the hostilities) with pleasure, sitting on their couches, (watching) TV. And now the war has come into their home.”

The war in Ukraine, which has killed thousands of people, has driven up food prices worldwide and caused energy costs to soar. It has also brought fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine’s now Russia-occupied southeast. Investigations are also underway into possible war crimes atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

In his address, which was far shorter than previous speeches about the Ukraine war, Putin accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and noted “statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”

He didn’t identify who had made such comments.

“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.

He added: “It’s not a bluff.”

Putin said he has already signed the decree for partial mobilization, which starts immediately, and stressed its limited scale.

“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces who have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.

Shoigu also said Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers have died in the Ukraine conflict, far lower than Western estimates that Russia has lost tens of thousands.

The Vesna opposition movement called for nationwide protests on Wednesday.

“Thousands of Russian men — our fathers, brothers and husbands — will be thrown into the meat grinder of the war. What will they be dying for? What will mothers and children be crying for?” the group said.

Yet it was unclear how many would protest given Russia’s harsh laws against criticizing the military.


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Zimbabwe army warns public of massive troop and artillery movements – Bulawayo24 News

THE military will be moving a large number of troops and equipment to six districts of Mashonaland Central province for a training exercise, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has announced.

The notice comes amid growing tensions within the ruling executive, amid reports Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was plotting to oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The moving of army vehicles almost coincides with the Zanu-PF elective congress and the last time large numbers of troops and vehicles were seen in the streets, the military was staging a coup.

In a statement, the ZDF advised the public not to panic.

“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces would like to inform the general public that it will be conducting a training exercise in Bindura, Mbire Muzarabani, Rushinga, Shamva and Mt Darwin districts of Mashonaland Central Province, from 22 September to 21 October 2022. This year’s training exercise is a follow up to a similar exercise conducted in Masvingo Province in 2021,” reads the statement.

“The training exercise is meant to sharpen and perfect operational skills so as to enhance the Zimbabwe Defence Forces capability to fulfil its mandate. The exercise involves the movement of a large number of troops and vehicles from Harare into Mashonaland Central Province. Therefore the general populace should not be surprised by these movements.”

Observers say the timing of the exercise was curious amid unconfirmed reports two distinct camps within Zanu-PF, one led by Mnangagwa himself and the other by his ambitious deputy, were tussling for power ahead of the party’s elective congress, where the presidential candidate will be nominated.

Recently, a dissident group calling itself Zanu-PF original claimed that Mnangagwa no longer served the party’s interests and must, therefore, handover power to the former army general.

Mnangagwa was supposed to travel to Cuba, but cancelled his trip and returned home citing inclement weather, in yet another indicator all is not well in the former revolutionary party.

Chiwenga, who is reportedly sick, was at the airport to meet Mnangagwa when he arrived from New York despite failing to turn up for an official event in Gweru.

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Tourists flock back to Zimbabwe – Chronicle

The Chronicle

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief

INTERNATIONAL travellers from the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK) constitute the bulk of tourists’ arrivals flocking back to Zimbabwe following the relaxation of Covid-19-induced travel restrictions.

In the region and across the continent, South Africa is leading in terms of being a crucial link for tourists visiting Zimbabwe while domestic tourism has also become a key pillar for the sector.

The country recorded 352 719 tourist arrivals in the first-half of the year, according to official figures, up 115 percent from 164 062 tourist arrivals received during the same period last year with a majority of the visitors coming in from the USA and UK.

Zimbabwe is aiming to achieve a US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025 and the rebound in the sector sets the tone towards realisation of the milestone target.

Tourism is on a growth trajectory following the relaxation of Covid-19-induced travel restrictions and lockdowns and deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Barbara Rwodzi, says the sector is looking forward to more arrivals this year.“Tourists from the USA and UK are making the bulk of tourist’s arrivals that are being recorded in the country,” she said in an interview.

“Overall, the tourists we are getting are largely coming from the following countries, USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and China.”

The Deputy Minister was in Gweru last week where she revealed that the tourism sector was also working on ways to adapt to global catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic in future.

UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Melanie Robinson, who recently visited Matabeleland North province, has also commended the recent tourism sector reboot.

Ms Melanie Robinson

“Spectacular Victoria Falls. So great to see tourism coming back to Zimbabwe, including so many from the UK,” she posted on her official Twitter handle and shared images of her tourism experience.

“Wonderful to be in Hwange – talking economic opportunity, biodiversity and climate change. A lot of interest in how the Biodiverse Landscape Fund will support these here and in the whole KAZA area.”

Due to national lockdowns and travel restrictions that countries the world over imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector has not been spared from the adverse effects of the virus. The Covid-19 pandemic was first detected in China in December 2019 before spreading across the globe.

In 2020, the Government launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy to re-start the sector, whose contribution to the national economy has been heavily crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tourism industry is one of the three major economic mainstays after mining and agriculture that contribute significantly to the fiscus and Gross Domestic Product through foreign currency generation.

Meanwhile, international buyers have expressed excitement about the upcoming Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo to be held from 13 to 15 October at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre in Bulawayo.

The expo is expected to attract over 100 international buyers and is set to contribute to more in marketing destination Zimbabwe and unifying players in the local tourism sector and the region at large.

A leading South Korean tour operator, Mr Yunsuk Jin, last Friday told the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), which is hosting the event, that they have booked a pre-tour, which will see them visit the majestic Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Bulawayo and Harare.

Victoria Falls

The team intends to ride on the expo to explore and sell Zimbabwe’s tourism products in South Korea and the Asian region at large.

Mr Jin’s company has presence in Cape Town and Johannesburg with 80 percent market share of operators that bring tourists to Africa.

“We’re attending Sanganai/Hlanganani as buyers and looking forward to meeting the rest of the world at this tourism exchange. Before 2019, as a company we used to bring about 3 000 South Korean tourists into the country and we hope to continue after this year’s edition of the expo,” he said.

“We want to enhance our knowledge and experience about destinations, we have since booked to take part in a pre-tour that covers Bulawayo, Masvingo, the Eastern Highlands and Harare.”

Another international buyer from the United States of America, Ms Kirsten Lebreux, who works with an operator that specialises in custom tours all round the world said she was looking forward to seeing what the country has for tourists.

“Zimbabwe is one of my favourite places in the world and I am so excited at the opportunity to be at Sanganai/Hlanganani to reconnect with old friends and industry partners,” she said.

“I want to be able to pick as much information as possible and share it with friends and industry colleagues back at home.”

The expo will be the first in-person meeting since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Commenting, ZTA head of corporate affairs, Mr Godfrey Koti, said it has been a tough time for tourism under Covid-19 but they are excited that the sector is now on the rebound on the back of strategies being implemented by the various sector players.

“We are expectant that the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo will also help us to reposition destination Zimbabwe into a world class marketing platform that will also in turn, give us the requisite receipts for the tourism sector as we chase our goal of reaching a $5 billion economy by 2025,” he said.

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Stocks fall on recession fears; Dow slips into bear market – The Zimbabwe Mail

NEW YORK – A broad slide on Wall Street extended the major indexes’ losing streak to a fifth day Monday, deepening a steep market slump amid growing fears of a global recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1%, becoming the last of the major U.S. stock indexes to fall into what’s known as a bear market. The S&P 500 closed 1% lower and the Nasdaq dropped 0.6%.

The British pound dropped to an all-time low against the dollar and investors continued to dump British government bonds in displeasure over a sweeping tax cut plan announced in London last week.

Markets in Europe closed mostly lower. The head of the European Central Bank warned that the economic outlook “is darkening” as high energy and food prices pushed up by the war in Ukraine sap consumer spending power. France, the EU’s second-biggest economy, forecast a substantial slowdown in economic growth next year.

In the U.S., stock indexes have been losing ground, coming off their fifth weekly loss in six weeks.

“Yields are higher, the dollar is stronger and stocks are weak,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at All Star Charts. “That’s been the theme, really all year, and intensified a little bit last week and that’s playing out this week.”

The S&P 500 fell 38.19 points to 3,665.04. The Nasdaq dropped 65 points to 10,802.92. The Dow lost 329.60 points to close at 29,260.81. The blue chip index is now 20.5% below its all-time high set on Jan. 4. A drop of 20% or more from a recent peak is what Wall Street calls a bear market.

Losses were broad and included banks, health care companies and energy stocks. Bank of America fell 2.2%, Medtronic dropped 1.6% and Marathon Oil slid 3.7%.

Casino and resort operators were a bright spot following reports that the gambling center of Macao will loosen travel restrictions in November. Wynn Resorts jumped 12%.

Smaller company stocks fell more than the broader market. The Russell 2000 dropped 23.71 points, or 1.4%, to close at 1,655.88.

The latest bout of selling to open the week comes amid an extended slump for major indexes. The benchmark S&P 500 is down more than 7% in September. Stocks have been weighed down by concerns about stubbornly hot inflation and the risk that central banks could push economies into a recession as they try to cool high prices on everything from food to clothing. Investors have been particularly focusing on the Federal Reserve and its aggressive interest rate hikes.

“We’re starting to have a handoff from fears about inflation and the Fed to global economic worries,” said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. “We’ve reached a universal degree of pessimism.”

The Fed raised its benchmark rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, again last week and it now sits at a range of 3% to 3.25%. It was at virtually zero at the start of the year. The Fed also released a forecast suggesting its benchmark rate could be 4.4% by the year’s end, a full point higher than envisioned in June.

The goal is to make borrowing more expensive and effectively crimp spending, which would cool inflation. The U.S. economy is already slowing, however, and Wall Street is worried that the Fed’s rate hikes will pump the brakes too hard on the economy and cause a recession. Higher interest rates hurt all kinds of investments, especially pricey technology stocks.

The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to follow expectations for Federal Reserve action, rose significantly to 4.32% from 4.21% late Friday. It is trading at its highest level since 2007. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, jumped to 3.89% from 3.69%.

The recent rise in the U.S. dollar against other currencies is a concern for many countries. It dents profits for U.S. companies with overseas business, and puts a financial squeeze on much of the developing world.

Companies are nearing the close of the third quarter and investors are preparing for the next round of earnings reports. That will give them a better sense of how companies are dealing with persistent inflation.

Investors also have several economic reports on tap for this week that will give more details on consumer spending, the jobs market and the broader health of the U.S. economy.

The latest consumer confidence report, for September, from business group The Conference Board will be released on Tuesday. The government will release its weekly report on unemployment benefits on Thursday, along with an updated report on second-quarter gross domestic product.

On Friday, the government will release another report on personal income and spending that will help provide more details on where and how inflation is hurting consumer spending.

Source: AP

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