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Vladimir Putin has for seven months insisted his invasion of Ukraine was only a special military operation.

That way he hoped the conflict would seem distant and contained to the broad Russian public.

With his military suffering setback after setback, a week ago he announced the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists. But even that was qualified.

It was a partial mobilisation and so far the bulk of men being drafted are said to be from areas far from Moscow and in the Russian federation’s autonomous republics.

Putin faces ‘imminent defeat’ – Ukraine war latest

He will have hoped again that the bulk of ethnic Russians will still not feel directly affected by this latest escalation.

But it is not working out that way, it seems, not for hundreds of thousands of Russians across the country.

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They’ve felt so strongly about his latest moves that they have left their homes and everything in them and made the long and difficult journey out of Russia. To Georgia, or to Mongolia and Kazakhstan or Finland, where so many Russians have crossed that the authorities have now closed the border to them.

As many have left in the past week as in the entire conflict. One young mother crossing into Georgia told Sky News that you cannot raise children in a country that sends men to kill against their will.

Others are less prepared to talk to news crews when they cross. Many of them are from those autonomous republics.

Areas such as Dagestan, in the north Caucasus, Buryat far to the east and Chechnya have suffered a disproportionately high amount of casualties in the Ukraine war and suspect the new mobilisation will mean an unfair number of their men are forced to join up.

Startling levels of unrest

There has been an unprecedented level of unrest in these republics in the last week. We have seen startling videos online of men headbutting policemen and kickboxing them in mass brawls.

And in deeply conservative Islamic areas of Russia, women have been so angry they have taken to the streets to chant “No more war” against police.

We were able to talk to a few men anonymously who come from these areas.

One from Dagestan would not show his face on camera, but said the situation there was getting worse. Young men, he said, were being forced into minibuses and sent for military training. He was getting out of Russia while he could.

Another man from Chechnya said zthat since Mr Putin’s mobilisation order “the mood of younger Chechens worsened. Everybody is trying as fast they can to leave Chechen territory, fearing they’ll be mobilised.”

He questioned the Kremlin’s logic in forcing men to fight against their will.

“I don’t think they’ll try hard because many of us think this isn’t our war and that Russia is an aggressor. This is not defending the interests of their motherland.”

He had been working hard to get Chechen men across the border.

‘I don’t really understand’

We filmed our interview at night and obscured his identity to avoid retribution by Chechen authorities back home against members of his family. Chechnya has been subject to brutal repression since its subjugation by Russia in two conflicts.

He said Russia was fighting a war and there was no other way of describing it.

So did another man who approached us under cover of darkness. A military veteran, he had fought for Russia and served four years, he said, but had just crossed the border to avoid being called up.

Mr Putin’s announcements showed Russia was not fighting a limited military operation, he said.

“I really don’t understand why I should go,” he told us. “This is not our territory. The fact they’re trying to mobilise this many people means it’s the start of something very serious.”

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He had comrades who had fought in Ukraine, he said, but their experience was far from encouraging.

“I have some friends who are in Ukraine and friends who have come back. But they’re not saying anything good about it.”

Mr Putin is doubling down on his war, but for an increasing number of Russians that has brought the conflict far closer to home.

It is provoking widespread unrest and a mass exodus. He is gambling that those downsides will be worth it, but he may be raising a fighting force of only dubious quality, hastily trained poorly equipped and reluctant to fight.

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Ireland, Norway and Spain recognise Palestine as independent state




Ireland, Norway and Spain recognise Palestine as independent state

Ireland, Norway and Spain have officially recognised Palestine as a separate state, prompting Israel to recall its ambassadors from two of the European states.

Speaking on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said: “Today Ireland, Norway and Spain are announcing that we recognise the state of Palestine, each of us will undertake whatever national steps are necessary to give effect to that decision.

“I am confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

What is the two-state solution?

The Irish government argues that recognition supports a two-state solution, which it said is essential for lasting peace in the region, which has been at the centre of Israel’s offensive against Hamas since October.

Mr Harris continued: “It is a statement of unequivocal support for a two-state solution, the only credible path to peace and security for Israel, for Palestine and for their peoples.”

The protests during the semi-finals. Pic: Reuters
Norway and Spain said they will recognise the Palestine state from 28 May. File pic: Reuters

Shortly after Mr Harris’ statement in Dublin, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Norway’s foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, said both countries will recognise a Palestine state from 28 May.

Mr Sanchez said it is clear is that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate”.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store added: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.

Taoiseach Simon Harris speaking to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, Dublin, as the Republic of Ireland recognised the state of Palestine. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2024.
Taoiseach Simon Harris said recognition of Palestine as a state is the only credible path to peace. Pic: PA

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”

‘Terrorism pays’

After the announcement, Israel’s foreign minister ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel.

IDF stills

Posting on X Israel Katz said: “Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays.”

He said that the recognition could impede efforts to return Israel’s hostages being held in Gaza and makes a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran”.

Read more:
Israeli minister denies there is a famine in Gaza
Israeli officials shut down Associated Press broadcast

“Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security,” he added.

It comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of Gaza and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine in the enclave.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow.

In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Mr Abbas said the decision will enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to bring about a two-state solution with Israel.

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Singapore Airlines: Passengers describe chaos of fatal turbulence flight




Singapore Airlines: Passengers describe chaos of fatal turbulence flight

A passenger travelling on a plane where a man died after the aircraft hit extreme turbulence has said she was “thrown to the roof and the floor”, while another said he “won’t be flying again for a while”.

A 73-year-old British man died from a suspected heart attack and dozens more were injured after “sudden extreme turbulence” on a London-Singapore flight.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 left Heathrow Airport on Monday night but was forced to make an emergency landing in at Bangkok, landing at 3.45pm local time.

Passengers have said seatbelts spared people from injury and passengers were “launched into the ceiling” of the jet.

Australian Teandra Tukhunen, who had her left arm in a sling in Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, said she was asleep and “was woken up because I was thrown to the roof and then to the floor”.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer REFILE – CORRECTING FLIGHT NUMBER FROM "SG321" TO "SQ321
Pic: Reuters

Sandra, from Melbourne, said she 'was woken up because I was thrown to the roof and then to the floor'
Sandra, from Melbourne, said she ‘was thrown to the roof and then to the floor’

Ms Tukhunen, 30, said when the seatbelt sign came on “pretty much immediately, straight after that I was flung to the roof, before I had time to put my seatbelt on unfortunately.

“It was just so quick, over in a couple of seconds and then you’re just shocked. Everyone’s pretty freaked out”.

Asked if it was scary, she shrugged: “Life happens. Things happen. The pilots saved our lives, that’s all that matters in the end.”

Passenger Josh said 'I don't think I'll be flying again for a while'
Passenger Josh said ‘I don’t think I’ll be flying again for a while’

Passenger Joshua said “I don’t think I’ll be flying again for a while” after the incident which he called “quite scary”.

Lying on a trolley in the same hospital, he described hearing “one huge loud noise, things were coming through the ceiling, water everywhere, people crying… it wasn’t a fun end to the journey”.

He said he was in “a lot of pain” and felt a lot worse after the news of the passenger’s death had “sunk in”.

British passenger Andrew Davies said “anyone who had a seatbelt on isn’t injured”.

Mr Davies said the seatbelt sign came on, but crew members didn’t have time to take their seats.

“Every single cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way or another, maybe with a gash on their head. One had a bad back, and was in obvious pain,” he said.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer REFILE – CORRECTING FLIGHT NUMBER FROM "SG321" TO "SQ321
Pic: Reuters

Passenger Dzafran Azmir described the chaos on board after the plane rose, then fell.

Mr Azmir said: “Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling.

“Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it.”

Kittipong Kittikachorn, head of Bangkok airport, described the disorder he found when he boarded the aircraft after the most critically injured passengers and crew had been evacuated.

Mr Kittikachorn said: “I saw things lying everywhere and many air crew injured.”

He said it’s believed the turbulence hit while people were having breakfast and that an “air pocket” was to blame.

Mr Kittikachorn said most of the passengers he had spoken to had been wearing their seatbelts.

A spokesperson for Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital said: “Seventy-one people needed treatment and six of them had critical injuries”.

Read more:
Images show damage in plane after one killed in turbulence
Is flight turbulence getting worse – and what types are there?

However, Singapore Airlines seemed to contradict those numbers and said only 30 people had been taken to hospital.

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Singapore Airlines said the pilot declared a medical emergency and landed in Bangkok after “sudden extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after departure”.

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was “in contact with the local authorities”.

Forty-seven Britons were among the 211 passengers and 18 crew onboard the plane, a Boeing 777-300ER.

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Singapore Airlines: Is flight turbulence getting worse – and what types are there?




Singapore Airlines: Is flight turbulence getting worse - and what types are there?

Severe turbulence struck a Singapore Airlines flight from London Heathrow earlier today, with one man killed and many others “launched into the ceiling”.

Authorities believe a 73-year-old British man, who had a heart condition, likely died from cardiac arrest, with at least 30 others injured as a result of the turbulence.

Deaths from turbulence are extremely rare, and the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said 146 passengers and crew have been seriously injured by turbulence between 2009 and 2021.

Read more:
Images show damage in plane after one killed in turbulence

But what could have caused the incident, what types of turbulence exist, and are the events getting worse? Here’s what experts have said so far:

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

What does the flight data show?

Flight data shows a spike in altitude of around 275ft (84m) at 2.49pm local time. Shortly after, the plane returned to a cruising altitude of around 37,000ft (11,277m).

According to Flightradar24, “the flight encountered a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event”.

At 3.03pm local time, the flight changed course and began its diversion to Bangkok.

Around 20 minutes later, at about 3.25pm, the flight declared an emergency – a Squawk 7700 – before landing in Bangkok at 3.45pm.

Source: Flightradar24. All times are local
Source: Flightradar24. All times are local

What could have caused the turbulence?

Tim Atkinson, an aviation consultant and pilot, told the Sky News Daily podcast he believes “it’s fairly clear” the Singapore Airlines flight “encountered atmospheric turbulence”.

He noted that the area – called the Intertropical Convergence Zone – where the Boeing 777 plunged 6,000 feet is “renowned among pilots, and I dare say passengers, for turbulence”.

“Despite abundant caution occasionally, there’s turbulence ahead which can’t be identified, and the unfortunate result of an encounter is injury and, very rarely, fatality,” he said.

Mr Atkinson also noted that the larger the aircraft, “the worse the atmospheric perturbation, the disruption in the smoothness of the atmosphere, needs to be to cause major problems”.

He then said the 777 is “one of the largest and, I daresay, most solid airframes widely flying around the world”.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Pic: Reuters
Pic: Reuters

What types of turbulence are there?

Sky News’ weather producer Jo Robinson notes there are a few forms of turbulence – where there’s a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

Turbulence can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

There are clues on where CAT may occur, but generally it can’t be detected ahead of time, which means flight crews can be caught unaware with no time to warn passengers and put seat belt signs on.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Singapore Airlines flight went through.

How common is an incident like this?

Chris McGee, a commercial pilot for more than 20 years, said in her experience the plane did encounter CAT which is “almost impossible to predict” and comes “out of the blue”.

Ms McGee said turbulence is not in fact that rare, but to experience it to this degree is “phenomenally rare”.

“In my career I’ve experienced one incident of severe turbulence,” she said, adding that she has heard of maybe “two, possibly three incidents of something that extreme” from fellow pilots.

The reported 6,000-ft drop in under five minutes is quite normal in a controlled descent instigated by the pilot, she said.

However, what they experienced was not a nice smooth, controlled descent, but an “absolute maelstrom of the aeroplane flinging itself around all over the sky”.

“It’s awful what happened to those on board, one death is tragic, other people were injured, but something like that is incredibly rare,” she said.

“We do train in the simulator every six months at least where we practicse things we can’t practise in the real aeroplane. Things like emergency procedures, abnormalities and unusual weather conditions like this, for example.

“We are taught how to fly the aeroplane through these extreme events and how to recover them should the plane depart from its normal flight mode.”

Her best advice for any passengers concerned about their safety on the flight is to follow what the cabin crew “strongly suggest and keep their seatbelts loosely tied at all times. On the flight deck that’s what we do. It will protect you”.

Pic: Reuters
The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand May 21, 2024. Obtained by Reuters/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Pic: Reuters

Is turbulence getting worse?

It’s been understood for some time that climate change is increasing turbulence during flights, and the trend is set to worsen according to reports.

In June last year, a study from Reading University found that in a typical spot in the North Atlantic – one of the world’s busiest routes – the total annual duration of severe turbulence increased by 55% from 17.7 hours in 1979 to 27.4 hours in 2020.

Moderate turbulence was also found to have increased by 37% from 70.0 to 96.1 hours, and light turbulence increased by 17% from 466.5 to 546.8 hours.

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Professor Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist who co-authored the study, said at the time: “My message from this is we need to do something otherwise flights will become more turbulent in future [as global heating increases further].”

Professor Paul Roundy, from the University of Albany, said on X on Tuesday that the 55% increase in “a very infrequent signal gives a real, but small, change in absolute risk”.

He noted that “it’s not something a randomly selected passenger should worry about,” before adding: “Airline travel of the future won’t be fraught with wings ripped off planes, or have thousands of dead or injured passengers.

“It will mostly look like it does today.”

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