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Indian Astronauts Training For Gaganyaan Mission Self-Isolate Over Fears Of Coronavirus – Reports

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Four Indian astronauts currently being trained at Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia for the Gaganyaan mission have gone into self-isolation over fears of Covid-19.

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According to reports, this is a precautionary step following the discovery of nine coronavirus cases in the Russian space agency, Hindustan Times reported quoting key sources. Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency confirmed that nine of its employees had been infected by the coronavirus.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, the training of Gaganyaan’s four astronauts in Russia has been put on hold as the facility where the exercise is being undertaken has been temporarily closed due to Covid-19 pandemic, ANI quoted some sources.

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“As part of international cooperation, four representatives of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are beginning their training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on February 10, 2020, as candidates for a space flight.”

All the candidates for Mission Gangayaan have served as fighter jet pilots in the Indian Air Force. They were selected by ISRO after comprehensive tests and training. However, since last week the center has been shut due to coronavirus outbreak, sources said.

Mission Gaganyaan: Indian Astronauts To Start Training At Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

“Our (prospective) astronauts are fine. They are currently in the hostel. We have been told the center will open by the end of the month,” a source said.

When asked whether the suspension of training for nearly four weeks will hurt the training program, the sources added that although the training program spans over 12 months, they had kept a buffer of three months to factor in exigencies.

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India-China Border Clash: Russia ‘Worried’ About Standoff Between Two Great Allies

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After the US, Russia has expressed anxiety over the border clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and urged India and China to address the issue through established bilateral dialogue mechanisms.

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“Of course we are worried with the current situation at LAC, reported the Economic Times.

However, as we know, there are specified mechanisms developed by both the nations including hotlines, special representatives dialogue, and informal summits. We are positive that India and China would be able to to find a solution. We would encourage every attempt in this regard,” Russian Deputy Ambassador to India Roman Babushkin told ET.

This is the first statement by Russia since the border clash first broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh region along the LAC.

Earlier, both India and China also pledged to use the bilateral mechanism to solve the raging border conflict. Referring to SCO-RIC mechanism Babushkin said – We think it is vital to improve Russia-India-China (RIC) dialogue as well as SCO-based coordination as essential for regional security and boosting mutual trust.” Russia presently holds the SCO chairmanship.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, US president Doland Trump had reiterated his offer to mediate between India and China over the border dispute between the two nuclear-armed nations.

Trump has said that he talked with Indian PM about the “big conflict” and asserted that the PM Modi s not in a “good mood” over the latest flare-ups.

Speaking with the reporters in the White House on Thursday, President Trump said a “big conflict” was going on between India and China. “I like your prime minister a lot. He is a great gentleman,” the president said.

“Have a big conflict …India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people (each). Two countries with very powerful armies. India is not happy and probably China is not happy,” he said when asked if he was worried about the border situation between India and China.

Trump had earlier offered to mediate between India and China to resolve the border conflict and had tweeted – “ready, willing and able to mediate” between the two countries. Responding to a question on his tweet, Trump repeated his proposal, saying if called for help, “I would do that (mediate). If they thought it would help” about “mediate or arbitrate, I would do that,” he said.

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EurAsian Region

Russia Could Annex More Parts Of Ukraine Over ‘Crimean Dispute’: US Reports

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The lack of water in Crimea may lead to a new military aggression by Russia against Ukraine. Analysts he Jamestown Foundation believes that the water situation in Crimea has reached a critical level, which might prompt Moscow to seize more Ukrainian territories. 

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Goble writes – the Crimea has long endured water shortages now intensified by frequent winters with little-to-no rain or snow. According to officials in Moscow, Crimea has seen its reserves of freshwater slump by 60% and there could be no water by this August in the peninsula.

The situation poses a grave health crisis in Crimea and this could prompt Russia to seize more Ukrainian territories to gain access to freshwater supplies as Kiev has bluntly rejected selling water to Russia.

Until the Russian annexation of Crimea, 85% of the drinking water for the Crimean residents was supplied via the North Crimean Canal, from the Dnieper River. However, Ukraine abruptly terminated the supplies, forcing Moscow to rely on groundwater and reservoirs.

Ukrainian experts state that the water deficiency in Crimea is a direct result of the Russian invasion. If it ends (the Russian occupation) the water crisis will end too, which is also the official position of Ukraine,”

The groundwater levels in much of Crimea have decreased dramatically as the region faces the prospect of water shortages for both agriculture as well as the resident population.

Not only is Crimea running out of water, but experts claim that Russia has often played up this issue in order to pressurize Ukraine via Europe. Indeed, the expert notes, what Moscow says about water for Crimea has matched the Russin attempts to extend its control into other parts of Ukraine.

When Russia overran Ukrainian territory in 2014, they had planned to capture a much larger portion of the nation than they were able to, including the places from which Crimea had historically obtained its water. Will the current “hysteria” in Crimea about water shortage prompt the Russians to move against Ukraine?

Ukraine is unlikely to change its position on Crimea and Russian occupation. That is because there is a looming water shortage in Ukraine itself, and supplying water to the Russian occupation would only increase the matter, besides Kiev looks determined to stand its ground firm.

That raises the probability that Russia may use the military option and drive northward into Ukraine to seize full control of water for Crimea before a humanitarian disaster hits the region this summer.

he Jamestown Foundation

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EurAsian Region

From Syria To Libya, Turkish Drones Outsmarting Russian Air Defence Systems?

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Turkey and Russia have been at opposite ends in both Syria and Libya. Just like Syria where Turkish drones excelled against the Russian air defence systems, the situation in Libya looks almost similar. 

Turkish drones have yet again battered Russian air-defence systems. According to TRT World, the introduction of drones in Libya by Turkey has caused the tide of the war to swing in its favour.

To understand the Libyan war is not easy as different countries support different leaders and this has caused widespread chaos in the region. Much like Syria, Russia and Turkey are supporting different groups in Libya.

Moscow backs and supports Khalil Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in Benghazi. Haftar also has allies in France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The LNA recruits from all over Africa and its aim are to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rule over the African country.

The GNA is the internationally recognised government in Libya and the defence of the government lies in the hands of Turkey, Qatar and Italy and its army. The LNA, under Haftar, launched a military campaign in April 2019 to take control of Tripoli even though the UN Secretary-General had requested him not to do so.

A year on, Haftar’s self-styled LNA is on verge of defeat as Turkey’s drones have wreaked havoc on LNA controlled territories.

Turkish Drones – Changing the Tide

According to reports, Turkish drones started arriving in late 2019 and the Turkish Army assisted the GNA to familiarize Libyans with the new weapons.

Prior to the arrival of the drones, Haftar’s own air force, supported by the UAE, Egyptians and Russians had devastated the GNA forces resulting in heavy casualties.

However, the drones have proved to be the game-changer yet again. Using their experience from Idlib in Syria, Ankara mastered the use of sophisticated unmanned aerial warfare, hitting targets at distance and assisting ground troops.

Now using the same technology and experience, Turkish drones have been vital in assisting GNA claim nearly all of western Libya from Haftar’s forces. Since April, the GNA has captured numerous cities between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.

The latest feather in the GNA’s cap is the seizure of the Al-Vatiya, HQ of the LNA’s western operations, and the largest airbase across Western Libya. The Turks reported the destruction of two Russian anti-aircraft missile-cannon systems (ZRPK) “Pantsir-C1”.

This is the first time that the GNA has announced hitting the Russian air defence system since the start of the assault on Tripoli forces in April 2019.

Russia Wounded Yet Again?

For the Russian forces, the latest advance in Libya is a flashback of Syria. As reported by EurAsian Times in March, drones from Turkey had destroyed several Russian-made, Syrian-operated air defence vehicles. The Russian Ministry of Defence later confirmed that two Pantsir air-defence systems were destroyed in the Turkish onslaught.

In Libya, the air defence system has met the same fate and has now raised questions over its efficacy. The aerial offensive from Ankara has put Moscow on the backfoot. But like always, analysts agree that the Russian will not go out without a fight.

In an effort to counter GNA and its allies, Moscow has sent 6 MiG-29 fighter jets and 2 Su-24 attack planes to the LNA-controlled al Jufra airbase. The Russians did get some positive news as the LNA was able to destroy 4 Turkish drones last week. Haftar’s only hope to stem the GNA’s advance is to regain air superiority.

The Libyan war has been going on since 2011 and while the tide has now swung in the GNA’s favour, it does not mean the war will end anytime soon. Experts speaking to EurAsian Times believe that there is no military solution to Libya and Haftar must be removed from the scene in Tripoli.

Written by – Armaan Srivastava

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