This Week's Headlines (19 - 25 Mar 2022)

25 Mar 2022


  Indonesia's Annual Holiday Exodus to Go Ahead
 This Year as COVID Cases Ease

  Indonesia will lift a ban on domestic travel during the Muslim holiday season of Eid al-Fitr in

  early May, President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday, after banning the annual tradition for two

  years during the pandemic. 


  The decision to allow the annual exodus after the holy month of Ramadan is the latest in a series

  of measures aimed at easing COVID-19 restrictions and reviving Southeast Asia's largest economy. 


  Indonesia, a country of 270 million, banned the mass travel known locally as 'mudik' in early 2020

  as it scrambled to contain the spread of coronavirus along with the rest of the world. 


  But millions of people flouted the poorly enforced ban and left urban centres for their home towns and

  villages, as is the tradition in the predominantly Muslim country. 


  As COVID cases plateau after peaking in mid-February because of the virulent Omicron variant,

  authorities are lifting domestic and overseas travel restrictions. 


  "The improving COVID situation has brought optimism as the Ramadan holy month is upon us,"

  the president, commonly known as Jokowi, told a news conference. 


  "People who want to go on 'mudik' are now allowed." 


  Earlier this week, Indonesia dropped quarantine rules for vaccinated foreign arrivals, following similar

  moves by other countries in the region. 


  Source: Reuters 



  Joe Biden says Russia should be removed from G-20 


  US President Joe Biden met with EU and NATO leaders in Brussels Thursday, where he conferred

  with colleagues on a number of issues pertaining to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 


  Biden says at a news conference that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has built greater unity within

  NATO, the European Union and the Group of Seven (G7) economies. 


  Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin had gravely miscalculated Western resolve: "He didn't

  think we could sustain this cohesion," said the US leader, emphasizing that NATO had "never been

  more united than it is today." 


  What Biden said about Russia's invasion of Ukraine 


  Speaking to reporters at a press conference after the meeting, Biden said Russia should be removed

  from the G20, while at the same time calling for observer status for Ukraine. 


  The G-20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of 19 countries and the European

  Union that works on major global issues. Biden said that he would prefer Russia is removed from

  the group, but should Indonesia or other nations disagree, he would ask that Ukraine leaders be

  allowed in for conversations. 


  Biden also defended his foreign policy response to the Russian invasion, after a reporter said sanctions

  did not deter Russia's attack. 


  "Sanctions never deter," Biden said. He said he believes maintaining sanctions over time will ultimately

  lead to Russia stopping its invasion. 


  Answering a question on possible Chinese involvement in the conflict, Biden said he told

  Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing would face consequences if helps Moscow during the

  ongoing attack. 


  "I made no threats but I made it clear to him — made sure he understood the consequences of

  helping Russia," Biden said of his recent conversation with Xi. "China understands that its

  economic future is much more closely tied to the West than it is to Russia." 


  US promises Ukraine will have arms and assistance 


  At the NATO meeting, Biden addressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea for

  Western arms, saying, "We are committed to identifying additional equipment, including air defense

  systems, to help Ukraine." 


  The US and allies have already sent billions of dollars of military hardware to Ukraine, with one

  anonymous US official saying Western nations were discussing the possibility of providing anti-ship

  weapons as concerns over Russian amphibious assaults along the Black Sea coast grow. 


  Kremlin 'chemical weapons' talking points raise Western fears 


  Fear of Russia using chemical or nuclear weapons has been stoked for weeks by Kremlin talking

  points accusing th eUS of maintaining biological weapon labs in Ukraine, as well as statements on

  what Moscow sees as the threat posed by the US nuclear arsenal. 

  Washington has flatly denied the accusations, calling the approach typical for Russia and pointing

  especially to its actions in Syria as evidence of an attempt to create a pretext to justify escalation. 

  Biden has called the prospects of Russian chemical or nuclear attacks a "real threat."  


  Speaking with CNN earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would

  consider using its nuclear weapons if it felt there was "an existential threat for our country." 


  On Thursday, Biden vowed the US would respond if Russia were to use chemical weapons

  in Ukraine. 


  US introduces new sanctions, welcomes refugees and gives $1 billion in aid 


  Washington will also expand sanctions targeting Russian parliamentarians and defense contractors.

  Moreover, the White House announced that the US will work with other Western nations to ensure

  that Russian gold reserves, held by Moscow's central bank, are subject to existing sanctions. 


  Earlier on Thursday, the White House announced the US would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

  as well as providing an additional $1 billion (€910 million) in food, medicine, water and other supplies. 


  Source: DW




  China Eastern Airlines aircraft crashes, was carrying
 132 passengers and crew 


  A China Eastern Airlines crashed in South China on Monday, March 21, 2022. The Boeing 737

  was flying from Kunming City to Guangzhou and was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew



  As reported by the South Morning China Post, there is currently no news yet on the number of

  casualties that resulted from the plane crash. The crash was confirmed by China Eastern Airlines

  and the local government. 


  Rescue ops are still underway. China televisions report of 558 fire engines being deployed in the

  rescue operations.  


  A villager from the crash site was quoted as saying to the online portal Jimu News that the plane

  was completely destroyed and was causing fires on the bamboo trees and other vegetation surrounding

  the crash site. 


  According to the news portal, a staff member at the Baiyun Guangzhou International

  Airport said that flight MU5735 from Kunming City to Guangzhou was scheduled to take off from

  Kunming at 13.10 and arrive in Guangzhou at 14.52. However, the aircraft had been marked as

  “out of reach” in the Baiyun airport app. 


  Videos and images that are said to originate from the crash currently circulating in social media

  showed smoke billowing from hillsides. 


  The weather at the location was cloudy, with occasional rains forecasted throughout the day. 


  An official at the Civil Aviation Administrative Office Zhu Tao said China’s airlines have recorded

  more than 100 million hours of continuous safe flights up February 19, during which the last domestic

  incident occurred in 2010 when a plane fell in Yichun, Heilongjiang province, killing 42 people. 


  Source: Katadata