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Russia announces humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday

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Russia has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday, March 09, to allow for the evacuation of civilian population from a number of cities including the capital Kyiv.

Local media reports said the Russian government declared a ‘regime of silence’ starting Wednesday morning and is offering humanitarian corridors for Ukrainians evacuating the cities amid its ongoing invasion.

“From 10:00 MSK (0700 GMT) on March 9, 2022, the Russian Federation is declaring a ‘regime of silence’ and is ready to provide humanitarian corridors,” said a statement from cell of the Russian defence ministry charged with humanitarian operations in Ukraine.

Aside from Kyiv, humanitarian corridors will also be provided for the residents of the cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Zaporizhzhia.

This was also confirmed by Russia’s national defense command center chief Mikhail Mizintsev who said Ukraine must agree on the indicated routes of evacuation.

“The said statement should be immediately brought to the attention of the Ukrainian side and proposed by 03:00 [Moscow time, midnight GMT] on March 9, 2022 to agree on the indicated routes and the start time of the humanitarian corridors, as well as submit a written approval of these approaches, including guarantees to ensure security,” said Mizintsev.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has yet to respond to the offer.

Since the occupation began, both countries have been blaming each other for allegedly disrupting humanitarian corridors, including accusations of shelling on some routes, disputes over the routes themselves and many other complications.

Civilian vacuation have already began earlier on Tuesday, March 8, from the town of Sumy and those outside Kyiv.

The United Nations said in its early statement that so far, around 2 million population have already been safely evacuated from besieged Ukrainian cities.

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RIMPAC 2022: PH to join US, Japan in world’s largest maritime drill

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The Philippines will be joining 25 other countries including the United States and Japan in this year’s edition of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime drill – the world’s largest naval exercises.

RIMPAC 2022, the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971, will be conducted beginning June 29 until August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

Military units from these 26 countries will send a total of 38 surface ships, four submarines and 170 aircraft to be used in the exercises, as well as about 250,000 personnel including ground troops from nine participating countries.

“As the world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s interconnected oceans,” said a statement from US Navy’s Third Fleet Commander.

Aside from the Philippines, US and Japan, other countries expected to join the exercises are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.

Participating nations in RIMPAC 2022 will work under the theme “Capable, Adaptive, Partners” during which they will be showcasing their respective naval forces’ capabilities ranging from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control and complex warfighting.

“The relevant, realistic training program includes amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations,” the US Navy said.

The multinational naval exercises this year will be hosted by the Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet and will be led by Commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet as the Combined Task Force (CTF) commander. Other high-ranking naval officers from US, Japan, Australia and Canada will also be holding key positions.

China will not be joining RIMPAC 2022 since it has been disinvited by the US in 2018 due to its behavior in the South China Sea where a host of Asian neighboring countries have overlapping claims.

Interestingly, other claimants, however, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have been invited to participate.

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Japanese man gets  ¥46.3-M in COVID relief fund by mistake; spends all money in gambling

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A Japanese man who was mistakenly sent 46.3 million yen in COVID-19 relief funds has disappeared after authorities found he wasted all the money on gambling.

The 24-year-old man, who has not been named, received the money in his bank account that was intended for distribution to the 463 households of the town Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture in early April.

It was part of the government’s scheme to help residents ease their financial burden brought by the current pandemic.

The man, who is thought to be living alone, was supposed to receive only ¥1,000 but the entire COVID funds for the town was transferred to his personal account by accident.

He reportedly started withdrawing cash in 600,000 yen every week for the next two weeks and gambled the money away on an online casino using his phone. He also quit his job at the shop and enjoyed his unexpected ‘windfall’.

But before the authorities realized the blunder and managed to trace him on April 21, the man had already used all the money.

While the man promised to return the cash, his lawyer said his client has since disappeared and can no longer be contacted. The lawyer added it would be impossible for the man to come up with the money since he does not own any personal assets.

“I don’t currently have the money and I don’t have anything with property value at hand. It’s actually difficult to return it,” the lawyer quoted his client as saying.

The town mayor, Norihiko Hamada, expressed his disappointment with the resident and described his action as ‘unforgivable’ and ‘morally questionable’.

He likewise promised to do everything in his power to recover the money although legal experts believe it would be unlikely that the town would recoup its losses.

A lawsuit amounting to 51-M yen including legal fees has been filed against the man in question last May 12 but his location could no longer be accounted for, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the government had no option but to send a second tranche of COVID fund to the eligible town residents who have confirmed they finally received the money.

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SoKor gov’t official pushing for BTS’ exemption from mandatory military service

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Hugely popular Kpop group BTS may be exempted from South Korea’s mandatory military service if the government is to heed the suggestion of one of its officials.

Arguing that megastars like BTS continue to promote South Korea’s image in the world, Culture, Sports and Tourism, Minister Hwang Hee said that it should be enough to be considered as an act of service by the boy band group in lieu of the military service.

The official believes that its time for the country ‘to create a system for incorporating popular culture-art figures as art personnel’.

“The [exemption] system has been operated meaningfully to give those who have enhanced the national status based on their excellent skills more chances to contribute to the country, and there is no reason the popular art-culture field should be excluded from this,” Hwang said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

“I thought somebody should be a responsible voice at a time when there are conflicting pros and cons ahead of the enlistment of some of the BTS members,” he added.

Currently, South Korea requires all its able-bodied male citizens to undergo mandatory military service for two years before they reach the age of 30.

Prior to its amendment in 2020, the law set the age limit at 28 years old before moving it to 30.

Hwang is reportedly pushing for such exemption in the Parliament but is facing opposition primarily from those who have already rendered their service.

While there are already exemptions set by the law, it only allows for those ‘exceptional citizens’ such as Olympic athletes and elite classical musicians.

BTS’ oldest member, Jin, will be turning 30 in December.

“Military service is an important duty for our country. So I feel that I will try to work as hard as I can and do the most I can until I am called,” he was quoted as saying during a previous interview.

Other band members are also just a few years away from the deadline – Suga is almost 29, J-Hope is 28, RM is 27, Jimin and V are both 26, while Jungkook is 24.

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