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Ukrainian man saves more than 200 people from Mariupol; drove six times using a battered van

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A former nightclub owner in Ukraine managed to succcesfully evacuate more than 200 of his countrymen using a beat-up vehicle amid heavy shelling from Russian forces in March.

Mykhailo Puryshev said he went on six trips to his hometown in Mariupol last month to rescue those trapped in the ruins; repairing his battered van in between those trips as Russian troops tightened their grip in the war-ravaged city.

Puryshev documented his trips to Mariupol using a mobile video; giving a glimpse of how the city had been destroyed by Russian missiles and artilleries while many civilians remain in hiding under damaged buildings and structures.

“When I first went (on March 8), the city was like a cloud of smoke, like a bonfire.. The last time I went it was just ash with the black coal of buildings,” the 36-year old Ukrainian reportedly told Reuters.

Friends contributed money so Puryshev could buy the vehicle to be used in his daring rescue mission. The journey to Mariupol becomes even more perilous each time but Puryshev was determined to save his staff.

The trip would take about eight hours and would constitute passing through Russian-controlled territories, enemy checkpoints and ruins strewn with corpses and landmines.

His first mission was to rescue his staff who were hiding in a bomb shelter in the basement of his former club. There were about 200 people there, he said, but he ended up rescuing more along the way.

His van’s windshield, windows and side door were all destroyed during the trip.

“Thank God, no one was inside,” Puryshev shared. “The bus came under shelling, a strike, mortar, rifle fire, to be honest, there are so many marks of war on it.”

After the last trip in March 28, Puryshev eventually decided to abandon his daring  mission after being threatened by a separatist soldier that something bad will happen to him – being locked up or shot – if he ever comes back again.

He is still thankful that he was not seriously injured except for a minor scratch from a glass shard on his side.

“God protected me of course. My bus looked after me,” Puryshev said.

As for his van, Purshev is planning to turn the vehicle into a monument once the war is over and they are able to return to Mariupol.

Watch a video shared by Reuters via YouTube:

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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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