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At a global summit in Beijing, Russian leader Vladimir Putin received special treatment, alongside China’s President Xi Jinping, as the two countries solidified their alliance amid global geopolitical tensions. The event commemorated a decade of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Despite diplomatic scrutiny and an international arrest warrant issued against him, Putin’s close relationship with Xi was evident throughout the summit. The two leaders were prominent during the opening ceremony and engaged in an extended bilateral meeting.

The summit highlighted China and Russia’s mutual opposition to the Western world order, advocating for a multipolar global system. China, positioning the BRI as a means to establish a more equitable world order, emphasized principles of cooperation, inclusivity, and sustainable development.

While the BRI has stimulated development, it has also faced criticism for fostering debt dependency and environmental degradation. The summit saw participation from various countries, particularly from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and representatives from the Afghan Taliban government.

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Italy’s Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto, criticized the country’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), calling it “improvised and atrocious.” Crosetto claimed that the initiative had not effectively boosted Italy’s exports, making China the primary beneficiary.

In 2019, Italy became the first developed economy to join the BRI, a move that was met with criticism from its Western allies. The BRI aims to connect China with Europe and other regions through infrastructure projects, but critics view it as a means for China to expand its influence.

Crosetto expressed the need to find a way to withdraw from the BRI without damaging relations with Beijing. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had previously mentioned the possibility of talks with China about potential withdrawal. The deal is set to be automatically renewed in March 2024 unless Italy formally requests to withdraw by December of this year.

China has been actively campaigning to persuade Italy to renew the agreement, emphasizing the mutually beneficial cooperation and fruitful results achieved through the BRI.

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On Wednesday, Kim Jong Un showcased North Korea’s latest weaponry to Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a visit to Pyongyang. The Russian delegation, along with Chinese officials, was invited to attend the 70th-anniversary celebrations of the Korean War armistice, which typically includes massive military parades.

Among the weapons displayed was the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was successfully tested in April. It is believed to be North Korea’s first ICBM using solid propellants, making it quicker to launch than liquid-fueled ones. Additionally, two new drone designs were shown, with one resembling a primary offensive strike drone used by the US Air Force, according to NK News.

During the visit, discussions between Kim Jong Un and Sergei Shoigu covered matters of mutual concern in the fields of national defense and international security.

This marks the first time Kim Jong Un has welcomed foreign guests since the Covid pandemic began, indicating a possible loosening of Covid restrictions in North Korea. The visit by Chinese and Russian envoys to the Victory Day parade suggests a potential reconnection of diplomatic ties after the country had sealed itself off from trade and diplomatic interactions in early 2020, even with its main economic and political partners, Russia, and China.

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A deadly wave of Mediterranean wildfires has resulted in over 40 deaths and forced thousands to evacuate in Algeria, Italy, and Greece.

The situation remains dire as high temperatures and dry conditions persist, making firefighting efforts challenging. The island of Rhodes has declared a state of emergency, and other regions, including Corfu, Evia, Sicily, and Puglia, have also been severely affected.

Climate scientists warn that human-induced climate change played a significant role in the intensity of this month’s heatwave across Southern Europe, North America, and China. Italy faced contrasting extreme weather events, with deadly storms in the north and wildfires in the south.

Portugal, Croatia, and France also witnessed wildfires and took measures to combat them. The widespread impact of these fires has caused immense human and economic losses across the region.

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A heatwave in Europe has led to red alerts for extreme heat in most of Italy’s major cities. The high temperatures, expected to peak on Wednesday, have put 23 cities on high alert.

The heatwave is affecting millions of people in the northern hemisphere and is accompanied by wildfires in Greece and the Swiss Alps. The heatwave is caused by a high-pressure system bringing warmer air from the tropics, while a jet stream remains stuck over central Europe.

The extreme heat is forecasted to continue through Wednesday in southern Europe, with temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F). Italy’s health ministry has activated “heat codes” in emergency rooms to handle the increase in heat-related illnesses.

There has been a 20% rise in patients admitted with symptoms such as dehydration, exhaustion, and heat stroke. Record-breaking temperatures of 41.8°C (107.2°F) were recorded in Rome. Red alerts are also in place in Spain, Greece, and parts of the Balkans. The heatwave is expected to continue into August, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Other parts of the world, including the US and China, are also experiencing extreme heatwaves. Climate change is cited as a significant factor in the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves.

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Italy is currently experiencing extreme heat, leading to red alerts being issued for 15 cities, including Rome, Florence, and Bologna. This heatwave is part of a larger trend of increasing temperatures and longer heatwaves globally due to global warming.

The European Space Agency (ESA) predicts that Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland may face extreme conditions, with potential record temperatures. Greece has already been experiencing temperatures of 40°C or higher, leading to the closure of tourist attractions like the Acropolis. There are concerns about the increased risk of wildfires in Greece and other areas with high winds.

Central parts of Europe, including Germany and Poland, are also affected by high temperatures. In contrast, the UK is experiencing heavy showers and cooler weather due to the southern shift of the jet stream. The current heatwave in Italy, named Cerberus, is expected to be followed by another heatwave called Charon, pushing temperatures above 40°C.

Heatwaves are also occurring in other parts of the world, including the US, China, North Africa, and Japan. The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to global warming have become the new normal, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

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A scorching heatwave continues to affect several European countries, with temperatures expected to break records in the coming days. Parts of Spain, France, Greece, Croatia, Turkey, and Italy may experience temperatures exceeding 40°C (104°F), with Italy potentially reaching up to 48°C (118.4°F), which could be the highest ever recorded in Europe, according to the European Space Agency. A red alert warning has been issued for 10 cities, including Florence and Rome. Last month was reported as the hottest June on record by the EU’s climate monitoring service Copernicus.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned that extreme weather events resulting from climate change are becoming the new norm. While periods of intense heat are part of natural weather patterns, they are increasingly becoming more frequent, intense, and prolonged globally due to global warming.

The heatwave has impacted tourists in Europe, with visitors experiencing symptoms such as nausea and dizziness in Athens. Efforts have been made to provide information on air-conditioned places for people to seek relief from the heat. Tragically, a man in Italy died from heat-related causes, and several visitors, including a British man in Rome, have suffered from heatstroke.

Authorities are advising people to stay hydrated by drinking at least two liters of water per day and to avoid dehydrating beverages like coffee and alcohol. Tourists in Rome expressed surprise at the extreme heat and stated they were trying to avoid going out during the hottest hours of the day. Some individuals emphasized the need for collective action to address climate change, urging governments and individuals to take responsibility and make changes such as reducing plastic usage, limiting air conditioning, and using electric cars.

The current heatwave, named Cerberus after the mythical three-headed dog from Dante’s Inferno, is expected to continue intensifying in the coming days. Spain has already experienced temperatures reaching 45°C (113°F), and the European Space Agency has predicted potential temperatures of 48°C (118.4°F) in Sicily and Sardinia, which could be the hottest ever recorded in Europe.

Additionally, other regions outside Europe, including parts of Canada, the United States, India, and China, have also witnessed record-breaking temperatures this summer. Sea temperatures in the Atlantic have reached record highs, while Antarctic sea ice is at its lowest extent on record. Furthermore, the development of El Niño, a weather pattern in the tropical Pacific, is expected to contribute to rising temperatures by an average of 0.2°C, exacerbating the effects of climate change, which has already increased average temperatures worldwide by approximately 1.1°C.

To put the current heatwave in historical context, scientists can analyze air bubbles trapped in ancient Antarctic ice, which suggests that the first week of July was the hottest week in around 125,000 years. During the Eemian period, which occurred over a million years ago, temperatures were estimated to be significantly higher, resulting in hippos inhabiting the Thames and sea levels being approximately 5 meters (16.4 feet) higher.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his country’s opposition to Western sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at the virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, his first international address since the recent mutiny in Russia, Putin expressed defiance towards the West, stating that Russia would counter external sanctions and pressures while continuing to develop. He emphasized the importance of trade agreements between SCO nations in local currencies, seen as a measure to mitigate the impact of sanctions. Putin also welcomed Belarus’s application to become a permanent member of the SCO. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hosting the summit, called for increased trade, connectivity, and tech cooperation among member states.

However, he did not directly address the war in Ukraine or China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, reflecting India’s delicate diplomatic position as it strengthens ties with both the West and China. Instead, Modi urged SCO members to cooperate on countering cross-border terrorism, with his statements commonly interpreted as aimed at Pakistan. China’s President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of regional peace and security and called for solidarity and mutual trust among SCO members. All members agreed on the need to maintain stability in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.

The SCO, formed in 2001 by China, Russia, and four Central Asian countries, has gained relevance as relations with the West deteriorate for Russia and China. With around 40% of the world’s population and over 20% of global GDP, the SCO holds significant potential, and the inclusion of Iran as a full member further enhances its energy portfolio.

However, India’s ability to strike a diplomatic balance between its global partners, including Russia, China, and Pakistan, will impact the future of the SCO. Indian diplomats assert their commitment to an independent foreign policy without favoring any particular group.

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Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky announced that he had a significant and lengthy conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the phone, marking their first communication since the beginning of the Russian conflict. Zelensky expressed optimism that the call, coupled with the appointment of an ambassador to Beijing, will positively impact the relationship between the two nations.

China acknowledged the conversation and emphasized their commitment to peace, though they have previously maintained a neutral position regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Notably, President Xi visited Russia recently, indicating a close relationship between the two nations.

During a recent meeting, Ukrainian President Zelensky referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his “dear friend” and presented a 12-point peace plan, but did not promise to supply Russia with weapons. Following the meeting, Zelensky invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Kyiv for further discussions, as they had not been in contact since the start of the war in February 2022. In a statement regarding their recent phone call, Xi emphasized China’s commitment to peace and stated that they would not take advantage of the crisis for profit or simply watch from afar.

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China’s Paris ambassador Lu Shaye’s recent comments questioning the sovereignty of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries have caused outrage and led to calls for Beijing to clarify its stance. However, on Monday, China’s foreign ministry stated that it respects the independence of all post-Soviet republics.

Despite being a major ally of Russia, China has not condemned President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and sees itself as a key player in efforts to bring peace to the region. However, many in the West doubt China’s impartiality on the issue due to its increasing trade ties with Russia amid Western sanctions prompted by the invasion.

Ambassador Lu was interviewed by the French LCI network, where he was asked about China’s view on Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The interviewer argued that according to international law, the region belongs to Ukraine.

Chinese Ambassador Lu Shaye’s recent remarks questioning the sovereignty of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, including his suggestion that international law could not be relied on to defend their sovereignty, have been rejected by China’s foreign ministry. The ministry’s spokesperson affirmed Beijing’s respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, and upheld the principles of the United Nations Charter.

The Chinese embassy in Paris issued a statement calling Ambassador Lu’s remarks a personal point of view and not to be over-interpreted. However, the remarks have caused concern among some countries, and the representatives of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have summoned China’s representatives to clarify the situation.

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