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Russia warns U.S. to stop arming of Ukraine

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Russia this week sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States warning that U.S. and NATO shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict there and could bring “unpredictable consequences.”

The diplomatic démarche, a copy of which was reviewed by The Washington Post, came as President Biden approved a dramatic expansion in the scope of weapons being provided to Ukraine, an $800 million package including 155 mm Howitzers — a serious upgrade in long-range artillery to match Russian systems — coastal defense drones and armored vehicles, as well as additional portable anti-air and antitank weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition.

Pentagon will bolster military aid, weapons training for Ukrainians

The United States has also facilitated the shipment to Ukraine of long-range air defense systems, including Slovakia’s shipment of Russian-manufactured Soviet-era S-300 launchers on which Ukrainian forces have already been trained. In exchange, the administration announced last week, the United States is deploying a Patriot missile system to Slovakia and consulting with Slovakia on a long-term replacement.

Shipment of the weapons, the first wave of which U.S. officials said would arrive in Ukraine within days, follows an urgent appeal to Biden from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as Russian forces were said to be mobilizing for a major assault on eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and along the coastal strip connecting it with Russian-occupied Crimea in the south. Russian troops have largely withdrawn from much of the northern part of the country, including around the capital, Kyiv, following humiliating defeats by the Ukrainian military and local resistance forces.

“What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly — that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive diplomatic document.

The State Department declined to comment on the contents of the two-page diplomatic note or any U.S. response.

Russia experts suggested Moscow, which has labeled weapons convoys coming into the country as legitimate military targets but has not thus far attacked them, may be preparing to do so.

“They have targeted supply depots in Ukraine itself, where some of these supplies have been stored,” said George Beebe, former director of Russia analysis at the CIA and Russia adviser to former vice president Dick Cheney. “The real question is do they go beyond attempting to target [the weapons] on Ukrainian territory, try to hit the supply convoys themselves and perhaps the NATO countries on the Ukrainian periphery” that serve as transfer points for the U.S. supplies.

If Russian forces stumble in the next phase of the war as they did in the first, “then I think the chances that Russia targets NATO supplies on NATO territory go up considerably,” Beebe said. “There has been an assumption on the part of a lot of us in the West that we could supply the Ukrainians really without limits and not bear significant risk of retaliation from Russia,” he said. “I think the Russians want to send a message here that that’s not true.”

The diplomatic note was dated Tuesday, as word first leaked of the new arms package that brought the total amount of U.S. military aid provided to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion to $3.2 billion, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. In a public announcement Wednesday, Biden said it would include “new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine.”

The document, titled “On Russia’s concerns in the context of massive supplies of weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime,” written in Russian with a translation provided, was forwarded to the State Department by the Russian Embassy in Washington.

The Russian embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Among the items Russia identified as “most sensitive” were “multiple launch rocket systems,” although the United States and its NATO allies are not believed to have supplied those weapons to Ukraine. Russia accused the allies of violating “rigorous principles” governing the transfer of weapons to conflict zones, and of being oblivious to “the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.”

It accused NATO of trying to pressure Ukraine to “abandon” sputtering, and so far unsuccessful, negotiations with Russia “in order to continue the bloodshed.” Washington, it said, was pressuring other countries to stop any military and technical cooperation with Russia, and those with Soviet-era weapons to transfer them to Ukraine.

“We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the note said.

Putin says peace talks with Ukraine are at an ‘impasse’

Andrew Weiss, a former National Security Council director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, and now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a speech on the February morning the invasion began, warned that Western nations would face “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” if they became involved in the conflict.

Attention at the time focused on Putin’s reminder that Russia possesses a powerful nuclear arsenal, Weiss said, but it was also “a very explicit warning about not sending weapons into a conflict zone.” Having drawn a red line, he asked, are the Russians “now inclined to back that up?”

Such an attack would be “a very important escalatory move, first and foremost because it represents a threat to the West if they aren’t able to keep supplies flowing into Ukraine, which by extension might diminish Ukraine’s capacity for self-defense.” That risk “shouldn’t be downplayed,” he said, noting the added risk that an attempt to strike a convoy inside Ukraine could go awry over the border into NATO territory.

Senior U.S. defense officials remain concerned about the possibility of such attacks. “We don’t take any movement of weapons and systems going into Ukraine for granted,” Kirby said Thursday. “Not on any given day.”

Kirby said Ukrainian troops bring the weapons into Ukraine after the United States brings them into the region, and “the less we say about that, the better.”

Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.



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Jailing of trans rapist Isla Bryson is ‘shambles’, says prison chief

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Sarah Armstrong, a professor of criminology at Glasgow University, said she was surprised that concern over the safety of women in prison was “focused on this one, very exceptional case” given the “scathing” reports from the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture after previous visits to Cornton Vale.



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Protests reach Haiti airport and Prime Minister's residence over police killings

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Protesters and some police officers protested at the official residence of Haiti’s prime minister in the capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday, decrying recent killings of police, according to one of his advisors.



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Actor Julian Sands latest hiker to encounter disaster near popular LA mountain, expert weighs in on dangers

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Several hikers have recently been killed or disappeared around a popular southern California peak – including missing actor Julian Sands – which should be a warning for would-be adventurers, experts said.

Mount Baldy’s breathtaking views come with real danger that can quickly turn a winter alpine trek into a nightmare, hiking expert Cris Hazzard told Fox News Digital.

“When there’s snow and ice on the mountains, it just takes one misstep to slide hundreds of feet down the slopes,” said Hazzard, of HikingGuy.com. People die on Mount Baldy every winter “like clockwork,” he added.

“Even if you survive, you could be trapped in a spot where no one can see you,” Hazzard said.

ACTOR JULIAN SANDS IDENTIFIED AS MISSING HIKER IN CALIFORNIA

Rescue efforts are still underway for British actor Julian Sands, who never returned to his car from a hike in the Angeles National Forest.

Rescue efforts are still underway for British actor Julian Sands, who never returned to his car from a hike in the Angeles National Forest.
(Franco Origlia)

Mount Baldy, in the Angeles National Forest about 50 miles west of downtown L.A., is a magnet for hikers who travel the alpine forests and double switchbacks around its 10,000-foot summit. On a clear day, visitors to the summit can see all the way to Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean, Hazzard said. 

Sands, 65, became the latest hiker to go missing there nearly two weeks ago and he remained unaccounted for as of Thursday.

While the search for Sands continued Tuesday, 75-year-old Jin Chung was rescued after he never returned from a hike days earlier. The missing cases both came after a woman was killed when she slipped down a roughly 500-foot icy hillside.

The treacherous icy hills, Hazzard told Fox News Digital, are what usually get hikers into trouble in that part of the Angeles National Forest.

IPHONE EMERGENCY SERVICE HELPS RESCUE PAIR AFTER CRASH IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FOREST

“Slipping on a narrow trail when hiking up a mountain in the summer usually means a bruised ego and a scrape or two,” Hazzard said. “But one slip or misstep on that same stretch of trail in the winter can get you into real trouble.”

Some hikers “don’t have the experience” – or the gear – for the mountain’s winter terrain, he added. 

“It’s easy to get lost when the trail is covered in snow or maybe even blazed incorrectly by the person before you,” he said.

“Climbing Mount Baldy right now should be done with at least a helmet, crampons, and ice axe and if you have yet to practice using tools like an ice axe, it’s just extra weight you’re carrying,” he added.

While there are areas around Mount Baldy that are more dangerous than others, including the Devil’s Backbone and the climb to Cucamonga Peak, Hazzard said trails with a lower profile can be just as dangerous in the winter.

NH HIKER FALLS TO DEATH OFF MOUNTAIN CLIFF WHILE TAKING PHOTOS WITH HIS WIFE, AUTHORITIES SAY

Snow-covered Mount Baldy is visible from Mt. Disappointment Road in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Snow-covered Mount Baldy is visible from Mt. Disappointment Road in the San Gabriel Mountains.
( Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“You don’t have to slide hundreds of feet down a slope to get hurt,” Hazzard said. “It could be the section of the trail where you think it’s relatively safe to let your concentration wane and get sloppy with your footing.”

Hazzard suggested alternative southern California hiking options where snowfall is not an issue, including Joshua Tree National Park and the lower peaks of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains. However, if hikers insist on Mount Baldy during the winter, Hazzard provided some basic tips to try and stay as safe as possible. 

“Find a Forest Service road or flat trail and start there,” Hazzard said. “You can use your trekking poles, microspikes, or snowshoes, and it can be a great time. Bring the 10 essentials, wear layers that you can adjust to control heat and sweat, and let your family know where you’re hiking.”

HIKER FOUND DEAD IN TEXAS NATIONAL PARK AFTER HIGH WIND WARNING ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

Cris Hazzard hiking Mount Baldy.

Cris Hazzard hiking Mount Baldy.
(Cris Hazzard of HikingGuy.com)

“Expect to go slower than usual and enjoy the scenery; winter hiking is not about bagging the miles or summits. If you really want to bag Mount Baldy in the winter, learn how to mountaineer, practice your skills, pick the ideal conditions, and do it responsibly.”

The “extremely dangerous” conditions that claimed the life of the female hiker and another hiker in recent weeks prompted local authorities to urge hikers, including experienced ones, to avoid the area for the time being.

“Please know the current conditions on Mount Baldy are adverse and extremely dangerous. Due to the high winds, the snow has turned to ice, making hiking extremely dangerous,” authorities warned. 

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Los Angeles skyline framed by San Bernadino Mountains and Mount Baldy with fresh snow from Kenneth Hahn State Park.

Los Angeles skyline framed by San Bernadino Mountains and Mount Baldy with fresh snow from Kenneth Hahn State Park.
(Visions of America/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team said it has responded on 14 rescue missions in the last four weeks alone.

Search crews continue to look for Sands, known for his roles in “The Killing Fields” and “Leaving Las Vegas,” as of Thursday afternoon amid wintry conditions and avalanche warnings.

The U.S. Forest Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital. 



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