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Russia, Ukraine express willingness to negotiate amid int'l appeal for peace******
As military conflicts between Russia and Ukraine continue to intensify, both sides have expressed willingness to talk with each other to solve the crisis through dialogue.
Despite the sanctions imposed by some Western countries, there are still members of the international community calling for a peaceful solution to the ongoing problematic issue.
Negotiation possibility emerges
The Russian armed forces have disabled 211 military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine since the operation began on early Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday night, up from 118 facilities reported in his morning briefing.
Konashenkov also announced on the same day that Russian forces have captured the Hostomel airfield in northwestern Kiev and blockaded the Ukrainian capital from the west, and will continue to perform tasks in the areas of other cities.
Russia has also taken full control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and military units of the two sides there have reached an agreement on the protection of the nuclear facilities and the sarcophagus.
"Fighting is going on all over Ukraine. Let's sit down at the negotiating table," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying on Friday, calling for talks to end the intense conflict.
Later Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation to the Belarusian capital of Minsk for negotiations with Ukraine at the level of representatives of the defense ministry, the foreign ministry and the presidential administration.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a briefing that his country has no plan to occupy Ukraine and Moscow is ready to hold negotiations straight after the Ukrainian forces "lay down their arms."
The two sides are currently discussing a date and place of negotiations, according to Zelensky's press secretary Sergii Nykyforov, noting that "Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and about peace. This is our permanent position."
"The sooner negotiations begin, the more chances there will be to resume normal life," he said.
Some Western countries have announced sanctions against Putin, Lavrov, and some other senior Russian officials over the ongoing military operation in Ukraine, while Peskov noted that the sanctions were not painful for any representative of Russia's top leadership.
The Kremlin spokesman also told reporters that "retaliatory measures will follow," while the details have not been confirmed yet.
United Nations (UN) officials and global leaders are voicing concerns over the issue and calling for a peaceful solution facing the military conflicts and dispute of sanctions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the situation "is not irreversible," appealing to all parties concerned for protecting civilians and upholding international humanitarian and human rights law.
Guterres also appointed Amin Awad, former official in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with over 30 years of experience in field of humanitarian affairs, as UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine.
Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), on Thursday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and peaceful means to settle disputes.
"I call for an immediate ceasefire, deescalation of tensions and a firm return to diplomacy and dialogue," said the UNGA president in a statement.
Underscoring that the UN Charter is based on the principle of sovereign equality, Shahid called on all member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday that China firmly stands for respecting and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and earnestly abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, during his phone talks with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell as well as Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic counselor to French President Emmanuel Macron.
"The present situation is something we do not want to see," said Wang, stressing that China supports and encourages all diplomatic efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
Cairo urges finding a political settlement to the crisis in a manner that preserves international security and stability, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, affirming the importance of upholding "dialogue and diplomatic solutions."
During his meeting with Putin in Moscow on Thursday, visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that conflict was not in anyone's interest, underlining Pakistan's belief that disputes should be settled through dialogue and diplomacy, according to a statement released by Khan's office.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said on Thursday that "everything must now be done to avoid further escalation and to protect lives."
Emphasizing that "peace comes first," Van der Bellen said the way to the negotiating table must be open to all sides.
DPRK fires 2 unidentified projectiles into eastern waters: S. Korean military******
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea fired two short-range projectiles into its eastern waters, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Thursday.
The JCS said in a statement that the South Korean military detected two projectiles, presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles, which were launched around the DPRK's east coastal city of Hamhung toward the East Sea at about 8am local time (2300 GMT Wednesday).
The JCS noted that the South Korean military was monitoring relevant situation and maintaining readiness posture to prepare for the possibly additional launch.
The DPRK said it conducted four missile tests in January, including a hypersonic missile on January 5 and January 11 each, two railway-borne short-range ballistic missiles on January 14, and two tactical guided missiles on January 17.
The South Korean military said the DPRK launched two unidentified missiles, believed to be cruise missiles, into the East Sea on January 25.
China to improve policy support for SMEs******
BEIJING, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- China will further improve supportive policies to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tide over difficulties, according to a circular released by the General Office of the State Council.。
SMEs are the main force behind national economic and social development, but they are facing rising corporate costs and operational difficulties due to higher raw material prices, high logistics costs, sporadic resurgences of COVID-19, and power cuts in some areas, among other factors, the document noted.。
The circular outlined relief policies such as increasing funding support, furthering tax and fee reductions, and providing support with financial policy tools in a flexible and precise manner.。
Manufacturing SMEs will be permitted to defer certain tax payments for the fourth quarter, while small and micro enterprises severely impacted by the pandemic, floods and raw material price hikes will receive more lending support.。
The document also stressed the importance of efforts to help SMEs ease pressure from rising production costs, secure the power supply, support small firms in stabilizing and expanding employment, ensure the collection of SMEs' due payments, and boost market demand.。
All departments and local authorities shall take on further responsibilities, make bold changes and innovations, help SMEs cope with difficulties, and ensure that all policies and measures are well implemented, it said. Enditem。
Beijing 2022 Olympic medals design unveiled with 100 days to go (updated)******
BEIJING, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Beijing 2022 unveiled the design of the medals for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games on Tuesday, exactly 100 days before the Games begins.
Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, joined Olympic champions Yang Yang and Zhang Yufei in unveiling the Olympic medals at a ceremony in Beijing.
Named "Tongxin", meaning "Together as one", the medals feature five concentric rings embodying the traditional Chinese philosophy of harmony between heaven, earth and human beings. The rings also symbolize the Olympic rings, carved in the inner circle, and the Olympic spirit uniting the world through sport.
The surrounding grooved rings are engraved with the Games' official title, "XXIV Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022," along with cloud and snowflake patterns, with the outer ring free of decoration.
The reverse side has the Beijing 2022 emblem at its heart, with the official name of the Games carved in Chinese below. The surrounding rings mimic star trails, with 24 dots representing the 24th edition of the Olympic Winter Games. The general picture, which resembles a celestial map, carries the wish that athletes achieve excellence and shine like stars at the Games.
The 2022 Paralympic medals, which were unveiled by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, Paralympic champions Hou Bin and Rong Jing, share similar concentric-ring designs as the Olympic medals, but with the Paralympic logo in the center and "Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games" engraved below. The words gold, silver or bronze are also inscribed in braille for the respective medals.
The emblem of the Paralympic Winter Games and 13 dots, referring to the 13th edition of the Paralympics, feature on the reverse side.
"The medals' design is an ode to the Olympic spirit that represents the top honor for athletes. Unveiling the design at the 100-day countdown, Beijing is voicing its readiness to welcome the world's best winter sports athletes to reach for the stars at the Olympic Winter Games," said Gao Tian, vice director of BOCOG's culture and ceremonies department.
The medal design was inspired from a piece of Chinese jadeware called "Bi", a double jade disc with a circular hole in the center. Just as jade is thought of as an auspicious and invaluable ornament in traditional Chinese culture, the medal is a testimony of honor and unceasing efforts by the athletes.
It is also a tribute to the medal design of the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, as explained by chief designer Hang Hai, who was also part of the team behind the unique 2008 Olympics medal design 13 years ago.
"The medal carries on the concept of jade from the 2008 Games, which underlines Beijing as the first city to host both summer and winter Olympics. At the same time, concentric circles have an air of togetherness, which signifies people around the world gathering to enjoy the happiness brought about by the Olympic Games with understanding between each other," said Hang.
"When athletes hold the medals in their hands, they will first touch the details of Chinese culture. Then if they look closely, they will see the cloud and snowflake patterns on the obverse side, and the celestial ones on the reverse side," Hang noted.
The medals will be attached to a silk ribbon, woven with snowflake patterns, and decorated with the Olympic rings and the name and the core graphics of the Games. Its red color is the most representative one for the Chinese New Year, as the Games will open on the fourth day of the traditional holiday.
The medal box features blue lacquer and uses bamboo as the main material. It captures a combination of Chinese style and sustainability as lacquerware were ritual objects during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD) and bamboo, a highly sustainable plant, embodies nobility and integrity in Chinese culture.
The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will take place from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympic Games. Enditem