Kremlin says US sanctions against Putin could ‘rupture ties’

NEW DELHI: New Covid-19 infections in Indian cities such as capital New Delhi and Mumbai could peak next week after rising rapidly, experts said on Thursday, as the country reported the highest number of daily cases since late May. The 247,417 new infections were more than 30 times higher daily cases from a month ago, rising as the more transmissible Omicron variant replaced Delta across the country. Total infections reached 36.32 million, behind only the US. “Our modelling, and those of others, suggests that the big Indian cities should see their peaks in cases close to Jan 20, while the overall peak in India may be shifted a bit later, to early February,” said Gautam Menon, professor of physics and biology at Ashoka University near the capital. Mumbai recorded a high of 20,971 infections last Friday but cases have been coming down since. City officials said the rate of infection was also coming down, with nearly 80% of Covid-19 hospital beds vacant. Delhi reported more than 27,500 infections on Wednesday, close to its all-time high, and its health minister told local media this week infections could start coming down in a few days. Federal and state health officials say a majority of the infections in the ongoing third wave have been mild, with fewer hospitalisations and deaths than the previous surge in April and May that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The health ministry has said common pain relievers like paracetamol should be enough for people with mild fever due to Covid-19. It has warned, though, against complacency as infections have now started rising in as many as 300 districts from fewer than 80 a week ago. “The experience from other countries informs us that it is more practical to track/monitor hospitalisations rather than new cases,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “Non-pharmaceutical interventions – lockdowns, etc – are increasingly losing their relevance with rapid and inexorable community transmission.” Many cities and states, including Delhi, have nevertheless imposed night curfews. Delhi also locks down fully on weekends, and has closed private offices, schools and restaurants throughout the week. India has administered two primary vaccine doses to nearly 70% of its 939 million adult population but many still remain unvaccinated. This has worried officials especially as five states hold elections starting on Feb 10. The country reported 380 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, more than 46% of them fatalities in the southern state of Kerala not previously recorded. Total deaths have reached 485,035, only behind tolls in the US and Brazil.


MOSCOW: The Kremlin said Thursday that any US sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin personally would cross a line and could lead to a “rupture of ties”.

On Wednesday, senators from US President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party threatened major consequences if Russia invaded Ukraine, including sanctions on Putin and Russian banks as well as US$500 million in fresh security aid to Ukraine.

“Introducing sanctions against a head of state is crossing a line and comparable to a rupture of ties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The US and its Nato allies held talks this week with Russia to ease tensions over Ukraine, where tens of thousands of Russian troops have massed on the border.

Two rounds of talks, in Geneva on Monday and Brussels on Wednesday, did not result in any breakthrough.

Peskov said Thursday the Kremlin viewed the US draft sanctions “extremely negatively”, particularly with “unsuccessful” talks ongoing.

He said the discussion of sanctions did little to create “a constructive atmosphere”.

For the third round of talks, the world’s largest security body, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, is meeting in Vienna on Thursday. Little breakthrough is expected there, too.

Peskov said that Russia had no “shortage of political will” to continue meetings but reiterated that Moscow needed to see concrete results.

He added that Moscow expected “concrete” written answers to Russia’s security demands in the coming days.

The high-stakes talks come amid fears of a Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour Ukraine. Moscow has demanded wide-ranging concessions from Washington and its Nato allies, which in turn have threatened severe sanctions for any attack.