World this week
Russia suffered its worst military losses since the war in Ukraine began, in an attack on New Year's Eve. On Monday (Jan. 2) Russia's defence ministry made an extremely rare announcement, acknowledging that 63 Russian soldiers had been killed in a strike in Makiivka, a small city in the Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. A senior Russian military official, Lt Gen Sergei Sevryukov, said Ukraine had hit a temporary base in Makiivka at 12:01 am local time on 1 January, using a US-supplied Himars rocket system. On Wednesday, the ministry said the toll had risen to 89 after more bodies were discovered.
It was the Russian government's first communication about any military deaths since September, when the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, gave a toll of 5,937 soldiers killed to that point. Russia's military leadership blamed the high number of casualties on the use of mobile phones by their soldiers. The Ukrainian army's strategic communications department claimed that nearly 400 enemy soldiers were killed.
The gruesome death of a 20-year-old woman in India's capital Delhi on 1 January has shocked the country. News reports say the woman, who was an event manager, was returning from work in the early hours of New Year's Day when her scooter collided with a car. Police say the driver of the car, which was carrying four other passengers, kept going for miles, dragging the woman's body along. Several CCTV videos have emerged that show the body underneath the car.
Road accidents kill hundreds of thousands every year in India - but this particularly horrific case has gained national attention and generated widespread media coverage. The Indian Express newspaper reported that witnesses made at least five calls to the police before it was located. That this occurred when thousands of policemen had been deployed to patrol Delhi's roads has only added to the furore. The five men in the car are in police custody and have not made any statements yet.
A new Covid sub-variant is causing some concern in the US, where it is spreading rapidly. It is yet another offshoot of the globally dominant Omicron Covid variant, which itself followed the earlier alpha, beta, gamma and delta variants. Omicron has outperformed all previous versions of coronavirus since it emerged in late 2021, and has given rise to many sub-variants which are even more contagious than the original. Symptoms of XBB.1.5 are thought to be similar to those of previous Omicron strains.
XBB.1.5 itself evolved from XBB, which had a mutation that helped it beat the body's immune defences, but this came with a reduced ability to infect human cells. Prof Wendy Barclay from Imperial College London said XBB.1.5 has a mutation known as F486P, which restores this ability to bind to cells while continuing to evade immunity. Scientists from the WHO confirmed this week that XBB.1.5 has a "growth advantage" above all other sub-variants seen so far.
Iran released a prominent actress from an Oscar-winning film, nearly three weeks after she was jailed for criticising a crackdown on anti-government protests, local reports said. Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency said Taraneh Alidoosti, the 38-year-old star of Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning 2016 film, "The Salesman," was released on bail. Her mother had earlier said she would be released in a post on Instagram.
After her release from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Alidoosti posed with bunches of flowers, surrounded by friends. No further details have been released about her case. Alidoosti was among several Iranian celebrities to express support for the nationwide protests and criticise the authorities' violent clampdown on dissent. She had posted at least three messages in support of the protests on Instagram before her account was disabled. One message had expressed solidarity with the first man to be executed on charges linked to the protests, which were triggered by the death of a woman, Mahsa Amnini, in police custody.
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