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Gregor Stuart Hunter and Emma Graham-Harrison | The Guardian

Despite public bullishness, overflowing hospitals across the country suggest its leader may have made a huge miscalculation
China’s leader Xi Jinping told his country it stands on “the right side of history” in a new year address on Saturday, but experts have warned that the president starts 2023 diminished by his chaotic U-turn on Covid strategy. He may struggle to deflect blame for the human and economic costs of zero-Covid’s failure, and control the national narrative, even if public signs of dissent are crushed. Officially, China has registered just over 5,200 deaths from Covid, but there is a yawning gap between the picture presented by the usually efficient communist propaganda apparatus and the reality reflected in social media posts and anecdotes from across China.

Kyiv withstands barrage as president’s upbeat New Year’s address contrasts with message from Russia’s Vladimir Putin
John Paul Rathbone

Ukraine weathered another round of missile and drone attacks early on New Year’s Day as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lauded the country’s determination to overcome Russian aggression, saying that “when we win, we will hug”. Russia launched 45 Iranian-made drones mostly targeting the capital Kyiv overnight, all of which were shot down by Ukraine’s air defences, with no reported casualties. “It didn’t work out that the holiday was spoilt for Ukrainians!” the country’s air forces said. The latest attack came hours after Saturday’s volley of cruise missiles that Russia launched as President Vladimir Putin was delivering a militaristic end-of-year message during which he pledged to put an end to the “criminal Nazi regime in Kyiv”.

Brad Lendon Gawon Bae
By Brad Lendon and Gawon Bae, CNN

Seoul, South Korea CNN — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for an “exponential increase” in his country’s nuclear weapons arsenal in response to what he claims are threats from South Korea and the United States, Pyongyang’s state media reported Sunday. Kim’s comments come as North Korea twice over the weekend tested what it claimed was a large, nuclear-capable, multiple-launch rocket system that could put all of South Korea in its range, according to a report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Speaking on New Year’s Eve on the final day of a six-day plenary session that reviewed 2022, Kim said South Korea has become an “undoubted enemy” and its main ally, the US, has increased pressure on the North to the “maximum” level over the past year by frequently deploying its military assets to the Korean Peninsula.

European Commission’s von der Leyen hails ‘two immense achievements.’

The boom gates at Croatian border posts swung up at midnight Sunday as the country joined Europe’s zone of free movement as the country also adopted the euro as its currency. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed "two immense achievements," speaking alongside Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar at a border post in the town of Bregana. "There is no place in Europe where it is more true today that it is a season of new beginnings and new chapters than here at the border between Croatia and Slovenia," von der Leyen said.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 95, died Saturday morning in the Vatican where he had lived since retirement.
By Associated Press

Pope Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven as he presided over a special New Year’s Day Mass Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica, a day after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died in retirement at the Vatican. The huge basilica will host Benedict’s coffin starting on Monday. Thousands of faithful are expected to file by the coffin on the first of three days of viewing. Benedict, 95, died Saturday morning in the Vatican where he had lived since retirement. He was the first pope in centuries to resign, citing his increasing frailty.

On Sunday, Benedict’s body lay on a burgundy-colored bier in the chapel of the monastery. He was dressed in a miter, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment. A rosary was placed in his hand. Behind him — visible in photos released by the Vatican — was the chapel’s altar, and a decorated Christmas tree. Francis looked weary and sat with his head bowed as Mass began on the first day of the year, an occasion the Catholic church dedicates to the theme of peace. He departed briefly from reading his homily, with its emphasis on hope and peace, to pray aloud for Benedict. “Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” he said.

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