But Mr. Townsend and other chess ‌‌aficionados say that goal is a long shot. Still, Maksym is clearly skilled, Mr. Townsend said.

“Does that mean he’s going to become a grandmaster ever, let alone at the age of 12? Not necessarily,” he said.

Still, Maksym is nothing if not determined. He wakes at 5 a.m. each day to practice online before school and until recently had regular online training sessions with a Ukrainian chess grandmaster through the Ukrainian Chess Federation.

So far, his lucky outfit and his hours of training have served him well as he wins competition after competition in England. In late July, he and his mother traveled to Greece for the European Youth Chess Championship, where he won in two categories — rapid and blitz — in his age group.

Like many former Soviet nations, Ukraine has a long tradition of strong chess grandmasters, Mr. Townsend explained, but often the expectation is of total dedication to the game from a young age.

“You would see it as a place where chess is taken a lot more seriously than it is here,” Mr. Townsend said. Parents put young children into rigorous training programs, and school is often second to chess.

“It’s such a massive, culturally different approach to chess playing,” Ms. Townsend said. As a diversion from chess, she has enjoyed showing Maksym how to cook, taking him on nature walks, and building with Lego pieces.

But much of Maksym’s time is still dedicated to chess, and Mr. Townsend has been keen to help him get involved in local tournaments.

On a recent Saturday morning, he took Maksym and Ms. Kryshtafor to a Quaker school in York for a competition involving 120 youths ages 7 to 18. Boards were lined up on tables in a gym, filled with row after row of children tapping clocks and moving pieces.

Some of the children were so small that when seated, their feet swung above the floor. Maksym’s sneakers barely touched it.

He sat, fidgeting slightly, while the organizers rattled off the rules in English. He did not understand much of what was being said, but he knows how to play. His first match was over in under a minute.

He ran into the hall where Ms. Kryshtafor was waiting and embraced her. After the next match, Maksym again went running out to his mother.

“Too easy,” he said with a smile. “I made a checkmate.”

Before the fifth match, Maksym pressed his forehead against his mother’s and she whispered some words of encouragement. His opponent, an older boy, arrived just before play began.

Maksym rested his chin on his hand and smiled until, suddenly, he realized he had made a mistake. He pulled at tufts of his hair, twisting them around his fingers. He eventually lost to the boy, and after they shook hands, he wiped tears from his eyes.

Maksym eventually placed second in the competition. By the end, he seemed more interested in chatting with a group of children who had organized a game of tag outside.

His long hair flew behind him as one of the children chased him.

“He’s just a child,” his mother said as she watched him frolic. “He works so hard with chess that sometimes you forget he’s just a child.”

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Firefighters Combat Major Wildfire In Southwestern France

By Associated Press
August 11, 2022

The blaze in the Gironde and Landes regions near Bordeaux forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

More than 1,000 firefighters were struggling Thursday to contain a major wildfire that has burned a large area of pine forest in southwestern France, in a region that was already ravaged by flames last month.

Local authorities said more than 26 square miles have burned since Tuesday in the Gironde region and neighboring Landes as France, like other European countries, swelters through a hot and dry summer.

Temperatures were expected to reach 104 F on Thursday in the region.

The blaze forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 16 houses.

SDIS 33 via AP

Spanish state television showed dozens of trucks having to turn around and stay in Spain because of a border closure because of the fire raging in France. TVE reported that truckers, many carrying perishable goods, were looking for ways to cross the border because the parking areas in and around the Irun crossing are full.

A major highway near the French city of Bordeaux was also closed.

Photos released by firefighters showed flames raging through pine forests overnight, sending clouds of smoke in the air and illuminating the sky with intense orange light.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin were due to visit the evacuated small town of Hostens Thursday to meet with firefighters, rescuers, local officials and volunteers.

Darmanin said that nine aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilized to fight the blaze.

The Gironde region was hit last month by major wildfires that forced the evacuation of more than 39,000 people, including residents and tourists.

France is this week in the midst of its fourth heat wave of the year as the country faces what the government warned is its worst drought on record.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that several European countries have offered their help to combat French wildfires, listing Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Austria.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Iranian tanker to retrieve oil cargo confiscated by U.S. this week

The Liberian-flagged oil tanker Ice Energy transfers crude oil from the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Lana (former Pegas), off the shore of Karystos, on the Island of Evia, Greece, May 26, 2022. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

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ATHENS, July 27 (Reuters) – An Iranian-flagged tanker anchored off the Greek port of Piraeus is expected this week to retrieve part of its cargo of oil confiscated by the United States and sail back to Iran following a Greek court ruling, government sources said on Wednesday.

The case has strained relations between Athens and Tehran amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States.

The removal of oil from the Lana, formerly Pegas, prompted Iranian forces to seize two Greek tankers in the Middle East Gulf which have not yet been released. read more

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“The (Greek) Supreme Court’s ruling… is in Iran’s favour,” a Greek government official said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. The official said the ruling, which has not been made public, had come to the government’s knowledge on Tuesday.

Another official confirmed the ruling. A government spokesperson said the government would not comment on court decisions.

For over two months, the Iranian-flagged Lana remained under arrest off the Greek island of Evia, near the town of Karystos.

Greek authorities approved its release earlier this month, after a judicial panel ruled in favour of an Iranian company, overturning a previous court order, and the vessel which had engine problems was tugged to Piraeus. read more

Greek media reported that the United States challenged that decision, bringing the case before Greece’s Supreme Court.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “We are respectful that this case went through the Greek judicial process.” The person had no further comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

“In the past year, Iran’s hydrocarbon sales have been reinvigorated by lax enforcement. That must stop,” Mark Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters.

“The U.S. must continue to enforce sanctions and our allies must join us in this effort,” said Wallace, who is now chief executive of advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, which monitors Iran-related tanker traffic.

Part of the ship’s Iranian oil cargo had been transferred to another ship, Ice Energy, which was hired by the United States and is also moored off Piraeus port.

“Lana is expected to get fuel later today and test its engine so that it can start the oil transfer at the end of the week and sail off,” the first Greek official told Reuters.

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Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, Lefteris Papadimas, Jonathan Saul, Arshad Mohammed and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ukraine News: Turkey Says a Deal Has Been Reached to Unblock Ukrainian Grain Exports

Credit…Jens Buettner/DPA, via Associated Press

Russia’s decision to restart the flow of natural gas through a vital pipeline on Thursday brought a moment of relief to Germany, which uses the fuel to power its most important industries and heat half its homes. But it is unlikely to be much more than that.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has made clear that he intends to use his country’s energy exports as a cudgel, and even a weapon, to punish and divide European leaders — loosening or tightening the taps as it suits him and his war aims in Ukraine.

He is counting on that uncertainty to impose heavy economic and political costs on European leaders. Those elected officials are under growing pressure to bring down energy prices and avoid gas rationing that might force factories and government buildings to close and require people to lower thermostats in winter. Leaders in some nations, like Spain and Greece, are already chafing at a European Union plan to have every member country cut its gas use, arguing that they are already much less reliant on Russia than Germany.

Many questions remain about the stability of the gas supplies that began flowing again on the pipeline, the Nord Stream 1, which directly connects Russia and Germany. But, analysts said, it is clear that Europe, and Germany in particular, could remain on edge for months about whether there will be enough energy.

In the weeks leading up to the 10-day shutdown for planned maintenance that just ended, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy monopoly, had already reduced flows through the pipeline to 40 percent of its capacity. Analysts have warned that such levels will not be enough to prevent an energy crisis next winter.

“The resumed gas supplies from Russia via Nord Stream 1 are no reason to give the all clear,” said Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries. “It remains to be seen whether gas will actually flow in the long term and in the amount contractually agreed.”

He added, “Germany and Europe must not become the plaything of blackmailing Russian politics.”

On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who previously held senior positions in the German government, introduced a proposal for European Union members to reduce their gas consumption 15 percent to prepare for uncertain and possibly unsteady supply before the winter.

Before Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February, Germany got 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Few E.U. countries come close to that level of dependence — a fact that is starting to fracture European unity on Russia and energy policy.

Many Europeans already think Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, is a wealthy neighbor that is not always eager to help weaker countries. That characteristic was most recently highlighted by the country’s attitude toward helping Greece, Spain and other countries that use the euro when they were struggling financially about a decade ago.

Now, some of those very same countries are signaling that they are unwilling to make their businesses and people endure more suffering when energy prices are soaring to help bail Germany out of its dependence on Russia.

The Spanish energy minister, Teresa Ribera, said on Thursday that her country would encourage but not require its citizens to cut gas use. “Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view,” she told El País newspaper, echoing the description some German ministers used during the eurozone crisis.

The Greek government has also pushed back against the European Union’s call for a 15 percent cut in gas use. Although Greece relies on Russia to meet 40 percent of its gas needs, its supplies have not been cut.

Stoking such divisions is at the heart of Mr. Putin’s strategy of cutting off gas deliveries through pipelines that cross Ukraine and Poland while limiting the volume of natural gas flowing under the Baltic Sea through the 760-mile Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

“The entire European energy system is going through a crisis, and even with today’s restart of Nord Stream 1, the region is in a tight position,” Rystad Energy, a research firm, wrote in a market note on Thursday.

Mr. Putin appears to be drawing out the uncertainty about whether and for how long the gas will keep flowing to Germany to try to maximize his leverage as long as he can.

Hours before the flow of gas resumed on Thursday, Gazprom said in a statement that it still had not received documents from Siemens for a turbine that was sent to Canada for repairs. The papers are necessary for the part to be returned, the company said, adding that the engine, and others like it, had “a direct influence on the operational safety of the Nord Stream pipeline.”

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, rejected a statement from Gazprom earlier in the day that the resumption of gas through the pipeline was proof that the Russian company was a “guarantor” of energy security in Europe.

“The opposite is the case,” Mr. Habeck said. “It is proving to be a factor of uncertainty.”

The German government has already activated the second of three steps of its gas emergency plan. Included was the swapping of gas-fired power plants with ones that burn coal, which releases many more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning gas. The third and final step would allow the government to ration supplies.

Credit…Virginia Mayo/Associated Press

On Thursday, Mr. Habeck announced additional measures aimed at increasing the country’s gas reserves, like conservation incentives that include more ambitious targets for the storage facilities and reactivating power plants that burn lignite — the dirtiest fossil fuel.

He said the government was also weighing strict limits on how people could use gas. For example, the government might forbid people to heat private swimming pools with gas. When pressed on how such measures would be enforced, Mr. Habeck drew a parallel to bans on holding private gatherings during the initial lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, which were rarely enforced — unless neighbors alerted the authorities.

“I do not think that the police will visit every homeowner. That is not our intention and not the country I want to live in,” Mr. Habeck said. “But if it was pointed out that someone is not going along with it, then we would certainly look into that.”

Whether Germans, who were among the Europeans most willing to follow public health rules in 2020 when the pandemic started only to rebel months later, will be willing to sacrifice their comfort in solidarity with Ukraine has yet to be fully put to the test.

The German government is facing what Janis Kluge, an analyst on Russia with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, called “a very delicate balance” in how it communicates with the public.

“On the one hand, they have to mobilize everybody to save energy, to save gas and tell everybody that there could be an energy emergency in the winter, while at the same time avoiding that this turns into criticism about the sanctions policy and support for Ukraine,” he said.

“This is exactly what Putin wants to achieve,” Mr. Kluge added. “That when we make the next decision about arms deliveries to Ukraine, that somewhere in the back of our heads, there is this thought, well, what is this going to do to our gas deliveries?”

Berlin has been scrambling to buy more gas from the Netherlands, Norway and the United States. The government has set aside 2.94 billion euros, about $3 billion, to lease four floating terminals in the hopes that they will be operating by midwinter to help ward off a crisis that threatens a recession.

For years, Germany ignored warnings from its neighbors and allies that it was making itself vulnerable by becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for its energy needs.

“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” President Donald J. Trump said at the United Nations in 2018.

In response, the German delegation, which included the country’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, laughed.

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Eight crew members killed in Ukraine cargo plane crash in northern Greece

ATHENS, July 17 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian cargo plane carrying munitions from Serbia to Bangladesh crashed in northern Greece late on Saturday, killing all eight crew members on board, Greek and Serbian authorities said on Sunday.

Witnesses said the aircraft had come down in a ball of flames near the city of Kavala before exploding on impact in corn fields around midnight local time. Earlier the pilot had reported engine trouble and had requested an emergency landing.

Drone images from the scene showed smouldering debris from the Antonov An-12 aircraft strewn across fields.

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Ukrainian-based airline Meridian, which operated the aircraft, confirmed that all eight crew members had died in the crash. read more Ukraine’s foreign ministry said they were all Ukrainian citizens.

Greek authorities have recovered the body of one crew member so far, a civil protection service spokesman said. Six bodies have been located during an initial drone inspection of the area, a local mayor said.

Serbian Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the plane had been carrying 11.5 tonnes of products, including mortar and training shells, made by its defence industry. The buyer of the cargo was the defence ministry of Bangladesh, he added.

Confirming that account, Denys Bogdanovych, Meridian’s general director, said the crash had no relation to the war currently raging in Ukraine.

‘FULL OF SMOKE’

Greek state TV ERT said the aircraft’s signal was lost soon after the pilot requested an emergency landing. Amateur video footage uploaded on ertnews.gr showed the aircraft in flames descending fast before hitting the ground in what appeared to be an explosion.

“I wonder how it didn’t fall on our houses,” one witness, Aimilia Tsaptanova, told reporters. “It was full of smoke, it had a noise I can’t describe and went over the mountain. It passed the mountain and turned and crashed into the fields.”

Greek authorities said the special disaster response unit and military staff, including mine clearance units, had been dispatched to the scene. They banned people from moving around the area and advised residents to keep doors and windows shut.

A fire brigade official said on Sunday that firefighters “felt their lips burning” and white dust was floating in the air. The substance has been examined and not found to be radioactive or biological material hazardous to public health, the mayor of the wider region, Philippos Anastasiades, told reporters.

Some businesses and households in the area suffered power cuts after the crash, possibly because the plane may have cut through cables or got burned by the explosion, local media said. More explosions occurred during the night after the crash.

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Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Ivana Sekularac, Michele Kambas, Tom Balmforth, Max Hunder, Thanasis Elmazis, Alkis Konstantinidis, George Moutafis and Yasmin Hussein; Editing by Jane Merriman and Gareth Jones

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Experts Comb Cargo Plane Crash Site In North Greece; 8 Dead

By Associated Press
July 17, 2022

Minutes before the plane crashed, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had a problem with one engine and needed to make an emergency landing.

Experts were poised to investigate the site of a plane crash in northern Greece Sunday to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remains.

The An-12 cargo plane smashed into fields between two villages late Saturday. Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash. A plume of white smoke was still rising from the front end of the plane on Sunday morning.

Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told a news conference Sunday that all eight crewmembers were killed. He said the plane was carrying 11.5 tons of Serbian-made mortar ammunition to Bangladesh, which was the buyer. It had taken off from the Serbian city of Nis and had been due to make a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

The plane was operated by Ukrainian cargo carrier Meridian, and the Ukrainian consul in Thessaloniki, who has arrived at the crash site, told local officials that the crew were all Ukrainian.

“These were illuminating mortar mines and training (mines). … This flight had all necessary permissions in accordance with international regulations,” Stefanovic said.

The plane crashed shortly before 11 p.m., about 40 kilometers west of Kavala International Airport. Minutes before, the pilot of the plane had told air traffic controllers that there was a problem with one of his engines and that he had to make an emergency landing. He was directed to Kavala airport but never made it there.

The plane is a Soviet-era four-engine turboprop cargo carrier.

Drone footage shows that small fragments are all that is left from the plane. Firefighters who rushed to the scene in the night were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell which they feared might be toxic.

Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks. Authorities said they did not know if there were dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those contained in batteries.

A special army unit that looks for nuclear, biological and chemical substances will comb the site, but is not expected to arrive before 1 p.m.

The fire service has cordoned off the area at a radius of about 400 meters.

The mayor of the municipality of Paggaio, to which the two villages close to the crash belong, has banned vehicle movement on nearby roads.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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