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China loosens COVID restrictions after protests rock the country

Richard Sharrocks/Getty Images

(BEIJING) -- China loosened some key COVID-19 controls on Wednesday after residents began protesting against the strict measures in November.

Authorities did not acknowledge the unrest in their decision but the sudden announcement by China’s State Council Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism directly addresses some of the key concerns of the demonstrators, including relaxing quarantine rules and allowing for home quarantine for mild and asymptomatic cases. Previously, residents who tested positive were sent to a central quarantine facility. People who been in close contact with sick individuals can now self-isolate at home for five days.

Local authorities were in charge of enforcing their own preventative measures and usually erred on the side on excessive curbs, locking down entire neighborhoods, towns and even cities.

Lockdowns are now dependent on individual "buildings, units, floors and households, instead of residential compounds, communities and subdistricts," according to authorities.

Moreover, quarantine measures will now be lifted if no new infections are reported for five consecutive days.

Authorities will also move away from relying on mass nucleic acid PCR testing and expand the use of rapid antigen tests. Since the Shanghai lockdown in April and May, PCR testing was required in most Chinese cities, with residents needing to have a negative test every 48-72 hours in order to access places including school and offices. Long lines around testing booths became a normal sight across the country throughout the summer and the fall. PCR tests will now only be used for high-risk areas and occupations.

People no longer need to show a valid negative test or a health code to enter public venues or to travel, except when entering hospitals, schools and elderly homes.

While China has relaxed its measures, the ruling Communist Party still intends to control the spread of virus. International borders remain mostly closed and likely will be for the near future. Beijing has not allowed foreign vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer to be used on its population, holding out for its own mRNA technology vaccines, which have been delayed.

According to a new study from predictive health analytics firms Airfinity, at least 1.3 million residents could die if China opened its borders today.

While cases across China have been dropping from a peak of just over 40,000 daily infections, it remains unclear how the easing of restrictions will pan out.

The annual Lunar New Year travel period, which begins the first weekend of January, could be a challenge for controlling a larger outbreak. Hundreds of millions will be traveling back and forth to their hometowns, increasing their potential risk to the virus.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Russia-Ukraine live updates: Ukrainian special forces were in Russia during strike

Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More than six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into neighboring Ukraine, the two countries are engaged in a struggle for control of areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose forces began an offensive in August, has vowed to take back all Russian-occupied territory. But Putin in September announced a mobilization of reservists, which is expected to call up as many as 300,000 additional troops.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 07, 6:01 PM EST
10 civilians killed in Russian air strike, Zelenskyy says

A Russian airstrike that struck Kurakhov, a city in Donetsk Oblast in southeastern Ukraine, has killed 10 people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Wednesday.

Civilian areas such as a market, gas station, bus station and a residential building were among the targets that were struck, Zelenskyy said.

Dec 07, 1:19 PM EST
Putin says Russia will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in war with Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday the threat of nuclear war is increasing but Russia will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Putin, speaking at Russia's Human Rights Council, said nuclear weapons should act as a deterrent in conflicts, not provoke them.

"We consider weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, it is all built around the so-called retaliatory strike. When we are struck, we strike back," Putin said.

“I have already said: we don’t have our own nuclear weapons, including tactical ones, on the territory of other countries, but the Americans do. Both in Turkey and in a number of other European states ... we haven't done anything yet," Putin said.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Dec 07, 8:56 AM EST
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy named Time's 2022 'Person of the Year'

Time named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Spirit of Ukraine as the 2022 "Person of the Year."

More than a dozen Ukrainians who embodied the spirit of Ukraine were also named: Dr. Iryna Kondratova, who helped mothers give birth during shelling in the hospital basement; Oleg Kutkov, an engineer who laid the groundwork for the essential connectivity; Olga Rudenko, editor-in-chief of the Kyiv Independent; and Levgen Klopotenko, a Kyiv chef who converted his restaurant into a relief canteen.

“This year’s choice was the most clear-cut in memory. Whether the battle for Ukraine fills one with hope or with fear, the world marched to Volodymyr Zelensky’s beat in 2022," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement.

Dec 06, 4:22 PM EST
Ukrainian special forces were deep in Russia to guide drone, senior Ukrainian official says

Ukrainian special forces were deep inside Russian territory and helped guide drones to at least one of the bases hit in Monday’s attacks, a senior official from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s inner-circle confirmed to ABC News.

-ABC News' Marcus Moore

Dec 06, 2:28 PM EST
White House does not have assessment on drone attacks inside Russia

The U.S. does not have an assessment on recent drone attacks deep inside Russia, which a person close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told ABC News Ukraine is responsible for, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

"I don't want to speculate about whether Ukraine is responsible for these attacks," Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre also told reporters Russia is to blame for this conflict.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Dec 06, 11:30 AM EST
Russia now out of Iranian-made drones, Western officials say

According to Western officials, Russia has run out of Iranian-made drones. Russia had been using the lethal drones, along with missiles, in a wave of aerial bombardments on Ukrainian infrastructure over a period of several weeks.

But, the drones have been absent in recent Russian attacks. A western official said the Russians "anticipate a resupply."

In light of Ukraine’s apparent drone attacks on military airbases deep inside Russia, Western officials said Russia will now be undergoing "a significant amount of soul-searching" over their ability to defend significant military assets deep inside Russia’s borders.

The official, who characterized the attacks as "an egregious failure of security" said the Russian military’s potential had been consistently overestimated by the west.

“I no longer think the Russians are ten-feet tall," the official said.

-ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge

Dec 06, 10:17 AM EST
Ukrainian drone crashes into military airfield in Russia

A Ukrainian drone crashed into a military airfield in Russia, setting an oil tanker on fire, according to the governor of Russia’s Kursk region.

There were no casualties at the Kursk base. This comes a day after drone attacks on two Russian airbases where jets used to bomb Ukraine are housed. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

-ABC News' Joe Simonetti

Dec 05, 10:36 AM EST
Missiles rain on Ukraine after purported drone strikes in Russia

A new barrage of missiles strikes was launched against Ukraine on Monday, hitting targets across the country, including the capital city of Kyiv, officials said.

Casualties and damage from the attacks were being assessed, Ukrainian officials said.

The majority of the missiles were shot down by air defense forces, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the Russians launched missiles from the Volgodonsk, Caspian and Black seas.

The strikes damaged two infrastructure objects in the Odesa region, leaving the area without electricity and running water, officials said. One person was hospitalized, according to Ukrainian officials.

Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov said a missile hit a substation that supplies the city of Belvaevska's pumping station with electricity.

According to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, missile strikes in the Zaporizhzhia region killed two people and injured three others, including a toddler, in the village of Novosofiyivka.

Explosion were also heard in Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, Kherson and Cherkasy, officials said.

The missile strikes followed reports from Russian media outlets that drones were used to bomb two military air bases in Russia, hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for the drone attacks, but Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukraine’s president, posted a cryptic tweet, saying "if you launch something very often into the airspace of other countries, sooner or later the unknown flying objects will return to the place of departure."

Dec 02, 2:18 PM EST
No peace talks till Russian soldiers leave, Ukraine says

Ukraine said it would not consider peace talks before the last Russian soldier leaves Ukrainian territory. This comes after President Joe Biden indicating he would be willing to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin if he has legitimate interest in peace negotiations.

Ukraine also said that there must not be any peace negotiations without Ukraine, reiterating that Biden has been clear that there won't be any talks happening without the participation of U.S. allies and Ukraine.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Dec 02, 2:17 PM EST
IAEA expresses optimism over creation of protection zone around Zaporizhzhia

The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed optimism over possibly creating a safe zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant before the end of the year.

"I know that President Putin is following the process, and I do not rule out another meeting with him soon, as well as with Ukrainian President Zelensky," IAEA Director General Rafael Rossi said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"There is a concrete proposal on securing Zaporizhzhia and important progress has been made. ...The two sides now agree on some basic principles. The first is that of protection: it means accepting that you don't shoot 'on' the plant and 'from' the plant. The second is the recognition that the IAEA is the only possible way forward: that was the heart of my meeting with President Putin in St. Petersburg on October 11," Rossi added.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Dec 02, 12:27 PM EST
Bloody packages with animal eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Packages believed to be blood-soaked and containing the eyes of animals, were sent to Ukrainian embassies worldwide, including in Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, the Ukrainian ministry of foreign affairs said Friday.

The entrance to the ambassador's residence in the Vatican was also vandalized, according to the Ukrainian ministry of foreign affairs.

The Ukrainian embassy in the U.S. received a letter with a photocopy of a critical article about Ukraine. Like most other envelopes, the letter arrived along with others from the territory of an unnamed European country.

"We have reason to believe that a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates is taking place. Not being able to stop Ukraine on the diplomatic front, they are trying to intimidate us. However, I can immediately say that these attempts are useless. We will continue to work effectively for the victory of Ukraine," the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.

The Ukrainian embassy in Spain received a letter-bomb on Wednesday which was opened and ignited, resulting in one slight injury.

A similar envelope was sent to the U.S. embassy in Madrid, but it was detected before going off, according to Spanish officials.

All Ukrainian embassies and consulates have been placed under heightened security. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on foreign governments to guarantee maximum protection of Ukraine's diplomatic institutions.

Dec 01, 3:28 PM EST
Biden 'prepared to speak with Putin' if he wants to end war

Speaking at a joint press conference with France's Emmanuel Macron, President Joe Biden said he would be open to speaking with Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader has legitimate interest in peace negotiations. Biden, however, said he has "no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin."

Biden also noted that Putin has "miscalculated every single thing" when it comes to this war.

"So the question is what is his -- how does he get himself out of the circumstance he's in? I'm prepared if he's willing to talk to find out what he's willing to do, but I'll only do it in consultation with my NATO. I'm not going to do it on my own," Biden said.

Meanwhile, President Macron, who has continued speaking with Putin, said it's up to Ukraine to come to the negotiating table.

"So it's only legitimate that President Zelenskyy sets some conditions to talk. We need to work on what could lead to a peace agreement. But it's for him to tell us when the time comes and what the choices of the Ukrainians are," Macron said.

-ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky

Dec 01, 1:46 PM EST
Shelling in Kherson damages power lines as energy company works to finish repairs

Electricity was back for 60% of customers in the Ukrainian city of Kherson, but shelling overnight damaged power lines, according to the head of Ukraine's regional energy company.

Workers are hoping to finish the repairs by the end of Thursday.

In Kyiv, 652,000 residents were subject to power outages throughout Thursday, according to the director of YASNO energy company, Serhiy Kovalenko. Kyiv's main power grid is operating at less than 70% capacity and 20% of residents are still without power or heat.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Dec 01, 12:20 PM EST
Russia accuses US, NATO of direct involvement in war

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the West of being directly involved in the war in Ukraine by supplying the country with weapons and training its soldiers.

"You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries," Lavrov said at a press conference Thursday.

Lavrov also claimed that Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities and other key infrastructure were intended to weaken Ukraine’s military potential and derail the shipments of weapons from the West.

Lavrov also said Moscow is open to peace talks to end the conflict.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Nov 29, 11:47 AM EST
US to send $53M in energy aid to help Ukraine through winter

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with more than $53 million to acquire critical electric grid equipment to help its citizens get through the winter, the State Department announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes amid Russia's continued attacks against Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

"This new assistance is in addition to $55 million in emergency energy sector support for generators and other equipment to help restore emergency power and heat to local municipalities impacted by Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s power system," the State Department said in a release.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Nov 28, 4:36 PM EST
UN lays out 'dire' situation in southern Ukraine

Denise Brown, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, traveled to the Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv over the weekend to get an update on the humanitarian issues affecting the southern part of the country, according to the U.N.

Although repairs to the area's water system are finally able to commence, there is still a lot of work to be done to help the people in those cities, the U.N said.

"We continue to be concerned about the plight of civilians in Ukraine especially as winter sets in," a U.N. spokesperson said in a statement.

Some heating points have already been established in Mykolaiv to help people who cannot heat their homes, according to the U.N.

"Aid workers are providing supplies and generators to make these places functional," the U.N. said in a statement.

The agency added that donations and funding for humanitarian efforts are critical as the cold weather sets in.

Nov 25, 1:13 PM EST
Power restored in all regions, Ukraine grid operator says

All of Ukraine's regions are now connected to the European Union's energy system and all three nuclear power plants located in the Kyiv-controlled area are working, CEO of Ukrenergo grid operator Volodymyr Kudrytskyi announced.

"In one to two days, they will reach their normal planned capacity, and we expect to introduce planned rolling blackouts instead of emergency outages," Kudrytskyi said.

Power is slowly returning to all Ukrainian cities, but blackouts and emergency shutdowns continue. Power issues are the worst in Kyiv, Kirivigrad, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Poltava and Lviv, according to Kudrytskyi.

Kyiv's critical infrastructure receives electricity, the water supply is fully restored and heating is being restored, but 50% of residential houses remain without power. Only one-third of houses currently have heating, according to the mayor.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lawmaker sanctioned as Russian agent faces new charges over alleged purchase of condos in Beverly Hills

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A sanctioned Ukrainian politician who U.S. authorities said has ties to Russian intelligence services was hit with new criminal charges Wednesday over his alleged purchase of two condominiums in Beverly Hills, California.

The charges were announced by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and the Justice Department's KleptoCapture task force against Andrii Derkach, a member of Ukraine's parliament who has been labeled by the United States as a Russian agent and who allegedly sought to influence the 2020 presidential election by meeting with and funneling disinformation about Joe Biden to Rudy Giuliani.

Derkach is charged in a seven-count indictment with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and four counts of money laundering. Derkach allegedly purchased the two California properties in violation of new U.S. sanctions imposed earlier this year and concealed his interest in the transactions.

"The conduct of this Kremlin asset, who was sanctioned for trying to poison our democracy, has shown he is ready, willing, and capable of exploiting banking system in order to advance his illicit goals. The U.S. will not be a safe haven where criminals, oligarchs or sanctioned entities can hide their ill-gotten gains or influence our elections," said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in a statement announcing the charges.

Derkach, who remains at large, was sanctioned for his alleged efforts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election on behalf of the Russian intelligence services while prosecutors said he simultaneously conspired to fraudulently benefit from a comfortable life in the U.S.

"Attempting to enjoy the safety, security, and freedoms of an open society, while secretly working to undermine that very society, is a hypocrisy that runs through every sanctions charge announced by the Task Force. It is a particularly egregious hypocrisy in the case of Andrii Derkach – sanctioned for attempts to undermine American democracy, while corruptly seeking to benefit from its protections," said KleptoCapture Director Andrew C. Adams.

Derkach, a member of a pro-Russian political party, allegedly schemed to purchase and maintain two luxury condominiums in Beverly Hills while concealing his interest in the transactions from U.S. financial institutions, according to the complaint. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Treasury officials previously said Derkach controlled two websites that helped spread disinformation about U.S. officials.

Giuliani traveled to Ukraine in 2019 with OAN news anchor Chanel Rion where the two met with Derkach for an interview and took documents from him. Federal prosecutors in New York investigated Giuliani's activities in Ukraine but decided earlier this year not to file criminal charges.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dozens detained in Germany on suspected plot to overthrow government: Prosecutor

Alexander Nolting / EyeEm/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- Thousands of police officers have carried out a series of raids across much of Germany on Wednesday morning against suspected far-right extremists who allegedly sought to overthrow the state by force, according to the Attorney General at the Federal Court of Justice in Germany.

Federal prosecutors said some 3,000 officers conducted searches at 130 sites in 11 of Germany's 16 states against adherents of the so-called Reich Citizens movement.

Prosecutors said 25 German citizens were detained on suspicion of "membership in a terrorist organization" and that the group, which was not identified in their statement announcing the raids, is alleged to have believed in a "conglomerate of conspiracy theories consisting of narratives from the so-called Reich Citizens as well as Q-Anon ideology," according to a statement by prosecutors.

Many had military training and some of those arrested include former soldiers.

The arrests were made at various locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Thuringia. At least two arrests were made outside of Germany's borders -- one in the Kitzbühel region of Austria and the other in Perugia in Italy.

Searches were also conducted in a number of other federal states including Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

"The accused belong to a terrorist organization founded by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which has set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with its own form of government, which has already been developed in outline," federal prosecutors said in a statement following the raids. "The members of the association are aware that this project can only be realized through the use of military means and violence against state representatives. This also includes committing homicides. The accused are united by a deep rejection of the state institutions and the free democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany."

The rise of violent hard-right groups in Germany, including white supremacist and neo-Nazi factions, was detected years before law enforcement in the U.S. was willing to acknowledge the problem existed in America. In the final years of the Merkel government -- and prior to the pandemic -- some German intelligence officials were actively pushing Berlin to be more outspoken and aggressive in calling out the issue for fear that silence was allowing it to fester as the mainstream German population continued to believe it was a problem buried in the past.

With the rise of Q-Anon, the violent far-right and the re-energized militia movement in the U.S., other fringe groups in Europe and America started feeding off each other’s energy and online growth. The movements now, in many ways, mirror each other and cross-pollinate.

Authorities are expected to hold a press conference later Wednesday detailing the massive operation.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Passengers on Antarctic cruise ship hit by deadly 'rogue wave' speak out

ALEXIS DELELISI/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Tom and Pam Trusdale were enjoying a bucket list trip to Antarctica, until their trip of a lifetime turned into a deadly disaster.

"It was going real smoothly, and we were only anticipating nothing but smooth going forward," Tom Trusdale told ABC News.

The Trusdales were passengers on the Viking Polaris cruise ship sailing toward Ushuaia, Argentina, when it was hit by a "rogue wave" last week, killing an American passenger, Sheri Zhu, and injuring four others.

The Trusdales said the wave wasn't the only disaster. The Trusdales and ABC News later confirmed that a day before the accident, another passenger was seriously injured during a Zodiac boat excursion.

"It was a real loud, it was a boom, and I flew up in the air, and the passenger across from me flew up in the air. She came down and hit hard," Pam Trusdale said.

Tom Trusdale said he saw two passengers tossed into the air from what seemed to be an apparent explosion.

"I saw the woman go, probably about 3 feet in the air, and then the gentleman straight across from me go up in the air, and then roll over into the sea," Tom Trusdale said. "So I went across and leaned over the pontoon, and I just grabbed on to the life jacket. He was face up, so he was stabilized, and I reassured him that, 'Hey, you're safe.'"

Tom Trusdale said he and another passenger were able to quickly pull the man back on the boat, but the woman's leg was severely injured.

"She said, 'I hurt my legs. I can't feel my leg,'" Pam Trusdale said. " And then I could hear her kind of straining that, you know, I could tell that she was in a lot of pain."

The passenger's leg required surgery, which led the ship's captain to turn back to Argentina. During the trip back toward Argentina, through a known turbulent stretch of ocean, was when the "rogue wave" crashed into the cruise ship.

"This wave hit it and came over and literally broke through windows and just washed into these rooms, and not only did it wash into the rooms, but it broke walls down, and once some walls went into the next room," Tom Trusdale said.

Viking said in a statement on its website that it's investigating the wave incident and is committed to the safety and security of all guests and crew.

Viking issued a second statement about the Zodiac boat incident, saying: "On November 28, the Viking Polaris deployed a small boat with six guests and one crew member near Damoy Point, Antarctica. On this trip a guest sustained a serious but non-life-threatening leg injury while on board the small boat and was taken to the medical center on the Viking Polaris."

"Following a detailed diagnosis by the ship's medical team, the decision was taken for the ship to immediately sail to Ushuaia so that the guest could receive additional medical care from a shore-based hospital," it continued. "The guest is now recovering shoreside in Ushuaia and will then return home; Viking is continuing to support them during this period. We are committed to the safety and security of all our guests and crew, and we are investigating the cause of the incident."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ukraine drone attack hits 2 military bases deep inside Russia

omersukrugoksu/Getty Images

(MOSCOW) -- Explosions that struck two military airbases deep inside Russia on Monday were the result of drone attacks launched by Ukraine, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials, in what appeared to be an audacious attempt to hit the long-range bombers Russia has used to devastate Ukraine’s power grid.

Russia’s defense ministry on Monday confirmed the attacks on the bases that are located hundreds of miles from the frontline, saying two of its aircraft were damaged and three military personnel killed.

The unprecedented strikes were the first time Ukraine has hit so far into Russia, targeting bases that had generally been thought of as untouchable, according to military experts.

A senior Ukrainian official from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s circle, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told ABC News that Ukrainian drones had struck the Russian military airfields Monday.

Russian media reported an explosion early Monday morning at the Engels-2 airbase in the Saratov region in southern Russia, a key airfield that houses Tu-95 and Tu-60 nuclear-capable bombers.

Another explosion was reported at the Dyagilevo military airbase in Ryazan, a city less than 150 miles from Moscow and also houses Tu-95 bombers. Russian state media initially reported that a fuel tanker exploded at the base, killing three people and wounding at least five others.

Russian officials initially avoided commenting on the explosions but on Monday evening, Russia’s defense ministry said "Soviet-made" Ukrainian drones had caused it. But the ministry said Russian air defenses had shot down the drones and the damage was caused by their wreckage landing on the airfields.

Hours after the attacks, Russia launched a new barrage of missile strikes against Ukraine, including from strategic bombers, again targeting its energy infrastructure. Ukraine’s air force claimed it shot down 60 of 70 Russian cruise missiles, but the strikes left several regions partially without power. Zelenskyy said the Russian attacks had also killed four people Monday.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed the drone attacks on its airbases had failed to disrupt the planned strikes, claiming they had destroyed 17 targets.

The airbase explosions, nonetheless, were a significant shift, marking the first time Ukraine has sought to hit the bombers that for months have regularly attacked its civilian infrastructure with impunity and recently sought to bring its energy grid to its knees. The Russian bombers usually launch cruise missiles from outside Ukraine’s borders, well beyond the reach of its air defenses, experts said.

Satellite images from the company Maxar taken over the two days before Monday’s attacks showed roughly two dozen Russian bombers parked at the Engels-2 base.

The Russian defense ministry said two of its aircraft had suffered "superficial" damage in the blasts. Video circulating on Russian social media appeared to show two Tu-22 bombers at the Dyagilevo base with damage to their tail ends, standing next to a burned out fuel truck.

Russian pro-war commentators reacted with fury to the attacks, calling it a humiliation that the country’s nuclear airbases were vulnerable to conventional drones and blaming it on negligence among commanders.

A top advisor to Zelenskyy posted a cryptic comment on Twitter mocking Russia over the explosions.

"The Earth is round – discovery made by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in Kremlin, giving preference to court astrologers," wrote Mykhailo Podolyak, the presidential adviser. "If it was, they would know: if something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Eruption of Mount Semeru, Indonesia's tallest volcano, prompts evacuations for thousands living downslope

JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images

(LUMAJANG REGENCY, Indonesia) -- Several villages surrounding Mount Semeru, Indonesia's tallest volcano, have been blanketed in ash and soot following its latest eruption.

Evacuations were announced Sunday as the 12,060-foot volcano, located in East Java in Indonesia, about 300 miles southeast of the capital Jakarta, began to spew lava and ash into the densely populated island on Sunday just before 3 a.m. local time, according to local authorities.

Thick ash was blasted more than 4,000 feet into the air while lava flowed down the slopes toward the Besuk Kobokan river, about 8 miles from the crater, the country's National Disaster Management Agency announced.

At one point, the volcanic activity level had been raised to Level 4, the highest status, according to Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation.

While monsoon rains eventually eroded and collapsed the lava dome on top of Mount Semeru, nearby villages were advised to stay more than 3 miles away from the crater's mouth and prompted evacuations for thousands of people, officials said.

Hundreds of people were moved to temporary shelters or evacuated the area, The Associated Press reported, citing the disaster management agency in Lumajang in the East Java province.

Prior to Sunday, Mount Semeru erupted from Nov. 23 to Nov. 29, with daily explosions at the summit that sent ash plumes nearly 3,000 feet into the sky, according to the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.

The last major eruption occurred in December 2021, which killed 51 people in nearby villages, according to the AP. More than 10,000 villagers were evacuated, and hundreds of people were severely burned by the hot ash and lava expelled from the volcano.

There are 129 active volcanoes within the Indonesian archipelago, and tens of thousands of people continue to live downslope from the summits.

Indonesia sits along the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific, a series of fault lines prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Iran's morality police status unclear, but wearing the hijab is still mandatory for Iranian women

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(NEW YORK) -- Women in Iran will still be required to wear the hijab under Islamic Republic law, even if the country's government decides to abolish the religious police who were in charge of enforcing the dress code.

Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced on Saturday the country's morality police had been dismantled, adding that the judicial system will keep monitoring people's behavior in the country.

But on Sunday, Alalam News, the Arabic outlet of the Iranian state media, denied the attorney general’s comment on ending the morality police in a short piece on Sunday.

In addition, Iran's parliament and the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution are studying the topic of hijab, and the result will be announced in 15 days, Montazeri announced on Thursday.

However, it is unclear how things will change as a result of these moves by the government. The announcements do not indicate that the mandatory hijab rule in Iran is over, as wearing the hijab is still mandatory under Islamic Republic law.

Morality police were just one of the enforcement arms for the regime to implement the law of mandatory hijab for women. There are "security" offices in all state organizations and malls, as well as parks and other public places, that are manned and managed by the intelligence ministry. One of the major tasks of these offices is to monitor women's hijabs. Morality police was the name of the patrolling vans that would arrest women on the streets.

Even if the religious police were to be abolished, protesters and activists have been warning that it's very likely authorities will rebrand the morality police and the mission will be back in no time under another name -- as the morality police was itself a rebranded mission of a former police division name "Sar-allah Patrol."

Women are controlled in many other ways to abide with this law. Girls -- from the age of 7 -- are not admitted at school if they do not wear clothes that are deemed proper. Women patients are not admitted at the hospitals if they do not wear a hijab. Women do not receive any service at the banks or any other organizations if they don't follow the hijab laws.

The announcement to eliminate the religious police comes three months after deadly demonstrations in Iran -- as well as protests all over the world -- which could be an indication that the government is bowing down to global pressure.

On Sept. 16, Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in the hospital days after she was arrested for allegedly not adhering to the dress code correctly.

Amini's death ignited protests among women who risked their lives by ripping off their hijabs and cutting their hair in public.

At least 448 people, including 60 children, have been killed since the protests began, though the true number is believed to be higher because of the difficulty in accessing death certificates, according to NGO Iran Human Rights.

The protests are also targeting the head of the regime, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with slogans such as "Death to dictator" and "Death to Khamenei."

An estimated 14,000 people across the country, including many journalists and school children, have been arrested on charges related to demonstrations, the United Nations announced last month.

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'Rogue wave' strikes Antarctic cruise ship, leaves one dead and four injured

Courtesy Beverly Spiker

(NEW YORK) -- An American passenger on an Antarctic cruise died and four other guests were injured after their Viking ship was struck by a "rogue wave," officials said.

The incident happened on Tuesday around 10:40 p.m. local time while the Viking Polaris ship was sailing toward Ushuaia, Argentina, Viking said.

A guest died following the incident, Viking said, though did not share further details on the cause of death. The victim's family has been notified, the company said.

The passenger killed was a U.S. citizen, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to ABC News Friday.

"We are offering all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment," the spokesperson said.

The victim was confirmed as Sheri Zhu, 62, by Secretary of the Ushuaia Federal Court Melina Rodriguez.

Four other guests sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the incident and were treated by the ship's doctor and medical staff, Viking said.

"We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities," Viking said in a statement Thursday. "Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel."

The ship sustained "limited damage" from the rogue wave and arrived in Ushuaia on Wednesday "without further incident," Viking said. Images taken of the docked ship showed several damaged windows.

Passengers on board the ship described choppy conditions leading up to the incident.

Californian Beverly Spiker told ABC News that a "huge smash" against the window of her and her husband's cabin caused her window frame to break.

"Clearly something big had happened," she said. "A lot of water came shooting in."

"Luckily, our windows did hold," she added, though said other rooms on their side of the ship were "washed out."

Spiker's cousin, Suzie Gooding, of North Carolina, told ABC News that at the time, the ship was going through the Drake Passage, "which is well-known for having turbulent seas."

Gooding said despite the conditions outside looking "horrible," the inside was "like a normal cruise ship" leading up to the incident. She said she felt a "sudden shudder" that caused cabinets to open.

"It was just unbelievable," she said. "At the time that it happened, we personally wondered if, you know, we knew that we weren't by any icebergs, but it's like, did we hit an iceberg? It just was so sudden."

Spiker said she and other passengers were "shook up" afterward.

"No matter what side of the boat you're on, it was felt throughout the ship that clearly something bad had happened," she said. "So everybody was pretty shook up."

The ship is docked as passengers await further travel plans from Viking, according to Gooding, who said that two other ships in their bay in Ushuaia were also damaged, possibly by rogue waves.

The Viking Polaris ship's next departure for the Antarctic, scheduled for Dec. 5, has been canceled "after careful consideration," the cruise line said.

Rogue, or extreme storm, waves are "greater than twice the size of surrounding waves" and are "very unpredictable," according to the National Ocean Service.

Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of South America, is a common starting point for cruises to Antarctica.

ABC News' Matthew Seyler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


With candles and flashlights, Ukrainians maintain daily routines despite blackouts caused by Russian attacks

Candles light a classical music concert in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, an event where there were no empty seats. - ABC News

(KYIV, Ukraine) -- At one school in Kyiv, students and teachers are continuing to go to class, even in the dark, doing their schoolwork with the help of flashlights.

"We don’t care, if it takes months and years without light -- we still continue," said 16-year-old Egor Egorenko.

While large parts of Ukraine are plunged into darkness amid rolling blackouts following Russian attacks on its energy grid, Ukrainian defiance appears to be shining as brightly as ever.

Power crews are continuing to work overtime on the new frontlines in an effort to keep the lights on.

"There were emergencies before. But before they were rare and for brief periods of time, now we have emergencies every day," said Oleksandr Danilyuk, an employee with Ukraine's main energy company. "I just worry that [Russia will] finish destroying all our infrastructure, so that people are left completely without power."

Just going about their daily lives has become an act of resistance, some Ukrainians told ABC News.

“Our soldiers they are fighting in the terrible trenches, and our idea is to fight here, with the help of maybe a piece of chalk, but we are fighting," said Volodymir Dmytriev, school principal and history teacher.

"We know that spring will come, and we will be the winners," he1 added. "As for our students, they have only one duty: to study to rebuild and build free independent Ukraine."

Shops are also powering through -- at one pharmacy, staffers continued to work with headlamps, undeterred. And there were no empty seats at a classical music concert in downtown Kyiv, where the stage was lit only by candles.

"In my opinion, these concerts are exceptionally important right now," concert organizer Oleksandr Pescherytsia said. "They’re for people who are afraid, who had their safety and peace of mind torn away from them, so it’s important to keep the light and warmth in people’s hearts alive. Nothing does it better than music."

Kyiv resident Maksym Kondratovych has gone to great lengths to brace for a worst-case scenario, telling ABC News he’s basically camping in his own apartment. He stocked up on everything from equipment to filter and boil water, camping food -- including dried borscht -- glowsticks, flashlights and dry showers. And he has a sleeping bag at the ready for when it gets too cold.

And 10-year-old Ruth Gorshkova is determined to continue attending her guitar lessons no matter what happens next, even if that means playing in near total darkness. She told ABC News it's her way of standing up to the Russians, that it helps her forget about the war and that when she plays, “with no lights, I have a light in my heart.”

ABC News' Dragana Jovanovic, Natalia Kushnir, Yulia Drozd and Yuriy Boyko contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Iran accused of stealing bodies of slain protesters as families rush to reclaim loved ones

Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iranian authorities have been accused of stealing the bodies of slain protesters from hospitals and morgues in order to prevent families from holding funerals, which activists say could prove rallying points for the protests.

The families of the protesters who have been killed called it a disturbing new tactic of intimidation.

The U.N. has previously warned that Iranian authorities have refused the release of bodies or made their release contingent on the families staying silent.

Iran has denied allegations of human rights violations against protesters and has accused Western nations of turning "peaceful assemblies into riots and violence."

The family of 16-year-old protester Nika Shakarami claim that her body was stolen by government forces in October.

Reza Haghighatnejad, an Iranian dissident journalist, worked in Prague for years for the Iranian branch of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). He died of cancer in a Berlin hospital in October. When his body was flown home to Iran at his family’s request, his remains were not found at the airport, according to RFE.

According to the NGO Iran Human Rights, at least 448 people, including 60 children, have been killed since the protests began, though the true number is believed to be higher because of the difficulty in accessing death certificates.

The seizures have been particularly distressing for the families, who have been denied the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. Sarah Haghighatnejad, the late journalist's sister, published a video of her brother's tombstone covered with flowers on her Twitter account. "Those who were even afraid of your lifeless body and did not give my mother and me a chance to say goodbye must pay the price,” she wrote.

"They are taking away the chance from the mourning families to say goodbye in peace to have the last word with their loved ones," Mehdi Tajik, a journalist and friend of Haghighatnejad, said. "They seize bodies to force the families to either say they were not killed by the police or to force them to bury them without a funeral."

Some families have responded by keeping hold of their dead or scrambling to get to morgues where their loved ones are kept.

One protester, Mehran Samak, was shot dead while celebrating Iran's World Cup loss to the U.S. on the streets of Anzali, a port city in the north of the country. His death sparked a rush from his family to recover Samak’s body from the morgue, as they were scared he might be buried elsewhere by the authorities in secret, a friend of the family told ABC News.

The family of 10-year-old Kian Piraflak, shot dead in Izeh, Khuzestan Province, earlier this month, reportedly kept his body at home rather than a morgue out of fear he would be taken. Videos on social media have circulated showing women carrying buckets of ice, shouting "Ice! Ice for children" to symbolically protest the pain families go through to protect and preserve the bodies of their killed loved ones.

"She was forced to make a mobile morgue for the body of her child," an Iranian journalist with knowledge of the alleged thefts told ABC News. The journalist did not want to be named for security reasons. "The fact that a mother cannot even think about seeking justice for the murder of her son, and instead she has to send people around to borrow ice so she can keep the body of her son cold overnight is pure horror and distress."

Iran experts have said that the protests, which have united a diverse range of Iranians, pose the biggest challenge the regime has faced since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In response, the authorities have pursued the deadly crackdown that has injured or killed hundreds and jailed thousands more.

ABC News' Emma Ogao contributed to this report

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ngozi Fulani speaks out on racism she faced at Buckingham Palace

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The founder of nonprofit organization Sistah Space drew international attention after she detailed racist comments from a British royal aide while attending a Buckingham Palace reception on combatting violence against women hosted by Queen Consort Camilla.

Ngozi Fulani, whose charity focuses on supporting women of African and Caribbean heritage affected by domestic violence, detailed her encounter with "Lady SH'' in a viral tweet about her experience that took place Tuesday at an event to mark the international campaign, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

"Because of the work that we do at Sistah Space, we talk about domestic abuse, but we also look at the racism or, you know, barriers for Black women reporting domestic abuse," Fulani said, addressing the controversy in an interview with ABC News Live on Friday. "So because of that work, that's why we received the invitation in the first place. I did not expect that five minutes after I got into the palace, I was approached by a woman that I didn't know and I still don't know."

The royal aide was later revealed to be Lady Susan Hussey, godmother to Prince William and lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Fulani, a British national, said that Hussey asked her repeatedly where she was from after moving her locs to see her name badge, allegedly responding, "No, what part of Africa are you from?" when Fulani said her organization is based in the U.K., continuing to question Fulani when she insisted that she was British.

"I know when someone's asking me a question because they're interested and when someone's asking me a question because there's a motive at the end," Fulani told ABC News Live of the interaction she perceived as more than a case of genuine curiosity. "This is about her feeling comfortable that I can't claim my British citizenship."

Several commenters under the post mentioned the incident as a reminder of the racism and terroristic threats faced by Meghan Markle upon her entrance to the British Royal Family when she married Prince Harry in 2019. The duchess of Sussex, who is biracial, accused the Firm of ignoring her pleas for help when she suffered suicidal ideation and claimed an unnamed royal had concerns about her unborn baby's skin color in a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Earlier this week, Neil Basu, the former head of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police, confirmed the Sussexes faced "disgusting and very real" threats when they lived in the United Kingdom.

In response to the allegations, Buckingham Palace said in a statement last March that the royal family was saddened to learn the "full extent" of Harry and Meghan's experiences.

"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately," the palace wrote.

The duchess of Sussex will make a trip to New York with Prince Harry next week, shortly after the prince and princess of Wales' Boston travels this week.

Hussey has since resigned from her royal role and offered "her profound apologies for the hurt caused," according to a statement from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

"We take this incident extremely seriously and have investigated immediately to establish the full details. In this instance, unacceptable and deeply regrettable comments have been made," the palace said in a statement. "We have reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter, and are inviting her to discuss all elements of her experience in person if she wishes."

In the wake of Hussey's resignation -- something Fulani did not want, according to her friend and fellow activist Mandu Reid -- Fulani told ABC News on Friday that she and the palace have not spoken directly, but "will have that discussion" on how the situation should have been handled once they do.

"I haven't spoken directly to the palace and neither have they to me. And when that happens, we will have that discussion," she said. "But I just want to make something clear: The palace appointed her or gave her that position. So it's for her and the palace to sort out. It's not for me."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prince Harry, Meghan share never-before-seen moments together in trailer for new Netflix docuseries

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- After months of anticipation, the public now has its first glimpse of Prince Harry and Meghan's upcoming docuseries.

Netflix on Thursday released a trailer for the six-episode docuseries, Harry & Meghan.

The roughly one-minute trailer shows snapshots of personal moments for the Sussexes, from falling in love to leaving their royal roles and charting their own future in California.

"No one sees what is happening behind closed doors," Harry says after a voice asks why the couple wanted to make the documentary.

Meghan later says in the trailer, "When the stakes are this high, doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us?"

Along with the intimate photos, the trailer also shows Harry speaking candidly about his efforts to protect his family, which now includes two children, Archie and Lilibet.

"I had to do everything I could to protect my family," Harry says.

Harry and Meghan's docuseries, directed by Liz Garbus, is due to air in December, just weeks before Harry's memoir is published.

An exact premiere date for the docuseries has not yet been announced by Netflix.

"Across six episodes, the series explores the clandestine days of their early courtship and the challenges that led to them feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution," Netflix said in a statement. "With commentary from friends and family, most of whom have never spoken publicly before about what they witnessed, and historians who discuss the state of the British Commonwealth today and the royal family’s relationship with the press, the series does more than illuminate one couple’s love story, it paints a picture of our world and how we treat each other."

The trailer for Harry & Meghan was dropped just as Harry's brother Prince William and his wife Kate, the princess of Wales, are in the middle of a closely-watched visit to Boston, their first trip to the United States in eight years.

Sources close to William and Harry confirm the two couples have no plans to meet while William and Kate are in the U.S.

Just a few days after William and Kate leave Boston, Harry and Meghan will be in New York City to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award.

The fact that the two couples will be so close to each other on the East Coast in a short time span but will not meet is a sign of their continued strained relationship, according to ABC News royal contributor Victoria Murphy.

"I think the fact that there isn’t going to be a meeting says it all -- the fallout is still very real and raw," said Murphy. "Yes, Boston is a long way from California but Harry and Meghan are making the trip to New York just a few days later, so citing distance as the reason for not meeting doesn’t feel like the full picture."

The last time William, Kate, Harry and Meghan appeared publicly together in person was during the mourning period for the late Queen Elizabeth II in September. Prior to that, the two couples, once called the "Fab Four" by royal watchers, had not been seen together in public in over two years.

"The brothers put on a show of unity for the queen’s funeral but the reality is that the divisions and disagreements are very much still there," said Murphy. "And they could get bigger depending on what is in Harry’s book and the couple’s docuseries."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Greco-Roman funerary building, mummy portraits discovered in Egypt

Courtesy of The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

(FAYOUM, Egypt) -- A huge 2,300-year-old funerary building and a number of mummy portraits were discovered in Egypt's southern province of Fayoum, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Cairo, the country's antiquities ministry said on Thursday.

The building and the paintings, which are famously known as the Fayoum portraits, date back to the Ptolemaic and Roman eras in the 3rd century B.C. They were found in Fayoum's Gerza village, which was known as Philadelphia during the Roman period.

"The discovered structure is a large building styled as a funerary building with colored gypsum tiled floors," Adel Okasha, who heads the antiquities department in Cairo and Giza, said in a statement. "To the south of it, there is colonnade hall where the remains of four columns were found."

The uncovering of the paintings was also hailed as one of the most important archeological discoveries this year, as it marked the first time such portraits were found in more than 110 years.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, British egyptologist Flinders Petrie excavated at least 150 mummy portraits at a Roman necropolis in in Fayoum's archeological site of Hawara.

"The discovery shows the diversity and difference in quality of the mummification process during the Ptolemaic and Roman times based on the financial status of the deceased," said Mostafa Waziry, the head of Egypt's Supreme Antiquities Council.

Waziry also said a "rare terracotta statue of [ancient deity] Isis Aphrodite was discovered inside one of the burials in a wooden coffin," as well as "papyrus-made records" with Demotic and Greek inscriptions that show the economic and religious statuses of the inhabitants of the area at the time.

Egypt, which has invested heavily in ancient discoveries in recent years, is hoping to revive its ailing tourism industry. The country also plans to inaugurate a state-of-the-art museum near the Giza Pyramids, which Egypt says will be the biggest museum in the world dedicated to a single civilization.

 

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Scientists discover fossils of new predatory dinosaur species in Mongolia

Archaeologists explore a dig site in the Omnogovi Province in Mongolia, where they discovered a new species of dinosaur, the Natovenator polydontus, in 2008. - Sungjin Lee and Yuong-Nam Lee

(NEW YORK) -- Scientists have discovered a new predatory dinosaur fossil in Mongolia that was likely a semiaquatic diving predator.

A near-complete skeleton, found in the Omnogovi Province, depicts a bird-like specimen and was named "Natovenator polydontus," or "Swimming hunter with many teeth," according to a paper published in Communications Biology on Thursday.

Researchers from the Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Expedition located the fossils at the Baruungoyot Formation in 2008, Young-Nam Lee, a professor of vertebrate paleontology who led the dig, told ABC News.

During the expedition, 27 members of the team gathered 196 cataloged specimens. The Natovenator polydontus was found by Robin Sissons, a graduate student of the University of Alberta, Lee said.

The fossil was not fully exposed in the field, so Sissons, despite not knowing what it was at the time, made a plaster jacket for it, Lee said.

All of the fossils from that collection were then shipped to South Korea for preparation and study, where “a whole skeleton came to light” of the new species of dinosaur, Lee said.

The specimen “was so delicate but beautifully preserved,” Lee said.

It included a skull, spinal column, one forelimb and the remains of two hindlimbs. Its streamlined body, with ribs that point toward its tail, is similar to modern diving birds and its long neck resembles modern water birds such as geese, the researchers said. These adaptions may have reduced the drag that Natovenator would have been subjected to when swimming, helping it to catch prey.

The fossil also included an "unusually high number of teeth" compared to the size of the dinosaur's jaw, indicating that it ate a fish or insect-based diet, according to the researchers.

“Instantly we realized it was something important,” Lee said. “It had a skull with many tiny teeth and a very long neck was distinct.”

This is the first time that a non-avian theropod -- a type of carnivorous dinosaur that walked on two legs -- was discovered with a streamlined body similar to some birds, according to the researchers.

Analysis of evolutionary relationships also indicate that the new species is closely related to halszkaraptorines, a group of non-avian theropods that previous research has suggested may have been adapted for a semiaquatic lifestyle.

“Natovenator is a valuable discovery,” Lee said. “Finding semi-aquatic dinosaurs means that the ecological diversity was very high in dinosaurs. Halszkaraptorines could change our prejudice about the lifestyle of dinosaurs.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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