U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Kyiv on Thursday (Sep. 8) as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia. In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, Blinken said the Biden administration had notified Congress of its intent to provide $2 billion in long-term Foreign Military Financing to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbours, including NATO members and regional security partners, that are "most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression."

Pending expected congressional approval, about $1 billion of that will go to Ukraine and the rest will be divided among Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the State Department said. Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, allows recipients to purchase U.S.-made defence equipment, often depending on their specific needs.

The European Central Bank raised interest rates across the eurozone by a record margin to combat soaring inflation that has reached double figures in some of the currency bloc's 19 member countries. Setting aside concerns that higher rates would add to the current squeeze on consumers' disposable incomes and increase the depth of a looming recession, the central bank's 25-member governing council raised its key benchmarks by an unprecedented 0.75 of a percentage point to 1.25%.

The move follows a similar increase by the US Federal Reserve and is expected to put pressure on the Bank of England to follow suit next week. Markets had largely priced in a 75 basis point hike, with the euro remaining flat against the British pound and rising slightly against the dollar to 1.0005. At the start of the week, the euro had dipped below 99 cents for the first time in 20 years.

The Taliban and Abu Dhabi-based GAAC Solutions signed a contract for the Emirati company to provide flight services and manage planes landing and taking off at key airports in Afghanistan. The flight guidance services deal will also include equipping the facilities and training Afghan staff at the country's three major airports, including the one in the capital of Kabul, the Taliban said. The two other airports covered under the deal are in the cities of Herat in the west, and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban takeover, Qatar's government has agreed to represent the United States in the Taliban-run country, following the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The international community, wary of the Taliban's harsh rule when they were last in power more than 20 years ago, has withheld official recognition of the government and Afghanistan's assets abroad have been frozen. A Taliban minister said the deal's main goal is to develop air services and services at airports.

Rahul Gandhi, the senior leader of India's main opposition Congress Party, has launched a cross-country "unity" march, echoing iconic protests by India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, as he aims to revive the party's sagging electoral fortunes ahead of the 2024 general elections. Gandhi, a scion of the influential Gandhi family (although the Mahatma was not part of it), flagged off the "Bharat Jodo Yatra" or "Unite India Rally" in the southern coastal town of Kanyakumari on Wednesday.

The stated aim is to counter the increasing religious divide, rising unemployment, escalating prices and the weakening of democratic institutions. The Congress leader accompanied by supporters will cover more than 3,500km to reach Srinagar city in the northernmost Himalayan region of Kashmir in about 150 days. Gandhi attacked the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological mentor - the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - for dividing India, officially a secular nation, on the lines of religion and language.

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