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Biden warns Putin Ukraine attack would bring 'severe costs'******
Efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine via a frenzy of telephone diplomacy failed to ease tensions Saturday, with US President Joe Biden warning that Russia faces "swift and severe costs" if its troops carry out an invasion.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin slammed Western claims that Moscow was planning such a move as "provocative speculation" that could lead to conflict in the ex-Soviet country, according to a Russian readout of a call with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking after new phone talks between Putin and Biden, the Kremlin's top foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov told a conference call: "Hysteria has reached its peak."
Weeks of tensions that have seen Russia nearly surround its western neighbour with more than 100,000 troops intensified after Washington warned that an all-out invasion could begin "any day" and Russia launched its biggest naval drills in years across the Black Sea.
"If Russia undertakes a further invasion of Ukraine, the United States together with our allies and partners will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia," Biden told Putin, according to the White House.
While the United States was prepared to engage in diplomacy, "we are equally prepared for other scenarios", Biden said, as the two nations stare down one of the gravest crises in East-West relations since the Cold War.
While the Biden-Putin talks were "professional and substantive", lasting just over an hour, they produced "no fundamental change" in dynamics, a senior US official told reporters.
Russia's defence ministry added to the febrile atmosphere by announcing that it had chased off a US submarine it said had crossed into its territorial waters near the Kuril Islands in the northern Pacific.
The ministry said it had summoned the US defence attache in Moscow over the incident.
But the US Indo-Pacific Command denied the account. "There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters," spokesman Captain Kyle Raines said in a statement.
Putin began his afternoon holding talks with Macron that the French presidency said lasted one hour and 40 minutes.
Macron's office said "both expressed a desire to continue dialogue" but, like Washington, reported no clear progress.
Russia added to the ominous tone by pulling some of its diplomatic staff out of Ukraine Saturday.
The foreign ministry in Moscow said its decision was prompted by fears of "possible provocations from the Kyiv regime".
But Washington and a host of European countries along with Israel cited the growing threat of a Russian invasion as they called on their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon possible.
Britain and the United States also pulled out most of their remaining military advisers while the US embassy ordered "most" of its Kyiv staff to leave.
Australia said it had directed all remaining embassy staff in Kyiv to evacuate, and Canada said it was closing its embassy temporarily and moving operations to the western city of Lviv.
Dutch carrier KLM announced that it was suspending commercial flights to Ukraine until further notice.
The prospect of fleeing Westerners prompted Kyiv to issue an appeal to its citizens to "remain calm".
"Right now, the people's biggest enemy is panic," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on a visit to troops stationed near the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea.
Several thousand Ukrainians braved the winter cold to march through Kyiv in a show of unity amid the growing fears of war.
"Panic is useless," said student Maria Shcherbenko as the crowd waved Ukraine's blue-and-yellow flags and sang the national anthem. "We must unite and fight for independence."
'Any day now'
Washington on Friday issued its most dire warning yet that Russia had assembled enough forces to launch a serious assault.
"Our view that military action could occur any day now, and could occur before the end of the Olympics, is only growing in terms of its robustness," US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned.
Sullivan stopped short on Friday of saying that the United States has concluded that Putin has made the decision to attack.
But some US and German media cited intelligence sources and officials as saying that a war could begin at some point after Putin concludes talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Tuesday.
The German leader is due to travel to Kyiv on Monday and then visit Putin as Europe strives to keep lines of communication open with Moscow.
Ukrainian leaders have been trying to talk down the prospects of an all-out war because of the damaging effect such fears are having on the country's teetering economy and public morale.
But the mood across the country remained tense.
The mayor's office in Kyiv said it had prepared an emergency evacuation plan for the capital's three million residents as a precaution.
Russia is seeking binding security guarantees from the West that include a pledge to roll NATO forces out of eastern Europe and to never expand into Ukraine.
Washington has flatly rejected the demands, but offered talks on a new European disarmament agreement with Moscow.
Sullivan said NATO was now "more cohesive, more purposeful, more dynamic than any time in recent memory".
Germany's Scholz has added his voice to European pledges to punish Russia with severe economic sanctions targeting its financial and energy sector if it attacks.
China's top liquor brand reports strong growth in first three quarters******
GUIYANG, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- China's top liquor brand Kweichow Moutai saw its sales revenue increase 11.05 percent year on year in the first three quarters of this year, the company said on Friday.
Its sales revenue during the period surpassed 74.64 billion yuan (about 11.68 billion U.S. dollars), with its net profit exceeding 37.26 billion yuan, up 10.17 percent year on year.
The company's sales revenue in the third quarter was 25.55 billion yuan, up 9.86 percent year on year, with its net profit reaching 12.61 billion yuan, up 12.35 percent year on year.
Distilled in the town of Maotai in southwest China's Guizhou Province, Moutai is often served at state banquets. Enditem
China advances into mixed relay semis at ISU Short Track World Cup******
DORDRECHT, Netherlands, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- China's mixed relay team secured a seat in the semifinals in the first-day competitions at the 2021-2022 season ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating series in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on Thursday.。
The Chinese team, consisting of An Kai, Fan Kexin, Sun Long and Zhang Chutong, won in the quarterfinals with a time of 2:40.968, beating Italy, Japan, Germany, and Belarus in their heats.。
In the preliminaries of the men's 500m race, Chinese Olympic champion Wu Dajing and his teammate Ren Ziwei both took the lead in their heats to qualify for the next stage of the match, with results of 40.630 seconds and 40.921 respectively.。
Also on Thursday, three Chinese skaters Zhang Yuting, Guo Yihan and Han Yutong, all came in second in their heats and made it through to the semifinals in the women's 1,500m race.。
The World Cup competitions are the fourth in the series and also the last chance for the athletes to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Enditem。
Uganda gears up for FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kenya******
KAMPALA, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic has named his final squad for a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kenya on November 11.。
Sredojevic told Xinhua on Monday that the match means so much for his team because it will determine if they still have a chance or not.。
"This is like a final because Kenya has nothing to lose. They will come with pride and are ready to spoil the party," Sredojevic said.。
Uganda, who will host Harambee Stars at the St. Mary's Stadium, Kitende near the capital Kampala, are second in Group E with 8 points behind Mali who have 10 points.。
"We need to push forward and also be very cautious at the back and defend well because this is not the time to make mistakes," said Sredojevic.。
The team will miss experienced defender Murushid Juuko who is still serving a suspension, while midfielder Tadeo Lwanga who features for Simba SC in the Tanzania Premier League is nursing an injury.。
After the group stage of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Africa, 10 teams will compete in the final phase in March 2022 to decide the five slots available for the continent.。
The Ugandan squad has Charles Lukwago, Isma Watenga, Mathias Kigonya, and Joel Mutakubwa as goalkeepers.。
The defenders are Denis Iguma, Gavin Kizito Mugweri, Isaac Muleme, Abdul-Aziizi Kayondo, Timothy Denis Awany, Bevis Mugabi, Livingstone Mulondo, Halid Lwaliwa, Kenneth Semakula, and Geofrey Waswa.。
The midfielders are Khalid Aucho, John Revita, Bobosi Byaruhanga, Mahad Kakooza, Moses Waiswa, Shafik Kuchi Kagimu, Allan Okello, and Julius Poloto.。
The forwards are Fahad Bayo, Yunus Junior Sentamu, Steven Desse Mukwala, Ibrahim Orit, Martin Kizza, and Milton Karisa. Enditem。