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No concessions: Russia takes hard line before vital talks with US
9 January 2022, 5:18 PM

Russia said on Sunday it would not make any concessions under US pressure at talks this week on the Ukraine crisis and its demands for Western security guarantees and that there was a risk they might end quickly.

The hard-line from Moscow underscored the fragile prospects for negotiations that Washington hopes will avert the danger of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the tensest point in US-Russia relations since the Cold War ended three decades ago.

Talks are due in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna but the state-owned RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying it was entirely possible that diplomacy could end abruptly after a single meeting.

“I can’t rule out anything, this is an entirely possible scenario and the Americans… should have no illusions about this,” he was quoted as saying.

“Naturally, we will not make any concessions under pressure and in the course of threats that are constantly being formed by the Western participants of the upcoming talks.”

Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov, who will lead the Russian delegation in Geneva, as saying Moscow was not optimistic going into the negotiations.

The comments from Ryabkov, who has compared the situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war, were consistent with the uncompromising line that Russia has been signalling for weeks.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are gathered within reach of the border with Ukraine in preparation for what Washington and Kyiv say could be an invasion, eight years after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

Russia denies invasion plans and says it is responding to what it calls aggressive and provocative behaviour from the NATO military alliance and Ukraine, its former Soviet neighbour which has tilted towards the West and aspires to join NATO.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of pushing a false narrative. “That’s like the fox saying it had to attack the hen house because its occupants somehow pose a threat. We’ve seen this gaslighting before,” he said last week.

Further complicating the picture, Russia sent troops into neighbouring Kazakhstan last week after the oil-producing former Soviet republic was hit by a wave of unrest. Its foreign ministry reacted furiously on Saturday to a jibe by Blinken that “once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave”.

RED LINES

Last month Russia presented a sweeping set of demands including a bar on further NATO expansion and an end to the alliance’s activity in central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997.

The United States and NATO have said large parts of the Russian proposals are a non-starter.

A senior Biden administration official on Saturday said the United States was not willing to discuss limits on US troop deployments or the US force posture in NATO countries in the region.

It was ready, however, to talk about the possibility of each side restricting military exercises and missile deployments in the region.

To accept that limited agenda and abandon its other demands would be a major climb-down that Russia seems unlikely to make, especially after weeks of troop movements near Ukraine and a series of tough statements from President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin leader has said that after successive waves of NATO expansion it is time for Russia to enforce its “red lines” and ensure the alliance does not admit Ukraine or station weapons systems there that would target Russia.

Ukraine won a NATO promise back in 2008 that it would be allowed to join one day, but diplomats say there is no question of that happening any time soon.

NATO says it is a defensive alliance and Moscow has nothing to fear from it. That is far from Putin’s world view, which sees Russia as under threat from hostile Western powers he says have repeatedly broken promises given as the Cold War ended not to expand towards its borders. The United States and its allies dispute such pledges were given.

In two conversations with Putin over the past five weeks, US President Joe Biden warned him that Russia would face unprecedented economic sanctions in the event of further aggression against Ukraine. The Group of Seven nations and the European Union have joined in threatening “massive consequences”.

Putin responded that this would be a colossal mistake that would lead to a complete rupture of relations.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the team led by Ryabkov had arrived in Geneva, where the formal talks are due on Monday.

Russia is also due to hold negotiations with NATO in Brussels on Wednesday and at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.

State Capture report should not be used to fight ANC factional battles: Mantashe
9 January 2022, 4:00 PM

African National Congress national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has reiterated that the Zondo Commission’s State Capture report should not be used to fight factional battles within the party.

He was speaking at the funeral service of Emalahleni Executive Mayor Linah Malatjie and her husband Sepetlele at the Puma stadium in Mpumalanga.

The couple died in a car crash between KwaMhlanga and Emalahleni last Sunday. Mantashe says if not properly managed, the Zondo Commission report will affect the party negatively.

He also emphasized the importance of fighting corruption and doing away with factions.

“That report is going to say many things about many of us, we must not use that report as an axe to chop one another, if we want that report to any value to the ANC we must use it to identify weaknesses and mistakes we have committed and use that report as a tool to rebuild the ANC.”

State Capture Report | Calls for speedy prosecution of those implicated

Part One of State Capture Report Below:

Gift of the Givers sends aid to flood-hit Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape
8 January 2022, 9:38 PM

Disaster relief group, Gift of the Givers has brought welcome relief to residents of Mdantsane and Duncan village in the Eastern Cape who have been severely affected by this weekend’s heavy rains.

Thousands of shacks have been washed away and hundreds more have been severely damaged by the storm. According to the Weather Office, around 40 millimeters of rain were recorded.

Videos on social media showed cars being washed away and people battling to keep their homes dry.

Eastern Cape Gift of the Givers co-ordinator, Corene Conradie says, “Families are left without food clothing or shelter. These families are heart broken and in tears. The little bit of clothing and food they were able to save are full of mud and not of use. They have lost everything. Gift of the Givers is on the ground to assess the situation as the list of affected families is slowly increasing. The immediate need is shelter, food, blankets, mattresses and clothing which our team will be distributing.”

EFF aims to have a million members by end of 2022 : Malema
8 January 2022, 7:46 PM

Scores of Economic Freedom Fighters members painted the Durban People’s Park red with their party regalia. In KwaZulu-Natal, the party emerged as the 4th biggest in terms of votes.

EFF members say they believe that the growth of the party in the province will open opportunities for young people.

The party’s support grew from 3.3 percent it obtained in 2016 to 8.64 percent it obtained in last year’s municipal elections. Party leader Julius Malema dubbed the year 2022 as the year of the branches.

Addressing EFF members Malema said they want to ensure that all branches are existing and are in good standing.

“We are not going to recruit door to door. We are going to recruit publicly. When we start the recruitment campaign, we recruit this week, next week our members must get the cards. End of December I want the EFF DP to have 1 million members in good standing and all of them having their cards in their hands and all of them having joined the EFF on their own.”

Malema has encouraged members to act in the best interest of the people and the organisation.

“Unity of the EFF in KwaZulu-Natal and everywhere in South Africa is important. Do not over exaggerate your individual self-importance always put the EFF first. When you’re about to act ask yourself a simple question is this in the best interest of the organisation, if the answer is no walk away from that idea. It is not revolutionary it will not help the poor.”

EFF sets sights on increasing its support base in KwaZulu-Natal:

However, the EFF leader warned party councillors to hit the ground running and not to relax. Malema says councillors must remember they are there to serve the people.

“Don’t go into the council there and become sweethearts to the Mayor and the Municipal Manager. I want EFF councillors who are going to disrupt the council and when they say why, you’ll say the Inanda people want sanitation, water and electricity including houses for free.”

Meanwhile, Malema defended the party’s decision to vote with the Democratic Alliance in metros where there was no outright winner after last year’s local government elections.

Malema says the party’s decision to vote with the DA during the inauguration of councils was aimed at removing the ANC from power and not because the EFF was in a relationship with the DA.

Messi continues COVID-19 recovery, misses Lyon trip
8 January 2022, 6:21 PM

Lionel Messi will miss Paris St Germain’s Ligue 1 trip to Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday as he continues his recovery from COVID-19, the capital club said on Saturday.

The Argentine forward is back in Paris from his home country after testing negative but has not been cleared to play.

“Lionel Messi will continue his post-COVID individual protocol in the coming days,” PSG said in a statement.

Messi, 34, was one of several players to return positive results during the Ligue 1 break.

PSG said that Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Danilo Pereira, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Layvin Kurzawa were still isolating after testing positive.

“It’s always hard to pick the right team, COVID or no COVID,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino told a news conference on Saturday.

His side lead the standings with 46 points from 19 games, 10 ahead of second-placed Olympique de Marseille ahead of the club’s 2,500th game.

However, PSG will not be able to count on the support of their fans, who have been banned from travelling to Lyon amid fears they might clash with the OL supporters.

The banning order from the interior ministry said PSG’s trips were “frequently a source of public disorder”.

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