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Exclusive: Putin wants Ukraine ceasefire on current frontlines

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A guide stands next to a German-manufactured main battle tank Leopard at an exhibition displaying armoured vehicles and equipment captured by the Russian army from Ukrainian forces in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, at Victory Park open-air museum on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow, Russia, May

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognises the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources told Reuters, saying he is prepared to fight on if Kyiv and the West do not respond.

Summary

  • Russian sources indicate Putin ready to halt conflict at front
  • Putin to take more land to pressure Kyiv to talk: sources
  • Does not want another national mobilisation: sources
  • Putin has no designs on NATO territory: sources
  • Russia concerned about nuclear escalation: sources

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognises the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources told Reuters, saying he is prepared to fight on if Kyiv and the West do not respond.

Three of the sources, familiar with discussions in Putin’s entourage, said the veteran Russian leader had expressed frustration to a small group of advisers about what he views as Western-backed attempts to stymie negotiations and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s decision to rule out talks.

“Putin can fight for as long as it takes, but Putin is also ready for a ceasefire – to freeze the war,” said another of the four, a senior Russian source who has worked with Putin and has knowledge of top level conversations in the Kremlin.

He, like the others cited in this story, spoke on condition of anonymity given the matter’s sensitivity.

For this account, Reuters spoke to a total of five people who work with or have worked with Putin at a senior level in the political and business worlds. The fifth source did not comment on freezing the war at the current frontlines.

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Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in response to a request for comment, said the Kremlin chief had repeatedly made clear Russia was open to dialogue to achieve its goals, saying the country did not want “eternal war.”

Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministries did not respond to questions.

The appointment last week of economist Andrei Belousov as Russia’s defence minister was seen by some Western military and political analysts as placing the Russian economy on a permanent war footing in order to win a protracted conflict.

It followed sustained battlefield pressure and territorial advances by Russia in recent weeks.

However, the sources said that Putin, re-elected in March for a new six-year term, would rather use Russia’s current momentum to put the war behind him. They did not directly comment on the new defence minister.

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Based on their knowledge of conversations in the upper ranks of the Kremlin, two of the sources said Putin was of the view that gains in the war so far were enough to sell a victory to the Russian people.

Europe’s biggest ground conflict since World War Two has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides and led to sweeping Western sanctions on Russia’s economy.

Three sources said Putin understood any dramatic new advances would require another nationwide mobilisation, which he didn’t want, with one source, who knows the Russian president, saying his popularity dipped after the first mobilisation in September 2022.

The national call up spooked part of the population in Russia, triggering hundreds of thousands of draft age men to leave the country. Polls showed Putin’s popularity falling by several points.

Peskov said Russia had no need for mobilisation and was instead recruiting volunteer contractors to the armed forces.

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The prospect of a ceasefire, or even peace talks, currently seems remote.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly said peace on Putin’s terms is a non-starter. He has vowed to retake lost territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. He signed a decree in 2022 that formally declared any talks with Putin “impossible.”

One of the sources predicted no agreement could happen while Zelenskiy was in power, unless Russia bypassed him and struck a deal with Washington. However, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Kyiv last week, told reporters he did not believe Putin was interested in serious negotiations.

SWISS TALKS

Ukraine is preparing for talks hosted by Switzerland next month aimed at unifying international opinion on how to end the war. The talks were convened at the initiative of Zelenskiy who has said Putin should not attend. Switzerland has not invited Russia.

Moscow has said the talks are not credible without it being there. Ukraine and Switzerland want Russian allies including China to attend.

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Speaking in China on May 17, Putin said Ukraine may use the Swiss talks to get a broader group of countries to back Zelenskiy’s demand for a total Russian withdrawal, which Putin said would be an imposed condition rather than a serious peace negotiation.

The Swiss foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are ready for discussion. We never refused,” Putin said in China.

The Kremlin says it does not comment on the progress of what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, but has repeatedly said Moscow is open to the idea of talks based on “the new realities on the ground.”

In response to questions for this story, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said any initiative for peace must respect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, within its internationally recognised borders” and described Russia as the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine.

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“The Kremlin has yet to demonstrate any meaningful interest in ending its war, quite the opposite,” the spokesperson said.

In the past, Kyiv has dismissed Russia’s purported readiness to talk as an attempt to shift the blame onto it for the war.

Kyiv says Putin, whose team repeatedly denied he was planning a war before invading Ukraine in 2022, cannot be trusted to honour any deal.

Both Russia and Ukraine have also said they fear the other side would use any ceasefire to re-arm.

Kyiv and its Western backers are banking on a $61 billion U.S. aid package and additional European military aid to reverse what Zelenskiy described to Reuters this week as “one of the most difficult moments” of the full scale war.

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As well as shortages of ammunition after U.S. delays in approving the package, Ukraine has admitted it is struggling to recruit enough troops and last month lowered the age for men who can be drafted to 25 from 27.

TERRITORY

Putin’s insistence on locking in any battlefield gains in a deal is non-negotiable, all of the sources suggested.

Putin would, however, be ready to settle for what land he has now and freeze the conflict at the current front lines, four of the sources said.

“Putin will say that we won, that NATO attacked us and we kept our sovereignty, that we have a land corridor to Crimea, which is true,” one of them said, giving their own analysis.

Freezing the conflict along current lines would leave Russia in possession of substantial chunks of four Ukrainian regions he formally incorporated into Russia in September 2022, but without full control of any of them.

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Such an arrangement would fall short of the goals Moscow set for itself at the time, when it said the four of Ukraine’s regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – now belonged to it in their entirety.

Peskov said that there could be no question of handing back the four regions which were now permanently part of Russia according to its own constitution.

Another factor playing into the Kremlin chief’s view that the war should end is that the longer it drags on, the more battle-hardened veterans return to Russia, dissatisfied with post-war job and income prospects, potentially creating tensions in society, said one of the sources, who has worked with Putin.

‘RUSSIA WILL PUSH FURTHER’

In February, three Russian sources told Reuters the United States rejected a previous Putin suggestion of a ceasefire to freeze the war.

In the absence of a ceasefire, Putin wants to take as much territory as possible to ratchet up pressure on Ukraine while seeking to exploit unexpected opportunities to acquire more, three of the sources said.

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Russian forces control around 18% of Ukraine and this month thrust into the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Putin is counting on Russia’s large population compared to Ukraine to sustain superior manpower even without a mobilisation, bolstered by unusually generous pay packets for those who sign up.

“Russia will push further,” the source who has worked with Putin said.

Putin will slowly conquer territories until Zelenskiy comes up with an offer to stop, the person said, saying the Russian leader had expressed the view to aides that the West would not provide enough weapons, sapping Ukraine’s morale.

U.S. and European leaders have said they will stand by Ukraine until its security sovereignty is guaranteed. NATO countries and allies say they are trying to accelerate deliveries of weapons.

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“Russia could end the war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine, instead of continuing to launch brutal attacks against Ukraine’s cities, ports, and people every day,” the State Department said in response to a question about weapons supplies.

All five sources said Putin had told advisers he had no designs on NATO territory, reflecting his public comments on the matter. Two of the sources cited Russian concerns about the growing danger of escalation with the West, including nuclear escalation, over the Ukraine standoff.

The State Department said the United States had not adjusted its nuclear posture, nor seen any sign that Russia was preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

“We continue to monitor the strategic environment and remain ready,” the spokesperson said.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

SPECIAL REPORT

Global cyber outage grounds flights, hits banks, telecoms, media

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Passengers wait at Barajas Airport, as Spanish airport operator Aena on Friday reported a computer systems "incident" at all Spanish airports which may cause flight delays, in Madrid, Spain July 19, 2024. REUTERS/Elena Rodriguez

A global tech outage was disrupting operations across multiple industries on Friday, with airlines halting flights, some broadcasters off air and services from banking to healthcare hit by system problems.

While major U.S. airlines – American Airlines (AAL.O), opens new tab, Delta Airlines (DAL.N), opens new tab and United Airlines (UAL.O), opens new tab – grounded flights, other carriers and airports around the world reported delays and disruptions early on Friday.

Banks and financial services firms from Australia to India and Germany warned customers of disruptions.

In Britain, booking systems used by doctors were offline, multiple reports from medical officials on X said, while Sky News, one of the country’s major news broadcasters was off air, apologising for being unable to transmit live, and soccer club Manchester United said on X that it had to postpone a scheduled release of tickets

The former head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre Ciaran Martin told BBC Radio that an update to a product offered by global cyberscurity firm CrowdStrike (CRWD.O), opens new tab appeared to be affecting operating systems based on Microsoft’s Windows Operating System.

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Microsoft’s MSFT.O cloud unit Azure said it was aware of the issue that impacted virtual machines running Windows OS and the CrowdStrike Falcon agent getting stuck in a “restarting state,” amid an ongoing global outage.

“We’re aware of an issue affecting Windows devices due to an update from a third-party software platform. We anticipate a resolution is forthcoming,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

According to an alert sent by CrowdStrike to its clients and reviewed by Reuters, the company’s “Falcon Sensor” software is causing Microsoft Windows to crash and display a blue screen, known informally as the “Blue Screen of Death”.

The alert, which was sent at 0530 GMT on Friday, also shared a manual workaround to rectify the issue.

Over half of Fortune 500 companies used CrowdStrike software, the U.S. firm said in a promotional video this year.

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A Crowdstrike spokesperson did not respond to emails or calls requesting comment.

There was no information to suggest the outage was a cyber security incident, the office of Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator Michelle McGuinness said in a post on X. A British government source also told Reuters there was nothing to suggest foul play.

“The world grinding to a halt because of a global IT meltdown shows the dark side to technology,” AJ Bell investment analyst Dan Coatsworth said.

“The severity of the problem boils down to how long it lasts. A few hours’ disruption is unhelpful but not a catastrophe. Prolonged disruption is another matter,” he said.

The outages rippled far and wide.

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Airports in Singapore, Hong Kong and India said the outage meant some airlines were having to check in passengers manually.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s busiest, said it was affected, while airline Iberia said it had been operating manually at airports until its electronic check-in counters and online check-ins were reactivated. It said there had been some delays but no flight cancellations.

Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA), opens new tab said its operations were disrupted.

The Dutch foreign affairs ministry told Dutch press agency ANP it had been affected. A spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

While there were reports of companies gradually restoring their services, analysts weighed the potential of what one called the biggest ever outage in the industry and the broader economy.

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“IT security tools are all designed to ensure that companies can continue to operate in the worst-case scenario of a data breach, so to be the root cause of a global IT outage is an unmitigated disaster,” said Ajay Unni, CEO of StickmanCyber, one of Australia’s largest cybersecurity services companies.

-Reuters

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Morocco celebrates Wole Soyinka

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Morocco Royal Academy Celebrates Renowned Nigerian Author Wole Soyinka

The Royal Academy of Morocco has honored Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka in a special ceremony, marking the 90th birthday of the acclaimed Nigerian writer.

The event, held in collaboration with the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), served as a tribute to Soyinka’s immense contributions to African and global literature.

Titled “Africa Celebrates Wole Soyinka in Morocco,” the round-table discussion brought together cultural figures, academics, and diplomats.

It explored Soyinka’s prolific career, highlighting his unwavering commitment to social justice and his unique voice that champions African cultures.

Born in 1934, Soyinka’s literary journey began in Nigeria before flourishing internationally. His works, including “ A Dance of the Forests” (1966) and “ Death and the King’s Horseman” (1975), grapple with tradition, modernity, and the human condition.

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His latest novel, “Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth” (2021), employs satire to critique societal ills.

Permanent Secretary of  the Royal Academy Royal Academy Abdeljalil Lahjomri, lauded Soyinka’s unwavering dedication to portraying African realities in an interview with the local press. He described Soyinka as a “defender of African cultures” and a keen observer of the continent’s complexities.

Lahjomri specifically mentioned Soyinka’s rejection of the Negritude movement, emphasizing his constant fight against all forms of domination.

Wale Okediran, Secretary-General of PAWA, commended Soyinka’s multifaceted talent – poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, and satirist.

He hailed Soyinka as a source of inspiration for aspiring African writers, praising his ability to raise critical questions and elevate African voices on the world stage.

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Soyinka, in his address, expressed his gratitude for the celebration, emphasizing its role in strengthening cultural ties between Morocco and West Africa.

The author drew historical parallels, citing the strong relationship between Morocco and Senegal, exemplified by his friendship with the late Senegalese president, Léopold Senghor.

Professor Raphael Liogier, a scholar at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, viewed the event as a powerful symbol of Africa’s potential.

“Africa is capable of taking charge, opening up to the world, and opening the world to itself,” Liogier remarked, highlighting the significance of recognizing African talent like Soyinka.

-Morocco World News

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Morocco Embassy denies granting visa to fugitive Kogi former governor, Yahaya Bello

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H.E. Ou Ali Tagma, Ambassador, Kingdom of Morocco

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

The embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Abuja has denied ever granting visa to former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello  who is now on the run.

The immediate past governor is facing an N80.2 billion naira fraud charge but has not appeared in the court since the case began. 

An online publication, Intelregion, had published a report that the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, has uncovered Bello’s plan to leave Nigeria for Morocco via Cameroon.  

 The Moroccan Embassy has denied the report. The ambassador, Ou Ali Tagma informed that “the embassy of Morocco in Nigeria has never granted an entry visa to Mr. Yahaya Bello”  and so, denies the allegations in the said publication.

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The former governor, now at large, is facing a 19-count charge including allegations of money laundering, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds amounting to about N80.2 billion.

In statements credited to the former governor, he denied the allegations but paradoxically, refused  to appear before Justice Emeka Nwite on scheduled dates.

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