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In The News

Vladimir Putin “Open To Talks” — If U.S. Changes Its Tune

Vladimir Putin “Open To Talks” — If U.S. Changes Its Tune

Signing Ceremony for new territories to Russia back in September

Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to negotiations, adding that the possibility of talks would be hampered by the United States’ refusal to acknowledge annexed Ukrainian regions as being part of Russia.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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“The United States still does not recognize new territories as part of the Russian Federation, and this complicates the search for common ground for negotiations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday during a regular call with journalists. “The most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means,” Peskov added.

This comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow “never avoids contacts" but there haven't been "substantial ideas" when it comes to a possible meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin.

Biden And Macron See Eye To Eye On Ukraine But Disagree On How To Handle Russia

U.S. president Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in Washington

Michael Brochstein/ZUMA

French President Emmanuel Macron was on a state visit at the White House yesterday, where he met with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss, among other things, the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The two leaders reportedly showed a united front on the conflict, strongly condemning Moscow’s actions and reaffirming their intention to further support Ukraine’s energy sector while supplying additional air defense systems.

In a press conference, Emmanuel Macron responded to accusations that the West would pressure Ukraine to accept a compromise in order to end the war quickly: "We will never call on Ukrainians for a compromise that would be unacceptable. Because they are defending their lives, nation, and our principles, and because this will never lead to lasting sustainable peace."

Biden added that he has no immediate plans to talk with Vladimir Putin, but he is prepared to speak if the Russian president gives an indication that “he's looking for a way to end the war — he hasn't done that yet."

Macron, instead, said he would be willing to speak with Putin once Ukraine sets the conditions for a peace agreement. The French leader told ABC’s Good Morning America earlier Thursday that he actually intends to speak with the Russian president in the coming days.

Kyiv Says “Between 10,000 And 13,000” Ukrainian Soldiers Killed Since Start Of War 

Soldiers carry coffins with the bodies of the defenders of Ukraine

Pavlo Palamarchuk/SOPA/Zuma

Between 10,000 and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, according to Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"We have official figures from the General Staff, official figures from the high command, and according to them we have between 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed," Podolyak said speaking on national TV.

This number is much lower than numbers previously provided by the United States. On Nov. 10, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley estimated that Russia and Ukraine had each suffered more than 100,000 casualties as a result of the conflict.

Spain Says Letter Bombs Won’t Alter Support To Ukraine

Spain’s Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the recent series of “letter bombs” targeted at the country would not alter Madrid’s commitment to helping Ukraine.

Multiple explosive packages were sent in recent days to Spanish officials, including the country’s prime minister and at the U.S. embassy in Madrid.

Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said he believed Russia was behind the attacks, adding that “the world is beginning to recognize that [Russia] is a terrorist state. And terror knows no borders.” As a consequence, Ukraine has tightened security measures for all of its embassies and consulates abroad.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy, Austria, as well as the consulates general in Naples and Krakow, and the consulate in Brno, in the Czech Republic, have also received packages containing animal eyes, Oleh Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said Friday on Facebook.

“We have reason to believe that there is a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates. Unable to stop Ukraine on the diplomatic front, they are trying to intimidate us,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

Lockheed Martin Lands $431-Million Contract For Ukraine-Bound Rocket Launchers

American defense industry giant Lockheed Martin was awarded a $430-million contract to manufacture additional High-Mobility Rocket Artillery Systems (HIMARS), aimed to address the needs of the U.S. military and international partners, the Pentagon reported.

Ukraine has so far received 20 HIMARS from the U.S., with 18 additional ones expected over the next few years, as part of a $1-billion U.S. arms package.

This comes as Germany has announced it would provide Ukraine with a number of unmanned surface vessels, bridge-laying tanks, as well as dozens of border protection vehicles as part of its new batch of military aid, according to a statement posted on the German government website.

Ukraine Intensifies Crackdown On Orthodox Churches

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced it conducted "counterintelligence activities" at nine Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Zhytomyr, Rivne and Transcarpathian regions of Ukraine.

The service wrote on its Telegram channel that “given the armed aggression of the Russian Federation”, it aimed at ensuring that religious communities are not used as terrorist cells.

The SBU had led similar operations in recent weeks, targeting churches in Kyiv, where it found pro-Russian literature, two million hryvnias ($330,000) as well as propaganda materials “denying the existence of Ukraine.”

Russia’s Wagner Mercenary Group Reaches 1 Billion Views On TikTok

According to a new report, videos posted by Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenaries on the social media platform TikTok have been viewed more than a billion times.

U.S.-based NewsGuard, which focuses on online misinformation, identified some 160 videos on TikTok that "allude to, show, or glorify acts of violence", including 14 showing the summary execution of a former Russian mercenary.

TikTok reacted by saying it would act against any content violating its policies: "Our Community Guidelines clearly outline that we do not allow people to use our platform to threaten or incite violence, or share attacks or slurs based on people's nationality or other protected characteristics. We will take action on content found to violate these policies," a statement read.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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