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Vladimir Putin ready to ‘freeze’ war in Ukraine with ceasefire recognising recent Russian gains, sources say

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Vladimir Putin ready to ‘freeze’ war in Ukraine with ceasefire recognising recent Russian gains, sources say

Vladimir Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a ceasefire that recognises the current battlefield lines, four Russian sources have told the Reuters news agency.

Three of the sources claimed that the Russian leader had expressed frustration about what he views as Western-backed attempts to hinder ceasefire negotiations.

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

The Russian president later told a press conference on Friday that peace talks with Ukraine need to be renewed, but they “must reflect realities on the ground”.

Sources said freezing the conflict along current lines is a non-negotiable, as it would leave Russia in possession of substantial chunks of four Ukrainian regions, but without full control of any.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire, going so far as to sign a decree in 2022 that formally declared any talks with Mr Putin “impossible”.

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Emergency workers carry the body of a person killed by Russian missile strikes in Kharkiv. Pic: Reuters

Pic: Reuters
Firefighters work at compound of a printworks hit by Russian missile strikes, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
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Pic: Reuters


He reiterated this view at the beginning of the year, saying any pause in fighting would “play into [Russia’s] hands” and “might crush us afterwards”.

Both Mr Putin and Mr Zelenskyy also rejected a proposal put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month, for a temporary ceasefire to be held during the Olympic Games, between 26 July-11 August.

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Capturing Kharkiv ‘not part of plan’

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But according to two of the sources who spoke to Reuters, Mr Putin thinks recent gains in the war are enough to sell a victory to the Russian people.

This month, Russian forces have intensified the bombardment of the southern region of Kharkiv.

The Kremlin has claimed its troops have taken control of numerous villages and cities in the area, while Ukrainian officials said troops were still in control of the majority of the territory and house-to-house fighting had been taking place.

Read more:
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Inside Ukraine’s new northern frontline

Ukraine map

Mr Putin is reportedly understood to think any dramatic new advances in the country would require another nationwide mobilisation which he wants to avoid – one source pointing to the fact that his popularity dipped after the first mobilisation in September 2022.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Reuters that Russia had repeatedly made clear it was open to dialogue to achieve its goals, saying the country did not want “eternal war”.

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Frontline: Russia’s new Ukraine offensive

But Mr Putin has already ruled out that he will attend the upcoming Ukraine Peace Summit, which is being held in Burgenstock, Switzerland, from 15-16 June – which Ukraine is keen for Russia’s allies to attend.

Much of the West – including the US – does not believe Russia is interested in serious ceasefire negotiations.

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A US state department spokesperson said in response to Reuters that any initiative for peace must respect Ukraine’s “territorial integrity, within its internationally recognised borders”.

They described Russia as the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine.

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Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministries did not respond to Reuters for comment.

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The fate of the latest cease-fire proposal hinges on Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza

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The fate of the latest cease-fire proposal hinges on Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on two men: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

Each leader faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making. And neither seems to be in a rush to make concessions to end the devastating eight-month-long war and free hostages taken by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack.

Hamas has accepted the broad outline of the plan but requested “amendments.” Netanyahu has publicly disputed aspects of it, even though the U.S. has framed it as an Israeli plan.

Among the major sticking points is how to move from an initial temporary truce in the deal’s first phase to a permanent cease-fire that includes an end to the fighting and full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Here is a look at what may be driving the two leaders:

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Netanyahu is ‘buying time’

Throughout the war, the long-serving Israeli leader has been criticized for letting political considerations get in the way of his decision-making.

His government is buoyed by two ultranationalist parties that oppose cease-fire deals. Instead, they prefer continuous military pressure to try to defeat Hamas and free the hostages. They also talk about “encouraging” Palestinians to leave and reestablishing Israeli settlements, which were dismantled when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year occupation.

Netanyahu himself has taken a tough line on the cease-fire, saying he will not end the war until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are destroyed.

But with his hard-line partners pledging to topple the government if a cease-fire is struck, Netanyahu has been pushed even farther into the corner. His reliance on them to remain in power recently intensified after a centrist member of his war Cabinet, former military chief Benny Gantz, quit over frustrations with Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict.

Netanyahu has had to balance internal pressures against demands from the Biden administration, which is promoting the latest cease-fire proposal, and from families of hostages who believe only a deal can set their loved ones free. Tens of thousands of Israelis have joined mass protests in support of the hostage families.

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Netanyahu appears to be siding with his far-right governing partners for the moment, knowing they hold the key to his immediate political survival, although he says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Their departure from the government could lead to new elections, which would open him up to a vote that could end his rule and likely the start of investigations into the failures of Oct. 7.

Netanyahu is also on trial for corruption, proceedings that have continued throughout the war yet have faded from the public consciousness. A cease-fire deal could refocus attention on the charges, which have dogged the Israeli leader for years and which he adamantly denies.

Netanyahu’s political fortunes appear to have improved over the course of the war. His public support plummeted in the aftermath of Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel. But over time it has gradually ticked up. While he would still face a tough path toward reelection, he isn’t a write-off.

“He runs the war as he wants, which means very slowly. He’s buying time,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israeli Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think thank, and chairman of the political science department at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

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Rahat said Netanyahu is also keen to push on with the war in the hopes that former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to office, possibly giving Israel more leeway in its fight against Hamas.

“I don’t see any cease-fire that really comes close to being something he adopts,” Rahat said. “But he’s not the only one that controls reality.”

Sinwar’s mission is to survive

Hamas’ leader in Gaza also appears to be in no rush to sign on to a deal.

The militant group’s exiled leadership is somewhat varied in its opinion on how to approach a cease-fire agreement. But Sinwar — the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attacks — has particular weight on the matter.

As a Hamas stalwart who spent decades in Israeli prisons, he has incentives to keep the war going.

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On a personal level, his life may be on the line. Israel vowed to kill him in response to the October assault, and Sinwar is believed to be hiding deep within Gaza’s underground tunnels surrounded by Israeli hostages.

If a cease-fire takes hold, Sinwar will be taking a great risk stepping out in public.

“I think he understands that he’s kind of a dead man walking. But it’s a matter of how long can he hold out?” said Khaled el-Gindy, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank.

But Sinwar is motivated by more than just his own personal fate. Steeped in Hamas’ radical ideology, Sinwar seeks Israel’s destruction and has made political gains by watching the war harm Israel’s international standing and boost support for the Palestinian cause.

Israel has faced surging international criticism — from its Western allies, from the international justice system, from protesters around the world — over its conduct during the war. That has deepened Israel’s global isolation, brought accusations that it is committing genocide against Palestinians and driven the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to seek the arrests of Israeli leaders.

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Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, wrote on the social platform X that Sinwar was also “counting on the sustained global outcry due to the horrendous killing of Gazans to force Israel to stop the war eventually,” on his own terms.

But Sinwar could face some difficult questions of his own when the war ends — not only over his personal role in the atrocities of Oct. 7 but also from the Palestinian public as the full extent of the wartime devastation and the years-long process of reconstruction sink in.

El-Gindy said Sinwar wasn’t deterred by the high price Palestinian civilians in Gaza are paying in the war, seeing it as an unavoidable sacrifice on the road toward liberation.

From Sinwar’s perspective, continuing to fight Israel’s powerful army, even if only through pockets of resistance, denies Israel a victory, el-Gindy said.

“Their whole mission is to survive,” he said. “If they survive, they win.”

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Associated Press writers Julia Frankel and Jack Jeffery contributed from Jerusalem.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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Nationwide blackout reported in Ecuador

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Nationwide blackout reported in Ecuador

A failure in an energy transmission line on Wednesday produced an unexpected blackout throughout Ecuador, the government said, days after announcing that there would be power outages in the country due to production problems.

Ecuador’s Minister of Energy Roberto Luque said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the failure was reported by the country’s National Electricity Operator and caused “a cascade disconnection,” leaving the nation without energy service.

He added that efforts are being made to solve the problem and repair faulty power lines as soon as possible.

3-DIGIT TEMPERATURES TRIGGER ROLLING BLACKOUTS IN MEXICO

In some sectors of the country the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued in most cities.

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People walk outside of a metro station after a blackout affected the entire country, in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. In some sectors of the country the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued in most cities. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Emilia Cevallos, a waitress in a restaurant north of the capital, Quito, said the blackout was surprising.

“We thought it was only in this sector, but when we left we realized that while some stores had connected generators, the majority did not have electricity,” she said. “The traffic lights were not working either.”

The Quito municipality said on X that traffic agents were mobilized to coordinate the flow of traffic. Quito Metro, the company that operates the city’s subway system, said service was suspended as a result of the electrical failure.

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Since last year, Ecuador has faced an electricity generation crisis that has led to rationing throughout the country. In April, the government of President Daniel Noboa began to ration electricity in the country’s main cities as a drought linked to the El Niño weather pattern depleted reservoirs and limited output at hydroelectric plants that produce about 75% of the nation’s power.

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Residents evacuated from Athens suburb as wildfire season hits Greece

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Residents evacuated from Athens suburb as wildfire season hits Greece

Over 70 firefighters and 13 planes and helicopters worked to control the blaze, which closed traffic along a main highway connecting Athens to its airport.

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Greece is bracing itself for what is expected to be a long wildfire season spurred by an unprecedentedly hot June, according to the country’s national meteorological service.

Firefighters were called to put out a blaze that erupted in the southern suburb of Athens, Vari, which started in an uninhabited area covered by olive trees and shrubs.

Additionally, authorities issued text message evacuation alerts to the two nearby settlements of Lambrika and Kitsi.

Although no injuries were reported, fire service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said the blaze spread quickly due to strong winds.

“We have a new fire breaking out every 10 minutes,” Vathrakogiannis said in a televised message, adding that the situation remained “difficult”.

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Over 70 firefighters and 13 planes and helicopters worked to control the blaze, which closed traffic along a main highway connecting Athens to its airport.

Images on local television showed a storage facility alight with flames searing across fields of olive trees.

Residents on the Cycladean island of Naxos were also issued evacuation alerts, while those living in the village of Moutsouna were told to leave their homes as a precaution.

Scores of wildfires tackled but risks remain

The Greek fire service announced it had tackled 41 wildfires in total between Monday and Tuesday evening.

According to the National Meteorological Service, winds in Greece are predicted to be as strong as 74 kilometres per hour as temperatures climb above 40C.

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Greece’s Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias warned against accidentally triggering wildfires, which can spread rapidly due to wind.

Commenting on the arrest of a 30-year-old agricultural worker who caused a fire in the city of Nigrita, Kilkias said on X that “even the smallest fire can rapidly turn into a fiery front.”

The European Commission recorded last year’s wildfire season as one of the worst in this century, with fires leading to at least 20 deaths in Greece.

Video editor • Abby Chitty

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