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South Africa. Fire endangers historic treasures of parliament

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At dawn this Sunday, the South African Parliament in Cape Town faced a devastating fire. For more than six hours, about 70 firefighters fought the fire, supported by reinforcements from across the peninsula, while a thick column of black smoke colored the city’s skyline. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who left Pretoria, the seat of the executive branch, to deliver a message on the Union’s position in parliament, was forced to change his plans.

Tragedy led to the collapse of the ornate roof of this historic building with its distinctive red and white façade, where President Frederic Willem de Klerk announced the end of the apartheid regime in 1990. Alarming cracks caused by the heat are visible on the walls. South African Mail and Guardian newspaper. There is great concern about the building’s basement, filled with artifacts such as the national anthem project, as well as the library, which appears to have been spared by the flames, but which may have been damaged by water.

“It is clear that this fire devastated the territory of the parliament, its contents and trophies, including the historical treasures from the heritage of the parliament,” Ramaphosa reacted in a statement. “This is horrible the day after our last farewell to Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” he lamented, referring to one of the most prominent symbols of the fight against apartheid, who died last week at the age of 90.

While the parliament was burning, the cheap coffin with the remains of Tutu was buried, following the instructions of an archbishop known for his modesty. Tutu’s body, which also stood out in the fight for environmental causes, was “aquamado”, a method of cremation that is considered more sustainable, in which the deceased is placed in water with an alkaline substance at a temperature of about 150 ºC. The body turns to dust, a bath compared to a posthumous baptism.

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Accident or arson? South African authorities said the 51-year-old man had been detained and was being interrogated. A preliminary investigation revealed that the fire started in an office building on the third floor of the oldest wing of Parliament and spread to the gymnasium.

“Until there is a report of arson, we must be careful not to speculate about an attack,” warned Nosivive Mapisa-Nkakula, speaker of the South African parliament.

South Africa is at an explosive political moment. He also faced riots and looting in July following protests against the release of former President Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court when he was tried for corruption.

Zuma harbors an inner hatred of his former deputy, Ramaphos. During the July riots, the South African press was full of reports of sabotage by supporters of the former president, including intelligence and security officials, stoking chaos in retaliation for his conviction in court.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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