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Wednesday, Jan 26th

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US finalizing plans to divert gas to Europe if Russia cuts off supply

US finalizing plams to divert oil supply

The US has helped prepare for the diversion of natural gas supplies from around the world to Europe in the event that the flow from Russia is cut, in an effort to blunt Vladimir Putin’s most powerful economic weapon.

As fears of an invasion of Ukraine have grown, US officials said on Tuesday that they had been negotiating with global suppliers, and they were now confident that Europe would not suffer from a sudden loss of energy for heating in the middle of winter.

“To ensure Europe is able to make it through the winter and spring we expect to be prepared to ensure alternative supplies covering a significant majority of the potential shortfall,” a senior official said.

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US orders families of embassy staff out of Ukraine as tensions rise

Families to leave US Embassy in Kiev

The US government has ordered the families of all American personnel at the US embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The state department told the dependents of staffers at the US embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

US officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that Sunday’s announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of US support for Ukraine, the officials said.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, poetic peace activist and master of mindfulness, dies at 95

Ynich Nhat Hanh dies at 95Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist who in the 1960s came to prominence as an opponent of the Vietnam War, died on Saturday aged 95 surrounded by his followers in the temple where his spiritual journey began.

"The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at 00:00hrs on 22nd January, 2022, at the age of 95," said his official Twitter account.

His week-long funeral will be held at the temple in a quiet and peaceful manner, according to his followers.

"Thich Nhat Hanh will be remembered as arguably one of the most influential and prominent religious leaders in the world," Chargé d'Affaires Marie C. Damour of the U.S. Mission to Vietnam said in a statement.

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‘Havana syndrome’ unlikely caused by hostile foreign power, CIA says

Havana Syndrome

An initial CIA investigation into the mysterious set of symptoms known as Havana syndrome has found that it is unlikely to be the result of a worldwide campaign of attacks by a foreign power against US diplomats and spies.

However, two dozen cases, including some of those originally afflicted in Havana in 2016, could not be explained and would be further studied for evidence of a possible attack, according to a senior CIA official who briefed the US press.

“While we have reached some significant interim findings, we are not done,” the CIA director, Williams Burns, said in a statement. “We will continue the mission to investigate these incidents and provide access to world-class care for those who need it.”

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US accuses Russia of conspiring to take over Ukraine government

Biden warns Russia

The US has alleged that Russian intelligence is recruiting current and former Ukrainian government officials to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force.

The US Treasury on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Ukrainian members of parliament and two former officials it said were involved in the alleged conspiracy, which involved discrediting the current government of the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“Russia has directed its intelligence services to recruit current and former Ukrainian government officials to prepare to take over the government of Ukraine and to control Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with an occupying Russian force,” the Treasury statement accompanying the sanctions said.

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Israeli minister defends police over alleged Pegasus spying

Israel used Pegasus spyware on citizens

Israel’s minister of public security has expressed his firm support for the country’s police force after allegations it used NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus software to spy on Israeli citizens.

In an interview with the Guardian on Wednesday, Omer Barlev, the cabinet minister with responsibility for policing, denied claims made this week by Hebrew-language financial daily Calcalist that the phones of people who led protests against former premier Benjamin Netanyahu had been hacked into or surveilled by police.

“It’s not true, what was mentioned in the newspaper. But [the technology] isn’t the issue. The issue is whether the police got legal permission from a judge to use it,” he said.

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US and Russia to hold talks on Ukraine in potential sign ‘diplomacy is not dead’

US and Russia  to hold talks about Ukraine

The US and Russian foreign ministers will hold talks in Geneva on Friday in a development that a US official said suggested that “perhaps diplomacy is not dead” in the efforts to fend off a new Russian attack on Ukraine.

With the White House warning that such an attack could come “at any time”, the US secretary of state, Tony Blinken, will fly to Kyiv on Wednesday and Berlin on Thursday to consult with the Ukrainian government and European allies before the meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. It comes as Nato also offered Russia a fresh round of talks.

“The fact that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to meet on Friday in Geneva suggests that perhaps diplomacy is not dead,” a senior state department official said. “We will certainly know a lot more after that engagement on Friday.”

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