Super User

Super User

Ships with a second round of aid for Gaza have departed Cyprus as concerns about hunger soar

A three-ship convoy left a port in Cyprus on Saturday with 400 tons of food and other supplies for Gaza as concerns about hunger in the territory soar.

The World Central Kitchen charity said the vessels and a barge carried enough to prepare more than 1 million meals from items like rice, pasta, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and proteins. Also on board were dates, traditionally eaten to break the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

It was not clear when the ships would reach Gaza. The first ship earlier this month delivered 200 tons of food, water and other aid.

The United Nations and partners have warned that famine could occur in devastated, largely isolated northern Gaza as early as this month. Humanitarian officials say deliveries by sea and air are not enough and that Israel must allow far more aid by road. The top U.N. court has ordered Israel to open more land crossings and take other measures to address the crisis.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s state-run Al Qahera TV said truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas will resume Sunday, citing an unnamed Egyptian security source. The channel has close ties to the country’s intelligence services.

Just one weeklong cease-fire has been achieved in the war that began after Hamas-led militants stormed across southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 others hostage. On Saturday, some Israelis again rallied to show frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and urge him to resign.

Families of hostages vowed to take to the streets across Israel. “Give the negotiations team a wide mandate and tell them, ‘Don’t come home without a deal, bring back our loved ones,’” said Raz Ben Ami, wife of hostage Ohad Ben Ami.

Nearly six months of war has destroyed critical infrastructure in Gaza including hospitals, schools and homes as well as roads, sewage systems and the electrical grid. Over 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has been displaced, the U.N. and international aid agencies say.

In the coastal tent camp of Muwasi, mothers said they feared young children were losing memories of life before the war. “We tell them to write and draw. They only draw a tank, a missile or planes. We tell them to draw something beautiful, a rose or anything. They do not see these things,” said one mother, Wafaa Abu Samra. Children piled up for turns on a small slide twice the length of their bodies, landing in the sand.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says 32,705 Palestinians have been killed, with 82 bodies taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours. The Health Ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its toll but has said the majority of those killed have been women and children.

Israel says over one-third of the dead are militants, though it has not provided evidence to support that, and it blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the group operates in residential areas.

Israel’s military on Saturday acknowledged shooting dead two Palestinians and wounding a third on Gaza’s beach, responding to a video broadcast earlier this week by Al Jazeera that showed one man falling to the ground after walking in an open area and a bulldozer pushing two bodies into the garbage-strewn sand. The military said troops opened fire after the men allegedly ignored warning shots.

Israel’s military said it continued to strike dozens of targets in Gaza, days after the United Nations Security Council issued its first demand for a cease-fire.

Aid also fell on Gaza. The U.S. military during an airdrop on Friday said it had released over 100,000 pounds of aid that day and almost a million pounds overall, part of a multi-country effort.

The United States also welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian autonomy government, signaling it was accepting a revised Cabinet lineup as a step toward political reform. The Biden administration has called for “revitalizing” the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in the hope that it can also administer Gaza once the war ends.

The authority is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who chose U.S.-educated economist Mohammad Mustafa as prime minister this month. But both Israel and Hamas — which drove Abbas’ security forces from Gaza in a 2007 takeover — reject the idea of it administering Gaza. The authority also has little popular support or legitimacy among Palestinians because of its security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank.

More than 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the West Bank or east Jerusalem since Oct. 7, according to local health authorities. Dr. Fawaz Hamad, director of Al-Razi Hospital in Jenin, told local Awda TV that Israeli forces killed a 13-year-old boy in nearby Qabatiya early Saturday. Israel’s military said the incident was under review.

Israel has said that after the war it will maintain open-ended security control over Gaza and partner with Palestinians who are not affiliated with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. It’s unclear who in Gaza would be willing to take on such a role.

Hamas has warned Palestinians in Gaza against cooperating with Israel to administer the territory, saying anyone who does will be treated as a collaborator, which is understood as a death threat. Hamas calls instead for all Palestinian factions to form a power-sharing government ahead of national elections, which have not taken place in 18 years.

 

AP

Zelenskiy says without US aid, Ukraine forces will have to retreat

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview published on Friday that if Ukraine does not get promised U.S. military aid blocked by disputes in Congress, its forces will have to retreat "in small steps".

"If there is no U.S. support, it means that we have no air defence, no Patriot missiles, no jammers for electronic warfare, no 155-milimetre artillery rounds," Zelenskiy told the Washington Post.

"It means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps," he said. "We are trying to find some way not to retreat."

Shortages of munitions, he said, meant "you have to do with less. How? Of course, to go back. Make the front line shorter. If it breaks, the Russians could go to the big cities."

Democratic President Joe Biden has urged the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to endorse the military and financial aid package, but House Speaker Mike Johnson has held up the matter for months, citing domestic priorities.

Zelenskiy told Johnson in a telephone conversation on Thursday that approval of the package was vital.

Russian forces captured the eastern town of Avdiivka last month and have made small gains since, but the front lines have changed little in months.

In his interview, the Ukrainian president said Ukraine was making up for shortages of missiles with home-produced weaponry and air defence systems, "but it is not enough".

More than two years into the war, Russia has intensified attacks on energy and other infrastructure in recent weeks. Ukrainian troops have been unable to advance, and Zelenskiy said Kyiv intended to pursue attacks on targets in Russia, including oil refineries.

He said Washington's reaction to the wave of Ukrainian attacks was "not positive", but Kyiv was using its own drones.

"We used our drones. Nobody can say to us you can't," he told the newspaper. If there is no air defence to protect our energy system and Russians attack it, my question is: Why can't we answer them?" he said.

"Their society has to learn to live without petrol, without diesel, without electricity. When Russia will stop these steps, we will stop."

** Ukraine power firm hit by Russian attacks warns repairs could take 18 months

The head of Ukraine's largest private energy firm, DTEK, said on Saturday that five of its six plants had been damaged or destroyed with 80% of its generating capacity lost after two weeks of Russian attacks and that repairs could take up to 18 months.

Russian missile and drone attacks hit thermal and hydro power plants in central and western Ukraine overnight on Friday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video address on Saturday, said Russia was carrying out "vile strikes" designed to cause the "bleeding" of Ukrainian energy.

"America, Europe, our other partners, everyone knows what we need," he said. "Everyone knows how important it is right now to help us protect ourselves from these strikes."

DTEK, which meets about a quarter of the country's needs, has seen its thermal power stations and other facilities repeatedly hit by Russian missiles, drones and artillery in more than two years of war.

DTEK Executive Director Dmytro Sakharuk said in remarks shown on national television that waves of attacks on March 22 and March 29 had hit thermal and hydro production "in almost all regions" and that distribution facilities were destroyed.

"To be specific, five out of six of our stations were severely damaged, some units were destroyed, some were damaged by 50% or more," he said.

"This applies to both the western regions and the central regions, and both the equipment necessary for the production of electricity and for transmission from the station to the grid were damaged," he said.

His company suffered losses amounting to $300 million for equipment alone, he said, while labour costs would require as much as half as much again. "We have determined that 80% of the available generating capacity is not working now," he added.

A senior official at the Centrenergo generating company said the 10-unit Zmiivska thermal plant in northeastern Kharkiv region had been destroyed in the March 22 attacks.

DTEK spent $110 million restoring 10 blocks hit by Russian attacks last year, Sakharuk said, with two-thirds of those now destroyed again.

It will require months of repairs, he said, and in some cases as long as a year and half.

"It takes time to manufacture a turbine or a generator or a transformer, so you need be prepared for the fact that the power will return gradually," he said.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

‘Odessa will fall’, Musk warns Ukraine

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has reiterated his belief that Ukraine’s position is weakening with each passing day of the hostilities, warning that the “real question” is how much territory Kiev will lose and how many lives it will waste before sitting for talks with Moscow.

The entrepreneur claimed in a post on his X platform on Saturday that “any fool could have predicted” that Kiev’s much-touted counteroffensive last year would fail, adding that even if Kiev had followed his recommendation to “entrench and apply all resources to defense,” it would be “tough to hold land that doesn’t have strong natural barriers.”

“It was a tragic waste of life for Ukraine to attack a larger army that had defense in depth, minefields and stronger artillery when Ukraine lacked armor or air superiority!,” Musk wrote.

Kiev has lost over 444,000 troops killed and wounded in two years of hostilities against Moscow, including more than 166,000 during last year’s counteroffensive, according to last month’s estimates from the Russian Defense Ministry. However, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed in February that Kiev’s forces lost only 31,000 soldiers killed since the start of the conflict.

The billionaire went on to argue that “the longer the war goes on, the more territory Russia will gain until they hit the Dnepr, which is tough to overcome.”

However, if the war lasts long enough, Odessa will fall too… Whether Ukraine loses all access to the Black Sea or not is, in my view, the real remaining question. I recommend a negotiated settlement before that happens.

Elon Musk has shifted his position on Ukraine several times since the conflict began in early 2022. He initially supplied Kiev with free Starlink internet terminals and access to the satellite-based network, but declined to activate the service near Crimea for fear that Ukraine would use it to guide drone attacks on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. If this had happened, he explained last year, SpaceX would have been “complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

Musk has also used his X account to speak extensively about the trajectory of the conflict. More than a year ago, he proposed that Kiev abandon its claim to Crimea, declare neutrality, and allow the four new Russian regions – Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – to hold fresh referendums on joining the Russian Federation. This proposal is similar to the terms offered by Russia to Kiev and the Western powers before the conflict began, except Moscow initially called only for autonomy in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Moscow has stressed that it remains open to meaningful talks with Kiev and has blamed the lack of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Ukrainian authorities, who refuse to accept the “reality on the ground.” Ukraine must take into account the fact that its borders have changed drastically since 2022, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday, commenting on Zelensky’s suggestion that a return to 1991 borders was no longer a precondition for negotiations.

 

Reuters/RT

“I know the arithmetic of the budget and the numbers that I brought to the National Assembly, and I know what numbers came back… Those who are talking about malicious embellishment in the budget; they did not understand the arithmetic and did not refer to the baseline of what I brought,” President Bola Tinubu declared at the State House, upper Friday. And there was ominous quiet on the home front. He was hosting the leadership of the Senate at the breaking of Ramadan fast. Do you remember the fuss generated a couple of weeks ago by the allegation of N3.7 billion budget-padding leveled against the senate by Abdul Ningi? Its most fitting description is the relations between the cattle and the egret. While some Nigerians worry that Tinubu was offering presidential shield to parliamentary fraud, the anecdote of cattle and egret best explains it. It is an Aso Rock cattle and National Assembly egret, both in dalliance for self survival. Hapless Nigerian people had nothing to do with it.

Except on a closer scrutiny, it may be difficult to explain the odd alliance between cattle egret and the cattle. The cattle egret is a famous bird which feeds on ticks and flies. It is a parasite on cattle. Often found taking shelter on their back, feeding fat pecking ticks off their skin, the alliance between these strange fellows is for the sake of self. Egrets get their daily meal by helping the cattle take away their discomfort. They reduce the number of flies on the cattle’s body. The cattle could, in anger, flick their horns or tails to haunt the egret to death for the audacity of climbing their back. The cattle however allow the egret endless stuffing of its guts with their tick irritants. And there is mutual satisfaction. So, when Tinubu said, “Thank you very much… But your integrity is intact,” you would imagine the cattle speaking at an Iftar gathering of cattle egrets.

Tinubu put a final wedge on the controversy last week. With statistics? No. He flung his self-acclaimed knowledge of arithmetic, ostensibly as an accountant. What is the recency of the president’s knowledge of accounting and arithmetic? Comparing his' with, for instance, Seun Onigbinde of BudgIt’s, who statistically confirmed the padding allegation, our president’s may be rusty arithmetic. Not to worry. With that smooth presidential assent, the president, a man of integrity who recently celebrated an iconic 72nd birthday on earth, removed his age-long and highly acclaimed apparel of integrity and wore it on each of the 109 senators. Now that the president has thus pronounced, our Senate now wears angelic, cocaine-white apparel. Onigbinde had said: “TETFUND should not just get an allocation. What are you spending money on? INEC is collecting a huge chunk of funds but there is no public details about what the funds are used for. If you put all these together, that is around N3.5 trillion to N3.7 trillion. So, if Ningi wants to interrogate that there are components of the budget where there are no breakdown, that is very factual.”

Don’t mind Onigbinde. The president’s arithmetic is hippopotamus-sized. The trillions of Naira allegedly padded have received their lost integrity. Senate President Godswill Akpabio’s N90 billion constituency projects inserted into the budget have become angelic. They have shed their quills of fraud and self-centeredness, a la the president. The N500 million Opeyemi Bamidele confirmed “ranking” senators got infused into the budget, totaling N17billion, has removed its sleaze waistcoat feathers. The president, a man of highly burnished morality, is happy. The senate is glad. Nigeria is moving on regardless, even if you insist it is on wobbly legs.

On this Mount, today is however not a day for arithmetic. Not a day for fraud arithmetic. It is a day for birds, singing and drumming birds. While the president flaunts his arithmetic knowledge, let us flaunt biology. The biology of birds. Do you remember what that irritable American ex-president, Donald Trump, once called quid pro quo? In the Nigerian lingo, it is better rendered as, You Rub My Back, I Rub Your Back. It is benefitting the need of one without posing any noticeable risk to the other. When you carry a shameful swarm of ticks and ants on your back like the Tinubu presidency does, you need Akpabio’s cattle egrets to feed fat on them for your peace.

Sorry, I digressed. Rather than peer further light into Tinubu’s vacant, Rub My Back, I Rub Your Back, Paddy Paddy budgetary arithmetic, I elect to veer into society today. The social schism among Nigerian singers and drummers particularly bothers me. Most likely due to my biographical work on a Yoruba Apala music lord, Ayinla Omowura, I have received several calls to do a review of the recent back-and-forth accusations and allegations between Yoruba Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde, also known as KWAM 1 and his erstwhile lead drummer, Kunle Ayanlowo. My work, entitled Ayinla Omowura: Life And Times Of An Apala Legend (2020), dwelled tangentially on the crisis in Omowura’s musical group – between him and his drummers, and his band manager, Bayewumi, who eventually killed him. This recent musical ruckus was shot to the zenith of discourse, especially in the southwestern part of Nigeria, by Ayanlowo. The drummer had complained that in decades of drumming under the Fuji musician, KWAM 1 fed his guts the fattest gains from the organization’s huge takings, leaving him in the cold. The musician debunked the claim. Without drummers, Ayanlowo submitted, musicians are in the cold. This is true.

This is leading me right into a short history of drumming and singing which tear singers and drummers asunder. Àyángalú is known to be the progenitor of drummers, the deity spirit of the drum. It is drummers’ guardian spirit. In one of his SOS calls in the social media against KWAM 1, Ayanlowo brought out a drum as witness to his allegation against his former boss, asking Àyángalú, the twine that solders them together, rather than the Bible or Quran, to judge between them. This is a recognition of the spiritual potency of drums and the abiding spirit of Àyángalú who is often symbolically acknowledged and represented in drums. For instance, out of all the ensemble of drums, the one called Gudugudu, with a pot-like shape, represents the sacred symbol and spirit of Àyángalú. When going out for major performances, an appeasement and invocation of the guardian spirit of Àyángalú is often done. Drummers pour libations, mostly of dry gin alcohol, on their drums, with prayers to the spirit of Àyángalú to wear them like garment.

Music is as old as the Yoruba society. The Yoruba music world is a complete confetti of drum, song, chant and dance. In the Yoruba world of music, drums and musical instruments deployed for melodious rhythms and tones acted as bridge between humans and different deities called Orisa. They constituted the age-long rituals with which society communicated directly with their deities. There is no way the concourse between spirituality and ritual performances can be discussed without the agency of traditional drumming and singing. Drummers and musicians played mediatory roles in meeting the spiritual and the social needs of the communities where they lived. They invoke deities to provide assistance and guidance to their earthly worshippers. Both singing and drumming were thus traditionally perceived as sacrifices to the Orisa. When the deities were sufficiently roused up by enthralling songs, they got thrilled enough to intervene in the people’s individual lives. The mystical and supernatural nature of drums is demonstrated in that, if the hearts of a warring party is as hard as stone, drumbeats tenderize them like flesh. In the heat of fierce battles, a drummer only needs to drum the eulogy of the warriors and an armistice is procured. It was why they followed warriors to the front.

The Àyàn family is reputed to be the family of drummers. Àyàn is the family that produces assorted sorts of Yorùbá drums. To keep the family tree intact, animals are killed by members, their skins tanned for the preparation of drums. They also prepare generations to come for drumming. In the olden days, the Àyàn family went to war with warriors, showering eulogies on the fighters, chanting and invoking their praise poetry. This spurred them into victory. During the wedding of Àyàn daughters, a special memento of a specialized Dùǹdún drum, festooned with tiny bells called Saworoidẹ, is given to them as gift by the Àyàn family.

Before KWAM 1’s Ayanlowo, many Yoruba made fame out of their drumming craft. One of such was Shittu Ọ̀kánjúà, a drummer of the late Atáọjà of Osogbo, Oba Adénlé; Babátúndé Ọlátúnjí. The list also includes Ọba Adetoyese Láoyè, the late Timì of Ẹdẹ, in Osun State who, with his scintillating drumming of the Dùǹdún drum, 

produced the renowned 

signaturetune of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Station.

By either happenstance, location in history or abiding connection with Ayangalu, forefather of drum ancestry, Ibarapa people of Oyo State constitute the highest number of drummers in history. Ranging from Ramoni Adewole Alao, a.k.a. Oniluola, (said to have migrated to Abeokuta from Idere in Ibarapa Central Local Government) Alhaji Mutiu Jimoh, a.k.a. Mutiu Kekere (Ebenezer Obey’s drummer, who hailed from Idere) to even Ayanlowo, who is a major cast in what has become drummers’ eventual tiff with their musician bosses, the list of Ibarapa drummers who helped traditional musicians to stardom is endless. Other famous musicians who also eventually had issues with their singing bosses were Kamoru Ayansola (Sikiru Ayinde Barrister); Orikanbody Ayanwale, who drummed for Kollington Ayinla; Aromasodun, who also drummed for KWAM 1; Rafiu Ojubanire (Haruna Ishola) and Shittu Shitta Alabi, the drummer of Yesufu Kelani who slumped and died on stage in 1972, drum in his hands. Recall Kelani’s elegy to Alabi entitled “Iku O Mo Olowo– death is no respecter of wealth.

Drumming was more revered than singing by the deities because it provided links between the supernatural and the physical world. Entertainment came only as a latter function of drums and singing. So, aside being used for communication purpose, mourning, praise-singing, declaration of hostility and sober reflections, each drum and drumming indicate what they communicate. The different drums like Gángan, the talking drum; Ìyá Ilù; Dùndún; Ómèlè; 

Bátà and the Ṣẹ̀kẹ̀rẹ̀ were all totems of different gods, each of which was associated with a drum. Cylindrical drums like Ìgbin, Ìpèsè and Ógidàn bore paternities with individual Orisa, spirit or deity. While the Ìgbin drum has causal link to the snail called Ìgbín by the Yoruba, the deity’s paternity it bore was Ọbàtálá, arch-divinity associated with procreation. Ìpèsè drum was a ritual performance for the deity Ọ̀rúnmìlà and Ogidan drums were solely for the veneration of Ogun, the god of iron. Ìgbin was made with the skin or dermis of the deer called Ìgalà. Till today, in the Èjìgbò area of Ọ̀yọ́ State, the Ìgbìn drum is still the totem of worship of Ọbàtálá during the people’s New Yam Festival. The Bembẹ̀ ̣ drum on its own is peculiarly beaten with hands and not sticks, accompanied by two bells and has as its totem, the worship of the river goddess of Ọ̀ṣun and Ọya. The Àshíkò drum, a cylindrical and tapered drum, made of hardwood and goatskin hide, is also used during festivals. Other drums were Agidigbo, Osán, Sákárà, Gúdú Gúdú, Gbèdu etc.

Drums and drummers maintained their superiority until the late 1960s in Yorubaland. Their hold however began to wane when drums ceased being primarily agencies of ritual spiritual performances. During this time, drummers were kings as virtually everyone not only enjoyed the rhythm they produced but could access the words communicated with their drum sticks. During my research, I spoke with drummers like Adewole Alao, lead drummer to Ayinla Omowura, who told me of how he had acquired quite formidable following before his fans asked him to look for a singer to accompany his drumming rhythms. Adewole thus told me he had to scurry almost the entire Abeokuta city before he found the melodious-voiced Ayinla. They had hardly been together for a decade before fight for superiority tore them apart. Adewole went his way, while Omowura picked another drummer named Adenekan, a.k.a. Yebere, who was principally apprenticed as a barber but who drummed for leisure. Ayinla was together with Yebere until another tiff spiraled among them, which led to the return of Adewole to the musical fold.

In one of his live plays, Omowura, who was killed during a scuffle in 1980, sang a song which will seem to capture the disagreements that occur between musicians, their drummers and even band organizations in general. In the song, he provided the allegory of an imaginary husband who gave his wife money to prepare a bowl of soup. When the soup was ready and a plate of accompanying eba was placed before him, the husband removed his clothes and fled the house. The lyrics goes thus in Yoruba, “K’eyan o f’owo obe si’le o/K’obe wa jina/ k’an gb’eba sí’le, k’o f’ere ge...” He sang the song when Bayewumi, the man who was to later stab him to death, decided to pull out of the band. In the song, Omowura likened Bayewumi’s abrupt pull-out to one who had invested immensely in a cause but when it was time to reap its fruits, amazingly, of his own volition, fled the pot of honey.

When asked what led to the disagreement between him and Omowura, just like in the KWAM 1 and Ayanlowo case, Adewole put it to sharing of proceeds of their musical sweats. In virtually all the scuffles among musicians and their drummers, this has always been the case. In 2019, when I got to Adewole’s house in Abeokuta, I was more than shocked. It was barely habitable for any human being. He had no presentable chairs for guests to sit on. Noticing my discomfort, the old man burst into tears, amid sobbing, “Se bi ile gbajumo se ye ko ri niyi?,” meaning, "Is this how a socialite’s house is supposed to be?"

So, why do drummers always engage in a tango with their singer counterparts? Sometimes in the late 1970s, billed for a recording at the EMI studio in Lagos, Omowura was shocked to discover that all his drummers and backup vocalists suddenly disappeared. The bus that went to their individual homes could not see any of them. It was like the trade dispute of today. They alleged that he was short-circuiting them from the takings of the band. Ibadan drummer, Alamu Tatalo also had a dispute with Amuda Agboluaje, the vocalist he recruited, leading to a bitter rivalry that was never sorted out till both died. So also did Awurebe exponent, Dauda Akanmu Ade-Eyo, a.k.a. Epo Akara who had a bitter feud with his drummer, Lalere.

Why do virtually all drummers live in penury? Why don’t they harvest the fruits of stardom like singers? The truth is that both singing and drumming are beggarly vocations, from time immemorial. This may thus not be unconnected with the poverty-stricken fate that comes their way. Anyway, some of them maintain that the singers are not in the real sense their bosses; that each of the musical ensemble, to which drumming is one, is a critical component that makes the musical medley. When I asked Adewole why he left the Omowura group, he said the Apala lord turned him, the boss, to a servant – “o so oga d’omo ise.” I submit that contemporary crises among musicians are a resurfacing of the ancient rivalry that has always existed between drummers and singers and battle for supremacy between drums and songs. Does standing in the front as lead vocalist make the singer the leader? This was the question that the Jamaican Wailing Wailers, the musical triumvirate of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Neville O'Riley Livingston also confronted in the early 1970s. When Briton Christ Blackwell of Island Records, on a UK tour he organized for the group, announced to the British audience that the group was Bob Marley & The Wailers, rather than a trio among whom rotated lead singing of tracks, the road to the eventual disintegration of the group was already paved.

Illiteracy, the challenged beginning of most drummers and the violence-ridden nature of music, especially traditional music, are the roots of confrontations that often occur between singers and drummers. The way out is insistence on legal agreements and representation by all the parties. This will spell out the terms of their engagement. In this way, frictions will be reduced among these men and women who soothe our souls with melodious music.

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ ~ 1Corinthians 15:56-57.

Introduction:

Happy Resurrection celebrations to all our friends and brethren around the world! May the power of Christ’s resurrection continue to bring renewed hope, love, peace, power and God’s endless blessings to you and yours, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Christ’s resurrection is, unarguably, one of the greatest and most momentous events in human history. It is the key-stone of the arch of our holy faith, and therefore, very central to true Christianity. It is our firm foundation, promising us restoration and eternal life through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

During Easter, we celebrate the almightiness of God, the incredible depth of His redeeming love, the vicarious sacrificesof Jesus Christ and the matchless power of the Holy Spirit that raised Him from the dead. We also rejoice in the matchless hope that is now ours because of the gracious event of the first resurrection morning.

Yes, the story of Jesus’ resurrection is quite familiar to many people; albeit, its profound messages of love, hope and new life in Christ for all of humanity must never lose their resonance.

This victory of Jesus Christ over death is not just a testament to His divine power, but also a promise of new life for all who follow Him in true faith. Through His resurrection, we now have the noble opportunity and the matchless grace to rise above the shadows of despair and hopelessness that life sometimes casts upon us.

The Resurrection Story In Our Difficult World!

Yes indeed, we all occasionally face challenges that leave us feeling trapped and without a ray of coming sunshine. Whether it’s on our career paths, in our life’s assignments, in family life, in health or in whatever looks like a valley of despondency, we all experience times when we need our hopes to brighten up again.

Besides, generally, these are difficult times in the world today! There are wars, rumors of war, political instabilities, as well as stress and distress in many quarters of the world, resulting in general economic downturns, with a large chunk of the populace finding things unpalatable on many fronts.

The sociopolitical life also follows the same pattern, with many people feeling terrible, dissatisfied, depressed and disappointed on many counts. Suffering and struggling to barely survive, they have resigned to eating their bread without butter!

Yes, we might counsel that governments at all levels worldwide should devise more effective ways of reaching the masses with palliative measures and other subsidies at this time, even as well thought out policies are being rolled out to improve the national/global economic outlooks.

No doubt, these may go a long way to rescuing many people from their social quagmires, boosting their morale and making it easier for them to restore some of their lost confidence in the government.

Nevertheless, I dare say that there’s an even better way to live, whereby we can progress in life despite all the economic realities around us. It is by encouraging ourselves to live, walk and operate in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, every day.

On this mode of faith in Christ’s resurrection power, you don’t struggle to survive because the abundant life of God in Christ works in you, for you and through you (John 10:10). You thrive by grace without rigour, and soar to greater heights without flapping.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings virtues to the darkest issues of our lives. In His victory over death, we find confidence that no circumstance is beyond supernatural intervention, no lack beyondHis sufficiency, and no social challenge beyond turnaround.

Death, the last enemy of man, has been swallowed up in victory publicly, perfectlyand permanently (Revelation 1:18). Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and thus demonstrated God’s supremacy over death. Consequently, there should be nothing left to fear. This truth should instill confidence in us, and make us fearless, no matter what happens around us.

In this regard, my admonition to all citizens of the earth at this time is that we should allow this resurrection season to revive us, and increase our faith and confidence in God for the emergence of better and greater human communities.

We should place our hope in God, instead of becoming engrossed in thinking of what the government should do for us. God, being our very present help in times of need, will certainly help us as we place our implicit trust in Him.

Friends and brethren, in times of prevalent uncertainty or despair, let us cling to the hope we gleaned through Christ's resurrection. His victory assures us that even amid trials, God is at work to give us joy in the place of our mourning.

The Resurrection of Christ is not just a historical event, but a present reality. When we open our hearts to the power of Hislove, we allow Him to work in us and through us, bringing new life to even the darkest situations of our lives.  

Alleluia! Jesus Christ died for us, and was buried. But, He didn’t stay dead, and the grave couldn’t hold Him captive! He arose on the third day at the first resurrection morning, and He lives on forever more!! Yes indeed, He is alive, even today!

This enduring truth should provoke in us boundless joy as we celebrate the Lord this season and every day! Nevertheless, we must cling to this hope and allow it to fill our hearts with courage and peace, no matter what challenges we face as individuals or in our nations, any day. You won’t miss it, in Jesus name. Happy Resurrection Sunday!

 ____________________

Bishop Taiwo Akinola,

Rhema Christian Church,

Otta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Connect with Bishop Akinola via these channels:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bishopakinola

SMS/WhatsApp: +234 802 318 4987

Kingdom Dynamics

Everything happens before it happens. Everything that is happening has already happened. Solomon says:

“That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).

According to this principle, the same Jesus that was crucified in Jerusalem is: “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8).

The Bible also says the works of Jesus were finished before the creation of the world. “The works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (Hebrews 4:3). But it was on the cross of Calvary that Jesus said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30).

Jesus is God: He does not change. He is: “The same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, He was King, He is King, and He will be King.

Jesus was King even at His birth: “Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-2).

When He entered Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey, Matthew proclaimed the fulfilment of one of the Messianic prophecies:

“All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matthew 21:4-5).

Nevertheless, Jesus is the King that is yet to come. He is the soon-coming King who says: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Revelation 22:12-13). 

So, Jesus is the King that is soon to be King. He is the King of the kingdom that is already here but is soon to come.

 Conflating the Present With the Future

Jesus presents this kingdom dynamic again and again. He says to the Samaritan woman:

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).

The hour is coming and now is. The hour is coming when people will neither worship God on Mount Gerizim nor in Jerusalem. The time is coming when people will neither worship God in Healing Wings Chapel nor Fountain of Life Church. The time is coming when people will only worship God in spirit and truth. That time is coming and it is already here for those who have received the Holy Spirit. 

Resurrection of the Dead

Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:24-25).

The time is coming and has now come. The time is coming when Jesus will call the dead in their graves back to life. But Jesus also demonstrates that the time has already come by raising Lazarus back from the dead:

“He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’” (John 11:43-44).

The time is coming when the dead in sin like Femi Aribisala will hear the voice of Jesus on Airport Road in Lagos and come back to life. This is what happened to me in 1993.

Some will hear Jesus’ voice by a quickening in their spirit. Some will hear His voice from reading the scriptures. Some will hear His voice by being prayed over by a child of God. All who hear His voice will receive newness of life. All who hear His voice will pass from death to life.

And then the time is coming when I will be reunited with my dead old man, T.S.B. Aribisala. I will be reunited with my dead mother, Ronke Aribisala. I will be reunited with my brother Kola Aribisala who died of sickle cell anaemia. I will be reunited with my sister, Yemisi Aribisala, who died prematurely at the age of eighteen. We will be reunited with our dearly departed ones.

Then we will fully realise Jesus’ assertion that: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).

For God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:4).

Infallible Proofs

Jesus provided infallible proof of the existence of the kingdom of God. He cast out demons, demonstrating the overthrow of the kingdom of Satan. He raised the dead, signalling the triumph of life over death. He healed the sick, announcing the end of human suffering. He multiplied loaves of bread, pointing to the satisfaction of all physical needs. He stilled the storm, heralding the emergence of peace on earth. And He forgave sins, proclaiming the dawning of righteousness.

He said to His Jewish adversaries who adamantly refused his miracles were done by the power of Satan: “If I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:19-20).

He then sent out His disciples as ambassadors of the kingdom of God. He told them:

“Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:5-8).  

“Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:8-9).

When we preach about the kingdom of God, God validates our preaching with signs and wonders.

Application to Believers

This is how this kingdom dynamic applies to believers who are citizens of the kingdom that is already here but has not yet come. The writer of Hebrews quotes the psalmist:  

“‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet.’ In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet, at present, we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:6-9).

Even though believers may not yet see everything subject to us now, we must know that everything has already been subject to us. We must walk by faith in the consciousness of the fact that what will be has already happened.

The future has merged into the present to proclaim a done deal. Therefore, Paul writes in the past tense what is yet to happen in the future:

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30).

Accordingly, even now, whatever our situation or circumstance, we must be joyful and thankful that:

“God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-5).

John also acknowledges the merging of our future with our present in the following manner:

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3).

Even though it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, nevertheless, we are children of God NOW.

The time is coming when all our prayers will be answered.

Then we will realise that no prayer is ignored.

The time is now to recognise that God answers all our prayers.

The time is coming and now is when we will realise that every word of God in the scriptures is true:

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6).

I’ve written a lot about what makes love, and life, last. Over and over again, those who are in happy relationships or have lived many satisfying years, cite the importance of positivity. 

Harold Terens, 100, and Jeanne Swerlin, 96, are no different. The two SuperAgers, who met three years ago, are getting married in France this June. Though they’ve both experienced loss and grief, they continued to put themselves out there and even in their advanced age were able to find joy in one another. 

“The secret to longevity is to minimize stress,” Terens says. “We have two words that are part of our vocabulary [and] those two words are: ’So what?’ What if it rains today and we were supposed to go out and have a picnic? So what? Tomorrow, it will be nice.”

Swerlin echoes her soon-to-be husband’s positive outlook. “It’s a good life,” she says, “but you’ve got to make it [one].”

The idea of a good attitude being key to a long life always seemed far-fetched to me. What about genetics, or access to good health care? Surely those are better predictors of lifespan. 

But reading their story I will say I’m a bit more convinced that a good attitude is key to love and longevity. If Terens and Swerlin were more jaded, they might not have even made it to the first date, and would have lost out on the chance to find love once again.

 

CNBC

The federal government has released N90 billion to subsidise the 2024 pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

An impeccable source within the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) revealed this to Daily Trust on Thursday.

The source, who asked not to be named, noted that without this intervention, each of the intending pilgrims would have been requested to add at least N3.5 million to the initial fare which was pegged at N4.9 million.

A top official at the Presidency also confirmed that the federal government “actually provided some financial support for the hajj exercise”.

Recall that the NAHCON had, in December last year, fixed a fare of N4.9 million per pilgrim based on the exchange rate of N897 to a dollar.

In announcing the fare at that time, the commission had quoted the sum of N4,899,000 for southern pilgrims; N4,699,000 for those from the North; while pilgrims from Yola and Maiduguri centres were asked to pay N4,679,000.

Through a statement issued on Sunday by its spokesperson, Fatima Usara, the hajj commission had raised the fare by N1, 918,032.91, jacking up the total amount to N6.8 million.

The commission had also said intending pilgrims had up to March 28, 2024 to make payment for the spiritual exercise.

NAHCON had attributed the latest hike in hajj fare to the foreign exchange crisis which Nigeria has been battling for months.

The NAHCON’s source told Daily Trust that if the commission had received up to N230 billion as support from the federal government, there would have been no need to ask intending pilgrims “to add a dime.”

“The forex crisis has caused a lot of problems. That is why the Hajj Commission has asked intending pilgrims to pay the extra amount of N1.9 million each. The commission actually needed N230 billion to sort out the fare differential caused by the forex crisis.

“The N90 billion support which was provided by the government was announced in the presence of reporters during the inauguration of the board and management of the Hajj Commission which was held at the Office of the Vice Presidency on February 28, 2024. But they (reporters) were asked not to report it. That was why no newspaper carried the report. Or did you see it in any reports?”

“If the intending pilgrims pay ₦1.9 million, it is then it can be balanced,” the source further stated.

He said NAHCON had also contacted state governors “to subsidise the hajj fare for the intending pilgrims in their respective states. Kano has responded by subsiding it by N500,000 for each pilgrim.

“By the previous calculation, the N90 billion given by the federal government can only subsidise 19,000 intending pilgrims by ₦3.5 million. But by spreading it on 50,000 pilgrims, it reduces it to N1.9 million; meaning that the federal government has subsidised each pilgrim by ₦1.6 million before each intending pilgrim was asked to add the remaining N1.9 million,” he said.

A presidency source, who also spoke to Daily Trust yesterday, said it was true that the federal government had provided what he called a “huge financial support” for this year’s hajj exercise.

Asked to confirm whether the federal government released up to N90 billion as support for the pilgrimage, the official simply said: “that might not be far from the truth.”

He added, “Of course, the federal government has offered support for the pilgrims because the pilgrims have been lamenting.

“Normally, any support that the government is giving to any faith, whether the Christian faith or the Muslim faith, the government does not like to announce it openly so that it will not appear as if the government is favouring one faith.”

 

Daily Trust

Residents of Oje area of Ibadan in Ibadan North East local Government of Oyo state yesterday rushed out to catch a glimpse of a crocodile which died after 84 years.

The crocodile, before its death on Thursday, was tamed at the popular Delesolu’s Palace, Ibadan.

During its lifetime, it attracted many tourists to the ancient city of Ibadan as a result of its uniqueness.

When speaking about the mysterious crocodile, head of the family and a very respected Chief in Ibadan land, Raufu Yusuff Delesolu, said it was brought to the “Igbejo Delesolu in 1940 after the first one was bought by some white men. Since then, it has been in Delesolu’s compound until its demise today.”

Raufu further explained that, the white people from all walks of life including Africans loved seeing and feeding it with all sorts of food.

He said, “I grew up to know the pet as it had been in existence before I was born, It was about 84 years”.

“Historically, the crocodile had never been reported to be a god as our fathers did not at any moment worship it.”

“They only visit it every day to feed it and to be sure of its well-being.”

Still quoting his father, the head of the family stated that, “In the olden days before its house was adequately constructed, the crocodile used to crawl out whenever there was heavy rain and men in the compound would now start searching for it. There was a day when it was found in the muddy gutter very close to the palace, at Ojo-Ibadan compound to be precise. It was later brought back to its house.”

He however reiterated that, the crocodile was not a god as being speculated by many people. It is just a pet cherished by their forefathers and the onus is on them to preserve this important heritage.

As at the time of gathering this report, the members of the family were grieving and there is ongoing burial arrangement for the dead reptile as it would be buried in the family compound.

“But trust me, there are still other tourist attractions in the family compound and Oje community at large; and there is also high tendency of getting another pet in order to continue preserving the heritage of their forefathers”, he said.

Several objects were seen on the ground in preparation for the burial of the crocodile.

 

Vanguard

In Jerusalem, Palestinian Christians observe scaled-down Good Friday rituals

Hundreds of Christians participated in a customary Good Friday procession through the limestone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, commemorating one of the faith’s most sacred days with noticeably thinner crowds amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The procession, which normally draws thousands of foreign visitors, was unusually local — mostly Palestinian Christians, joined by some foreigners living in Jerusalem and a few undeterred tourists.

The procession passes along the Way of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa, the route believed to have been walked by Jesus to his crucifixion. Squads of Israeli police set up barricades along the path, rerouting shoppers in the Old City’s bustling Muslim quarter to make way for hundreds of pilgrims.

A young group of Palestinian Arab scouts led the day’s procession, past the 14 stations, each marking an event that befell Jesus on his final journey. Hundreds of Palestinian Christians walked in their wake. Behind them was a small parade of the Franciscan religious order, composed mainly of foreigners who live in Jerusalem.

“We wait for this every year,” said Munira Kamar, a Palestinian Christian from the Old City, who waved to the cross-bearers who stopped to give her young daughter a kiss on the cheek. “Of course, this year we are unhappy because of the situation with the ongoing war.”

Thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ongoing offensivein Gaza, launched after Hamas’ Oct. 7 killings and hostage-taking in Israel.

The impact of the war was clear at the procession’s final stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and laid to rest before his resurrection on Easter. There, instead of the crowds who normally queue for hours in the church courtyard, entrance to the site was easy.

The city’s streets were noticeably devoid of Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, who normally flock to the Holy City for Easter. Since Oct. 7, Palestinian worshippers have needed special permission to cross checkpoints into Jerusalem.

Despite the thinned crowds, shopkeepers, whose heavy metal doors are usually closed on Fridays, threw them open for tourists seeking Catholic memorabilia. But shoppers were few and far between.

“Comparing last year’s Easter festivities with this year is like light and day,” said Fayaz Dakkak, a Palestinian storeowner whose family first opened the shop in 1942. His shop stood empty.

“Usually people are joyful today and kids are excited,”he said. “But when you compare children here who have water and food and a family to what’s happening in Gaza, how can you be happy?”

An estimated 50,000 Christian Palestinians live in the West Bank and Jerusalem, according to the U.S. State Department’s international religious freedom report for 2022. Approximately 1,300 Christians lived in Gaza, it said. Some Christians are also citizens of Israel. Many Palestinian Christians live in diaspora communities.

A few tourists braved the day. Carmen Ros, a lawyer who lives in Jerusalem, had managed to corral a group of pilgrims from Spain to visit the country for a religious tour. The group rested in the shade outside the church.

“They were afraid of the situation at first,” she said, “but I told them here in Jerusalem, it’s safe, we don’t have violence. We are close to Gaza, but the Christian people are not the target of terrorism.”

The celebrations coincided with the third Friday in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with worshippers once again flocking to the revered Al-Aqsa mosque for prayer. Despite fears the ongoing war would spark clashes at the revered Al-Aqsa mosque, Ramadan has so far been peaceful, under tight Israeli security.

Sister Harriet Kabaije, a pilgrim from Uganda who moved to Jerusalem three weeks ago to live in a monastery, said she was holding the people of Gaza in her prayers. She said she believed that peace could be achieved in the region.

“Many people think that the war here is natural,” she said. “But when Jesus was in Bethlehem, it was peaceful. We know that people are suffering in Gaza so we carry them in our prayers and pray that peace can return to this land.”

Elsewhere, Pope Francis skipped the traditional Good Fridayprocession at the Colosseum in Rome, the Vatican said, to “conserve his health in view of the vigil tomorrow and Mass on Easter Sunday.”

It was the second time Francis had skipped the traditional procession in his 11-year papacy, an event that St. John Paul II famously skipped just before he died in 2005. Francis had also skipped the event in 2023 because he was recovering from bronchitis and it was a particularly cold night.

In Spain, several Good Friday street processions were canceled due to storms that provided some much-needed rain to areas battling a prolonged drought. Seville’s brotherhoods were forced to call off the processions of their giant floats bearing sculptures of Jesus of the Virgin for the first time in over a decade due to bad weather.

In Chicago, hundreds of spectators flocked to the city’s Pilsen neighborhood to witness a Good Friday tradition — the 47th Via Crucis procession reenacting scenes from Jesus’ final days.

“It’s the story that we all know from when we were little kids,” said Jason Rodriguez, a Pilsen resident and event volunteer. “This reenactment drives home the suffering, the strength and the passion that our Lord had.”

 

AP

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Zelensky changes stance on talks with Russia

President Vladimir Zelensky has indicated that a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders is no longer a precondition for holding peace talks with Moscow, even as he continues to push forward with his so-called peace formula, which has been dismissed by the Kremlin as absurd.

Zelensky banned all negotiations with the current leadership in Moscow back in 2022, after four former Ukrainian regions overwhelmingly voted to join Russia. Since then, he has been rallying Western support for his 10-point ultimatum, which includes the full withdrawal of Russian troops and a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, including Crimea, holding Moscow accountable and forced to pay reparations, among other conditions.

However, in an interview with CBS this week, Zelensky suggested there was no need to recapture the territory “exclusively by military means,”claiming that the Ukrainian forces should at least restore the 2022 status quo.

“We will not have to de-occupy all of our territories exclusively by military means… I am sure when he [President Vladimir Putin] loses what he has occupied since 2022, he will fully lose the confidence even of those countries which are still in doubt whether they should support Ukraine or not,” Zelensky said.

The Kremlin has repeatedly stressed that it remains open to meaningful discussions and has blamed the lack of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Ukrainian authorities, who refuse to accept “reality on the ground.”

Despite the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year and recent gains made by Russian forces along the frontline, Zelensky claimed that once Russia suffers battlefield setbacks, Putin will “lose the power within his country” and will be forced to seek dialogue.

“And when he will be ready for the dialogue, undoubtedly the international conditions should be the liberation of our territories, the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Zelensky added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba suggested on Friday that Kiev could engage in diplomacy with Moscow following the Swiss-hosted peace summit, a date for which is still to be announced. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kiev is contradicting itself, and that Moscow will not accept a set of rules “developed by someone else.”

The last meaningful negotiations between Moscow and Kiev were held in Istanbul in the spring of 2022 but broke down, with each side accusing the other of making unrealistic demands. President Putin said the Ukrainian delegation had initially agreed with some of Moscow’s terms, but then abruptly reneged on the deal – allegedly after then-UK PM Boris Johnson advised Kiev to reject a truce and “continue fighting,” promising full Western support.

Ukraine’s Western backers insist that a peace settlement can only be achieved on Kiev’s terms and have vowed to continue weapons deliveries for “as long as it takes.” Russia, meanwhile, has stressed that no amount of foreign aid will change the course of the conflict.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Kyiv's top general says Ukraine needs fewer troops than expected

Ukraine's military will need to mobilise fewer people than initially expected to fend off Russia's two-year-old invasion, Kyiv's top general said on Friday.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in December that his military had proposed mobilising up to 500,000 more Ukrainians into the armed forces as Russia stepped up attacks along the 1,000-km (621-mile) front line.

Commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, who was appointed last month, said in an interview with Ukrainian media published on Friday that the figure had been "significantly reduced" after a review of resources.

He did not name a new figure.

"We expect that we will have enough people capable of defending their motherland," told the Ukrinform news agency. "I am talking not only about the mobilized but also about volunteer fighters."

Ukraine's mobilisation effort has been hobbled by waning enthusiasm and reports of corruption and abuse at draft offices. A bill that would allow officials to call up more troops is currently winding its way through parliament.

Syrskyi added that an audit of non-combat units had allowed military planners to send "thousands" of service members to the front, and that combat-support roles were "equally important" in Kyiv's defence effort.

"The war that we are forced to wage against the Russian invaders is a war of attrition, a war of logistics," he said. "Therefore, the importance of the effectiveness of rear units cannot be underestimated."

The former ground forces chief also said "powerful" defensive lines were being prepared "in almost all threatening areas" as Russia keeps up its attacks.

The eastern city of Avdiivka fell to Moscow in mid-February after a months-long assault in which Ukrainian defenders had been outgunned and outnumbered.

In the Ukrinform interview, Syrskyi said his forces would have "definitely" kept their positions if Kyiv had received more ammunition and air defence capabilites from its Western partners.

 

RT/Reuters


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