У «Нафтогазі» розповіли, скільки заплатить Росія за транзит газу

У Національній акціонерній компанії «Нафтогаз України» повідомили, які суми має заплатити Росія за транзит свого газу українською територією за новим контрактом.

Як повідомив на брифінгу в Києві голова «Нафтогазу України» Андрій Коболєв, ідеться про суму мінімально в 7,2 мільярда доларів. Цю суму, за його словами, російська сторона певною мірою прогарантувала відповідно до контракту, що передбачає мінімальні обсяги транзиту.

Відтак, сказав він, сума не може бути меншою, але може зрости в разі, якщо російський газовий монополіст «Газпром» вирішить транспортувати більші обсяги газу.

У такому разі додаткові обсяги, уточнив Коболєв, будуть транспортуватися за вищими ставками.

Яка саме буде узгоджена вартість транзиту, він не сказав.

30 грудня «Нафтогаз України» і «Газпром» підписали контракт на транзит російського газу до Європи з використанням української газотранспортної системи за правилами Європейського союзу на п’ятирічний термін із можливістю продовження. Термін нині чинного контракту збігає вранці 1 січня 2020 року.

Новий контракт передбачає, зокрема, транспортування мінімально 65 мільярдів кубометрів газу протягом 2020 року і мінімально по 40 мільярдів кубометрів наступними чотирма роками, за принципом «транспортуй або плати».

Міністр енергетики і захисту довкілля Олексій Оржель прогнозував, що Україна буде отримувати за транзит газу протягом наступних п’яти років орієнтовно по 2–3 мільярди доларів щорічно.

Оператор ГТС України підписав останню угоду про транзит російського газу до Європи

ТОВ «Оператор ГТС України» підписало останню міжоператорську угоду, що була необхідна для забезпечення транзиту російського газу до Європи газотранспортною системою України за новим контрактом, що почне діяти 1 січня.

Як повідомила компанія, цю угоду підписали у Брюсселі зі словацьким оператором ГТС Eustream. Цей технічний договір про взаємодію (interconnection agreement) укладений за європейськими правилами, мовиться в повідомленні.

Попереднього дня, 30 грудня, таку угоду ОГТСУ підписав і з російським газовим монополістом «Газпром», який є водночас і оператором російської ГТС.

«Таким чином, новий український оператор ГТС підписав угоди зі всіма суміжними операторами, а саме – Польщі, Угорщини, Румунії, Молдови, Словаччини і Росії. Наразі створено всі необхідні технічні і правові підстави для успішного старту роботи незалежного Оператора ГТС України і для безперервного продовження транзиту газу через українську ГТС із Росії до європейських країн із 1 січня 2020 року», – повідомила компанія.

30 грудня Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» і російський газовий монополіст «Газпром» підписали контракт на транзит російського газу до Європи з використанням української газотранспортної системи за правилами Європейського союзу на п’ятирічний термін із можливістю продовження. Термін нині чинного контракту збігає вранці 1 січня 2020 року.

Як повідомив на брифінгу в Києві 31 грудня голова «Нафтогазу України» Андрій Коболєв, транзит російського природного газу територією України в 2020 році може сягнути 75 мільярдів кубометрів.

UN Chief: Young People Inspire Hope for Future of the Planet

In his New Year’s message, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented a gloomy assessment of the past year and pinned his hopes for a better future in the year to come upon the world’s young people.Guterres said he looks forward to 2020 and the decade to come with a mix of dread and hope.  While welcoming in the New Year, he suggested the uncertainty and insecurity of what lies ahead is cause for reflection and concern.  He said he considered persistent inequality and rising hatred, a warring world and a warming planet as ever present threats to stability and peace.  He said climate change is not only a long-term problem but a clear and present danger.  He said the world cannot afford to see the present generation fiddling around while the planet burns.  “But there is also hope. This year, my New Year’s message is to the greatest source of that hope: the world’s young people.  From climate action to gender equality to social justice and human rights, your generation is on the frontlines and in the headlines.  I am inspired by your passion and determination. You are rightly demanding a role in shaping the future and I am with you. The United Nations stands with you — and belongs to you,” Guterres said.In September, the United Nations presented its top environmental award to a global student movement known as Fridays for Future. The movement, inspired by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, is demanding action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to climate change.Guterres, who views global warming as a grave threat to life on Earth, champions the young activists who are agitating to forestall such a catastrophic outcome. He said the world needs young people to keep speaking out and to keep thinking big. He urged young people to keep pushing boundaries, to keep up the pressure.He ended with “I wish you peace and happiness in 2020. Thank you.” 

Putin Welcomes New Year With Message of Unity for Russians

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rung in the New Year by telling the nation that they are living in tough times, but that Russians will realize their goals if they stick together.”We live in a turbulent, dynamic, contradictory time,” he said in his annual New Year’s address. “But we can and must do everything so Russia will develop successfully, so that everything in our life changes for the better.”Putin delivered the traditional greeting just moments before the Kremlin clock chimed to usher in 2020 in Russia’s Far East.”Now, as we look forward with excitement to the chiming of the bells, we believe and hope that all our wishes are bound to come true,” Putin said.”The present and future, as well as the futures of our children, depend on the efforts and contributions of each of us,” he added. “Only together will we resolve those issues faced by our society and our country today. Our unity is the foundation for achieving the highest goals.”Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov identified Russia’s improvement of living standards as the major accomplishment of 2019.”For objective reasons, Russians’ living standards were either stagnating or falling. This negative trend was observed over the past three or four years,” Peskov said. “This year, we were able to reverse that trend. So far, we cannot talk about any substantial growth. Nevertheless, this trend has been reversed.”In New York, New Year’s Eve Isn’t Complete Without the Ball DropThis New Year’s Eve, an estimated 1 million people will pack the streets of New York City’s Times Square to watch the famous ball dropRussians’ dissatisfaction with their economic situation was one of many reasons behind a protest movement that swept across the country in 2019 and helped lead to Putin’s lowest approval ratings in more than a decade.Official Russian statistics from the first quarter of 2019 showed that 20.9 million of Russia’s more than 142 million citizens were living in poverty, a slight increase over the same period in 2018.The World Bank’s economic report on Russia released in December said that economic growth in Russia picked up after a weak first-half performance in 2019, and predicted a modest decline in poverty.The UN Human Development Index, which measures social and economic inequality in a country, ranked Russia 49th out of 189 countries in 2019. 

In New York, New Year’s Eve Isn’t Complete Without the Ball Drop

This New Year’s Eve, an estimated 1 million people will pack the streets of New York City’s Times Square to watch the famous ball drop. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1907, as visitors from around the world gather to count down the final seconds to the New Year. VOA’s Tina Trinh heads to the rooftop of One Times Square for a look at the New Year’s Eve ball, the centerpiece of one of the world’s most anticipated New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Germany’s Merkel Urges Climate Action in New Year Message

Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling Germans in her New Year message that “everything humanly possible” must be done to tackle climate change.Merkel said that there is good reason to be confident about the 2020s in her annual televised message, the text of which was released ahead of its broadcast Tuesday. But she pointed to challenges such as the effect of digitization on people’s jobs and, above all, climate change.”The warming of our Earth is real. It is threatening. It and the crises arising from global warming were caused by humans,” she said. “So we must do everything humanly possible to deal with this challenge for humanity. That is still possible.”Merkel said that was the principle behind a recently agreed German package of measures aimed at addressing climate change, which include a carbon dioxide pricing system for the transport and heating sectors and lowering value-added tax on long-distance rail tickets.She acknowledged criticism both from people who are worried about being overburdened by the measures and from those who think they don’t go far enough, but said they provide the “necessary framework.””It’s true that, at 65, I am at an age where I personally won’t experience all the consequences of climate change that would arise if politicians didn’t act,” she said.”It is our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the consequences of what we do or don’t do today,” Merkel added. “So I am putting all my energy into Germany making its contribution — ecologically, economically, socially — to getting a grip on climate change.”That is also a priority of the European Union’s new executive Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen — a former German defense minister. Germany will hold the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2020.”Europe must raise its voice more strongly in the world,” Merkel said, pledging to work for that during the EU presidency. She pointed to planned meetings with Chinese and African leaders.Merkel, Germany’s leader since 2005, has said that her current fourth term as chancellor will be her last.Protection against hatredUnlike last year’s, this New Year message contained no reference to infighting in the often-tense coalition government of her center-right Christian Democratic  Union and the center-left Social Democrats. It remains uncertain whether the coalition will last until the end of the parliamentary term in 2021.Merkel did, however, stress the need for authorities to protect local government officials and “all people in our country against hatred, hostility and violence, against racism and anti-Semitism.”This year saw the killing of a regional government official from Merkel’s party, Walter Luebcke, who had vocally supported Merkel’s welcoming stance toward refugees in 2015. The suspect is a far-right extremist.And in October, a man tried to force his way into a synagogue in Halle on Judaism’s holiest day, later killing two passers-by before being arrested. The suspect posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack.
 

Pompeo to Visit Ukraine This Week

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves this week for Ukraine — the country at the center of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.Pompeo will be in Kyiv on Friday, the first stop of a five-nation European and Central Asian tour that will also take him to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cyprus.Pompeo will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine and hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.The two senior State Department officials who briefed reporters Monday on Pompeo’s trip dodged all questions surrounding the impeachment, sparked by Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy when Trump asked the Ukrainian leader for a “favor” and to investigate 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s job with a Ukrainian gas company.Trump is also accused of holding up military aid to Ukraine until Zelenskiy publicly committed to the probe.FILE – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Kyiv, Dec. 4, 2019.No evidence against the Bidens has surfaced, and Trump’s belief that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Democrats is based on a debunked conspiracy theory spread by Russia.One of the officials called Pompeo’s visit to Ukraine this week “much more than symbolic.””The secretary’s visit to Ukraine highlights our unshakable commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the official said. “Crimea is part of Ukraine, and the United States will never recognize Russia’s attempt to annex it. This important visit also reinforces our support to Ukraine as it counters Russian aggression and disinformation, and advances reform efforts to stamp out corruption.”The official said the United States has given Ukraine about $3 billion since 2014 earmarked for law reforms and battling corruption.Ambassador William Taylor The two officials also avoided answering why Ambassador William Taylor will be leaving Kyiv before Pompeo’s arrival Friday.Taylor was appointed acting ambassador to replace Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly fired in May allegedly because of her objections to Trump’s push for an investigation into the Bidens.FILE – Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019.Taylor’s appointment was supposed to have lasted until mid-January. It is unclear why he is leaving early.Both Taylor and Yovanovitch appeared as witnesses in the Democratic-led House impeachment hearings.Another witness — U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — said Pompeo was “in the loop” about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine for an investigation. Democrats also say Pompeo tolerated the so-called shadow foreign policy carried out in Ukraine by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.Pompeo has only said the State Department will “continue to comply with all the legal requirements” in the impeachment process.The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump in mid-December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It is still unclear when he will be put on trial in the Senate.Other stopsDuring his European trip, Pompeo will meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for talks on normalizing relations between the U.S. and Belarus. Lukashenko has long been considered an authoritarian ruler, but the State Department said Belarus is continuing to make progress in human rights and democratization.Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are two nations the State Department said have also made improvements in human rights, and are close economic and security partners with the U.S.Pompeo’s final stop will be in Cyprus, where the U.S. backs United Nations efforts to reunify the island split between a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north since 1974.
 

«Нафтогаз» анонсує пресконференцію Гончарука за підсумками газових переговорів

Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» анонсує пресконференцію прем’єр-міністра України Олексія Гончарука за підсумками переговорів про транзит російського газу територією України. Про це йдеться у трансляції Газового інформаційного центру, яка триває на сторінці «Нафтогазу» у фейсбуці.

 

Раніше керівник «Оператора газотранспортної системи» Сергій Макогон повідомив у фейсбуці, що Україна вранці 30 грудня завершила чотириденний переговорний марафон із російським «Газпромом» у Відні.

Водночас у «Нафтогазі України» повідомили, що угода ще не укладена. «Ми ще в процесі укладання. Сподіваємось, що ця угода скоро буде фіналізована», – йдеться у твітері «Нафтогазу» ввечері 30 грудня.

 

«Нафтогаз» нагадує, що 10-річний транзитний контракт між Нафтогазом та Газпромом закінчується 1 січня о 9:00. «В цих умовах надзвичайно важливо уникнути розповсюдження неперевіреної та суперечливої інформації», – вказує українська компанія.

20 грудня представники України, Росії, Євросоюзу, а також компанії «Оператор газотранспортної системи України», «Нафтогазу» та російського «Газпрому» попередньо домовилися зберегти транзит, натомість українська енергетична компанія відмовилася від інших позовів проти російського монополіста.

 

Серед найважливіших домовленостей сторін:

«Газпром» погодився до 29 грудня виплатити «Нафтогазу» 2,9 мільярда доларів, як це передбачає рішення Стокгольмського арбітражу від лютого 2018 року;
сторони відкликають всі позови, за якими наразі немає ухвалених рішень, в тому числі – позов «Нафтогазу» до російської енергетичної корпорації на 12,2 мільярда доларів та на 1,33 мільярда кубічних метрів газу;
з активів та майна «Газпрому» знімають арешти, сторони відмовляються від претензій в майбутньому щодо претензій у зв’язку з контрактами на постачання та транзит газу від 19 січня 2009 року;
після виконання цих умов – «Газпром» та «Нафтогаз» укладають договір про транзит газу через Україну​.

27 грудня уряд схвалив підписання мирової угоди з «Газпромом».

Spain: Socialists Pin Future Government on Catalan’s Release

Spain’s state attorney called Monday for an imprisoned Catalan politician to be allowed to be sworn in as a member of the European Union parliament, a step that could ease the way for a center-left governing alliance to take office in the country.The European Union’s top court ruled this month that Oriol Junqueras, who served as Catalonia’s vice president until 2017, had the right to parliamentary immunity when he was elected to the bloc’s parliament in May, when he was already on trial.In response to the ruling, the Spanish state attorney’s office on Monday said that Junqueras should be allowed to leave prison to take his seat. But it said that a request should be made immediately for the European Parliament to drop the separatist politician’s immunity, so that he would serve the 13-year prison term for his role in a secession bid two years ago.The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in coming days.FILE – Spain’s Socialist leader and acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends a rally to mark the kick off his campaign ahead of the general election in Seville, Spain, Oct. 31, 2019.Junqueras remains the leader of the Catalan ERC party, whose 13 lawmakers’ abstention from the 350-seat Congress of Deputies would allow the Socialists of caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the anti-austerity United We Can (Unidas Podemos) to form a minority coalition government after months of political impasse in Spain.The state attorney’s move could lead ERC to abstain from the confidence vote, expected as soon as next week. ERC has said it will make its final decision in a party meeting next week.Governing agreementIn a further sign of an impending end to the political deadlock, Sanchez and United We Can leader Pablo Iglesias were set to announce later on Monday their governing agreement, a 50-page document outlining more taxes for high-earning individuals and companies, plans to water down a labor reform passed in 2012 at the height of the financial crisis, as well as increases to spending on social policies.FILE – Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias speaks during a plenary session at Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Sept. 11, 2019.They also plan to roll back a national security law passed by a previous conservative government and increase the minimum wage, which stands at 1,050 euros (1,176 dollars), according to Spanish daily El Pais, which obtained a copy of the document.Spanish laws allow minority governments to be formed as long as they receive more votes in favor than against in the parliament’s lower house. But even with the support of a small Basque nationalist party, Sanchez and Iglesias need ERC’s abstention. They have been widely criticized by other parties for relying on the help of an imprisoned separatist.The 50-year-old Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds in October for his role in promoting the illegal 2017 secession bid of the prosperous northeastern region of Catalonia, which includes the city of Barcelona.He was under trial already when he decided to run in the European elections in May. Spain’s Supreme Court denied Junqueras permission to get out of jail at the time to take his position.’Against the interests of Spain’Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative Popular Party that for decades took turns in power with the Socialists, said that Sanchez was being opaque in the negotiations and that, as an interim prime minister over the past few months, the Socialist leader had governed “against the interests of Spain.””You can’t negotiate the government of Spain with those who want to break it apart,” Casado told reporters.The Popular Party, the fast-rising far-right Vox party and the center-right Citizens (Ciudadanos), which suffered a big defeat in the Nov. 10 repeated general election, together hold 150 seats in the lower chamber.
 

CIA Devised Way to Restrict Missiles Given to Allies, Researcher Says 

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has devised technology to restrict the use of anti-aircraft missiles after they leave American hands, a researcher said, a move that experts say could persuade the United States that it would be safe to disseminate powerful weapons more frequently.The new technology is intended for use with shoulder-fired missiles called Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), Dutch researcher Jos Wetzels told a cybersecurity conference in Leipzig, Germany on Saturday. Wetzels said the system was laid out in a batch of CIA documents published by WikiLeaks in 2017 but that the files were mislabeled and attracted little public attention until now.Wetzels said the CIA had come up with a “smart arms control solution” that would restrict the use of missiles “to a particular time and a particular place.” The technique, referred to as “geofencing,” blocks the use of a device outside a specific geographic area.Weapons that are disabled when they leave the battlefield could be an attractive feature. Supplied to U.S. allies, the highly portable missiles can help win wars, but they have often been lost, sold, or passed to extremists.For example, Stinger MANPADS supplied by the United States are credited with helping mujahedeen rebels drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan in a conflict that spanned the 1980s and 1990s. But U.S. officials have since spent billions of dollars to clear the missiles from the country — and from other conflict zones around the worldWetzels said it was unclear whether the CIA’s design ever left the drawing board or where it was meant to have been deployed, but he noted that the apparent period of development in the documents’ metadata — 2014 to 2015 — roughly coincided with media reports about the deployment of MANPADS to rebels in Syria. Geofencing might have been seen as a way of ensuring the missiles were used on the Syrian battlefield and nowhere else, he said.The CIA declined to comment.Outside experts who reviewed Wetzels’ analysis said they found it plausible.N.R. Jenzen-Jones, who directs the British-based ARES intelligence consultancy, said geofencing has long been discussed as a safeguard to allow powerful weapons “into the hands of friendly forces operating in high-risk environments.”Wetzels said geofencing was no panacea, running through a list of security vulnerabilities that could be used by insurgents to bypass the restrictions.”It’s not a watertight solution,” he said.

Turkey Mulls Sending Allied Syrian Fighters to Libya

Turkey is considering sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya as part of its planned military support for the embattled government in Tripoli, four senior Turkish sources said on Monday, with one adding that Ankara was leaning toward the idea.Turkey has not yet sent any Syrian fighters as part of the planned deployment, they told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.Last week, President Tayyip Erdogan said his government would deploy troops to Libya after Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) requested support. The GNA is fending off an offensive by General Khalifa Haftar’s forces in the east of the North African country.Turkey-backed Syrian fighters spearheaded a Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria in October targeting a Kurdish militia. Ankara also backs Syrian rebels in the northwest province of Idlib in Syria’s nearly nine-year civil war.”It is currently not the case that Turkey is sending [Syrian rebel fighters] to Libya. But evaluations are being made and meetings are being held on this issue, and there is a tendency to go in this direction,” said one high-ranking Turkish official.”There is no final decision on how many members will go there,” the official added.The two senior Turkish officials and two security officials spoke to Reuters. It was unclear whether Ankara was mulling sending Syrian fighters as part of the first deployment.Haftar’s forces — supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan — have failed to reach the center of Tripoli but have made small gains in recent weeks with the help of Russian and Sudanese fighters, as well as drones shipped by the UAE, diplomats say.The GNA said on Sunday that a video circulating online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya was false and actually shot in the Syrian province of Idlib.Reuters could not independently verify the footage.Experienced fightersThe Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, citing sources, said that 300 pro-Turkey Syrian fighters had been transferred to Libya and that others were training in Turkish camps.”The military’s experience abroad will be very useful in Libya. However, there is the possibility of using the experience of Syrian fighters as well… and this is being evaluated,” said a Turkish security official.”After parliament accepts the mandate, a step may be taken in this direction,” the person added.Ankara signed two separate accords with the GNA last month: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.The maritime deal ends Turkey’s isolation at sea as it ramps up offshore energy exploration that has alarmed Greece and other neighbors. The military deal would preserve its lone ally in the region, Tripoli, while preserving private investments in Libya including by Turkish construction firms.In Syria, Turkey opposes President Bashar al-Assad. Its military has teamed up with rebel forces to carry out three cross-border incursions since 2016 against Islamic State and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

US Ambassador Defends Poland From Russian World War II Claims

The U.S. ambassador in Warsaw came to Poland’s defense on Monday following repeated claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Poland bears blame for the outbreak of World War II.”Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher said on Twitter in English and Polish — though not in Russian.Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict.— Georgette Mosbacher (@USAmbPoland) The relationship between Russia and Poland has been tense since Poland threw off Moscow-controlled communist rule 30 years ago and began moving closer to the West. Poland has since joined NATO, the European Union and has cultivated a close alliance with the United States.Poland has also been making efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and oil and has vocally opposed Nord Stream 2, a Russian-German gas pipeline under construction that will transport Russian gas to Western Europe, bypassing Poland and Ukraine. 

Sudanese-American Player Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in South Sudan

Wheelchair basketball is growing in popularity in South Sudan, offering hope for athletes with disabilities, some of whom lost legs from unexploded ordnance left from decades of conflict. U.S. professional wheelchair basketball players, including Sudanese American Malat Wei, this month helped 80 South Sudanese players take part in a week-long training program and tournament.Wei is a wheelchair athlete who lost the use of his legs to polio in South Sudan when he was only three years old.When Wei was 12, after living in a refugee camp for several years, his family moved to the United States, where he eventually played wheelchair basketball at the University of Arizona.In December, he returned to South Sudan as a role model for other disabled athletes.”I went through the same situation that these athletes are going through. So as for me coming back, it’s a hope for them saying there is someone who actually cares about us,” Wei said.This month,Wei helped train 80 South Sudanese wheelchair basketball players for a two-day competition in Juba.The training was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association.Wei says that in two years, the number of players has more than doubled, and this year, 15 women were included for the first time.Anna Doki Gabriel, who had never played basketball before, talked about the goal of this training and competition.  Gabriel says, “For me as a person in a wheelchair, basketball has really made me feel that we can do something just like able-bodied people.”Conflict and poverty in South Sudan have marginalized more than 1.2 million people with disabilities, including some who lost legs from unexploded ordnance remaining after decades of conflict.Disability and inclusion adviser for the ICRC, Jess Markt, has trained wheelchair teams in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South America.  He says the training works to change negative perceptions of people with disabilities.”Once they start to have that confidence in themselves and they start to realize that maybe what they’ve always been told about what their place in society should be is not what their place in society should be, that they should expect more from themselves and from the society around them,” Markt said.Wei says inclusion and acceptance isn’t all these athletes learn, “These athletes are all from different tribes. But when they come to the basketball court the sport just brings this joy of all the South Sudanese uniting together to collaborate and work together as one country.”

Sudanese-American Player Promotes Wheelchair Basketball in South Sudan

Wheelchair basketball is growing in popularity in South Sudan, offering hope for athletes with disabilities, some of whom lost legs from unexploded ordnance left from decades of conflict. U.S. professional wheelchair basketball players, including Sudanese American Malat Wei, this month helped eighty South Sudanese players take part in a week-long training program and tournament, as Sheila Ponnie reports from Juba.

Ukraine, Russia-Backed Rebels Swap Prisoners

Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east have completed an exchange of about 200 prisoners. Ukrainian officials say Ukraine received 76 captives while the separatists say they took 124 of theirs. The swap carried out on Sunday was brokered earlier this month at a summit of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Paris.  VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports. 

Putin Thanks Trump for Helping Foil Terrorist Acts in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with President Donald Trump on Sunday to thank him for information that Putin said helped Russia foil terrorist attacks over the New Year’s holiday, the Kremlin said.Putin thanked Trump “for information transmitted through the special services that helped prevent the completion of terrorist acts in Russia,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement posted on its website.Based on the U.S. information, the Russian security forces detained two Russians suspected of preparing to carry out terrorist acts in St. Petersburg during the upcoming holiday, state news agency Tass reported, citing the Federal Security Service.The security service said it obtained the information from its “American partners.” It said it seized material from the suspects that confirms they were preparing terrorist acts, with no further details.There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Mexico City Zoo Welcomes Second Baby Giraffe of the Year

The Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City is celebrating its second baby giraffe of the year, already as tall as a full-grown human.The female giraffe was unveiled last week after a mandatory quarantine period following her Oct. 23 birth. She will be named via a public vote to generate empathy with the little cow, zoo director Juan Carlos Sanchez Olmos said Sunday.The 96-year-old zoo on the grounds of the capital’s central park has a knack for breeding creatures in captivity: This year it welcomed 170 baby animals, including six Mexican gray wolves, which are in danger of extinction.”A new birth of a character as unique, as charismatic as a giraffe becomes emblematic – a flag for conservation, for the prestige of the zoo,” said Sanchez Olmos while four grown giraffes happily munched branches and leaves behind him.Giraffes are considered “vulnerable” because the species faces significant habitat loss in the 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where they reside.Unlike the wolves, which will be released into the Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park in Baja California, the giraffes are expected to spend their lives under observation in a dusty patch of the Chapultepec Zoo.A team of professionals – including nutritionists, veterinarians and biologists like Sanchez Olmos_ takes care of more than 1,000 animals in the zoo, which sits under the flight path of jetliners that roar overhead.As Sanchez Olmos detailed the zoo’s mission to not just educate and amuse, but also conserve species, caretaker Alejandro Gonzalez offered long branches from a pomegranate tree to four hungry giraffes. The tallest of the pack eagerly yanked the branches from Gonzalez’s hands.”What did I tell you?” the caretaker said, looking the tall giraffe square in the eyes. “Take it easy, please.”If Gonzalez had his way, the new addition to the herd of giraffes would be called Sarita. At least, that’s what he calls her.The long-necked creatures are a favorite fixture at the zoo. The public voted in April to name the first baby giraffe of the year Jirafifita, which translates as Uppity Little Giraffe – a play on the president’s favorite word for dismissing critics.”Fifi” is slang for uppity or posh. Populist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador frequently uses the word to describe opposition politicians and others who question his decisions.