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Putin says Russia has ‘nowhere to retreat’ over Ukraine



President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had no room to retreat in a standoff with the United States over Ukraine and would be forced into a tough response unless the West dropped its “aggressive line”.

Putin addressed the remarks to military officials as Russia pressed for an urgent U.S. and NATO response to proposals it made last week for a binding set of security guarantees from the West.

“What the U.S. is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep… And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Do they think we’ll just watch idly?” Putin said.

“If the aggressive line of our Western colleagues continues, we will take adequate military-technical response measures and react harshly to unfriendly steps.”

Putin did not spell out the nature of these measures but his phrasing mirrored that used previously by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who has warned that Russia may redeploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe in response to what it sees as NATO plans to do the same.

Russia rejects Ukrainian and U.S. charges that it may be preparing an invasion of Ukraine as early as next month by tens of thousands of Russian troops poised within reach of the border.

It says it needs pledges from the West – including a promise not to conduct NATO military activity in Eastern Europe – because its security is threatened by Ukraine’s growing ties with the Western alliance and the possibility of NATO missiles being deployed against it on Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelenskiy said on Friday that he was ready to meet Russia for “direct talks, tête-à-tête, we don’t mind in what format”. But Moscow has said repeatedly it sees no point in such a meeting without clarity on what the agenda would be.

A Kremlin statement said Putin stressed in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that reconvening the four-power Normandy group – which brings together the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – would require concrete steps by Kyiv to implement existing peace agreements. Ukraine says it is Russia and its proxies who are refusing to engage.

With Western powers keen to show Russia they are solid in their support of Ukraine and NATO, Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz also spoke by phone with Putin.


Karen Donfried, the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, in a briefing with reporters, said Washington was prepared to engage with Moscow via three channels – bilaterally, through the NATO-Russia Council that last met in 2019, and at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In the meantime, she said, the United States would continue to send military equipment and supplies to Ukraine in the weeks and months ahead – something that has antagonised Moscow.

“As President (Joe) Biden has told President Putin, should Russia further invade Ukraine, we will provide additional defensive materials to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already in the process of providing,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would seek meaningful discussions with Moscow early next year.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu alleged that more than 120 U.S. private military contractors were active in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, and said they were preparing a “provocation” involving chemical substances.

He offered no evidence in support of the claim, which Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described as “completely false”.

Throughout the crisis, Russia has veered between harsh rhetoric, calls for dialogue and dire warnings, with Ryabkov repeatedly comparing the situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war.

Many of its demands, including for a block on NATO membership for Ukraine and the withdrawal of U.S. and other allied troops from Eastern Europe, are seen as non-starters by Washington and its partners.

But rejecting them out of hand would risk closing off any space for dialogue and further fuelling the crisis.


(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov, Andrew Osborn, Olzhas Auyezov, Polina Devitt, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Idrees Ali in Washington, Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


Canada rushes to crush more canola despite crop crunch



Soaring demand for Canadian canola oil used in food and fuel has resulted in plans for a massive increase in capacity to process canola seeds, including this week’s announcement of a C$360 million ($289 million) crush plant project.

But while buyers are lining up, some analysts wonder if there is enough of the crop to go around and doubt all the projects will proceed.

Canola hit record high prices last year due to strong vegetable oil demand and a severe Canadian drought that shrunk crops in the world’s top producing country. Palm and soybeans are also in tight supply, helping drive up food inflation.

Federated Co-operative Limited (FCL) and partner AGT Food and Ingredients said on Monday they would build a Saskatchewan plant to crush 1.1 million tonnes of canola annually to supply oil for FCL’s renewable diesel facility.

Richardson International, Ceres Global Ag Corp, Cargill Inc and Viterra Inc announced similar plans last year, drawn by demand for canola oil in foods like margarine and salad dressing, or for production of low-emitting fuels.

Combined, the plans would increase Canada’s canola crush capacity by 6.8 million tonnes, or 62%.

That is a tall order to fill for Canadian farmers, whose canola production peaked in 2017, said Marlene Boersch, managing partner of Mercantile Consulting Venture. She is skeptical that all of the crush plants will materialize.

“We do have a (crop) production problem. I don’t think we’ll see these substantial investments for years to come.”

Output concerns go beyond last year’s drought. Canola acreage also hit a peak in 2017 and yields were flat from 2017-2020 before the drought.

Patrick Bergermann, FCL’s associate vice-president of energy roadmap, expects its plant to purchase some canola that would otherwise go for export, which usually accounts for about half the annual crop.

FCL’s plant, which may open in 2025, pending Ottawa finalizing its clean fuel regulation, will add value both from generating oil for fuel and from meal for use as a potential food protein source, he said.

“There’s still ample opportunity for the industry to add crush capacity,” he said.

For crushers to attract more canola seed away from export channels, they would have to bid aggressively for it, which would reduce margins, said Ken Ball, a commodity futures advisor with PI Financial. He expects project delays or cancellations.

Saskatchewan farmer Bernie McClean says the new crush plants will reduce farmers’ vulnerability to trade restrictions on Canadian exports, such as from China. Farmers may boost plantings if they can successfully grow canola in hotter, drier areas, he said.

McClean, who sows 40-50% of his fields with canola, does not intend to plant more in the future, however. Sowing canola too often on the same fields can spread crop disease.

“If we get too carried away, Mother Nature has a way of coming around to bite us in the butt,” McClean said.

The Canola Council of Canada industry group sees production rising to 26 million tonnes by 2025, a 33% increase from pre-drought output, based on higher yields per acre.

Canola Council Chief Executive Jim Everson expects productivity to increase as companies develop more robust seeds using gene-editing technology, but he could not identify any specific, promising seed products in development.

Demand, however, continues to rise, enticing the crushers.

A proposed rule is expected early this year from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approving canola for use in making renewable diesel or greener jet fuel, Everson said.

North American biofuels could consume some 6.5 million tonnes of canola annually by 2030, nearly four times the current volume, he said.

($1 = 1.2458 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Haiti’s allies need to help tackle spike in violence -Canada PM Trudeau



Haiti‘s allies must act immediately to help tackle a spike in violence that is worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

The international community also needs to address deep governance problems that are fueling a political and security crisis in the western hemisphere’s poorest country, he told a group of foreign ministers holding a day of talks to discuss the crisis. Canada is hosting the virtual meeting.

Gangs have extended their control of territory in Haiti since the assassination in July of President Jovenel Moise. One gang coalition in October created a nationwide fuel shortage by blocking access to storage terminals, and kidnappings are rife.

“In order to address Haiti’s humanitarian needs, we must also address the challenging security situation. The increase in violence is only worsening the already precarious humanitarian situation,” Trudeau said.

“This will require immediate action to mitigate violence … we must also address the deep governance problems that are fueling the current political and security crisis. That includes taking action against corruption.”

A jump in kidnappings, added to worsening economic conditions, has prompted a growing number of Haitians to seek better opportunities in other countries.

The number of asylum applications in Mexico nearly doubled in 2021 from two years earlier, with most applications being from Haitian and Honduran migrants. [L1N2TJ21W]

Ottawa says the meeting will also include representatives of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and the Organization of American States.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada’s Trudeau vows action after four freeze to death in ‘mind blowing’ tragedy



Canada is doing all it can stop people smuggling across the U.S. border after a family of four froze to death in a “mind blowing’ tragedy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

U.S. authorities have charged a U.S. man with human trafficking after the four – a man, woman, baby and teenager – were found dead in the province of Manitoba, a few yards north of the frontier with Minnesota.

The four have tentatively been identified as a family from India, part of a larger group trying to enter the United States by walking across snow-covered fields in a remote region.

“It was an absolutely mind-blowing story. It’s so tragic to see a family die like that, victims of human traffickers … and of people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life,” Trudeau told a news conference.

“This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner. We know there are great risks in doing so,” he continued.

Canada, Trudeau said, was working very closely with the United States to stop smuggling and help people “taking unacceptable risks”.

Local officials said the incident was unusual since in the past, people have tried to cross into Canada from the United States, rather than the other way round.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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