Questions raised over role of Letterkenny’s Litter Warden

first_imgMajor concerns have been raised about the current position of the Litter Warden in Letterkenny.Cllr Ciaran Brogan brought the issue to the fore with the local authority yesterday after it emerged that the previous litter warden had moved to another role.Cllr Brogan asked the council environment section to clarify the role of the current warden and said:  “We have had a lot of success with Tidy Towns over the years and that didn’t happen by accident. We have had a lot of good work with residents associations around the town “The litter warden we had went well beyond the call of duty and we need to make sure we have the same full-time dedicated service to match what is needed. I am calling on senior management to invest in that as a matter of urgency.” Questions raised over role of Letterkenny’s Litter Warden was last modified: November 12th, 2019 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Play Your Part series episode three: synopsis

first_imgHere’s a sneak peek of episode three of the Play Your Part television series, which airs on Saturday, 9 September 2017 on SABC 2.Fight with Insight uses boxing to teach children in Johannesburg life skills that help them to take responsibility for claiming their rights. In episode three of Play Your Part, some of our guests get involved with the initiative. (Image: Fight With Insight, Facebook)Brand South Africa reporterIn the third episode of Play Your Part, guests include geologist and science champion Tshiamo Legoale and entrepreneur Tebogo Ditshego, who promotes literacy.The episode, which airs on Saturday, 9 September 2017, is part of a 26-episode series.The debut Play Your Part aired in June 2014. The series aims to inspire its audience to contribute towards social cohesion, active citizenry, nation brand pride, and patriotism though getting people to play their part in society.The themes covered in Play Your Part are education, skills development, entrepreneurship, women- and youth empowerment.Here’s a preview of what you can expect to see in episode three:Karin Landi, co-founder of Community Hours, gives teens out of the box volunteering opportunities to encourage them to become active citizens.In this episode, Landi and learners from Kingsmead College in Johannesburg exchange their time and support for fighting skills and insight from inner city young men with Fight with Insight.Karin Landi. (Image: Hassims Fireworks, Twitter)Businessman Tebogo Ditshego founded the online book club ReadABookSA to encourage more South Africans to get into the habit of reading books.Followers of ReadABookSA pledge to read one book a month.Tebogo Ditshego. (Image: Prelene Singh)Geologist Tshiamo Legoale, 27, won an international science competition with her invention that proposes using wheat enzymes to extract gold from tailings or mine dumps.Tshiamo Legoale. (Image: Mining Ne.Ws)Play Your Part is broadcast at 18:00 every Saturday on SABC 2.To get involved in playing your part in South Africa:Check out the conversation on Twitter: #GetInvolved; or,Find out about initiatives on Play Your Part here https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/play-your-part.Tell us how you Play Your Part through our social media channels:Follow us on Twitter: @PlayYourPartSA;Follow Brand South Africa on Twitter: @Brand_SA; andLike us on Facebook: Official Brand South Africa.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.last_img read more

How artificial intelligence will transform IT operations and devops

first_imgWhy IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Tags:#AI#artificial intellgence#cto#Devops#Internet of Things#IoT Internet of Things Makes it Easier to Steal You… Follow the Puck IT operationsWouldn’t it be great to have all your logs compiled into a single place, with each entry carefully monitored and registered? Well, certainly. You will be able to view the process flow clearly and execute queries pertaining to the logs from different applications all from one place, hence dramatically increasing the efficiency of your IT operations. To solve one of the biggest challenges IT operations and DevOps teams face is being able to pinpoint the small yet potentially harmful issues in large streams of log data in their environment. This is precisely what Cognitive Insights does. Since the core of this program is based on the ELK stack, it sorts and simplifies the data and makes it easy to have a clear picture of your IT operations. Asurion and Performance Gateway are perfect examples that have leveraged from Cognitive Insights and taken their IT game up a notch.Quickly find the needle in the “IT operations” haystack and eliminate the main problems To state that DevOps and IT operations teams will face new challenges in the coming years sounds a bit redundant, as their core responsibility is to solve problems and overcome challenges.However, with the dramatic pace in which the current landscape of processes, technologies, and tools are changing, it has become quite problematic to cope with it.Moreover, the pressure business users have been putting on DevOps and IT operations teams is staggering, demanding that everything should be solved with a tap on an app. However, at the backend, handling issues is a different ball game; the users can’t even imagine how difficult it is to find a problem and solve it.One of the biggest challenges IT operations and DevOps teams face nowadays is being able to pinpoint the small yet potentially harmful issues in large streams of Big Data being logged in their environment. Put simply, it is just like finding a needle in the haystack.See also: How machine learning is revolutionizing digital enterprisesIf you work in the IT department of a company with an online presence that boasts 24/7 availability, here is a scenario that may sound familiar to you. Assume that you get a call in the middle of the night from an angry customer or your boss complaining about a failed credit card transaction or an application crash. You go to your laptop right away and open the log management system. You see there are a more than a hundred thousand messages logged at the set timeframe – a data set impossible for a human being to review line by line.So what do you do in such a situation?It is the story of every IT operations and DevOps professional; they spend many sleepless nights, navigating through the sea of log entries to find critical events that triggered a specific event. This is where real-time and centralized log analytics come to the rescue. It helps them in understanding the essential aspects of their log data, and easily identify the main issues. With this, the troubleshooting process becomes a walk in the park, making it shorter and more effective, as well as enabling experts to predict the future problems.AI and its effect on IT operations and devopsWhile Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to be the buzzword a few decades ago, it is now being commonly applied across different industries for a diverse range of purposes. Combining big data, AI, and human domain knowledge, technologists, and scientists have become able to create astounding breakthroughs and opportunities, which used to be possible in science fiction novels and movies only.As IT operations become agile and dynamic, they are also getting immensely complex. The human mind is no longer capable of keeping up with the velocity, volume, and variety of Big Data streaming through daily operations, making AI a powerful and essential tool for optimizing the analyzing and decision-making processes. AI helps in filling the gaps between humans and Big Data, giving them the required operational intelligence and speed to significantly waive off the burden of troubleshooting and real-time decision-making.Addressing the elephant in the room: How AI can helpIn all the above situations, one thing is common; these companies need a solution – as discussed in the beginning – that helps IT and DevOps teams to quickly find problems in the mountain of log data entries. To identify that single log entry putting cracks in the environment and crashing your applications, wouldn’t it be easy if you just knew what kind of error you are looking for to filter your log data? Of course, it would cut down the amount of work by half.One solution can be to have a platform that has collected data from the internet about all kinds of related incidents, observed how people using similar setups resolved them in their systems and scanned through your system to identify the potential problems. One way to achieve this is to design a system that mimics how a user investigates, monitors, and troubleshoots events, and allows it to develop an understating how humans interact with data instead of trying to analyze the data itself. For example, this technology can be similar to Amazon’s product recommendation system and Google’s PageRank algorithm, but it will be focused on log data.Introducing cognitive insightsA recent technology implements a solution as envisioned by this post. The technology – which has been generating quite a lot of buzz lately- is called Cognitive Insights. This groundbreaking technology uses machine-learning algorithms to match human domain knowledge with log data, along with open source repositories, discussion forums, and social thread. Using all this information, it makes a data reservoir of relevant insights that may contain solutions to a wide range of critical issues, faced by IT operations and DevOps teams on a daily basis.Overview of top insights that contain solutions to critical issuesThe real-time obstaclesDevOps engineers, IT Operations managers, CTOs, VP engineering, and CISO face numerous challenges, which can be mitigated effectively by integrating AI in log analysis and related operations. While there are several applications of Cognitive Insights, the two main use cases are:SecurityDistributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly becoming common. What used to be just limited to governments, high-profile websites, and multinational organizations is now targeting prominent individuals, SMBs and mid-sized enterprises.To ward off such attacks, having a centralized logging architecture to identify suspicious activities and pinpoint the potential threats from thousands of entries is essential. For this, anti-DDoS mitigation through Cognitive Insights has been proven to be highly effective. Leading names, such as Dyn and British Airways, that sustained significant damage from DDoS attacks in the past now have a full-fledged, ELK-based anti-DDoS mitigation strategy in place to keep hackers at bay and secure their operations from any future attacks.Cognitive Insights pinpoints the potential threats from thousands of entriescenter_img Related Posts Ronald van Loon The good AI integration can yieldUsing AI driven log analytics systems, it becomes considerably easy to find the needle in the haystack, and efficiently solve issues. Such a system will have a considerable impact on management and operations of the entire organization. Like the problems of companies discussed above in this blog, integrating AI with log management system will benefit in:✔ Improved customer success✔ Monitoring and customer support✔ Risk reduction and resource optimization✔ Maximize efficiency by making logging data accessibleIn other words, Cognitive Insights and other similar systems can be of great help in data log management and troubleshooting.Rent-A-Center (RAC) is a Texas-based, Fortune 1000 company that offers a wide range of rent-to-own products and services. It has over 3000 stores and 2000 kiosks spread across Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, and United States. The company tried integrating two different ELK stacks, but handling 100GB data every day was too much of a hassle, not to mention the exorbitant cost and time spent every day for disk management, memory tuning, additional data input capabilities, and other technical issues. RAC transitioned to Cognitive Insights, which gave them the confidence that they will be able to detect future anomalies and made it quite easily to scale the constantly growing volume of data. They benefitted from a dedicated IT team managing on-premise and off-premise ELK stacks.The role of open source in data log managementMany reputed vendors are proactively researching and testing AI in different avenues to enhance the efficiency of data log management systems. Some of the vendors are:There is no surprise in the fact that ELK is fast becoming part of the trend, and more and more vendors are offering logging solutions. This is because it has become a great way for companies to install a setup without incurring a staggering upfront cost. It also allows for some basic graphing and searching capabilities, and in order for the organizations to recognize the issues in their haystack of log data, they can opt for latest technologies, like Cognitive Insights, to quickly find the needle and eliminate the main problems.Make sure you join in the discussion online about AI. For even more insights and information on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, connect with Ronald van Loon on LinkedIn and Twitter. Small Business Cybersecurity Threats and How to…last_img read more

The Hustler’s Playbook: Hustlers Are Ambitious

first_imgIf there is one thing that separates the hustler from the non-hustler, it’s ambition.The hustler is dead set on achieving something, usually something big. The hustler has a fire in their belly. They want what they want badly enough that no one ever needs to motivate them to take action, to work hard, or to do more than anyone else. Their ambition drives them.The non-hustler wants a lot of the same things the hustler wants. They want to be more, do more, and have more. Wanting things and a willingness to do the things necessary to have what you want are two very different things. The non-hustler is missing ambition. They don’t have the fire burning deep inside them, even though the tinder is there just waiting for a spark. Without the spark, they never catch fire.The hustler’s ambition is made up in part of the vision they have of themselves. They can already visualize their future self, and it’s a better version of what they are now. They can feel exactly what it’s going to be like. The hustler believes and behaves as if they are already that future version of themselves. Their ambition helps them to make that vision a reality.The non-hustler can’t see a better future self. They just don’t see it, even though it is there should they ever be struck with ambition. Most of the time the lack of vision also comes with a scarcity mindset, and that mindset is what keeps them from ever catching fire.When you ask a hustler where she wants to be in five years, she can not only tell you, but she can tell you her plan for getting there in 30 months. The non-hustler hasn’t even considered where they want to be in five years; they wait for the world to work on them, and they drift along wherever it takes them, never pushing back, never swimming hard against the current.What is it what you want badly enough that you can’t wait to work on it the minute your feet hit the floor in the morning? Do that. Essential Reading! Get my 2nd book: The Lost Art of Closing “In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall.” Buy Nowlast_img read more

North Korean delegation returns home after Olympics outreach

first_imgLOOK: Iya Villania meets ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ cast in Mexico Families in US enclave in north Mexico hold sad Thanksgiving LATEST STORIES AFP official booed out of forum North and South Korean officials also on Tuesday started working-level talks to set up the details of North’s participation in the Paralympics that begin in Pyeongchang on March 9. The North sent around 500 people to the Olympics, including officials, athletes, artists and 229 cheerleaders who amused spectators with their synchronized routines and songs.Seoul’s decision to allow Kim to visit trigged controversy because South Korea had accused him of being the mastermind of two attacks on the South that killed 50 people in 2010 when he headed the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau.Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Olympic Stadium, holding signs like “Killer Kim Yong Chol go to hell,” while Kim attended Sunday’s closing ceremony with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.Several conservative lawmakers protested on a road near the inter-Korean land border on Tuesday, demanding Kim apologize over the attacks before leaving. Seoul’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon had breakfast with Kim and other North Korean officials earlier in the day, where they praised the Pyeongchang Olympics as a successful peace gesture, the ministry said.Reviving inter-Korean dialogue is critical for the policies of Moon, a liberal who insists Seoul should be in control of international efforts to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.ADVERTISEMENT Pussycat Dolls set for reunion tour after 10-year hiatus But experts say arranging an inter-Korean summit would be difficult after a year in which the North conducted its most powerful nuclear test and flight-tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could, when perfected, target the U.S. mainland.South Korea may also need to persuade the United States and Japan, which are concerned North Korea is using its outreach to Seoul to relieve pressure over its nuclear programs. Rockets zoom to 13th straight win, rally past Jazz Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university PLAY LIST 01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City In a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in shortly before the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday, Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, said the North has “ample intentions” for holding talks with the United States, Moon’s office said.U.S. President Donald Trump responded to North Korea’s overture by saying that talks with North Korea will happen only “under the right conditions.”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“We want to talk only under the right conditions,” Trump said at a White House meeting with the nation’s governors on Monday. The administration’s position is that North Korea must get rid of its nuclear and missile programs before any talks can take place. The United States applied new sanctions Friday in an extension of what it calls a “maximum pressure campaign” to force North Korea to disarm.The North sent the sister of ruler Kim Jong Un to the Feb. 9 opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics as a special envoy. Kim Yo Jong told Moon in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace the next day that her brother wishes to meet Moon in Pyongyang soon. MOST READ Read Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC View comments Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Google honors food scientist, banana ketchup inventor and war hero Maria Orosa John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding Kim Yong Chol, center, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, leaves to return to North Korea, at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. The North Korean envoy making a rare visit to South Korea said Sunday that his country was willing to open talks with the United States, a rare step toward diplomacy between enemies after a year of North Korean missile and nuclear tests and direct threats of war from both Pyongyang and Washington. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics left South Korea on Tuesday after a visit where the former general suspected of masterminding deadly 2010 military attacks told Seoul officials the North is willing to talk with Washington.The delegation’s return home completes North Korea’s diplomatic outreach to the South during the Pyeongchang Olympics that was seen as an attempt to break out from the isolation and pressure North Korea faces over its nuclear program.ADVERTISEMENTlast_img read more

Cheniere Presses Ahead with Third Train at Corpus Christi

first_imgzoomImage Courtesy: Cheniere/Youtube Screenshot Houston-based energy company Cheniere Energy is moving forward with its plans to add a third train at its Corpus Christi liquefaction project.Now that the company’s board of directors made a positive Final Investment Decision (FID) with respect to Train 3, Cheniere will give the green light to Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals to continue construction which began in late 2017 under limited notice to proceed.This represents the first FID on new liquefaction capacity in the United States since 2015, Cheniere said.“Moving forward with the construction of Train 3 at Corpus Christi reinforces our position as the leader in U.S. LNG,” said Jack Fusco, Cheniere’s President and Chief Executive Officer.“We continue to see significant tailwinds in the global LNG market and look forward to delivering additional growth and value to shareholders.”In order to finance the development of the three trains and associated infrastructure, Cheniere Corpus Christi Holdings, Cheniere’s wholly owned subsidiary, secured amendments to the company’s loans bringing the credit facilities to USD 6.1 billion.The company added that the remaining costs of the CCL Project would be funded from its amended equity contribution agreement with Corpus Christi Holdings, and from cash flows generated by Trains 1 and 2 of the CCL Project after they are placed into service.Each train is expected to have a nominal production capacity of approximately 4.5 mtpa of LNG.last_img read more

DR Poachers ordered to pay fines and go home

first_img Related Items:court, dominicans, fine, poachers Dominican Officials agree to stop sex trafficking, poachers Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Recommended for you Police get wanted man; Magistrate Court back open Laundry detergent thief goes to court, Alleged Ganja dealer arrested Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsAppProvidenciales, 29 Jul 2015 – The TCI Prosecutor hopes the Dominicans captured stealing marine product from our waters will find the money to pay their fines and go home. Public Prosecutor Clement Joseph said it is far more costly to TCIG to keep these men in remand for six months; a bill he estimates at $5,000 per day for the 28 men now convicted of poaching. Over the six months, this is a $900,000 cost to house the poachers in the TCI. Magistrate Clifton Warner heard a whale of a tale yesterday from the 28 poachers who say they thought they were in Puerto Plata in the DR. The men, who had been staying at the detention center since the raid last Thursday said their captain lied to them. That captain eluded capture last week; left the 28 men, 14 boats outfitted with 14 Yamaha engines, spear guns, air compressors, hoses and other equipment outlawed in the TCI to face officers on their own. One by one, in court the 28 repeated their sorry tale. Telling Warner they were “betrayed.” The men, in the end plead guilty to all eight charges and were fined $5,400 each; a total of $151,200 in fines. The Magistrate had given them until 4pm to pay those fines. Minister responsible, Porsha Smith called the arrest, “…a proud moment as …these civil servants have shown courage and bravery and deserve our recognition and gratitude.” Smith in the statement issued Tuesday added that, “It is important that all potential violators understand that we will not stand by, while our waters and natural environment be abused. Anyone that insists on malicious efforts similar in kind to these will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” At last check the Dominicans captured in this pilferage were actively trying to raise the money to pay the fine.last_img read more

Millipede trapped in amber for 99 million years gets its moment to

first_img 20 Photos A spider’s erection, and other cool things trapped in amber Tick’s ‘worst day ever’ frozen in amber for 100 million years Tailed spider found in amber will crawl into your nightmares Tags Comments Enlarge ImageThe newly described millipede (Burmanopetalum inexpectatum) stuck in amber. Leif Moritz A tiny millipede stuck in amber has had 99 million years to contemplate its sticky predicament. The itsy insect didn’t live to enjoy its 2019 coming-out party as a scientific curiosity, but the rest of us can marvel at the remarkable specimen.The millipede is trapped in Cretaceous-era amber found in Myanmar. Researchers determined the millipede is the first fossil found from the order Callipodida, but it was strange enough to require a new suborder. It’s now called “Burmanopetalum inexpectatum,” with the latter word meaning “unexpected” in Latin.millipede3dEnlarge ImageThe researchers created this 3D model of the millipede. Leif Moritz The team created a 3D model of the 0.3-inch (8.2-millimeter) millipede to more closely study its anatomy.”With the next-generation micro-computer tomography (micro-CT) and the associated image rendering and processing software, we are now able to reconstruct the whole animal and observe the tiniest morphological traits which are rarely preserved in fossils,” said zoologist Pavel Stoev of the National Museum of Natural History in Bulgaria.Stoev is the lead author of a paper on the millipede published this week in the journal ZooKeys. The Callipodida order of millipedes still exists today, with over 100 species crawling around the planet. This particular fossil was the only one of its order found among over 500 millipede specimens trapped in the same amber deposit.  Paleontologycenter_img Sci-Tech Fossil arthropod expert Greg Edgecombe from the Natural History Museum in London welcomed Burmanopetalum inexpectatum to the club of ancient amber-encased millipedes. “In the past few years, nearly all of the 16 living orders of millipedes have been identified in this 99-million-year-old amber,” Edgecombe said. Congratulations, little millipede, you’re a trailblazing representative for your order. Share your voice 2 Trapped in amberlast_img read more

Ban on Instant Noodles to Shrink Maggis Brand Value by ₹1300 Crore

first_imgBrand value of Maggi is expected to fall by over $200 million or nearly ₹1,300 crore, as a result of a ban on the popular instant noodles by Indian authorities.On 5 June, the food regulator mandated Maggi-maker Nestle India to recall all the available stock in the market following confirmation of harmful levels of lead in the ‘two-minute noodles’.Nestle India is estimated to recall 27,420 tonnes of Maggi noodles, including about 1,422 tonnes of noodles that are at its five factories in the country. Currently, the factories have halted the production of Maggi noodles.Before the ban, Maggi’s brand had a valuation of $2.4 billion and its manufacturer was the 23rd most valuable global food brand. A loss of $50 million in recalling Maggi noodles along with “damaged brand” is estimated to shrink the brand value to $2.2 billion, according to Brand Finance.”Nestlé will have to turn around swiftly to ensure that the Maggi brand can retain its dominance in the Indian market. If not, the Nestlé brand itself could be at risk as the Nestlé logo prominently features on the back of Maggi noodles packaging, making it synonymous with the Maggi brand,” Brand Finance CEO David Haigh told NDTV Profit.Nestle India on Monday estimated the loss in recalling Maggi noodles at ₹320 crore.Nestle India is reportedly using 10,000 trucks to carry over 27,000 tonnes of recalled Maggi noodles to the incineration centres. Destruction of such a huge amount of controversial noodles recalled from over 3.5 million retailers is expected to last for at least 40 days, Livemint reported.A drop in Maggi sales is expected to have a major impact on Nestle India’s performance, as the noodles account for 15 to 20% of the company’s overall revenues. Nestle occupies 60% of share in the instant noodle market in the country.”Sales of Maggi brand have increased by 21 per cent CAGR over the past 10 years (sales contribution rising by 1,100 basis points) but have remained weak over the past two years – a trend that is likely to persist near-term (impacted by rising competition and muted consumer environment),” Barclays told Business Today on 4 June.Shares of Nestle India traded at ₹5,850.00 on Wednesday, down over 17% from ₹7,064.85 on 27 May.last_img read more

Germany France voice cautious hope on Ukraine peace revival process

first_imgGerman foreign minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany on 6 June 2018. Germany and France voiced cautious optimism Monday that Russia and Ukraine will take steps to revive the long-stalled peace process in the smouldering Ukraine war that has claimed 10,000 lives. Photo: ReutersGermany and France voiced cautious optimism Monday that Russia and Ukraine will take steps to revive the long-stalled peace process in the smouldering Ukraine war that has claimed 10,000 lives.Despite high tensions between Western powers and president Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the four foreign ministers held their first meeting since early last year to revitalise a long ignored truce agreement.After “countless ceasefire violations” in recent months, said the Berlin talks’ host, Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas, “it was all the more necessary that we have met again here after 16 months.”Russia and Ukraine had again formally committed to the key tenets of the 2015 Minsk agreement, brokered by Germany and France, he said.”All sides once more voiced support for a lasting ceasefire, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the disengagement of troops and demining, and the protection and granting of access to the OSCE Observer Mission,” he said.Russia’s Sergei Lavrov said that “of course we have not been able to solve all the problems related to the implementation of the Minsk agreements to settle the internal Ukrainian crisis, but I believe that this meeting was very useful.”‘Positive dynamic’ Lavrov said both sides had discussed a ‘road map’ for a prisoner exchange of people being held by Kiev and Moscow, reported state news agency RIA Novosti.French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also saw “a positive dynamic for what I hope will be a peaceful solution”, adding that Paris and Berlin had offered to assist in demining operations.In the long run, he said, “we are ready to work on the parameters of a possible United Nations mission for eastern Ukraine when the implementation of the Minsk agreements will allow it”.Even if the guns were to fall silent, that issue is tricky.While Moscow favours blue-helmet troops only along the frontline, Kiev would want them to also police the Ukraine-Russian border to prevent soldiers and weapons from crossing.Despite the continued bloodshed, the Ukraine conflict has been half-forgotten by the West amid other crises and its own divisions, and as France, Germany and Russia have all been caught up in their own elections over the past year.The UN Security Council last week condemned “continuous violations of the ceasefire” and “the tragic humanitarian situation” on the frontline.In a rare phone call Saturday to prepare for the meeting, Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko discussed an “exchange of people being held” by both sides.But given the deepening distrust between the West and Russia, hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough were always low.The conflict began when a 2014 popular Ukrainian uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed president in Kiev and Russia moved to annex the Crimea peninsula, backing insurgents in the former Soviet state.Brussels responded to the territorial grab with stinging economic sanctions, with Moscow retaliating in kind. ‘Severe consequences’ Since then, east-west tensions have spiralled to a new post-Cold War low.The US and European powers have accused Moscow of using hackers and propaganda to sow discord, meddle in elections and back eurosceptics and right-wing populists, as well as ramping up military posturing to threaten eastern European states.Putin, who was re-elected to a fourth term in March, has denied all the charges and argued forcefully that hostile NATO powers are seeking to demonise and weaken Russia.Moscow also accused Kiev of spreading “bizarre” fake news after Ukraine’s secret service last month staged the murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, claiming it did so to foil a Russian plot on his life.Heightening tensions, Putin on Thursday warned that any military “provocations” during the World Cup football tournament which Russia is hosting, would have “very severe consequences for Ukraine as a state”.Russia’s main goal is the lifting of damaging economic sanctions, a push aided by the rise of sympathetic populist parties in the EU, most recently in Italy.France and Germany agree that any sanctions relief for Russia must be conditional on advances in the Ukraine peace process.last_img read more