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Putin says West trying to ‘hold back’ powerful Russia

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By AFP
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President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the West was trying to hold back an increasingly powerful Russia, during an end-of-year press conference that took aim at sanctions and “made-up” spy scandals.

Domestic concerns also loomed large at the annual event, after President Putin’s approval ratings took a beating in recent months over unpopular pension reforms.

Asked about Western sanctions against Moscow, Mr Putin said these were “connected with the growth of Russia’s power.”

“A powerful player appears who needs to be reckoned with. Until recently it was thought there was no longer such a country,” he said from behind a large wooden desk to an audience of hundreds of journalists.

The president dismissed spy scandals — such as the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England — as invented to damage Russia’s standing.

“If there hadn’t been the Skripals, they would have made up something else. There is only one aim: to hold back Russia’s development,” he said, later lamenting that relations with Britain were at a “dead end”.

President Putin began the press conference, as usual, by reeling off economic growth figures.

“The main thing is that we need to get into a new economic league. We could very well take the fifth place in terms of size of economy. And I think we’ll do that,” he said.

Russia’s economy is currently ranked 12th in the world by the International Monetary Fund, which lists the United States first, followed by China, Japan, Germany and Britain.

Mr Putin said the economy grew 1.7 percent over the first 10 months of the year, roughly in line with predictions, while unemployment was down. Full-year growth is estimated at 1.8 percent.

But he appeared to damn his prime minister, former president Dmitry Medvedev, with faint praise, saying that he was “generally” happy with the work of his government.

Mr Putin was re-elected to a fourth term in March with nearly 77 percent of the vote, but recent polls have seen his support drop below 50 percent.

His previous term in the Kremlin was defined by a decline in living standards for many Russians, despite what were perceived as foreign policy wins.

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An increase to the retirement age this year provoked anger and rare street protests but Mr Putin said the hike was “unavoidable” when questioned on the subject.

Against a backdrop of strained ties with the US, Putin praised President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria though condemned his withdrawal from a Cold War arms agreement.

There was a growing tendency to underestimate the threat of nuclear war, the Russian leader said.

But Mr Putin insisted Mr Trump was legitimately elected president and that any attempt to cast doubt on this — or the result of the Brexit referendum — showed “disrespect” to voters.

In the wide-ranging session, Mr Putin dismissed a recent crackdown on Russian rappers as pointless and condemned the creation of an independent Ukrainian church.

And he repeated Kremlin claims that Ukrainian actions in the Kerch Strait off Crimea were a “provocation”, following a naval confrontation and Russia’s arrest of several Ukrainian sailors.

The Kremlin demands questions be sent in advance, but reporters every year go to great lengths to encourage the president to call on them.

On Thursday, one journalist was dressed as a Russian fairytale character, the snow maiden, while another came holding a tambourine.

Organisers, however, put a size limit on the placards media representatives traditionally hold up to attract Putin’s attention.

The president began the tradition of such end-of-year press events in 2001, but with time they have evolved into marathon events. Since 2004, all December press conferences have surpassed three hours.

His record was in 2008, when questions and answers went on for four hours and 40 minutes.

The appearance was shown live on several TV stations, with some channels trailing the event with a day-long countdown clock.

As Russia has become increasingly centralised under Mr Putin, questions at the conference have begun to resemble lobbying attempts to resolve specific problems.

This year he promised to help open a new football pitch for children in Saint Petersburg, and coyly answered questions on his health and love life.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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