Tag Archives: Kremlin

EU-Russia: more individual sanctions

Brussels 03.06.2021 Russia’s aggression against Ukraine: the EU targets additional 65 individuals and 18 entities (Image: illustration)
The Council decided today to impose restrictive measures on an additional 65 individuals and 18 entities in response to Russia’s ongoing unjustified and unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine and other actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. This decision is an integral element of the comprehensive sixth package of sanctions adopted by the Council earlier today.

“There can be no impunity for war crimes. We are adding today to our sanctions lists those who are responsible for enabling this unjustified war and the war crimes committed in Bucha and Mariupol, adding more people from the military and economic elites and those with close ties with President Putin supporting his illegitimate aggression against the Ukrainian people” Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said.

“The 65 listed individuals include the military staff that led the actions of those units of the Russian army that killed, raped, and tortured civilians in Ukraine in Bucha, including Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov, who was nicknamed the ’Butcher of Bucha’.. The list also includes those responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol, including Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, nicknamed the ‘Butcher of Mariupol’, and those who participated in the creation of the so-called Committee of Salvation for Peace and Order in March 2022 – an organ for collaboration with the Russian occupation in Kherson Oblast. Lastly, the EU is imposing sanctions on politicians, propagandists, leading businesspersons and family members of already sanctioned individuals. The former gymnast and State Duma member Alina Kabaeva is also included in the list as a close associate of President Vladimir Putin” the EU top diplomat added.

The 18 sanctioned entities include a variety of companies supporting, directly or indirectly, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Russian Federation, including Russia’s largest securities depository, the National Settlement Depository.

Altogether, EU restrictive measures now apply to a total of 1,158 individuals and 98 entities. Those designated are subject to an asset freeze, and EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to them. Natural persons are additionally subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through EU territories.

The EU resolutely condemns Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. It urges Russia to immediately stop its indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. The atrocities being committed by Russian forces and the suffering and destruction being inflicted are unspeakable. The EU calls on Russia to allow immediate humanitarian access and the safe passage of all civilians concerned. It also calls on Russia to immediately allow the safe return of Ukrainian individuals forcibly removed to Russia.

The European Union is unwavering in its commitment to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defence against the Russian aggression and build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the listed individuals and entities, have been published in the Official Journal of the EU.

NATO-Russia: Biden announces new sanctions

Brussels 24.03.2022 President Biden has given a press-conference after NATO and G7 Summits in Brussels touting unity in the Western response to Russia as allies worked behind the scenes to formulate their plans for the next phase of the conflict in Ukraine.

Biden said he supported ejecting Russia from G20, which is scheduled to convene in November, though other members of that grouping would have to sign on, admitting that at the moment there are some state opposing this perspective.

Biden maintained his view that direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine would result in catastrophe and defended a sanctions regime which, according to him should bring results, if used on a wholesome and permanent basis as long as needed.
“Putin was banking on NATO being split,” Biden said in a news conference at NATO headquarters late afternoon.
“NATO has never, never been more united than it is today. Putin is getting exactly the opposite of what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine.”

During the critical day of meetings, Biden announced new measures directed at members of Russia’s Parliament – Duma – and unveiled a plan to accept as many as 100,000 refugees fleeing the violence in Ukraine, steps intended to show American resolve in confronting the crisis.

A discussion of NATO’s force posture along its eastern border was also part of the last-minute diplomatic effort. And leaders conferred on what to do if Russia deploys a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon,the answer should be united, and decided on a consensus basis.

“The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use,” Biden said, answering a question.

As the Summit got underway Thursday morning, leaders heard a call for more help from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed the gathering online. He stopped short of issuing his usual request for a no-fly zone, however he insisted Ukraine needs fighter jets, tanks and air-defence systems.

Ukraine crisis: Macron diplomatic efforts

Brussels 07.02.2022 Macron attempts to mediate over Ukraine visiting Moscow today.
The U.S. standoff with Russia over Ukraine is at a critical point. At present Washington has engaged NATO to and moved forces east, while Moscow has been sending additional military on the Ukraine border. However beneath those tensions, diplomatic avenues are being intensely explored and the outlines of potential solutions.

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, is meeting with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, today in Moscow. At the same time, President Biden will be meeting with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, in Washington. In line with the position of France as chair of the EU rotating presidency, Macron has placed himself at the center of the diplomacy in Europe, giving him an opportunity to perform more than usual leadership role.

For Macron, the risks are as great as the potential payoff, because he is facing falling popularity among his electorate.

Although the solutions to the crisis seem fiendishly elusive for now, in spite of the fact that Russian diplomacy denies the intentions of military conflict, and the situation has appeared less directly threatening toward Ukraine over the past week.

With its huge concentration of troops at the Ukrainian border, Russia is still representing a potential of armed conflict, and Kremlin grievances against NATO expansion continue to play a major role in Ukraine border crisis.

Sakharov Prize 2021 goes to Alexei Navalny

Strasbourt 15.12.2021 Аnna van Densky: Alexei Navalny’s daughter, Daria Navalnaya (picture), received European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize on behalf of her imprisoned father at a ceremony on 15 December.

Currently serving a prison sentence in a forced labour colony in Russia, Alexei Navalny has been the country’s leading opposition figure for more than a decade, known for his fight against corruption and the Kremlin’s abuses of human rights.

In his introductory words Parliament President David Sassoli praised Navalny’s courage: “He has been threatened, tortured, poisoned, arrested, incarcerated, but they have not been able to actually make him stop speaking… As he himself said once, corruption prospers where there is no respect for human rights, and I believe he is right. The fight against corruption is also a fight for the respect of universal human rights. It is certainly a fight for human dignity, for good governance and for the rule of law”, said Sassoli, calling on his immediate and unconditional release.

Accepting the prize in Navalny’s name, Daria Navalnaya criticised those eager to appease dictators in the interest of pragmatism, insisting that Europe must remain true to its ideals: “When I wrote to my dad and asked: ‘What exactly do you want me to say in the speech from your point of view?’ he answered: Say that no one can dare to equate Russia to Putin’s regime. Russia is a part of Europe, and we strive to become a part of it. But we also want Europe to strive for itself, to those amazing ideas, which are at its core. We strive for a Europe of ideas, the celebration of human rights, democracy and integrity.”

Also present at the ceremony in Strasbourg were Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s political adviser, and Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s press officer.
Afghan women fighting for women’s rights in their country, and Bolivian politician Jeanine Áñez were the other finalists for the Parliament’ Sakharov Prize in 2021.

Who is Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny is this year’s Sakharov Prize laureate, following a decision by European Parliament President David Sassoli and the political groups’ leaders on 20 October 2021. He came into international prominence for organising demonstrations against President Putin and his government, running for office and advocating anti-corruption reforms.

In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned and spent months recovering in Berlin. He was arrested on his return to Moscow in January 2021 and is now in a high-security penal colony, with more than two years of time still to serve. Navalny went on a long hunger strike in late March 2021 to protest against his lack of access to medical care.

In June 2021, a Russian court labelled Alexei Navalny’s organisation, Anti-Corruption Foundation, and his regional offices “extremist groups”.

In a resolution adopted in January 2021, MEPs demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny and all other persons detained while protesting for his release, and called on EU countries to significantly strengthen sanctions against Russia; a call they reiterated in April 2021.

The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named after the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and consists of a certificate and a €50,000 award.

Borrell: EU “steadfast by Ukraine”

Strasbourg 15.12.2021 “We changed the geographical situation. We changed the latitude and the longitude of the coordinates, but the problem is also very worrying. Now we talk about the situation in the Ukrainian border and in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while addressing the Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 14.(Image above: illustration).

“I have been talking a lot about it during this weekend in Liverpool, together with my fellow colleagues of the G7, the biggest democracies in the world. I have been talking a lot with Secretary of State [of the United States, Antony] Blinken and we will talk a lot about it in the next European Union Council. We talked yesterday also about it with my fellow Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

“I think I have all the information I may have in order to come here to discuss with you about the Russian military build-up around Ukraine.

“First, facts.

“Since November, Russia has been massing troops and weapons in an unusual manner around Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine is our direct neighbour and border. It is also a close and strategic partner. So it is normal that we are worried about this movements of Russian troops.

“I had the opportunity also to talk about this with the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergei Lavrov, during the OSCE Meeting in Stockholm and with the Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine [Dmytro Kuleba]. In the OSCE meeting in Stockholm, we witnessed a lively exchange of views between Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Blinken about this issue.

“We at the European Union maintain regular contacts with President [of Ukraine, Vladimir] Zelensky, Prime Minister [Denys] Shmyhal, and Foreign Minister Kuleba. We express at all levels our political support to Ukraine. We publicly recall our unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

“According to the Russian sources, nothing happened. They are only moving their troops inside their territory; they are not violating any international law, nor any constitutional internal rule. Certainly, they are moving troops inside their borders but, with the precedent, with what has happened between Ukraine and Russia, it is quite justified that the Ukrainians are worried and that we have to express our political support.

“But today we are on prevention mode. Today we are trying to avoid further escalation. And to work on all avenues that we can, in order to deter further Russian effort. Today we are in a deterring-mode, prevention-mode, dissuasion-mode. In order to avoid the crisis to escalate, and to reach a level of a military conflict. We are doing what we can for that.

“Yesterday at the Foreign Affairs Council, our members reiterated our support to Ukraine. And also, we have recently adopted a set of assistance measures under the European Peace Facility, a new financial tool which is under my political implementation authority, in supporting Ukrainian armed forces in areas including the provision of military, medical, engineering equipment, mobility, logistics and cyber-defence support. Not providing lethal arms, but on all the fields that an army requires in order to be operational. This is a tangible way of showing our support to strengthening Ukrainian resilience and also, our support to the Ukrainian reform agenda since 2014. Because the reforms inside Ukraine are an important component of Ukrainians overall resilience to external challenges. The better the Ukrainian democracy works, the higher quality they have on fighting internal problems, the stronger they will be in facing external challenges.

“We have today to talk about an attempt to undermine further Ukrainian territorial integrity, which was jeopardised when Russia took over Crimea. And this would come, if it happens again, in severe political consequences and with a high political and economic cost for Russia, if this was the case.

“We have to act in unity, we are coordinating closely with our transatlantic and like-minded partners. We did that on Sunday. Our G7 statement was clear in this position: we called on Russia to de-escalate, to pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments of transparency of military activities as President [of the United Sates, Joe] Biden also did in his call with President [of Russia, Vladimir] Putin on 7 December.

“In the meantime, we are in deterring, dissuasion, prevention-mode, we continue to do a full diplomatic outreach. We reconfirm our support to France and Germany in the Normandy Format to achieve full implementation of the Minsk Agreements in order to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We are studying the different scenarios that one could imagine could happen in the following days or weeks. We recall [that] Russia’s responsibility in implementing the Minsk Agreements remains a key issue”.

NATO expels Russian diplomats

Brussels 07.10.2021 “There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO’s decision to expel Russian diplomats and accusations of hostile activity totally upset the chances for normalization of relations and a resumption of the dialogue, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Thursday, 7 October.

“There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO has decided to expel eight Russian diplomats and halve the size of Russia’s mission to the alliance in response to suspected “malign activities”, Sky News said on Wednesday, October 6.

The eight diplomats are expected to leave Brussels, where the alliance is headquartered, by the end of the month and their positions scrapped. Two other positions that are currently vacant will also be abolished, Sky News said.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO,” a NATO official said later.

MEPs strategy towards Russia

Strasbourg 16.09.2021 Parliament says the EU must push back against aggressive policies while laying the groundwork for cooperation with a future democratic Russia.

Assessing the state of EU-Russia relations, the European Parliament makes clear that it distinguishes between the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The latter is, Parliament says, a “stagnating authoritarian kleptocracy led by a president-for-life surrounded by a circle of oligarchs”.

MEPs stress, however, that a democratic future for Russia is possible and that the Council must adopt an EU strategy for this scenario, encompassing incentives and conditions to strengthen domestic democratic tendencies.

The text was approved by 494 votes in favour, 103 against with 72 abstentions.

“Russia can be a democracy and defending ‘Democracy First’ in EU relations with Russia is our first task. The EU and its institutions have to work on the assumption that change is possible in Russia. It also needs more courage in taking a strong stance vis-a-vis the Kremlin regime when it comes to defending human rights; this is what strategic engagement with the Russian people is all about. It is about ending domestic repression, returning the choice to the people, and freeing all political prisoners”, said rapporteur Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania) after the vote.

“In addition, if this week’s parliamentary elections in Russia are recognised as fraudulent, the EU should not recognise the Russian Duma and should ask for the country to be suspended from international parliamentary assemblies, including the one of the Council of Europe. The Kremlin’s continuous repression of all opposition candidates, free media and NGOs undermines the legitimacy and fairness of these elections. The Russian people must have the right to choose and their choices must be honoured, as in any other democratic country”, he added.

Parliament proposes the EU establishing an alliance with the U.S. and other like-minded partners to counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilise the European political order. It should foresee sanctions, policies to counter illicit financial flows, and support for human rights activists.

Support to Russia’s’ neighbouring countries

On Russia’s aggression and influence over the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, the EU must continue to support so-called “Eastern Partnership” countries such as Ukraine or Georgia, and to promote European reforms and fundamental freedoms in the region. These efforts should also serve to encourage Russian support for democratic reforms.

Reduce the EU’s energy dependency on Russia, fighting “dirty money” at home

The text further states that the EU needs to cut its dependency on Russian gas, oil and other raw materials, at least while President Putin is in power. The European Green Deal and the boosting of new resources will play a crucial geopolitical role in achieving this.

MEPs want the EU to build its capacity to expose and stop the flows of dirty money from Russia, as well as to expose the resources and financial assets that regime-linked autocrats and oligarchs have hidden in EU member states.

Worries ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections in Russia

Members conclude by demanding the EU be prepared to withhold recognition of the Russian parliament if the 2021 parliamentary elections in September are conducted in violation of democratic principles and international law.

EU-Russia relations in focus

Brussels 17.06.2021 “Today we are presenting a Joint Communication from the High Representative and the [European] Commission that responds to an invitation of the European Council of the last 24th of May. This Communication sets out the state of European Union-Russia relations in all their complexity and proposes the way forward – that is an important thing” said in remarks by the High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference presenting the Joint Communication on EU-Russia relations.

Russia remains the European Union’s largest neighbour and it is an important global actor.

However, the deliberate policy choices of the Russian government – I am talking about the Russian government – over the last years have created a negative spiral in our relations.

To meet the strategic challenge posed by the Russian leadership, implementation of the five guiding principles has given us, the European Union, a purpose and an approach that defends our interests and values.

Time and again, the European Union has demonstrated unity, despite attempts by Russia to divide us. This unity remains our biggest asset and needs to be even more robust.

Under the present circumstances, we believe that a renewed partnership allowing us to realise the full potential of a close cooperation with Russia is a distant prospect.

The European Union therefore needs to be realistic and prepare for a further downturn of our relations with Russia – which are, right now, at the lowest level . This further downturn is the most likely outlook for the time being.

On the other hand, our ambition should be to explore paths that can help to change the current dynamics gradually, into a more predictable and stable relationship.

Today’s Joint Communication proposes to simultaneously push back, constrain and engage Russia. In that order: to push back, to constrain and to engage Russia, based on a common understanding of Russia’s aims and an approach that we can refer to as being a principled pragmatism.

Let us go a little bit more into the details of these three verbs

“First, we must push back against human rights violations, breaches of international law in our Member States and in our neighbourhood, and continue to speak up for democratic values.

“These are matters of direct concern to all members of United Nations, to all members of the OSCE and to all members of the Council of Europe, and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of any country.

As a fundamental part of this, we will continue supporting Ukraine and its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. This includes continuing to call on Russia to assume its responsibility as a party to the conflict and to implement the Minsk agreements.

Second, to constrain Russia’s attempts to undermine European Union’s interests. The European Union must become more robust and resilient.

For doing so, we must develop our cyber security and defence capacity, as well as our strategic communication capabilities, by stepping up work on foreign information manipulation and disinformation.

We should continue to strengthen our capabilities against hybrid threats.

We must also use the advantage provided by our energy transition and support the energy security of our neighbours. Our energy transition will affect Russia crucially from the point of view of an energy mix – and, as you know, Russia is a great provider of hydrocarbons in this energy mix.

We also need, finally, to step up support to our Eastern partners and increase their resilience through the implementation of the pending reforms.

Third, but not last, it is important to engage with Russia. It is important to engage with Russia on several key challenges to further defend our interests:

First, you know very well that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for global engagement on public health. The virus knows no borders and the border that the European Union and Russia share is about 2,000 kilometres long.

Second, we should engage in a close dialogue with Russia to combat climate change in the run-up to the COP-26 in Glasgow(link is external) and beyond.

Third, we should also continue to address the more technical engagement with the Russian government on the vast number of economic irritants in our relations.

Fourth, we should strengthen people-to-people contacts, which could include more visa facilitation, especially for young people, academics and work exchanges.

The following item is to continuing supporting – and to be more flexible and creative in doing so – Russian civil society and human rights defenders.

Finally, on the foreign policy front, we should continue to cooperate on regional issues – there are many of them, Middle East, Afghanistan, the JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal] or Libya – and on global issues: counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.

These are the proposals that together with the Commission we have been drafting to take forward our relations with Russia.

We will continue working closely together with our partners in the G7, NATO and other like-minded partners.

We want and we need to drive the relationship in a way that our interests and principles will be better defended and promoted.

This Communication will form the basis for the discussion at next week’s European Council, which is, according to the Treaty, the body that has to provide guidance on foreign policy.

I look forward to the Leaders – the members of the European Council – to provide this guidance in order to steer this, as you see, complex relationship”.

EU Condemns Russian actions

Brussels 25.05.2021 The European Council held a strategic debate on Russia.
– It condemns the illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its Member States and beyond. It reaffirms the EU’s unity and solidarity in the face of such acts as well as its support to Eastern partners. (Image above: Crimea bridge, Azov sea).

– The European Council expresses its solidarity with the Czech Republic and supports its response.
– The European Council reaffirms its commitment to the five principles governing EU policy vis-à-vis Russia. – It invites the High Representative and the Commission to present a report with policy options on EU-Russia relations, in line with these principles, with a view to its meeting in June 2021.
– The EU will continue coordination with like-minded partners.

Since March 2014, the EU has progressively imposed restrictive measures against Russia. The measures were adopted in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine:

The EU imposes different types of restrictive measures:

Diplomatic measures
individual restrictive measures (asset freeze and travel restrictions)
restrictions on economic relations with Crimea and Sevastopol
economic sanctions
restrictions on economic cooperation

Diplomatic measures
In 2014, the EU-Russia summit was cancelled and EU member states decided not to hold regular bilateral summits. Bilateral talks with Russia on visa matters as well as on the new agreement between the EU and Russia were suspended.

Instead of the G8 summit in Sochi, a G7 meeting was held in Brussels on 4-5 June 2014. Since then, meetings have continued within the G7 process.

EU countries also supported the suspension of negotiations over Russia’s joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Individual restrictive measures
Asset freeze and travel restrictions
177 people and 48 entities are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban because their actions undermined Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

The measures were introduced in March 2014. They were last extended until 15 September 20

Russia: Latvia Meduza news ‘Foreign Agent’

Brussels 26.04.2021 Russia has announced the independent news website Meduza a “foreign agent,” the Justice Ministry confirmed on 23 April amid what critics call the Kremlin’s continuing crackdown on freedom of speech.
A statement on the ministry’s website said the decision, which also includes the Moscow-based Pasmi (“First Anti-Corruption Media”) news site, was made “in compliance with the requirements of Russian law.”
Meduza editorial said it does not accept the decision and would challenge it in court. (Image above: Riga, Latvia).

Meduza began publishing out of Latvia in 2014 after its then-chief-editor Galina Timchenko left Russia, and reportedly the media received about $250,000 from the former head of Yukos, Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This is stated in the report of the Latvian edition.

With a staff of 23 people based in Riga and Russia, Meduza publishes on a website and a mobile phone app, and is already racking up 2.5 million unique visitors a month.

Russia’s 2012 foreign agent law initially targeted media outlets and civil society groups, subsidised from abroad, especially within the jurisdiction of NATO allies. It has in recent years been expanded to include individual journalists and any foreign-funded persons or entities.
Individuals and groups labeled as foreign agents are required to report their activities and face heavy financial audits. Other media outlets are also required to clearly label the designated entities as “foreign agents.”

Russian lawmakers are also considering legislation banning foreign agents from running for federal office.
Statement of the EU by the Spokesperson on labelling Meduza as “foreign agent”:

“We reject the decision by the Russian authorities to include independent media outlet Meduza on the list of “foreign agents”.

It is the European Union’s longstanding position that the so-called ‘foreign agent’ law contributes to a systematic infringement of basic freedoms, and restricts civil society, independent media and the rights of political opposition in Russia. Democracy is a universal value that includes respect for human rights as enshrined in international law.

It is extremely concerning that Russian authorities continue to restrict the work of independent media platforms, as well as individual journalists and other media actors. It goes against Russia’s international obligations and human rights commitments.

It is the duty of media to report on issues of public interest, and it is the obligation of the state authorities to ensure they can do so in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.”

Russian authorities consider Meduza to be a news media, produced within jurisdiction of another state, thus “foreign agent”.

« Older Entries