Tag Archives: Putin

MEPs discuss aid to Ukraine

Strasbourg 05.04.2022 In a debate with French Minister Delegate Klinkert and President von der Leyen, MEPs said internal EU unity and solidarity is crucial now and for the future reconstruction of Ukraine.

On May 5, Wednesday, MEPs discussed the social and economic consequences for the EU of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They applauded the sixth packet of sanctions against Russia and the Ukraine recovery package, both outlined by Commission President von der Leyen. MEPs underlined the need to also support EU citizens and businesses affected by the war, calling for unity among member states. They also demanded support for countries facing the brunt of the effects of the war, whether as a consequence of their dependence on Russian gas and oil, or because of their hosting of a large number of Ukrainian refugees.

French Delegate Minister for Integration Brigitte Klinkert and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the debate.

Most MEPs have underlined the need to defeat Putin but also suggested that the best way to do this was to minimise the costs faced by the EU itself.

This would allow unity to be kept among member states, cushion the effects on households and businesses, and allow the EU to better help Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. MEPs underlined the plight of those in the EU having to choose between buying food or heating their houses and also asked the Commission to consider on a case-by-case basis whether to go ahead with new legislation that could add additional burdens on already-struggling businesses.

Wagner group founder under sanctions

Brussels 21.04.2022 Brussels 21.04.2022 EU sanctions two additional business people in relation to the illegal annexation of Crimea. The Council adopted today restrictive measures, within the existing sanctions framework, on two more individuals for their role in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and for benefitting from Russian decision-makers responsible for the illegal annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.

The persons designated today are the following businessmen:

Serhiy Vitaliyovich Kurchenko, a Ukrainian national, who among other actions, took control of several large metallurgical, chemical and energy plants in the separatist-held areas with support from pro-Russia separatists. Moreover, Serhiy Kurchenko strengthened the independent power supplies of the Crimean peninsula. He also owns the largest oil depot on the Crimean Peninsula.

Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin is a prominent Russian businessman with close ties to President Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defence. He is the founder and unofficial head of the Wagner Group, a Russia-based unincorporated military entity, responsible for the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine. Some of his companies have been benefitting from large public contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defence following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and occupation of eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists.

The European Union does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, and continues to condemn the Russian violation of international law. Moreover, the EU remains unwavering in its support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

EU restrictive measures regarding the undermining of territorial integrity of Ukraine now apply to a total of 1093 persons and 80 entities. Those designated persons and entities are subject to an asset freeze – including a prohibition on making funds available to them – and, additionally, those persons are subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through the EU.

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians. Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law. The siege of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, and the denial of humanitarian access by Russian military forces are unacceptable. Russian forces must immediately provide for safe pathways to other parts of Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid to be delivered to Mariupol and other besieged cities.

The European Council demands that Russia immediately stop its military aggression in the territory of Ukraine, immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.

The relevant legal acts, including more details of the persons concerned, will be published in the Official Journal.

MEPs unequivocally support Ukraine

Strasbourg 06.05.2022 Debating last week’s EU Summit with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen and EU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell, MEPs united in showing solidarity and giving more help to Ukraine.

On Wednesday morning, MEPs discussed the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 24-25 March 2022, including the latest developments in the war against Ukraine. They called for further sanctions against Russia, additional support for Ukraine and for reducing the EU’s energy dependency.

European Council President Charles Michel sent a direct message to the Russian soldiers involved in war crimes, saying, “If you don’t want to be a criminal, stop fighting. Leave the battlefield”. He also mentioned the need for more sanctions: “Measures on oil and even gas will also be needed sooner or later.” On China, President Michel said, “we need to raise the awareness amongst the Chinese authorities not to support the war and not to help Russia avoid sanctions.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “humanity itself was killed in Bucha”, that the perpetrators must pay, and that they will be held accountable. With regard to the new package of sanctions against Russia, she said that the pressure on Putin must be further increased, to limit the Kremlin’s political and economic options. “Those sanctions will not be our last sanctions”, President von der Leyen said, stressing that “we must look into oil” and that Russia’s fossil fuel revenue stream must end.

However there were also recalcitrant remarks made by vice-President of the European Parliament Giuseppina “Pina” Picierno (Italy, S&D) rejecting the other Italian MEP the freedom of thought:
“Today the Vice-President of the #European Parliament denied my right of expression in the Chamber, attacking me for asking for an independent investigation in Ukraine in light of the UN’s denunciation of violence against civilians by the Ukrainian army. Listen to yourself” wrote an independent MEP Fransesca Dontato.

“We have to have fewer rounds of applause but more arms for Ukraine” so they can defend themselves against Russia, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said, urging Europe to step up. Connecting energy policy with defence, he said Europe has so far spent roughly one billion euros on supporting Ukraine, the same amount the EU pays to Russia every day for its energy. “We have to reduce our energy dependence: for once, climate change and geopolitics go hand in hand,” he said.

MEPs expressed shock at the images of the massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, with several calling Vladimir Putin a war criminal and demanding he be tried at an international criminal court. In parallel, many MEPs argued for more support for Ukraine, including both money and weapons.

MEPs welcomed the fifth EU sanctions package presented on 5 April, but all speakers demanded the EU go further, with several proposing an immediate oil embargo. MEPs called for a complete ban on the use by Russian banks of the SWIFT system and bringing a wider group of oligarchs under the EU’s sanctions regime.

Several speakers warned that the surge in energy prices is affecting each member state differently and some of them dramatically so. They called for assistance for member states to ease their burden.

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.

EU sanctions against Putin and Lavrov

Brussels 27.02.2022 Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine: EU imposes sanctions against President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and adopts wide ranging individual and economic sanctions
The EU today decided to sanction Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation and Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

The Council also agreed on a further package of individual and economic measures covering also Belarus to respond to the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression carried out by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
President Putin and his government started a war against an independent, sovereign neighbouring country. The behaviour of the Russian leadership constitutes a major threat to international peace and security. Today, we are replying with the strongest possible restrictive measures. The European Union is united in its resolve, together with international partners and allies, to defend the peace order, international law and the rules based system.

Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Swiftly implementing the European Council conclusions of 24 February, the package of sanctions adopted today includes:

Individual sanctions
In addition to freezing the assets the Russian President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the EU will impose restrictive measures on the members of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation who supported Russia’s immediate recognition of the two non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities. Sanctions will also be extended to the remaining members of the Russian State Duma, who ratified the government decision of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the two entities.

Furthermore, the EU will also target those individuals, who facilitated the Russian military aggression from Belarus.

Economic sanctions
Financial sanctions
The package adopted today further expands the existing financial restrictions, thereby cutting Russian access to the most important capital markets. It also prohibits the listing and provision of services in relation to shares of Russian state-owned entities on EU trading venues. In addition, it introduces new measures which significantly limit the financial inflows from Russia to the EU, by prohibiting the acceptance of deposits exceeding certain values from Russian nationals or residents, the holding of accounts of Russian clients by the EU Central Securities Depositories, as well as the selling of euro-denominated securities to Russian clients.

These sanctions will target 70% of the Russian banking market, and key state-owned companies, including in the field of defence. They will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base. Additionally measures are taken to prevent the Russian elite’s fortunes from being hidden in safe havens in Europe.

Energy sector
The EU will prohibit the sale, supply, transfer or export to Russia of specific goods and technologies in oil refining, and will introduce restrictions on the provision of related services.

By introducing such export ban, the EU intends to hit the Russian oil sector, and make it impossible for Russia to upgrade its oil refineries.

Russia’s export revenues accounted for EUR 24 billion in 2019.

Transport sector
The EU introduced an export ban covering goods and technology in the aviation and space industry, as well as a prohibition on the provision of insurance and reinsurance and maintenance services related to those goods and technology. The EU will also prohibit the provision of related technical and financial assistance.

This ban on the sale of all aircrafts, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines will degrade one of the key sectors of Russia’s economy and the country’s connectivity, as three quarters of Russia’s current commercial air fleet were built in the EU, the US and Canada.

Technology sector
The EU imposed further restrictions on exports of dual-use goods and technology, as well as restrictions on exports of certain goods and technology which might contribute to Russia’s technological enhancement of its defence and security sector.

This will include products such as semiconductors or cutting-edge technologies.

Visa policy
Diplomats, other Russian officials, and business people will no longer be able to benefit from visa facilitation provisions, which allow privileged access to the EU. This decision will not affect ordinary Russian citizens. The decision will enter into force on the day of the adoption.

The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, as well as the involvement of Belarus in this aggression.

The European Union demands that Russia immediately ceases its military actions, unconditionally withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders. The European Council calls on Russia and Russia-backed armed formations to respect international humanitarian law and stop their disinformation campaign and cyber-attacks.

The use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century. Tensions and conflict should be resolved exclusively through dialogue and diplomacy. The EU will continue cooperating closely with neighbours and reiterates its unwavering support for, and commitment to, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and of the Republic of Moldova. It will continue strong coordination with partners and allies, within the UN, OSCE, NATO and the G7.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons concerned by restrictive measures, will be published in the Official Journal.

Background
Individual restrictive measures will apply to a total of 654 individuals and 52 entities, and include an asset freeze and a prohibition from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities. In addition, a travel ban applicable to the listed persons prevents these from entering or transiting through EU territory.

EU-Russia: swift response

Brussels 23.02.2022 EU adopts package of restrictive measures in response to Russian recognition of self-proclaimed Republics, which were areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. The Council today adopted on a package of measures to respond to the decision by the Russian Federation to proceed with the recognition of the “non-government controlled areas” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent entities, and the subsequent decision to send Russian troops into these areas in accordance with the treaties signed with the representatives of these entities. (Image above: Charles Michel, archive).

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Such decisions are illegal and unacceptable. They violate international law, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Russia’s own international commitments and further escalate the crisis.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The package agreed today includes:

Targeted restrictive measures:

“Within the existing framework for the restrictive measures, the EU will extend actions to cover all the 351 members of the Russian State Duma (Lower Chamber of Parliament), who voted on 15 February in favour of the appeal to President Putin to recognise the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk ”Republics”.

“Moreover targeted restrictive measures will be imposed on additional 27 high profile individuals and entities, who have played a role in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. These include decision makers such as members of the government, who were involved in the illegal decisions; banks and business persons/oligarchs supporting financially or materially Russian operations in the Donetsk and Luhansk’s territories, or benefitting from them; senior military officers, who played a role in the invasion and destabilisation actions; and individuals responsible for leading a disinformation war against Ukraine.

“Restrictive measures include an asset freeze and a prohibition from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities. In addition, a travel ban applicable to the listed persons prevents these from entering or transiting through EU territory.

– Restrictions on economic relations with the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts

“New measures will target trade from the two non-government controlled regions to and from the EU, to ensure that those responsible clearly feel the economic consequences of their illegal and aggressive actions.

“Today’s decision will introduce in particular an import ban on goods from the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, restrictions on trade and investments related to certain economic sectors, a prohibition to supply tourism services, and an export ban for certain goods and technologies.

– Financial restrictions

“The Council decided to introduce a sectoral prohibition to finance the Russian Federation, its government and Central Bank. By restraining the ability of the Russian state and government to access the EU’s capital and financial markets and services, the EU aims to limit the financing of escalatory and aggressive policies.

“The EU urges Russia to reverse the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, uphold its commitments, abide by international law and return to the discussions within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. The EU also calls on other states not to follow Russia’s illegal decision to recognise this proclaimed independence.

“The EU stands ready to swiftly adopt more wide-ranging political and economic sanctions in case of need, and reiterates its unwavering support and commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

“The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons concerned, will be published soon in the Official Journal.

Restrictive measures on violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity will with today’s additional listings apply to a total of 555 individuals and 52 entities.

Russia recognises Donetsk and Lugansk independence

Brussels 21.02.2022 Before the signature Russian President Putin informed President of France Emmanuel Macron
and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz of his intention to endorse the decree to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik, asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognise the republics’ independence without delay.

“On behalf of all of the people of the DPR, we are asking you to recognise the Donetsk People’s Republic as an independent, democratic and social state based on the rule of law,” Pushilin announced the request.

Futher, the LPR’s leader, Leonid Pasechnik, said: “With the goal of preventing mass deaths among the Republic’s civilian population, some 300,000 of whom are Russian citizens, I’m asking you to recognise the sovereignty and independence of the Lugansk People’s Republic.”

The leaders of the self-proclaimed Republics have also suggested the signature of a treaty on friendship and cooperation with Russia, including on military cooperation.

The situation in the Donbass has aggravated up on February 17. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) reported the most massive bombardments by the Ukrainian armed forces over the past months. On February 18, LPR and DPR Heads Leonid Pasechnik and Denis Pushilin announced civilian evacuations from the republics to Russia due to the mounting danger of hostilities. On February 19, the Donbass republics announced a general mobilisation.

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”.

Belgium: Day of mourning

Brusssels 20.07.2021 Belgium held a day of mourning Tuesday,July 20, for the victims of the devastating floods, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel undertook her second visit to the region worst hit by the disaster.

“In this day of mourning, we observed a minute of silence for the victims of the devastating floods. No words can describe the suffering and destruction caused.The European Commission stands with the communities rebuilding their lives and homes. We will support in any way we can” the top EU executive Ursula von der Leyen wrote on her Twitter micro blog.

“The Belgian king and queen visited the eastern town of Verviers to console people who had lost family members, friends, and neighbours, and many lost their possessions as the flows swept through villages in eastern Belgium, taking at least 31 lives.

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde discuss with each of the victims invited to the official ceremony of national mourning. Queen Mathilde spoke at length with an upset little girl.

Some 70 people are still missing or have been unable to be contacted after massive rains turned streets in eastern Belgium into deadly torrents of water, mud and debris. Flags flew at half staff and at noon, sirens wailed throughout the nation, followed by a moment of silence.

Help is pouring in from across the nation and some 10,000 volunteer workers have offered to visit the hilly region to start the cleanup once the waters have receded enough.

“Please accept my most sincere condolences on the tragic consequences of floods in the southern and eastern regions of your country” reads letter of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the King of Belgium Philippe.
“Russia shares the grief of those who lost their loved ones as a result of this natural disaster, and hopes for a speedy recovery of all those affected”.

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