Tag Archives: Putin

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”.

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”.

Kremlin draws unfriendly states list

Brussels 17.05.2021 The Czech Republic and the United States have been put on Russia’s blacklist of unfriendly states because of their hostile steps against Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday, May 17. (Image: Moscow, Russia, photo Evgeny Grabovsky)

Russia to judge US calls to normalization by actions, not words, top diplomat says
“Their unfriendly steps were the reason why we took a decision to even the conditions our diplomatic missions are working on in each other’s territories – ours in the Czech Republic and the United States, and, correspondingly, theirs in Russia. As a concrete step that had already been announced, we asked them to reduce their locally hired personnel, both Russian nationals and citizens of third countries, to the level of the analogous category of employees we have in our missions in the Czech Republic and the United States,” he told a news conference when answering a TASS question.

He noted that the Czech Republic was “disgracefully” trying to get out of the situation “with the explosions of seven years ago.” “No one has been able to explain what the investigation has been doing all these years,” he said. “They are tying themselves into knots, so to say, inventing more and more theories. They’d better straighten out the tangle before expelling diplomats and accusing them of what the investigation has not yet found out. And, by the way, judging by how they are doing it, the investigation is unlikely to yield any concrete results,” he said.

“In the United States, you know, our diplomatic property was arrested and for years we have been denied access there to see the condition Russia’s national property that was illegally seized is in. Expulsions of Russian diplomats happen regularly,” Lavrov said, adding that Moscow had repeatedly warned that it could not last forever.

Last Friday, Russia made public a government-endorsed list of unfriendly states featuring only the United States and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic will be allowed to hire no more than 19 Russian nationals to work for its embassy, and the United States, not a single one.

“The European Union deplores the publication of Measures in “Response to Unfriendly Actions of Foreign States”, following the unprecedented Decree signed by President Putin on 23 April. The EU considers the allegations of unfriendly actions as unfounded”.

“This Decree is incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 with regard to the duties of the host state to secure the functioning of diplomatic missions.

“We call on Russia to review its decision, to avoid a further deterioration of our relationship that is already under strain. The EU will continue to coordinate its position with its partners.

“We express full solidarity with the Czech Republic, an EU Member State, and the United States of America and call on Russia to fully respect the Vienna Convention”.

EU: MEPs call to free Navalny

Brussels 29.04.2021 The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reiterate their call for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose sentencing is politically motivated and runs counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations.

The Resolution of the Europarliament reminds the Russian authorities and President Putin personally that they bear full responsibility for Alexei Navalny’s health and bodily integrity and they must take all necessary measures to protect his physical and mental well-being.

Alexei Navalny, Russian military build-up around Ukraine and the recent Czechia-Russia diplomatic row have been debated with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday, April 28.

Alexey Navalny, who was imprisoned earlier this year, was recently hospitalised. He began a hunger strike weeks ago, after the Russian authorities denied him access to medical personnel of his choice to examine physical pain and numbness he was experiencing in prison.

MEPs have also debated the latest Russian military build-up around Donbass and the recent diplomatic row between Czechia and Russia. The Czechia-Russia spat began after Czech authorities accused Russian intelligence officers of being involved in an explosion in an ammunition storage depot in Czechia in 2014, which killed two people. Following the row, several diplomats from both countries have been expelled.

EU-Russia: “many disagreements”

Brussels 22.03.2021 With a view to the European Council meeting of 25 and 26 March a phone call between the President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took place on Monday 22 March 2021.

The Presidents discussed relations between the EU and Russia.

President Michel expressed the view that EU-Russia ties are at a low point and confirmed the EU’s approach of the five guiding principles, based on the EU’s core values.

There is currently disagreement in many areas.

From the EU perspective, the relationship with Russia can only take a different direction if there is sustained progress on issues like the implementation of the Minsk agreements, stopping hybrid and cyber-attacks on Member States and respect for human rights. In this context Alexey Navalny’s case was raised. Charles Michel reiterated the EU’s call on the Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him.
The leaders also exchanged views on the Covid pandemic, on vaccines and on regional and global issues.

Kremlin readout: “Taking into account the upcoming discussion at the European Council meeting on March 25-26 of the problems of relations between Russia and the EU, Charles Michel touched upon a number of issues concerning the current state of affairs and the prospects for dialogue between Moscow and Brussels.

Vladimir Putin assessed the unsatisfactory state of Russian-EU ties, which has developed due to the non-constructive, sometimes confrontational line of partners. The Russian side emphasized its readiness to restore a normal, depoliticized format of interaction with the European Union, if a real reciprocal interest is shown in this.

The issues of combating the coronavirus pandemic were also touched upon, in particular the possibility of using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the political settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict, the situation in Belarus and some other topical issues”.

Russia: G7 condemn Navalny detention

“We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in condemning the politically motivated arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny’ reads the G7 Foreign Ministers’ statement on arrest and detention of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

“We are also deeply concerned by the detention of thousands of peaceful protesters and journalists, and call upon Russia to adhere to its national and international obligations and release those detained arbitrarily for exercising their right of peaceful assembly on 23 January. The violent suppression by police forces of the right of individuals to express their opinion is unacceptable. These events confirm a continuous negative pattern of shrinking space for the opposition, civil society, human rights defenders and independent voices in Russia.  

“It is deplorable that Mr Navalny is being detained in relation to court decisions which the European Court of Human Rights determined in 2017 to be arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable. We the G7 Foreign Ministers call upon the Russian authorities for Mr Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release.  Russia is bound by its national and international obligations to respect and ensure human rights.  

“G7 Foreign Ministers recall their condemnation, in the strongest possible terms, of the poisoning of Mr Navalny in August 2020 with a chemical nerve-agent of the “Novichok” group, a substance developed by Russia.

“We reiterate that any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms against the use of such weapons.  We, the G7 Foreign Ministers, again urge the Russian authorities to investigate and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil in the light of Russia’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“The confirmed use of chemical weapons against an opposition politician, as well as Mr Navalny’s latest detention further undermine democracy, independent voices, and political plurality in Russia. We urge Russia to fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to guarantee the rights it sets forth, including the right to freedom of expression, to all individuals within its territory and jurisdiction.

“We will continue to monitor closely Russia’s response to international calls for the immediate release of Mr Navalny and any protesters and journalists who have been detained arbitrarily, as well as a criminal investigation into Mr Navalny’s poisoning. We remain strongly committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and to our support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Russia, as well as to bolstering our support to Russian civil society.”

NAVALNY: EU aims at stronger russia sanctions

Brussels 21.01.2021 Following the recent imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, MEPs call on EU countries to significantly strengthen sanctions against Russia.

In a resolution, adopted with 581 votes in favour, 50 against and 44 abstentions, Parliament calls on EU member states to take an active stance on the arrest of Alexei Navalny and many of his followers at their next meetings and to “significantly strengthen the EU’s restrictive measures vis-à-vis Russia”. This includes sanctioning the “individuals and legal entities” involved in the decision to arrest and imprison Alexei Navalny, they say.

Sanctions should also be imposed against Russian oligarchs linked to the regime, members of President Putin’s inner circle and Russian media propagandists, who possess assets in the EU and can currently travel there. Additional restrictive measures could also be taken under the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

Following years of deteriorating relations, MEPs stress the importance of critically reviewing cooperation with Russia in various foreign policy platforms and on projects such as Nord Stream 2. They call on the EU to immediately stop the completion of the controversial pipeline. MEPs also underline that the EU should no longer be a welcoming place for Russian wealth of unclear origin.

With a view to the new administration in Washington, Parliament stresses that the EU should use this momentum to strengthen transatlantic unity in protecting democracy and fundamental values against authoritarian regimes.

The resolution finally demands the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny and of all other persons detained in relation to his return to Russia, be they journalists, members of his team or citizens showing support.

Russia expands retaliatory list

Russia has made a decision to expand on a parity basis the retaliatory list of EU officials banned from entering the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement spokesperson Maria Zakharova read out at a news briefing on September 23.

“In response to European Union actions the Russian side has made a decision to expand the retaliatory list of representatives of the EU member countries and institutions who are prohibited from entering the territory of Russia. The number of names on the Russian list has been increased to match that on the existing EU list,” the diplomat said.

“We have repeatedly warned the European Union that this approach is harmful. But the EU ignores our proposals for a meaningful and professional dialogue on the basis of facts and continues to use the language of sanctions,” spokesperson has underlined.

Zakharova recalled that lately the EU took a number of unfriendly steps towards Russia and Russian citizens, thus bypassing the existing international norms and using sanctions on far-fetched and absurd pretexts.

The announcement came day after President Putin on argued September 22 that ending “illegitimate sanctions” against countries like his could boost the suffering from pandemic global economy and create jobs, using his annual speech at the U.N. General Assembly to stress the need for multilateral cooperation against the pandemic.

In his speech Putin told the U.N.’s 75th anniversary gathering that countries need to work together better to fight the virus and other global problems.

“Freeing world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be a great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment,” Russian President said.

Navalny assassination Europarl resolution

In a Resolution adopted on September 17 with 532 votes in favour, 84 against and 72 abstentions, Parliament strongly condemns the attempt to assassinate prominent Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.(Image: illustration, European Parliament, Brussels)

The text notes that the poison used, belonging to the “Novichok group”, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack. Should someone else, nevertheless, be found responsible, it would still be a clear breach of Russia’s international legal commitments, according to the text.

MEPs underline that the attempted assassination of Navalny was part of a systemic effort to silence dissident voices in Russia, in particular with a view to influencing Russia’s local and regional by-elections on 11-13 September. His case is only one element of a wider Russian policy focusing on oppressive internal policies and aggressive actions worldwide, notes the text.

The resolution asks for an international investigation into Navalny’s case and the alleged breaches of Russia’s international commitments in the area of chemical weapons to be launched immediately, while urging the Russian authorities to fully cooperate with such an inquiry and to hold those responsible to account.

It also calls on EU member states to take an active stance on the matter such as swiftly putting in place ambitious restrictive EU measures vis-à-vis Russia and strengthening already existing ones. The text urges the deployment of sanction mechanisms that would allow the European assets of corrupt individuals to be collected and frozen in accordance with the findings of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that certain political forces in the EU are boosting an information campaign aimed at making sure that Brussels won’t reverse its destructive policy towards Moscow.
The idea of naming the European Union’s new human rights sanctions after Alexey Navalny is aimed at directing the restrictions against Moscow, the diplomat said at a briefing on September 17, commenting on EU top diplomat Josep Borrell’s recent initiative.
“We view initiatives on naming new EU sanctions after Navalny as an overt attempt to direct them against Russia,” she concluded.

“We expect that common sense will prevail in the European Union, so that our partners will abandon the practice of passing the buck randomly and will draw conclusions only from documented facts in the future,” the Russian diplomat concluded.

Borrell:”Navalny sanctions”

We continue calling on Russia to investigate this crime through a fully transparent procedure, under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We can expect that the poisoning of Mr [Alexei] Navalny will have an impact on European Union-Russia relations. We are going to discuss that in the next Foreign Affairs Council” said the head of the EU diplomacy, addressing the European Parliament plenary debate.

Some of you talk about the possibility of this affecting Nord Stream 2. Once again, this is something that is outside of the possibilities of the European institutions. What I can tell you is that the European Commission has never shown a lot of enthusiasm about this pipeline, which from the Commission we have been considering as not a relevant priority infrastructure. But it is something that is up to the Member States that have been pushing for this infrastructure to be built. As I said, there is the scepticism of the Commission, which has never shown strong support for it“.

“Finally, about the possibility of sanctioning Russia with a kind of “Magnitsky-style” [human rights sanctions] regime: When I took office, I immediately launched [negotiations for] a global human rights sanctions regime, which has been discussed once again at the last Foreign Affairs Council. [There are] continued discussions in the Council. The legal acts are currently being drafted.

“I hope that what has happened to Mr Navalny will represent an encouragement for Member States to stop discussing and start acting and approving this human rights sanctions regime that, in the same way that the Americans call it the “Magnitsky Act”, we could call it the “Navalny sanctions regime”. This could be a good way of taking stock of what has happened and keep in the records for the future the name of Mr Navalny associated to a sanctions regime for people who violated human rights”.

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