Tag Archives: Russia

Russian journalist Prokopyeva fine «unjustified»

“On Monday 6 July, a Russian court found prominent journalist, Ms Svetlana Prokopyeva, guilty on charges of justifying terrorism after having stated in a radio programme that a terrorist attack at an FSB building was linked to the social and political situation in Russia, and that the incident was a result of the State’s ongoing restrictions on political and civil liberties. She has been ordered to pay a substantial fine, which we consider unjustified” reads the statement by a spokesperson of the European External Action Service on the sentencing of journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva in Russia.

“The prosecution of Ms Prokopyeva is testimony to the ever-shrinking space for independent journalism and civil society in the Russian Federation over recent years. Incidents of intimidation, threats and violence against journalists are frequently reported, while the fundamental freedoms of expression and freedom of the media in the country are repressed and severely curtailed, including through politically-motivated arrests and court proceedings such as the one against Ms Prokopyeva. Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, which can thrive only if citizens have access to reliable information and can make informed choices. We expect the Russian Federation to uphold its international and domestic obligations and ensure that journalists are able to work in a safe environment without fear of reprisal”.

“The EU reaffirms its determination to defend press and media freedom, as well as all human rights, within its borders and worldwide”.

Orthodox cleric criticises Hagia Sophia Islamisation

Transformation of the Istanbul Hagia Sophia historic monument from a museum to a mosque would be “unacceptable”, a senior official in the Russian Orthodox Church said on July 4.

President Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a sixth century building, the Christian Byzantine emblematic consturciton, which became one of most visited world monuments.

“We can’t go back to the Middle Ages now,” Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said on state television, reported the Interfax news agency.

“We live in a multipolar world, we live in a multi-confessional world and we need to respect the feelings of believers.”

Hilarion said the Russian Orthodox Church did not understand the reason for Hagia Sophia’s transformation and that they believed domestic politics was behind the move.

“We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom,” the cleric concluded.

A Turkish court earlier this week heard a case aimed at transfering the building back into a mosque and will announce its verdict mid-July.

The court case, brought by an NGO, disputes the legality of a decision in 1934, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to convert Hagia Sophia – known in Turkish as Ayasofya – from a mosque into a museum.

However the revolutionary proposal of NGO, backed by President Erdogan, has been criticised by other religious and political leaders.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would “fracture” East and West.

Erdogan has assessed the foreign criticism over the proposal as an attack on Turkey’s sovereignty.

Russian meida reported that the first symbolic Muslim service could take place mid-July.

EU reacts upon Russia Constitution amendments

“Nationwide voting in the Russian Federation on constitutional amendments concluded on 1 July. Some amendments concern changes in the political system and the work of the executive, legislative and judicial branches” reads the text of the statement, attribued to the European External Action Service (EEAS)spokesperson.

“The European Union regrets that, in the run up to this vote, campaigning both for and against was not allowed, thereby denying voters access to balanced information.

“We expect all reports and allegations of irregularities, including voter coercion, multiple voting, violation of secrecy of the vote and allegations of police violence against a journalist who was present to observe, to be duly investigated.

“An addition to Article 79 of the Constitution provides for primacy of the Russian Constitution over decisions of interstate bodies based on international treaties. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member, has considered this addition incompatible with Russia’s international obligations and recommended that this addition be removed or the wording amended. We expect Russia, regardless of any amendments to its constitution, to live up to its international obligations, including its obligation to execute European Court of Human Rights judgements”.

Europarl has no comment on Russian referendum

Statement by Members of the European Parliament David McAllister and Tomas Tobé on the constitutional referendum in Russia.

“A constitutional referendum took place in Russia from 25 June to 1 July.

The European Parliament has not been invited to observe this electoral process, and consequently will neither comment on the process nor on the results that will be announced afterwards. No individual Member of the European Parliament has been mandated to observe or comment on this electoral process on its behalf.

Therefore, any Member of the European Parliament who decided to observe this electoral process in the Russian Federation, or in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, where the European Union does not and will not recognise the holding of this consultation, has done so on her/his own initiative and should under no circumstances through any statement or action, associate her/his participation with the European Parliament.”

Mr McAllister (EPP, DE) and Mr Tobé (EPP, SE) are Co-Chairs of the European Parliament’s Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group.

Image: European Parliament building, Strasbourg

EU renews Russia sanctions

EU Council today decided to renew the sanctions targeting specific economic sectors of the Russian Federation for a further six months, until 31 January 2021.

This decision follows the latest assessment of the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements – foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015 – at the video conference of the members of the European Council of 19 June 2020. Given that full implementation has not yet been achieved, EU leaders took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.

Such restrictive measures were originally introduced in 2014 in view of Russia’s destabilising actions against Ukraine, and target the financial, energy and defence sectors, as well as the area of dual‑use goods.

The sanctions limit access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for certain Russian banks and companies and prohibit forms of financial assistance and brokering towards Russian financial institutions. The measures also prohibit the direct or indirect import, export or transfer of all defence-related materiel and establish a ban for dual-use goods which may have military use or be used by military end users in Russia. The sanctions further curtail Russian access to certain sensitive technologies that can be used in the Russian energy sector, for instance in oil production and exploration.

Image: Saint Petersburg, Russia

EU Crimea sanctions «tradition»

European Council today decided to renew the sanctions introduced in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation until 23 June 2021.

The restrictive measures currently in place include prohibitions targeting the imports of products originating in Crimea or Sevastopol into the EU, and infrastructural or financial investments and tourism services in Crimea or Sevastopol. Furthermore, the exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in Crimea in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors or for the prospection, exploration and production of oil, gas and mineral resources are also subject to EU restrictions.

As stated in the declaration by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on behalf of the EU on 16 March 2020, the EU still does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation and continues to condemn this violation of international law.

Sanctions against Crimea, despite the diligent attempts of their authors and ideological inspirers, did not become an instrument of manipulation, did not drive us into a corner, but exactly the opposite made us strong and self-sufficient. Their next extension is only a tribute to the “tradition“, because in fact they can do nothing else. False accusations, vile incitements and reckless sanctions are the whole “arsenal” of the EU’s foreign policy instruments,” the Head of the Republic of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov wrote on his page in Russian social media.

The escalation of “anti-Russian hysteria” around the Crimean Repubic has become for the West a familiar form of hiding their own problems and a way to shift the focus of public attention from important topics, he continues. The head of the Republic emphasized that large infrastructure facilities on the peninsula were successfully implemented under the conditions of sanctions.

Of course, their absence would create more favorable conditions for Crimea for economic development, in particular, to attract investment. But this is not direct damage, but rather a lost opportunity, which we compensate for in other available ways,” he added. – “In short, my perception of Western sanctions is best demonstrated by the proverb “a dog barks, while caravan goes.”

There is a lot of work ahead! … The Russian Crimea is destined to successful development and prosperity” the Crimean leader concluded.

Borrell-Pompeo transatlantic dialogue

“Today we have had an important Foreign Affairs Council with a video conference with the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo.

“The main point of the agenda was this: transatlantic relations.

“We engaged in a strategic dialogue with Mike Pompeo on our relations and on the key foreign policy issues both for the European Union and the United States.

https://twitter.com/eu_eeas/status/1272551225947537413?s=21

“…It is unnecessary to stress it, but let me do it – the transatlantic partnership is one of the key pillars of the world order and today’s video meeting reaffirmed the commitment of the European Union Member States to continue this close transatlantic cooperation. Maybe we do not agree on everything, but our commitment to transatlantic cooperation is as strong as ever.We focused on three main issues: China, the Peace Process in the Middle East, and the Eastern neighbourhood, with an emphasis on Ukraine. And we discussed as a cross-cutting issue, the problem of disinformation, which is affecting the three of them – and mainly the ones related to the Eastern neighbourhood and China.

“…We exchanged views on China and its growing assertiveness on many fronts. There are issues that we face together in the relationship with China and where our close cooperation is very important to address them jointly. This includes, for sure, the situation in Hong Kong. I suggested to launch a distinct, bilateral dialogue focussing on China and the challenges its actions and ambitions mean for us – the United States and the European Union.

“On the Middle East Peace Process, we made it clear that it is important to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in a credible and meaningful political process.We recognise that the United States’ plan created a certain momentum about a political process that had stopped for too long, and this momentum can be used to start joint international efforts on the basis of existing internationally-agreed parameters. We, from the European Union, stand ready to help and to facilitate such a process.We were also clear about the consequences of a possible annexation for the prospects of a two-state solution, but also for regional stability. On that I think that many Member States were very clear about it.

On the Eastern Neighbourhood, which was the third pillar of our conversation today, we confirmed that the strong European Union-United States partnership will remain crucial – particularly on Ukraine.

Of course, we still need Russia to do its part in the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, and our position remains clear and unchanged.

Some Member States also raised the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, where we are increasingly concerned about the recent escalations from Turkey. We agreed on the need for de-escalation and to return to a true partnership. There have been some incidents during the last days around Operation Irini. We are aware of that and tomorrow we will talk about it in the Council of Defence Ministers.

I also recalled that we are organising the Brussels Syria Conference [Supporting the future of Syria and the region – Brussels conference] on the 30th of June. It will be the fourth time that we do that, and I asked for the United States’ participation.

Finally, disinformation – this is a shared challenge. External disinformation actors are targeting both of us and we agreed to look at ways to reinforce our partnership in responding to this growing problem. Truth has to prevail. Democracy is a system that works on the basis of free and fair information. If citizens do not have access to free information or if citizens are poisoned with fake news, then their participation in democratic processes can be jeopardised”.

COVID19: Russian colonel fallen from window

Russian police colonel has fallen from a window on the fifth floor of a Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients, Russian media reported. She died later in intensive care from fatal wounds. The incident comes after three physicians in Russia fell out of windows amid mysterious circumstances during the coronavirus outbreak.

The reports said the incident occurred at Moscow City Clinical Hospital No. 24 on the evening of May 30.

The woman, identified as 45-year-old Yulia B. newspapers, was described as a senior expert at the Forensic Center of the Interior Ministry.

According to the press reports the police colonel left her ward to go into the corridor, then “fell” from the fifth floor window, and landed on the grass below.

It was not clear what exactly happened. She had arrived at the hospital on May 23 after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“The 45-year-old Yulia B. *, who had fallen out of the window, was urgently intubated and transported to the intensive care unit, where they fought for her life for several hours. The victim was even connected to a ventilator, but she could not be saved. The patient died in intensive care from injuries. ” – a source in healthcare told KP.RU

According to available information, 45-year-old Yulia B. * worked as a senior expert in the forensic center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and was a lieutenant colonel of the police.

Image: illustration

Europe regrets US Open Sky withdrawal

“I regret the announcement by the United States to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. The Treaty on Open Skies is a key element of our arms-control architecture and serves as a vital confidence and security-building measure” says the statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on the announcement by the US on their withdrawal from the Open Sky Treaty.

“Since it came into force in 2002, this agreement has enabled to carry out more than 1.500 reconnaissance missions over the territories of all the signatory states.The treaty provides transparency and predictability. It is an important contribution to European and global security and stability. All State parties must continue to acknowledge this and ensure the full implementation of the Treaty. Withdrawing from a Treaty is not the solution to address difficulties in its implementation and compliance by another party. While continuing to urge Russia to return immediately to the full implementation of the Treaty, I call upon the United States to reconsider their decision.The European Union will be examining the implications this decision may have for its own security”.

Moscow rejects the United States’ ultimatums concerning the Treaty on Open Skies, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on May 22, following Washington’s decision to withdraw .
The Ministry noted that US officials say Washington may revise its decision on the withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty if Russia implements all of its demands in the coming months.
“It is an ultimatum and this is not the right groundwork for negotiations,” the ministry underlined.

Signed on March 24, 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. Observation aircraft used to fly the missions must be equipped with sensors that enable the observing party to identify significant military equipment, such as artillery, fighter aircraft, and armored combat vehicles.

Though satellites can provide the same, and even more detailed, information, not all of the 34 treaty states-parties1 have such capabilities. The treaty is also aimed at building confidence and familiarity among states-parties through their participation in the overflights.

СOVID19: Russian Prime minister test positive

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will serve as acting Prime minister until Mikhail Mishustin recovered from the novel coronavirus illness. At present Mishustin is suffering from high fever, and other symptoms of COVID-19, he does not feel well, Russian newspaper Kommersant reports.

It has just been revealed that my coronavirus tests have come back positive,” Prime said Mishoustin during a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In light of this and in accordance with Rospotrebnadzor (Russia’s consumer watchdog – TASS) requirements, I should self-isolate and follow doctors’ orders.” Mishustin added, “it is necessary to safeguard colleagues.”
“The government will continue working as normal, I plan to be in active contact via phone with colleagues on all key issues,” he noted, adding that he will be constantly available for video calls with Putin. He also assured the Russian leader that the government “is taking and will continue to take all the necessary measures” to fight the virus.

In the current conditions, I would like to once more address all the citizens of our country to ask them to treat the coronavirus infection and its spread with utmost seriousness,” he noted.

“I am certain that together we can defeat this infection and return to normal life.”
I ask you to remember that the date when our country can return to full-fledged life depends on the discipline and willpower of every one of us. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!” the prime minister concluded.

Putin signed executive order to appoint First Deputy Prime Minister Belousov as acting PM until Mishustin recovery from coronavirus.
The Russian leader has extended wishes of speedy recovery to the Russian Prime Minister. “I would like to wish you a speedy recovery, get well soon,” Putin stressed.

Mishustin also addressed the nation, urging them to stay home to curb the spread of the virus.

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