Tag Archives: Russia

Alexei Navalny Sakharov Prize winner

Strasbourg 20.10.2021 European Parliament MEPs have awarded Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny the European Parliament’s 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala announced the 2021 laureate in the Strasbourg plenary chamber on Wednesday afternoon, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (President and political group leaders).
Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The European Parliament has chosen Alexei Navalny as the winner of this year’s Sakharov Prize. He has campaigned consistently against the corruption of Vladimir Putin’s regime, and through his social media accounts and political campaigns, Navalny has helped expose abuses and mobilise the support of millions of people across Russia. For this, he was poisoned and thrown in jail.”

“In awarding the Sakharov Prize to Alexei Navalny, we recognise his immense personal bravery and reiterate the European Parliament’s unwavering support for his immediate release”, he added.

Vice-President Hautala said: “This year, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded to an advocate for change. Alexei Navalny has shown great courage in his attempts to restore the freedom of choice to the Russian people. For many years, he has fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms in his country. This has cost him his freedom and nearly his life. On behalf of the European Parliament, I call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

“Today, the Parliament also honours a group of Afghan women, who have fought fiercely for equality and human rights in their country and who were shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize. We chose to honour the bravery of these women, as they are among the first to suffer violations of their most basic rights and freedoms after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan”, she added.

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He came to international prominence for organising demonstrations against President Putin and his government, running for office and advocating for 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. He is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, with more than two years still remaining. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, Navalny went on a long hunger strike in late March 2021 to protest his lack of access to medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Alexei Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, both now classified as extremist and undesirable by the Russian authorities.

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 15 December in Strasbourg. Read more about the other Sakharov Prize finalists in 2021 here.

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 in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, Parliament awarded the prize to the democratic opposition of Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures.

Europarl: Sakharov Prize 2021

Strasbourg 18.10.2021 The 2021 Sakharov Prize nominees  The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg)

Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:

Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists

Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician

Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner

Afghan women

Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:

Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)

Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network

Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018

Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)

Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning

Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company

Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement

Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist

Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Anisa Shaheed – political reporter

Jeanine Áñez

Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

EU: Borrell talks with Blinken in Washington

Brussels 15.10.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Thursday,October 14.

The European diplomat welcomed recent intense engagement with the U.S. Administration and expressed the importance to further deepen the EU-U.S. strategic partnership to jointly address foreign policy, security and global challenges. Further he welcomed, in particular, the launch of the Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh as a strong example of the shared commitment to work together to provide answers to some of today’s most pressing challenges.

Borrell and Blinken highlighted the intention to launch a dialogue on security and defence by the end of the year. The EU diplomat welcomed the setting up of this dedicated channel to discuss common security and defence challenges, building on the mandate agreed by the EU and U.S. Leaders at the EU-U.S. Summit in June. He welcomed the US support for a stronger and more capable European defence and stressed that stronger EU capabilities contribute positively to transatlantic and global security, and also strengthen NATO.

Both diplomats agreed to launch EU-U.S. consultations on the Indo-Pacific, with the aim to step up transatlantic cooperation and joint engagement in the region. They agreed to hold a first high-level meeting this year.

They welcomed the work done under the EU-US Dialogue on China and agreed to hold the next high-level meeting in December. They also agreed to launch the High-level Dialogue on Russia, with the first meeting planned to take place before the end of this year.

Borrell and Blinken discussed some of the most urgent foreign and security policy issues. They addressed, amongst others, the latest developments related to Afghanistan, with the High Representative underlining the utmost priority for the international community being to prevent the socio-economic collapse of the country and the need to work jointly on solutions for Afghan people.

They further discussed the opportunities for continued EU – U.S. partnership in the Western Balkans in support of the region’s progress on its European path, underlined the importance of EU-facilitated Dialogue in addressing issues related to the comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and, referring to recent developments, highlighted the need for de-escalation and re-engagement in negotiations. They agreed to further strengthen their cooperation on these matters.

The diplomats also discussed the situation in Venezuela and their strong will to support political processes to restore stability and democratic reconciliation in the country. In addition, they discussed the efforts towards stabilisation in the Sahel region.

They paid attention to high energy prices, the global impact of this crisis as well as the green energy transition. They looked forward to the next meeting of the EU-U.S. Energy Council early next year, agreed on the need for an ambitious outcome at the COP 26 climate conference.

Concluding the talks Josep Borrell once again has drawn attention to the modality of the relations between two partners. “The European Union and the United States share an important and unique relationship. We will continue to work closely not only because we are partners of first resort but also because friends and allies look at us and expect us to work together to address global challenges” the EU diplomat said.

AUKUS: France geopolitical response

Brussels 14.10.2021 Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann OPINION: What is France and Europe response to AUKUS? Non-alignment and a pivot to Russia. Within the framework of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the alliance of the three Anglo-Saxon states, the United States (USA), Australia (AU) and the United Kingdom (UK) – AUKUS -has been implemented to the detriment of France and the European Union, which have been left out. What geopolitical response could be envisaged for France and its close European and Asian partners?

France, as a balancing power, should seek to avoid the hegemony of both China and the Anglo-Saxons and promote a policy of non-alignment with Germany, Italy, Hungary and Russia in Europe, and India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and New Zealand in Asia, as well as all the states that do not wish to be dragged into a confrontation, in order to avoid an American-Chinese condominium. The principle of variable coalitions should be preferred to the illusory unity of the European Union or NATO on this issue.

The question of the inadequacy of the priorities of NATO and the EU, organisations created in the context of the Cold War, in the new European and global geopolitical configuration is clearly posed for France. A reform of the European Union is therefore necessary for its adaptation to the emerging multi-polar world and its role should above all accompany the objective of strategic autonomy of the most ambitious member states. The reinforcement of cooperation programmes in the field of defence is necessary, above all at the bilateral level, within restricted coalitions and when possible at the EU level to promote more strategic independence for France and its European partners, in parallel with a rapprochement on the perceptions of security and the geopolitical aims of the European project, which are currently too divergent.

Russia has already announced its intention to adopt a non-alignment posture in an event of a strengthening of the American-Chinese confrontation. In Europe and in the world, it is therefore also with a pivot from France to Russia that France could widen its margin of manoeuvre, preferably with Germany. A Franco-Russian rapprochement would re-establish a relative balance with the Anglo-Saxons and Germany, and reduce the risk of too close a tactical understanding between Russia and China, with the more distant goal of promoting a new European security architecture.

Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann – Doctor in geopolitics, and expert on European and global issues.

EU preservation of Arctic policy

“…The European Union engagement in the Arctic is not a matter of convenience or the way to prove our importance in geopolitical field” said the Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius during following the adoption of the new EU Arctic Policy.

“It is a necessity. First of all, because the Arctic is home for hundreds of thousands of Europeans. Secondly, environment crisis and climate change already showed us that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Similarly, global actions and demand patterns do not stay out of the region. Geopolitical competition is growing and the balance in the Arctic has been lost in climate field. We have to bring this balance back.

“This is the reason why today we adopted the new Joint Communication for a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic with the European Green Deal at its heart.

“This is the make or break decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. Our generation has the unique and only opportunity to change the world and the Arctic is at the centre of this change.

“The Arctic is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet. Forest fires are becoming the norm in some parts of the region. Collapsing infrastructure led last summer to a huge oil slick. This must be fixed and the reason is simple: the melting of ice and thawing of permafrost in the Arctic further accelerate climate change and have huge knock-on effects, felt by Europeans and throughout the world. The EU is ready to lead by example.

“…We will enhance our strategic foresight, especially regarding the links between climate change and security. We will look to extend our Civil Protection capacities in the Arctic and offer new services from our world-leading Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems, to help environmental monitoring, maritime safety and search and rescue.

“In this, it will be important to work together with all Arctic partners in Europe, with the US and Canada, and with other partners involved in Arctic affairs.

“In the entire climate change or geopolitical action local and indigenous people are at the center of our efforts. There are many Europeans among them and we will support an inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic to the benefit of them and future generations. We will be stimulating better education, sustainable growth and jobs.

“We aim to increase the involvement of young, women and Indigenous Peoples in Arctic decision-making. We seek to boost digital connectivity through EU space programmes and the Connecting Europe Facility and support technologies and solutions for the green transition, including through the EU Recovery Plan.

“The EU is in the Arctic. We have strategic and day-to-day interests, both in the European Arctic and the broader Arctic region. By this strategy, the EU aims to promote sound environmental management, biodiversity protection and efficient energy use, support climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to the resilience of the people in the face of climate change effects”.

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.

EU: MEPs debate Arctic policy

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 While the European Commission is currently working on an update of the EU’s Arctic policy, MEPs are concerned about emerging threats to stability in the area.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a zone of peace and international cooperation, but in recent years the situation has changed. The region has witnessed an increased Russian military presence, while China aspires to integrate the Arctic’s northern sea route into its Belt and Road Initiative.

The Commission is re-examining the EU’s role in the Artic ahead of an integrated EU policy by the end of 2021. Parliament will debate and vote on its own report in Strasbourg next week.

The Arctic is home to half a million EU citizens from Finland, Sweden as well as Denmark through Greenland.

“A shift in the perception of the Arctic is urgently needed as an increasingly tense international situation forces us to review our Arctic policy,” said Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), author of the Parliament report.

The Arctic will no longer be a remote or inaccessible region, she said, but will in fact play a critical role in Europe’s future.

“The EU’s Arctic strategy must reflect the new security realities in the region, rising geopolitical tensions and new players such as China,” said Fotyga. “Moscow looks at the Arctic in the long term, striving to impose a series of legal, economic and military facts. In this way, it introduces global tensions to a region that we want to preserve as an area of peaceful and fruitful cooperation.”

The report urges Russia to fully respect international law and to be mindful of the consequences of its actions. It also says that potential EU cooperation with Russia in the Arctic must not jeopardise the goals of sanctions against Russian action elsewhere.

The increasing role of the Arctic in trade, navigation, environment and climate, issues related to local communities, in particular indigenous people, must also be taken into account, said Fotyga.

There is growing interest in the Arctic and its rare earth mineral resources, which are crucial in the development of new technologies: both green and military.

“Europe must reduce its dependence on China for these minerals and the Arctic should play a central role in the European Raw Materials Alliance,” said the Polish MEP.

MEPs are worried that Russia and China will exploit the region without proper environmental impact assessment. China’s investments in strategic infrastructure projects and efforts to obtain mining rights are of concern as they are reminiscent of how the country operates in other parts of the world. MEPs therefore urge the Arctic states to carry out thorough screenings of foreign investments.

As China is developing icebreaker programmes, the report suggests that EU countries and partner countries could build icebreakers under an EU flag.

Fotyga, who was part of a Parliament delegation to Denmark, Iceland and Greenland in September, said Parliament wants greater EU visibility in the region, greater EU coordination, as well as cooperation with partners committed to respecting international law, developing peaceful cooperation and guaranteeing freedom of navigation.

Ghostwriter: Borrell on Russia malware

Brussels 24.09.2021 “Some EU Member States have observed malicious cyber activities, collectively designated as Ghostwriter, and associated these with the Russian state. Such activities are unacceptable as they seek to threaten our integrity and security, democratic values and principles and the core functioning of our democracies” reads the Declaration by the EU top diplomat on behalf of the European Union on respect for the EU’s democratic processes.(Image: Moscow City, Russia).

“These malicious cyber activities are targeting numerous members of Parliaments, government officials, politicians, and members of the press and civil society in the EU by accessing computer systems and personal accounts and stealing data. These activities are contrary to the norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace as endorsed by all UN Member States, and attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and processes, including by enabling disinformation and information manipulation”.

“The European Union and its Member States strongly denounce these malicious cyber activities, which all involved must put to an end immediately. We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace”.

“The European Union will revert to this issue in upcoming meetings and consider taking further steps”.

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.

Russia: Estonia diplomat expulsion

Brussels 03.08.2021 Estonian Ambassador to Moscow Margus Laidre was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry Tuesday, August 3, where he was informed about the expulsion of an Estonian diplomat within seven days, the Ministry announced on its website.(Image: Moscow, City)

“Estonian Ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. He was presented with a decisive protest and a note saying that one Estonian embassy employee must leave Russia within seven days under the principle of reciprocity,” reads the announcement.

The diplomats warned Estonia against escalating the situation.

“Otherwise, a decisive response from the Russian Foreign Ministry will follow. Meanwhile, all responsibility for the deterioration of bilateral relations will lie entirely with the Estonian side,” the Ministry said.

On July 15, Estonian Foreign Ministry expelled a Russian diplomat as a response to expulsion of Estonian consul in St. Petersburg Mart Latte, who was previously apprehended by the Federal Security Service while receiving classified materials. The intelligence service underscored that “such activity is incompatible with the diplomatic status and is openly hostile towards the Russian Federation.”

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