Tag Archives: Russia

Michel regrets EU consensus method

In his speech “European strategic autonomy is the goal of our generation” at the Bruegel think tank president of the European Council Charles Michel addressed problems of global instability, and pointed at the need to establish the EU autonomy. He also has drawn attention to a number of problems in the EU foreign policy, namely the challenges imposed by China and Russia, “unpredictability” of Mediterranean neighbourhood, and post-Brexit trade negotiations. The president also regretted the method of unanimity in the EU foreign policy decision-making process, which slows it down, and “even some times prevents the decisions”.
Michel has underlined the the EU defence should develop in strong partnership with NATO, and “deployed within” North Atlantic Alliance.

“…Because the globalised world has changed a lot since the end of the Cold War. And because an arc of instability has developed around us.

“In the East, the natural and harmless extension of the European democratic space was brutally stopped by Russia in Ukraine. Russia saw a major geopolitical danger there. This cost Ukraine part of its territory, and a war in the East which permanently destabilises the country. Although the context is different, the events in Belarus once again highlight the challenge at Europe’s eastern borders.

“In the Eastern Mediterranean, we face tensions and unpredictability. Libya and Syria are hotbeds of insecurity and instability. There is pressure on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus. Our relationship with Turkey is under strain. This is why the next European summit will be devoted to the adoption of a European strategic position in connection with this region. I proposed the organisation of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean, where maritime de-limitations, energy, security, migration, etc. would be discussed.

“In the South: Africa. And I feel, at the level of Europe and its leaders, how much the outlook on Africa is changing. Its energy, its vitality, open the way to an unprecedented alliance. It only depends on us, African and European leaders.

“In the West, Brexit. In the aftermath of the referendum, the result shook up the European Union. This choice of national sovereignty was felt as a failure of European construction.

“Today what is it? It is the United Kingdom that faces our quiet strength. The truth is, the British face a dilemma. What model of society do they want? Do they prefer to maintain high quality standards (health, food, environmental, etc.)? Or, on the contrary, do they want lower standards, subject their breeders and their businesses to unfair and unjust competition from other regions of the world? It is the answer to this question that will determine the level of access to our internal market”

President Michel has also regarded the principle of unanimity in the EU foreign policy, “regularly debated”:

“…Unanimity is required in matters of foreign policy. This question of unanimity is, as we know, regularly debated. And I have a qualified opinion in this regard. Of course, the unanimity requirement slows down and sometimes even prevents the decision. But this requirement leads to constant efforts to weld the Member States together. And this European unity is also our strength. Unanimity promotes the lasting adhesion of the 27 countries to the strategy deliberated together. So I ask myself: isn’t renouncing unanimity a false good idea? Are there not other more relevant reforms to act more quickly at the international level, without losing the added value of our unanimity?

“My modest experience is as follows. Very often, in recent months, I have observed that apparently important differences between the Member States were quickly blurred thanks to the substantive debate. So it was with China. The political preparations allowed us in a few months to define a common position which is now shared by all. The same will be true for the eastern Mediterranean and even Belarus. I am optimistic that there too we will express common positions which will draw their strength from our unity. The major decisions on the budget and the stimulus fund further illustrate this certainty: political confrontation, the exchange of arguments on the merits, are an essential step in the process of democratic deliberation. And they found the legitimacy of the decision.

“…Defense is not a European competence like any other. And I know the different national sensibilities. In my eyes, deepening the common defence is a necessity and is more common sense than an ideological obsession. This project must be deployed within NATO. This is the meaning of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO. The permanent structured cooperation and the European Defense Fund, which we have just endowed with 7 billion euro, are fully in line with this ambition. And I greet Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, whose strategic impetus in this area has not yet been fully appreciated”.

Crimea water supply prospects

The Head of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov, claims that the situation with the “water shortage” in Simferopol will be resolved in March 2021 thanks to new wells. As reported by “Interfax”, he made this announcement at a meeting of the operational headquarters for the city’s water supply. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWAS) was recognised as a “human right” by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 July 2010.

“We are drilling three wells, which can provide additional 10 thousand cubic meters per day now, and another 40 thousand cubic meters per day from three underground water intakes. This will be January-February 2021. We will definitely provide the water supply system for Simferopol … Starting point when our situation should be defused, even if there will be no precipitation, this is approximately March 2021, “Aksenov has underlined.

According to the Head of Crimea, underground sources will be used before the construction of the desalination station. “At underground sources, including at a certain stage, we will hold out until technologies are built,” Aksenov said.

As for the desalination plant, it “is being developed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on behalf of the president, and within the next two weeks the federal government will propose a solution related to the construction of a desalination plant in the city of Simferopol. The plant will be built in the village of Nikolaevka, on the seashore … no one has ever implemented projects. In fact, the decision to be made here will be unique, “Aksenov said at a meeting of the operational headquarters on the issue of water supply to Crimea on Friday.

As reported, water scarcity is observed in Crimea in 2019 and 2020 and may, according to forecasts, last in 2021.

Rigid water supply schedules by the hour were introduced in August this year in Simferopol and 39 other settlements nearby. Residents massively complain in social networks about the poor pressure of water or no water at all, as well as the color – from red to black. From September 23, the water began to be turned off at night in the resort Alushta in the south of the peninsula.

According to Rosvodresursy, water losses in the networks in Simferopol exceed 50%, in some places they reach 80%, the department considers such a situation unacceptable in a water-deficient region.

The North Crimean Canal, intended to supply the arid zones of Crimea and agricultural lands with Dnieper waters, was blocked by Ukraine for the peninsula, disagreeing with its status after the referendum (2014). The Permanent Commission on International Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) asks the UN and the Council of Europe to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Crimea, complained about Ukraine.

Kiev says that the water from the Dnieper will return through the canal to Crimea only in the event of “de-occupation of the peninsula.”

In the meantime, the main hope of the Russian authorities in Crimea is precipitation, which should fill the reservoirs and solve the problem of water shortage on the peninsula. To do this, officials in cooperation with Roshydromet are planning to induce artificial precipitation. The first such experiments are promised to be implemented by the end of 2020.

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 leaves Charité hospital

Berlin’s Charite hospital announced that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been discharged, and that have added an optimistic prognostics of a possibility of complete recovery. Several military laboratory results confirmed Navalny had been poisoned with a powerful nerve agent “Novichok”. (Picture above: Navalny courtesy Instagram).

Alexei Navalny left the Berlin’s Charite hospital on September 22 after 32 days of treatment for “severe poisoning,” the hospital said in a statement released next day.

“Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the treating physicians believe that complete recovery is possible. However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects,” the statement said.

Navalny shared a picture of himself on a park bench after his discharge, and said he plans to undergo physical therapy every day at a rehabilitation centre to fully regain his motor skills, including the full use of his left hand.

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.

#SOTEU: Leyen on FOREIGN POLICY

On 16 September, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union speech, shared her vision for a stronger Europe and a better world after the coronavirus pandemic. Every year in September, the President of the European Commission delivers the State of the Union address before the European Parliament, Strasbourg. However this year the event took place in Brussels due to the coronavirus restrictions in France. Part of the speech, although significantly reduced, was devoted to foreign policy and human rights.

Be it in Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk: Europe must take a clear and swift position. I want to say it loud and clear: the European Union is on the side of the people of Belarus. We have all been moved by the immense courage of those peacefully gathering in Independence Square or taking part in the fearless women’s march” president von der Leyen said.

“The elections that brought them into the street were neither free nor fair. And the brutal response by the government ever since has been shameful.The people of Belarus must be free to decide their own future for themselves. They are not pieces on someone else’s chess board.

“To those that advocate closer ties with Russia, I say that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with an advanced chemical agent is not a one off. We have seen the pattern in Georgia and Ukraine, Syria and Salisbury – and in election meddling around the world. This pattern is not changing – and no pipeline will change that.
Turkey is and will always be an important neighbour. But while we are close together on the map, the distance between us appears to be growing. Yes, Turkey is in a troubled neighbourhood. And yes, it is hosting millions of refugees, for which we support them with considerable funding. But none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours.

“Our Member States, Cyprus and Greece, can always count on Europe’s full solidarity on protecting their legitimate sovereignty rights.

“De-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean is in our mutual interest. The return of exploratory vessels to Turkish ports in the past few days is a positive step in this direction. This is necessary to create the much needed space for dialogue. Refraining from unilateral actions and resuming talks in genuine good faith is the only path forward. The only path to stability and lasting solutions”.

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”.

G7 condemns «hideous poisoning» of Navalny

‘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, in the strongest possible terms, the confirmed poisoning of Alexei Navalny” reads the statement, referring to the chemical attack on Russian opposition leader, and fierce critics of President Putin. Navalny was airlifted upon wish of his family to Berlin for treatment from Omsk hospital in Russia, where he received urgent medical assistance.

“Germany has briefed G7 partners on the fact that clinical and toxicological findings by German medical experts and a specialised laboratory of the German armed forces have determined that Mr Navalny is the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve-agent of the “Novichok” group, a substance developed by Russia. Mr Navalny is in intensive care in a Berlin hospital and remains in a serious condition. Our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and we hope for his full and speedy recovery.

“Any use of chemical weapons, anywhere, anytime, by anybody, under any circumstances whatsoever, is unacceptable and contravenes the international norms prohibiting the use of such weapons.We, the G7 foreign ministers, call on Russia to urgently and fully establish transparency on who is responsible for this abhorrent poisoning attack and, bearing in mind Russia’s commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“This attack against opposition leader Navalny is another grave blow against democracy and political plurality in Russia. It constitutes a serious threat to those men and women engaged in defending the political and civil freedoms that Russia herself has committed to guarantee. We call on Russia to fulfill its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to guarantee these rights, including the right to freedom of expression, to its citizens.

“We will continue to monitor closely how Russia responds to international calls for an explanation of the hideous poisoning of Mr Navalny. We remain strongly committed to our support for democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Russia and to bolster our support to the Russian civil society.

Navalny attacked with Novichok

German government made an announcement on September 2 that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, the same type of chemical used in Britain against ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The discovery raised tensions between Berlin and Moscow.

Tests carried out by the German military experts on Navalny, who is being treated in a Berlin hospital Chairité, have provided “unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok family,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“It is a shocking event that Alexei Navalny has become the victim of an attack with a chemical nerve agent in Russia.

“The government condemns this attack in the strongest terms. The Russian government is urgently requested to provide clarifications over the incident,” he added.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany had called in Russia’s ambassador to demand answers on the case.

Navalny, 44, fell ill after boarding a plane in Siberia last month. The pilots took a decision of an urgent landing to deliver him with ambulance to a local hospital in Omsk. Navalny received the first aid at the Omsk hospital near airport, before being flown to Berlin for treatment.

The nerve agent Novichok is a military-grade poison that was developed by the Soviet government towards the end of the Cold War and can be deployed in an ultra-fine powder, liquid or vapour.

The Charite hospital last week reported “some improvement” in Navalny’s condition but he nevertheless remains in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

The severity of the poisoning meant that it was too early to determine potential long-term effects, the hospital warned.

Charite doctors said they believed the anti-corruption campaigner was poisoned with a substance that inhibits the cholinesterase enzyme, a feature of nerve agents.

AMENDED:

EU reacts on attack on Russian opposition blogger

The attack on Russian opposition blogger Yegor Zhukov, 22, did not pass unnoticed by the European diplomacy: «We wish Mister Zhukov a speedy recovery, and expect the reponsible for this brutal and coward attack will be brought to justice» the European External Action Service spokesperson said during the daily conference with Brussels press corps.
He added that on many occassion the EU proposed the resumption of the intrrupted human righs dialog, however it was rejected by the Russian counterparts.

On Sunday evening, August 30, Russian opposition blogger Yegor Zhukov has been attacked and severly beaten by two unknown by him individuals. His supporters posted a photo on Facebook of his bloodied and swollen face, later he was trasported to a hosptial to examin his head injuries. The attack happened near his home.

Shortly before the violent incident Zhukov informed via his YouTube channel that he had been rejected for a master’s course on cinematography at Moscow’s prestigious Higher School of Economics, after initially being accepted for it. He linked that rejection to this political activity.

Separately, Mr Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said he was against linking the attack on Zhukov to the suspected poisoning of Russia’s most famous campaigner against President Vladimir Putin, the investigative blogger Alexei Navalny.

“This is a handsome guy Yegor Zhukov, a journalist of Echo.
He was beaten in front of his own entrance. Hardly by mistake. Now, apparently, opposition representatives can be poisoned, beaten, tortured. It is not yet allowed to burn on bonfires, I wonder?” Wrties on his Twitter Russian opposition politician Gennady Goudkov.

The first blow came from behind, to the back of the head, after which Yegor fell and they have beaten him mostly on the ground and aimed at the head, for 20-30 seconds. There are practically no injuries on other parts of the body, and the head and face are broken”, Yegor Zhukov lawyer Murad Musaev said. “The police officers took up this case quite actively and yesterday, practically all night long, various operational and investigative actions were carried out. We hope that the subject of a criminal investigation in this case will be not only yesterday’s attack, but also the attempted attack on July 24 this year,” he added.

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