MOSCOW, April 16 -- Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has offered French President Emmanuel Macron the help of the best Russian specialists in rebuilding the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Also Putin conveyed his condolences over the fire that damaged France’s national symbol, the Kremlin press office reported on Tuesday. "The Notre Dame is France’s historical symbol, an invaluable treasure of the European and world culture, one of the most important Christian shrines," Putin stressed in his telegram. "The disaster that happened in Paris at night caused pain in the hearts of Russians," the telegram reads. "Putin has expressed the hope that it will be possible to rebuild the cathedral and offered to send the best Russian specialists with the extensive experience of restoring world cultural heritage monuments, including the works of medieval architecture, to France," the Kremlin press office said.
PARIS, April 15 -- Historic French cathedral Notre Dame has been ravaged by a huge blaze.
Dramatic images and video show the 850-year-old building ablaze as a huge emergency operation was launched. The shocking scene in the French capital unfolded this afternoon, and flames have been seen coming from the two bell towers. Officials have cleared the area around Notre Dame, a City Hall spokesman confirmed. It is not yet known if anyone has been injured in the fire. Firefighters are helpless to bring the blaze under control because the flames are so far away, according to reports. Le Monde journalist Raphaëlle Bacqué reports that the fire is too far away for crews to be able to act. It is not known if anyone is inside the building, which closed to the public at 6pm local time, 50 minutes before the blaze was first reported.
PARIS, April 14 -- France's 'yellow vests' are back in the street, hoping to make a comeback after participation dropped to its lowest level since the start of the movement last weekend.
The Interior Ministry counted 22,300 protesters at the last of the now weekly protests on April 6. Since then, the government has presented the findings of the "Great Debate" - the nationwide listening exercise organized to quell the anger of the "yellow vests" - though President Emmanuel Macron has yet to make any policy announcements on the back of the results.This week, the new "anti-hooligan" law came into effect which includes new crimes such as covering one's face during demonstrations without a legitimate motive, though the constitutional council struck down provisions for banning individuals from protests.
In the French city of Toulouse, Police forces have clashed with protesters and used flash balls and tear gas against rock-throwing protesters. Several people got injured in the clashes. The government has repeatedly denounced the actions of violent thugs who they say have infiltrated the movement and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner described the new law on Twitter as one that "protects the French from insecurity and violence" and "protects our institutions and our liberties." The rallies started in mid-November to protest against Macron’s planned fuel price hikes, but they snowballed into a national movement, rejecting Macron's policies and his leadership.
PARIS, April 13 -- Ukrainian presidential candidate Vladimir Zelensky’s talks with French President Emmanuel Macron were meaningful, Zelensky told TASS after his meeting with Macron in the Elysee Palace on Friday.
"Yes, we have held very constructive talks," he said when asked about the atmosphere of the meeting. However, Zelensky did not elaborate. The Ukrainian presidential front-runner arrived at the Elysee Palace at 3.10 p.m. and left it approximately an hour later. Earlier, the Elysee Palace press service confirmed that Macron would meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Pyotr Poroshenko at 6.00 p.m. on Friday, adding that prior to that meeting, Macron would hold talks with Poroshenko’s opponent, Vladimir Zelensky. The spokesperson did not elaborate what issues would be on the table of the talks, but pointed out that bilateral issues were expected to be touched upon along with cooperation within the framework of the Normandy Four group.
The Ukrainian presidential election was held on March 31. Leader of the Servant of the People political party Vladimir Zelensky is in the lead with 30.24% of the vote, followed by incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko, who garnered 15.95%. Since none of the candidates managed to get more than 50% of the vote, the top two are headed towards a runoff scheduled to take place on April 21
TOKYO, April 9 -- Carlos Ghosn has accused "backstabbing" Nissan executives of a "conspiracy" to have him arrested over fears he planned to merge the firm with France's Renault, in a video released Tuesday.
The video, recorded shortly before Ghosn was rearrested by prosecutors in Tokyo last week, did not however point the finger at specific individuals, with the tycoon's lawyer saying it had been edited to remove names. The video was the latest twist in a rollercoaster case that has defied expectations since the shock arrest of the 65-year-old last November. In the brief recording, played by his lawyers at a press conference, Ghosn appeared at a desk in a white shirt and black suit jacket and repeated that he was "innocent of all the charges that have been brought against me." He denounced a "conspiracy" against him and said events had been "twisted in a way to paint a personage of greed, a personage of dictatorship." "This is about a plot, this is about conspiracy, this is about backstabbing," he said in the video. He said the "conspiracy" was motivated by "a fear that the next step of the alliance in terms of convergence and in terms of moving towards a merger would in a certain way threaten some people or eventually threaten the autonomy of Nissan."
In addition to heading Nissan, Ghosn also oversaw the alliance that groups the automaker with Renault and Japan's Mitsubishi Motors. He has previously suggested that concerns at Nissan about closer integration led to his arrest. But while Ghosn's wife Carole had said the auto tycoon would name "the people responsible" in the video, his lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told journalists that the defence team had opted to edit specific allegations out of the recording. Ghosn was rearrested by prosecutors last week while out on bail in Tokyo after they announced they were investigating new allegations against him. A court has extended his detention until April 14, when prosecutors can apply to hold him for an additional 10 days before they must release him unless they bring charges or file new allegations.
Prosecutors said Ghosn had been detained over transfers of Nissan funds totalling $15 million between late 2015 and the middle of 2018 to a dealership in Oman. They suspect around $5 million of these funds were siphoned off for Ghosn's use, including for the purchase of a luxury yacht and financing personal investments. Prosecutors accuse Ghosn of having "betrayed" his duty not to cause losses to Nissan "in order to benefit himself." Ghosn already faces three formal charges: two of deferring his salary and concealing that in official shareholders' documents, and a further charge of seeking to shift investment losses to the firm. Ghosn spent 108 days in a detention centre in northern Tokyo before being dramatically released on bail of around $9 million on March 6, emerging from incarceration dressed in a workman's uniform and face mask in an apparent bid to avoid the media.
He then lived in a court-appointed apartment in Tokyo without commenting on his situation despite huge international and Japanese media interest in his case that has shocked and surprised from the beginning.
However, just as reports began to surface that he could be rearrested, Ghosn emerged on Twitter to announce plans to hold a news conference on April 11. His rearrest came just days after news that Renault, which Ghosn also once headed, had handed French prosecutors documents showing suspicious transfers worth million of euros authorised by the auto tycoon. Shortly after his arrest, his wife Carole -- who had been living in Tokyo with Ghosn while he was on bail -- left Japan. She told a French newspaper she had been forced to flee Tokyo with support from the French ambassador and was able to use her US passport after having to surrender her Lebanese one to prosecutors.
Prosecutors reportedly wanted to question her on a voluntary basis over suspicions company money allegedly misused by Ghosn could have transited through a business that was run by his wife. Nissan shareholders on Monday voted to remove Ghosn from the board, along with his right-hand man Greg Kelly, who also faces charges in Japan. He was replaced by Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard.
PARIS, April 8 -- Angela Merkel will join Emmanuel Macron (right) and Jean-Claude Juncker for a meeting with Xi Jinping in Paris on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Germany and the European Union to join a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping when he visits Paris next week. In the surprise move, Macron asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take part in the meeting with Xi on Tuesday, apparently to step up pressure on China during the European charm offensive. Xi is in Italy on the first stop of a six-day trip to Europe, to be followed by Monaco and France. Pressure from France and Germany has played a big role in shaping the EU’s new, more assertive, China policy that is being debated in Brussels, analysts say. During the meeting with Xi, Macron plans to explain Europe’s strategy towards China as the EU moves forward with new policies on Beijing, according to a statement from the French president’s office. The meeting with Xi would focus on trade and the environment, it said. Frans-Paul van der Putten, senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, said it was a coordinated approach.“It seems that France, Germany and the European Commission are jointly taking the lead in coordinating the EU’s China policy,” van der Putten said.
“Should the European Commission, Germany and France continue their current path towards closer coordination of their China policies, then this could strengthen the overall position of the EU with regard to China,” he said. “But that is only possible if the rest of the EU member states believe that their interests are adequately reflected in the [EU’s] policies.”He said the Paris meeting was aimed at preparing for the upcoming EU-China summit in Brussels on April 9.François Godement, senior adviser for Asia at the Institut Montaigne in Paris, said Macron’s unexpected call for a multilateral meeting during a bilateral state visit was “unprecedented”. He said the move was in line with Macron’s commitment to EU integration and reform, and his support for new responses to China proposed by the European Commission. “The meeting is also an answer to China’s very stubborn bilateralism, and is meant to demonstrate a coordinated European stand,” he added.
Godement said while France and Germany had recently made joint proposals on China at the EU level, there was always a risk that other countries did not agree with their position. “The other member states of course don’t like being put in a box,” he said.
PARIS, April 6 -- Protesters from the yellow vest movement are taking to the streets of France for a 21st straight weekend, with hundreds gathered for a march across Paris, one of numerous protests around the country.
Paris police have fine-tuned their strategy of being more mobile and proactive to counter eventual violence since the first Saturday of protests Nov. 17. The Champs-Elysees avenue is off-limits to protesters after it was hit by rioting last month. Hundreds gathered in Rouen, in Normandy, a past flashpoint, and hundreds more in eastern Paris at the Place de la Republique, the start of a march to the business district on the capital’s western edge.
The yellow vest movement, demanding social and economic justice, has attracted dwindling crowds but still remains a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron.
PARIS, March 30 -- French yellow vest protesters were rallying Saturday to support an activist injured in a confrontation with police and show they remain mobilized against the government's economic policies.
The demonstrators are undeterred by protest bans or repeated injuries in 20 weeks of demonstrations. So they're marching again Saturday in Paris, Bordeaux, and other cities to keep pressing President Emmanuel Macron to do more to help the working classes, redesign French politics — or step down altogether. They're also showing solidarity with Genevieve Legay, a 73-year-old anti-globalization activist who suffered a head injury in the southern city of Nice last weekend. The Nice prosecutor said a police officer pushed her down. "We are all Genevieve!" read an online appeal for Saturday's protests.
In Paris, thousands of yellow vests started marching from the Gare de l'Est, in the north of the city center. They were heading south to weave through the Left Bank and past the Eiffel Tower. The French capital was placed under high security. Protests were banned around the Champs-Elysees, scene of recent rioting. Audrey Bayart, who came from northern France for the protest, said Legay's case shows the government's contempt toward protesters, especially after Macron told a newspaper the elderly woman should have had the "wisdom" not to join the Nice protest. "After a while, you have to respect people and not tell them 'you are fragile and you stay at home' ... Everybody has things to say, why are we trying to shut them up? That is not democracy," she said.
The movement has appeared to lose support in recent weeks, drawing significantly smaller crowds than at its beginning in November, when hundreds of thousands of people mobilized across France, initially to oppose fuel tax hikes, before expanding into a broader rejection of Macron's economic policies. The government is expected to announce next month a new batch of measures as a result of a "great debate" launched by Macron so that ordinary French people can express their views on the country's economic and democratic issues.
PARIS, March 23 -- French authorities early on Saturday deployed its military on the streets of Paris in order to assist police as the country prepares for fresh ' Yellow Vest' protests.
Paris military governor, General Bruno Leray, is saying that the military can go as far as opening fire if their lives or the lives of people they defend are threatened. However, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that the soldiers would not be involved in keeping public order. Their soldiers mission is to fight against terrorism and to protect vulnerable sites, this is for police men and military police to get to the operational ground. In our country, the army is not in any way in charge of public order or law enforcement," Macron was quoted as saying. The decision to deploy the army was undertaken to curb the violence and rampages caused last week when a large group of masked protestors looted and vandalised shops and restaurants located along the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, as the ‘YellowVests’ protests entered the 18th consecutive weekend. The French police have also imposed a ban on protests across the Champs-Elysees to ensure the law and order in the French capital. In addition, French government's spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, noted that the troops deployed under “Operation Sentinelle” -- an anti-terror operation, patrolled streets and protected airports, train stations, places of worship and other sites. During last week’s protests, the French police had put barricades around the Champs-Elysees and resorted to firing tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The anti-government protests had previously forced President Emmanuel Macron to scrap the proposed hike in fuel prices. The government introduced a string of initiatives, including increasing the minimum wage by 100 euros a month, as part of 'economic and social emergency plan' unveiled in December last year. However, the protesters have continued their agitations regardless, demanding 20 per cent hike in minimum wages, equal pay for men and women, tax reform, development of public services and just environmental reforms.