CARACAS, August 27 -- Venezuela's National Assembly (parliament) controlled by the opposition has declared null and void a new agreement with Russia on military cooperation. The declaration was published on Monday.
The document concerns "the agreement on military cooperation between the governments of Venezuela and Russia, signed by defense ministers Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Sergey Shoigu." "This agreement was not considered either by a commission on foreign policy, sovereignty and integration or by parliament, which makes it unconstitutional, and this means that it is null and void," the declaration said. The parliament said that opening a Venezuelan embassy in North Korea was "a violation of the constitution." On August 15, Shoigu and Lopez signed an agreement on reciprocal visits of military ships at the meeting in Moscow. The defense ministers also discussed the situation in Venezuela and issues of bilateral military cooperation.
BIARRITZ, August 26 -- G-7 leaders discussed the return to the G-8 format with Russia's participation at a summitin the French city of Biarritz, Kyodo news agency reported, citing sources from Japanese government circles.
No details were provided about the content of the interview, and an agency source said the information "will never be disclosed". Earlier, US President Donald Trump agreed to a proposal by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, to invite Russia to the G7 summit in 2020 in the US. Vladimir Putin, for his part, said that Russia considered all contacts with the G7 countries useful and did not rule out the resumption of the G8 form. German Chancellor Angela Merkel linked the issue of the resumption of the G-8 with progress in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. The G-7 is an association of economically developed countries that includes the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In the form of the seven, the club has existed from 1976 to 1997. After Russia's accession, it became known as the G8
WASHINGTON, August 23 -- President of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said that this is not the first time US President Donald Trump has brought up the idea of reinstating the G8 format with Russia's participation.
There is no possibility of the G8 with Russia's participation being reinstated, president and founder of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said on Thursday. He was commenting on recent statements by US President Donald Trump on the need to reinstate the G8 format with Russia's participation. "It's not the first time that [US President Donald] Trump has brought this up actually. He mentioned it during the Canada-hosted G7 as well," Bremmer said. "But the reason for Russia's removal wasn't [former US President Barack] Obama being 'outsmarted' by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, but the response to the annexation of Crimea, which the G7 countries considered, and still consider, illegal. There is no possibility of the G8 being reinstated," he added. "As you may have heard, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided not to even attempt a communique at the end of the summit that will be held on August 24-26 in France's Biarritz - the first time that's happened since the meetings started in 1975. It's a G-zero world," Bremmer noted.
The Group of Seven (G7) is an association of industrialized countries that brings together the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In 1997, it was renamed the Group of Eight (G8) after Russia joined the association. In 2014, Western countries decided to return to the G7 format after the developments in Ukraine and deterioration of relations with Russia.
BERN, August 19 -- Two fighters from Switzerland’s Air Force escorted a plane belonging to the Rossiya Airlines special air carrier en route from Moscow to Marseille for several minutes.
On board the Ilyushin-96 liner, were members of the Russian delegation going to France for talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Emmanuel Macron, including Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov, along with a group of journalists. When the plane entered Switzerland’s airspace, two fighters approached it, one on each side at an altitude of 10.6 kilometers. The fighters took turns to flying close to the airliner, at certain moments hovering just several meters away from the liner’s wings and escorted it across Swiss airspace for some time to the border with France, where they turned away. Swiss Air Force jets have approached and escorted Rossiya Airlines aircraft many times in the past.
MOSCOW, August 13 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to pay a visit to France on August 19 to discuss Ukraine with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Not only the situation in Ukraine is on the agenda. Also the future work in the Normandy format (Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany) will be addressed, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "Indeed, a working visit of the Russian president to France on August 19 is being prepared, this will be a one-day visit," Peskov said. The leaders will focus on bilateral cooperation and economic ties, international issues, namely Ukraine, as well as the prospects of continuing work in the Normandy format, he noted. Peskov has not ruled out that the sides could discuss the repatriation of the remains of a French general, Charles-Etienne Gudin de La Sablonniere, who was killed on the battlefield near Smolensk in 1812. His remains were unearthed this July by a team of archaeologists. "Certainly, if our French vis-a-vis consider it necessary to bring up this issue, I’m sure this issue will be discussed," Peskov said, stressing that Putin and Macron usually have a frank discussion on various issues. The Normandy format negotiations for ironing out the Donbass crisis have been underway since June 2014. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany gathered in Normandy for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day (the landing of allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in 1944) to discuss the settlement of the conflict in Donbass for the first time. Since then, a number of phone conversations and high-level meetings have taken place as well as contacts between the foreign ministers.
MOSCOW, August 11 -- Nearly 50,000 Russian opposition activists and their supporters have taken to Moscow’s streets for a fifth consecutive weekend in spite of a government crackdown as support from citizens and celebrities grows across the county.
The protests, which demand that Moscow authorities allow independent candidates to appear on the ballot in the city’s upcoming elections, have been the largest wave of demonstrations in Russia since 2011-2012. Independent polling this week said that Moscow residents are more likely to support the protests than oppose them. At least 49,900 people have gathered at the authorized protest on Prospekt Sakharov so far, the White Counter crowd-monitoring NGO said. The rally included performances by the techno duo IC3PEAK and the popular rapper Face. Moscow City Hall had barred the musical performers but organizers said the acts would still take the stage. Ahead of Saturday's protest, masked police searched an office used by opposition activist Lyubov Sobol and took her in for questioning, she wrote on Twitter. "I won't make it to the protest. But you know what to do without me....Russia will be free!" Sobol said. Eight people have been detained so far at the Moscow protest, the OVD-Info police-monitoring website said.
Several other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, are also staging pickets in solidarity with Moscow’s opposition candidates. Eighty-six have been detained at the St. Petersburg rally and 11 were detained in Rostov-on-Don, OVD-Info said. Russia's main election board on Wednesday rejected the appeals of several opposition politicians, including hunger-striking Sobol, to get back on the ballot. In the days since, the opposition has vowed to continue staging protests — authorized or unauthorized — until the Sept. 8 City Duma election. Russian celebrities like popular YouTuber Yury Dud and rapper Oxxxymiron announced they would attend today’s event, calling on their millions of social media followers to join them. Moscow police have detained more than 2,300 people at rallies this summer protesting the candidates' exclusion. While most of those detained were quickly released, authorities accused protesters of using violence against the police. Investigators opened criminal proceedings against several people over what they have called mass civil unrest, an offense punishable with up to eight years in jail. On Friday, senators in Russia’s upper-house Federation Council said they will draft a bill to further restrict the locations where citizens will be allowed to protest.
KIEV, August 7 -- Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has told reporters that he held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Donbass. Russia's Kremlin confirmed that the conversation between the two leaders took place.
"This morning I spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin," Zelensky told a briefing following an urgent meeting with security forces, convened after four Ukrainian military were killed in the Donbass operation zone. "I called him on short notice. I said that this is not bringing us closer to peace." Kiev claims the servicemen in Donbass came under fire launched by militias. The Ukrainian president noted that he had asked the Russian leader to exert influence on the other party to "stop the killings." After Wednesday’s telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian president plans to discuss the situation in Donbass with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I will make another phone call from Turkey to President Macron," Zelensky told a news briefing following an emergency meeting with key military and law enforcement officials after the death of four Ukrainian servicemen in the area of the military operation in Donbass. "Also, I plan to contact Chancellor Merkel in the near future to agree on an urgent meeting." Zelensky believes that the Normandy quartet leaders should meet urgently "to look each other in the eye and bring this war to an end."
On Tuesday, Zelensky called on the Normandy Four leaders — Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron — to convene a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the death of four Ukrainian servicemen, which Kiev blames on militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Donetsk has rejected the claims, stressing that the incident had occurred way beyond the contact line and not within the militias’ striking range. On August 7-8, Zelensky is to pay a visit to Turkey, where he will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and representatives of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities.
MOSCOW, July 21 -- More than 22,000 people packed a Moscow square Saturday to demand free and fair local polls, incensed by the authorities' refusal to put popular opposition candidates on the ballot.
Staging their largest protest in years, opposition leaders such as President Vladimir Putin's top opponent Alexei Navalny and ordinary Muscovites rallied after authorities refused to register independent candidates seeking to contest the September vote for the capital's parliament. "This is my city!" the crowd chanted during the two-hour-long sanctioned rally."We will show them this is a dangerous game," Navalny bellowed from a stage. "We should fight for our candidates," he said as the huge crowd cheered and waved Russian flags.
The 43-year-old threatened an even bigger rally next Saturday, near the mayor's office, unless Moscow's authorities register a new crop of popular politicians including Ilya Yashin and Lyubov Sobol within seven days. After the rally, 16 independent candidates issued a joint statement demanding access to the ballot and accusing Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin of sparking a "political crisis" in the city of some 15 million. Speaking at the rally, Navalny ally Sobol, who has been on a hunger strike for a week to protest the authorities' refusal to allow her to run, vowed to keep up the fight. "I am sure that we will win," said the visibly fatigued 31-year-old lawyer, propped up by an ally on stage. Many ordinary Russians have slammed what they called the blatant impunity of officials, saying people's patience was running thin. "We are angry at the lawlessness," Alexander Polovinkin, a 21-year-old student. Police detained a handful of protesters, said the OVD-Info monitor, adding one of them had his arm broken.Many protesters took direct aim at the 66-year-old Putin, who has brooked no dissent during his two decades in power. "Putin lies," said one placard. "Stop lying to us," read another one. Opposition candidate Ilya Yashin, who is a local councillor, said Putin must go. "I've lived half my life under Putin. I've had enough," the 36-year-old said. Fellow opposition contender Dmitry Gudkov, who was also disqualified, accused the authorities of stealing not only people's votes but their very future. "We've been living in an occupied country for the past 20 years," he said. White Counter, an NGO that tracks participation in protest rallies, said about 22,500 people took part in Saturday's rally. Navalny said it was the largest rally since 2012 when tens of thousands protested election fraud during parliamentary polls.
Police, which downplay turnout at opposition rallies, said 12,000 turned up. Observers said that never before have Muscovites turned up in such great numbers to demand access for their candidates in local elections. Opposition politicians fought tooth and nail to get on the ballot paper as they seek to capitalise on Putin's falling approval ratings and anger over declining living standards and unchecked corruption. They were made to jump through countless hoops, and each had to collect roughly 5,000 signatures to be eligible. Electoral authorities this week still refused to register the opposition candidates, accusing them of faking some of the signatures. Critics said some of the officials' reasoning bordered on the absurd. The Kremlin dismissed the opposition's complaints, but many Russians are furious at what they perceive as electoral interference. The opposition candidates staged smaller daily rallies throughout the week. Many have also taken to social media in recent days to post messages or videos to prove they were not "dead souls." At Saturday's rally, some protesters waved their passports in the air, chanting "We have come!" Greg Yudin, a lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, said he and many other Muscovites discovered that their signatures were declared fake. "All of us are ghosts. We are the nobodies," he said on Facebook this week. Observer Kirill Rogov said the candidates' exclusion was "one of the largest frauds in Russia's electoral history". "We are witnessing a major large-scale crime," he wrote on his blog. Some 7.2 million Muscovites are eligible to elect 45 lawmakers to the local parliament, currently dominated by the United Russia ruling party.
MOSCOW, July 19 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern over the confrontation between the United States and Iran. He said this to US director Oliver Stone in an interview published on the official Kremlin website on Friday.
"This worries us because this is happening near our borders. This may destabilize the situation around Iran, affect some countries with which we have very close relations, causing additional refugee flows on a large scale plus substantially damage the world economy as well as the global energy sector," Putin said. "We would welcome any improvement when it comes to relations between the US and Iran. A simple escalation of tension will not be advantageous for anyone. It seems to me that this is also the case with the US," he added. The United States withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal on 8 May 2018 and imposed economic sanctions on Tehran's oil exports. One year later, on 8 May 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Iran's suspension of some commitments in the framework of the nuclear deal and gave other participants in the deal two months to return to its implementation. The situation around Iran further deteriorated after the June 13 incident in the Strait of Hormuz when two tankers caught fire after presumable attacks. The United States placed responsibility for the incident on Iran. The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia supported these accusations. Teheran rejects these allegations.
ANKARA, July 12 -- Turkey’s Defense Ministry has posted photos of the first batch of the Russian-made S-400 missile system’s equipment delivered to the country.
Official photos of the Turkish Defense Ministry show several prime movers and a transporter-loader of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Friday that the first batch of components has been delivered to the Murted Air Base near Ankara under the S-400 deal. Activities to deliver Russia’s S-400 air defense systems to Turkey scheduled for Friday are over, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said. "According to the plan, the third [Russian] plane has landed, the activities scheduled for today are over. The process will continue in the coming days," Anadolu Agency quotes him as saying. The minister noted that "in parallel with S-400 supplies, work to train personnel to install and operate these systems will continue in Turkey and Russia." He added that Ankara "continued to look into the feasibility of purchasing US Patriot missile systems." According to the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the remaining components will be delivered in the near future.
The first reports about the talks between Russia and Turkey on the deliveries of S-400 air defense missile systems came in November 2016. In September 2017, Russia confirmed that that the relevant contract had been signed. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier said that the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems could begin in October 2019. In December 2017, CEO of Russia’s state hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov noted that the S-400 deal was worth $2.5 bln. The United States has been making attempts to prevent Turkey from purchasing Russia's S-400 missile systems. Washington earlier warned that it might deny Turkey the purchase of F-35 fighter-bombers, if Ankara pressed ahead with the S-400 deal. The S-400 ‘Triumf’ is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
Author: Lora Smith