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.
BAIKONUR, August 22 -- A Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket took off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Thursday to deliver to the International Space Station (ISS) the Soyuz MS-14 manned spacecraft with a Russian humanoid robot on board.
The rocket took off from the Gagarin Start launch pad at 6:38 Moscow time. Approximately nine minutes after the takeoff, Soyuz separated from the third stage and embarked upon a two-day journey to the ISS. At about 6:47 Moscow time, the spacecraft unfurled its solar batteries. Although there will be no humans on board this time, the Soyuz-MS spacecraft will carry Russia’s Skybot F-850 android robot and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The docking is scheduled for 08:31 Moscow time on August 24. The Soyuz-2 rocket will replace Soyuz-FG, which has delivered international crews to the ISS since 2002. Russian space industry switched to a next-generation rocket after Ukrainian partners stopped deliveries of analog control systems installed on Soyuz-FG. As the two countries suspended cooperation in the space industry, Russia was left with a limited number of Soyuz-FG. The last launch of this type of rocket will take place on September 21. Soyuz-2.1a rockets are equipped with Russian-made digital control systems.
VIENNA, August 20 -- OPEC+ countries participating in the Vienna Agreement on the reduction of oil production fulfilled the terms of the agreement by 159% in July 2019, a source said after the meeting of the OPEC+ technical committee.
"OPEC+ deal compliance percentage reaches 159% in July 2019," the source said. At the same time, OPEC countries complied with the agreement by 156%, and non-OPEC countries performed the agreement by 166%, the source added. Thus, in July the OPEC+ participants reduced production against October 2018 taken as the base level by 1.9 mln barrels per day, instead of early planned 1.2 mln barrels daily. In total, OPEC+ countries agreed to reduce oil production by 1.2 mln barrels per day by March 2020, including 812,000 barrels for OPEC countries and 383,000 barrels - non-OPEC countries. The main reduction quotas fall on the largest parties to the agreement - Russia and Saudi Arabia (228,000 barrels per day and 322,000 barrels per day, respectively).
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.
CARACAS, August 14 -- The Venezuelan National Assembly (parliament) will continue functioning under any circumstances, opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday.
The Venezuelan parliament is controlled by opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. "If necessary, we will use emergency mechanisms to continue working in the parliament and fulfilling our responsibilities no matter what," El Nacional newspaper quoted Guaido as saying. Guaido added that the Venezuelan authorities are cautious about international reaction to the possible dissolution of the parliament and prefer to abstain from such step, stripping opposition parliament members of immunity instead. On Monday, Venezuela's Constituent Assembly stripped four parliament members of immunity upon the Supreme Court's request. Jose Guerra, Rafael Guzman, Tomas Guanipa and Juan Pablo Garcia Canales are accused of "treason, usurping powers, public calls for unrest, violation of laws and violence." The Constituent Assembly was established by Maduro in July 2017 without a preliminary referendum. There are no opposition representatives in the Constituent Assembly, and most Latin American countries do not recognize it as legitimate.
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.
KRASNOYARSK, August 9 -- Forest fires have swelled to 963,000 hectares in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region, the regional Forest Fire Response Center issued a statement on Friday.
The natural element's peak was registered last week when over 1.1 mln hectares were burning. "According to recent data, 118 forest fires engulfing 963,000 hectares are active in the region….. They pose no threat to residential areas," the statement reads. Most wildfires are reported in hard-to-reach areas where firefighting activities are launched upon the regional Emergency Management Commission’s decision. These fires have scorched 940,000 hectares. Firefighting activities in the region involve more than 1,300 personnel and over 100 pieces of equipment, as well as aircraft and helicopters. Forest fires in the Krasnoyarsk Region reached a peak last week, engulfing over 1.1 mln hectares. Ten of the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft were deployed to combat the blazes last Thursday. A state of emergency is still in effect. According to the regional Forestry Ministry, hot and dry weather, gusts and dry thunderstorms are the main causes of the wildfires.
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.
VIENNA, July 29 -- Iran looking at further reduction of its commitments under JCPOA by September 4-5 as part of less-for-less approach, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Sunday after a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"Further we are in early September, with September 4-5 being a reference date, when Iran plans to take the so-called third step to reduce its commitments as part of the less-for-less approach," he said.
"We called on the Iranians to refrain from that after all," he said, adding that it is necessary to see to it that Iran really has the economic possibilities that were provided by the deal and lost due to the US sanctions. "Some participants in the deal think that Iran must get back to the implementation of its commitments in full without any additional reservations or conditions," he said. "But in the current situation, it looks absolutely unrealistic."
Modernization of reactor at Iran’s Arak
Ryabkov added that the project for the modernization of the heavy water reactor at Iran’s Arak is nearing the equipment purchasing stage. "Progress has been made on the Arak project," he said. "It is not nominal. The stage of practical, purchasing activities is nearing. It is a separate question who will supply equipment there and what kind of equipment. But as a matter of fact, it is not a political question. It is a question to the designers." According to the Russian diplomat, the prospects for handing over equipment for the modernization of the reactor at Arak are seen as quite sensitive in some countries. "Anyway, we have an indirect relation to this project," he noted. "We are not going to supply any equipment there. All we can do is to offer our consultancy.". INSTEX vehicleThe European special purpose vehicle INSTEX aiming at facilitating trade between the European Union and Iran is operating in the pilot mode and a series of procedures are needed to make fully operational, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister noted.
"INSTEX is operating in the pilot regime. To make it fully operational certain political and bureaucratic procedures are to be finalized, in particular, to sign additional documents between ISTEX and a similar structure set up in Iran," Ryabkov said. The European Union announced the launch of the INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) vehicle at a previous meeting of political directors on June 28. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on July 17 that a number deals with several millions of US dollars had been executed via INSTEX but, in his words, it was not enough. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said earlier on Sunday that the EU’s vehicle was not yet operational.