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.
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.
ZURICH, June 21 -- The Ukrainian delegation to Switzerland discussed new economic opportunities in the sustainable energy sector with their Swiss counterparts, the Ukrainian government said Friday.
The discussion took place during the "Ukraine 2019: New Economic Horizons, New Business Opportunities" round table in Zurich and the 12th meeting of the Ukrainian-Swiss Joint Committee in Bern, said a statement on the government's website. As a member of the Ukrainian delegation, Serhii Savchuk, head of the State Agency for Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving (SAEE), took part in the discussion. Switzerland's achievements in the clean energy sector could become a great example for Ukraine, Ukrainian officials noted. The SAEE head emphasized that Ukraine has created favorable legislation and market conditions for the development of green energy. Switzerland is already cooperating with Ukraine in bio-energy projects, according to the statement. Both sides expressed hope for more fruitful projects in energy efficiency, green energy and garbage utilization in the future.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing-777 passenger plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk. The crash killed all the 283 passengers, citizens of 10 countries, and 15 crew members. In spite of the active armed conflict on the ground, Kiev didn't close its airspace over the Donbass region to international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, was set up to investigate the tragedy. In June 2017, the JIT countries made a decision that the hearing will be held in a Dutch court under the Dutch laws. The Netherlands’ prosecution heads the JIT and will be responsible for filing the case and presenting the details. In accordance with the decision of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, the case will be heard at the Schiphol Judicial Complex in the town of Badhoevedorp. In May 2018, Australia and the Netherlands said that they would seek to hold Russia responsible for complicity in the plane crash on the grounds of the provisional report published by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) claiming that the missile system that was used to down Flight MH17 could have been transferred from Russia and be a part of the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade near Kursk. Moscow rejects the JIT accusations. Particularly, the Russian Defense Ministry said that no Russian army missile system had ever crossed the Ukrainian border. Moreover, the defense ministry’s representatives reported that they had identified the missile that was launched to down the Boeing and established that it was transferred over to the Ukrainian troops back in 1986 and had never returned to Russia since.
DEN HAAG, June 15 -- Investigators will next week announce criminal proceedings against suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 five years ago, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists.
MH17 was shot out of the sky over territory held by separatists in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. There were 38 Australians, one New Zealander, 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 12 Indonesians were aboard, as well as 10 British passengers. The other passengers were from Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada.
Dutch prosecutors said yesterday a multinational investigation team would present its latest findings to media and families on June 19. A spokesman for the national Dutch prosecution service declined to specify what would be announced. Citing anonymous sources reported that the public prosecution service had decided to launch a case against several MH17 suspects. Also reported that criminal proceedings will be announced against individual suspects. No suspects were named in the reports.
The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
Investigators had said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.
Dutch officials have said Russia has refused to cooperate. Russia is not expected to surrender any potential suspects who may be on its territory and authorities have said individuals could be tried in absentia. The Joint Investigation Team was formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to investigate collaboratively. The Netherlands and Australia hold Russia legally responsible. Moscow denies all involvement and maintains that it does not support, financially or with equipment, pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops.
MOSCOW, June 12 -- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the historic level of pressure from Russian civil society that led to investigative journalist Ivan Golunov’s release yesterday but points out that at least six other journalists are still detained in Russia.
Their profiles are presented below.
Ivan Golunov’s arrest highlighted the complete impunity enjoyed by corrupt police officers ready to bring the most absurd trumped-up charges against troublesome journalists. Their behaviour shocked Moscow but it is quite common in the rest of Russia. A young Chechen journalist, Zhalaudi Geriyev, has just completed a three-year jail sentence on equally fanciful drug charges. At least six other journalists continue to be detained arbitrarily just for doing their job. One of them, Igor Rudnikov, is due to be sentenced on 17 June and is facing up to ten years in a prison camp. “The past few days have shown that it is possible to snatch journalists from censorship’s claws in Russia if the level of support and solidarity is strong enough,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “But the scale of this victory will be limited if we allow Ivan Golunov’s fellow journalists to continue festering in prison. The time has come to mobilize for all the other journalists who are unjustly detained in Russia. I am and we are Igor Rudnikov, Remzi Bekirov, Alexei Nazimov, Roman Sushchenko, Alexander Tolmachev and Alexander Valov.”
A reporter for the alternative news website Grani.ru in Crimea (the Ukrainian region annexed in 2014), Bekirov particularly covered the persecution of the Tatar population and pro-Ukraine activists by the Russian de-facto authorities. He was arrested along with a number of other people in Crimea in March 2019 and is facing a possible life sentence on a charge of being one of the “leaders of a terrorist organization,” Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
The editor of the opposition newspaper Tvoya Gazeta in the Crimean city of Alushta, Nazimov was arrested in October 2016 and was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison for supposedly trying to extort money from the local branch of the ruling United Russia party, which he had criticized in his reporting.
The founder and editor of the leading independent newspaper in Russia’s western enclave of Kaliningrad, Rudnikov is well known for hard-hitting investigative reporting and had been the target of two murder attempts. He was arrested in November 2017 on a charge of trying to extort money from the local head of the special police, who had been the subject of some of his investigative reporting. A verdict is due in his trial on 17 June. His newspaper, Novye Kolesa, has meanwhile been forced to close.
The Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform’s Paris correspondent, Sushchenko was arrested while visiting a friend in Russia in September 2016 and was sentenced to 12 years in a harsh-regime prison camp at the end of a trial held behind closed doors. Most of the indictment was classified as a defence secret.
The editor of two publications in the southwestern Rostov-on-Don region, Upolnomochen Zayavit and Pro Rostov, Tolmachev arrested in December 2011 and was illegally maintained in pre-trial detention for nearly three years despite serious health problems. He was finally sentenced to nine years in a prison camp for allegedly extorting money from people he had criticized in his reporting.
The editor of the BlogSochi news website in the southwestern Sochi region, Valov is well known for criticizing the local authorities. He was arrested in January 2018 on a charge of trying to extort money from a local parliamentarian he had criticized, and was sentenced to six years in prison at the end of a sham trial. BlogSochi has meanwhile been hacked and is no longer accessible.
Russia is ranked 149thout of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 31 -- The Malaysian government wants strong evidence to show that Russia is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy in 2014, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"They are accusing Russia, but where is the evidence? "We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian-type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine. "You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians. "It could be by the rebels in Ukraine, it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” he said during a dialogue and media conference with the Japanese Foreign Correspondent Club (FCCJ) here on Thursday (May 30).
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia accepted the investigation report by Holland but only up the point where the plane was brought down by a missile made by Russia. He said while the government agreed that the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, it could not be ascertained that the missile was launched by Russia. The Russians were a military people and they would know that MH17 was a passenger plane, he added. "I don’t think very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said. The Prime Minister said Malaysia should also have been involved in the examining the black box as the plane belonged to Malaysia and there were Malaysians passengers. "We may not have the expertise, but we can buy the expertise. For some reasons, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened. "We don’t know why we were excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it, and the idea was not to find out how this happened but seemed to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians. "This is not a neutral kind of examination,” said Dr Mahathir.
Had a neutral party examined and made the conclusion, Malaysia would be willing to accept the findings but here we have parties with political interests in the matter, he added. Flight MH17, which departed from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam on its way to Kuala Lumpur, was shot before crashing near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, about 40km from the Russian border on July 17, 2014. The incident killed 298 people, including 15 crew members. Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said the team was convinced that a BUK TELAR missile was used to down MH17, and that it originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade (53rd Brigade), which is a unit of the Russian Army in Kursk in the Russian Federation.
KIEV, May 29 -- Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky plans to make a working visit to Brussels on June 4 to hold meetings with top EU officials, Ukraine's Radio Svoboda said.
"The visit will take place on June 4. Zelensky is expected to meet with top EU officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker," the radio station said. In addition, Zelensky may also meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Deputy Chief of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Vadim Pristaiko said on May 27 that Germany would be one of the first countries Zelensky would visit though a date for his visit hadn’t been finalized yet.
WASHINGTON, May 26 -- The only thing that can be negotiated with the Venezuelan government is the departure of incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the US State Department said in a statement published on Saturday.
The US expressed hope that the upcoming talks between members of the Venezuelan opposition and government officials in Oslo will focus on this issue. "The United States supports the desire of the Venezuelan people to recover their democracy and bring the illegitimate Maduro regime to an end. Previous efforts to negotiate an end to the regime and free elections have failed because the regime has used them to divide the opposition and gain time," the statement says. "Free elections cannot be overseen by a tyrant. As we have repeatedly stated, we believe the only thing to negotiate with Nicolas Maduro is the conditions of his departure. We hope the talks in Oslo will focus on that objective, and if they do, we hope progress will be possible," the US State Department continued. The US also demanded to release "800 political prisoners the Maduro regime held as of May 20". "We join supporters of democracy in Venezuela throughout the world in condemning their illegal imprisonment by the Maduro regime and in demanding their immediate release," the statement concluded.
Situation in Venezuela
Juan Guaido Venezuelan opposition leader and speaker of the National Assembly, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country’s capital, Caracas, on January 23. On the same day, the United States recognized him as an interim president, and the countries of the Lima Group (excluding Mexico) and the Organization of American States followed suit. Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted the move as an attempted coup and announced cutting diplomatic ties with the United States.
Most European Union member states recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey voiced support for Maduro.
On April 30, a group of military representatives expressed support for Guaido, which started a wave of massive anti-government protests in the country. Five people died and hundreds were injured in clashed with law enforcement. Non-governmental organizations reported that nearly 340 protesters were detained.
MOSCOW, May 22 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the situation in Syria in the context of multiple ceasefire violations in Idlib, the Kremlin press service said.
"The sides comprehensively exchanged opinions on the Syrian issue, including in light of multiple ceasefire violations in Idlib by radical armed groups. The Russian president informed his colleagues about joint efforts with Turkey on stabilizing the situation in Syria's north-west, on protecting civilians and netralizing terrorist threats," the Kremlin said. "Special attention was paid to prospects of forming and launching a constitutional committee, with the consideration of agreements reached in October 2018 at the four-party summit (Russia, Turkey, Germany, France) in Istanbul. The sides agreed to continue coordinating efforts in the framework of political settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, in accordance with principles of ensuring Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the press service added. On Monday, militants from the Idlib de-escalation zone, together with the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (formerly Jebhat al-Nusra, banned in Russia), launched an offensive at positions of Syrian govenrment forces, with the use of tanks. The Russian Center fore reconciliation of the conflicting sides in Syria said that the Syrian government forces are repelling the attacks. Militants also attempted to shell the Hmeymim airbase multiple times. Russian servicemen said that shellings and provocations by militants continued even after the ceasefire agreement entered into force on May 18.
Situation in Ukraine
The sides also discussed Ukraine in the telephone conversation. "The situation was discussed around the crisis in Ukraine given the bankrupt policies of the administration of Pyotr Poroshenko and the change of the state leadership in Ukraine," the Kremlin said. The parties agreed that "there is no alternative to the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures as a basis for the peace settlement," the press service added. "The Russian president reiterated the priority of carrying into effect the law on a special status for the certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, giving it a permanent nature, holding amnesty, disengaging forces and means on the earlier coordinated sections along the contact line, as well as moves to establish a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk," the press service said. Putin also "drew attention of the interlocutors to the discriminatory law ‘On the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language’ passed by the Verkhovna Rada. He expressed bewilderment about the refusal of some countries to discuss in the UN Security Council this document that goes against the Ukrainian Constitution, the Minsk agreements and Kiev’s international obligations to protect national and language minorities," the Kremlin noted. Vladimir Zelensky was inaugurated as Ukrainian President on Monday, May 20. On the same day, Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman announced his resignation, which means the Cabinet of Ministers will resign. On Tuesday, Zelensky signed a decree to dissolve the parliament and scheduled the snap parliamentary election for July 21.