EU Chief Tells Putin To Ensure Ukraine ‘Humanitarian Safe Passage’

File photo: European Council President Charles Michel speaks, during the One Planet Summit 2021 video conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Francisco Seco / AP Pool / AFP)


EU chief Charles Michel on Monday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call to end his invasion of Ukraine and allow safe passage for civilians.

“Called on President (Putin) to immediately stop hostilities and ensure humanitarian safe passage and access to assistance,” European Council head Michel said on Twitter.

“Stressed need to ensure safety and security of nuclear facilities amidst hostilities in Ukraine. Agreed to maintain further contacts.”

The call was the first between the top EU official and Putin since the Kremlin launched its war against Ukraine 11 days ago.

Michel spoke as well to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to underline that the EU’s “solidarity, friendship and unprecedented assistance for Ukraine are unwavering”.

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“The EU stands firmly by Ukraine’s side in efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering inflicted by Russia’s aggression and ensure nuclear safety,” Michel wrote on Twitter.

He said that the bloc would discuss Ukraine’s application for membership “in coming days”.

EU leaders are set to hold a two-day summit focused on Ukraine and their response to the crisis from Thursday in France.


Turkey Must Resume Accepting Migrants From Greece – EU

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology


The EU’s home affairs commissioner said on Monday that Turkey should “urgently” resume accepting hundreds of migrants from Greece, days before EU chiefs were due to hold talks in Ankara.

“I call on Turkey to urgently resume the return of migrants from Greece,” Ylva Johansson said during a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, which hosts more than 8,000 asylum seekers.

EU chiefs Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey next Tuesday.

There are nearly 14,000 migrants housed on Lesbos and another four Aegean islands — Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.

Speaking alongside Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, Johansson pledged 275 million euros ($324 million) of EU money for new camps on all five islands.

She had earlier visited the construction site of the Samos camp, tweeting: “I listened and explained that the migration proposals are designed to Europeanise and help the situation.”

Mitarachi, who has said new migrant camps are expected to be completed on Samos by June, and on Kos and Leros by September, called on Turkey to accept 1,450 migrants whose asylum applications had been rejected.

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The press conference was delayed by roughly 300 people demonstrating against the planned Lesbos camp, in a protest called by local governor Costas Moutzouris.

“The islanders will not allow the construction of permanent camps on Greek and European borders,” the governor said in a statement.

Moutzouris had also whipped up opposition to the new camp last year. An attempt by the government to force ahead with construction work had prompted days of riots and clashes with riot police.

Greece has toughened its migration policy since conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power in 2019.

Border patrols have increased, asylum processes have been quickened and benefits have been slashed, even for refugees who are granted asylum.

Greece has also been accused by rights groups of repeatedly pushing back migrant boats in violation of international law.

Government officials have repeatedly denied the claims.

“We haven’t returned boats. We have prevented boats from entering European and Greek territory, but this is something allowed by the regulations,” Mitarachi told AFP in an interview earlier this month.

However, Johansson insisted on Monday that Greece “can do more” to investigate pushbacks.


EU Chief Michel Calls Navalny Arrest ‘Unacceptable’, Urges Immediate Release

European Council President Charles Michel speaks, during the One Planet Summit 2021 video conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Francisco Seco / AP Pool / AFP)


European Council president Charles Michel on Sunday condemned the detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, urging the Russian authorities to free him after he was arrested at a Moscow airport.

“The detainment of Alexey Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him,” Michel wrote on Twitter.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell echoed the call for Navalny to be freed following his arrest, which came as the anti-corruption campaigner returned to Moscow for the first time since his poisoning in August.

“Russian authorities must respect Alexei Navalny’s rights and release him immediately. Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable,” Borrell tweeted.

Navalny, 44, had flown into to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Western experts concluded he was poisoned with Soviet-designed nerve toxin Novichok. The Kremlin denies any involvement in the attack.

READ ALSO: Russian Police Detain Kremlin Critic Navalny Minutes After Return

The poisoning on EU soil fuelled tensions between the bloc and its eastern neighbour.

In December, Germany was hit with what it called “unjustified” tit-for-tat sanctions by Russia over penalties imposed by the EU following the poisoning.

Moscow issued travel bans against several EU representatives after Brussels imposed sanctions on six Russian officials over the poisoning.

Figures close to the Kremlin feature prominently on the list of the six, who the EU said were responsible in some way for the poisoning of Navalny due to the functions they held.


Brussels Attack: Belgian Police Break Up Street Protests

 Brussels AttackBelgian Police briefly used water cannon to control several hundred rowdy protesters in central Brussels on Sunday after they ignored an official call for marches to be postponed following Tuesday’s bombings.

They invaded the Place de la Bourse as people paid tribute at a makeshift memorial for victims of last Tuesday’s deadly attacks.

Riot police intervened to try to restore order after the group confronted Muslim women in the crowds, made Nazi salutes and chanted.

The attacks at Brussels Airport and on the metro killed 28 people.

Amid fears of further attacks, officials wanted to give police the scope to focus on investigations which have widened to other countries, leading to the arrest of an Algerian in Italy and intelligence cooperation with Germany. Police carried out 13 new raids in Belgium itself.

Most of the protests were peaceful but white-helmeted riot police used the water cannon against a group of protesters, many of whom local media described as right-wing nationalists, who burst onto the square chanting and carrying banners denouncing Islamic State.

“It is highly inappropriate that protesters have disrupted the peaceful reflection at the Bourse (stock exchange). I strongly condemn these disturbances,” Prime Minister, Charles Michel said.

Paris Attacks: Abdeslam’s Capture ‘Major Blow’ To ISIS – Cazeneuve

Salah AbdeslamFrance’s Interior Minister has said that the capture of a suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, is “a major blow” to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Europe.

Bernard Cazeneuve said that security forces had managed to “incapacitate several individuals who are clearly extremely dangerous and totally determined.”

France is seeking suspect Abdeslam’s extradition from Belgium.

He was wounded and arrested in a dramatic raid in Brussels on Friday, after four months on the run.

French President, Francois Hollande, said Abdeslam’s arrest was “an important moment.

“The battle against terrorism does not end tonight, even though this is a victory.

“We must catch all those who allowed, organised or facilitated these attacks and we realise that they are a lot more numerous than we thought earlier and had identified,” Mr Hollande told a news conference on Friday with Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel.

Abdeslam was believed to have masterminded the Paris attacks which killed 130 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The suspect, a 26-year-old French national born in Brussels, had lived in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital before the Paris attacks.

Paris Attacks: Police Discover ‘Suicide Bomb Belt’ On Street

Paris Attacks: Police Discover 'Suicide Bomb Belt' On StreetThe French police are examining what appears to be a suicide bomb belt found dumped on a Paris street in France’s capital.

The suicide bomb belt found is said to resemble belts used by the attackers and was discovered in a suburb which a suspect is thought to have passed through after the attacks.

The US has issued a worldwide travel alert in response to the attacks.

The Belgian capital, Brussels, also remains on high alert and schools and the metro will stay closed on Tuesday.

They are due to reopen on Wednesday but the highest alert level will continue for at least another week.

Authorities fear Paris-style attacks may be carried out in the city, where at least one Paris attacker lived, with Prime Minister Charles Michel warning that the threat remains “imminent”.

The police in Belgium has charged a fourth suspect with terrorism offences related to the deadly attacks on Paris.

This was 10 days after the Islamic State (IS) militant group launched near-simultaneous attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people.

While the French President, Francois Hollande, described the attacks as an ‘act of war’ organised by the militant group, the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, asked European countries to ‘wake up’ to terror threats after it emerged that the suspected Belgian ringleader of the attacks had entered France undetected.

Belgium Charges Man Over Paris Attacks

BelgiumThe police in Belgium have charged a fourth suspect with terrorism offences related to the deadly attacks on Paris.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said on November 23 that the man, who was not identified, was detained in a series of police raids in Belgium late on the previous day.

Fifteen other people arrested in the raids were released without charge after being questioned.

The prosecutor’s statement said the man had been charged with “participating in activities of a terrorist group and with [a] terrorist attack.”

Of the other five people arrested on Monday morning, two have been released, while “further enquiries” are under way regarding the others, the prosecutor said.

Belgium had already charged Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou with aiding fleeing Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of participating in the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam, 26, a Brussels barkeeper whose elder brother blew himself up during the Paris attacks, has been the focus of a manhunt by French and Belgian authorities.

French police said an object that appeared to be an explosives belt was found in a bin in the Paris suburb of Montrouge on Monday. The item is being examined.

Mobile phone data suggest that Salah Abdeslam – whose brother died in the attacks – was in that area late on the night of the attack.

The November 13 coordinated assaults in Paris, claimed by Islamic State (IS) militants, left 130 people dead.

A third, unnamed suspect had also been charged.

Brussels Raises Terror Alert For Fears Of Paris-Style Attack

Brussels Terror AlertThe Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, says the decision to raise the terror alert level in Brussels to the highest level, was taken due to fears that there might be an attack there, like the one that happened in Paris.

Some of the attackers who killed 129 people in Paris lived in Brussels.

Leading suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is believed to have gone back to Belgium and a huge manhunt is underway.

The Brussels metro is closed till Sunday and people have been told to avoid crowds which include shopping centres and concerts.

The authorities have also recommended that large events, including football matches, be cancelled.

The Belgian government will review the security situation in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, Mr Michel added.

Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, had earlier told reporters that the country’s situation was ‘serious’, but ‘under control’, as he arrived for a special security cabinet meeting on Saturday.

Turkish police, nonetheless, said that they have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent on suspicion that he scouted out sites in Paris.

The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the attacks, which Islamic State said it carried out.

Paris Attacks: France Calls On EU To ‘Wake Up’ To Threat

Paris Attacks: France Calls On EU To 'Wake Up' To Threatparis policeThe French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, says European countries must ‘wake up’ to terror threats.

He spoke after it emerged that the suspected Belgian ringleader of the attacks had entered France undetected.

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has, however, defended Belgium’s security services amid claims the attacks were organised there.

The defence came as EU Interior Ministers are due to hold emergency talks.

The meeting in Brussels is expected to tighten checks at the external borders of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.

French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said that the EU’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls, after it emerged the ringleader of the Paris attacks had managed to enter Europe unnoticed.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, had died in a police raid on an apartment in northern Paris on Wednesday.

As debate raged about the failings that had let Abaaoud slip through the net, Valls urged France’s neighbours to “play their role properly”, saying the whole Schengen system would be called into question if Europe does not take responsibility for its borders.

The Schengen system allows passport-free travel between 26 countries, but it has come under severe strain this year, as the continent struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

France President, Francois Hollande Honours Train Heroes

franceThe President of France, Mr Francois Hollande has honoured three Americans and a Briton with France’s top honour, the legion d’honneur.

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Briton’s Chris Norman, who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train on Friday, received their medals from Mr Hollande at a ceremony held at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday morning.

Mr Hollande pinned the medals on the chests of the four passengers at the ceremony in Paris on Monday morning.

Before the awards, he said: “We are here to honour four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives.

“In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your bravery. It should be an example to all of us and inspire us. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom”.

The passengers overpowered a suspected radical Islamist on a high-speed train bound for Paris.

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel and the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, attended the ceremony, along with the head of the French rail firm, SNCF.

Two other unnamed passengers are also billed to receive the honour at a later date.

The Legion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.