Putin, Macron Agree ‘Negotiations’ Only Way To Defuse N.Korea Tensions

Russian President, Vladimir Putin (L) and France President Emmanuel Macron (R)

Russian President, Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call on Friday that resuming direct talks with North Korea is the only way to resolve tensions over its nuclear programme.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the two leaders “were united in the opinion that it was unacceptable to allow an escalation in tension”.

The crisis needs to be resolved “exclusively through political and diplomatic means, by restarting direct negotiations,” they said.

Both Putin and Macron “decisively condemned the provocative” firing by North Korea of a ballistic missile Friday over Japan and into the Pacific, the statement said.

Macron’s office said the two leaders “underscored the importance of Russia’s role in this crisis for a united and strong response by the international community”.

The latest launch came days after the UN slapped new sanctions on Pyongyang following its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.

The Kremlin statement said that during Putin’s discussion with Macron “it was underlined that an adequate response to Pyongyang’s irresponsible steps was taken” by the UN.

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne stressed the importance of sanctions against North Korea.

“In the face of this threat, France is ready to work, notably within the UN Security Council and the European Union, to strengthen measures aimed at convincing the Pyongyang regime that it has no interest in escalation, and to bring it to the negotiating table,” she said.

European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini condemned the missile launch as an “outrageous provocation” and also vowed to step up sanctions on the rogue regime.

The EU will implement the latest UN measures against individuals and organisations on Friday, Mogherini said, and press on with efforts already under way to extend the bloc’s own sanction regime.

“Our work will be accelerated even more by this latest launch,” she said.

Russia backed the new sanctions against North Korea on Monday, banning it from trading in textiles and restricting oil imports.

But Moscow refused to support tougher measures like an oil embargo and Washington had to soften its stance in order to secure the support of Russia and China, the North’s strongest backers.

The United States called on China and Russia to take “direct actions” to rein in North Korea after it fired the missile.

“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labour,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

AFP

Putin Meets Lebanese Prime Minister, Discusses Bilateral Ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Wednesday (September 13) in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The meeting came a day after Russia and Lebanon signed a memorandum on economic and investment cooperation between the two countries.

Putin said he was confident the agreements would “contribute to positive development” in bilateral ties.

Hariri said talks with the Russian leader would touch on the threats the Middle East crisis posed to Lebanon.

The Lebanese official on Tuesday (September 12) met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

Trump Meeting ‘Big Political Win For Putin’ – Analyst

United States President Donald Trump pressed Vladimir Putin at their first meeting for the Russian president on Friday about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

The Russian president has denied any meddling in the U.S. democratic process last year and Moscow has asked for proof that it took place.

One analyst called the meeting a “big political win” for Putin, but said both leaders benefitted from the exchange.

“I think Putin comes away from it having very clearly demonstrated that he broke the U.S. imposed isolation policy,” said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“For Trump, I don’t think he broke out of the constraints he’s on with respect to Russia policy here in Washington,” he added. “On the other hand, this, as some commentators have said, may have been his most substantive, significant international meeting yet.”

Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign for the presidency last year. But he has been unable to deliver on that pledge because his administration has been dogged by investigations into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties between his campaign and Moscow. Trump says his team did not collude with Russia.

Speaking on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Hamburg, Tillerson said the two leaders “had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject. The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement”.

The face-to-face encounter was one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings between two leaders in years.

The meeting lasted more than two hours and U.S. first lady Melania Trump came in at one point to urge them to conclude, Tillerson said.

Washington and Moscow also announced after the meeting that the United States, Russia and Jordan have reached a ceasefire and “de-escalation agreement” in southwestern Syria, one of the combat zones in a six-year-old civil war.

The ceasefire will go into effect at noon Damascus time (0900 GMT) on Sunday, U.S. and Russian officials said.

Trump Calls First Meeting With Putin An “Honour”

United States President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that it was an “honour” to meet him for the first time and said he looked forward to “positive things” in the relationship between the former Cold War rivals.

The face-to-face encounter between Trump and Putin at a Group of 20 Summit in Germany was one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings in years.

Trump and Putin spoke through translators with their respective foreign ministers present for six minutes before reporters were allowed into the room for their statements. Afterwards, the reporters were ushered out and the meeting continued.

Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign for the presidency last year. But he has been unable to deliver on that pledge because his administration has been dogged by investigations into allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election and ties between his campaign team and Moscow.

Moscow has denied any interference and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Russian Court Convicts Five Men Of Murdering Putin Critic Nemtsov

Russian Court Convicts Five Men Of Murdering Putin Critic NemtsovA court on Thursday convicted five men of murdering Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, more than two years after he was shot dead near the Kremlin.

Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, was murdered in 2015 as he walked across a bridge in the heart of Moscow after dining with his girlfriend.

Aged 55, he had been working on a report examining Russia’s role in Ukraine.

After more than eight months of hearings, a jury trial on Thursday convicted five men of his murder, including the man prosecutors said pulled the trigger, Zaur Dadayev, a former soldier in Chechnya.

It said the four others had acted as his accomplices and that the group had been promised a reward of 15 million rubles ($253,889.59) for the high-profile assassination.

Putin Suggests Russian League Has Too Many Foreign Players

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested on Thursday, that the presence of foreign players in the domestic soccer league is hindering the development of local talent as Russia gears up to host the World Cup finals next year.

The Russian leader said international football experts had told him that the national team’s failures could be linked to “too many foreign players” and “too little attention paid to preparing substitutes”.

The Russian Premier League currently does not allow more than six foreign players per team on the pitch at any time.

Speaking during his annual call-in show broadcast on state television, Putin insisted that there were “positive trends” in Russian soccer, including the creation of a youth academy by Russian businessman Sergey Galitskiy in the southern city of Krasnodar.

Russia this month slipped to a record low 63rd in the FIFA world rankings.

The country will showcase four of its 12 World Cup venues during the Confederations Cup, a two-week tournament kicking off Saturday June 17 that will feature the home country, defending World Cup champions Germany and the winners of FIFA confederations.

Putin Appeals For Respect For His Family’s Privacy

Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed for privacy for his family on Thursday, saying he feared being candid on the subject could deprive his two grandchildren of a normal childhood.

Putin, who is divorced, has two daughters, Katerina and Maria, and is famously reluctant to discuss them or any aspect of his own personal life.

“As for my grandchildren, somebody already goes to a kindergarten,” said Putin, when asked about his family in a televised question and answer session with voters ahead of a presidential election next year.

“You know, the matter is, I don’t want them to grow up like princes of the blood. I want them to become normal people. And for that, they need ordinary, normal communication with other children.”

For that reason, he said he preferred not to disclose their names and ages.

“They will be immediately identified and they won’t be left in peace and they won’t be left in peace, this will damage the children’s development. Therefore, everything is all right for me and I ask you to understand me correctly (on this) and treat this position with understanding,” he said.

Putin also touched on the subject of his daughters saying that, despite what he called rumours, they both lived in Moscow.

“My daughters work in science and education; they are not involved anywhere in politics or somewhere else. They have ordinary lives.”

Reuters has reported that Putin’s daughter Katerina works in a senior post at Moscow State University and that she has described herself as the spouse of Kirill Shamalov, a shareholder in petrochemicals company Sibur.

Kirill is the son of Nikolai Shamalov, a longtime friend of the president. Shamalov senior is a shareholder in Bank Rossiya, which U.S. officials have described as the personal bank of the Russian elite.

Reuters has also reported that a number of firms and individuals close to the Kremlin were providing support to a project Katerina oversees at the university, and to the All-Russian Acrobatic Rock’n’Roll Federation, in which she is involved.

Extending Oil Output Cuts Will Stabilise Prices, Says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that extending oil output cuts for further nine months would ensure stable oil prices.

Putin, speaking in Beijing, said extending the output cuts was the right thing to do.

“I have met with the heads of the companies … and we support the proposal,” said Putin, who said it was right that Russia was choosing how to approach the issue itself.

He was speaking after Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s two top oil producers, agreed on Monday on the need to extend the cuts for a further nine months until March 2018 to rein in a global crude glut, pushing up prices.

Nigeria To Exit Joint Venture Cash Calls With Oil Companies

Russia and Saudi Arabia heavily depend on oil revenues. Last year they agreed the first joint output cuts in 15 years despite major political differences, including their support for opposite sides in the Syrian war.

Saudi, the de facto leader of OPEC, and Russia, the world’s biggest producer, together control a fifth of global supplies.

Their latest joint action was spurred by oil prices dropping to under $50 per barrel, below their budget needs.

Under the current agreement that started on Jan. 1, the 13-country OPEC and other producers pledged to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of the year.

Reuters

Rebels Reject Russian Military Help

russianThe Free Syrian Army (FSA) says it wants no help from Russian military forces in the war in Syria.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Saturday, said Russia was willing and ready to help them, if they wanted to attack militants from the Islamic State (IS).

He said the Russian Air Force could support the FSA, provided the United States (U.S.) shared information about rebel positions.

But an FSA spokesperson, said President Vladimir Putin was assisting a regime that indiscriminately killed its own people, and questioned its help.

Russian air support has allowed President Assad’s forces to launch ground operations in several provinces in recent weeks.

The President, on Sunday, hosted a visiting delegation of Russian parliamentarians in Damascus, and again he said he was grateful for Moscow’s support, as eliminating terrorist groups would resolve the country’s problems.

 

G7 Leaders Threaten Hard-hitting Sanctions On Russia

G7-leadersThe United States and its allies used the first Group of Seven (G7) meeting without Russia in 17 years to condemn Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and threaten hard-hitting sanctions if President Vladimir Putin does not help restore stability.

Meeting in Brussels rather than the Black Sea resort of Sochi – a snub to Russia which was supposed to have hosted the G8 – Western powers and Japan delivered strong rhetoric, even if the EU’s commitment to further sanctions remains in doubt.

“We are united in condemning the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Italy and Canada said in a joint statement.

“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to destabilize eastern Ukraine, are unacceptable and must stop.”

That message was reinforce by President Barack Obama, who said Russia’s economy was already suffering and would only suffer more if Putin did not change behaviour.

“If Russia’s provocations continue, it’s clear from our discussions here that the G7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia,” he said. “Today, in contrast to a growing global economy, a sluggish Russian economy is even weaker because of the choices made by Russia’s leadership.”

Putin, who will meet Germany’s Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Britain’s David Cameron on the sidelines of 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France on Friday, appeared unfazed by the threats.

Asked at an event in St. Petersburg how he felt about being excluded from the G8 for the first time since joining the club in 1997, Putin was typically pointed, barely breaking stride to speak to Kremlin reporters as he left a meeting.

“I would like to wish them bon appetit,” he said, before walking away swiftly.

It appears unlikely that Obama and Putin will talk in France.

“Should we have the opportunity to talk, I will be repeating the same message that I’ve been delivering to him throughout this crisis,” Obama said.