Russia To Limit Entry For ‘Unfriendly’ States

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President following their talks in Moscow on March 24, 2022. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / POOL / AFP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President following their talks in Moscow on March 24, 2022. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / POOL / AFP

 

Russia said on Monday it was preparing to restrict entry into Russia for nationals of “unfriendly” countries, which include Britain, all EU states and the United States.

“A draft presidential decree is being developed on retaliatory visa measures in response to the ‘unfriendly’ actions of a number of foreign states,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in televised remarks.

“This act will introduce a number of restrictions on entry into Russia,” he added without elaborating.

READ ALSO: Nearly 3.9 Million People Flee Ukraine – UN

After the West piled unprecedented sanctions on Moscow following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to pro-Western Ukraine, Russia expanded the list of what it calls “unfriendly” countries.

They now include the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, all EU member states and several others.

Russian carriers have been banned from the airspace of the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States and travel to and from Russia is now limited.

AFP

Russia Welcomes China-India Contacts Aimed At De-escalation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Moscow on June 16, 2020. Handout / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP.

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday Moscow welcomed contacts between its close allies India and China after a deadly border confrontation.

President Vladimir Putin has close ties with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian premier Narendra Modi, who has talked of a “special chemistry” with the Russian strongman.

Lavrov said at a press conference that “it’s already been announced that military representatives of India and China have been in contact, they are discussing the situation, discussing measures for its de-escalation. We welcome that.”

China and India have traded blame for Monday’s high-altitude brawl that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead, with China refusing to confirm so far whether there were any casualties on its side.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: “Both China and India are very close partners for us, allies.”

“We are paying close attention to what is happening on the China-India border,” he said, calling reports on the clashes “very concerning.”

He said that Russia nonetheless believes China and India “are capable by themselves of taking steps so that such situations do not happen again… and so that this region is safe for the peoples of China and India.”

AFP

Russia’s Top Diplomat To Visit White House Amid Impeachment

US President Donald J. Trump (L) shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) during their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday opened a visit to Washington in which he will meet Donald Trump, the very day when Democrats unveiled impeachment charges against the president.

The timing marks a redux of the veteran Russian diplomat’s last visit to Washington in May 2017, when Trump was fighting off allegations that he cooperated with Russia and was accused of sharing classified information with Lavrov.

Lavrov was beginning a day of talks at the State Department, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration was determined to pursue its work despite the politics at home.

“We didn’t pick this date to coincide with the process on Capitol Hill, but we can’t allow the zaniness that’s taking place on Capitol Hill to impact our job,” Pompeo told conservative broadcaster One America News on Monday.

Pompeo said that he would look to find ways to work with Russia including on improving business ties and on arms control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for the quick renewal, even by the end of the year, of the New Start treaty, the last remaining major arms treaty between the United States and Russia.

Negotiated under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the treaty which expires in February 2021 obligated the two powers to halve their arsenals of strategic nuclear missile launchers.

The Trump administration, while not ruling out an extension, wants a new treaty to include China, which has a quickly growing, but still much smaller, arsenal than Russia and the United States.

The United States earlier this year withdrew from the Cold War-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces, which limited missiles that could hit European cities, after saying that Moscow was in violation.

Lavrov is also expected to discuss the hotspots of Iran, North Korea and Syria — where Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad, has become even more pre-eminent as the top foreign player after Trump pulled US troops.

Movement on Ukraine 

The talks in Washington come a day after Putin held a landmark first meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, although they did not reach any breakthrough.

The pair met in Paris alongside the presidents of France and Germany, who are leading efforts to end a five-year war in which Ukraine is battling Russian-backed separatists.

The impeachment inquiry is linked to the war, with House Democrats unveiling charges that Trump abuses his power and obstructed Congress.

The White House delayed nearly $400 million in military aid sought by Ukraine to fight the separatists as Trump asked Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate seeking to challenge him in 2020 elections.

Trump, in a phone call to Zelensky that triggered the impeachment inquiry, also sought an investigation into a conspiracy theory debunked by US intelligence that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election.

US intelligence says that Russia tried to sway the 2016 election to Trump, especially through manipulation of social media, but an extensive probe by former FBI chief Robert Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign was conspiring with Moscow.

After his last visit in May 2017, The Washington Post reported that Trump shared classified information with Lavrov and Russia’s then ambassador to Russia about a threat from the Islamic State group.

The US ally that provided the information, which led to restrictions on laptops in the cabins of commercial flights from the Middle East, did not authorize its sharing, the report said.

The White House denied the accusation but Trump later insisted he had the “absolute right” to share “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

AFP

Russia Accuses US Of Plotting ‘Coup’ In Venezuela

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov/ AFP

 

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday accused the United States of plotting a “coup” against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in a dispute over Russian military assistance for the crisis-hit country.

Lavrov said in a statement he had complained of “attempts by Washington to organise a coup d’etat in Venezuela” during a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The statement said such moves “constitute violations of the UN charter and undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”.

READ ALSO: Special Counsel Mueller Clears Trump Of Conspiring With Russia

Pompeo earlier warned Russia that the United States will not “stand idly by” as Moscow inserts military personnel into Venezuela to support Maduro, a State Department statement said.

Russian state news agency Sputnik reported Sunday that two Russian military planes delivered troops and equipment to Venezuela over the weekend.

Lavrov did not comment on that report.

Pompeo said Russian military reinforcements were prolonging the political crisis in the South American country.

Venezuela is rich in oil but has plunged into economic crisis, suffering hyperinflation and shortages of food and basic goods.

Washington and its allies support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and recognise his claim to be acting president in defiance of Maduro.

Socialist leader Maduro retains the support of Russia and China, US rivals who have offered him political and economic support.

AFP

Russia ‘Sceptical’ Over UN Syrian Crimes Against Humanity Report

Russia 'Sceptical' Over UN Syrian Crimes Against Humanity Report
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a press conference after his meeting with UN Secretary-General in Moscow on June 21, 2018. Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

 

Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday said he was “sceptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta.

The report published Wednesday said forces loyal to the government had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.

“We are in principle very sceptical towards the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

When questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses”, rather than being put together on the ground.

The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.

As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.

The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”

Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Islamic State group.

More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

AFP

Lavrov Calls Unites States’ Election Meddling Claims ‘Blabber’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives a speech during the Munich Security Conference on February 17, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. Global security chiefs and top diplomats attend the annual Munich Security Conference running until February 18, 2018 to discuss Syria, Ukraine and other international conflicts and crises.
Thomas KIENZLE / AFP

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday dismissed as “blabber” accusations that Moscow had interfered in the US election that brought President Donald Trump to power.

“So as long as we don’t see facts, everything else is blabber,” Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference, a day after the US indicted 13 Russians for running a secret campaign to sway the American vote.

The indictments — which include the first charges laid by US special counsel Robert Mueller for election interference — detailed a stunning operation launched in 2014 in a bid to sow social division in the United States and influence American politics “including the presidential election of 2016”.

Mueller alleges that by mid-2016, the campaign — under the direction of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — became focused on boosting Trump and demeaning his rivals including Democrat Hillary Clinton.

It allegedly involved hundreds of people working in shifts and with a budget of millions of dollars. Three companies were also indicted.

Mueller charges that members of the group posed as US citizens on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, posting content that reached “significant numbers” of Americans.

The content was retweeted by the president’s two eldest sons Don Jr and Eric, as well as other top campaign officials and members of Trump’s inner circle.

The indictments made no judgement however on whether the alleged Russian efforts had altered the outcome of the election.

When asked to comment on the charges at the security gathering in Germany, Lavrov said: “I don’t have a reaction because anything and everything can be published. We see how accusations, statements, are multiplying.”

But he stressed that US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, had in the past “denied that any country influenced results of the election”.

 ‘Incontrovertible’ evidence 

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had earlier rubbished Mueller’s allegations as “absurd”.

But US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, taking the stage in Munich immediately after Lavrov, said “evidence” of such attempts to “interfere in our democratic process” would become harder to hide.

“We’re becoming more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion, and as you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and in the public domain,” McMaster said.

While in the past, investigators were wary of divulging their IT intelligence capabilities, “now that this is in the arena of a law enforcement investigation, it’s going to be very apparent to everyone,” McMaster said.

He also argued that Russian authorities might begin to reconsider attempts to sway foreign elections, “because it’s just not working”.

The efforts to “polarise our societies” and “pit Western societies against each other, all that has done has appealed to those big fringes while uniting all of our policies actually against Russia and Russian interference,” he said.

Trump meanwhile has seized on the indictments as proof that his campaign team did not conspire with Moscow.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president,” he tweeted Friday.

“The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

None of the 13 Russian suspects are in US custody.

AFP

Moscow ‘Understands’ Palestinian Anger At Trump – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives his annual press conference in Moscow on January 15, 2018.
Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said Moscow “understands” the anger of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who earlier denounced White House peace efforts as the “slap of the century.”

“We completely understand the emotions the Palestinians currently have. For years they made concessions without receiving anything in return,” Lavrov said at an annual press conference in Moscow.

“We constantly hear that the US is about to unveil an important deal (on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) that would satisfy all sides. We have not seen this kind of document,” Lavrov added.

Palestinian leaders on Monday held a meeting called after US President Donald Trump’s controversial December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians want the annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state and Abbas has said Trump’s stance means the US can no longer be the mediator in peace talks with Israel.

In December, Abbas sent delegations to China and Russia to ask them to take on a greater role in the peace process with Israel.

Lavrov said Russia welcomed the Palestinians because “they were ready for direct talks with the Israelis without preconditions.”

Moscow’s chief diplomat added that the chances of direct contact between the two sides are “unfortunately approaching zero.”

Lavrov went on to say “the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most serious factors that allows radicals to recruit newer and newer generations of terrorists.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since they collapsed in 2014.

AFP

Britain’s Johnson, Lavrov Clash Over Brexit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson give a joint press conference following their meeting in Moscow. Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson clashed Friday over Russia’s alleged interference in the Brexit vote even as they sought to thaw ties after years of antagonism.

During the first official visit by a foreign minister from London in five years, the outspoken Johnson tried to open lines of communication and the two diplomats made attempts to show their two countries were willing to overcome years of differences.

But the two appeared to clash over allegations that Russia had sought to influence the Brexit vote last year, with Lavrov urging Johnson to come up with hard evidence proving Russia’s alleged interference.

Lavrov said he welcomed Johnson’s November comment in which the British minister said he saw no evidence, “not a sausage”, that Russia had interfered in British elections.

“Not successfully,” Johnson interrupted.

Lavrov then accused his British counterpart of contradicting him to avoid “criticism back home” and to safeguard “his reputation.”

“It’s your reputation I’m worried about, Sergei,” Johnson hit back jokingly in a tense exchange through interpreters.

Lavrov said recent accusations of Moscow’s meddling in Western political systems have been invented by the West and that Moscow had yet to see any “concrete evidence” to back them up.

“I think you’ve made it all up in your Western company and unfortunately you are hostages to this subject.”

“It’s very difficult to climb down from the fence.”

Following the 2016 referendum on Brexit, in which Johnson campaigned to leave the EU, Britain has joined the growing number of Western countries accusing Russia of interfering in their political systems.

Accusations that the Kremlin is meddling in Western domestic affairs have heightened fears over the influence of Russian hackers, trolls and state-controlled media.

While the first accusations against Moscow came following a 2016 hack attack on the US Democratic Party’s servers, they rapidly multiplied after Trump’s election.

In a major foreign policy speech last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of “weaponising information” and “threatening the international world order on which we all depend.”

A new report published by researchers from Oxford University this month found that Russian “trolls and bots” active ahead of the Brexit vote “contributed relatively little to the overall Brexit conversation.”

AFP

Putin Gives U.S. Delegation Cold Shoulders

Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that trust had eroded between the United States and Russia under President Donald Trump, as Moscow delivered an unusually hostile reception to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson in a face-off over Syria.

This is coming as the new U.S. leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow’s ally for its suspected use of poison gas.

The Kremlin had previously declined to confirm Putin would meet Tillerson, reflecting tensions over the U.S. strike on Syria.

Rex Tillerson – Courtesy: www.slate.com

Tillerson, however, started a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin after talking to his Russian Counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for about three hours.

In his opening remarks, Lavrov giving off the cold shoulder, stated: “I won’t hide the fact that we have a lot of questions, taking into account the extremely ambiguous and sometimes contradictory ideas which have been expressed in Washington across the whole spectrum of bilateral and multilateral affairs.

“And of course, that’s not to mention that apart from the statements, we observed very recently the extremely worrying actions, when an illegal attack against Syria was undertaken.”

A senior Russian official assailed the “primitiveness and loutishness” of U.S. rhetoric, part of a volley of statements that appeared timed to maximize the awkwardness during the first visit by a member of Trump’s cabinet.

“One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved but has rather deteriorated,” Putin said in an interview broadcast on Russian television.

He also doubled down on Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, repeating denials that Assad’s government was to blame for the gas attack last week and adding a new theory that the attack may have been faked by Assad’s enemies.

Tillerson, on the other hand, kept to more calibrated remarks, saying his aim was “to further clarify areas of sharp difference so that we can better understand why these differences exist and what the prospects for narrowing those differences may be.”

“I look forward to a very open, candid, frank exchange so that we can better define the U.S.-Russian relationship from this point forward,” he told Lavrov.

Russian Ministry Announces Plans To Expel 35 US Diplomats

Vladimir Putin, Russia, France, Syria CrisisRussia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has on Friday recommended that the Kremlin expel 35 US diplomats from Russia in response to sanctions announced by Washington.

Lavrov said his ministry proposed that 31 staff members be expelled from the US Embassy in Moscow and four from the US consulate in St Petersburg.

The Russian foreign minister called US allegations of Russia’s interference in the US election campaign “groundless.”

The US on Thursday, ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and ordered the closure of two Russian compounds.

The diplomats and their families were given 72 hours to leave the country.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama was ending in “anti-Russian death throes”.

Syria Presses Toward Aleppo, Tells Rebels To Leave

Syria, Allepo, UN, Boris JohnsonSyrian government and allied forces are pushing toward Aleppo, pursuing their week-old offensive to take the rebel-held part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.

The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.

Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power began their push to take the whole of the divided city after a ceasefire collapsed last month.

An air campaign by the Syrian government and its allies has been reinforced by a ground offensive against the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, where insurgents have been holding out. Hospitals have been badly hit in the assault, medics say.

Reuters reports that while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke by phone to discuss normalisation of the situation, Britain said the bombing of hospitals by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad made it impossible to talk about peace.

“It is the continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are patently war crimes – bombing hospitals, when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals – that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.

Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.

The Observatory said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.

The Syrian army said that rebel fighters should vacate east Aleppo in return for safe passage and aid supplies.
“The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” a statement carried by state news agency SANA said.

East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.

International attempts to establish ceasefires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other aid groups have brought in limited supplies.

Lavrov, Steinmeier To Meet On Ukraine, Syria Crisis

Sergei-Lavrov-Frank-Walter-Steinmeier-Germany-RussiaThe foreign ministers of Russia and Germany, Sergei Lavrov and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are set to meet on Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the duo would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria in the course of their meeting expected to take place in Yekaterinburg.

President Vladimir Putin had accused Ukraine of sabotage plans in Crimea, the peninsula Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014.

Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, had also discussed the Syrian conflict with Mr Putin during his visit to Russia earlier this week.