War With Neighbouring Ukraine Is ‘Unlikely’ – Putin

putinRussian President Vladimir Putin has said war with neighboring Ukraine is “unlikely.”

Vladimir Putin was being interviewed on state television when he was asked if he expected a war between the two countries.

In his interview – his first extended comments since the ceasefire deal was agreed on 12 February – Mr Putin was asked if there was a real threat of war, given the situation in eastern Ukraine.

“I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen,” he said.

Mr Putin said that if the Minsk agreement was implemented, eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilise”.

“Europe is just as interested in that as Russia. No-one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict,” he said.

Ukraine said Russian troops had been fighting in Ukraine, a claim Mr Putin repeated denied.

Mr Putin also said he did not see the need for another meeting with France, Germany and Ukraine on peace in the region and that he hoped the accords agreed to in Minsk would be respected.

He added that the four countries trust each other “on the whole”.

Mr Putin’s words came after Ukraine had halted the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, blaming continuing attacks from pro-Russian rebels.

However, Ukraine claimed there had been attacks against its forces and is now refusing to budge.

Lieutenant Colonel Anatoliy Stelmakh said the retreat would not proceed until rebel attacks stop entirely – something that was supposed to occur from 15 February.

Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany are meeting in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the ceasefire.

On Monday, Ukraine’s military said rebel shelling had prevented them withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line.

Putin: Troops To Surrender As Ukraine Ceasefire Unravels

putinRussian President Vladimir Putin, told Kiev to let its soldiers surrender to pro-Russian rebels, who spurned a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and fought their way on Tuesday into the town of Debaltseve, encircling thousands of government troops.

A peace deal reached at all-night talks in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, last week had all but unravelled, with both sides failing to begin pulling back heavy guns as required after the rebels refused to halt their advance.

Putin, whom Western countries accused of directing the rebel assault with Russian soldiers and weapons, said Kiev should allow its soldiers to surrender to the advancing rebels.

“I hope that the responsible figures in the Ukrainian leadership will not hinder soldiers in the Ukrainian army from putting down their weapons,” Putin said.

“If they aren’t capable of taking that decision themselves and giving that order, then I hope that they won’t prosecute people who want to save their lives and the lives of others.”

He added that he hoped the rebels would allow the Ukrainians to return to their families, once they had surrendered the town.

The US on the other side, had accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreement on Ukraine, as the UN Security Council voted unanimously to approve the ceasefire deal.

Vice-President Joe Biden said “the costs to Russia will rise” if it continued to violate the accord.

Fighting is continuing around the strategic town of Debaltseve, with pro-Russian rebels saying they are in control of most areas.

Although, the Security Council unanimously approved a Russian-drafted resolution to endorse the ceasefire deal agreed in Minsk, last week, angry words were exchanged among ambassadors.

US Ambassador, Samantha Power, said she “wholeheartedly welcomes this agreement” but said that Russia had to prove its commitment to peace.

She said: “Stop arming the separatists. Stop sending hundreds of heavy weapons across the border in addition to your troops. Stop pretending you are not doing what you are doing.”

She added: “Russia signs agreements then does everything within its power to undermine them. Russia champions, the sovereignty of nations and then act as if a neighbour’s borders do not exist.”

Mrs Power said it was “ironic” Russia had drafted the resolution while “backing an all-out assault” in Ukraine.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, said “Since the very start of the crisis, Russia has actively called for a peaceful settlement through inclusive, transparent dialogue between all sides in the internal Ukrainian conflict.”

After speaking to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Mr Biden said he “strongly condemned the violation of the ceasefire by separatist forces acting in concert with Russian forces, in and around the town of Debaltseve”.

Putin Announces Ceasefire Deal With Ukraine

Ukraine Presidentukraine, Vladimir Putin, has announced ceasefire after meeting all night in Belarus with leaders of Russia, France and Germany, to secure a peace deal. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have announced that ceasefire will begin in Eastern Ukraine on 15 February.

After marathon talks with leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, Russia President, Vladimir Putin said “We have managed to agree on the main issues.”

French President, Francois Hollande also said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

The meeting in Belarus – which began on Wednesday – was focused on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Before the meeting started, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had said that achieving a ceasefire was significant. Thousands of people have been killed and indisposed in the fighting.

Russia has been accused of arming and reinforcing pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine, a claim That was denied.  The talks are set to focus on securing a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and creating a demilitarized zone.

The Ukrainian and Russian presidents barely looked at each other when they were forced to shake hands. At a family photo of the leaders, not a single person was smiling. There was even an image of Vladimir Putin inside the negotiations snapping a pencil in two.

Heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held city of Luhansk; by a freelance reporter, Pierre Sautreuil, (in French) that a rebel military base seemed to be the target of one bombardment in the south-east of the city.

Mr Poroshenko had earlier said that the situation threatened to spin “out of control” if the parties did not agree to ceasefire.

The Ukrainian warned that his government was prepared to impose martial law, adding that the Minsk summit was one of the final chances to bring about an unconditional ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.

US President Barack Obama has refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails, but Russia says that would worsen the crisis.

Ukraine Crisis: Obama Warns Vladimir Putin

putinUS President, Barack Obama has warned the Russia President, Vladimir Putin, that the cost of Russia will rise if it continues its “aggressive actions” in Ukraine.

Mr Obama in a telephone statement, urged Vladimir Putin to seize the opportunity to find a peaceful solution to the war that has raged since April last year.

Mr Putin is to meet with the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine at a summit in Belarus on Wednesday. The summit in Minsk, Belarus capital, is expected to focus on securing a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, as well as the creation of a demilitarized zone.

A statement from White House says, “If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise.”

President Obama called  Mr Putin on the eve of the talks to reiterate US support for Ukraine, just days after he refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails.

Russia, however, has warned the West that sending arms to Ukraine would worsen the crisis.

On Tuesday, four soldiers and at least eight civilians were killed in rocket attacks on a key military base and a residential area in Kramatorsk. Government officials said the rockets were fired from a rebel-held area, but separatists denied being behind the attack.

Unconfirmed number of persons was killed and several injured when a shell hit a bus station in rebel-controlled Donetsk early on Wednesday. The body of a man was seen behind the wheel of a minibus after a shell fell through the roof of the station, burning up the vehicle and another beside it.

Emergency services at the scene said another person had died in hospital following the attack, while two people were seriously wounded. There was no immediate comment from rebel authorities or the Kiev-controlled regional administration.

More than 5,400 people have died since the conflict began and civilian casualties have risen in recent weeks.

Putin Critic Gets Suspended Sentence

PutinRussia’s opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who has been accused of defrauding two firms has now been found guilty and sentenced to a suspended prison term of three-and-a-half years.

His brother, Oleg, has been given a three-and-a-half year custodial sentence in the same trial.

The brothers were convicted of stealing 30m roubles (£334,600; $518,100) from the firms, one of which is an affiliate of French cosmetics giant, Yves Rocher.

They have also been fined 500,000 roubles (£5,460; $9,030) each and have been ordered to pay some 4m roubles in damages.

Navalny, accuses the government of President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption, saying the charges are politically motivated.

The verdict was to be announced next month, but the court session was abruptly moved forward to Tuesday after his supporters announced plans for a big protest rally on January 15.

Tuesday’s verdict is the latest in a series of criminal cases against Navalny, which he says are fabricated to neutralise his influence.

In 2013 he came second in Moscow’s mayoral election, supported by 27% of voters.

Russia President, Putin Renounces Right To Send Troops To Ukraine

Russian President Putin attends a state awards ceremony in the KremlinRussia President, Vladimir Putin, have  asked the Upper House, on Tuesday, to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

This step by Putin would certainly be welcomed by the West as a sign that Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

“The president has filed a proposal to the Federation Council on cancelling…the resolution on the use of Russia’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Federation Council Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, said that the chamber would discuss Putin’s request on Wednesday.

Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia now expected Kiev to respond with measures of its own, without specifying what these should be.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine described it as “first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for easternUkraine.

In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in the country normalises”.

That resolution, with the eventual annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.

European Union foreign ministers, on Monday, had held out the prospect of further sanctions if Russia did not do more to support a peace process in eastern Ukraine, and had also asked it to revoke the March 1 resolution.

Like many of eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers, Moscow was infuriated by the toppling in January of President Viktor Yanukovich, after he pulled out of an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

 

Topless Activists Protest Against Putin Leading Up To EU-Russia Summit

Two activists from Ukrainian topless feminist group, Femen arrived topless outside the European Council building on Tuesday (January 28), with the phrases “Good job Putin” and “Putin killer of democracy” written on their chests.

Protesting against Russian President, Vladimir Putin, hours before the EU-Russia summit begins later on Tuesday, the women chanted “Viva Putin, viva killer” and “Well done, dictator” as they walked about a block towards the commission building. They stood in front of the gates and continued chanting.

Activist, Yanna Zdanova said that they were protesting against Putin’s role in the current crisis in Ukraine and demanded the EU to boycott him.

“Russia is actively engaged in adding pressure to Ukraine against the people on Maidan square, Russia is actively making propaganda against the demonstrators, it refers to the activists as radicals, what we want to say, Putin is now messing up Ukraine and the next one could be Europe, you have to be careful, you should boycott him because he is a dictator,” she said.

When they climbed the gate, however, security apprehended them and held them as they continued to speak with reporters. After 15 minutes, police arrested both activists and put them in a police van.

Putin Pardons Khodokovsky

Russian president, Vladimir Putin has pardoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and is due to be released from jail.

Mr Putin signed a decree earlier pardoning Khodorkovsky on the basis of “the principles of humanity”.

The pardon comes after Russian MPs backed a wide-ranging amnesty for at least 20,000 prisoners.

The president said on Thursday that the former oil magnate had asked him for clemency because his mother was ill.

Khodorkovsky was in   jail 10 years for tax evasion and theft after funding opposition parties.

Obama, Putin Face Tough Talks On Syria At G8 summit

President Barack Obama will seek the help on Monday of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s most powerful ally, to bring Bashar al-Assad to the negotiating table and end a two-year civil war.

At their first private face-to-face meeting in a year, Obama will try to find common ground with Putin on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland after angering the Kremlin by authorising U.S. military support for the Syrian president’s opponents.

During talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London on the eve of the summit, Putin renewed his criticism of the West’s position in startling tones, describing Assad’s foes as cannibals.

“I think you will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines, in front of the public and cameras,” Putin said at a joint news conference with Cameron.

“Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons?”

Cameron conceded London and Moscow remained far apart.

Russia does not buy the West’s assertion that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons and crossed a red line in doing so, saying U.S. military support for Syrian rebels would only escalate violence.

Washington said on Saturday it would keep F-16 fighters and Patriot missiles in Jordan at Amman’s request, prompting Moscow to bristle at the possibility they could be used to enforce a no-fly zone inside Syria.

Putin’s rhetoric has become increasingly anti-Western since he regained the presidency last year but he appeared upbeat in London, stressing several areas of cooperation between Russian and Britain.

At the Lough Erne golf resort in Northern Ireland, Cameron will bring together leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, Germany, France and Italy – representing just over half of the $71.7 trillion global economy.

Syria will inevitably dominate the Monday-Tuesday talks but persistent worries about the global economy will also be central to the discussions.

MARKET TURMOIL TO FOCUS MINDS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders will likely discuss the role of central banks and monetary policy.

They are likely to say they are not content with progress so far in fixing their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.

Japan’s Abe will use the opportunity to explain his cocktail of fiscal and monetary stimulus known as ‘Abenomics’ to the leaders as investors try to absorb the implications of a signal by the U.S. Federal Reserve that it may start to slow its money-printing.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will not attend. He and his colleagues hold a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Bond yields have climbed and share prices have sagged globally since Bernanke shocked investors on May 22 by saying the bank might ‘take a step down’ in the pace of bond purchases – a blow to a global economy still growing well below trend due to the after effects of the great financial crisis.

“Japan’s decisive moves to reflate its economy will support growth in the near term, but it will need to manage the twin challenge of providing near-term stimulus and achieving longer-term sustainability,” the draft communique said, although the version circulated by Britain and seen by Reuters was put together before the recent market turmoil.

The leaders of the European Union and United States are likely to announce the start of formal negotiations on a free trade deal that could be worth more than $100 billion a year to each economy.

EU and U.S. negotiators aim to finish their work by the end of next year.

TREASURE ISLAND TAX

Cameron has made tackling tax avoidance – which campaigners say costs about $3 trillion a year – one of the key parts of the formal agenda at the summit.

He has turned up the pressure to clamp down on secretive money flows by pressing Britain’s overseas tax havens into a transparency deal and announcing new disclosure rules for British firms.

“It is important we are getting our house in order,” Cameron said on Saturday after representatives of overseas tax havens linked to Britain agreed to sign up to an international transparency protocol.

Aid campaigners said Britain’s action will count for little if the rest of the G8 does not follow suit.

G8 leaders will probably shy away from adopting a measure aimed at curbing tax avoidance by highlighting when companies channel profits into tax havens, and will include a watered-down alternative, according to the draft communique.

Tackling corporate tax avoidance has become a political goal internationally following public anger about revelations over the past year that companies like Apple and Google had used structures U.S. and European politicians said were contrived to minimise the amount of taxes paid.

But the draft summit text suggested there will be no agreement on a rule that would force companies to publish their profits, revenues and tax payments on a country-by-country basis.

Global tax evasion could be costing more than $3 trillion a year, according to researchers from Tax Justice Network while as much as $32 trillion could be hidden by individuals in tax havens.