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Josep Borrell in Moscow

Alex Ivanov. Moscow Correspondent

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The visit to Moscow of the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell (pictured), which was enthusiastically announced in Brussels as a "tough demarche " of Europe over the arrest of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, seems to have turned out completely different. In the main structures of the EU, especially in the European Parliament, Borrell was almost expected to present an ultimatum to Moscow demanding the immediate release of Navalny and conducting a thorough investigation into his alleged poisoning, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

Nevertheless, the Russian side managed to turn Borrell's visit into a full-scale negotiations on the state of relations between Russia and the EU. Moreover, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, thanks to his diplomatic skills, managed to convey to Josep Borrell the main concerns of Moscow regarding the state of bilateral cooperation.

As it became known at the final press conference following the 2-day negotiations, the agenda covered a very wide range of issues. At the same time, Lavrov explicitly stated to the EU High Representative Russia's claims about the "abnormality" of relations between Moscow and Europe. It is noteworthy that despite Borrell's attempts to designate the "Navalny problem", it was eventually moved to the background of the agenda.

During the meeting in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy acknowledged that relations between the parties are “at a low level”. However, they also expressed the need to “continue the dialogue on a variety of issues”. According to Borrell, so far no EU member has made a proposal to impose sanctions against Russia related to Alexei Navalny. This issue, however, will still be discussed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell met in Moscow on 5 February. Following the talks, the parties acknowledged significant differences,
but expressed “readiness for dialogue”.

"Of course, the main problem that we all face is the lack of normality in relations between Russia and the European Union, between the two largest players in the Eurasian space. This is, of course, an unhealthy situation that does not benefit anyone" , Sergey Lavrov said, opening the talks.

"We now see each other more as competitors, rivals, than partners," Borrell said.

At the same time, the parties stressed the need to continue the dialogue on various issues between Russia and the European Union.

"Our relations are currently at a point of tension, including the one created by the Navalny case, but we remain interconnected not only geographically, but also through a wide range of cultural, historical and economic ties," Borrell said.

"Despite these difficulties, creating a wall of silence between us is not an option."
"It is important, as I believe, that both sides confirmed their interest in maintaining and expanding the channels of dialogue, including on issues where our positions differ. And there are many such questions. We noted our readiness to cooperate pragmatically where it is interesting and beneficial for both sides. We have a common opinion that further degradation of relations is fraught with negative and very, very unpredictable consequences, " Lavrov said.

Borrell flew to Moscow to discuss bilateral relations between Russia and the European Union in the light of the situation with Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On February 2, the Simonovsky Court of Moscow at its session decided to cancel Navalny's suspended sentence in the “Yves Rocher case” and replace it with 3.5 years in a general regime colony. The European Union calls for the release of the opposition leader. Russia rejects Western accusations of politically motivated criminal prosecution.

“I conveyed to Mr. Lavrov my concern about these facts and called for the release of Navalny and a full investigation into his poisoning" , Borrell said at a press conference following the talks.

As the EU representative for Foreign Affairs stressed, no member of the European Union has yet made a proposal to introduce new sanctions against Russia because of the Navalny case.
However, “the discussion of this issue is not over yet.”

"My visit to Moscow is part of the preparation for this discussion, because it is very important to determine what we plan to do with this relationship," Borrell said. "Today, Mr. Lavrov and I have identified areas in which we can interact."

According to him, the topic of sanctions will be discussed during the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU, as well as during the March summit of the heads of state and government of the European Union.

Sergey Lavrov, commenting on possible restrictive measures by Brussels, stressed that this is “an internal matter of the EU”.

"We are used to the fact that the EU, as I have already mentioned, is increasingly resorting to unilateral restrictions that have no legitimate basis. We build our life on the assumption that the European Union is an unreliable partner, at least at this stage. I hope that the strategic review that is coming will still draw attention to the fundamental interests of the European Union in its immediate neighborhood," Lavrov said.

The topic of sanctions against Russia was raised after Alexei Navalny fell into a coma on August 20. The Russian opposition leader was transported to Germany for treatment. Later, German, Swedish and French laboratories, as well as experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said that the politician was poisoned with a nerve agent of the Novichok group. Russian doctors did not find any poisons and called the main diagnosis a metabolic disorder that caused a sharp change in blood sugar.

The sides also discussed other issues — the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, the fight against disinformation, the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the areas of interaction between the parties.

Commenting on the Iranian issue, Sergey Lavrov stressed that “Moscow and Brussels will continue to make efforts to restore the nuclear deal after the United States withdrew from the agreement, and Iran in response announced non-compliance with a number of its conditions”.

It is obvious that regardless of the mutual rhetoric and accusations, Russia and the EU should cooperate on a wide range of issues. Recently, French President Macron also called on Europe to engage in dialogue with Russia. Many experts in the EU are convinced that without normal and multi-format relations with Russia, united Europe is unlikely to be able to move forward and develop.

Russia also hopes for the restoration of a normal and civilized dialogue with the EU. Moreover, both sides have significant economic and political interests in such communication.

As it became known at the final press conference following the 2-day negotiations, the agenda covered a very wide range of issues. At the same time, Lavrov explicitly stated to the EU High Representative Russia's claims about the "abnormality" of relations between Moscow and Europe. It is noteworthy that despite Borrell's attempts to designate the "Navalny problem", it was eventually moved to the background of the agenda.

During the meeting in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy acknowledged that relations between the parties are “at a low level”. However, they also expressed the need to “continue the dialogue on a variety of issues”. According to Borrell, so far no EU member has made a proposal to impose sanctions against Russia related to Alexei Navalny. This issue, however, will still be discussed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell met in Moscow on 5 February. Following the talks, the parties acknowledged significant differences,
but expressed “readiness for dialogue”.

"Of course, the main problem that we all face is the lack of normality in relations between Russia and the European Union, between the two largest players in the Eurasian space. This is, of course, an unhealthy situation that does not benefit anyone" , Sergey Lavrov said, opening the talks.

"We now see each other more as competitors, rivals, than partners," Borrell said.

At the same time, the parties stressed the need to continue the dialogue on various issues between Russia and the European Union.

"Our relations are currently at a point of tension, including the one created by the Navalny case, but we remain interconnected not only geographically, but also through a wide range of cultural, historical and economic ties," Borrell said.

"Despite these difficulties, creating a wall of silence between us is not an option."
"It is important, as I believe, that both sides confirmed their interest in maintaining and expanding the channels of dialogue, including on issues where our positions differ. And there are many such questions. We noted our readiness to cooperate pragmatically where it is interesting and beneficial for both sides. We have a common opinion that further degradation of relations is fraught with negative and very, very unpredictable consequences, " Lavrov said.

Borrell flew to Moscow to discuss bilateral relations between Russia and the European Union in the light of the situation with Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On 2 February, the Simonovsky Court of Moscow at its session decided to cancel Navalny's suspended sentence in the “Yves Rocher case” and replace it with 3.5 years in a general regime colony. The European Union calls for the release of the opposition leader. Russia rejects Western accusations of politically motivated criminal prosecution.

“I conveyed to Mr. Lavrov my concern about these facts and called for the release of Navalny and a full investigation into his poisoning" , Borrell said at a press conference following the talks.

As the EU representative for Foreign Affairs stressed, no member of the European Union has yet made a proposal to introduce new sanctions against Russia because of the Navalny case. However, “the discussion of this issue is not over yet.”

"My visit to Moscow is part of the preparation for this discussion, because it is very important to determine what we plan to do with this relationship," Borrell said. "Today, Mr. Lavrov and I have identified areas in which we can interact."

According to him, the topic of sanctions will be discussed during the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU, as well as during the March summit of the heads of state and government of the European Union.

Sergey Lavrov, commenting on possible restrictive measures by Brussels, stressed that this is “an internal matter of the EU”.

"We are used to the fact that the EU, as I have already mentioned, is increasingly resorting to unilateral restrictions that have no legitimate basis. We build our life on the assumption that the European Union is an unreliable partner, at least at this stage. I hope that the strategic review that is coming will still draw attention to the fundamental interests of the European Union in its immediate neighborhood," Lavrov said.

The topic of sanctions against Russia was raised after Alexei Navalny fell into a coma on August 20. The Russian opposition leader was transported to Germany for treatment. Later, German, Swedish and French laboratories, as well as experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said that the politician was poisoned with a nerve agent of the Novichok group. Russian doctors did not find any poisons and called the main diagnosis a metabolic disorder that caused a sharp change in blood sugar.

The sides also discussed other issues — the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, the fight against disinformation, the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the areas of interaction between the parties.

Commenting on the Iranian issue, Sergey Lavrov stressed that “Moscow and Brussels will continue to make efforts to restore the nuclear deal after the United States withdrew from the agreement, and Iran in response announced non-compliance with a number of its conditions”.

It is obvious that regardless of the mutual rhetoric and accusations, Russia and the EU should cooperate on a wide range of issues. Recently, French President Macron also called on Europe to engage in dialogue with Russia. Many experts in the EU are convinced that without normal and multi-format relations with Russia, united Europe is unlikely to be able to move forward and develop.

Russia also hopes for the restoration of a normal and civilized dialogue with the EU. Moreover, both sides have significant economic and political interests in such communication.

Czech Republic

Czech police hunt two men wanted over Salisbury novichok poisonings

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Police in the Czech Republic are hunting two men whose passports match the names of the two suspects in the Salisbury poisonings.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (pictured) are wanted in the UK over the novichok attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018.

Czech police said on Saturday (17 April) that they are searching for two men carrying various passports, including Russian ones under the names Petrov, 41, and Boshirov, 43.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with a nerve agent in 2018

It comes as Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 18 Russian diplomats are being expelled over allegations that Russian intelligence services were involved in an explosion at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014.

The explosion happened on 16 October at a depot in the town of Vrbetice where 50 tonnes of ammunition was being stored. Two men died as a result. Advertisement

Mr Babis said: "There is well-grounded suspicion about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU... in the explosion of ammunitions depot in the Vrbetice area."

Czech foreign minister Jan Hamacek said 18 Russian embassy staff identified as secret service personnel would be ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.

More from Czech Republic

A diplomatic source cited by Russian news agency Interfax suggested the expulsions could prompt Russia to shut the Czech Republic's embassy in Moscow.

Petrov and Boshirov denied being Russian operatives or being involved in the Skripals' poisoning in March 2018.

They told Russia Today they were only in Salisbury as tourists to visit the cathedral and nearby Stonehenge.

Police published a detailed photographic account of the men's movements while in the UK.

An Interpol "red notice" and a European warrant have been issued for their arrest should they try to leave Russia.

Czech Police said in a statement that they are looking for "two persons" who "used at least two identities... in connection with the investigations of the circumstances of serious crime".

They said they were in the Czech Republic from 11 to 16 October 2014, "first in Prague, then in the Moravian-Silesian Region and the Zlin Region".

As well as Petrov and Boshirov, they also used Moldovan and Tajikistan passports under the names Nicolai Popa and Ruslan Tabarov, they added.

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Russia

US set to slap new sanctions on Russia: sources

Reuters

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The United States were set to announce sanctions on Russia as soon as Thursday (15 April) for alleged election interference and malicious cyber activity, targeting several individuals and entities, people familiar the matter said, write Trevor Hunnicutt, Humeyra Pamuk and Steve Holland.

The sanctions, in which 30 entities are expected to be blacklisted, will be tied with orders expelling about 10 Russian officials from the United States, one of the people said.

The United States is also expected to announce aggressive new measures targeting the country’s sovereign debt through restrictions on U.S. financial institutions’ ability to trade such debt, according to another source.

The White House, the US State Department and the US Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The action will add a new chill to the already frosty relations between Washington and Moscow, which has tested the West’s patience with a military build-up near Ukraine.

The wide-ranging sanctions would come partly in response to a cybersecurity breach affecting software made by SolarWinds Corp that the U.S. government has said was likely orchestrated by Russia. The breach gave hackers access to thousands of companies and government offices that used the company’s products.

Microsoft President Brad Smith described the attack, which was identified in December, as “the largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”

The United States also intends to punish Moscow for alleged interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In a report last month, U.S. intelligence agencies said Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed efforts to try to swing the election to then-President Donald Trump and away from now-President Joe Biden.

Biden has also vowed to take action on reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The expected moves by the Biden administration are likely to exacerbate tensions in a relationship that slumped to a new post-Cold War low last month after Biden said he thought Putin was a “killer.”

In a call on Tuesday, Biden told Putin that the United States would act “firmly” to defend its interests in response to those actions, according to U.S. officials’ account of the call.

Biden also proposed a meeting with Putin “in a third country” that could allow the leaders to find areas to work together.

In the past few weeks, Washington and its NATO allies have been alarmed by a large build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“The hostility and unpredictability of America’s actions force us in general to be prepared for the worst scenarios,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters last week, anticipating the new sanctions.

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Russia

Turkey says not picking a side in Ukraine-Russia conflict - Turkish formin

Reuters

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Turkey is not picking a side in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday (15 April) in an interview on broadcaster NTV, writes Tuvan Gumrukcu.

President Tayyip Erdogan called at the weekend for an end to “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov subsequently said Turkey and other nations should not feed “belligerent sentiment” in Ukraine.

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