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Kremlin says summit will not stop US trying to contain Russia

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US President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin meet for the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Kremlin said on Monday (21 June) it did not expect the United States to stop trying to "contain" Russia after a summit of their leaders, and that it was important for the two powers to be pragmatic amid talk of new US sanctions, write Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow, Reuters.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday (20 June) that the United States was preparing more sanctions in relation to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden met last week for a summit in Geneva that they both described as pragmatic rather than friendly. Ties are acutely strained. Read more.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Moscow was aware of possible impending US sanctions.

"The president's words about the constructive mood during the summit do not indicate that we have moved away from a sober assessment of our bilateral relations with the United States," Peskov said.

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"Pragmatism and sobriety are most important in these relations. And both suggest that the constructive, positive results of the summit absolutely do not indicate that the United States will abandon its policy of containing Russia," he said.

Navalny was flown to Germany in August last year after being poisoned with what German doctors said was the Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The two countries were set to discuss "normalising" the work of their respective embassies, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

Russia's ambassador to the United States, who had been out of Washington for months, returned on Sunday following the summit. Read more.

Russia

Europe condemns atmosphere of fear surrounding Russian elections

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Asked about this week’s Duma and regional elections in the Russian federation, Peter Stano, the EU’s External Action Service spokesman said that the elections had taken place in an atmosphere of fear. The EU has noted that independent and reliable sources have reported serious violations of electoral law.

Stano said that elections, wherever they are taking place in the world, should be run in a free and fair way. He said the elections had taken place without any credible international observation and that the EU regretted Russia’s decision to severely reduce and restrict the size and format of the OSCE - Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights mission thereby preventing its deployment.  

Stano said the crackdown on opposition politicians, civil society organizations, civil society activists, human rights activists, independent media outlets and against journalists ahead of the election was aimed at silencing critical opposition and removing competition. 

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The European Commission calls on the Russian Federation to abide by its commitments taken within the UN and Council of Europe framework in terms of protection of human rights and democratic values, which includes also organizing free and fair elections. 

Ukraine

The spokesperson added that the European Commission will never recognize the elections in illegally annexed Crimea and also expressed concern that citizens of Ukraine in the Ukrainian territories which are currently occupied were given passports and allowed to vote. Stanton said that this ran counter to the spirit of the Minsk agreements.

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When asked if the EU will recognize the election results, Stano said that this was a national competence and up to individual member states, but added that it might be something that EU foreign affairs ministers discuss when they meet this evening in New York, where they are meeting for the UN General Assembly. EU High Representative Josep Borrell will be meeting again with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, at one of many bilateral meetings planned for this week.

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European elections

Russian pro-Putin party wins majority after crackdown: Foes cry foul

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Russia's ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin (pictured), retained its parliamentary majority after an election and a sweeping crackdown on its critics, but opponents alleged widespread fraud, write Andrew Osborn, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Maria Tsvetkova, Polina Nikolskaya and Tom Balmforth.

With 85% of ballots counted today (20 September), the Central Election Commission said United Russia had won nearly 50% of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, at just under 20%.

Although that amounts to an emphatic official win, it is a slightly weaker performance for United Russia than at the last parliamentary election in 2016, when the party won just over 54% of the vote.

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A malaise over years of faltering living standards and allegations of corruption from jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have drained some support, compounded by a tactical voting campaign organised by Navalny's allies.

Kremlin critics, who alleged large-scale vote rigging, said the election was in any case a sham.

United Russia would have fared much worse in a fair contest, given a pre-election crackdown that outlawed Navalny's movement, barred his allies from running and targeted critical media and non-governmental organisations, they said.

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Electoral authorities said they had voided any results at voting stations where there had been obvious irregularities and that the overall contest had been fair.

The outcome looks unlikely to change the political landscape, with Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999, still dominating ahead of the next presidential election in 2024.

Putin has yet to say whether he will run. He was due to speak today after 1000 GMT.

The 68-year-old leader remains a popular figure with many Russians who credit him with standing up to the West and restoring national pride.

The near complete results showed the Communist Party finishing in second, followed by the nationalist LDPR party and the Fair Russia party with just over 7% each. All three parties usually back the Kremlin on most key issues.

A new party called "New People", appeared to have squeezed into parliament with just over 5%.

At a celebratory rally at United Russia's headquarters broadcast on state television, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally of the Russian leader, shouted: "Putin! Putin! Putin!" to a flag-waving crowd that echoed his chant.

Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box before starting to count votes during a three-day parliamentary election in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Tatiana Meel NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box after polls closed during a three-day long parliamentary election, at a polling station inside Kazansky railway terminal in Moscow, Russia September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
Members of a local election commission count ballots at a polling station inside Kazansky railway terminal after polls closed during a three-day long parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box after polls closed during a three-day long parliamentary election, at a polling station inside Kazansky railway terminal in Moscow, Russia September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Allies of Navalny, who is serving a jail sentence for parole violations he denies, had encouraged tactical voting against United Russia, a scheme that amounted to supporting the candidate most likely to defeat it in a given electoral district. Read more.

In many cases, they had advised people to hold their noses and vote Communist. Authorities had tried to block the initiative online.

The Central Election Commission was slow to release data from online voting in Moscow, where United Russia traditionally does not fare as well as in other regions amid signs it may have lost some seats in the capital.

Golos, an election watchdog accused by authorities of being a foreign agent, recorded thousands of violations, including threats against observers and ballot stuffing, blatant examples of which circulated on social media. Some individuals were caught on camera depositing bundles of votes in urns.

The Central Election Commission said it had recorded 12 cases of ballot stuffing in eight regions and that the results from those polling stations would be voided.

United Russia held nearly three quarters of the outgoing State Duma's 450 seats. That dominance helped the Kremlin pass constitutional changes last year that allow Putin to run for two more terms as president after 2024, and potentially stay in power until 2036.

Navalny's allies were barred from running in the election after his movement was banned in June as extremist. Other opposition figures allege they were targeted with dirty tricks campaigns. Read more.

The Kremlin denies a politically driven crackdown and says individuals are prosecuted for breaking the law. Both it and United Russia denied any role in the registration process for candidates.

"One day we will live in a Russia where it will be possible to vote for good candidates with different political platforms," Navalny ally Leonid Volkov wrote on Telegram messenger before polls closed on Sunday.

One Moscow pensioner who gave his name only as Anatoly said he voted United Russia because he was proud of Putin's efforts to restore what he sees as Russia's rightful great-power status.

"Countries like the United States and Britain more or less respect us now like they respected the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s. ... The Anglo-Saxons only understand the language of force," he said.

With official turnout reported to be around only 47%, there were signs of widespread apathy.

"I don't see the point in voting," said one Moscow hairdresser who gave her name as Irina. "It's all been decided for us anyway."

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Russia

Yves Bouvier fully cleared of all charges in his dispute against Russia Oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev

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The Geneva prosecutor’s office has dropped the last legal case initiated by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier (pictured). In his final ruling order, the Prosecutor confirms that, contrary to what Rybolovlev's lawyers have claimed, there was no fraud, no mismanagement, no breach of trust and no money laundering. Since January 2015, Rybolovlev and his lawyers have lost all of the nine court cases filed against Bouvier over the intervening years, including in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Monaco and Geneva.

"Today marks the end of a six-year nightmare,” said Bouvier. “For reasons that had nothing to do with my art dealing activities, an oligarch tried and failed to destroy me, mobilizing his extraordinary financial resources and influence. He tried to asphyxiate me financially by launching bogus lawsuits all over the world. Spending millions he commissioned large communications firms to destroy my reputation and private intelligence agents to track me everywhere. Over the course of his attack, every legal firm I worked with and myself were targeted by coordinated and sophisticated e-mail hacks. He tried to destroy my business, my reputation and my life. But he failed. All courts have confirmed my innocence. Truth prevailed, as I said from the very first day of his attacks. This is a complete victory.”

"Rybolovlev's attacks against me had nothing to do with the sale of art,” Bouvier also explained. “Firstly, he was half-way through the most expensive divorce in history and wanted to depreciate the value of his art collection. Secondly, he wanted to punish me for having refused to corrupt Swiss judges for his very expensive divorce. Thirdly, he wanted to steal my freeport business in Singapore and build his own for the Russian Federation in Vladivostok."

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Bouvier, who had to stop almost all his art dealings, logistics and transportation activities to defend himself against the massive attacks during these last six years, suffers immense damages. The tables have now turned: Rybolovlev (and his lawyer Tetiana Bersheda) find themselves under three criminal investigations in Monaco, Switzerland and France, and is suspected of having instrumentalised and corrupted public officials in the process of his attacks against Bouvier. Ten people, including several former Ministers, are being investigated as part of what is known as 'Monacogate', the largest corruption scandal in Monaco’s history.

David Bitton, a lawyer for Bouvier in Geneva, commented that: “Today marks the end of the scandalous vendetta initiated by Rybolovlev in 2015, and a complete and absolute victory for our client.”

Bouvier was represented in his cases by: David Bitton and Yves Klein (Monfrini Bitton Klein); Alexandre Camoletti (Amuruso & Camoletti); Frank Michel (MC Etude d’Avocats); Charles Lecuyer (Ballerio & Lecuyer); Luc Brossolet (AAB Avocats); Ron Soffer (Soffer Avocats); PRESS RELEASE Francois Baroin and Francis Spziner (Stas & Associés); Edwin Tong, Kristy Tan Ruan, Peh Aik Hin (Allen & Glendhill); Pierre-Alain Guillaume (Walder Wyss), Daniel Levy (McKool Smith), Mark Bedford (Zhong Lun).

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