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Biden to hold solo news conference after Putin summit

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US President Joe Biden will hold a solo news conference after meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin this week, denying the former KGB spy an elevated international platform to castigate the West and sow discord, writes Steve Holland.

Putin's bravura performance at a 2018 news conference with Donald Trump led to shock when the then US president cast doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and flattered the Russian leader.

Talking about the summit alone will also spare Biden, 78, from open jousting with Putin, 68, before the world's media after what is certain to be a combative encounter.

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"We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward," a White House official said.

"A solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting — both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns."

Biden will meet Putin on June 16 in Geneva for a summit that will cover strategic nuclear stability and the deteriorating relationship between the Kremlin and the West.

Putin, who has served as Russia's paramount leader since Boris Yeltsin resigned on the last day of 1999, said ahead of the meeting that relations with the United States were at their lowest point in years. Read more.

Asked about Biden calling him a killer in an interview in March, Putin said he had heard dozens of such accusations.

"This is not something I worry about in the least," Putin said, according to an NBC translation of excerpts of an interview broadcast on Friday.

The White House has said Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia, Moscow's aggression against Ukraine, the jailing of dissidents and other issues that have irritated the relationship.

Biden has said that the United States is not seeking a conflict with Russia, but that Washington will respond in a robust way if Moscow engages in harmful activities.

Russia says the West is gripped by anti-Russian hysteria and that it will defend its interests in any way it see fit.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting G7 leaders including Biden at a summit in south-western England, told CNN that Biden would be giving Putin some "pretty tough messages, and that's something I'd only approve of".

Kremlin

Kremlin politics: MEPs call for EU strategy to promote democracy in Russia

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The Foreign Affairs Committee says the EU must push back against Russia’s aggressive policies while laying groundwork for co-operation with a future democratic country, AFET .

In a new assessment of the direction of EU-Russia political relations, MEPs make clear the Parliament distinguishes between the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The latter is, they say, a “stagnating authoritarian kleptocracy led by a president-for-life surrounded by a circle of oligarchs”.

MEPs stress, however, that Russia can have a democratic future and that the Council must adopt an EU strategy for a future democratic Russia, encompassing incentives and conditions to strengthen democratic domestic tendencies.

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The text was approved by 56 votes in favour, nine against with five abstentions.

Work with like-minded partners to strengthen democracy

MEPs state the EU must establish an alliance with the U.S. and other like-minded partners to counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilise the European political order. It should foresee sanctions, policies to counter illicit financial flows, and support for human rights activists.

Support to Russia’s’ neighbouring countries

On Russia’s aggression and influence over the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, the EU must continue to support so-called “Eastern Partnership” countries, to promote European reforms and fundamental freedoms, MEPs say. These efforts should also serve to encourage Russians to support democracy.

MEPs also suggest using the Conference on the Future of Europe to prepare the EU institutions for a renewed momentum in European integration of the EU’s eastern neighbourhood.

Reduce the EU’s energy dependency on Russia, fighting “dirty money” at home

The text further states that the EU needs to cut its dependency on Russian gas and oil and other raw materials, at least while President Putin is in power. The European Green Deal and the boosting of new resources will play a crucial geopolitical role in this regard.

MEPs say the EU must also build its capacity to expose and stop the flows of dirty money from Russia, as well as to expose the resources and financial assets of the Russian regime’s autocrats and oligarchs hidden in EU member states.

Worries ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections in Russia

Members conclude by saying that the EU must be prepared to withhold recognition of the Russian parliament, if the 2021 parliamentary elections are considered to have been conducted in violation of democratic principles and international law.

“Russia can be a democracy. The EU has to work out a comprehensive set of principles, a strategy, based on the fundamental values the EU is promoting. Defending ‘Democracy First’ in EU relations with Russia is our first task. The EU and its institutions have to work on the assumption that change is possible in Russia. It also needs more courage in taking a strong stance vis-a-vis the Kremlin regime when it comes to defending human rights; this is what strategic engagement with the Russian people is all about. It is about ending domestic repression, returning the choice to the people, and freeing all political prisoners,” said rapporteur Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania) after the vote.

Next steps

The report will now be submitted to a vote in the European Parliament as a whole.

More information 

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France

Russia touts Britain, France for wider nuclear talks

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US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (L) and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov pose in front of their national flags before a meeting at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva, Switzerland July 28, 2021. U.S. Mission Geneva/Handout via REUTERS

Russia has said that it wanted Britain and France to be included in wider nuclear arms control talks with the United States, while it said that Washington wanted China to be included, write Maria Kiselyova and Tom Balmforth. China, Reuters.

Senior US and Russian officials met in Geneva on Wednesday to restart talks to ease tensions between the world's largest nuclear weapons powers with ties at post-Cold War lows. Read more.

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Russia's ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said it was inevitable the powers would eventually have to discuss broadening the arms control talks to include more powers and that Moscow saw Britain and France as priorities in that regard.

"This question has taken on particular relevance in light of London's recent decision to increase the maximum level of nuclear warheads by 40% - to 260 units," Antonov said in comments published by the foreign ministry on Thursday.

In separate comments, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the United States wanted China to be included in wider talks on nuclear arms control, the Interfax news agency reported.

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International Space Station

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module - NASA

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The Nauka (Science) Multipurpose Laboratory Module is seen docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on July 29, 2021. Oleg Novitskiy/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS
The Nauka (Science) Multipurpose Laboratory Module is seen during its docking to the International Space Station (ISS) on July 29, 2021. Oleg Novitskiy/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS

The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control on Thursday (29 July) when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA officials said, write Steve Gorman and Polina Ivanova.

The seven crew members aboard - two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a European space agency astronaut from France - were never in any immediate danger, according to NASA and Russian state-owned news agency RIA.

But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least 3 August its planned launch of Boeing's (BA.N) new CST-100 Starliner capsule on a highly anticipated uncrewed test flight to the space station. The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Thursday's mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station, as mission controllers in Moscow were performing some post-docking "reconfiguration" procedures, according to NASA.

The module's jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, leading the mission's flight director to declare a "spacecraft emergency," U.S. space agency officials said.

An unexpected drift in the station's orientation was first detected by automated ground sensors, followed 15 minutes later by a "loss of attitude control" that lasted a little over 45 minutes, according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's space station program.

Flight teams on the ground managed to restore the space station's orientation by activating thrusters on another module of the orbiting platform, NASA officials said.

In its broadcast coverage of the incident, RIA cited NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a "tug of war" between the two modules.

At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second, Montalbano said during a NASA conference call with reporters.

The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.

Communication with the crew was lost for several minutes twice during the disruption, but "there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew," Montalbano said. He said "the crew really didn't feel any movement."

Had the situation become so dangerous as to require evacuation of personnel, the crew could have escaped in a SpaceX crew capsule still parked at the outpost and designed to serve as a "lifeboat" if necessary, said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's commercial crew program.

What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined, NASA officials said.

Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of any damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvers used up more propellant reserves than desired, "but nothing I would worry about," he said.

After its launch last week from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module experienced a series of glitches that raised concern about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.

Roscosmos attributed Thursday's post-docking issue to Nauka's engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.

"The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to 'docked with ISS' mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module," Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.

The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock that will upgrade Russia's capabilities aboard the ISS.

A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for "science," docking with the space station a few minutes later than scheduled.

"According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally," Roscosmos said in a statement.

"There is contact!!!" Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking.

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