Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned President Joe Biden that imposing new sanctions over Ukraine could lead to a complete breakdown in relations.
In a phone call late on December 30, Vladimir Putin said such sanctions would be a “colossal mistake”.
President Biden, meanwhile, told Vladimir Putin that the US and its allies would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine.
The call, requested by Russia, was the pair’s second such conversation this month and lasted for almost an hour.
It marked the latest effort to defuse tensions over Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, where Ukrainian officials say more than 100,000 Russian troops have been sent.
The build-up has prompted concern in the West, with the US threatening Vladimir Putin with sanctions “like none he’s ever seen” if Ukraine comes under attack.
Russia, however, denies it is planning to invade Ukraine and says the troops are there for exercises. It says it is entitled to move its troops freely on its own soil.
Although the two sides exchanged warnings during the call, Russian foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters shortly after that Vladimir Putin was “pleased” with the conversation. He added that it had created a “good backdrop” for future talks.
US and Russian officials are set to meet for in-person talks in Geneva next month, and the White House said President Biden urged his Russian counterpart to pursue a diplomatic solution.
In a holiday message before December 30 call, Vladimir Putin told Joe Biden he was “convinced” the pair could work together based on “mutual respect and consideration of each other’s national interests”.
His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow was “in the mood for a conversation”.
Ukraine’s defense minister told parliament at the start of December that Russia had massed tens of thousands of troops near the border, and could be gearing up for a large-scale military offensive at the end of January.
Russia has argued the military build-up at the border is a protective measure against NATO, the Western military alliance. It wants legally binding guarantees that NATO will not expand further east, and that certain weapons will not be sent to Ukraine or any neighboring countries.
The US has rejected what it styles as a Kremlin bid to control the future of independent countries.
Ukraine has not been offered NATO membership, but has close ties with the bloc.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are nothing new. In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and soon after started to back a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east that has seen some 14,000 people killed in periodic fighting.
Washington and its European allies have warned Russia to expect severe economic sanctions if troops do cross into Ukraine again.
Political organizations linked to Alexei Navalny have been banned by a court in Moscow after classifying them as “extremist”.
Activists will risk prison sentences if they continue their work and anyone who publicly supports Alexei Navalny’s political network can now be barred from running for public office.
Writing on social media, Alexei Navalny promised he would “not retreat”.
However, the Kremlin critic said his supporters would now have to change how they work.
Alexei Navalny is now jailed for violating the terms of parole in an embezzlement case – charges he says are politically motivated.
Russian parliamentary elections are due to take place in September and opinion polls show the ruling party losing support. Some of Alexei Navalny’s supporters have been planning to run in the elections.
Following June 9 ruling, a court statement said Alexei Navalny’s regional network offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) had been banned with immediate effect.
Alexei Navalny’s lawyers said they would appeal against the ruling.
A message later posted on Navalny’s Instagram account said: “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll digest this, sort things out, change, and evolve. We’ll adapt. We won’t step back from our aims and ideas. This is our country and we do not have another one.”
Alexei Navalny – President Vladimir Putin’s foremost critic – was detained in January as soon as he returned to Russia from Germany. He had received treatment in Berlin for a nerve agent attack in Siberia last August that left him in a coma and fighting for his life.
He blamed President Putin directly for the attack which nearly killed him. The Kremlin denied any involvement.
The pro-Putin United Russia party, which dominates parliament, has been described by the opposition leader as “the party of crooks and thieves”, and millions of Russians have watched his videos alleging corruption in President Putin’s elite circle.
Alexei Navalny is expected to be a topic on the agenda of talks between Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden at their first summit on June 16.
Vladimir Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999, recently said he hoped the Geneva meeting would improve the “extremely low level of relations” between the two countries but expected no breakthroughs.
Russian detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny has announced he is ending his hunger strike after 24 days of refusing food in jail.
Hours earlier Navalny’s private doctors had appealed to him to take food to preserve his life and health.
Alexei Navalny began refusing food on March 31 to demand better medical care.
He said he had twice been seen by civilian doctors and “given the progress and circumstances, I am ending my hunger strike”.
The process would be gradual, Navalny added in an Instagram post.
His doctors had warned at the weekend he could die “at any minute”. On April 22, they warned him that “further starvation” could significantly harm him and lead to his death.
Alexei Navalny was detained as soon as he returned to Russia in January, after receiving treatment in Berlin for a nerve-gas attack in Siberia that left him in coma and fighting for his life. Russian authorities denied being behind the attack, but last December Navalny tricked an FSB agent into revealing that a Novichok agent had been placed in his underpants.
He was sent to a penal colony in February for over two and a half years, after a court ruled he had broken the terms of a suspended jail term, even though he had been in a coma. Russia rejected a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that he should be freed because his life was at risk.
Alexei Navalny has lost an appeal against his jailing for violating the terms of a suspended sentence.
The Russian opposition leader was detained last month after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was being treated for a near-fatal nerve agent attack.
Alexei Navalny has blamed President Vladimir Putin for the attack and says the charges against him are fabricated.
However, the Kremlin denies any involvement in his poisoning.
Alexei Navalny was accused of breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement that required him to report regularly to Russian police.
In court, in a speech that referenced both the Bible and the Harry Potter series, the activist argued the charges were “absurd” as he was unable to report to the police while recovering from the nerve agent attack.
He said: “The whole world knew where I was.
“Once I’d recovered, I bought a plane ticket and came home.”
However, the judge rejected Navalny’s case and he will return to the penal colony where he is serving his time. The judge did, though, cut his six weeks off the nearly three-year sentence imposed.
Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for violating the conditions of a suspended sentence, a Moscow court ruled on February 2.
The prominent Putin critic has been in detention since returning to Russia last month. He had been treated in Germany for a near-fatal nerve agent attack against him in August.
Thousands of supporters have rallied across Russia in support of Alexei Navalny.
His suspended sentence for embezzlement has been converted into a jail term.
Alexei Navalny has already served a year under house arrest which will be deducted from the total.
He greeted the news with a resigned shrug. In court he called President Vladimir Putin a “poisoner”, blaming him for the attack.
Alexei Navalny’s supporters called for an immediate protest and tried to gather outside court but the whole area was overrun with riot police. More than 300 have been detained, according to monitors.
His lawyer said they would appeal against the ruling.
Strong international reaction to the sentence came quickly, with the Council of Europe – the continent’s leading human rights body – saying the judgement “defied all credibility”.
The council’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, said in a statement: “With this decision, the Russian authorities not only further exacerbate human rights violations as already established by the European Court of Human Rights, they also send a signal undermining the protection of the rights of all Russian citizens.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Alexei Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release, and said he would work closely with allies to hold Russia accountable for “failing to uphold the rights of its citizens”.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded by telling Western countries to focus on their own problems.
She said on Russian TV: “You should not interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”
Alexei Navalny has been accused of breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement that required him to report regularly to Russian police. His lawyers say the accusation is absurd as the authorities knew he was recovering in Berlin from the nerve agent attack that nearly killed him in Russia.
Addressing the court before the sentencing, Alexei Navalny said the case was being used to frighten the opposition: “This is how it works: they send one to jail to intimidate millions.”
On the Novichok chemical attack, Alexei Navalny said: “Using the FSB [Federal Security Service of Russia], Putin attempted to commit murder. I’m not the only one – many know this already and many others will. And this is driving the thieving little man in the bunker crazy.
“No matter how much he tries to look like a geopolitician, he took offence at me because he will go down in history as a poisoner.”
His return to Russia on January 17 triggered mass protests in support of him, many of them young Russians who have only ever experienced President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the attack on Alexei Navalny, and rejects the conclusion by Western experts that Novichok – a Russian chemical weapon – was used.
Alexei Navalny accuses President Putin of running an administration riddled with corruption, and recently released a YouTube video featuring an opulent Black Sea palace which, he alleged, was a Russian billionaires’ gift to the president.
On January 30, Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire businessman close to President Putin, said he owned the palace and had bought it two years ago.
On January 31, some protesters brandished gold-colored toilet brushes, a symbol of their anger about the palace. For a second weekend, crowds defied bitter cold and a massive deployment of riot police, and more than 5,000 were arrested, according to OVD-Info group.
OVD-Info says it is an independent Russian media project, which gets crowd-funding in Russia and its donors include the Memorial human rights group and the European Commission.
Alexei Navalny is already serving a 30-day sentence in connection with the embezzlement case, which he denounces as politically motivated.
In recent days police have arrested many of Navalny’s top aides, who assist him in his Anti-Corruption Network (FBK).
Hundreds of protesters have been detained in Russia as police try to stop nationwide protests in support of jailed activist Alexei Navalny.
Alexei Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said she had been detained at a protest in the capital Moscow, where officers were breaking up the demonstrations.
Thousands of people have already taken part in rallies in Russia’s Far East.
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critic, called for protests after his arrest last weekend.
The opposition leader was detained on January 17 after he flew back to Moscow from Berlin, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent attack in Russia last August.
On his return, Alexei Navalny was immediately taken into custody and found guilty of violating parole conditions. He says it is a trumped-up case designed to silence him, and called on his supporters to protest.
Several of Navalny’s close aides, including a spokeswoman, have also been detained in the run up to January 23 protests.
Prior to the rallies, Russian authorities had promised a tough crackdown, with police saying any unauthorized demonstrations and provocations would be “immediately suppressed”.
OVD Info, an independent NGO that monitors rallies, said that more than 800 people had been detained so far in protests across the country.
Thousands are currently attending a protest in Moscow’s central Pushkin Square, where police have erected metal barriers to deter demonstrators.
Russia’s interior ministry said 4,000 had turned up in Moscow, but opposition sources say it may be as high as 15,000.
One witness told Reuters at least 100 people may have been detained there already.
Among them is Lyubov Sobol, a prominent aide of Alexei Navalny who had already been fined for urging Russians to join the protests. Lyubov Sobol tweeted a video of police roughly pulling her away from an interview with reporters.
Yulia Navalnya also said she was being held by police at the same protest, posting an image on her Instagram account with the caption: “Apologies for the poor quality. Very bad light in the police van.”
Several of Alexei Navalny’s key aides had already been taken into police custody in the days leading up to January 23 protests, including his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.
Prominent Navalny activists are also being held in the cities of Krasnodar, Vladivostok and Novosibirsk.
Alexei Navalny has been detained after flying back to Russia five months after he was nearly killed by a nerve agent attack last year.
The 44-year-old Kremlin critic was seen being led away by police at passport control.
Big crowds earlier gathered at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport to greet his flight from Berlin but the plane was rerouted.
Alexei Navalny says the authorities were behind the attempt on his life, an allegation backed up by investigative journalists but denied by the Kremlin.
European Council President Charles Michel described Alexei Navalny’s detainment as “unacceptable”.
He tweeted: “I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him.”
Alexei Navalny told his supporters and the media at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport just minutes before his detention: “I know that I’m right. I fear nothing.”
His lawyer was not allowed to accompany Alexei Navalny. He kissed his wife Yulia – who had flown with him from Germany – after police officers warned they would use physical force if he disobeyed their orders.
On January 17, extra riot police were deployed and metal barriers erected inside Vnukovo airport, where the plane had been originally scheduled to land.
Russian media reported that a number of activists – including key Navalny ally Lyubov Sobol – were detained.
Alexei Navalny – who received medical treatment in Germany after his poisoning – urged supporters to meet him off the flight. Thousands of people said they would go or expressed an interest, despite forecasts of extreme cold and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The activist collapsed on an internal flight in Siberia last August, and it later emerged he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.
Russian authorities have consistently denied any role in the poisoning, and the Kremlin has rejected Alexei Navalny’s claims that President Vladimir Putin himself ordered it.
In a statement late on January 17, Russia’s penitentiary service said Alexei Navalny “had been wanted since December 29, 2020, for repeated violations of the probation period”.
The penitentiary service added that he would remain in custody until a court decision.
The authorities accuse Alexei Navalny of violating conditions imposed after a conviction for embezzlement, for which he received a suspended sentence. He has always said the case was politically motivated.
Separately, Russian prosecutors have launched a new criminal case against the activist on fraud charges related to transfers of money to various NGOs, including his Anti-Corruption Foundation.
Alexei Navalny has asserted that President Vladimir Putin is doing all he can to stop his opponent from coming back by fabricating new cases against him.
Kira Yarmysh also wrote: “All morning journalists have been writing to me and asking, is it true that Alexei plans to return to Russia?
“Again I can confirm to everyone: no other options were ever considered.”
The announcement came shortly after Alexei Navalny took to Instagram.
He wrote: “Hi, this is Navalny. I have been missing you. I still can’t do much, but yesterday I managed to breathe on my own for the entire day.
“Just on my own, no extra help, not even a valve in my throat. I liked it very much. It’s a remarkable process that is underestimated by many. Strongly recommended.”
There is a modest police presence outside the hospital where Alexei Navalny is being treated.
There are two armed officers by one entrance and a police van that has been stationed outside for days.
Unconfirmed reports in German media suggest two further armed police units have been set up inside – outside the ward and by Navalny’s bed.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has ruled out a meeting between Alexei Navalny and President Putin after the opposition figure recovers.
“We do not see the need for such a meeting, so I believe that such a meeting will not take place,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Alexei Navalny, 44, is an anti-corruption campaigner who has long been the most prominent face of opposition to Vladimir Putin.
His supporters believe his tea was spiked at Tomsk airport on August 20.
Alexei Navalny became ill during the flight, and the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk. Russian officials were persuaded to allow Navalny to be airlifted to Germany two days later.
A nerve agent from the Novichok group was also used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, in England, in 2018. They both survived, but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after coming into contact with the poison.
Britain accused Russia’s military intelligence of carrying out that attack. Twenty countries expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats and spies.
President Donald Trump has announced he refuses to condemn Russia over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, saying he has not seen proof.
He said the case was “tragic” but urged reporters to focus instead on China, which he said was a bigger threat to the world than Russia.
Germany and NATO say there is “proof beyond doubt” that Alexei Navalny was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent.
Alexei Navalny’s team says he was poisoned on the Kremlin’s orders. However, Russia denies this.
On September 5, the Russian foreign ministry suggested that if a Novichok-type nerve agent had indeed been used, it did not necessarily originate in Russia.
Alexei Navalny – an anti-corruption campaigner who has long been the most prominent face of opposition to President Vladimir Putin in Russia – is in a coma in a Berlin hospital having been airlifted there from Siberia, where he fell ill.
Speaking at a press event on September 4, President Trump said he had yet to see evidence of poisoning in the case.
He said: “So I don’t know exactly what happened. I think it’s tragic, it’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet but I will take a look.”
President Trump also stopped short of criticizing Vladimir Putin and said Beijing posed a greater threat.
He said: “It is interesting that everybody’s always mentioning Russia and I don’t mind you mentioning Russia but I think probably China at this point is a nation that you should be talking about much more so.”
Tests at a military laboratory in Germany show “beyond doubt” the presence of a Novichok nerve agent, the German government and NATO say.
On September, NATO called for Russia to disclose its Novichok nerve agent program to international monitors. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said members were united in condemning the “horrific” attack on Alexei Navalny.
Jens Stoltenberg said it required an international response, but gave no further details.
The US National Security Council has pledged to “work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable”.
The brief statement released by the foreign ministry on September 5 noted “multiple hostile statements made against Russia” over Alexei Navalny’s illness.
However, experts in Western states and NATO had, it said, for years worked on compounds used to make Novichok nerve agents.
“For example, in the USA, over 150 patents were officially issued to developers of technologies for their combat use,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
Under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia and the US committed themselves to eliminating all of their nerve agents and other chemical weapons. The US is expected to destroy its final stockpile be the end of 2023 while Russia officially completed the process in 2017.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in Alexei Navalny’s case.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Germany had not yet shared any findings with Moscow prosecutors and said Russia had “nothing to hide”.
Meanwhile a toxicologist in Omsk – where Alexei Navalny was initially treated after the plane he was flying on made an emergency landing – insisted no poison had been found by doctors who examined him there.
“Any external factors could have triggered a sudden deterioration. Even a simple lack of breakfast,” said Alexander Sabayev, chief toxicologist for the Omsk region.
Alexei Navalny fell ill last month while on a flight from Siberia to Moscow.
The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk and Russian officials were persuaded to allow him to be airlifted to Germany two days later.
A nerve agent from the Novichok group identified by Germany in the Navalny case was also used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. They both survived but a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after coming into contact with the poison.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been moved to Germany from Siberia for medical treatment.
The prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin is in a coma after drinking what his supporters suspect was poisoned tea; they accuse the authorities of trying to conceal a crime.
Doctors treating Alexei Navalny in Omsk had insisted on August 21 that he was too ill to be moved.
However, they later said his condition was stable enough for the flight. His wife Yulia Navalnaya is traveling with him.
On August 22, Alexei Navalny’s medical evacuation flight – paid for by the German non-governmental organization Cinema for Peace – landed at Tegel airport in Berlin. He is being treated at the Charité hospital in the German capital.
The founder of the Cinema for Peace Foundation, activist and filmmaker Jaka Bizilj, told reporters outside the hospital that Alexei Navalny’s condition was “very worrying”.
“It’s not only about the question if he will survive this,” Jaka Bizilj said.
“It’s a question what kind of damage there is, if he will survive this and come back to normal fully.”
Alexei Navalny’s personal doctor, Anastasia Vasilieva, was not allowed to see him while he was in hospital in Russia. But she said she was hopeful he could recover now that he was in Germany.
She said: “I’m sure that they can treat him and do everything to eliminate this toxic agent from his body.”
Medical staff treating Alexei Navalny at the hospital in Omsk said before his flight that his life was not in immediate danger.
His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, earlier tweeted: “Massive thanks to everyone for their support. The struggle for Alexei’s life and health is just beginning.”
Kira Yarmysh said it was a pity that doctors had taken so long to approve his flight as the plane and the right documents had been ready since August 21.
Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, and his plane made an emergency landing in Omsk.
A photograph on social media appeared to show the Russian opposition leader drinking from a cup at a Tomsk airport cafe before the flight. His team suspects a poisonous substance was put in his tea.
Disturbing video appeared to show a stricken Alexei Navalny howling in agony on the flight.
The head doctor at the hospital where Navalny was being treated in Omsk, Alexander Murakhovsky, warned late on August 21 that doctors did not recommend flying “but his wife insists on her husband being transferred to a German clinic”.
“The patient’s condition is stable,” deputy chief doctor Anatoly Kalinichenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
“As we’re in possession of a request from relatives to permit him to be transported somewhere, we have now taken the decision that we do not object to his transfer to another in-patient facility,” he added.
Doctors said earlier that no poison had been found in Alexei Navalny’s body, suggesting his condition might be the result of a “metabolic disorder” caused by low blood sugar.
Health officials then indicated that traces of an industrial chemical had been found on his skin and hair. The local interior ministry told the Rapsi legal news agency that the chemical was usually included in polymers to improve their elasticity, but its concentration was impossible to establish.
Alexei Navalny has consistently exposed official corruption in Russia. He has served multiple jail terms.
Foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron have expressed concern for him.
In the US, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has described the incident as “unacceptable” and vowed that, if elected, he would “stand up to autocrats like Putin”.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized and is now unconscious suffering from suspected poisoning, his spokeswoman has said.
Alexei Navalny fell ill during a flight and the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where doctors said he was in a coma and they were trying to save his life.
The anti-corruption campaigner’s team suspects something was put in his tea at an airport cafe.
The Kremlin said that it wished Alexei Navalny a “speedy recovery”.
Alexei Navalny, 44, has for years been among President Vladimir Putin’s staunchest critics.
In June, the opposition leader described a vote on constitutional reforms as a “coup” and a “violation of the constitution”. The reforms allow President Putin to serve another two terms in office, after the four terms he has already had.
Kira Yarmysh, the press secretary for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which Mr Navalny founded in 2011, tweeted: “This morning Navalny was returning to Moscow from Tomsk.
“During the flight, he felt ill. The plane made an urgent landing in Omsk. Alexei has toxic poisoning.”
She added: “We suspect that Alexei was poisoned by something mixed into [his] tea. It was the only thing he drank since morning.
“Doctors are saying that the toxic agent absorbed faster through the hot liquid. Right now Alexei is unconscious.”
Kira Yarmysh said later that Alexei Navalny was on a ventilator and in a coma, and that the hospital was now full of police officers. All of his belongings were being confiscated, she added.
She also said that doctors were initially ready to share any information but then they later claimed the toxicology tests had been delayed and were “clearly playing for time, and not saying what they know”.
Diagnosis would be “towards evening”, Kira Yarmysh was told.
BothAlexei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, and doctor, Anastasia Vasilyeva, have arrived at the hospital.
Yulia Navalnaya was initially denied access to her husband because authorities said the patient had not agreed to the visit, Kira Yarmysh said, although she was later allowed on to the ward.
Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva said they were seeking to transfer the opposition leader to a specialist poison control center in Europe, but hospital doctors were refusing to provide records of his condition.
The Tass news agency quoted one source at the Omsk Emergency Hospital as saying: “Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny, born in 1976. Poisoning intensive care.”
However, the deputy head physician of the hospital later told media that it was not certain Alexei Navalny had been poisoned, although poisoning was “naturally” one of the diagnoses being considered.
Anatoly Kalinichenko said that doctors were “genuinely trying to save [Alexei Navalny’s] life”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said it wished the critic a speedy recovery – as it would all citizens in such circumstances – and that the authorities would consider approving treatment abroad if it were requested.
Video footage on social media shows Alexei Navalny being taken on a stretcher to an ambulance on the airport runway.
Other disturbing video appears to show a stricken Navalny in pain on the flight.
Another photograph on social media purports to show him drinking from a cup at a Tomsk airport cafe.
The Interfax agency said the cafe owners were checking CCTV to see if it could provide any evidence.
Alexei Navalny made a name for himself by exposing official corruption, labeling Vladimir Putin’s United Russia as “the party of crooks and thieves”, and has served several jail terms.
Russia has agreed to offer security assistance to Belarus in the case of external military threats, President Alexander Lukashenko has said.
President Lukashenko also voiced concerns over NATO military exercises taking place in neighboring Poland and Lithuania.
The news comes as the embattled Belarusian president faces mass protests over the disputed August 9 election.
Thousands of Belarusians gathered outside state television on August 15, demanding full coverage of the demonstrations.
The unrest erupted after Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in last week’s election, the result of which has been condemned amid widespread allegations of vote-rigging.
The Central Election Commission says Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, won 80.1% of the vote and the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 10.12%.
However, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya insists that where votes were properly counted, she won support ranging from 60% to 70%.
As the unrest continued on August 15, President Lukashenko sought help from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Lukashenko said President Putin had promised to provide what he called comprehensive assistance in the event of external military threats to Belarus.
The announcement came the day after EU foreign ministers agreed to prepare new sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for “falsification”. The US has also condemned the election as “not free and fair”.
In a joint statement on August 15, the prime ministers of three Baltic republics – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – “expressed deep concern at the violent crackdown… and the political repression of the opposition by the authorities”.
Latvia and Lithuania have previously said they are prepared to mediate in Belarus, provided the authorities stopped violence against protesters and formed a national council with members of civil society. They warned that the alternative was sanctions.
The Baltic leaders said the Belarusian presidential election was “neither free nor fair” and called for a “transparent” vote “with the participation of international observers”.
“The prime ministers urge the Belarusian authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful demonstrators [and to] release all political prisoners and those that have been detained,” the statement added.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left for Lithuania following the election after she publicly denounced the results. She had sent her children to Lithuania for safety before the vote.
Some 6,700 people were arrested in the wake of the election, and many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services.
Amnesty International said accounts from released detainees suggested “widespread torture”.
Demonstrations have continued following Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s call for further peaceful rallies on August 14.
Some 100 staff came out of the state television building to join August 15 protests, saying they planned a strike on August 17, AFP reports. Others have signed a letter in support of a strike.
On election day, Belarusian state channels aired the voices of Lukashenko supporters and did not cover the demonstrations. State TV later showed footage of violence to blame protesters and warn people not to participate.
Several journalists have resigned over the coverage.
A “March for Freedom” is also planned in the center of Minsk on August 16, a week after the contested election.
The man who opened fire at the Federal Security
Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow has been identified as a 39-year-old loner
and gun enthusiast, Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported.
According to Russian police, Yevgeny Manyurov is from Podolsk, about 25
miles south of Moscow. On December 19, the gunman killed an FSB officer and
wounded five others with an automatic weapon, before a sniper shot him dead.
One of the wounded is a civilian.
At the moment of the attack, President Vladimir Putin was at a gala evening
honoring the FSB at the Kremlin, a couple of miles away.
The shooting happened at the entrance of the Lubyanka, the FSB headquarters
which used to house the Soviet KGB.
On December 19, police searched Yevgeny Manyurov’s flat, which he had shared
with his mother, and they detained her for questioning.
Yevgeny Manyurov had worked as a security guard but lost his job recently
and never had any visits from friends, Russian media quote his mother as
saying. Police found five guns at the flat – legally registered and kept in a
safe – along with a large quantity of ammunition.
He once trained as a lawyer and did some legal consulting work, reports say.
Yevgeny Manyurov practiced shooting regularly at a gun club, which was a
passion for him, his mother is quoted as saying.
She also said she had heard him speaking English on the phone with some
“Arabs”, who had started calling him since he had lost his security
According to Kommersant newspaper, when he opened fire, Yevgeny Manyurov “was shouting slogans typical of Islamic State”. The publication says the information came from a security source, who quoted witnesses questioned by police.
On November 29, President Poroshenko announced that Russians living in Ukraine would soon face restrictions on bank withdrawals, changing foreign currency and travelling abroad.
The incident happened on November 25, when two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug were sailing from Odessa to the port of Mariupol, in the Sea of Azov – which is shared between Russia and Ukraine.
The ships were stopped from entering the Kerch Strait and confronted by FSB border guards. After a lengthy standoff, during which the Ukrainian tug was rammed, the vessels began turning back towards Odessa, the Ukrainian government says.
The Russians opened fire, wounding at least three sailors, and seized the Ukrainian flotilla.
The Kerch Strait separates Russia from Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014.
However, Ukraine says Russia is deliberately blockading Mariupol and another Ukrainian port on the Sea of Azov, Berdyansk.
The 24 captured Ukrainian sailors have now been given two months in pre-trial detention by a court in Crimea.
On November 26, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was proposing that parliament back a 30-day martial law – half the length of that recommended by the country’s security and defense council.
President Poroshenko said he did not want the measure to affect presidential elections set for March 31, 2019.
The Sea of Azov on November 25 clash is the first time Russia and Ukraine have come into open conflict in recent years, although Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists and Russia volunteers in the east since 2014.
A number of Western countries condemned Russia’s actions.
In New York, the UN Security Council met to discuss the crisis – but failed to agree a Russian-proposed agenda amid sharp disagreements between Moscow and the West.
President Donald Trump has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit the US, in a move that drew startled laughter from US intelligence chief Dan Coats.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said when he was told about the invitation during a live interview: “That’s gonna be special!”
President Trump’s presidency has been clouded by allegations that Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 US presidential election in his favor. However, the Kremlin denies the allegations.
At the Helsinki summit, President Putin offered access to 12 Russians indicted in absentia by the US authorities over the alleged interference, on condition the Russian authorities could question 12 Americans over a different case. President Trump first praised the suggestion as “incredible” but later rejected it.
Since his return from Finland, President Trump or the White House have had to correct or clarify other comments regarding Russia, creating confusion and prompting the Democrats to demand details of his private talks with President Putin.
Vladimir Putin, in power in Russia since 2000, last visited the US in 2015, when he met President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
On July 19, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that discussions about a visit by Vladimir Putin to Washington DC this autumn were already under way.
Russian ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said Russia had always been open to the idea of a visit but it was “up to the Kremlin to decide how many summits are needed, and when”.
The announcement appeared to come as a surprise to US intelligence chief Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.
Dan Coats added that he did not yet know what President Trump and President Putin had discussed during their meeting, at which only the pair and their interpreters were present.
At the post-summit news conference in Helsinki, President Putin was asked whether he would extradite 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted in the US for hacking Democratic Party computers.
No extradition treaty exists between the US and Russia, but Vladimir Putin said he would meet the US government “halfway”.
President Putin said that US investigators could question the 12 suspects inside Russia if, in turn, Russian investigators were allowed to question US citizens with regard to a case against financier Bill Browder.
Bill Browder was instrumental in the US imposing sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption in the Magnitsky affair.
One of the Americans on Russia’s list is a former US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul.
The idea of allowing Russia to quiz US citizens sparked outrage and the Senate voted 98-0 against it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “not going to happen”.
Michael McFaul tweeted his gratitude to the Senate: “98-0. Bipartisanship is not dead yet in the US Senate. Thank you all for your support.”
At the news conference in Helsinki, President Trump said: “He [Vladimir Putin] offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigations with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.”
Now, however, President Trump says he “disagrees” with President Putin’s proposal.
He has also clarified remarks at the news conference in which he said he saw no reason for Russia to have meddled in the 2016 US election – despite US intelligence concluding just that.
Speaking to CBS News on July 18, President Trump said he held Vladimir Putin personally responsible for interfering in the election, and that he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling”.
Vladimir Putin has also described the summit as “successful” but warned “there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations”.
A 29-year-old Russian woman has been charged in the US with conspiracy to act as a Russian government agent while infiltrating political groups.
According to media reports, Maria Butina had developed close ties with the GOP and had become an advocate for gun rights.
The charges are not related to Robert Mueller investigation that is examining alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Maria Butina allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official.
Her attorney, Robert Driscoll said in a statement released on July 16 that his client was “not an agent” and instead just an international relations student “who is seeking to use her degree to pursue a career in business”.
Robert Driscoll added the charges were “overblown” and there was “no indication of Maria Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States”.
He said his client had “been co-operating with various government entities for months” over the allegations.
Maria Butina, who lives in Washington, was arrested on July 15 and was held in jail pending a hearing set for July 18, the DOJ said in a statement.
The announcement of Maria Butina’s arrest came hours after President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin, and defended the Kremlin against claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.
President Trump said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.
Maria Butina’s arrest also came days after the justice department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic officials in the 2016 US elections.
In a sworn statement unsealed on July 16, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson said Maria Butina’s assignment was to “exploit personal connections with US persons having influence in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation”.
Maria Butina did so without registering her activities with the US government, as required under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, prosecutors say.
She sought to foster ties with an “organization promoting gun rights”, the DOJ said, without naming any group or politicians.
According to an affidavit, Maria Butina was trying to “establish a <<back channel>> communication for representatives of the Government of Russia”.
The criminal complaint states that Maria Butina focused on developing personal connections with influential US politicians to “advance the interest” of Russia.
As a part of that alleged mission, the complaint says she was organizing an event to further influence “the views of US officials as those views relate to the Russian Federation”.
According to the complaint, Maria Butina reported back to an official in the Russian government about her progress using Twitter direct messages among other means.
In one message, the Russian official told her: “Your political star has risen in the sky. Now it is important to rise to the zenith and not burn out (fall) prematurely.”
The affidavit also states that the unnamed official was sanctioned by the US Treasury.
Maria Butina, originally from Siberia, came to the US on a student visa to study at American University. The complaint alleges that she was in fact secretly working for the Russian government.
The woman founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms before she arrived in America, and US media have previously reported her ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful gun lobby in the US.
Maria Butina has previously denied having worked for the Russian government.
The Washington Post reported that she became an assistant to Russian banker and former senator Alexander Torshin. He was sanctioned by the US Treasury in April.
Alexander Torshin, who is a lifetime member of the NRA, and Maria Butina attended NRA events in the US beginning in 2014.
Maria Butina also attended a Trump campaign event and reportedly asked Donald Trump about his views on foreign relations with Russia.
According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump had answered: “We get along with Putin.”
The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.
President Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.
He said: “You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in.”
President Trump found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.
Canada, France and the UK though immediately signaled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated a highly controversial bridge between the mainland Russia and annexed Crimea.
The $3.7 billion bridge has been a flagship political project for Russia as it seeks to cement its hold on to the territory it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The Kerch Strait bridge was opened in a typically hands-on fashion by the Russian leader. By driving a truck.
The 12 mile (19km)-bridge, now the longest in Europe, is the only direct road link with Russia. It links Russia’s Krasnodar region with Crimean peninsula. Its opening marks the physical “reunification” of Crimea with Russia mainland.
Once fully completed, the road and rail link will be able to handle 40,000 cars a day and to move 14 million passengers and 13 million tons of cargo per year, according to RIA Novosti.
Russian special forces seized Crimea in a lightning operation in February 2014. The West responded with crippling economic sanctions.
US President Donald Trump vowed on Sunday to “move forward in working constructively with Russia”, including mentions of forming a cybersecurity unit staffed by the two countries. This statement follows Russian President Vladimir Putin denying any kind of interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Trump’s commitment to partner with Putin on cybersecurity has drawn stern criticism from officials of both the main parties, some of whom have described the president as dangerously naïve for trusting his Russian counterpart in this way. Trump tweeted that he “strongly pressed” Putin twice about Russia meddling in the election during their meeting in Germany on Friday, and that Putin “vehemently denied it”.
American intelligence agencies have concluded definitively that there were attempts by Russian authorities to influence the election in Mr Trump’s favor, through illegal hacking, propaganda, and other insidious activities. However, Trump’s public statements on the issue haven’t been defensive in the least, and have varied from vague complacency to outright doubt over Russia’s role in the election.
Following the meeting at the G20 Summit earlier this month, Trump didn’t say whether he believed Putin’s denial or not, only stating “I’ve already given my opinion” at the end of his tweet. Both Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have claimed that Trump believed Putin’s assurances that Russia hadn’t meddled in the election.
However, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus disputed Putin and Lavrov’s version of events. Though Priebus wasn’t present at the meeting between the two world leaders, he said “It’s not true” on Fox News Sunday and that Trump “absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin”.
However, the Chief of Staff later showed varying certainty over the issue, saying that president Trump “believes that Russia probably committed all of these acts that we’ve been told of. But he also believes that other countries also participated in this activity.”
Trump’s statements have all come in the form of tweets, following his three-day visit to Hamburg, where he met Putin and other world leaders. In these tweets, Trump repeated his accusation that Obama and did “nothing” after learning about Russia’s involvement in hacking Democrat email servers to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
As more and more of the election hacking scandal has come to light, there’s been increasing talk about what can be done to protect future elections. One arm of this is new biometric technology, from companies such as Smartmatic. If integrated, this extra layer will ensure that the person voting really is who they say they are.
While there’s no evidence as of yet that ballot counting or voting was affected directly in last year’s election, many American officials are concerned that Russian saboteurs may have gained some knowledge that could help them influence elections in the future, including the 2018 mid-terms.
Both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state, who are responsible for conducting elections in many American states, have complained about a lack of information from federal intelligence officials regarding Russian interference in the last presidential election.
Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has resigned over his contacts with Russia, the White House has announced.
He is alleged to have discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Donald Trump took office.
Michael Flynn is said to have misled officials about the conversation.
Earlier, media reported that the DoJ had warned the White House about the contacts late last month.
They said that Michael Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Image source Wikimedia
It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy, and the calls happened late last year before Michael Flynn was appointed to the administration.
A number of senior Democrats had called for Michael Flynn to be fired.
The national security adviser is appointed by the president to serve as his or her chief adviser on international affairs and defense.
In his resignation letter, Michael Flynn said he had “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador”.
A White House statement said Lt. Gen. Joseph Keith Kellogg had been appointed as interim replacement for the post.
Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, initially denied having discussed sanctions with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, and VP Mike Pence publicly denied the allegations on his behalf.
However, he came under further pressure on February 13 when details of his phone call emerged in US media, as well as reports the justice department had warned the White House about him misleading senior officials and being vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
According to the Washington Post, the message was delivered by then-acting attorney general Sally Yates, who was subsequently dismissed by President Trump for opposing his controversial travel ban.
Michael Flynn, who was previously fired by Barack Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was an ardent supporter of Donald Trump during the campaign.
He became a close ally of both the president and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Michael Flynn encouraged tougher policies on Iran and a softer policy on Russia, but questions were raised about his perceived closeness to Moscow.
President Donald Trump held a series of phone calls with world leaders, including one with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Kremlin, both sides had agreed to make fighting “international terrorism” – including ISIS and “other terrorist groups” in Syria – a top priority.
And the White House said the call was a “significant start” to improving a relationship “in need of repair”.
President Trump also spoke with leaders from Japan, Germany, France and Australia.
In a statement in English, the Kremlin provided more details of the first official call between the two leaders since Donald Trump took office.
The Kremlin said it was a “positive and constructive” conversation, during which they discussed the fight against terrorism, the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict, strategic stability, non-proliferation and Iran’s nuclear program, North and South Korea, the situation in Ukraine.
The Russian account of the call was also notable for its lack of any mention of economic sanctions against Russia by the US, which have been the subject of much speculation in recent days.
However, the statement did say both parties “stressed the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade”, which, the Kremlin said, could aid the development of relations in other areas.
Russia considers all anti-Assad rebels in Syria as terrorist fighters, though the previous US administration has supported some moderate rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
The White House did not offer additional clarity on the items discussed, but rather issued a short statement saying: “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.”
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin also agreed to arrange a face-to-face meeting for a later date – and stay in “regular personal contact”.
In his other phone calls on January 28, President Trump invited Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to the White House in a meeting scheduled for February 10, press secretary Sean Spicer said.
Rex Tillerson has been narrowly approved as secretary of state, despite concerns about his business ties to Russia.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee split along party lines, with all 11 Republicans voting in favor and all 10 Democrats against. A full vote will now be held in the Republican-run Senate.
The move capped a busy day for Donald Trump’s administration.
Most notable was the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fulfilling a campaign pledge.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to pull out from the 12-nation trade deal that had been a linchpin of former President Barack Obama’s Asia policy.
He said: “Great thing for the American worker what we just did.”
Also on January 23, the Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as Donald Trump’s CIA director.
Mike Pompeo’s immediate task, correspondents say, will be to establish an effective relationship between the spy agency and Donald Trump.
Image source Flickr
Donald Trump has been critical of the CIA for concluding that Russia had been actively working to influence the US presidential election in his favor.
In another development, new US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington had an “unshakeable commitment” to NATO, despite Donald Trump’s earlier description of the military alliance as “obsolete”.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Rex Tillerson after leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio dropped his opposition.
Marco Rubio sparred with Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings earlier this month, accusing him of being soft on Russia.
The 64-year-old former head of Exxon Mobil knows Russian President Vladimir Putin through his business dealings.
However, Rex Tillerson has criticized Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Marco Rubio said that although he had doubts over the choice, he believed a new president was entitled to deference in assembling his cabinet.
“Despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,” said Marco Rubio.
He had challenged Rex Tillerson over his refusal to call President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” over Russia’s air strikes in Syria and his failure to condemn strongly enough human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.
Marco Rubio was among the candidates who fought Donald Trump in the battle for the Republican presidential ticket.
The partisan split in the voting is unusual. Traditionally, nominees for secretary of state have been approved by overwhelming votes from both parties.
Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, had said he would not vote for Rex Tillerson, also over his position on Russia as well as other issues.
He also suggested that Rex Tillerson’s “business orientation” could “compromise his ability as secretary of state to forcefully promote the values and ideals that have defined” America.
While critics raise concern about Rex Tillerson’s ability to trade in his corporate interest for a national one, some supporters suggest the former CEO’s background as a global dealmaker may bring fresh perspective to the nation’s top diplomatic post.
At a closed doors meeting on January 23, Donald Trump told congressional leaders he would have won the popular vote in the election if millions of undocumented immigrants had not voted illegally. He gave no evidence for the claim.
Hillary Clinton won nearly three million votes more than Donald Trump, who got more support in key swing states and won the Electoral College.
However, any notion of widespread voter fraud was widely rejected as untrue when Donald Trump made the same claim in November.
Donald Trump’s transition team has released a letter that they say was sent to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The president-elect said about the note, which is dated December 14, 2016: “A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct.”
On December 22, the two leaders called for their respective nations to boost their nuclear arsenals.
Earlier, Donald Trump seemed to welcome the notion of a nuclear arms race tweeting that the US “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability”, only after hours after President Vladimir Putin had called for his own military to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces”.
Image NBC News
In the letter released by the Trump transition team, Vladimir Putin says he hopes that “we will be able – by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner – to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration to the international scene to a qualitatively new level”.
Experts believe that Vladimir Putin hopes that the next US president will remove economic sanctions by the US Department of Treasury which have been placed on Russian officials following the invasion and annexation of Crimea.
At an annual media briefing on December 23 in Moscow, Vladimir Putin said he saw nothing remarkable in Donald Trump’s tweet, making it clear that he does not view the US as a potential aggressor.
Donald Trump has been seen as close to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, and drew condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats when he announced his selection of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state.
Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, has worked closely with Russian state oil company Rosneft, spoken out against international sanctions imposed on Moscow, and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.
In response to Vladimir Putin’s letter, Donald Trump praised the Russian president’s words, calling them “so correct”.
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