Posts Tagged ‘President Vladimir Putin’

Kremlin vows to stand up for Russian billionaire arrested in France

November 22, 2017

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Dagestani born tycoon Suleiman Kerimov watches a soccer match between Anzhi and Spartak in Moscow April 22, 2012. Kerimov built his multi-billion-dollar fortune with an appetite for risk, debt and excellent political connections. Yet there are signs that the secretive mining tycoon has used up his credit with President Vladimir Putin, who exerts a tight grip over the strategic natural resources that fuel Russia’s $2 trillion economy. The 47-year-old from Dagestan has found himself in a tight spot after his company Uralkali pulled out of a potash cartel with Belarus in July, upsetting the market and infuriating a close – if difficult – ex-Soviet ally. Picture taken April 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer (RUSSIA – Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT PROFILE) – GM1E99C15ZV01 Reuters

By Katya Golubkova and Polina Devitt

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday it will spare no effort to defend the rights of Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian businessman and lawmaker who was arrested in the French Riviera resort of Nice in connection with a French tax evasion case.

Shares in Polyus, Russia’s biggest gold producer which is controlled by Kerimov’s family, were down on the news of his detention.

“We will do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular conference call with reporters. “Intensive work is now being undertaken by the foreign ministry.”

A representative for Kerimov in the upper house of parliament, where he sits as a lawmaker, declined to comment on the case on Wednesday when contacted by Reuters. Polyus declined to comment.

Russia’s state-run Rossiya 24 TV station, citing an unnamed source, reported that the 51-year-old billionaire had denied any guilt.

In the lower house of parliament, lawmaker Rizvan Kurbanov asked the Russian foreign ministry to make representations on Kerimov’s behalf with the French authorities.

“We have still not received from the French authorities any explanation of the reasons for the detention of our colleague,” Kurbanov told parliament.

“All this testifies to an unprecedented demarche by the French,” he said, adding that he hoped the Russian foreign ministry would issue a formal protest.

LUXURY RESIDENCES

Shares in Polyus were down by more than 3 percent in early trade in Moscow but since then recovered some ground to trade at minus 1 percent by 1217 GMT.

Originally from the mainly Muslim Russian region of Dagestan, Kerimov built his multi-billion natural resources business through a combination of debt, an appetite for risk, and political connections.

He owned top flight soccer club Anzhi Makhachkala until he sold it in 2016.

Kerimov’s fortune peaked at $17.5 billion in 2008 before slumping to just $3 billion in 2009, according to Forbes magazine, due to so-called margin-calls on his assets triggered by the 2008 global financial crisis.

In March this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree giving Kerimov the state award “For Services to the Fatherland, second class” for his contribution to Russian parliamentary life.

French police arrested Kerimov at Nice airport on Monday evening.

A French judicial source said the investigation centered on the purchase of several luxury residences on the French Riviera via shell companies, something that would have enabled Kerimov to reduce taxes owed to the French state.

Kerimov is a regular visitor to Nice and in 2006 he crashed his Ferrari Enzo into a palm tree on the city’s Promenade Des Anglais. A woman Russian TV presenter was also in the car at the time.

Kerimov was badly injured and on his rare occasions since in public he has worn gloves to conceal his burns.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt, Elena Fabrichnaya, Dmitry Solovyov and Olga Sichkar; writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Christian Lowe and Richard Balmforth)

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Hotels and Bolshoi evacuated in Moscow bomb alerts

November 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A police officer stands guard in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on November 5, 2017

MOSCOW (AFP) – The Bolshoi theatre was evacuated on Sunday, along with major Moscow shops and hotels, after a series of bomb alerts in the Russian capital, local news agencies reported.

“This is another wave of anonymous calls about bombs… in all 10,000 people were evacuated in Moscow because of these threats,” the Interfax agency quoted an informed source as saying.

The bomb alerts came as Russian police detained over 400 activists across the country for holding unauthorised protests against President Vladimir Putin, according to a monitoring group.

Along with the Bolshoi, the GUM and TsUM luxury department stores were evacuated on Sunday along with two top hotels near Red Square and the Kremlin building in the heart of Moscow.

Several cinemas and shopping centres were also evacuated, according to Russian media.

Sunday’s alerts were reminiscent of a series of phoned-in false alarms which were raised in September which affected a total of 1.4 million people. No bombs were found then at any of the venues mentioned.

According to the FSB security service, those calls were made by Russian citizens outside the country.

Such anonymous calls diminished in October though did not stop completely.

Russia beefed up security measures after an underground train bombing in Saint Petersburg in April which left 16 people dead and many more injured.

Putin Hails Russia’s Destruction of Chemical Weapons, Accuses U.S.

September 27, 2017

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said Russia was destroying its last supplies of chemical weapons on Wednesday, three years ahead of schedule, hailing the development as “an historic event”.

In televised remarks broadcast by the Rossiya 24 TV channel, Putin also complained that the United States had not fulfilled its own obligations to destroy chemical weapons, saying it had put off doing so three times citing a lack of financial resources.

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Writing by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

There’s Trouble Brewing in Putin’s Heartland

September 13, 2017
With oil prices down, discontent over the economy is growing.
 
Ulyanovsk, Russia.PHOTOGRAPHER: ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG

During Russia’s oil-fueled boom, Rashid Tamayev saw steady pay raises at his auto factory job, helping keep his family in relative comfort—and making him a loyal supporter of President Vladimir Putin. But since a plunge in oil prices three years ago, Tamayev has lost faith in the president. Last spring he and dozens of others at the Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant lodged an appeal with the Kremlin when they were fired after pointing out safety problems. They got no answer. “Putin has forgotten about ordinary people,” Tamayev says as he watches workers from the factory leave after their shifts. “We used to live well.”

Tamayev outside the Ulyanovsk Automobile Plant.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG

As Putin prepares to run for a fourth term in elections next March, the plight of his working-class base across the Russian heartland is emerging as a top domestic challenge. He’s almost certain to win, thanks to the Kremlin’s grip on the media and political life, but the discontent threatens Putin’s popularity as the economy continues to sputter. After the longest recession in his 17-year rule, real incomes have fallen 12 percent over the past three years, sparking protests in areas that provided solid backing for Putin in 2012. While demonstrations around the last elections were limited largely to Moscow, this year tens of thousands of people have marched in anti-Kremlin protests in dozens of cities. Russians “are losing patience,” Valery Fyodorov, the head of state-run pollster VTsIOM, said in August. “People don’t want stability anymore. They want change.”

The government is moving fast to ensure the simmering unrest doesn’t grow into something more dangerous. This year’s budget—under pressure because of low oil prices—calls for increases in social spending and cuts in defense. In June, during Putin’s annual call-in show with carefully selected “ordinary Russians,” the president pledged to address complaints about inadequate pensions, dilapidated public housing, and substandard health care. An “alarming” rise in poverty in recent years “is a matter of serious concern,” he said at the start of the four-hour broadcast.

nascent economic recovery and falling inflation seem to be taking the edge off popular dissatisfaction. Two-thirds of Russians say they want to see Putin reelected, according to a July poll from the independent Levada Center. But even if growth meets government forecasts of 2 percent this year, that’s far below the 7 percent average seen in Putin’s first two terms. “There’s a sense of grievance at the gap between rich and poor, Moscow and the regions,” says Carine Clement, a sociology professor at St. Petersburg State University. “People blame the elites.”

In Ulyanovsk, a gritty industrial city 550 miles east of Moscow that’s been in decline since Soviet times, hundreds turned out for antigovernment protests this spring. Roads in the city of 600,000 are scarred with potholes, stores on the outskirts are almost empty and advertise steep discounts, and the most famous landmark—a house where Lenin spent his childhood—looks forlorn and mostly devoid of visitors.

The discontent surfaced in elections last September, when the local communist leader, Alexey Kurinny, got a quarter of the vote for regional governor, almost clinching a spot in a runoff against the pro-Putin incumbent. Kurinny, a member of the national parliament in Moscow, has since taken up the cause of Tamayev and other workers at the auto factory, where one employee lost four fingers when his hand was crushed by a pressing machine. “You can’t live” on the salaries the factory pays, Kurinny says. “Not if you have mouths to feed.”

Ulyanovsk has been in decline since Soviet times.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG

Plant workers who have organized protests seeking higher wages to offset inflation won’t speak publicly for fear of reprisal. Dmitry Shestakov, a 37-year-old businessman who runs the campaign office in Ulyanovsk for Alexey Navalny, an opposition candidate for the presidency, says the tax service recently asked him for his landlord’s name and address. A few weeks before Shestakov opened the office in May, the local antiterrorism center called him in for questioning and warned him he may become the target of an attack. “You start to get a little paranoid,” he says.

Management at the plant, which makes an off-road vehicle called the Patriot, dismisses the complaints of angry employees like Tamayev. “You can always find 15 disgruntled people in a workforce of 15,000,” says financial director Mikhail Belobrov. Viktor Bychkov, the head of the plant’s main trade union, is equally unsympathetic. “You can’t expect to get raises for nothing,” he says.

Tamayev, 45, at first put his faith in Putin, even submitting a question for the call-in show. But in August, a court issued a second ruling against him in his bid to get his job back. Tamayev says he lost an offer as a technician at a clinic with a monthly salary of up to 40,000 rubles ($660)—slightly less than he was getting at the auto plant—after management failed to provide a reference. He now makes half that at another car factory in town, but vows he’ll keep fighting to get back the job he held for 23 years. And he won’t be voting for Putin. The president, he says, “is useless.” —With Olga Tanas

BOTTOM LINE – Putin’s working-class base is suffering after a prolonged recession, presenting him with a challenge as he prepares for elections next March.
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U.S., Russia Must ‘Deal With’ Conflict, Tillerson Says

August 7, 2017

Secretary of state says U.S. will respond to expulsion of diplomats by Sept. 1

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from right, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from right, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday. PHOTO: US DEPARTMENT OF STATE HANDOUT/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Updated Aug. 7, 2017 5:09 a.m. ET

MANILA—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russia’s foreign minister that the U.S. would respond to that country’s recent expulsion of American diplomats by Sept. 1 and that the nations must confront the distrust created by Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Tillerson, speaking with journalists Monday at an Asian regional security conference in the Philippines, said that he told his Russian counterpart in a meeting a day earlier that he wanted Russia to “understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between…the American people and the Russian people.”

He told Russia that “We simply have to find some way to deal with that,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Mr. Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov got together Sunday for an hour in a much-anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the conference following a spell of increasing acrimony over sanctions against Russia adopted by the U.S. Congress and reluctantly signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the meeting began with Mr. Lavrov explaining the reasoning behind Russia’s decision to expel U.S. diplomats. The decision came “after a long wait for the U.S. not to go down the path of confrontation. But, unfortunately, Russophobic members of Congress prevented that from happening,” the ministry said.

The ministers discussed a range of global issues, including cybersecurity, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine, the ministry said.

The sanctions were intended to punish Russia after the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Moscow had sought to interfere in the election, which Mr. Trump won. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying the U.S. would have to cut 755 diplomats and staff in the country by September.

Mr. Tillerson said Monday that he asked Mr. Lavrov several clarifying questions about that move, and promised a U.S. response by Sept. 1.

Mr. Trump, who has said that relations between the powers are at “an all-time low,” has publicly questioned the intelligence findings on the election and dismissed investigations by Congress and a Justice Department special prosecutor into the matter. Russia has denied meddling in the election.

Mr. Tillerson said Mr. Lavrov indicated “some willingness” to resolve tensions over Ukraine. The countries have been in conflict since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and Russian-backed separatists started a war in the eastern part of the country.

After the territory grab, the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions on Mosow, which Russia has tried unsuccessfully to have lifted. Mr. Trump, who has spoken favorably of the Russian leader, has called for the two countries to make peace.

Mr. Tillerson said the administration viewed the relationship with Russia with pragmatism.

“We want to work with them on areas that are of serious national security interest to us while at the same time having this extraordinary issue of mistrust that divides us,” Mr. Tillerson said. “That’s just what we in the diplomatic part of our relationship are required to do.”

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Write to Ben Otto at ben.otto@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-russia-must-deal-with-conflict-tillerson-says-1502093045

Pence Holds Talks With 3 Baltic Presidents — Discussion of Patriot missiles amid Russian Saber rattling — Putin’s naval parades spanned across 9 time zones

July 31, 2017

TALLINN, Estonia — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Estonia to meet the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to underscore America’s commitment to NATO and convey Washington’s support to the Baltic nations.

Pence will hold discussions Monday with Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, Raimonds Vejonis of Latvia and Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania on the second day of a European tour that also takes him to Georgia and Montenegro.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and suit

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas (L) shakes hands with US Vice President Mike Pence prior talks in Tallinn on July 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

He will also meet NATO troops from Britain, France and the United States stationed in Estonia. The alliance has deployed some 4,000 troops and military hardware in the three Baltic states and Poland to counter Russia’s presence in the Baltic Sea region.

Washington’s pledge to commit to NATO’s mutual defense is a vital issue for the three small former Soviet republics that border Russia.

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Estonia’s prime minister says he has held talks with US Vice President Mike Pence over the possible deployment by Washington of the Patriot missile system to the Baltic state amid rising tensions between NATO states and Russia.

Following a Sunday meeting with Pence in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Juri Ratas said Washington is considering deploying Patriot surface-to-air missiles in Estonia.

“We spoke about it today, but we didn’t talk about a date or time,” the premier told state broadcaster ERR.

“We talked about … [Russian] military maneuvers near the Estonian border… and how Estonia, the United States and NATO should monitor them,” Ratas added.

For his part, Pence reiterated US support for its East European and Baltic allies.

“Our allies in Eastern Europe can be confident that the United States of America stands with them,” he said.

Estonia was the first destination in Pence’s European tour, which will also take him to Georgia and Montenegro.

Moscow-Tallinn ties soured in 1991, when Estonia separated from the ex-Soviet Union and later joined both the EU and NATO in 2004.

Ahead of Pence’s visit, the Georgian army began a two-week military exercise with the United States along with a group of mainly NATO states, including Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia and Armenia on Sunday.

The US official plans to address the military drill participants on Tuesday.

Relations between Russia and the NATO military alliance started to deteriorate in 2014 over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev’s army is engaged in deadly fighting with pro-Moscow forces.

Russia sees NATO’s military expansion near its borders as a security threat.

Russia marks Navy Day with drills

As the Georgia-US wargames kicked off, Russia launched its own military maneuvers to mark national Navy Day.

The naval parades spanned across 9 time zones within the country, as well as in the port of Tartus in Syria, where Russian forces are fighting Daesh terrorists.

This photo released by Sputnik shows the sea-borne landing on BTR-80 armored vehicle during naval parade in Vladivostok, July 30, 2017.

More than 100 military vessels as well as some 1,500 naval forces took part in the drills.

This photo released by Sputnik on July 30, 2017, shows Russian Navy ships during a parade to mark Navy Day in Kronshtadt.

Six Russian vessels and the newest diesel submarine from the Black Sea Fleet ‘Krasnodar’ paraded the waters of Tartus. Russian fighter aircraft from the Khmeimim airbase supported the sea maneuvers from the air.

This photo released by Sputnik on July 30, 2017, Russia President Vladimir Putin inspecting ships lined up in the Neva waters for the Main Naval Parade marking Navy Day, St. Petersburg.

President Vladimir Putin attended the parade in St. Petersburg, where he announced that 30 new vessels would join the Russian Navy fleet this year.

The Russian head of state has accused NATO of trying to embroil Moscow in a military confrontation by constant provocative actions.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/31/530221/Europe-Estonia-Pence-Russia

‘We must protect common values’ says Trump in Warsaw

July 6, 2017

France 24 and Reuters

© Saul Loeb, AFP | US President Donald Trump in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument on Krasinski Square in Poland on July 6, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-07-06

U.S. President Donald Trump described Poland as an exemplary ally in building defences to counter Russian “destabilising behaviour”, while appearing to encourage Polish defiance towards the European Union.

Trump, en route to a potentially fractious G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, urged western NATO allies in Europe to spend more on defence, drawing a comparison with Poland which meets the agreed target of two percent of annual economic output.

The brief visit to Warsaw was billed as an opportunity for him to patch up relations with European allies after a tense alliance summit in May.

Trump said the United States and Poland shared similar values.

“We’ve discussed our mutual commitment to safeguarding the values at the heart of our alliance: freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law,” he said in a joint press conference after meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“We are working with Poland in response to Russia’s actions and destabilizing behaviour. And we are grateful for the example Poland has set … by being one of the few nations that actually meets its (NATO’s) financial obligations.”

The Kremlin said it disagreed with U.S. President Donald Trump’s assessment of Russia’s behaviour as destabilising. Trump is due to meet President Vladimir Putin for the first time on the sidelines of the Hamburg meeting.

Poland and east European allies have expressed deep concern at Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, as well as Russian military activity around its borders. Russia argues that this is a response to Western buildup.

Since winning an election in 2015, Poland’s eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party has faced criticism from its western European peers over what some call an authoritarian tilt and its opposition to accepting Muslim migrants.

It shares views with Trump on issues such as migration, climate change and coal mining, and has long said Brussels institutions should give back some power to national governments.

European Union

Later on Thursday, Trump was slated to condemn “the steady creep of government bureaucracy” and praise the sovereignty of nations in a speech at a Warsaw square, according to excerpts released by the White House.

“The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies,” he will say, according to the White House.

Trump did not mention the EU by name in this context but he has been critical of the EU in the past.

“We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

The White House had said Trump would use the stopover in Warsaw to showcase his commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which he once called “obsolete”, bemoaning allies’ repeated failure to meet the two percent target.

He had unnerved allies in May, not least those in the east concerned about Russia’s more assertive military posture, by failing to explicitly endorse the principle of collective defence enshrined in the NATO treaty. He made no explicit reference to that article in his comments.

Duda for his part said he believed Trump took Poland’s security seriously.

In Warsaw, Trump was also meeting other central European leaders as well as heads of state from the Balkans and Baltic states, gathered for a so-called Three Seas summit of countries on the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170706-trump-warsaw-common-values-threats-nato-eu-russia-north-korea

CIA knew in August 2016 that Putin sought to boost Trump — But Obama administration “choked”

June 24, 2017
Published June 24, 2017, 2:19 PM

By Agence France-Presse

The CIA had top-level intelligence last August that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an operation to help Donald Trump win the US presidential race, the Washington Post reported Friday.

A combination of file photos showing Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, January 15, 2016 and US President Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, US May 17, 2016. (Reuters)

A combination of file photos showing Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, January 15, 2016 and US President Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, US May 17, 2016. (Reuters)

The intelligence shocked the White House and put US security chiefs on a top-secret crisis footing to figure out how to react.

But amid confidence that Democrat Hillary Clinton still had the election in the bag and worries over president Barack Obama himself being seen as manipulating the election, the administration delivered warnings to Moscow but left countermeasures until after the vote, the Post reported.

After Trump’s shock victory, there were strong regrets among administration officials that they had shied from tough action.

“From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, ‘Wow, did we mishandle this,’” a former administration official told the newspaper.

The Post said that as soon as the intelligence on Putin came in, the White House viewed it as a deep national security threat. A secret intelligence task force was created to firm up the information and come up with possible responses.

They couldn’t do anything about embarrassing WikiLeaks revelations from hacked Clinton emails. The focus turned to whether Moscow could disrupt the November 8 vote itself by hacking voter registration lists or voting machines, undermining confidence in the vote tally itself.

Worried about making the situation worse, the administration put off retaliating, and instead delivered stiff warnings directly to the Russians not to go farther.

At least four direct warnings — Obama to Putin, spy chief to spy chief, and via top diplomatic channels — appeared to have an impact, officials told the Post. They believe that Moscow pulled back on any possible plans to sabotage US voting operations.

“We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures,” a senior administration official told the Post.

Options to retaliate were on the table early: more crippling sanctions on the Russian economy, leaking information that would embarrass Putin diplomatically, and launching cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure were high on the list.

But Trump’s shock victory dampened the response.

Obama took modest measures at the end of December, expelling 35 Russians and adding to existing sanctions. He also, according to the Post, authorized a plan to place cyberattack implants in the systems of critical Russian infrastructure.

But it remains unclear, the Post said, whether Trump has followed through with that.

Trump on Friday questioned Obama’s response to the Russian hacking crisis.

“Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” he posted on Twitter.

In an interview with Fox News program “Fox and Friends” that will air Sunday, Trump groused that Obama’s response did not get more media coverage.

“The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even — before the election. And I hardly see it. It’s an amazing thing,” Trump said in an excerpt released by the program Friday evening.

“If he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”

Related:

Merkel, Putin aim to ease diplomatic tensions in Sochi

May 2, 2017

ngela Merkel is traveling to the Black Sea coast to talk with Vladimir Putin about Ukraine, Syria and other issues putting a strain on Berlin-Moscow relations. Is the Russian president interested in honest dialogue?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Getty Images/S. Gallup)

At the end of April 2015, several members of the German parliament received an email that had apparently been sent by the United Nations. The unsuspecting recipients opened the attachment, unleashing malware that inhabited Bundestag computers for weeks, tapping into confidential information.

Watch video04:39

Merkel and Putin hold talks – DW correspondent Juri Rescheto

It took some time to repair the damage and even longer before it was publicly discussed. The incident was quite embarrassing: According to the available evidence, the Bundestag was the target of a Russian cyberattack. The sender of the malicious software was a group known to German authorities as “Advanced Persistent Threat 28,” or “Fancy Bear.”

In this case, it was a matter of gaining information from and about Germany, while in January 2016, the opposite happened when false information about Germany was published. Russian media reported that Lisa, a 13-year-old Russian-German girl from Berlin, was abducted and raped by Arab refugees.

Germany’s Russian community took the streets in Berlin to demonstrate against the apparent shortcomings of the country’s security authorities. Even though the girl later admitted that the story was not true, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused German authorities of “glossing over reality with political correctness for internal political reasons.”

Symbolbild Moskau verhindert angeblich ukrainischen Terror-Anschlag auf der Krim (picture-alliance/dpa/Citypress24)Germany condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Germany targeted by Russia

Both incidents are examples of what a critical role Germany plays in Russia. In an interview with the German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,” Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, said the reason for this is obvious: Germany is Europe’s leading power.

“In this role, Germany ensures that Europe, as such, continues to exist. Moscow equates a strong Europe with a weakening of Russia’s position and that is the reason for the attacks,” he said. Germany’s refusal to allow Russia to annex more Ukrainian territory was also a factor, he added.

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Sochi, on the Black Sea coast, on Tuesday it will be her first meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Russian soil in two years. They plan to discuss the Syrian War, the Ukraine conflict and the G20 summit slated for July in Hamburg. The agenda will also likely include Russia’s attempts to influence public opinion in Germany.

The chancellor’s message should be clear, said Gernot Erler, a Social Democratic parliamentarian and the German government’s representative in charge of relations with Russia. “It is not acceptable to interfere in another country’s affairs this way – using illegal methods such as wiretapping or hacking,” he told DW. “I think Russian leaders are aware of what this means for German-Russian relations, in the case that they really have made such attempts or support them.”

http://www.dw.com/en/merkel-putin-aim-to-ease-diplomatic-tensions-in-sochi/a-38655283

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Merkel makes rare Russia visit as Putin backs warmer ties

May 2, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File / by Jan DÖRNER | German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet President Vladimir Putin (shown in this file photo from May 10, 2015 in Moscow) on Tuesday in her first visit to Russia since 2015 in a sign of renewed dialogue between Berlin and Moscow

SOCHI (RUSSIA) (AFP) – 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will Tuesday meet President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in her first visit to Russia since 2015, signalling renewed dialogue between Berlin and Moscow.

The Russian and German leaders have scaled back links as Moscow’s ties with the EU have plunged to a post-Cold War low.

Merkel has strongly backed EU sanctions on Moscow for seizing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backing the pro-Russian separatist insurgency in the east of the country.

Moscow has responded with an embargo on agricultural products from the West.

In her first official visit to Russia last week, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini insisted that cooperation between the two sides was “not frozen” but said that progress was hampered by profound disagreements on subjects including Ukraine and Syria.

Merkel’s visit to Russia comes after Putin called for the countries’ relations “to fully normalise”, while meeting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in March.

Merkel last visited Russia in May 2015 when she met Putin in Moscow but, like most Western leaders, snubbed a Red Square parade for the 70th anniversary of World War II victory.

Berlin and Moscow said Tuesday’s talks agenda includes preparations for July’s G20 summit in Germany as well as Ukraine and Syria.

– ‘Difficult context’ –

Merkel has been the main mediator with Putin over the crisis in Ukraine. She is a key proponent of keeping sanctions on Moscow in place until a stalled peace plan to end the conflict in Europe’s backyard is fulfilled.

Merkel and Putin have taken part in a number of four-way meetings, most recently last October, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and France’s Francois Hollande aimed at implementing the plan the four countries hammered out in February 2015.

last month, Merkel and Putin took part in a four-way phone conversation with Poroshenko and Hollande, agreeing to step up implementation of the peace deal.

“There are two topics that weigh down relations… the annexation of Crimea contrary to international law and then the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists ahead of the visit.

Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of giving military support to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge it denies.

Seibert called this “a difficult context that one cannot ignore,” but added that “our intention is to try to integrate Russia into constructive agreements.”

He said the leaders would also prepare for the upcoming G20 meeting in Hamburg in July, while a German government source told AFP the visit would be “above all about the G20.”

– ‘Diplomatic ice age thawing’ –

The G20 is now the only format for Russia to meet the other major international powers after its exclusion from the G8, now the G7.

At the G20 summit, Putin is expected to meet US President Donald Trump for the first time. Their relations are currently strained by US air strikes on Syrian government forces backed by Russia.

The Kremlin confirmed that Merkel and Putin would discuss the G20 and the Ukraine peace plan.

Merkel visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks focusing on preparations for the G20.

Her Moscow visit will also be an opportunity “to discuss the current state and prospects of bilateral relations,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle suggested ahead of the visit that “the diplomatic ice age… might be nearing an end” as it sends “a strong diplomatic signal” of both sides’ willingness to engage.

The leaders are set to hold a press conference at 1230 GMT between two rounds of talks, Seibert said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also due to meet Putin in Sochi on Wednesday. His visit comes as Turkey’s air strikes in Syria have infuriated Washington.

In a flurry of diplomatic activity, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini both visited Moscow last month.

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by Jan DÖRNER