Category: Новини

Blinken to VOA: Russia Has a Clear Choice to Make

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke in Kyiv Wednesday with VOA’s Eastern Europe bureau chief Myroslava Gongadze about his talks with Ukrainian leaders and the prospects for heading off a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. The following is a transcript of that interview. It has been edited for clarity.  Watch the video here.

 

QUESTION: “Good afternoon. Today we are in Ukraine. It’s been invaded and threatened by Russia. Putin is demanding the West to leave Ukraine for its Russian sphere of influence. Today, we have a chance to talk about the crisis with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity and for your time…”   

   

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: “It’s good to be with you.”   

   

Q: So, your administration said that Russia can invade at any moment. What is your administration ready to do to defer Russian aggression? And what would be the three major steps you’re ready to do if Russia will invade tomorrow?”   

   

BLINKEN: “Well, first, we’ve, we’ve offered Russia a clear choice, a choice between pursuing dialogue and diplomacy on the one hand, or confrontation and consequences on the other hand. And we’ve just been engaged in an intensive series of diplomatic engagements with Russia, directly between us through the strategic stability dialogue at NATO, with the NATO Russia Council at the OSCE, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe, and my hope remains that Russia will pursue that diplomatic path. It’s clearly preferable.”   

   

Q: “Still, what are US…”   

   

BLINKEN: “But, but to your point, we’ve also – we’ve equally made clear that if Russia chooses to renew its aggression against Ukraine, we – and not just we, the United States, we, many countries, throughout Europe, and even some beyond – will respond very forcefully and resolutely and in three ways. First, we’ve been working intensely on elaborating extensive sanctions, financial, economic, export controls, and others….”   

   

Q: “Doesn’t that include…”   

   

BLINKEN: “I’m not going to get into the details what they are, but we’re doing that in very close coordination with European allies and partners. A second consequence would almost certainly be further assistance, defensive military assistance, to Ukraine. And third, it’s almost certain that NATO would have to reinforce its own defenses on its, on its eastern flank. And you know, what’s so striking about this is that, when you think about it, President Putin, going back to 2014, has managed to precipitate what he says he wants to prevent, because among other things, NATO had to reinforce itself after Russia invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea, the Donbass after that happened. So, we’ve laid out the consequences clearly for Russia, but also, also the far preferable path of resolving differences diplomatically. And we’ll see which path President Putin decides to take.”   

   

Q: “It’s still the question of, is the Swift – cutting Russia from Swift is on the table, and personal sanctions against, personally, Putin and his family is on the table?”   

   

BLINKEN: “What I can tell you is this, and it’s not just me saying this. The G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, the European Union, NATO have all each declared as institutions, as a collection of countries, that there will be and I quote, ‘massive consequences’ for Russia, if it renews its aggression against Ukraine. We’ve also said that the measures that we’re looking at go well beyond steps that we’ve taken in the past including in 2014. I’m not going to detail them here or telegraph the steps we take. But I can tell you, the consequences will be severe. But again, I want to insist on the fact that it would be far preferable not to have to go down that path. We’re fully prepared to do it. But the preference is to see if we can resolve differences, address concerns in both directions through diplomacy.”   

  

Q: “Russia asked for a written response to demand never to accept Ukraine into NATO,  – are you preparing such a written response, and what kind?”   

   

BLINKEN: “So, we had the last week of these important engagements, as I, as I noted, and we now have an opportunity, both Russia and, and all of us – the United States our European partners – to take back what we heard from each other. The Russians have gone back and, presumably, are consulting with President Putin. We’ve done the same, in my case, with President Biden. The Europeans have done the same with their leaders. And the next step in this process is for me to have a chance to meet with Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, and to see what how, how Russia has responded to what’s already been, been discussed. They’ll hear, they’ll hear from us. Before that though, I was determined to – President Biden’s instruction to come here to Kyiv, to consult with our Ukrainian partners. And then tomorrow in Berlin to meet with some of our closest European partners. That’s exactly how we proceeded all along. We’ve done everything in very close consultation before and after any of our engagements with Russia.

 

Q: “However, you didn’t answer my question about, are you preparing the written response to Russian?”    

 

BLINKEN: “Right now the next step is to meet with Prime Minister Lavrov. Let’s see where, where we are after Friday, and we’ll take it from there.”   

 

Q: “And I had that question about Mr. Lavrov, you’re, you’re scheduled to meet him. Did you see any signs that the Kremlin is changing its position at this point?”   

 

BLINKEN: “I can’t say that I see any, any direct evidence of that? Unfortunately, we can see, we continue to see Russia having amassed very significant forces on Ukraine’s borders, that process seems to continue. On the other hand, the fact that we are meeting in Geneva, the fact that we will be discussing the conversations and exchanges that we’ve had over the last 10 days, also suggests to me that diplomacy remains an open possibility, one that we’re determined to pursue as long and far as we can. We want to leave no diplomatic stone unturned, because, again, that’s just a much better and more responsible way to deal with these problems.”   

 

Q: “The Minsk agreement is seen as the only valuable solution for this crisis. However, Russia and Ukraine have a different reading of the agreement. What has to be done to implement the agreement or is it time to renegotiate?”   

 

BLINKEN: “I don’t think there’s any, any need to renegotiate, because, as you say, there’s an agreement. In fact, there are actually three of them because Minsk evolved 2014-2015. And there are a number of very clear steps that both of the parties have to take. I think it’s fair to say, looking back that many of those steps Ukraine has either implemented or begun to implement, there are some that hasn’t yet tackled. I think, unfortunately, it’s equally fair to say that Russia has done virtually nothing in terms of the steps required in the Minsk agreement. So, the first question is whether Russia is serious about resolving the Donbass through the Minsk process, if it is, I agree with you, I think that’s the best and right now really the only way forward. France, Germany, are an important part of this so-called Normandy format. And they’re supposed to be upcoming meetings in that process. And, again, it’s a test of whether Russia is serious about it. The one positive sign that we’ve seen in the last few weeks when it comes to Minsk is a loose ceasefire that is clearly an improvement over where things were, that takes us back to where we were in 2020. But the real question is, is Russia serious about implementing Minsk? If it is, we’re prepared to facilitate that, we’re prepared to support that, we’re prepared to engage in that but in support of this Normandy process that France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are engaged in.”   

 

Q: “Since you mentioned Germany—you mentioned Normandy Format. There’s a lot of talks about U.S. joining that, that Normandy Format, is there any reconsideration of U.S. doing so?”   

 

BLINKEN: “I don’t think it’s a question about us joining the format, the question is whether it’s useful for us to try to facilitate things, to support it in any way that we can. If the answer to that is yes, we’re fully prepared to do that. And we, of course, shared that with our allies and partners France and Germany. But we’ve also said that to Russia, and of course to Ukraine.”   

 

Q: “The U.S. National Security Advisor recently said that if Russa wants Nord Stream to start operating, it will have to stop aggression in Ukraine. Is the United States ready to accept the completion, and activation of the pipeline for Russia to withdraw troops from the borders?”   

 

BLINKEN: “We continue to oppose the pipeline for reasons that are well known and long known. We think that it actually undermines Europe’s energy security and obviously does tremendous potential damage to Ukraine, including giving Russia the option to avoid the existing pipeline through Ukraine. That results in a lot of transit fees for Ukraine, and the list goes on. Having said that, the pipeline is actually complete, the construction has been completed. It’s not operational, and to Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor’s point, right now that pipeline is as much, if not more leveraged, for us as it is for Russia because the idea that if Russia commits renewed aggression against Ukraine, gas would flow through that pipeline is highly, highly improbable. So that’s an interesting factor to see whether it affects Russia’s thinking as it’s deciding what to do. ”  

   

Q: “And I have two questions on domestic agenda, Ukraine’s domestic agenda if I may. President Zelenskiy promised President Biden personally to fight corruption. He promised to appoint the special anti-corruption prosecutor before the end of 2021. However, many Ukrainians argue that there is sabotage, of anti-corruption reform. Is the United States as a Ukraine strategic partner satisfied with the reform progress in Ukraine? And is Ukraine at risk of losing the U.S. support if the government does not meet its commitment to reform?”  

   

BLINKEN: “I had a chance to spend time with President Zelenskiy today, we had a very good conversation about virtually all of these issues, including the question of reform, and President Zelenskiy has been pursuing reform, including most recently, judicial reform. But there are other things that need to happen, including, finally the appointment of this Commissioner, that should and could take place anytime, so we are looking for that to see that happen. It’s challenging, there are external pressures, there are internal pressures, but he has been on the path of reform. And ultimately, Ukraine’s progress, which we are determined to support, is contingent on reform so we look to the president to continue those efforts, we very much support him in those efforts, and will continue to support Ukraine as it makes those efforts.”  

   

Q: “Thank you so much. They’re showing me that I have to cut. I have one more question. Across from the building where we’re doing this interview today, on the court hearing treason charges brought against the former President Poroshenko, many experts, and former Russian politicians expressed their concern, and some say the charges are politically motivated. Do you think these charges and the process is justified at the time?”  

   

BLINKEN: “Well, I can’t get into the details of this, of this particular case. All I can say is this. It’s very important that in any proceeding, whether it’s this one or any other, that things go forward through an independent judiciary, pursuant to the rule law, and as we would say, without fear or favor, no selective prosecutions. That’s a general rule that we would apply anywhere and everywhere. Second, this is a time where there’s a premium on national unity precisely because of the threat that Russia is posing.  And it’s important for Ukrainians to come together, whatever political differences they may have. One of Russia’s methods is to try to divide, to create divisions, to create distractions. And it’s important for Ukrainians to come together to resist that and to deal with the challenge posed by Russia as one, as one country with an incredible future that the United States strongly supports but one that’s being challenged.” 

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Britain to Drop COVID-19 Restrictions

Britain is ending COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, working from home and vaccine passports, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.

The measures had been introduced to slow the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the virus.

“Many nations across Europe have endured further winter lockdowns … but this government took a different path,” Johnson told lawmakers, citing a decreasing number of people being admitted to intensive care because of the virus.

“Our scientists believe it is likely that the omicron wave has now peaked nationally … because of the extraordinary booster campaign,” Johnson said, adding that restrictions also had slowed the spread.

Some scientists disagree with the move.

“Removing (the) measures in the face of extremely high levels of infection is a risk,” University of Warwick virologist Lawrence Young said. 

“Perhaps it would have been wiser to wait for another couple of weeks before removing the advice to work from home and the face coverings mandate. There’s no guarantee that infection levels will continue to fall.” 

Britain has seen 152,513 deaths since the virus emerged from China in early 2020. 

Johnson is currently facing a political crisis, including criticism from his own party, for hosting parties during the peak of lockdowns in the country. 

Some say the easing of restrictions is an attempt by Johnson to shore up support among conservatives who disagreed with them. 

Johnson said despite the moves, “We must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter,” adding that hospitals still could see increased cases. 

“The pandemic is not over,” he cautioned.

Some information in this report comes from Reuters and Agence France-Presse. 

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Six Dead, 17 Injured in Spain Nursing Home Fire

Fire officials in Spain say six nursing home residents died and at least 17 were injured in a fire at a retirement home in a suburb of Valencia early Wednesday.

The Valencia regional fire department said the fire started late Tuesday at a publicly-owned senior residence in the town of Moncada, about 12 kilometers north of Valencia. The fire department said on Twitter it took two hours to bring the fire under control. Several area fire departments responded.

Valencia fire chief Jose Bassett told Spanish media flames and smoke affected an entire wing of the residence, He said officials believe the fire has started in a room on the first floor, where two residents were found dead.

Fire fighters say about 25 of the at least 70 residents of the facility had to be rescued. Regional health officials say five the victims died at the scene and a sixth died at the hospital. They say at last 17 residents were hospitalized with injuries, two of them in serious condition.

Bassett said officials believe a faulty electrical mechanism with an oxygen tank may have started the fire, but the exact cause is under investigation.

Moncada city officials called for a moment of silence and three days of mourning for those who died in the fire.  

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez tweeted he heard news of the fire and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and his concern for the injured.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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Ukraine: What We Know 

Russia’s buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, along with military exercises in Belarus, has raised concern that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s positions include troops, tanks and artillery to Ukraine’s north, south and east.

Until 1991, Ukraine was part of the Russia-led Soviet Union. Current tensions with Russia date to 2014, when Russia invaded and seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, a move not recognized by the European Union or United States. Russia has also backed separatists who control a swath of territory bordering Russia in eastern Ukraine. 

Recent meetings with Russia involving the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe yielded little tangible result as Ukraine’s allies called for Russia to de-escalate the situation. 

Russia has dismissed allegations of a planned invasion and has sought certain security guarantees, including that NATO will not expand further along its border such as by admitting Ukraine to the Western military alliance. The U.S. and NATO have rejected such requests, saying NATO has an open-door policy and Ukraine is free to make its own decisions about joining alliance. 

Western allies of Ukraine have pledged to punish Russia with harsh economic sanctions if it does make an assault on Ukrainian territory. 

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Blinken Visits Ukraine as He Urges Russia to De-escalate Border Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv for talks Wednesday with Ukrainian leaders as part of what he called a “diplomatic effort to de-escalate tensions surrounding unprovoked Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.” 

The stop in Kyiv includes meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as visiting with personnel at the U.S. Embassy. 

“We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine,” a senior State Department official told reporters during a call briefing on Tuesday, adding that the United States continues to “prepare for a different outcome” if Moscow does decide to pursue further military aggression against Ukraine.  

Russia has continued its troop buildup and its harsh rhetoric against Ukraine, moving Russian forces into Belarus over the weekend.  

“Diplomacy is not dead,” the senior State Department official said, adding that “the U.S. side believes the only way to solve this conflict successfully is through diplomacy.”

Wednesday’s visit to Ukraine is the first leg of a quickly arranged trip that will take Blinken to Berlin on Thursday to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock “to discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the State Department said. 

Blinken is then set to urge Russia to “take immediate steps to de-escalate” tensions along the border as he meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. 

Blinken spoke with Lavrov on Tuesday to stress “the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military buildup in and near Ukraine,” the State Department said in a statement about the conversation.    

“The secretary reiterated the unshakable U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored that any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine,” the statement added.       

The buildup of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border has raised fears that Moscow is planning military action against its neighbor, which was once part of the Russian-led Soviet Union.  Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.      

Blinken’s trip follows talks in Geneva last week between Russian and U.S. officials aimed at settling differences over Ukraine and other security issues. No progress was reported. 

Russia has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO.      

Last week, the Biden administration accused Moscow of preparing a “false flag operation” for use as a ploy for intervention in Ukraine, a charge Russia has angrily denied.       

A U.S. delegation visited Kyiv on Monday to show support for Ukraine amid the standoff with Russia.      

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told VOA’s Ukrainian Service, “We have Democrats and Republicans of very different political views here to say we stand with Ukraine. And if Vladimir Putin chooses to take this treacherous anti-democratic path of invading this country, there will be severe and swift sanctions.”          

U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican, told VOA, “The United States won’t just sit idly by and be a bystander if something happens. What we would like to do is prevent it from happening. We want to be a deterrent. We want to be part of the solution before fighting commences.”    

Chris Hannas contributed to this report. Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press. 

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Why Did Russian Troops Go to Kazakhstan?

To quell widespread protests, Kazakhstan sought military help from Russia. Why did it turn to Moscow?

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Russia Moves More Troops Westward Amid Ukraine Tensions

Russia is a sending an unspecified number of troops from the country’s far east to Belarus for major war games, officials said Tuesday, a deployment that will further beef up Russian military assets near Ukraine amid Western fears of a planned invasion. 

Amid the soaring tensions, the White House warned that Russia could attack its neighbor at “any point,” while the United Kingdom delivered a batch of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. 

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the joint drills with Belarus would involve practicing a joint response to external threats.

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine from several directions, including from its ally Belarus.

The United States again stressed its concern Tuesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki describing the Russian forces’ move into Belarus as part of an “extremely dangerous situation.” 

“We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” she said. 

A series of talks last week between Russia, the U.S. and NATO failed to quell the tensions over Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday in another attempt to defuse the crisis. 

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has received a shipment of anti-tank weapons from the U.K., noting that they will help “strengthen our defense capability.”

Russia already has started moving troops for the war games in Belarus. Fomin said it would take through February 9 to fully deploy weapons and personnel for the Allied Resolve 2022 drills, which are expected to take place February 10-20.

Fomin didn’t say how many troops will be involved but mentioned that Russia will deploy a dozen Su-35 fighter jets and several air defense units to Belarus. The deployment would bolster an estimated 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and other heavy weapons who are already amassed near Ukraine. 

WATCH: Why Did Russian Troops Go to Kazakhstan?

Russia has denied an intention to attack its neighbor but demanded guarantees from the West that NATO will not expand to Ukraine or other ex-Soviet nations or place its troops and weapons there. Washington and its allies firmly rejected Moscow’s demands during Russia-U.S. negotiations in Geneva and a related NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels last week. 

Fomin said the drills in Belarus, which involve an unspecified number of troops from Russia’s Eastern Military District, reflect the need to practice concentrating the country’s entire military potential in the west. 

“A situation may arise when forces and means of the regional group of forces will be insufficient to ensure reliable security of the union state, and we must be ready to strengthen it,” Fomin said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. “We have reached an understanding with Belarus that it’s necessary to engage the entire military potential for joint defense.” 

Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said the joint maneuvers will be conducted on Belarus’ western border and also in the country’s south, where it borders Ukraine. Lukashenko, who has edged increasingly close to Russia amid Western sanctions over his government’s crackdown on domestic protests, has recently offered to host Russian nuclear weapons. 

A senior Biden administration official said the Russian troop deployment to Belarus raises concerns that Moscow may be planning to stage troops there in order to stretch thin Ukraine’s defenses with an attack from the north. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, noted that the movement may also indicate Belarus’ willingness “to allow both Russian conventional and nuclear forces to be stationed on its territory.” 

Amid the tensions, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it was speeding up efforts to form reserve battalions that would allow for the rapid deployment of 130,000 recruits to expand the country’s 246,000-strong military.

The United States and its allies have urged Russia to de-escalate the situation by calling back the troops amassed near Ukraine.

“In recent weeks, more than 100,000 Russian troops with tanks and guns have gathered near Ukraine without an understandable reason, and it’s hard not to understand that as a threat,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters Tuesday after talks in Moscow with her Russian counterpart, Lavrov. 

Lavrov responded by restating Moscow’s argument that it’s free to deploy its forces wherever it considers necessary on its territory. 

“We can’t accept demands about our armed forces on our own territory,” Lavrov said. “We aren’t threatening anyone, but we are hearing threats to us.” 

Baerbock emphasized that the West was ready “for a serious dialogue on mutual agreements and steps to bring everyone in Europe more security.” 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday. He said “the main task now is to make progress on the political way forward” to prevent a military attack against Ukraine. 

“NATO allies are ready to meet with Russia again, and today I have invited Russia and all the NATO allies to attend a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council in the near future to address our concerns but also listen to Russia’s concerns,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that NATO “in the near future” will deliver its written proposals in response to Russian demands and “hopefully we can begin meeting after that.”

“We need to see what Russia says, and that will be a kind of pivotal moment,” the NATO chief said.

Lavrov, meanwhile, reaffirmed that Russia wants a quick Western answer to its demand for security guarantees that would preclude NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and limit its presence in Eastern Europe. He repeated that in a phone conversation with Blinken, who will visit Ukraine on Wednesday and meet with Lavrov on Friday. 

Speaking on a visit Tuesday to Ukraine, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly denounced the Russian troop buildup as unacceptable. She noted Canada’s efforts to help train Ukraine’s military, adding that it’s currently considering Ukraine’s demand to provide it with military equipment and will make “a decision in a timely manner.” 

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 after the ouster of Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader and also threw its weight behind a separatist insurgency that took over large sections in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting there. 

 

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Turkish Court Acquits German Journalist Mesale Tolu

A Turkish court on Monday acquitted German journalist Mesale Tolu of terrorism charges, she said on Twitter, in a case that lasted nearly five years and added to strains between Ankara and Berlin at the time of her detention.

Tolu was detained in April 2017 as part of a crackdown following a coup attempt in July 2016 and was held in jail for eight months before being released. She had been accused of publishing terrorist propaganda and membership of a terrorist organization.

“After four years, eight months and 20 days: acquitted on both charges!” she tweeted.

“In a state of law, such a trial would not have taken place in the first place. The verdict cannot make up for the repression and the time in prison,” Tolu added.

Relations between the NATO partners soured after Germany condemned Turkey’s arrests following the failed coup of some 50,000 people, and the suspension or firing of 150,000 others, including teachers, judges and soldiers.

Around a dozen people who hold German citizenship were also jailed in Turkey under the crackdown. Germany is home to some 3 million people of Turkish heritage.

Ties improved again after Turkey released German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in 2018 and lifted a travel ban against Tolu months after her release.

 

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Blinken, Russian Counterpart Speak as Top US Diplomat Heads to Ukraine and Germany

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Tuesday as Blinken headed to Ukraine for talks with the country’s president, amid continued fears Russia is planning to invade its neighbor.

“The secretary stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military build-up in and near Ukraine,” the State Department said in a statement about the conversation. 

“The secretary reiterated the unshakable U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored that any discussion of European security must include NATO Allies and European partners, including Ukraine,” the statement added.

The State Department said earlier Tuesday the quickly arranged trip has Blinken scheduled to meet Wednesday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. 

Blinken will then travel on to Berlin to with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock “to discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine,” the State Department said.

The buildup of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border has raised fears Moscow is planning military action against its neighbor, which was once part of the Russian-led Soviet Union.  Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Blinken’s trip follows talks in Geneva last week between Russian and U.S. officials aimed at settling differences over Ukraine and other security issues.  No progress was reported. 

 

Russia has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO.

Last week the Biden administration accused Moscow of preparing a “false flag operation” for use as a ploy for intervention in Ukraine, a charge Russia has angrily denied. 

 

A U.S. delegation visited Kyiv on Monday to show support for Ukraine amid the standoff with Russia.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, told VOA’s Ukrainian Service, “We have Democrats and Republicans of very different political views here to say we stand with Ukraine, and if Vladimir Putin chooses to take this treacherous anti-democratic path of invading this country, there will be severe and swift sanctions.”

U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican, told VOA, “The United States won’t just sit idly by and be a bystander if something happens. What we would like to do is prevent it from happening. We want to be a deterrent. We want to be part of the solution before fighting commences.”

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press.

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