Monthly Archives:June 2021


Biden, Erdogan Hold ‘Productive’ Talks But Announce No Breakthroughs

U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described their first face-to-face talks as heads of state as “productive” but did not announce any major breakthroughs in the relationship between the two countries. Biden told reporters after the meeting Monday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels that the talks were “positive and productive” and he was “confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey.”  Erdogan characterized the talks as “productive and sincere.” “We think that there are no issues between U.S. and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems,” he said. The talks come at a time when the two NATO allies are at odds over a number of issues including Syria, Libya and the sale of Russian weapons to Turkey.  FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.The United States sanctioned Turkey in December over its purchase of a Russian weapons system and recently criticized human rights abuses in Turkey. Turkey has called for the United States to end its support for Syrian Kurdish fighters, which Turkey says are linked to the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. In April, Biden angered Turkey by recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenians from roughly 1915 to 1917 as genocide. Turkey denies the killings amounted to genocide. Erdogan said the Armenian issue was not discussed during Monday’s 45-minute meeting. On the topic of Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, Erdogan indicated no progress had been made.  “On the issue of S-400s, I told (Biden) the same thing I had in the past,” Erdogan said. Erdogan said he and Biden also discussed Afghanistan following reports that Turkey could take on a role to secure the international airport in Kabul after the United States withdraws its troops from the country.  He said Turkey would need “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance” from the United States if it were to maintain troops in Afghanistan.  Henri Barkey, with the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA that Turkey was using the Afghanistan offer to win favor from the United States and NATO and hoping to cash in on the goodwill later. He noted that the meeting did not give the leaders much time “given the complexities of the issues.” Other meetingsAlso on Monday, Erdogan met separately with French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.  Turkey and Greece have been at odds over boundary disputes and rights to natural resources.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, June 14, 2021. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via Reuters)Erdogan said he and Mitsotakis agreed to call each other over a “direct line” when future problems arise. Macron said after his meeting with Erdogan that the two countries agreed to work on preserving the cease-fire in Libya and the departure of foreign fighters in the country.  Macron tweeted after the meeting that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey. Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report. 

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Britain Delays Plans to Lift COVID-19 Lockdowns

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has delayed plans to lift coronavirus restrictions by a month because of the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India. Johnson said on Monday that restrictions will now be lifted on July 19 instead of June 21.  “I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer,” he told a news conference in London. Johnson said he is confident that the country will be able to reopen on July 19, noting that by then two-thirds of the British population are expected to be fully vaccinated. FILE – Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a coronavirus vaccination site at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, Britain, May 18, 2021.”It’s unmistakably clear the vaccines are working, and the sheer scale of the vaccine rollout has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves,” he said. On Monday, the British government reported 7,742 new confirmed coronavirus cases, and Johnson said cases are growing by about 64% per week. The Delta variant of the coronavirus now accounts for 90% of new cases in Britain.  In other countriesMeanwhile, Zimbabwe is reintroducing a lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of a COVID-19 outbreak.   Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said in a televised speech this weekend that complacency has resulted in a spike in COVID-19 cases.  FILE – Shops in a Delhi market gear up to open, June 7, 2021, after a devastating second wave shut the city for nearly two months. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)In India, a number of states eased coronavirus restrictions on Monday, including the capital Delhi, as the number of new infections dropped to the lowest level in 74 days. The country reported 70,421 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, the lowest since March 31. Public health officials have cautioned that India’s tolls may be undercounted. Novavax trials  Also Monday, U.S.-based biotech company Novavax announced that Phase 3 clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine show it more than 90% effective at preventing the disease and providing good protection against variants.  The Novavax vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies in the developing world. The White House’s top adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told The Washington Post the vaccine is “really very impressive,” saying it is on par with the most effective shots developed during the pandemic. Vaccination requirement lawsuitA federal judge in the U.S. state of Texas on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for its employees.   U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes in the Southern District of Texas wrote that the employees of Houston Methodist Hospital “are not participants in a human trial.” He said, “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus.” According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the United States has had the highest number of coronavirus cases, at 33.5 million, followed by India, with 29.5 million coronavirus infections, and Brazil, with 17.4 million COVID-19 cases.    

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NATO Reaffirms Strength of Alliance, Calls Out Russia, China

The 30 member states of NATO ended their Monday summit in Brussels, reaffirming the military alliance with a strong statement against Russia and to a lesser degree, China.Both countries were called out as “challenges to the rules-based international order.”In the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021.“By agreeing (on) the NATO 2030 agenda, leaders have taken decisions to make our alliance stronger and better fit for the future,” said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a press conference at the end of the summit. We just concluded a successful #NATOSummit where we took far-reaching decisions for our security. Europe & North America are standing strong together in #NATO to defend our values & interests in an age of global competition. #NATO2030
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to NBC News journalist Keir Simmons, back to a camera, in an interview aired on June 14, 2021, two days before the Russian leader is to meet U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva.Biden will meet with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. In a press conference after the summit, Biden said at least 10 NATO leaders with whom he has spoken thanked him for meeting Putin. In Washington, some Republicans had criticized the president for agreeing to meet with Putin with no preconditions.   Biden said that there was “a consensus” in Brussels and that leaders appreciated his willingness to speak to them about what he will discuss with the Russian leader. ChinaStoltenberg said China’s growing military presence from the Baltics to Africa means NATO has to be prepared.”China is coming closer to us. We see them in cyberspace, we see China in Africa, but we also see China investing heavily in our own critical infrastructure,” the NATO secretary general said.China is “the new the new kid on the block,” said Alice Billon-Galland, a research fellow at London-based Chatham House, and one of the NATO Young Leaders selected to advise the NATO 2030 process.Billon-Galland said European allies need to work with both the U.S. and China but ultimately want to avoid being dragged into a binary Washington versus Beijing confrontation.“European allies are quite careful in terms of how they approach this and a bit reluctant for NATO to get too involved in China-related issues or Indo-Pacific issues,” she said.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center-right, opens a plenary session during a NATO summit at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels June 14, 2021.A day earlier many of the same leaders now meeting in Brussels issued a statement at the conclusion of the G-7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K., calling out China’s human rights abuses. Beijing has accused the group of slandering its reputation.Afghanistan withdrawalAfter 20 years of military operations, NATO and the U.S. had agreed that they will withdraw forces from Afghanistan. Biden had set September 11, 2021, as the pullout deadline.“NATO leaders reaffirmed their commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan, with training, international support for Afghan forces and institutions, and funding to ensure the continued functioning of the International Airport,” said Stoltenberg.NATO has about 10.000 troops in Afghanistan, from countries including Germany, the U.K., Turkey, Georgia, Romania and Italy.Allies are concerned about security at their embassies as well as the Kabul airport. Turkey, a NATO member, has offered to secure the airport in a bid to increase its role in the alliance.FILE – Foreign troops with NATO-led Resolute Support Mission investigate at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2019.“The question is whether Turkey’s willingness to do this, which is clearly welcomed in Washington, would be sufficient to overcome the other issues in the relationship,” said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There are serious doubts about that,” he said.Guarding and operating the Kabul airport issue is among the many security topics discussed by Biden in his Monday bilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The U.S.-Turkey relationship has been problematic, particularly after Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense system, its military offensive in Syria and support for Azerbaijan in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia.Ukraine After the summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted that leaders have confirmed his country will become a member of NATO, something that was not confirmed by the alliance. Вітаю розуміння партнерами з країн @NATO всіх ризиків і викликів, з якими ми маємо справу. Лідери НАТО підтвердили, що 🇺🇦 стане членом Альянсу, а #ПДЧ є невід’ємною складовою процесу набуття членства. 🇺🇦 заслуговує на належну оцінку її ролі у забезпеченні євроатлантичної безпеки.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 14, 2021Asked about Ukrainian membership in NATO, Biden said, “It depends on whether they meet the criteria.” Biden cited corruption as one of the issues that Kyiv must deal with in order to be part of the group. Ukraine applied for membership in 2008 and is seeking more support from Western governments as it tries to deter any new aggression from Moscow. The Ukrainian government earlier criticized the bloc’s decision not to invite it to the NATO summit. America is backBiden took his “America is Back” message to Brussels, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to the alliance’s collective defense principle.”I just want all of Europe to know that the United States is there. The United States is there,” Biden said in his meeting with Stoltenberg.Our NATO Alliance is stronger than ever. Today I’m joining our 29 allies to discuss our collective defense — including from Russian aggression, strategic challenges from China, malicious cyber activity, terrorism, and climate change.
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 14, 2021Biden’s visit sets a new tone on relations with the military alliance. His predecessor, former President Donald Trump once called NATO obsolete and complained that the U.S. was paying an unfair share in the organization.Asked by a reporter if he is concerned that the return of Trump or a Trump-like figure might swing U.S. posture back away from the alliance, NATO’s Stoltenberg said the past four years had underscored the importance of strong multilateral institutions.”There will be different political leaders elected in many allied countries in the years to follow,” he said. “I’m confident that as long as we realize that it is in our security interest to stand together, national security interest to stand together, we will maintain NATO as the bedrock for our security.”NATO’s last Strategic Concept was in 2010. Allies were reluctant to renew it during the rocky years under Trump. 

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Лукашенко використовує Протасевича «як трофей» – Вячорка про появу журналіста на брифінгу

«Той факт, що на цій пресконференції у нього не зв’язані руки, що він вільно розмовляє, не означає, що він перестав бути заручником»

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Jailed Belarusian Journalist Raman Pratasevich Appears at Press Conference 

A jailed Belarusian journalist has made another public appearance during a news conference in Minsk Monday. Raman Pratasevich, who was arrested in May after his flight was forced to land in Belarus, said he was fine and had not been beaten.  Belarusian authorities deny the plane was diverted so Pratasevich could be arrested, saying instead it was because of a bomb threat. Reports say no bomb was found. The plane had been flying over Belarusian airspace at the time. As a result of the incident, several airlines have rerouted flights to avoid traveling over Belarus. “Everything is fine with me. Nobody beat me, nobody touched me,” Pratasevich said. “I understand the damage I have caused not only to the state, but also to the country. Now, I want to do everything in my power to rectify this situation.” This was not the first time Pratasevich has appeared in public since his arrest.FILE – Belarusian blogger Raman Pratasevich is said to be seen in a pre-trial detention facility in Minsk, May 24, 2021, in this still image taken from video. (Telegram@Zheltyeslivy/Reuters TV)Last month, he admitted to participating in a plot to oust President Alexander Lukashenko by organizing riots. Pratasevich also took back criticism of the Belarusian leader, who defended the diversion of the aircraft as necessary to protect the Belarusian people.  Pratasevich appeared with four officials, two of them wearing uniforms, which led opposition members to claim the appearance was made under duress. “This is not a press conference but a scene of either Kafka or Orwell,” Franak Viačorka, a senior adviser to exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wrote on Twitter, referring to late authors Frank Kafka and George Orwell. Pratasevich has a large following on the social media platform Telegram, where until last year, he operated the opposition channel Nexta. The European Union and United States have called for Pratasevich to be released. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, claimed victory in last August’s elections, but Belarusian opposition leaders and many Western countries have called the election rigged. 

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США продовжать надавати допомогу Афганістану після виведення військ – дипломат

Сполучені Штати пообіцяли продовжувати фінансову підтримку афганської національної армії та поліції

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Putin Dismisses US Claims of Russian Cyberattacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin is sharply dismissing U.S. claims that Moscow and Russian hackers are carrying out debilitating cyberattacks on American companies and government agencies, including demands for millions of dollars in ransom to restore corporate computer operating systems.
Putin rejected the claims as “farcical” in a wide-ranging interview with NBC News. His remarks came just days ahead of his Wednesday summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva, where cyberattacks are expected to be a key point of contention.
“We have been accused of all kinds of things,” Putin said. “Election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations.”
In April, Biden expelled 10 Russian diplomats and imposed new sanctions on six Russian technology companies that provide support to the cyber program run by Putin’s intelligence services linked to the hacking of the SolarWinds information technology company.  
In May, two key U.S. businesses — Colonial Pipeline, which transports fuel in the southeastern U.S., and the JBS meat production company — were targeted in cyberattacks believed to have originated in Russia. Both Colonial and JBS paid millions of dollars in ransom demands to restore their business operations, although U.S. law enforcement officials have recovered some of the money Colonial paid.  
Putin told the state TV channel Rossiya-1 on Sunday that Russia was willing to extradite cybercriminals on an equal basis with the U.S., although it was not clear what attacks on Russian corporate entities he was claiming had originated in the United States.FILE – Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of the Colonial Pipeline Company, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company, which transports gasoline along the U.S. East Coast, was recently hit a by a ransomware attack.Biden said at a news conference in Britain at the end of the G-7 summit of leading industrialized countries that he was “open” to the idea of a prisoner swap, although he appeared to doubt that any criminals in the U.S. were committing crimes against Russians.
Later, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Biden was “not saying he’s going to be exchanging cybercriminals with Russia.”
“What he was saying was that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say, ‘I’m prepared to make sure that cybercriminals are held accountable,’ Joe Biden is perfectly willing to show up and say cybercriminals will be held accountable in America, because they already are,” Sullivan said.
Speaking with NBC News for nearly an hour and a half, Putin offered his thoughts on several other Russian and U.S. issues.
The Russian leader denied ordering the poisoning of now jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny with a nerve agent. Navalny accused the Russian government of being behind the poisoning.
“We don’t have this kind of habit of assassinating anybody,” Putin said, but he would not guarantee that Navalny would get out of prison alive.
“Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president,” Putin said. “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else.”Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to NBC News journalist Keir Simmons, back to a camera, in an interview that aired, June 14, 2021. (Maxim Blinov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)The Russian leader also made claims sharply at odds with the circumstances behind the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol when hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump rampaged past law enforcement officials, smashed windows, ransacked offices and scuffled with police as lawmakers were certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory in last November’s election.
At a rally shortly before, Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell” in confronting lawmakers.   
More than 500 people have been arrested, and some face years in prison if convicted. But Putin claimed they were charged with criminal offenses only because they were making “political demands.”  
Others, if they committed no acts of violence or vandalism, could be handed probation sentences, although only a handful of the cases have been adjudicated so far.
“Isn’t that persecution for political opinions?” Putin said.
Five people linked to the chaos of January 6 were left dead, with three protesters dying from medical emergencies; a police officer defending the Capitol dying a day later from natural causes that may have been exacerbated by the attack on the building; and one protester shot dead by a police officer who has been cleared of wrongdoing.  FILE – Supporters of then-President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results by Congress, in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.“I want to ask you: Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said in the interview. “Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? And they didn’t go there to steal a laptop. They came with political demands.”
Putin praised Trump as “an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president. He is a colorful individual.”
Asked what he thought of Biden, Putin said he was a professional and suggested that he could work with him.
“He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics,” he said.
Putin, claiming that the U.S. wrongly attacks Russia with an array of allegations, said, “I’m surprised that we have not yet been accused of provoking the Black Lives Matter movement” that evolved as a major force last year in U.S. protests against police abuse of minorities.
Asked what he thought about Black Lives Matter, Putin said, “There are some grounds for it.”
“We have always treated with understanding the fight of African Americans for their rights,” said Putin, but added that he did not approve of any “extreme” behavior on the part of the movement.

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Суд у Мінську відмовився звільнити Софію Сапегу. Проти неї відкрили ще одну справу

За даними правозахисників, одне з обвинувачень стосується статті про «розпалювання ворожнечі», офіційно про конкретні статті обвинувачення не повідомляли

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US-Russian Leaders to Meet in Geneva Amid Bilateral Tensions

President Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin meet in Geneva on June 16 — for the first time since Biden took office in January. As Charles Maynes reports from Moscow, the two leaders are expected to discuss ways to normalize relations that have become increasingly tense.Camera: Ricardo Marquina Montanana
Produced by: Jason Godman

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