French President Emmanuel Macron insisted Friday he hadn’t forgotten the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he defended his decision to visit Saudi Arabia during his Gulf tour.
On Saturday, Macron will become one of the first Western leaders to meet the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, since Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Khashoggi’s murder sparked international outrage that continues to reverberate. But Macron said it was impossible to engage with the region while ignoring the powerful Saudis.
“Who can think for one second that we can help Lebanon and preserve peace and stability in the Middle East if we say: ‘We’re not going to speak to Saudi Arabia, the most populated and most powerful country in the Gulf?'” he told media in Dubai, the first stop of his tour.
“It doesn’t mean that I endorse anything, that I’ve forgotten, that we’re not demanding partners,” he said, adding that he was acting “for our country and in the interests of the region.”
Macron will fly to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah on Saturday after an overnight stay in Qatar, another resource-rich Gulf country where France will defend their World Cup football title next year.
On Oct. 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to file paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. According to U.S. and Turkish officials, a waiting Saudi hit squad strangled him and dismembered his body, which has never been retrieved.your ad herer
A Belarusian court has designated the official Telegram channel of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service and some of the broadcaster’s social media accounts as extremist in a continued clampdown on independent media and civil society,
The decision to label RFE/RL’s accounts “extremist” – including its YouTube channel – was made by the Central District Court on December 3 based on information provided by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, known as GUBOPiK.
In a statement, GUBOPiK said that anyone subscribing to channels or other media designated as “extremist” may face jail time or other penalties, such as fines.
“RFE/RL adamantly rejects this ridiculous label,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in response to the news.
“We are committed to continuing to provide objective news and information to the Belarusian people, who are in need of independent media more now than ever. The Lukashenko regime continues to make clear that their disregard for the truth and their efforts to restrict access to independent information know no bounds,” he added.
Authorities in Belarus have declared hundreds of Telegram channels, blogs and chatrooms “extremist” after the country was engulfed in protests following the August 2020 presidential election, which authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have won and that the opposition says was rigged.
In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill treatment, and several people have died.
Dozens of news websites have been blocked in Belarus and independent media shuttered as part of a sweeping crackdown on information in the wake of the protests.
Website blocked last year
The website of RFE/RL’s Belarus Service has been blocked within Belarus since August 21, 2020, while the accreditations of all locally based journalists working for foreign media, including RFE/RL, were annulled by Belarusian authorities in October 2020.
Lukashenko, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any fraud in the election and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on a political transition and new elections.
The West has refused to recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus and has imposed several waves of sanctions against the government and other officials accused of aiding and benefiting from the crackdown.
On Thursday, the European Union, the United States and other key Western allies further tightened the sanctions in response to a crisis on the bloc’s eastern flank that the West accuses Lukashenko of fomenting by funneling thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to the border region in retaliation against the sanctions.
Belarusian national carrier Belavia said Friday that it had cut its fleet by about half because of the sanctions. The airline has been accused of flying the migrants to Minsk.
The Belarus Foreign Ministry said Friday that the “unprecedented pressure” applied on it could prompt Minsk to retaliate.
“We have repeatedly said that all unfriendly anti-Belarusian steps will be followed by appropriate measures of response. The new round of sanctions is no exception,” the ministry said in a statement.
The isolation has made the Belarusian strongman more reliant than ever on Russia, which analysts say is using his weakened position to strengthen its hold over its smaller neighbor.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is part of the taxpayer-funded United States Agency for Global Media, which also includes Voice of America.
Остаточні деталі переговорів ще уточнюють
U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Friday he has been developing a set of initiatives that will make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to escalate the situation at its border with Ukraine, where Moscow has been building up troops and equipment for weeks.
The situation at Ukraine’s eastern border has raised fears Moscow is planning to invade its neighbor. Russian aggression was the focus this week of a NATO foreign ministers meeting, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warning Russia any escalation of the situation would come at a high price.
Earlier Friday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Russia has now massed more than 94,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, suggesting to him they could be preparing for a large-scale military offensive at the end of January.
When asked about the situation during remarks Friday at the White House, Biden told reporters he has been in constant contact with U.S. allies in Europe, and with Ukraine. He said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have been engaged extensively.
Biden said his administration is “putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do. But that’s in play right now.”
The president offered no details of what his initiatives might be.
Diplomatic efforts have been underway to ease tensions in the region this week. Blinken met in Stockholm on Thursday with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
The Kremlin said Friday arrangements are also being made for a video call between Biden and Putin in the coming days.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.
Загалом у реєстрі ЗМІ – «іноземних агентів» у Росії зараз 103 особи й організації, включно з російськомовними проєктами Радіо Свобода
China and Russia have strengthened their political, economic and military relations this year, despite their uneasy history in the past, as both countries say they resent what they call growing pressure from the West.
So far this year, the two have held a series of military exercises and issued joint diplomatic statements aimed at Western countries. On November 27, for example, an essay by both countries’ ambassadors to Washington protested the upcoming U.S.-led Summit for Democracy for creating divisions in the world. Neither Russia nor China appeared on the list of 110 invitees.
Russia depends on China’s massive industrial economy for oil and gas exports as environmental rules in the European Union complicate energy imports there, said Vassily Kashin, senior fellow at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
He said two-way relations were at their strongest since the 1950s.
“Most importantly, we have a common position concerning the global order, which is that we don’t like the U.S. global order, so this close partnership is based on common opposition to the U.S.-led global order,” Kashin said.
Western democracies from the United States to Australia and throughout Europe have strengthened their own ties this year at a time of concern about China’s policies. Western governments have signaled opposition to Beijing’s aggressive language on Taiwan, its crackdown on dissenters in Hong Kong and its policies targeting a Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region.
Countries, including the West and some in Southeast Asia, further resent China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy” approach that has seen China’s Communist Party become more vocal about promoting its views among overseas audiences. In foreign relations, experts say Beijing has been using “increasingly assertive tactics” to “aggressively defend their home country,” often in the cyber world.
China and Russia in turn hope to stop a return to U.S.-driven soft power of the Barack Obama-George W. Bush presidencies, when smaller countries saw the United States as “more acceptable leaders” among great powers, said Alan Chong, associate professor at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Chinese soft power, Chong said, “has taken a hit” because of President Xi Jinping’s comments that make him sound strong at home at the expense of solidarity and friendship overseas. China sees U.S. President Joe Biden as “a very tough opponent,” he added.
Western governments have called out China this year particularly over its perceived aggression toward Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing calls its own. A U.S. official also warned Russia last month about troop buildup near Ukraine.
Evidence of stronger Sino-Russian ties
With the world’s second-strongest military, after the United States, Russia holds occasional military exercises with China — five made public to date — while selling arms to its giant neighbor to the south.
In October, China and Russia held their 10th annual “Maritime Interaction” naval drills with the Russian Pacific Fleet’s anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev, the Moscow-based Sputnik news service reported. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy sent several destroyers and a diesel submarine.
The two navies drill together to strengthen “combat capabilities” in case of “seaborne threats,” Sputnik said.
Russia and China held five days of military exercises in a remote region of central China in August, drawing more than 10,000 service personnel, aircraft, artillery and armored vehicles.
China and Russia also began operating a space weather center this month in Beijing and Moscow, the Chinese state-run China Daily reported. In June, they agreed to extend their 20-year-old Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation to strengthen relations by respecting each other’s interests and sovereignty, the Daily said.
Russia looks to China for support of its goal in occupying parts of Ukraine, as well as a conduit to show Moscow can “still play a role” in Asia, in the region,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank in Taiwan.
China needs Russian weapons, energy and support against Western pressure, Yang said. Russia agreed in 2015 to sell China 24 combat aircraft and four S-400 surface-to-air missile systems for about $7 billion. On the economic side, China became Russia’s No. 1 trading partner in 2017. Two years ago, Xi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed to fuse each side’s efforts to open trade routes by building infrastructure in other countries.
“I think this is the traditional, old-fashioned balance of power,” Yang said. “They consider if China and Russia can join together, they can also regulate the regional security issues.”
Limits to Sino-Russian cooperation
Cold War-era distrust between China and Russia is likely to limit cooperation to broad or informal actions rather than a signed pact, analysts say. Sino-Russian relations faded in the 1960s when the two Communist parties split over ideology and border conflicts ensued.
The two sides could set up a military technology sharing deal like the AUKUS pact involving Australia, Britain and the United States, said Nguyen Thanh Trung, a faculty member at Fulbright University Vietnam. Earlier goals haven’t been met, he told VOA.
“Over the last two years, China and Russia have signed a lot of agreements, but I don’t see a lot of concrete progress in their agreements,” Nguyen said.
Western allies need not worry about China-Russia cooperation unless the two powers sign a formal agreement, Chong said.
“If you see an MOU [memorandum of understanding] where they would state, explicitly, [that] they would stage X number of military exercises, they would establish some sort of integrated military command or something, then there’s cause for worry, but as they go at the moment, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” he said.
This week the Pentagon announced as part of a regular review of its forces around the world that it would reinforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, while still maintaining forces in the Middle East to deter terrorist groups and Iran.
Два військові літаки із тілами загиблих, серед яких 12 дітей, приземлилися в аеропорту столиці країни Скопʼє 3 грудня
«Що я роблю – збираю найбільш повний і значущий набір ініціатив, щоб значно ускладнити пану Путіну подальші кроки та дії, до яких, як побоюються люди, він може вдатися» – президент США
Історик та голова карельського «Меморіалу» Юрій Дмитрієв разом із колегами у 1990-х відкрив урочище Сандармох, де за часів Великого терору розстрілювали людей
Торік МЗС Білорусі позбавило акредитації всіх журналістів Радіо Свобода, а також десятки інших представників іноземних ЗМІ