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Vice Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament: Sentsov will not ask Putin for pardon
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 22:00:00 GMT
Description:

Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who has been convicted by Russia of "terrorism," will not ask Russian President Vladimir Putin for clemency which will allow him to be exchanged for Russian prisoners in Ukraine, wrote First Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Iryna Herashchenko on her personal Facebook page.

“Putin's Press Secretary [Dmitry] Peskov states that [Oleg] Sentsov ‘must take care of his pardon himself,’ hinting that Oleg should have appealed to the Russian president with such a request. Obviously, Sentsov will not turn to Putin, and the Russian authorities count on this,” she wrote.

Herashchenko noted that relatives of deceased Russian journalists formally appealed to Putin to pardon Nadezhda Savchenko, and he pardoned her without an appeal from Savchenko herself.
"Why shouldn’t Peskov himself, or the Ombudsman Moskalkova, turn to Putin to request a pardon for Sentsov? Why could Nadezhda be pardoned without a personal appeal, and Oleg cannot?” the first Vice-Speaker asked.

Herashchenko also expressed outrage at the breakdown of agreements on a visit by Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova to Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia.

“Lyudmila will not be allowed to [visit] Sentsov, Kolchenko, Sushchenko, Karpyuk, and other prisoners of ours, despite agreements at the highest level. To understand, it is in this way that the release of hostages has been broken off several times. When everyone discussed and agreed, they seemed to have decided on the list and the approximate date. And at the last minute – [there is] no [action], and without explanation,” she added.

Savchenko was captured by pro-Russian LPR militants in June 2014 in the Luhansk region; she was then taken to Russia, where she was sentenced to 22 years in prison. On May 25, 2016, Putin pardoned Savchenko and exchanged her for Russian soldiers Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Erofeev.

In August 2015, the Russian court found Sentsov guilty of "creating a terroristic community." The director was sentenced to 20 years in a maximum-security prison. On May 14, Sentsov announced an indefinite hunger strike demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia.

Despite all the agreements reached, Russia has not allowed Denisova, who has been in the Russian Federation since June 15, to visit with the prisoner for a few days.

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Ukraine to discuss Russia’s actions in the Azov and Black Seas with the EU
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 21:00:13 GMT
Description:

During the Ukraine-EU Summit on July 9, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko plans to discuss Russia’s military presence in the Black and Azov Seas with EU leaders, which is a cause of concern for Ukraine.  

“We look forward to a firm position of the EU regarding new Russian challenges for security in the Black and Azov Seas,” Poroshenko wrote on Facebook page. “We will discuss this issue with the EU leaders at the summit on July 9.”

On Monday, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), Oleksandr Turchynov, discussed the deterioration of the situation in the Azov Sea with ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine, Judith Gough, stating that the situation has been aggravated by increased military presence from Russia.

“Strengthening landing capabilities of the Russian Federation in this region indicates the possibility of their provocations on the coast of Azov,” Turchynov stated, recalling Russia’s attempts to block ships heading to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.   

On June 18, the EU extended restrictive measures on conducting business in the territory of the Crimea until June 23, 2019.

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UK seizes assets of Russia's gas conglomerate Gazprom
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 14:00:00 GMT
Description:

The UK has followed Switzerland and the Netherlands in the seizure of Gazprom assets.

Despite the appeal filed at the Swedish Arbitration Institute and the suspension of the enforcement of the $2.6 billion fine in favor of Naftogaz Ukraine, the London Commercial Court has authorized the freezing of Gazprom’s assets in the UK, TASS reported, citing the Ukrainian company’s press service.

The order to take interim measures was issued on Monday: in the next 48 hours, Gazprom must provide Naftogaz with a list of its assets in England and Wales which are worth more than $50,000.

The court also prohibited Gazprom from attempting to withdraw capital from the country and reduce the value of the frozen assets.

“If Gazprom refuses to comply, it can expect fines and other sanctions,” Naftogaz’s press service observed.

Such interim measures were first implemented in Switzerland, where Gazprom’s subsidiaries Nord Stream AG and Nord Stream 2 AG are registered, the companies responsible for the gas pipelines with the same names. Court officers made an inventory of the companies’ property, and Nord Stream 2 AG reported that it had received a notice on the freezing of its assets.

One week later, at the start of June, Gazprom’s shares in its subsidiary companies in the Netherlands were seized.

In response, Gazprom filed a petition at the Svea Court of Appeal to suspend the implementation of the Stockholm Arbitration Institute’s ruling from February 28, 2018.

Gazprom claims that this request has been granted. Naftogaz Ukraine clarified that the order from the Court of Appeal only implies a temporary suspension of further action, but does not nullify the Arbitration Institute’s ruling, and does not give Gazprom an opportunity to demand $2.1 billion from Naftogaz, as this amount was taken into account in the arbitrators’ ruling as compensation to Kyiv.

The seizure of its European assets has already effectively cut Gazprom off from the European capital market. In the middle of June, the company, which is financing the construction of gas pipelines to China, Turkey and around Ukraine using foreign borrowings, had to call off its placement of eurobonds in British pounds. The risk arose that the funds solicited by Gazprom might be immediately seized as part of the Arbitration Institute’s interim measures, the company told Interfax.

The eurobond placement was meant to be part of a record in Gazprom’s borrowing history: the Russian holdings planned to attract 417 billion rubles in the year, one third of the amount needed for the construction sites (1.2 trillion rubles).

Since the start of the year, Gazprom has already issued investors bonds denominated in rubles (30 billion), euros (750 million) and Swiss francs (750 million), and solicited a 600 million euro loan from Credit Agricole.

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Putin and Lukashenko sign a statement on the expansion of strategic partnership between Russia and Belarus
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 20:00:11 GMT
Description:

Following a Higher State Council meeting of the Union State, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a joint statement, the Kremlin’s press-service reports.  

“Following the meeting of the Higher State Council of the Union State, leaders of both countries adopted a joint statement in which they confirmed their common desire to strengthen and expand the strategic partnership between Russia and Belarus,” the statement reads.

As part of this statement, Russia and Belarus adopted a program of concerted foreign policy for 2018—2019, as well as a number of other plans.

Putin noted that last year, trade between their two countries increased by almost a quarter (+23,5%) and reached $32.5 billion. In January through April this year, it increased yet another 18.5%.

“If such positive dynamics continue, we can bring trade between the two countries to the level of $50 billion,” Putin stated. “The volume of Russian accumulated investments into the Belarusian economy exceeds $3.9 billion. Belarusian enterprises, in turn, invested about $620 million into Russia.”

Putin revealed the list of priorities on the Union State’s agenda included improving business climate, removing barriers and restrictions to the free movement of goods, and harmonization of the legal framework. According to him, both countries intend to conduct coherent a macroeconomic, monetary, pricing and tax policy.

Putin pointed out that the Russian Federation provides Belarus with energy—thus, in the first quarter of 2018, 4.5 million tons of oil and 6 billion cubic meters of gas were delivered to Belarus. Russia participates in a program for the modernization of Belarus’ gas system, and is building a Belarusian nuclear power plant. 

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The United States will decrease its military aid to Ukraine
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 19:00:09 GMT
Description:

Section 1233 of the bill for the US defense budget for 2019 as approved by the Senate proposes the allocation of $200 million to cover “the continuation of initiatives to support Ukraine in the sphere of security," Ukrinform reports.

The bill does acknowledge the need "to maintain strong support of Ukraine in the sphere of security, including the provision of lethal assistance of defensive nature, and at the same time to facilitate the necessary institutional reforms in the field of defense."

The total US defense budget for fiscal year 2019 will amount to $716 billion while the current budget is almost $700 billion. The bill provides for the allocation of $350 million for military assistance to Ukraine, scaled down from the $500 million that was originally planned.

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IMF welcomes creation of Anti-Corruption Court in Ukraine
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 18:00:05 GMT
Description:

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde has welcomed the establishment of a High Anti-Corruption Court in Ukraine, as noted in a statement by the Managing Director of the IMF following a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

“I am very encouraged by the adoption of the law on the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) by the Ukrainian parliament, which is an important step forward in the authorities’ fight against corruption. The new law paves the way for setting up an independent and strong anti-corruption court that together with existing institutions (NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau) and the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office) will contribute to delivering the accountability and justice that the people of Ukraine demand of their public officials,” said Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde commended the leadership of Poroshenko, which enabled the law to be adopted, and welcomed his intentions to ensure the Court would begin operations by the end of this year.

"We agreed that it is now important for parliament to quickly approve the supplementary law submitted by the President to formally establish the court, as well as the necessary amendments to restore the requirement that the HACC will adjudicate all cases under its jurisdiction, including all appeals of relevant first instance court decisions, as it was in the draft law approved in the first reading," Lagarde said.

President Petro Poroshenko and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde agreed to work closely with the government to implement these and other actions in a timely manner, in particular those related to gas prices and budget, which are critical for the completion of the pending review under Ukraine's IMF-supported program, the document concludes.

It was earlier reported that the Ukrainian Parliament would try to include a law on the creation of the High Anti-Corruption Court on its June 21 agenda.

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Russia promises a 'harsh response' if the US puts weapons in space
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 17:00:01 GMT
Description:

Russia will give a "harsh response" to the United States if Washington’s decision to create a military space force violates the treaty on the prohibition of weapons in outer space, Viktor Bondarev, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and former head of the Aerospace Force (VKS) stated, RIA Novosti reported.

"If the US withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then we and other states will give a tough response aimed at ensuring global security," Bondarev said.

According to Interfax news agency, Bondarev noted that comparisons with the Russian VKS are incorrect, since these forces were created by the merger of air defense, air force and space forces and were not aimed at the militarization of outer space.

In March 2018, speaking before military personnel at an airbase in California, US President Donald Trump announced the creation of a military space force since space can be "a battlefield, the same as land, air and sea." On June 18, Trump instructed the Pentagon to create military space forces. He was adamant that the US should not lag in this area behind China and Russia.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, originally signed by the United States, the USSR and Great Britain, prohibits the deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in outer space and limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies for military purposes.

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Iran refuses to negotiate with Trump
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Description:

Iran will not hold negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump after his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with the country, said official government representative Mohammad Bagher Nobakht.

Commenting on the request of several Iranian politicians to begin negotiations with the U.S., Nobakht stressed that there is no logic in this, but he did not rule out a dialogue with other countries.

“We never negotiate when it comes to national security issues, but dialogue remains one of the tools of our politics,” Fars News Agency quoted him as saying.

He also stated that the nuclear deal was concluded on the basis of negotiations, and the one who violated the obligations connected with those negotiations is not trustworthy.

Meanwhile, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Iranian government initiated the creation of a board to “confront U.S. psychological war and American propaganda.” The decision to establish the board was made during a meeting of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, chairman of the Iranian Majlis (parliament) Ali Larijani, and head of the judicial system Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.

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Russia to enter trade war with US
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:00:57 GMT
Description:

The Russian government intends to place customs duties on American goods in response to Donald Trump’s administration policy, Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said on Tuesday.

These measures will be a response to the American tariffs on steel and aluminum from Russia, which have been in force since April. The tariffs will cause the Russian economy to lose roughly $500 million per year. The US has refused to compensate these losses, and so Moscow intends to introduce “balancing measures with respect to imports from the US”, using its rights in the World Trade Organization, Interfax cites Oreshkin as saying.
The list of goods which will become more expensive due to the import duties will be decided by the Ministry of Economic Development over the next few days. It will only affect goods which already have analogues in the Russian market.

No medicines will be blacklisted, “consumers will not suffer”, Oreshkin emphasized.

Road construction equipment will be among the goods placed under the new tariffs. The importation of bulldozers, graders, excavators and rollers may account for as much as $104 million in imports per year, the Federal Customs Service of Russia estimates. The US Department of Commerce places this figure higher – at $270 million per year.

The largest producer of road construction equipment in Russia is Oleg Deripaska’s GAZ Group. Both Deripaska and his company were placed under US sanctions at the start of April.

Russia is incapable of inflicting any significant damage on the American economy: the US gets only 4% from foreign trade, explained senior research fellow Yuriy Zaytsev from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

On March 23, US President Donald Trump introduced a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminum, citing “national security” concerns.

The EU, Canada and Mexico were given a postponement, which expired at the start of June.

In Russia, the American blow will be felt primarily by pipe manufacturers – NLMK, TMK and Evraz, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade stated in April. It will not be possible to quickly redirect the shipments to other markets, and Moscow intends to dispute the introduction of the tariffs in the World Trade Organization, the department’s press secretary said.

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US Senate bans sale of F-35 fighters to Turkey
Published: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 13:00:51 GMT
Description:

The U.S. Senate has banned the sale of fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Turkey because of Turkey’s intention to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia. Turkey expressed regret over the U.S. Senate’s decision and noted that companies from the Middle East country manufactured parts for the fighters. Now Ankara has to look for alternatives or speed up the development of its own military aircraft.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was unfortunate that the U.S. Senate decided to ban the sale of fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Ankara because of its plans to buy Russian S-400 missile systems.

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, the prime minister spoke about Turkey’s intention to find an alternative to the American military equipment.

“Turkey is not left without alternatives. Such attempts are regrettable and go against the spirit of strategic partnership,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in an interview with NTV, accused the U.S. of creating a crisis in relations with Turkey. According to him, Turkey will not hesitate to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems after Washington’s decision.

“This is a wrong approach; it will lead to a crisis. We have purchased the S-400, so let’s drop the subject,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Earlier, the U.S. Senate adopted a defense budget which includes the termination of Turkey’s participation in the production program of the F-35 because of Ankara’s plans to acquire the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

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