Putin has no plans to congratulate Zelenskiy on inauguration – Kremlin

Robie de Guzman   •   May 20, 2019   •   1366

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked if Vladimir Putin will congratulate incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on his inauguration, said the Russian president had no such plans.

He said on Monday (May 20) that Putin would congratulate his newly-elected counterpart if Zelenskiy makes progress in settling the conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and mending relations with Russia.

“I repeat, President (Vladimir) Putin will congratulate President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy on his first accomplishments in resolving the domestic conflict in Ukraine’s south-east and also on the first achievements in the normalisation of Russian-Ukrainian relations,” he said.

“Regarding where Crimea belongs to, as we have said multiple times, all in all there is no such question. And there cannot be one. It is a region within the Russian Federation. As to the south-east, Donbass, this is an interior problem in Ukraine that can be resolved and must be resolved by the president of Ukraine according to the strict plan of the Minsk agreements,” Peskov said

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

As he took the oath in the Parliament on Monday (May 20), Zelenskiy said his first task was to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where a five-year-old conflict with Russian-backed separatists has killed 13,000 people.

He added that dialogue with Russia could only happen after the return of Ukrainian territory and prisoners of war. (REUTERS)

Trump tells Putin: Don’t meddle in U.S. elections

Robie de Guzman   •   June 28, 2019

Meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump | Courtesy: Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday (June 28) told Russian President Vladimir Putin not to meddle in the U.S. elections, appearing to make light of a scandal that led to a two-year investigation into his campaign’s contact with the Kremlin during the 2016 elections.

Asked by a reporter whether he would raise the issue during a meeting with Putin, Trump said: “Yes, of course I will.”

Trump then turned to Putin to give the directive twice while pointing at the Russian leader. Putin maintained a smile as the remark was interpreted for him.

The two leaders were heading into talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan’s western city of Osaka, their first formal face-to-face meeting since a controversial high-profile summit in Helsinki last July.

Relations between the two countries have been sour for years, worsening after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war.

In a recent television interview, Putin said that relations between Moscow and Washington were “getting worse and worse.”

For his part, Trump has sought better relations with Putin to tackle a host of issues, including his goal to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. On Friday, he emphasized the positive.

“It’s a great honor to be with President Putin,” Trump told reporters. “We have many things to discuss, including trade and including some disarmament.”

Trump and Putin had been scheduled to meet at the end of November at the last G20 in Buenos Aires, but Trump cancelled the meeting as he flew to Argentina, citing Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and sailors. The two spoke informally at the event, and at a lunch in Paris earlier that month.

“We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” Trump said on Friday. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship.”

In May, the two leaders had their first extensive phone conversation in months. Trump said they talked about a new accord to limit nuclear arms that could eventually include China.

Russia is under punitive sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union and wants them lifted.

Trump’s critics have accused him of being too friendly with Putin and slammed him for failing to publicly confront the Russian leader in Helsinki over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (REUTERS)

Netherlands set to prosecute suspects in MH17 airliner downing

Marje Pelayo   •   June 19, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

REUTERS – International investigators are set on Wednesday (June 19) to launch criminal proceedings against suspects in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine nearly five years ago.

The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction is to inform victims’ families of progress in their case on Wednesday morning, followed by a presentation to the media.

Dutch broadcasters RTL and NOS reported late last week that investigators would reveal the names of individual suspects. An Interfax Ukraine report on Tuesday quoted Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal in an interview as saying prosecutors would name four “top” suspects.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014 over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed.

Most victims were Dutch. A joint investigation team formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.

The Russian government denies having lent any support to pro-Russia rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops and also denies any involvement in shooting down MH17.

Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said that Moscow was not to blame and that there are other explanations for what happened.

The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.

Prosecutors have previously said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

They said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.

The Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and Moscow is not expected to surrender suspects.

Dutch authorities have said suspects may be tried in absentia.

New Ukraine President Zelenskiy says dissolving parliament

Robie de Guzman   •   May 20, 2019

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Parliament after his inauguration on May 20. | Photo grabbed from Reuters footage

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday (May 20) and immediately announced he was dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, aiming to win seats in a legislature still dominated by loyalists of his predecessor.

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

He said his first task was to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where a five-year-old conflict with Russian-backed separatists has killed 13,000 people. He added that dialogue with Russia could only happen after the return of Ukrainian territory and prisoners of war.

“I am certain that the first step in order to start this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners. Our next challenge is returning of lost territories. Frankly speaking, it seems to me that this expression is not appropriate because it is impossible to lose what belongs to us by law. Both Crimea and Donbass are the Ukrainian land where we lost not only territories, but we also lost the most important which is people,” he said.

“And today, we simply must – I am sure they can hear us – return their consciousness. We lost this consciousness. During these years, authorities did not do anything for them to feel that they are Ukrainians. They are not strangers, they are our (people). They are Ukrainians,” he added.

Working with parliament will be crucial to his ability to meet the expectations of his voters and also pass reforms needed to keep foreign aid flowing.

“In order to prevent more deaths of our heroes, I am ready to do everything. I am definitely not afraid of taking difficult decisions. I am ready to lose my popularity, my rating. And if needed, I am ready, without hesitations, to lose my position so that peace will finally come,” he said.

Zelenskiy called on lawmakers to use the two months until the snap election to pass a law that would strip them of immunity from prosecution and another law that bans officials from illegally enriching themselves. (REUTERS)

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