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Putin says Islamic State has seized 700 hostages in Syria

by admin   |   Posted on Friday, October 19th, 2018

Vladimir Putin speaks about the situation in Syria, says 700 people are taken hostage | REUTERS

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Islamic State militants had seized nearly 700 hostages in part of Syria controlled by U.S.-backed forces and issued an ultimatum promising to execute 10 people every day.

Speaking in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Putin said the hostages included several U.S. and European nationals, adding that Islamic State was expanding its control in territory controlled by the U.S. and U.S.-backed forces.

Putin did not specify what the militants’ demands were. — Reuters

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Oil tanker bound for Syria seized in Gibraltar for sanctions-busting

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 5th, 2019

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday (July 4) accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf.

Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so under the authority of European sanctions against Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the source of the oil.

But the likelihood that the cargo was Iranian draws a link between this incident and a new U.S. effort to halt all global sales of Iranian crude, in what Tehran has described as an illegal “economic war” against it.

European countries have tried to stay neutral in that confrontation, which saw the United States calling off airstrikes against Iran just minutes before impact last month, and Tehran amassing stocks of enriched uranium banned under a nuclear deal.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisa Giles-Keddie)

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

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 28th, 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)

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Putin has no plans to congratulate Zelenskiy on inauguration – Kremlin

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

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)

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