Borrell: views on Ukraine conflict shift

Brussels 11.07.2022 The G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali opened to Josep Borrell the different perspectives around the world on the situation in Ukraine and its consequences, the The European Union top diplomat said, pointing at the evolution of views on the conflict.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this Resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” he concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell underlined.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a “special military operation” in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass Republics. The U.S., the EU, the UK and a number of NATO allies retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

“In the March vote at the UN General Assembly, 140 states condemned the Russian aggression and no member of the G20, apart from the aggressor, opposed this resolution. But on how to move forward and on the consequences of the war, views differ sharply,” Borrell said in a statement published on the EU’s website on Sunday. “The G7 and like-minded countries are united in condemning and sanctioning Russia and in trying to hold the regime accountable. But other countries, and we can speak here of the majority of the `Global South’, often take a different perspective,” the EU diplomat concluded.

“The global battle of narratives is in full swing and, for now, we are not winning,” Borrell continued.

The G20 foreign ministerial sessions held in Bali on July 7-8 were attended by Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov. The Russian foreign minister held a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a special military operation in response to a request by the heads of the two Donbass republics. The US, the EU, the UK and a number of other countries retaliated with sweeping sanctions against Russia and have been ramping up their weapons supplies to Ukraine.

Lavrov: West declared total war on Russia

Brusels 27.05.2022 The West has declared a total war on Russia and the Russian world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (pictured) said on Friday, May 27.

“The West has declared a total war on us, on the Russian World. Nobody makes any secret of this,” Lavrov said at a meeting of the Council of the heads of Russia’s constituent territories at the Foreign Ministry.

Lavrov warned that the Western policy of “cancelling” Russia would continue for a long time.

“The culture of cancelling Russia and everything related with our country has reached a point of absurdity. Bans have been imposed on such classics as Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Pushkin. Persecution is underway against Russian culture and art workers. In general, one can be certain that this situation will last,” Lavrov said.

“We must realize that it has exposed the West’s real attitude to the beautiful slogans that were put forward 30 years ago after the end of the Cold War, the calls for universal humanitarian values, for building a common European home from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Now we can see the real worth of these fine words,” Lavrov said.

The top diplomat has underlined that Russia would certainly not agree to put up with these policies.

“In this situation there is a great demand for a concrete discussion on how we develop our cooperation, cooperation between our ministry and civil society, including at the level of regions,” he added.

Russia accuses EU for grain shortage

Brussels 20.05.2022 Russia can export 25 million tonnes of grain via the port of Novorossiysk starting from August 1 and until the end of this year, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said, speaking at UN Security Council meeting on conflicts and food security Thursday,May 19.

According to Nebenzya, Russia “continues to remain a responsible supplier of food and energy.”

“This year, we expect a record high wheat harvest. In this regard, we can offer 25 million tonnes of grain for export from the port of Novorossiysk starting on August 1 and until the end of this year,” the envoy said.

“We can also discuss other procurements, including considering that, between June and December, potential export of fertilizers will stand at least 22 million tonnes. But, if you have no intention to withdraw your sanctions, imposed on your own initiative, then why do you accuse us? Why do the poorest nations and regions have to suffer because of your irresponsible geopolitical games?” the diplomat pointed out, addressing the representatives of Western states.

In the current circumstances, attempts to “groundlessly shift responsibility” for deteriorating food situations in the world to Russia “are not just absurd, they are sacrilegious.”.

Nebenzya said that grain exports from Ukrainian ports have been blocked because of Ukraine’s military actions, and they are not the result of decisions of Russian Federation.

“You claim that we are allegedly blocking the possibility of exporting agricultural products from Ukraine by sea,” he said at a UN Security Council meeting on food security. “However, the truth is that it’s Ukraine, not Russia, that continues to block 75 foreign ships from 17 states in the ports of Nikolayev, Kherson, Chernomorsk, Mariupol, Ochakov, Odessa and Yuzhny, and it was Ukraine that mined the waterways.”

“Given that, how can we talk about grain export?” he said. “And no matter what you say here today, only you can change this situation, gentlemen.”.

Exported Ukrainian grain is not directed to countries in need, but is being loaded in EU storages – possibly as payment for arms shipments, Nebenzya accused.

“A logical question arises: where do these shipments [of Ukrainian grain] go? What do they have to do with ensuring food security in the world?” Nebenzya said. “We have justified suspicion that the grain does not go to aid the starving global South, but is being loaded in European states’ grain storages. As we understand, this is how Ukraine pays for weapons being shipped by the West.”.

EU: VI Russia sanctions package blocked

Brussels 18.05.2022 The sixth package of EU sanctions against Russia has been blocked, European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni said on Wednesday, May 18, in an interview to Rai News 24 TV channel.

“We adopted five packages of sanctions very quickly and unanimously, but the sixth package is still held off for known reasons. I am optimistic about the prospects for finding a compromise,” Gentiloni said.

The Commissioner explained that the Hungarian government does not object to the principle of introducing an energy embargo, but pointed to the difficulties in terms of a certain geographical location and energy supply model.

The permanent representatives of the EU countries (Coreper) have been not able reach an agreement on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes a draft oil embargo – the European Commission has proposed a ban on imports of crude oil from Russia six months after the sixth package enters into force, and on oil products – from 2023. At the same time, the European Commission proposed to allow Hungary and Slovakia to purchase Russian oil until the end of 2024 in an exemption gesture.

According to sources, the European Commission already had to soften a number of its proposals on the timing, parameters, and possible exceptions to the oil embargo. Hungary opposes the oil embargo, with the support of a number of other countries who believe that the damage from the measure will be catastrophic for Europe.

Peskov denies gas boycott of Finland

Brussels 13.05.2022 Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called some Finnish media reports about the termination of Russian gas deliveries to Finland “most likely just another fake.”

While conducting a press briefing in Moscow, Peskov recalled that the media mentioned Finland’s stance to join NATO as a reason for a possible rupture on supplies of energy resources and reminded that Russia delivers gas to many NATO countries, including Germany.

“Gazprom supplies gas to various consumers in Europe, including countries that are members of NATO. Gazprom has repeatedly demonstrated its reliability as a company that supplies energy resources to the European continent. Therefore, these reports are most likely just another fake,” the Peskov said.

However Peskov made a reservation, recalling the decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin that prescribed “unfriendly countries” to pay in rubles for Russian energy resources, and added that if Finnish companies do not abide by the new requirements, then “the decree will be implemented.”

“It is necessary to make it clear with Gazprom how it is with the payment regime. Because there is a decree of the president on a new gas payment regime. I do not know the nuances of how Finnish companies pay, when they need to make payments, and whether they carry them according to the new rules,” he said.

Romania: Russian Embassy violent attack

Strasbourg 07.04.2022 The Foreign Ministry of Romania urged not to rush to conclusions before the official investigation of the incident ends, and to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions, according to the statement from the Romanian ministry concerning a car, violently rammed into the gates of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest.

“The Foreign Ministry [of Romania] rejects the stance of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest following a dismal incident, which took place early this morning,” the statement from the Romanian Foreign Ministry reads.

“Therefore, the Foreign Ministry views any estimation of this incident as hasty, completely inappropriate and irrelevant,” the statement added.

Russian Ambassador to Romania Valery Kuzmin said earlier in the day that “a car-ramming attack at the entrance to the Russian Embassy’s building in Bucharest, should be classified as an “actual terrorist attack.”

A car rammed into the gates of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest in the early hours of Wednesday April 6 and subsequently burst into flames killing the driver behind the wheel. There were no other casualties reported in the attack.

According to pictures and videos posted earlier on Facebook – outlawed in Russia, owned by Meta Platforms, Inc. which is recognised as extremist by the Russian justice,- the burning vehicle was right in the front of the Russian Embassy’s gates.

Romanian TV channels cited their own sources that this was apparently a premeditated attack. According to some of them, the driver stopped in front of the gates and after a short exchange of words with on-duty security guards, he steered his car ahead, plowing into the gates.

The Russian ambassador in Romania said earlier that the driver of the car had several canisters in his sedan containing gasoline. After the perpetrator crashed into the gates of the Embassy building, on-duty police officers tried to drag him out of the car. “However, he directly stated to them that he would set the gasoline on fire, which he did and burnt [himself] alive inside the car,” Kuzmin specified.

The diplomat added that on the night of April 5 he was summoned to the Romanian Foreign Ministry, where he was handed a note regarding the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from the country.

“Yesterday, I was summoned by the Romanian Foreign Ministry, where I was told about terrible protests, multiple condemnations voiced in regard to the events in [Ukraine’s] Bucha,” Kuzmin said. “I advised them to switch on the TV, which broadcasted a live session of the UN Security Council, where the Russian delegation was providing factual information and arguments.”

“However, I was told in response that we had to proceed to another issue of today’s talks and was handed a note about the expulsion of 10 diplomats from our Embassy’s staff,” the ambassador noted.

On March 29, a number of European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland, announced that they were kicking out Russian diplomats amid Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine. In particular, 21 Russian diplomats were expelled from Belgium, 17 from the Netherlands and four from Ireland. Earlier, a number of other EU states, including Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, also sent Russian diplomats home.

Russia denies Bucha massacre responsibility

Strasbourg 05.04.2022 The situation in the Ukrainian city of Bucha is a “false flag” operation to discredit Russian military and justify Western sanctions, and a genuine investigation into what happened is not something that NATO countries seek, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Tuesday, April 5.

“The only objective is to discredit Russia, justify the sanctions, weapons supplies and other unfriendly actions, as well as to further exacerbate the situation in Ukraine,” Volodin maintained.

According to the Duma speaker, “an investigation is of no use to NATO countries” because the perpetrators have already been found.

“There are no facts, just lies. The Ukrainian media had to delete the photo evidence posted by them, since the information is not confirmed. But no one cares about all this anymore. The accusations have been made,” Volodin regretted.

The Mayor of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, has told AFP that 280 people have been buried after the Ukrainian Army found the city’s streets full of bodies after retaking it.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of carrying out a ‘massacre’ in the town of Bucha, while Western nations reacted to images of dead bodies there with calls for new sanctions against Moscow.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry posted a video early Sunday and accused Russian forces of executing civilians before their retreat from the suburb of Bucha, where bodies in civilian clothes dotted the streets in the wake of Russian withdrawal.

The prospects for resolution from peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are more in doubt than ever with the reported discovery of hundreds of corpses of civilians in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs as Russian forces retreated.

The President of the European Parliament Robert Metsola said she was appalled by atrocities of Russian army in #Bucha other liberated areas. “This is cold reality of Putin’s war crimes. World must be aware of what is happening. Tougher sanctions must be imposed. Perpetrators & their commanders must be brought to justice”.

Borrell regrets Ukraine NATO membership promise

Strasbourg 13.03.2022 Anna van Densky The West made a mistake by promising Ukraine NATO membership, the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said in an interview with LCI TV channel, France.

“There are moments in which we could have reacted better. For example, we proposed things that we could not guarantee, in particular Ukraine’s accession to NATO. This was never realised. I think it was a mistake to make promises that we could not fulfil,” the diplomat explained.

The head of European diplomacy also admitted that the West had made mistakes when building relations with Russia. “Thus, we lost the opportunity to bring Russia closer to the West in order to deter it,” Borrell continued.

Interviewed in Versailles just before the opening of the Summit of the 27, Josep Borrell said he believed that “Russia is bombarding indiscriminately”. According to him, “Mariupol is undoubtedly a war crime, but it’s not just that hospital. Russia is incapable of taking the cities, the Ukrainian resistance is very strong, so it is doing as it did in Syria or Chechnya, it bombs. The Russian army is an artillery army. So it bombs, it bombs, indiscriminately, sometimes a hospital, sometimes a pavement of a house.”

On February 24 President Vladimir Putin announced a special Russian military operation in response to a request for help from the heads of the Donbass self-proclaimed Republics. The head of state has pointed out that Moscow had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories, but aims to “de-militarise and de-nazify” the neighbour. Later he added that one of Moscow’s key demands was that Ukraine remain neutral, and rejected plans to join NATO. As Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin had earlier confirmed, it is critical for Russia because it is the “minimum territorial barrier” the country needs to preserve the existing security system.

Russia-Ukraine: Olaf Scholz ready to react

Brussels 07.02.2022 Anna van Densky Germany and NATO allies are ready to take “all necessary steps” if Russia “invades” Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published by the Washington Post on Sunday, February 6, when asked if the German government could halt the process to open the Nord Stream2 pipeline.

“We are ready to take together with our allies all necessary steps,” Scholz clarified. “We have a very clear agreement with the United States government on gas transit and energy sovereignty in Europe.”

“We already also agreed that we will support Ukraine,” Scholz went on to say. “Also, it is absolutely clear that in a situation like this all options are on the table.”

“I will not get into any specifics, but our answer will be united and decisive,” the chancellor added.

“We are working very hard with our allies in NATO and in the European Union to make clear what we can do in the specific situation,” Scholz said. “But we are also clear about the necessary strategic ambiguity.”

“This is also critical for giving this strong message that it will be very costly — so they cannot go to a computer and count whether it will be too expensive or not,” he said. “It would be too high a price to intervene in Ukraine.”

“On the other hand, that we are working very hard to use all the channels of talks that we have now: talks between the United States and Russia, the NATO-Russia Council, the OSCE and obviously it’s also the Normandy format,” the chancellor said.

The interview came out ahead of a visit by Scholz to the US where he is set to meet with US President Joe Biden on February 7.

There has been a various statements in the West and Kiev lately that Russia could invade Ukraine soon. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were unsubstantiated escalation and that Russia doesn’t threaten anyone. At the same time, he didn’t rule out provocations to corroborate these Western statements and warned that the use of force to resolve the crisis in southeastern Ukraine will have serious consequences.

Kremlin calls EU for “sober” view

Brussels 31.01.2022 “We prefer diplomacy and are prepared to move forward if Russia de-escalates and approaches discussions about security in Europe in a balanced and reciprocal way” said the spokesperson of the EU diplomatic service (EEAS), addressing the issue of tensions at Russia-Ukraine border.

“The European Union deplores the decision by Russian authorities, announced on Friday, to ban an unknown number of representatives of EU Member States and institutions from entry into Russia” reads the statement by the spokesperson on travel restrictions against representatives of EU institutions and of the EU Member States. “This decision lacks any legal justification and transparency and will meet an appropriate response. With it, Russia continues to fuel a climate of tensions in Europe instead of contributing to de-escalation.”

Simultaneously Moscow is calling on Washington and Brussels to give up their policy of stirring up tensions around Ukraine and assume a constructive stance, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“The hysteria that the United States is instigating is, indeed, leading to hysteria in Ukraine where people are almost packing frontline bags. This is obvious and this is a fact. This is the downside of this very malicious and damaging campaign being run by Washington. We consistently criticise this stance and call on Washington and its allies on the European continent to give up this policy and assume a constructive, calm and balanced approach,” the Russian presidential spokesman said, responding to a request to comment on Western media reports that the White House was dissatisfied with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s position on the threat of Russia’s alleged invasion of Ukraine.

“Regrettably, American media outlets have been publishing a large amount of unverified, distorted and deliberately false and inflammatory information in recent months about what is happening in and around Ukraine. This is becoming obvious actually for all,” Peskov said, adding that these publications should be regarded “correspondingly.”

Replying to a question about whether Russian politicians and journalists should cover this issue so actively, the Kremlin spokesman said the following: “We are not empowered to tell the media how much and what they must cover, but we are empowered to recommend that people read this information as little as possible and maintain a sober view.”