Aleksey Navalnyy: Council of Europe leaders urge Russia to respect its human rights obligations
Strasbourg, 04.02.2021 - The German Federal Government’s Special Representative for the German Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, State Minister Michael Roth, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the 47-nation Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, have today made the following statement concerning the sentencing of Aleksey Navalnyy:
“We deeply regret the recent decision of a Moscow court to sentence Aleksey Navalnyy to a prison term. This decision is based on a criminal conviction which the European Court of Human Rights, in its Navalnyye v. Russia judgment of 17 October 2017, found to have been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable and, as a consequence, in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party. We call upon the Russian authorities to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
The massive, and partly violent, arrests of protesters and journalists at the recent demonstrations all over Russia are also alarming. We refer to the statement of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner in this regard. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial are fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights must be strictly respected.
We call on the Russian authorities to fully investigate all reported abusive actions against peaceful protesters and journalists, and to bring those responsible to justice, in order to live up to Russia’s obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe.”
The Directorate of Communications of the Council of Europe
Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service
Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Myroslava Gongadze of Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
QUESTION: Today we have a chance to talk about the crisis with Secretary of State, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity and for your time —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s good to be with you.
QUESTION: — and for your effort.
So your administration said that Russia can invade any moment. What is your administration ready to do to defer Russian aggression? And what would be the three major steps you would – you are ready to do if Russia will invade tomorrow?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, we’ve offered Russia a clear choice, a choice between pursuing dialogue and diplomacy on the one hand, or confrontation and consequences on the other hand. And we’ve just been engaged in an extensive series of diplomatic engagements with Russia, directly between us, through the Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO with the NATO-Russia Council, at the OSCE, the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe. And my hope remains that Russia will pursue that diplomatic path. It’s clearly preferable.
QUESTION: Still, would U.S. —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: But – but to your point, we’ve also – we’ve equally made clear that if Russia chooses to renew its aggression against Ukraine, we – and not just we the United States, we many countries throughout Europe and even some beyond – will respond very forcefully and resolutely, and in three ways.
First, we’ve been working intensely on elaborating extensive sanctions: financial, economic, export controls, and others, and —
QUESTION: Does it include cutting from SWIFT —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — doing that – I’m not going to get into the details of what they are, but we’re doing that in very close coordination with European allies and partners. A second consequence would almost certainly be further assistance, defensive military assistance, to Ukraine. And third, it’s almost certain that NATO would have to reinforce its own defenses on its on its eastern flank.
And you know, what’s so striking about this is that when you think about it, President Putin, going back to 2014, has managed to precipitate what he says he wants to prevent. Because among other things, NATO had to reinforce itself after Russia invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea, the Donbas – after that happened. So we’ve laid out the consequences clearly for Russia, but also the far preferable path of resolving differences diplomatically. And we’ll see which path President Putin decides to take.
QUESTION: Still, the question of is the SWIFT – cutting Russia from SWIFT is on the table, and personal sanctions against personally Putin and his family are on the table.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What I can tell you is this, and it’s not just me saying this – the G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, the European Union, NATO have all each declared as institutions, as a collection of countries that there will be, and I quote, “massive consequences” for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine. We’ve also said that the measures that we’re looking at go well beyond steps that we’ve taken in the past, including in 2014. I’m not going to detail them here or telegraph the steps we take, but I can tell you the consequences would be severe. But again, I want to insist on the fact that it would be far preferable not to have to go down that path. We’re fully prepared to do it, but the preference is to see if we can resolve differences, address concerns in both directions through diplomacy.
QUESTION: Russia ask for a written response to demand never to accept Ukraine into NATO. Are you preparing to – are you preparing such a written response, and what kind?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we had the last week of these important engagements, as I noted, and we now have an opportunity, both Russia and all of us – the United States, our European partners – to take back what we heard from each other. The Russians have gone back and presumably are consulting with President Putin. We’ve done the same in my case with President Biden. The Europeans have done the same with their leaders. And the next step in this process is for me to have a chance to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva on Friday and to see what – how Russia has responded to what’s already been discussed. They’ll hear from us.
Before that, though, I was determined, at President Biden’s instruction, to come here to Kyiv to consult with our Ukrainian partners, and then tomorrow in Berlin to meet with some of our closest European partners. That’s exactly how we’ve proceeded all along. We’ve done everything in very close consultation before and after any of our engagements with Russia.
QUESTION: However, you didn’t answer my question about are you preparing the written response to Russian demand.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Right now, the next step is to meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Let’s see where we are after Friday, and we’ll take it from there.
QUESTION: I had that question about Mr. Lavrov. You are scheduled to meet him. Do you see any signs that the Kremlin is changing its position at this point – moment?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I can’t see that I see any direct evidence of that. Unfortunately, we can – we continue to see Russia having amassed very significant forces on Ukraine’s borders. That process seems to continue. On the other hand, the fact that we are meeting in Geneva, the fact that we will be discussing the conversations and exchanges that we’ve had over the last 10 days also suggests to me that diplomacy remains an open possibility, one that we’re determined to pursue as long and far as we can. We want to leave no diplomatic stone unturned, because again, that’s just a much better and more responsible way to deal with these problems.
QUESTION: The Minsk Agreement is seen as the only valuable solution for this crisis. However, Russia and Ukraine has a different reading of the agreement. What has to be done to implement the agreement, or it’s time to renegotiate its norms?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think there’s any need to renegotiate because, as you say, there is an agreement. In fact, there are actually three of them because Minsk evolved 2014 to 2015, and there are a number of very clear steps that both of the parties have to take. I think it’s fair to say looking back that many of those steps Ukraine has either implemented or begun to implement. There are some that it hasn’t yet tackled. I think unfortunately, it’s equally fair to say that Russia has done virtually nothing in terms of the steps required of it in the Minsk Agreement.
So the first question is whether Russia is serious about resolving the Donbas through the Minsk process. If it is, I agree with you. I think that’s the best and right now really the only way forward. France, Germany are an important part of this through the so-called Normandy Format, and there are supposed to be upcoming meetings in that process. And again, it’s a test of whether Russia is serious about it. The one positive sign that we’ve seen in the last few weeks when it comes to Minsk is a loose ceasefire that is clearly an improvement over where things were that takes us back to where we were in 2020.
But the real question is: Is Russia serious about implementing Minsk? If it is, we are prepared to facilitate that, we’re prepared to support that, we’re prepared to engage in that, but in support of this Normandy process that France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine are engaged in.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned Germany, you mentioned Normandy Format, there was a lot of talks about U.S. joining that Normandy Format. Is there any reconsideration of U.S. doing so?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t think it’s a question of us joining the format. The question is whether it’s useful for us to try to facilitate things, to support it in any way that we can. If the answer to that is yes, we’re fully prepared to do that, and we’ve said – of course, share that with our allies and partners France and Germany, but we’ve also said that to Russia, and of course, to Ukraine.
QUESTION: The U.S. National Security Advisor recently said that if Russia wants Nord Stream to start operating, it will have to stop aggression in Ukraine. Is the United States ready to accept the completion and activation of the pipeline for Russia to withdraw troops from the borders?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we continue to oppose the pipeline for reasons that are well known and are long known. We think that it actually undermines Europe’s energy security. It obviously does tremendous potential damage to Ukraine including giving Russia the option to avoid the existing pipeline through Ukraine that results in a lot of transit fees for Ukraine, and the list goes on.
Having said that, the pipeline is actually complete. The construction has been completed. It’s not operational. And to Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor’s point, right now, that pipeline is as much if not more leverage for us as it is for Russia, because the idea that if Russia commits renewed aggression against Ukraine, gas would flow through that pipeline, is highly, highly improbable. So that’s an interesting factor to see whether it affects Russia’s thinking as it’s deciding what to do.
QUESTION: And I have two questions on the domestic agenda – Ukraine domestic agenda, if I may. The President Zelenskyy promised President Biden personally to fight corruption. He promised to appoint a special anticorruption prosecutor before the end of 2021. However, many Ukrainians argue that there is sabotage of anticorruption reforms. Is the United States, as a Ukraine strategic partner, satisfied with the reform progress in Ukraine? And is Ukraine at risk of losing the U.S. support if the government does not meet its commitment to reform agenda?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I had a chance to spend time with President Zelenskyy today. We had a very good conversation about virtually all of these issues, including the question of reform. And President Zelenskyy has been pursuing reform, including most recently judicial reform. But there are other things that need to happen, including finally the appointment of this commissioner that should and could take place anytime, so we are looking to that to see that happen. It’s challenging. There are external pressures, there are internal pressures, but he has been on the path of reform.
And ultimately, Ukraine’s progress, which we are determined to support, is contingent on reform. So we look to the president to continue that – those efforts. We very much support him in those efforts and we’ll continue to support Ukraine as it makes those efforts.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. They are showing me that I have to cut. I have one more question, though. One more, please, one more question.
Across from this building where we are going – doing this interview today, right, on the hearing – in the court hearing on treason charges brought against the former President Poroshenko, many experts and former (inaudible) politicians expressed their concern, and some say the charges are politically motivated. Do you think these charges and the progress of – and the process is justified at the time of looming war?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I can’t get into the details of this particular case. What I can say is this: It’s very important that in any proceeding, whether it’s this one or any other, that things go forward, it’s through an independent judiciary pursuant to the rule of law, and, as we would say, without fear or favor, no selective prosecutions. That’s a general rule that we would apply anywhere and everywhere.
Second, this is a time I think where there’s a premium on national unity precisely because of the threat that Russia is posing. And it’s important for Ukrainians to come together whatever political differences they may have. One of Russia’s methods is to try to divide, to create divisions, to create distractions, and it’s important for Ukrainians to come together to resist that and to deal with the challenge posed by Russia as one – as one country with an incredible future that the United States strongly supports, but one that’s being challenged.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, because I would be escorted from this room. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Laughter.) Thank you. Good to be with you again.
QUESTION: Good to be here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thanks very much.
US Embassy in Georgia
Washington will continue to coordinate closely with Tbilisi within the scope of the ongoing security dialogue with Russia
On 14 January 2022, the Vice Prime Minister/ Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Karen Donfried. The sides exchanged views and information over the security situation in the region and the bilateral U.S.-Russia dialogue, as well as over the meetings held during the past week within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE.
The Foreign Minister thanked the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for active communication and coordination with Georgia against the background of the ongoing processes. This points again to the firmness of U.S.-Georgia strategic partnership and to the importance of cooperation between the two countries. David Zalkaliani expressed his gratitude for the U.S. messages of support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for NATO’s Open Door Policy in the face of Russia’s aggressive rhetoric and activities.
The sides highlighted the sovereign right of the States to decide independently on their own foreign policy and their security partners. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State expressed her support for Georgia. The sides reaffirmed that the strategic partners should continue close coordination with Georgia during discussions on Georgia. According to them, no discussion on Georgia will take place without Georgia. It was highlighted that the Russian Federation’s attempts to legitimize Russia’s exclusive spheres of influence in Europe, and to obstruct Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration are inadmissible. The sides underscored the need for Russia to comply with the obligations under the 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The sides agreed to continue consultations in the future. Within the scope of consultations with NATO allies and partners, on 5 January, David Zalkaliani spoke over the phone with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman.
PACE rapporteurs call upon all political forces to overcome extremely polarised political climate
Strasbourg, 17.12.2021 - Following their visit to the country from 8 to 10 December 2021, the rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the Monitoring Procedure in respect of Georgia, Mr Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Mr Claude Kern (France, ALDE), expressed their serious concern about the extremely polarised political climate in the country which is foreclosing any political co-operation and dialogue. This is undermining the political stability and democratic consolidation of the country, putting at risk the considerable progress made by Georgia in this respect over the years. The rapporteurs emphasised that democratic consolidation and Euro-Atlantic integration are the shared responsibility of all political forces in the country and therefore urged them, in particular the two largest parties, Georgian Dream and the United National Movement, to place the common good of the nation over any narrow party-political strategies.
The rapporteurs noted that the October 2021 local elections had, as they had feared, been a de facto plebiscite on the ruling majority, and had resulted in an increasingly harsh and contentious electoral environment. That said, they welcomed that, as a result of the consensual reform of the electoral code earlier this year, the legal framework for elections had considerably improved, which had benefited the organisation of the election process . At the same time they expressed their concern about the many reports of abuse of administrative resources and pressure on voters, as well as incidents of violence. They called upon the authorities to fully and transparently investigate, and where necessary address, all allegations and reports of electoral misconduct.
The establishment of a genuinely independent and impartial judiciary that has the full trust of Georgian citizens is an essential condition for the further democratic consolidation of the country. Recognising the progress made in this respect, the rapporteurs urged the authorities to conduct the comprehensive and independent evaluation of the third and fourth wave that was agreed upon in the Michel agreement. Such an comprehensive evaluation, which needs to be conducted independently to ensure public trust, should identify areas of success as well as remaining shortcomings and should guide future reforms. The rapporteurs felt that the Venice Commission should play an important role in such an independent evaluation. In this respect the rapporteurs deeply regretted that the parliament had continued to appoint new Supreme Court judges, despite the calls from the international community not to.. For the rapporteurs this also underscores the need for further reform of the High Council of Justice, whose functioning remains an obstacle for the establishment of a genuinely independent and trusted judiciary.
On the occasion of their visit the rapporteurs also focussed on developments with regard to minorities in Georgia. In this respect they welcomed that the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities had noted the greatly improved legal framework for national minority and anti-discrimination issues. However, the rapporteurs underscored the need, expressed by the Advisory Committee to further strengthen the quality of education for minorities as well as minority language education, and urged the authorities to do this as a priority. With regard to LGBTI issues, the rapporteurs expressed their concern about the increasing public expressions of homophobia and intolerance towards the LGBTI community. In this context they condemned the violent attacks and counter demonstrations that had occurred during Gay Pride Week in July 2021. The rapporteurs urged the authorities to fully investigate these violent actions, and bring perpetrators to justice, including with regard to the organisers of these violent actions and those forces enticing them.
The rapporteurs will present their report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Georgia to the Assembly in the first half of 2022.
of the PACE Communication Division
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the statement made by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers unacceptable the statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, according to which the Russian Federation "considers it necessary to disavow the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision - that Georgia and Ukraine will become NATO members".
On April 3, 2008, at the NATO Bucharest Summit the leaders of the NATO member states decided that Georgia (and Ukraine) will become a NATO member. The above-mentioned is an extremely important, consensus-based political decision in line with the fundamental principle of international law that all states have the sovereign right to choose their own foreign policy course. Moreover, this decision is based on Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, according to which any European state, which will further the principles of the Treaty and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area can become a member of NATO.
NATO integration is a sovereign decision of Georgia, based on the unwavering will of the majority of the Georgian population. This goal is also enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia.
It should be noted that the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision was reiterated at all consequent NATO summits held after 2008. Furthermore, NATO 2021 Brussels summit communiqué underscored that the Allies consider it unacceptable for any third party to interfere in the determination of the countries’ foreign policy priorities.
According to all above-mentioned, any statement made by a third party regarding the revision of the Bucharest Summit decision, which is contrary to the fundamental principles and norms of international law, is unacceptable for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the same time, it should be emphasized that today the main challenge of the European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture are the actions of the Russian Federation, which has occupied and annexed the territories of neighboring sovereign states, neglected the basic principles of international law and has not fulfilled its own international obligations.
Prime Minister’s meeting with Secretary General of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Today, Georgian Prime Minister met with Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The meeting at the Government Administration focused on the effective cooperation between the Georgian Government and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The Prime Minister emphasized that the Government welcomes the decision of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to build a logistics hub of regional importance in Georgia, namely in Rustavi, to incorporate both a warehouse system and a training center.
The Head of Government thanked the Secretary General for the organization's support in dealing with the impact of COCID-19. The parties expressed commitment to bolstering their cooperation even further.
The meeting also discussed the situation and security/humanitarian difficulties in Georgia's occupied territories, with emphasis on the need to protect human rights on the ground. The Government of Georgia is steadfast in implementing the policy of peaceful conflict-resolution, the meeting pointed out. In this context, attention was paid to the State Strategy for De-Occupation and Peaceful Conflict Resolution, alongside A Step to a Better Future, a peace initiative seeking to better the social and economic conditions of the populations in the occupied territories and to foster confidence-building between war-torn communities.
The meeting was attended by Natia Loladze, President of the Georgia Red Cross Society.
Press Service of the Government Administration