The EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), together with Europol, the OSCE, Frontex, UNODC, and law enforcement agencies from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova last week convened a meeting of the Arms Working Group on fighting the trafficking of weapons, ammunition and explosives from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.
The online meeting focused on the assessment of threats related to arms trafficking in Europe, with a particular emphasis on the availability of weapons, as a consequence of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
Experts from international institutions and law enforcement agencies from Moldova and Ukraine presented the latest cases and trends in the detection of illegal weapons at border crossing posts and in the border area.
“The main objective of establishing this Group has been a consolidation of the knowledge, experiences, and efforts of Moldovan and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies as well as international actors to strengthen joint countermeasures against the trafficking of weapons, ammunition, explosives and CBRN materials,” saidSlawomir Pichor, Head of EUBAM.
The purpose of the joint cross-border working group is to assist Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities in effectively countering illicit weapons trafficking and related serious and organised crime in the region and to foster international cooperation.
Find out more
The level of five-sided cooperation since the previous meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian states four years ago has grown markedly, which dictates the need for us to meet more often in this format, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, speaking on Tuesday in Ashgabat at a ministerial meeting ahead of the summit of the heads of states of the Caspian "five", noted that the Russian Federation expects that the launch of the mechanism of the Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA) on a regular basis will bring the level of interaction to a qualitatively new level.
Lavrov noted that the Russian side is satisfied with the agreements on the final communique that were reached within the framework of the High-Level Working Group, whose experts were able to draw up a "very good and useful document" that will be submitted to the presidents on Wednesday.
Also, Sergey Lavrov, following the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caspian states, said that the relevance and inviolability of the principles of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea were confirmed - only the states located on the Caspian Sea have sovereign rights in relation to the sea and its resources. The parties reaffirmed the principles of the convention in other areas, and also agreed to continue work on strengthening and expanding the legal framework for cooperation in the region.
The countries confirmed that the presence of armed forces of non-Caspian countries is excluded in the Caspian Sea region, and navigation is carried out only by ships flying the flag of one of the coastal states.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today presented the sixth package of sanctions against Russia.
First, the EU is listing high-ranking military officers and other individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol. “This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: we know who you are, and you will be held accountable,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
Second, the EU is to de-SWIFT Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks. These banks are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wage destruction, according to the European Commission. “This will solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system,” the President said.
Third, the EU is banning three big Russian state-owned broadcasters from the EU airwaves. They will not be allowed to distribute their content any more in the EU, in whatever shape or form, be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps.
“We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively. We should not give them a stage anymore to spread these lies,” stated von der Leyen. “Moreover, the Kremlin relies on accountants, consultants and spin-doctors from Europe. And this will now stop. We are banning those services from being provided to Russian companies.”
The European Commission is also proposing a ban on Russian oil. This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined. The EU will make sure that it phases out Russian oil in an orderly fashion in a way that allows the EU and its partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets.
“This is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. Thus, we maximise pressure on Russia, while at the same time minimising collateral damage to us and our partners around the globe,” said von der Leyen.
The President said that all these steps aim to deprive the Russian economy from its ability to diversify and modernise. “Putin wanted to wipe Ukraine from the map. He will clearly not succeed. On the contrary: Ukraine has risen up in unity. And it is his own country, Russia, he is sinking,” concluded the President.
She noted that the “EU wants Ukraine to win this war” and will help Ukrainians rebuild their country for the next generation. That is why the European Commission is also proposing to start working on an ambitious recovery package for Ukraine that should bring massive investment to meet the needs and the necessary reforms, address the existing weaknesses of the Ukrainian economy and lay the foundations for sustainable long-term growth.
On 11 April, the European Commission included 21 airlines certified in Russia to the EU Air Safety List.
The EU Air Safety List is the list of airlines that are subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union, because they do not meet international safety standards.
According to the Commission, this decision reflects the EU’s serious safety concerns due to Russia’s forced re-registration of foreign-owned aircraft, knowingly allowing their operation without valid certificates of airworthiness. “This is in breach of international aviation safety standards,” says a press release by the Commission.
“This is not only a clear breach of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), but it also poses an immediate safety threat,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said.
She added that despite the context of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, this decision is not another sanction against Russia: “It has been taken solely on the basis of technical and safety grounds. We do not mix safety with politics.”
Following the update, a total of 117 airlines are banned from EU skies.
On 27 February, the EU shut down EU airspace for all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft are no longer able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU.
EU cooperation with its Eastern partners
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba are meeting in a small resort town in Turkey's southern province of Antalya, local media reported on Thursday.
The meeting comes on the sidelines of an international forum in the presence of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
It is the first high-level meeting between Moscow and Kiev since Russia launched a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The three ministers are scheduled to hold separate press conferences following the talks in Belek, a resort town about 30 km from Antalya's provincial capital.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting is "an important continuation of the negotiation process."
While Ukrainian and Russian delegations have held three rounds of peace talks in Belarus since last week, the negotiations ended without any substantial progress on ending the conflict.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service
The European Commission today unveiled a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, starting with gas, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This plan also outlines a series of measures to respond to rising energy prices in Europe and to replenish gas stocks for next winter. REPowerEU will seek to diversify gas supplies, speed up the roll-out of renewable gases and replace gas in heating and power generation. This can reduce EU demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas. We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition. The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system.”
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans added: “Putin’s war in Ukraine demonstrates the urgency of accelerating our clean energy transition.”
REPowerEU – eliminating Europe’s dependence on Russian gas before 2030
Phasing out the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels from Russia can be done well before 2030. To do so, the Commission proposes to develop a REPowerEU plan that will increase the resilience of the EU-wide energy system based on two pillars:
Diversifying gas supplies, via higher Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline imports from non-Russian suppliers, and larger volumes of biomethane and renewable hydrogen production and imports;
Reducing faster the use of fossil fuels in homes, buildings, industry, and the power system, by boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewables and electrification, and addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.
With the measures in the REPowerEU plan, the EU could gradually remove at least 155 bcm of fossil gas use, which is equivalent to the volume imported from Russia in 2021. Nearly two thirds of that reduction can be achieved within a year, ending the EU’s overdependence on a single supplier.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, the case for a rapid clean energy transition has never been stronger and clearer. The EU imports 90% of its gas consumption, with Russia providing around 45% of those imports, in varying levels across Member States. Russia also accounts for around 25% of oil imports and 45% of coal imports.
On the 7th of May 2019, Turkmen-Russian high-level negotiations were held in Ashgabat. The delegation of the Russian Federation headed by Deputy Chairman of the Government, Head of State Administration K.A.Chuychenko arrived to the country to participate in the talks.
In the first half of the day, the high guest was received by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. During the meeting, the parties discussed current issues related to Turkmen-Russian relations in political, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian spheres.
Then, the 11th session of Intergovernmental Turkmen-Russian Commission on Economic Cooperation was held in the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan.
During the session, the parties spoke about the key aspects of bilateral cooperation, particularly issues of trade and economic nature. The participants elaborated on the subjects related to the development of mutually beneficial cooperation between profile ministries and agencies of the two countries, implementation of agreements, as well as talked about the process of executing trade actions.
The parties considered the joint projects, issues related to the work of Russian companies on the territory of Turkmenistan, as well as prospects of cooperation in the industry, construction, transport, oil and gas, gas-chemical and electro-energy spheres.
Upon completion of the session, the ceremony of signing bilateral documents took place. These included: “Protocol of the 11th session of Intergovernmental Turkmen-Russian Commission on Economic Cooperation”, “Memorandum between the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan and the Government of Astrakhan region on establishing a Turkmen-Astrakhan Joint Council on commercial issues”, “Agreement between All-Russia State Institute of cinematography named after S.A.Gerasimov and State Committee of Turkmenistan for Television, Radiobroadcasting and Cinematography on Cooperation in the area of elevating the qualifications of Turkmen specialists”, “Agreement between the Federal State Budgetary Establishment ‘Moscow Helmholtz Research Institute of Eye Diseases” of the Ministry of Healthcare of Russian Federation and the Scientific-Clinical Centre of Eye Diseases of the State Medical University of Turkmenistan named after Murad Garriyev”.
It is worthwhile to note that the day before, on the 6th of May 2019, the meeting of experts of the two countries was held in the framework of preparations to the abovementioned meeting.
By The Associated Press: Two Ukrainian navy artillery boats and a tugboat were transiting from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.
MOSCOW — The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia’s coast guard opened fire on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and wounded two crew members in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine's navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them. The Russian Federal Security Service, known as the FSB and which is in charge of the coast guard, said that it has evidence that Ukraine was responsible for the clashes.
"There is irrefutable evidence that Kiev prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea," the FSB said in a statement. "These materials will soon be made public."
There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.
Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.
The Ukrainian vessels apparently wanted to travel through the strait to other ports in Ukraine, and Ukrainian authorities said they had given advance notice to the Russians.
The tensions began Sunday morning. Russia's coast guard said that the three Ukrainian vessels made an unauthorized crossing through Russian territorial waters, while Ukraine alleged that one of its boats was rammed by a Russian coast guard vessel.
The Kerch Strait is a narrow body of water nestled between Crimea and the Russian mainland.
The incident began after the Ukrainian navy claimed a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its tugboats, which was traveling with two Ukrainian navy artillery boats from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol in the Sea of Azov, via the Kerch Strait.
"Russian coast guard vessels ... carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian navy ships," the Ukrainian navy statement said. It said a Russian coast guard ship damaged the tugboat's engine, hull, side railing and a lifeboat.
The statement added that Russia had been informed in advance about the planned journey.
Russia then blocked off the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only passage into the Sea of Azov beyond it. The strait is crossed by the recently completed Kerch Bridge, connecting Crimea to Russia. Transit under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker ship, and dozens of cargo ships awaiting passage are stuck.
Russia has not given any indication of how long it will keep the strait blocked off, but a long-term closure to civilian traffic would amount to an economic blockade of Ukrainian cities on the Azov coast. And Russia's Black Sea Fleet greatly outmatches the Ukrainian navy.
Ukrainian cities on the Sea of Azov include strategically vital centers such as Mariupol — the closest government-controlled city to Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
The FSB told Russian news agencies Sunday after the first incident that the Ukrainian ships held their course and violated Russian territorial waters. The FSB accused the Ukrainian navy of staging a provocation against Russia.
"Their goal is clear," an FSB statement said — "to create a conflict situation in the region." The statement didn't mention ramming a Ukrainian tugboat.
Though a 2003 treaty designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters, Russia has been asserting greater control over the passage since 2015.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in an earlier statement that Russia's actions were a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law, and pledged to "promptly inform our partners about Russia's aggressive actions."
"Such actions pose a threat to the security of all states in the Black Sea region," the statement said, "and therefore require a clear response from the international community."
Dmitry Kiselyov, a commentator on the state-controlled Rossiya channel, told viewers of his Sunday evening news program that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — encouraged by the U.S. — is looking to pick a fight with Russia in the Black Sea.
The talk show host also said that the U.S. talked Poroshenko into staging a provocation against Russia as a means to disrupt the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at this week's Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
"What is happening now at the (Kerch) bridge threatens to turn into a very unpleasant story," Kiselyov warned.
-- The Associated Press
Joint statement of the Group of Friends of Georgia 10 years since the Russian military invasion of GeorgiaWednesday, 08 August 2018 13:00
This statement is made on behalf of Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America.
We reaffirm our full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Ten years since the Russian military invasion of Georgia, we remain deeply concerned over the continued occupation of Georgian territories and underline the need for the peaceful resolution of the conflict, based on full respect for the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the fundamental norms and principles of international law.
We urge the Russian Federation to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
In the ten years since the August 2008 war, Georgia has made progress in strengthening democracy and good governance, as well as in the process of European and Euro-Atlantic integration and economic development. It is disappointing that these benefits cannot be enjoyed by the residents of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. We believe a peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict would have a transformative effect not only on Georgia but on the region as a whole.
We support the Geneva International Discussions (GID) as an important format to address the security, human rights, and humanitarian challenges stemming from the unresolved conflict.
Ten years after the establishment of the GID, we regret the lack of progress on the core issues of the discussions, including the non-use of force, establishing international security arrangements in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions aimed at providing security and stability on the ground, and ensuring the safe and dignified return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and refugees.
We call upon the Russian Federation to fully implement the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, inter alia to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories of Georgia.
We support the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in Gali and Ergneti and encourage the participants to find proper solutions for the safety and humanitarian needs of the conflict-affected population.
We condemn the conclusion of the so-called integration and alliance treaties by the Russian Federation with Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, which constitutes a clear violation of the principles of international law by the Russian Federation and directly contradicts OSCE commitments.
We express our deep concern over the increase of Russian military exercises and its further military build-up in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
We condemn the gross violations of rights related to freedom of movement and residence and to property, as well as the restriction of education in one’s native language. We underline that the so-called borderization through placement of artificial obstacles and fortifying the occupation line with barbed and razor wire fences, as well as closures of socalled crossing points, further aggravates the humanitarian situation on the ground.
We condemn the killing of Georgian IDPs Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli, and urge the Russian Federation, as the state exercising effective control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to remove any obstacles to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
In this context, we support preventive steps by Georgia aimed at eradication of the sense of impunity and aggravation of human rights in Georgia’s occupied regions, and we note the adoption of the Decree of the Government of Georgia on approval of the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list based on the relevant Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia.
We remain deeply concerned over the ethnic discrimination in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and the mass destruction of houses of Georgian IDPs, illustrations of Russia’s purposeful policy aimed at completely erasing the traces of ethnic Georgian population and cultural heritage in the occupied regions.
We support the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees to the places of their origin in safety and dignity.
We call upon the Russian Federation to enable access by international human rights monitoring mechanisms to the occupied territories of Georgia.
We commend the efficient work and contribution of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to prevent the escalation of tensions on the ground and call upon the Russian Federation to allow the EUMM to fully implement its mandate and enable the mission’s access to Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
We welcome Georgia’s compliance with the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and its unilateral commitment not to use force, and call on the Russian Federation to reciprocate, to affirm and implement a commitment not to use force against Georgia.
We support the new peace initiative of the Government of Georgia, ‘A Step to a Better Future’, aimed at improving the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people residing in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and fostering people-to-people contact and confidence building between divided communities to the benefit of all people.
We encourage the OSCE’s engagement in the process of finding a peaceful resolution to the Russia-Georgia conflict and support the implementation of confidence-building measures with an aim to rebuild trust and improve the living conditions of the conflict-affected communities.
We regret the closure of the OSCE mission to Georgia in 2009.
We encourage the OSCE participating States to agree on the opening of the OSCE cross-dimensional mission in Georgia for the benefit of the conflict-affected population, including a monitoring capacity able to operate unhindered across the occupation line. The mission will considerably strengthen the OSCE’s engagement in the GID and IPRMs, as well as in implementation of confidence-building measures.
The friends will continue to raise awareness of the conflict and the need for its peaceful resolution.
The President of Georgia, H.E. Giorgi Margvelashvili expresses concern about Russia moving the border in the village of Bershueti, Gori district and hopes that the international community will instantly respond to this action.
The Advisor to the President for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tengiz Pkhaladze has made this statement today.
"It is extremely important any action that violates Georgia’s territorial integrity to be strongly condemned. Georgia will use all diplomatic means to stop the creeping occupation.
On the order of the President, information about this incident of border-moving will be immediately delivered to our partners, friendly states, and international organizations and no act that violates Georgia’s territorial integrity will be left unanswered”, - stated Mr. Pkhaladze.