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Putin-Biden talks: Russia says it expects no ‘breakthrough’

Moscow: Russia is not expecting any major breakthrough when President Vladimir Putin and US counterpart Joe Biden hold their first summit this month, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“We are not under any illusions and we are not trying to create the impression that there will be any breakthrough, any historic fateful decisions,” Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow ahead of the June 16 talks in Geneva.

“But the very fact of top-level talks between the two leading nuclear powers is of course important,” he said, after an online meeting of officials from the BRICS alliance of major emerging countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

The face-to-face meeting between the two leaders comes amid levels of tension not seen for years, and both countries have downplayed expectations of any significant results.

Since taking office, Biden has imposed new sanctions against Moscow over what US authorities say was the Russian role in the massive SolarWinds cyberattack and meddling in 2020 presidential election.

Washington has also harshly criticized Moscow for the near-death poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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Biden-Putin summit: US-Russia to work towards strategic stability

New Delhi: In a path-breaking development, United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev held consultations on United States-Russia relations in the run-up to the summit between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16.

The two NSA talked about strategic stability between the two former adversaries with the fall-out of China being brought into the arms control and cyber control regimes. In simple terms it encompasses nuclear weapons, missiles, anti-satellite weapons, and anti-missile defense.

The joint statement issued after the meeting makes it clear that both the countries want to work towards normalizing ties and keeping in touch with each other on critical global issues.

According to the statement, the US-Russia NSA meeting was a logical continuation of the recent discussions held in Reykjavik between Secretary of State Blinken and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

“At the meeting, both sides agreed that a normalization of the US-Russian relations would be in the interest of both countries and contribute to global predictability and stability” the statement said.

Biden, making his first international trip as president will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO, and the European Union.

The Geneva summit will come almost three years after Trump famously sided with the Kremlin leader over the US intelligence agencies on the question of whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

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Putin signs law that allows him to serve two more terms

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that could keep him in office in the Kremlin until 2036, the government said.

The legislation allows him to run for two more six-year terms once his current stint ends in 2024. It follows changes to the constitution last year.

Those changes were backed in a public vote last summer and could allow Putin, 68, to potentially remain in power until the age of 83. He is currently serving his second consecutive term as president and his fourth in total.

The reform, which critics cast as a constitutional coup, was packaged with an array of other amendments that were expected to garner popular support, such as one bolstering pension protections.

The law signed by Putin limits any future president to two terms in office, but resets his term count. It prevents anyone who has held foreign citizenship from running for the Kremlin.

The legislation was passed in the lower and upper houses of parliament last month.

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US sanctions Russian individuals over Navalny poisoning

Washington: The United States announced sanctions and restrictions against Russian individuals and entities over the alleged poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

US actions against Russia include export and visa restrictions, a senior administration official told reporters in a briefing call, Xinhua news agency reported.

The US intelligence community assessed that officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service used a nerve agent known as Novichok to poison Navalny on August 20, 2020, the official said.

Russia has repeatedly denied such accusations, saying the case with Navalny is a purely domestic affair and foreign intervention is not allowed.

“This is an exclusively internal matter. We will not allow anyone to interfere nor intend to listen to such statements,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in January.

The US Treasury was designating seven senior members of the Russian government, according to the briefing call. In addition, the US Commerce Department added 14 parties to its entity list for their involvement in various aspects of biological agent production and chemical production.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been adversarial for recent years. The two were bitterly divided over Ukraine, Syria, and cybersecurity issues, and they mutually accused the other of domestic political interference.

Navalny, a harsh Kremlin critic, fell into a coma on a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow in August 2020. He was then transferred to a hospital in Berlin with suspected poisoning symptoms.

In early September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent. Russian authorities denied the accusations and demanded substantial evidence from Germany.

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Russia to face US sanctions over Navalny poisoning

New Delhi: US President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia in the coming weeks over the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the SolarWinds hack, CNN reported citing officials.

Discussions about the response to the devastating security breach of at least nine federal agencies and dozens of private businesses are still ongoing but could come within a matter of weeks, the US official said, noting that the package will likely include sanctions and a cyber component, as well as other options that make clear just how serious the Biden administration views Russia’s actions more broadly, CNN reported.

The form the Navalny sanctions will take is being firmed up and they will likely be rolled out in coordination with the European Union, the two administration officials said.

The moves would be the first costs imposed on Russia by the Biden administration and would mark a clear departure from the strategy of the Trump administration, which failed to impose penalties over the poisoning and shied away from directly confronting Russia over its misdeeds.

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Kremlin ‘interested’ in Elon Musk’s offer to talk to Putin

Moscow: The Kremlin has found SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s proposal to have a chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin on voice-based social network Clubhouse interesting.

Talking to reporters, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, said that details of the proposal should be considered first.

“We want to make sense of it first. Putin himself does not use social networks, he doesn’t have any personal accounts,” Peskov told reporters.

His comments came after Musk said he was interested in talking to the Russian President.

“.@KremlinRussia_E would you like join me for a conversation on Clubhouse?” Musk said in a tweet while tagging the Kremlin’s Twitter account.

“It would be a great honor to speak with you,” he said in a separate tweet.

Peskov noted that Musk’s proposal is “without a doubt, very interesting,” according to the Tass news agency.

“But we need to understand somehow what he means, what the offer is about, we need to verify this first, and then we will respond,” the spokesman said.

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Protests in Russia after court jails opposition leader

Moscow: A Moscow court sent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to prison for more than two and a half years on February 2, ignoring the West in a ruling the opposition politician blamed on President Vladimir Putin’s personal hatred and fear of him.

The court handed Navalny a three-and-a-half-year sentence, but his lawyer said the anti-corruption blogger would actually serve two years and eight months in jail because of time already spent under house arrest. His lawyers said they would appeal.

The decision followed nationwide protests calling for Navalny’s release. After the court’s ruling, his supporters encouraged people to gather in central Moscow to protest. According to Reuters’ reporters, hundreds of protesters and the police detain some of them. Some of them chanted, “Putin is a thief!” and “Putin is a poisoner!”

The Russian police arrested more than 1,050 people during the rallies, according to the NGO OVD-Info. The organization, which specializes in monitoring protests, said most of the arrests were in Moscow, where rallies were held in the evening after the court handed Navalny in jail.

Earlier in the day, riot police detained around 70 of Navalny’s supporters outside the court. The OVD-Info monitoring group later reported 503 arrests across Moscow.

Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent critics, was arrested on January 17 for alleged parole violations after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

Navalny said Russian state security agents had put the poison in his underpants, something the Kremlin denied.

Navalny, in a fiery speech to the court, alleged he was going to be jailed because of Putin’s concerns about him as a political rival, a suggestion the Kremlin has laughed off, referring to Navalny as a marginal figure without wide popular support.

Putin, 68, has dominated Russian politics since 2000 and could rule until 2036 under constitutional changes approved in a referendum in 2020. (Money Control)

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Kremlin critic detained upon arrival from Germany

Moscow: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained upon his arrival in Moscow from Germany, where he received medical treatment after he was allegedly poisoned last year.

In a statement, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said its officers detained Navalny at the Sheremetyevo International Airport for his “systematic violations of the conditions of the probationary period”, Xinhua news agency reported.

The opposition figure on probation was put on a wanted list on December 29, 2020 and he will remain in detention until a court ruling, the service said.

Meanwhile, top European Union (EU) officials expressed concerns over Navalny’s detention, TASS News Agency reported.

“The detainment of Alexei Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him,” European Council President Charles Michel stated on Twitter.

The issue will be discussed at an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on January 25 and at the European Parliament’s session, a diplomatic source in Brussels told TASS.

Navalny, a harsh Kremlin critic, fell into a coma on a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, 2020.

He was then transferred to a Berlin hospital with suspected poisoning symptoms.

In early September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent.

Russian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations and demanded solid evidence from Germany.

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Putin critic Navalny ‘probably poisoned’: Doctors

Moscow: The Berlin hospital treating the seriously ill Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, said he appears to have been poisoned.

The Charite hospital released a statement saying “clinical evidence suggests an intoxication through a substance belonging to the group of cholinesterase inhibitors”, the BBC reported.

But doctors who treated him in Russia say the substance was not present.

The 44-year-old Navalny, who is one of the fiercest critics of President Vladimir Putin, is being treated at Berlin’s Charite hospital after falling ill on a flight in Siberia recently.

His supporters claim Navalny was poisoned by something in his cup of tea at a Siberian airport before taking a flight to Moscow, and point the finger at Putin.

“The exact substance is not yet known,” the hospital said. “Widespread analysis has begun. The effect of the poison – i.e. the inhibition of cholinesterase in the organism – has been proven several times and in independent laboratories.”

The opposition leader is in intensive care and is still in an artificial coma.

Navalny is being given an antidote, atropine, the same drug used in the case of ex-KGB agent Sergei Skripal by UK doctors after his poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in 2018.

Navalny has been repeatedly detained for organizing public meetings and rallies and sued over his investigations into corruption.

He was barred from running in a presidential election in 2018.

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