Putin takes questions from the media in annual year-end press conference

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19-12-19 09:20:00,

  • 19 December 2019

    09:55 GMT

    A question from a Ukrainian journalist, who asks if Russia “will disband occupational administrations” in the self-proclaimed republics, referring to the governments of the Donetsk and Lugansk areas.

    Putin says the Ukrainian government itself was willing to see leaders of the republics as legitimate authorities when the Minsk Agreement was signed, but refused to talk to them directly later. He says Kiev should take responsibility for its own actions like the use of warplanes against the militias and civilians, the economic blockade it imposed and others and start an earnest attempt to reintegrate the rebellious regions.

  • 09:48 GMT

    A question about Ukraine and aftermath of the Normandy Four talks in France.

    Putin says he is reluctant to voice his personal opinions about foreign leaders like Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, even after they retire. As for the peace process, a statement by Zelensky that the Minsk peace agreement should be revised is concerning, Putin said. The Minsk deal is the core of the reconciliation process, but the new Ukrainian government seems to be taking the same stances as the one before it.

    There is no permanent autonomy enshrined in Ukrainian constitution for the breakaway regions, no direct talks between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in the east. But there is progress in curbing violence and disengaging troops. So there is hope and diplomacy should continue.

  • 09:42 GMT

    The first question about international relations is about the doping scandal and WADA’s decision to suspend Russia from international competitions for four years and how Russian athletes are the party most hurt by the stand-off.

    Putin says the WADA decision was unfair and contrary to both the law and common sense. It essentially punishes Russia for a second time for the same alleged misdeeds. The sanctions are also a form of collective punishment. Our teen figure skaters can do what nobody else can do – and WADA’s decision simply bars them from wining.

    The decision is apparently biased due to political motives, Putin said.

  • 09:36 GMT

    Here comes another regular topic for Putin’s pressers – the state of healthcare in Russian regions.

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    The Spanish Case Takes a Turn, Activities of Security Outfit Aimed at Wikileaks. Julian Assange in Video Conference? – Global Research

    the-spanish-case-takes-a-turn,-activities-of-security-outfit-aimed-at-wikileaks.-julian-assange-in-video-conference?-–-global-research

    02-12-19 04:23:00,

    Judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, had been facing a good deal of stonewalling on the part of his British colleagues.  He is overseeing an investigation into the surveillance activities of a Spanish security firm aimed at WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, during his stay at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

    De la Mata had issued a European Investigation Order (EIO) in September seeking the assistance of British authorities in trying to interview Assange on the matter. This involved allegations that David Morales, owner of the security outfit UC Global SL, “invaded the privacy of Assange and his lawyers by placing microphones inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London without consent from the affected parties.”  Morales, for his part, was indicted in October on privacy violations, bribery and money laundering.

    While EIO requests are generally regarded as mundane and automatic, the United Kingdom Central Authority was not so sure.  De la Mata’s requests, specifically to interviewing Assange by videoconference, were initially blocked.  The initial response, signed by Rashid Begun, claimed that “these types of interview are only done by the police”.  The justice, Begun stated curtly, had also lacked clarity in his description of events, and the appropriate elaboration on what jurisdiction was being invoked.

    It took an irritated De la Mata to retort in a subsequent letter that, “In this case, Julian Assange is a witness, not an accused party”, a point that enabled him to be interviewed by videoconference.  He also reiterated that “all the events and crimes under investigation” had been clearly stated.

    The question of jurisdictional bar was also given short shrift.  As the alleged crimes by UC Global had taken place on Spanish territory; given that the microphones deployed against Assange had been purchased in Spain; and given that information obtained in London was uploaded to servers in UC Global SL’s headquarters in Jerez de la Frontera, a clear nexus was established.

    The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart.  On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata.

    To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. 

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    Syria takes back its oil fields

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    24-10-19 12:32:00,

    On 23 October 2019, President Putin’s Special Envoy in the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, asserted that all Syrian oil and gas sites must return under the control of the Syrian Arab Republic.

    President Bashar al-Assad had already granted concessions to Russian companies, which have so far not been able to exploit them.

    During the negotiations preceding the Turkish “Operation Peace Spring,” the United States had insisted that the Rojava oil fields be operated by US or Israeli companies.

    The war against Syria was planned by the United States as early as 2003 (Syrian Acountability Act), that is, at a time when its underground riches were still unknown and the competing Qatar and Iran pipelines were not yet on the map. It is therefore a mistake to assume that this war, like many others, was driven by oil interests.

    Nevertheless, at the beginning of the war, the “Friends of Syria” learned about the three-dimensional explorations secretly conducted by the Norwegian company Sagex (since then bought by the multinationl Schlumberger). Germany and the United Arab Emirates, as co-chairs, were then charged with handing out contracts to those states that joined in the war against Syria.

    It remains to be seen whether the reported outcome of the explorations is accurate. If confirmed, Syria is sitting on gas reserves comparable to those of Qatar, which is likely to cause a problem with her two allies and major gas producers: Russia and Iran.

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    EU Commission takes Hungary to court for ‘criminalizing the helping of asylum seekers’

    eu-commission-takes-hungary-to-court-for-‘criminalizing-the-helping-of-asylum-seekers’

    25-07-19 07:38:00,

    The European Union executive on Thursday took Hungary to court over a law that makes it a crime to help asylum seekers.

    The commission filed a case against Hungary at the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, over the law, which was passed last year. The ‘Stop Soros’ legislation also enforces new restrictions on the right to claim asylum.

    The Hungarian legislation “curtails asylum applicants’ right to communicate with and be assisted by relevant national, international and non-governmental organizations by criminalizing support to asylum applications,” the Commission said.

    The court case could lead to hefty fines for Hungary, Reuters said.

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    France Takes Unprecedented Action Against Reporters Who Published Secret Government Document

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    25-05-19 04:57:00,

    Journalists in France are facing potential jail sentences in an unprecedented case over their handling of secret documents detailing the country’s involvement in the Yemen conflict.

    Earlier this week, a reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose were called in for questioning at the offices of the General Directorate for Internal Security, known as the DGSI. The agency is tasked with fighting terrorism, espionage, and other domestic threats, similar in function to the FBI in the United States.

    The two news organizations published stories in April — together with The Intercept, Mediapart, ARTE Info, and Konbini News — that revealed the vast amount of French, British, and American military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and subsequently used by those nations to wage war in Yemen.

    The stories — based on a secret document authored by France’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and obtained by the journalists at Disclose — highlighted that top officials in the French government had seemingly lied to the public about the role of French weapons in the war. They demonstrated the extent of Western nations’ complicity in the devastating conflict, which has killed or injured more than 17,900 civilians and triggered a famine that has taken the lives of an estimated 85,000 children.

    The French government did not want the document to be made public, and officials were furious when its release made headlines around the world. Not long after it was published, Disclose’s co-founders Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal, along with Radio France reporter Benoît Collombat, were asked to attend a hearing at the DGSI’s headquarters in Levallois-Perret, a suburb northwest of Paris.

    In rooms located four floors below ground level inside the heavily fortified, beige-colored DGSI building on Rue de Villiers, for an hour the journalists were asked about their work, their sources, and their posts on Facebook and Twitter. They declined to answer questions, citing their right to silence, and instead presented a statement about their journalism and their belief that publishing the document had served the public interest.

    “They want to scare journalists and their sources away from revealing state secrets.”

    Press freedom has been strongly protected in France for more than 130 years under the Press Law of 1881,

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