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Entries in Vladimir Putin (72)

Sunday
Jun232013

Senator Accuses Putin of 'Aiding and Abetting Snowden's Escape'

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday of “aiding and abetting” NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong.

“What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister [sic] Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” Schumer said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

“The bottom line is very simple: Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran and now, of course, with Snowden,” he said. “I think it’ll have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.”

Schumer also questioned the involvement of Chinese officials in influencing Hong Kong’s decision to allow Snowden to leave despite an extradition request from the U.S.

“Well, first, very disappointing what Hong Kong has done. It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong. As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies. And I have a feeling the hand of Beijing was involved here,” Schumer said.

Hong Kong officials said Sunday that Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”

The Hong Kong government said that the U.S. government’s extradition request “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong Law” and argued that there was “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun162013

David Cameron and Vladimir Putin Discuss Syria on Eve of G8 Summit

FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- On the eve of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in London Sunday to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Though Cameron and Putin both readily admit that they have disagreements over Syria, the two leaders said they both want to see an end to the conflict.

“We have a common goal and a common desire to provide conditions for the settlement of that conflict,” Putin said. “I can agree with the prime minister that it can, it should be done as soon as possible.”

“We can overcome these differences if we recognize that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them, and to take the fight to the extremists and defeat them,” said Cameron, speaking to reporters after the meeting.

The two discussed how best to use the G8 Summit to help bring an end to the bloodshed in the embattled Middle East country. Cameron said they agreed that the G8 must back the work of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The challenge for the G8 and for this process,” Cameron said, “is to try and put aside some of the differences and to focus on the common ground, where we both want to see a peace process, a transition, take place.”

Though they agreed upon the need to work to overcome their differences, Putin did make a point to defend Russia’s support of the Assad Regime.

“Russia supplies to the legitimate government of Syria in full compliance with the norms of international law,” he said. “We're not breaching anything.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun162013

Syria Crisis to Top G-8 Summit Agenda

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(COUNTY FERMANAGH, Northern Ireland) -- The civil war in Syria is expected to dominate much of the discussion as President Obama sits down Monday with the Group of Eight leaders in Northern Ireland, just days after the White House confirmed the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“They’ll clearly discuss the situation in Syria, to include the most recent chemical weapons assessment that we’ve provided, the efforts that are underway to support both the opposition but also a political settlement in the country,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday.

The Obama administration has said it will provide more “direct support” to the Syrian opposition now that the president’s “red line” has been crossed. The U.S., he added, has “steadily increased both the size and scope of our assistance” to the Supreme Military Council, the armed wing of the Syrian opposition.

“At the same time, you know, this is a fluid situation. So it’s necessary for [the president] to consult with all the leaders at the G-8 about both our chemical weapons assessment and the types of support we’re providing to the opposition,” he added.

The president will also, however, have to sway Assad’s allies, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama and Putin will meet face-to-face at the G-8 summit for the first time in a year.

Russia has publicly questioned American evidence that Assad used chemical weapons and does not agree that Assad must step down from power for a political settlement to be successful.

“What Russia has articulated to us, and publicly, is that they don’t want to see a downward spiral,” Rhodes said. “They don’t want to see a chaotic and unstable situation in the region. They don’t want to see extremist elements gaining a foothold in Syria. And the point that we’ve made to Russia is that the current course in which Assad is not being appropriately pressured to step down from power by those who continue to support him in the international community is bringing about those very outcomes.”

“We still continue to discuss with the Russians whether there’s a way to bring together elements of the regime and the opposition to achieve a political settlement. We have no illusions that that’s going to be easy,” he added.

While the Syrian crisis will overshadow much of the summit agenda, there are many other topics up for discussion, including economic reform, trade and the fight against terrorism.

Obama is expected to defend his administration’s phone and internet surveillance programs as vital counterterrorism tools. “He’ll be able to discuss with the other leaders the importance of these programs in terms of our counterterrorism efforts in particular, the constraints and safeguards that we place on these programs so that they have oversight against potential abuses,” Rhodes said.

“And all of these countries at the G-8 are important counterterrorism partners. And together we’ve worked with them on an intelligence and security relationship to foil terrorist attacks in the United States and in Europe, and of course Russia shares a significant counterterrorism interest with us as well,” he said.

In addition to participating in a series of high-level meetings, the president will also deliver a major address in Northern Ireland at the Belfast Waterfront Convention Center. This will be the president’s first opportunity to address at length the support that the U.S. has provided to the peace process in Northern Ireland and to the development of its economy.

After two days of summit meetings, the president will travel to Berlin, where he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, and deliver a major address at the historic Brandenburg Gate.

The short three-day trip to Europe will be also a family affair for the president. The first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia will be joining him.

Mrs. Obama and her daughters will attend the president’s speech in Belfast and then break off to travel to Dublin, while the president is busy with summit meetings. There, they will tour Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university and “explore the archives that they’ve gathered to document the Obamas’ Irish ancestry,” Rhodes explained.

The first family will reunite in Berlin.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar242013

Russian Oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s Death ‘Unexplained’

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky was not killed by chemical or radioactive material, British police said Sunday, but are still calling the 67-year-old’s death unexplained.

Berezovsky, once one of Russia’s most visible and wealthiest men, was found dead Saturday at his home in Ascot, England, where he had been living since he left his homeland in 2000 as President Vladimir Putin’s government was moving to bring criminal charges against him.

Thames Valley Police Scenes of Crime officers were carrying out a forensic investigation Sunday at Berezovsky’s estate.

“We are at the early stages of the investigation and we are retaining an open mind as we progress,” Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown, the deputy senior investigating officer in the case, said.

“The investigation team are building a picture of the last days of Mr. Berezovsky’s life, speaking to close friends and family to gain a better understanding of his state of mind. We are acutely aware of the level of interest into his death and are focused on conducting a thorough investigation as we would with any unexplained death.”

News of Berezovsky’s death sparked speculation that he might have been killed like ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after he was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea at a London meeting.

Berezovsky openly accused Russian President Putin of personal involvement in the ex-spy’s killing, and on his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Putin for his death.

A year after Litvinenko’s death, Berezovsky said Scotland Yard had warned him about a plot on his life, but British police never confirmed his claim.

Police Sunday said any speculation about Berezovsky’s death would be premature.

“It would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until the post-mortem has been carried out,” he said. “We do not have any evidence at this stage to suggest third-party involvement.”

Police went to Berezovsky’s home Saturday after receiving a phone call from an ambulance service that a man had been found dead at the Ascot home.

One of Berezovsky’s employees told police he had called the ambulance service after finding the Russian’s lifeless body on the floor of a bathroom. He said he’d become concerned because he hadn’t seen Berezovsky since 10:30 the night before, and began searching the house. When he found the locked bathroom door, he forced it open and found Berezovsky, police said.

A paramedic with the ambulance service declared Berezovsky dead, police said.

Berezovsky was a supporter of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and quickly came into conflict with Putin, Yeltsin’s successor.

He accused Putin’s government of involvement in the apartment house bombings in Moscow and two other Russian cities that the government blamed on Chechen terrorists and used as a pretext for Russian troops to sweep into Chechnya for the second war there in half a decade.

When Russian authorities began moving to bring fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other charges against him, Berezovsky said the criminal investigation was politically motivated, and he fled to Great Britain. Moscow sought his extradition, but the British refused.

Berezovsky continued to fund Russian opposition groups, in 2007 claiming he had given as much as $400 million to various organizations over the years, and even Sunday a presidential spokesman said Putin considered Berezovsky an enemy.

“We know for certain that he spared no expense in support of processes, within Russia and beyond, that could be said to have been directed against Russia and Putin,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on the independent cable television channel Rain. “He definitely was Putin’s opponent and, unfortunately, not only his political opponent, but most likely in other dimensions as well.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan132013

Limits of Russia Adoption Ban Unclear, Causing Anxiety for US Families

ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Overlapping and often contradictory statements from various Russian officials over the past week have failed to provide much clarity about how Russia plans to implement its new ban on adoptions to the United States.

Instead the confusion has frustrated American families anxious to know if any final adoptions will be allowed to proceed. It has also left the impression that top Russian officials disagree on how to enforce a controversial ban that was rushed into law.

Specifically, the latest statements have left unclear the fate of 52 Russian orphans whose adoptions remain in legal purgatory.

Their cases were nearly complete when the ban went into effect on Jan. 1, but officials have yet to define where they will draw the line on adoptions, particularly 46 of them that had received court approval but were in the midst of a 30-day waiting period before the children would be allowed to leave the country.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Children’s Rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhav said all 52 will remain in Russia, but the next day Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said some of them would be allowed to leave the country, without saying how many or which ones.

On Friday, however, Astakhav changed his tune. He told the Interfax news agency that “children for whom there were court rulings will leave.”

Peskov made similar marks in an interview with a Russian television station, but then made a nebulous comment again raising questions about where the line will be drawn.

“In those cases where certain legal procedures have not been completed, a full ban on adoptions by Americans becomes effective,” he said, according to Interfax.

Peskov also suggested adoption cases could be decided on a case-by-case basis, but didn’t specify what the criteria would be.    

The six cases that had completed the waiting period appear to have the best chance, but none of the statements this week clearly declares what will happen to any of the 52 children.

For American families who expected to bring a child home this month, the back and forth has exacerbated their frustration.

“We are still unclear when they refer to families who have cleared the court process,” Kendra Skaggs told ABC News. She and her husband received court approval on Dec. 24 and were scheduled to bring home 5-year-old Polina, who suffers from spina bifida, later this month.

She says Peskov’s statements have given her hope, but is unsure what to believe.

Desperate for details, many families have reached out to their adoption agencies, contacts in Russia, their local representatives, and the State Department.

On Friday, the State Department held a conference call with many of the families to explain that, despite discussions with Russian officials, they have yet to receive a definitive explanation about which adoptions will be allowed to proceed, and which children will have to remain in Russia.

According to one person on the call, officials who briefed the families also warned that even if the court order and permission to leave the country have been granted, it is unclear whether other elements of the Russian government, like passport agencies or immigration control at the airport, will be willing to allow the children to leave.

Russia’s inability to clearly define the legal limits of the ban may be a product of the rush with which it was introduced.

The ban was added in late December to a bill retaliating for a set of human rights sanctions that President Obama signed into law earlier that month. Within two weeks Russian President Vladimir Putin signed it into law.

The ban was controversial in Russia even before it was signed. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a longtime critic of the United States, urged lawmakers not to approve the measure. A deputy prime minister reportedly suggested the ban would violate Russia’s international treaty obligations. Even Putin was non-committal the first few times he was asked about it at an end of the year press conference.

Some prominent Russians have vocally opposed the ban, saying it plays politics with the lives of children. On Sunday, the country’s opposition plans to march in protest in central Moscow.

Many ordinary Russians have reached out to Kendra Skaggs to offer assistance. Some said they would try to check in on Polina and pass on messages. Others offered a place to stay when Kendra and her husband travel to Moscow. On Friday Skaggs said she still plans to go ahead with her travel plans.

A source of hope for the Skaggs family and many others enduring the excruciating back and forth was dashed on Friday when the Russian lawmaker who proposed an exception to the ban for adoptions of sick and disabled kids abandoned the measure due to lack of support.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec282012

Russian President Signs Bill Banning Adoptions to US

ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on Friday a bill that will ban adoptions to the United States.

The ban, which was added last week to a broader bill retaliating for a set of human rights sanctions that President Obama signed into law earlier this month, will go into effect on Jan. 1.

On Thursday, Putin announced his intentions to approve the legislation and also pledged to improve the lives of children in Russia’s orphanages.

“I intend to sign the law you have just mentioned as well as a presidential decree changing the procedure of helping orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantageous situation due to their health problems,” he said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency, when asked about the ban during a meeting of the Russian State Council on Thursday.

Putin added that higher living standards overseas are no reason to allow children to be adopted by foreigners.

“There is one more reason of which I haven’t spoken yet, but which I would mention now.  Probably there are quite a lot of places in the world where living standards are somewhat better than we have.  And so what?  Will we send all our children there?  Perhaps we will move there ourselves?” he said.

At stake immediately are the cases of 52 Russian children whose adoptions to the U.S. will be frozen, according to Russian officials.  Their lives will now be decided by government figures who have pledged to find Russian homes for them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec272012

Russian President to Sign Bill Banning Adoptions to US

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Thursday that he will sign a bill banning adoptions to the United States.

The news comes a day after the upper house of the Russian parliament unanimously approved the ban.

“I intend to sign the law you have just mentioned as well as a presidential decree changing the procedure of helping orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantageous situation due to their health problems,” Putin said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency, when asked about the ban during a meeting of the Russian State Council on Thursday.

The ban was added last week to a broader bill retaliating for human rights sanctions signed by President Obama earlier this month.  Putin had previously expressed support for the broader bill, which reciprocates the sanctions.

On Thursday, Putin said that higher living standards overseas are no reason to allow children to be adopted by foreigners.

“There is one more reason of which I haven’t spoken yet, but which I would mention now.  Probably there are quite a lot of places in the world where living standards are somewhat better than we have.  And so what?  Will we send all our children there?  Perhaps we will move there ourselves?” he said.

Putin did not say when he would sign the bill into law, but if it is done immediately, it would go into effect on Jan. 1.

At stake immediately are the cases of 46 Russian children whose adoptions would be frozen if the bill becomes law, according to Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Pavel Astakhav.  He said those children would receive priority to be adopted by Russian families.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec212012

Putin Puts Limits on Defense of Syrian President

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- There were mixed signals coming from Moscow about its stance on the Syrian conflict Thursday as President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his government's opposition to direct international intervention while at the same time conceding that Russia wasn't willing to support embattled President Bashar al-Assad "at any price."

Russia's intransigent position on Syria has continually frustrated Washington and its United Nations partners, stemming from Moscow and Beijing's vetoes of Security Council resolutions that might have left al-Assad no other choice but to step down so that the bloody 21-month war that has now cost an estimated 40,000 lives might end.

Still, when pressed about how far he would go to the mat for his Syrian ally, Putin told reporters, "We are not concerned with the fate of Assad’s regime.  Of course, changes are being demanded but it’s something else that concerns -- what will happen next?"

What the Russian president believes is that the forces who might ultimately replace al-Assad will bring no more stability to Syria then exists now and that fighting would continue indefinitely.

Thus, Putin says he favors "a variation of a solution to the problem which would save the region and this country first from collapse and never-ending civil war."  He mentioned that a military victory would not result in peace, and negotiations that involve the Syrian people themselves are the only answer.

Putin also got a dig in at Washington and President Obama for the limited role the U.S. played in toppling Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya last year.  The Russia leader intimated that the instability that has persisted in Libya since created the conditions that led to the siege at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi three months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

In Face of Crackdown, Some Russian Protesters Growing Weary

Moscow protest in December 2011. (Harry Engels/Getty Images)(MOSCOW) -- Protestors opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin have been denied permission to march through Moscow on Saturday, prompting defiance from some, but hopelessness in many others.

Alyona Bykova says that while she enthusiastically attended a similar protest a year ago, her enthusiasm has waned.  

Last December, “we had a feeling that history was happening right before our eyes," she recalled.  Now, she says, “I don't really see what could change.”

Police have warned Russians not to test them by marching.  In the past, they have responded with force, polarizing opposition members who have either grown more outraged or more cowed in the face of violence.

Bykova does not think the situation in Russia has improved. She is disillusioned with the repeated protests that she says have accomplished little over the past year. She sees little chance they'll work now.

"We can work on this downstairs level," she says, referring to local campaigns that she still remains involved in. "But upstairs is untouchable. There's nothing we can do. To make Putin go away, there's nothing we can do."

Authorities sent another shot across the bow today when they rolled out new allegations of money laundering against prominent protest leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and his brother. Navalny tweeted that his family’s apartments and businesses were being searched.

Even so, Bykova says she feels alienated from her former comrades.

"Now it seems like there are radicals on both sides," she added. "I don't really see the point of going out."

She still feels that Russia is on the cusp of change, but thinks it may be farther down the road than she had hoped.

"I would say we will see see some huge changes soon. Probably in the next three to five years. But right now it seems like things are getting worse just to get to the next step. I really hope that this is the case," she said. "It’s still going on, but not that fast."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec132012

One Year After Protest, Russians See Little Change in Corruption

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Alyona Bykova still remembers the excitement she felt attending one of the first massive opposition rallies in Moscow last December.

"There was a very happy feeling because there were really nice people all around with funny slogans and we had a feeling that something is changing right now.  We had a feeling that history was happening right before our eyes," she recalled.

But now, as organizers prepare for another rally on Saturday to mark a year of protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the system that surrounds him, Bykova's optimism has waned.  In fact, she says she does not even plan to attend the rally.

"I don't really see what could change," she said.  "Then I had a feeling that probably this could change something.  However, now I'm not really sure that keeping to this protest street movement is something for me."

Bykova does not think the situation in Russia has improved.  In fact, she believes things are getting worse.  She is disillusioned with the repeated protests that she says have accomplished little over the past year.  She sees little chance they'll work now.

"We can work on this downstairs level," she says, referring to local campaigns that she still remains involved in.  "But upstairs is untouchable.  There's nothing we can do.  To make Putin go away, there's nothing we can do."

The protests, she lamented, "have been marginalized."

ABC News first met Bykova in late February, just a few weeks before the Russian presidential election.  She was attending an evening class to learn how to be an election monitor, part of a new wave of young Russians who were determined not to allow another election to be stolen.  At the time she was hopeful that change was coming to her country.

"The whole society is getting mature.  People didn't care about politics, about real social life for years, for decades," she said at the time.  "Now they have this yearning for more."

Today, she still feels that Russia is on the cusp of change, but thinks it may be farther down the road than she had hoped.

"I would say we will see see some huge changes soon.  Probably in the next three to five years.  But right now it seems like things are getting worse just to get to the next step.  I really hope that this is the case," she said.  "It's still going on, but not that fast."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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