Russia’s President Vladimir Putin used a series of talks with global leaders at the Group of 20 summit on Friday to strengthen old alliances and try to soothe tensions with rivals. Vladimir Putin used his meetings with the leaders of China and India to find common ground on issues such as opposing protectionism, while his long-delayed talks with the American and British leaders likelier touched on thornier issues. Vladimir Putin’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, their first full-fledged talks since their 2018 summit in Helsinki, Finland, was watched closely for the impact it may have on troubled U.S.-Russia ties. The Russian leader laughed when a reporter shouted about warning Putin “not to meddle” in the 2020 U.S. election and Trump waggishly said: “Don’t meddle in the election.” Putin has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. vote despite the abundant evidence to the contrary uncovered by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller. The Russian president has charged that Russia-U.S. relations are now hostage to the U.S. political infighting, making any quick progress unlikely. New rounds of anti-Russia sanctions followed the Helsinki meeting, and Trump later announced the withdrawal from a key arms control pact signed in 1987 with the then Soviet Union. Putin followed suit. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is set to terminate this summer, raising fears of a new arms race. Putin has denounced the U.S. policies, but avoided personal criticism of Trump in an apparent hope of negotiating a rapprochement. He extensively praised Trump in an interview with
Ankara and Moscow are again facing an escalation of violence in Syria’s last rebel-held territory, a development that puts their cooperation to the test even as they support opposing sides in the eight-year war that has devastated Syria. An all-out offensive by Syrian government forces to capture Idlib in northwestern Syria from insurgents could unleash an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, for the area is home to 3 million people. Turkey, which is already hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, is facing strong pressure from Syria, Iran and Russia to deliver on its pledge to control the armed rebel factions in Idlib. But Turkey also needs Russia to rein in Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent a massive outflow of refugees and to keep Turkish soldiers on the ground safe. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin “have an incentive to cooperate and ensure that nobody’s interests are totally trampled,” says Aaron Stein, the director of the Middle East program in American think-tank Foreign Policy Research Institute. In September, the two leaders brokered a cease-fire for Idlib in the Russian resort of Sochi, preventing a bloody onslaught, despite the fact that Russia has firmly backed Assad and Turkey supports opposition forces. Nine months later, the truce has failed. The agreement called for a 15-to-20 kilometer (9-to-12 mile) demilitarized zone free of insurgents and heavy weaponry and for two key highways crossing through Idlib to be reopened. The demilitarized zone has been breached and the highways are at the
Foreign ministers from the Council of Europe, the continent’s chief human rights watchdog, reached an agreement on Friday that opens the way for Russia to return to the organisation, resolving a dispute that began after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. The agreement follows efforts by France and Germany to find a compromise among the 47-nation group and means Russia will likely take part in a meeting of the council’s parliamentary assembly in June, when key new appointments will be made. Russia has indicated it will resume payment of its membership dues as a result. It stopped payment nearly two years ago after its voting rights in the council were suspended over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Ukraine, supported by six other countries, tried unsuccessfully to block the agreement, which was approved by a qualified majority, diplomats said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the move. “We do not intend to leave the Council of Europe as some people are trying to suggest by spreading false rumours. And we are not refusing to fulfil a single obligation, including financial ones,” Lavrov said in Helsinki, where the meeting was held. Finland currently chairs the council. The Russian spat has prompted questions about the future and durability of the 70-year-old Council of Europe, the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights and the creator of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It also left a 90 million euro hole in the council’s budget since Russia accounts for around 7%
Donald Trump said that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t seeking to “get involved” in the crisis in Venezuela, despite assertions by the American president’s top national security advisers that the Kremlin is offering critical support to Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
“He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday, following a call with the Russian leader earlier in the day. “And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid -- right now people are starving, they have no water, they have no food.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin: “It’s not clear what she was convicted of or what crime she committed. I think it’s a prime example of ‘saving face.’ They arrested her and put the girl in jail. But there was nothing on her, so in order not to look totally stupid they gave her, fixed her up, with an 18-month sentence to show that she was guilty of something.”