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G7 continues with global security, Russia prominent in leaders’ minds

World leaders are to continue the second and final day of G7 talks in the Bavarian Alps. The first day saw a firm stance on Russian sanctions; Monday's talks are expected to focus on global security. Leaders of the Group of Seven - the US, UK, Canada, Italy, France, Japan and Germany - on Sunday vowed to keep sanctions against Russia in place over its actions in eastern Ukraine and support of separatists there. The meeting of leading industrialized democracies was the second in a row without Russia, which was ejected from the former G8 last year and is the target of US and EU sanctions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the global community to stand firm against Russia, and adhere to a Ukraine ceasefire deal agreed in February in Minsk. "I expect that we should send a firm signal here. Not sanctions as an end to itself, but sanctions ... to reach a target," Merkel told Germany's public ZDF television. The Canadian and Japanese prime ministers, Stephen Harper and Shinzo Abe, made a point of visiting Kyiv on the way to Germany, amid a recent flare-up in fighting that has left more than two dozen dead. European Council President Donald Tusk said Russia's possible return to the group depended on an about-face in its foreign policy. For the moment, he said, the EU was faced with the question of whether the sanctions should be stronger. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would push for sanctions to be maintained against Moscow, even though some countries - like Greece - were suffering from reduced investment coming from Russia. "It has an impact on all countries in terms of putting sanctions on another country," Cameron said. The situation between Greece and its international lenders is another pressing issue. There are fears a potential default by Athens could lead to Greece exiting the eurozone. The G7 leaders are set discuss these concerns in side talks with Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund. Thousands of protesters took to the streets around the venue on Sunday, but were kept at a distance by German police. Focus on global security threats The leaders of Iraq and Nigeria, countries battling deadly Islamist violence, have also been invited to the talks. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is to discuss an ongoing offensive from the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group, which has seized over a third of his country's territory. Abadi will also meet privately with US President Barack Obama to discuss the Washington-led campaign to help recover Iraqi territory lost to IS. Nigeria's newly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari will ask the G7 for more help in fighting an insurgency by Boko Haram militants. There have been at least 11 separate attacks that have left more than 90 dead in the week since he took office. Other topics up for discussion include Japan's concerns over Chinese aggression in the South China Sea; the proposed free-trade agreement between the US and EU, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); and lessons learned from the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa.

World leaders are to continue the second and final day of G7 talks in the Bavarian Alps. The first day saw a firm stance on Russian sanctions; Monday’s talks are expected to focus on global security. Leaders of the Group of Seven – the US, UK, Canada, Italy, France, Japan and Germany – on Sunday vowed to keep sanctions against ... Read More »

Ukraine sounds alarm over possible ‘full-scale invasion’ by Russia

Speaking to his parliament, President Petro Poroshenko has warned of the possibility of Russia initiating a "full-blown war" against Ukraine. This followed an unusually violent day in the conflict-ridden east of Ukraine. The Ukrainian president made the remarks during his annual parliamentary address, calling for the country's military to stay vigilant over the "permanent threat" from Russia. He said troops needed to be prepared for a possible "full-scale invasion" by the former Soviet state. "There remains a colossal threat of resumption of large-scale fighting on the part of Russian terrorist groups," Petro Poroshenko said. The speech marked one of the first times the Ukrainian strongman used the word "invasion" to describe the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The United Nations estimates more than 6,000 people have died since pro-Russian separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine last year - following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Poroshenko said the number of Russian servicemen deployed along the 2,200-kilometer (1,375-mile) border was "one and a half times greater than a year ago." He announced expenditure on the nation's military would be increased to more than 5 percent of GDP, to combat the insurgency. Ukraine is receiving emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund to stave off bankruptcy. Surge in violence Wednesday saw a sudden uptick in fighting, with Ukrainian military officials saying at least five servicemen were killed and almost 40 wounded around the town of Marinka, west of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Fighting had decreased since the signing of a ceasefire deal in February, although frequent skirmishes had continued to break out between Kyiv troops and pro-Russian rebels. The West has long accused Moscow of supporting the rebel fighters, and says it has failed to fully commit to the peace deal's terms. Russia denies involvement, instead alleging Ukraine is inflaming tensions to deter the European Union from removing economic sanctions. The EU has described the violence as the worst since the Minsk deal was signed, worrying it could spark "a new spiral of violence and suffering." International interest Ahead of an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting over the Ukraine situation, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia's behavior was showing "increased unpredictability, increased insecurity, increased nervousness." The issue is also expected to come up at a two-day meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations in Germany, a conference Russia has been from attending. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict and rejoin the group. It follows after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Russia should not be allowed back into the G7 as long as Putin remains in charge.

Speaking to his parliament, President Petro Poroshenko has warned of the possibility of Russia initiating a “full-blown war” against Ukraine. This followed an unusually violent day in the conflict-ridden east of Ukraine. The Ukrainian president made the remarks during his annual parliamentary address, calling for the country’s military to stay vigilant over the “permanent threat” from Russia. He said troops ... Read More »

‘I’m proud’: Blacklisted EU politicians welcome Russia travel bans

The European Union has slammed Russia's decision to impose a travel ban on 89 European politicians over their criticism of Moscow's handling of the Ukraine crisis. Those banned said they were proud of their stance. The previously undisclosed list, which was revealed to European diplomats on Thursday, bars 89 European Union politicians and military leaders from entering Russia. The move is said to be in response to EU sanctions placed on Moscow over Crimea and Ukraine. "The answers to the demands of several European states, why it was precisely these people who entered into the list … is simple: It was done in answer to the sanctions campaign which has been waged in relation to Russia by several states of the European Union headed by Germany," a Russian foreign ministry official told the TASS news agency on condition of anonymity. Germany and the EU officials hit back at Moscow's decision. "We consider this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified, especially in the absence of any further clarification and transparency," said an EU foreign affairs spokeswoman on Saturday. A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office also lashed out at Russia and said there was no justification for the travel ban. "If Russia's intention is to put pressure on the EU to ease sanctions then this is not the way to do it," she said. An estimated two million people have fled the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces. Some 1.2 million have remained in Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis has brought relations between the West and Russia to the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Badge of honor Blacklisted European politicians say they are proud about being banned by Russia. "Those who try to censor us and make us scared for standing up for values deserve even more criticism. For me it's about being very committed to standing up for peace and freedom in Ukraine," Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, whose name is on the list, told the AFP news agency. Corazza Bildt added that the ban gives her "determination to continue." "I'm more proud than scared and this gives me more determination to continue...If the Kremlin takes me and my colleagues seriously, it means we are doing a good job," she said. Karl Schwarzenberg, former Czech foreign minister and a fierce critic of Russia's policies in Ukraine, also confirmed he was among the blacklisted politicians. "When I saw the other names (on the list), I found out I was in a very decent club. I consider this a reward," he was quoted as saying by news agency CTK. Other names in the list include that of Guy Verhofstadt, head of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and a former Belgian PM, and Sweden's former centre-right culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Nine Britons are said to be on the Russian list too, including the chief of the MI5 intelligence agency, Andrew Parker, the head of the armed forces Nick Houghton, former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Russia has imposed travel restrictions on seven Germans, according to daily newspaper Bild. Michael Fuchs, vice-president of the national parliament's conservative CDU-CSU group, and Franco-German former MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit are on the list.

The European Union has slammed Russia’s decision to impose a travel ban on 89 European politicians over their criticism of Moscow’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. Those banned said they were proud of their stance. The previously undisclosed list, which was revealed to European diplomats on Thursday, bars 89 European Union politicians and military leaders from entering Russia. The move ... Read More »

Ukraine appoints ex-Georgian President Saakashvili governor of restive region

اندرونی خلفشار اور عدم استحکام کے شکار یورپی ملک یوکرائن کے صدر نے جورجیا کے سابق صدر کو اپنے ملک کے ایک علاقہ کا گورنر مقرر کیا ہے۔ جورجیا کے سابق صدر یوکرائنی صدر کے مشیر کے فرائض بھی سرانجام دے رہے ہیں۔ مشرقی یورپ کے شورش زدہ ملک یوکرائن کے صدر پیٹرو پوروشینکو نے جورجیا کے سابق صدر میخائل ساکاش وِیلی کو اسٹریٹیجیک اہمیت کے علاقے اوڈیسا کا گورنر تعینات کر دیا ہے۔ پوروشینکو نے اِس تعیناتی کا اعلان بحیرہ اسود کے شمال مغربی ساحلی علاقے پر واقع شہر اوڈیسا میں منعقدہ ایک تقریب میں کیا۔ اوڈیسا یوکرائن کا تیسرا بڑا شہر ہے۔ یہ شہر اِسی نام کے انتظامی علاقے کا صدر مقام بھی ہے۔ کثیر النسلی شہر اوڈیسا اہم ثقافتی مرکز بھی ہے۔ میخائل ساکاش وِیلی بھی تقریب میں موجود تھے۔ یوکرائنی صدر نے جورجیا کے صدر کو یوکرائن کا عظیم دوست قرار دیا۔ اوڈیسا شہر میں منعقدہ تقریب کو یوکرائن کے سرکاری ٹیلی وژن پر براہ راست نشر کیا گیا۔ تقریب سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے یوکرائن کے صدر پوروشینکو نے واضح کیا کہ اوڈیسا کو کئی مسائل کا سامنا ہے۔ مسائل کی نشاندہی کرتے ہوئے انہوں نے کہا کہ اِس یوکرائنی علاقے کو علاقائی سلامتی کے ساتھ ساتھ جغرافیائی سالمیت کے تحفظ اور آزادی و امن کی ضرورت ہے۔ یوکرائنی صدر کے مطابق اِس علاقے کو ایک ایسی جنگ کی ضرورت ہے جو کرپشن، ناانصافی اور اصلاحات سے عاری معیشت کے خلاف ہو گی۔ مبصرین نے اِس تعیناتی کو متنازعہ خیال کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ کییف حکومت کی جانب سے اِس تعیناتی سے ماسکو کو یہ پیغام دیا گیا ہے کہ پوروشینکو مشرقی یوکرائن کے خونی تنازعے کے باوجود اپنے ملک کو یورپ نوازی کے راستے پر گامزن رکھیں گے۔ تعیناتی قبول کرنے کے بعد ساکاش وِیلی نے بھی خطاب کیا۔ ساکاش وِیلی نے تقریب سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ سب کو مصنوعی تنازعات کو پس پشت ڈالنا ہو گا کیونکہ انہیں مصنوعی انداز میں نافذ کیا گیا ہے۔ جورجیا کے سابق صدر نے یہ بھی کہا کہ صدر پیٹروشینکو کے ساتھ مل کر ایک نئے یوکرائن کی تعمیر کرنا ہو گی۔ ساکاش وِیلی کئی زبانوں کے ماہر ہیں اور اِن میں یوکرائنی بھی شامل ہے۔ وہ پہلے سے یوکرائنی صدر کے مشیر کے فرائض سرانجام دے رہے ہیں۔ کییف حکومت نے پوروشینکو کے منصبِ صدارت پر براجمان ہونے سے چند روز قبل انہیں یوکرائن کی شہریت سے نوازا تھا۔ ساکاش وِیلی نے سن 2013 میں جورجیا کی صدارت کو خیرباد کہا تھا۔ یہ امر اہم ہے کہ جورجیا کے سابق صدر میخائل ساکاش وِیلی سخت مغرب نواز ہیں اور اُن کے دورِ صدارت میں جورجیا اور روس کے درمیان ایک پانچ روزہ جنگ بھی لڑی گئی تھی۔

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has appointed former Georgian leader Saakashvili as governor of troubled Odessa region near Russian-annexed Crimea. Moscow has slammed the fiercely anti-Russian politician’s appointment. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed Mikhail Saakashvili as a “great friend of Ukraine” as he announced the appointment of ex-Georgian president as Odessa’s governor at the country’s Black Sea port on Saturday. Odessa, which ... Read More »

Singhammer calls off Russia visit after Wellmann is refused entry

A senior German parliamentarian has called off a trip to Russia. This comes a day after a fellow lawmaker was sent home by the Russian authorities after they refused him entry to the country. Johannes Singhammer, one of the vice presidents of the German parliament, the Bundestag, announced on Tuesday that he had canceled a trip to Moscow in light of the treatment of fellow conservative lawmaker Karl-Georg Wellmann. "As vice president of the German Bundestag I cannot accept that a Bundestag colleague has been denied entry at a Moscow airport," Singhammer said. Singhammer had planned to arrive in Moscow this Tuesday, where between now and Friday he had talks scheduled at the Russian interior ministry, with lawmakers from the Russian-German friendship group, church representatives and opposition politicians. Singhammer indicated, though, that he had postponed, not canceled the trip. "In difficult times discussion at all levels are important to avoid differing perceptions of reality," Singhammer said. He said he would not consider traveling to Russia at least until the reasons for Wellmann's entry ban were clear. Praise for postponement The decision by Singhammer, a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-based sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), to cancel the trip won him praise from a number of fellow parliamentarians. The Bundestag's speaker or president, Norbert Lammert (CDU), expressed support for the move, as did Greens MEP Rebecca Harms, who called on western European lawmakers to agree on a joint response to the development. "In any case, we shouldn't accept a Russian a la carte policy" she told the Reuters news agency. "The Kremlin must clearly state whether there is a list of Western politicians who are no longer allowed to enter." Harms was also barred from entering Russia last September. Lammert, though, stopped short of supporting the idea of a blanket boycott of trips to Russia by European lawmakers, saying it was "the responsibility of each individual parliamentarian to decide whether such a trip makes sense at this point in time." Forced to spend night in transit area Wellmann (CDU), the chairman of the German-Ukrainian parliamentary group, who, like Harms, has been critical of the Kremlin over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea last year and its alleged role in supporting pro-Russia separatists in the conflict in the east of the country, was refused entry when he arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Sunday night. Wellmann was forced to spend the night in the transit area before taking the first available flight back to Berlin on Monday. Wellmann also said he was told that he was banned from entering Russia until late 2019. Germany's ambassador in Moscow has filed a protest over the incident with the Russian foreign ministry.

A senior German parliamentarian has called off a trip to Russia. This comes a day after a fellow lawmaker was sent home by the Russian authorities after they refused him entry to the country. Johannes Singhammer, one of the vice presidents of the German parliament, the Bundestag, announced on Tuesday that he had canceled a trip to Moscow in light ... Read More »

US State Department takes on Putin’s ‘undesirable’ NGO law

US officials are "deeply troubled" after Russia enacted a law banning "undesirable" nongovernmental organizations. On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin gave prosecutors the power to shut down international NGOs. A law signed by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday allows prosecutors to declare an organization "undesirable" if it presents a perceived threat to Russia's constitutional order, its defenses or its security. Laws passed in recent years have already led to increased pressure on NGOs in Russia, particularly those that receive foreign funding. Activists fear that officials could use the new law to crack down on international groups - and the Russians who work with them. "We are concerned this new power will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia and is a further example of the Russian government's growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world," said Marie Harf, a deputy spokeswoman for the US State Department, in a statement released late Saturday. In addition to the official US response, groups such as Human Rights Watch, which could be affected by the law, have also expressed concern. Amnesty International condemned the measure as part of an "ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society." The law comes as part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent that has intensified since Putin began his third term in 2012. Mass street protests greeted his return to the presidency immediately after he had ruled Russia as prime minister for four years. Putin has repeatedly accused the United States of fomenting dissent in Russia. Suspicions of international agencies have grown amid tensions over Russia's role in Ukraine's civil war.

US officials are “deeply troubled” after Russia enacted a law banning “undesirable” nongovernmental organizations. On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin gave prosecutors the power to shut down international NGOs. A law signed by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday allows prosecutors to declare an organization “undesirable” if it presents a perceived threat to Russia’s constitutional order, its defenses or its security. Laws ... Read More »

Ukrainian troops arrest two Russian soldiers in separatist territory

Kyiv forces have arrested two Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, a region controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian authorities have also reported casualties in skirmishes despite the ongoing ceasefire. Ukrainian soldiers on Sunday captured two Russian servicemen in the country's separatist eastern areas. "Two Russian servicemen are under arrest - our investigators are working with them," Kyiv military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a news conference. The Ukrainian army claimed it had captured the two Russian troops around 15 kilometers away from Luhansk, a rebel stronghold. Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 17 wounded in a mortar attack near Svitlodarsk, northeast of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk. The pro-Russian separatists meanwhile accused Ukrainian troops of heavy firing near Donetsk airport on Sunday, killing one rebel leader and wounding another, rebel commander Eduard Basurin said in a statement to the rebel news service DAN. Violence has considerably decreased in eastern Ukraine since a ceasefire deal was signed between Kyiv and the rebels in February. However, sporadic incidents of fighting still take place and often result in casualties. Ukraine, European Union countries and the United States have accused Moscow of supporting the rebels and providing them with heavy artillery and weapons. NATO's top military commander, General Philip Breedlove, told the US Congress last month that Russia's military could be using the ceasefire to prepare a new offensive by eastern Ukraine's rebels. Russia has denied the charges.

Kyiv forces have arrested two Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, a region controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian authorities have also reported casualties in skirmishes despite the ongoing ceasefire. Ukrainian soldiers on Sunday captured two Russian servicemen in the country’s separatist eastern areas. “Two Russian servicemen are under arrest – our investigators are working with them,” Kyiv military spokesman Andriy Lysenko ... Read More »

Russia backs legislation to force out ‘undesirable’ foreign groups

Russian lawmakers have supported a law that could see international groups working in the country branded "undesirable" for the state. The move could see groups forced out of Russia, with possible jail time for members. The Duma's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill on Friday, passing it in the second of its three readings by 442 votes to 3. The legislation would allow for foreign, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be labeled as carrying out activities that are "undesirable" to the state. According to the bill, this covers any group that presents "a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state." The Kremlin could then block its bank accounts, and stop it from opening branches within the country. People working for such groups could be banned from entering Russia, or face up to six years in prison. The bill would also extend to Russian organizations that receive funding from those groups which have been deemed "undesirable." A register of names would be kept by the Russian foreign ministry and prosecutors. Officials said the legislation was necessary to stop groups from endangering the "basic values of the Russian state," which could encourage "color revolutions" similar to that which occurred in Ukraine. Russian lawmakers have passed a number of bills in recent years that have placed pressure on several major groups operating in the former Soviet state, particularly those that receive foreign funding. Legislation passed in 2012 classes all organizations that are funded by foreign sources and that engage in political activities as "foreign agents." Many NGOs have been targets of surprise raids and inspections, often by authorities claiming to be checking they are complying with laws banning extremism, and to ensure they are registered as "foreign agents." Criticism crackdown Suspicions of a campaign to stifle dissent in Russia intensified in 2012 when Russian President Vladimir Putin began his third term. Humanitarian groups have expressed fears it could be used to further stifle the work of the Russian branches of organizations such as Transparency International, Amnesty International and Greenpeace. Other criticisms of the bill include those who say its vague wording could lead to commercial interests suffering. Dmitry Gudkov, one of the MPs opposed to the bill, told local broadcaster Kommersant FM Radio said it would "hurt the investment climate." "Prosecutors … could close any company, for example Apple or McDonald's, because prosecutors can read the law just as they see fit." Relations between Russia and the West are strained over the continuing crisis in Ukraine, as well as crippling sanctions imposed on Moscow in retaliation. The legislation must still pass a third reading, be approved by the upper house and then be signed into law by President Putin.

Russian lawmakers have supported a law that could see international groups working in the country branded “undesirable” for the state. The move could see groups forced out of Russia, with possible jail time for members. The Duma’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill on Friday, passing it in the second of its three readings by ... Read More »

EU and NATO to tighten cooperation to face emerging ‘threats’

The European Union and NATO have agreed to work closer together to face "new threats" from Russia. The two also plan to adopt new strategies to ease the wave of refugees coming to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign affairs head said on Thursday that members of the European bloc needed to closely work with the NATO "at all levels." The European Union's foreign policy chief was speaking to NATO foreign ministers at a meeting in Belek, Turkey's picturesque resort in the south. "We (NATO and the EU) have challenges around us that unite us. We are different in nature but we share values," Mogherini said. Military action against traffickers Mogherini's comments came as the EU, together with NATO, planned to tackle human traffickers in Libya who were smuggling thousands of refugees into Europe. The leader said she was "aware we need to increase our capacity to respond to crises," but that this did not "necessarily mean a military approach." However, Mogherini did not "rule out a military aspect" in the cooperation. The United States said it could provide the EU with information on migrants, but the foreign policy chief refused to divulge details on the EU's plans in northern Africa. Details on the EU's policy to tackle migration were to be discussed in a meeting of European defense and foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. The bloc is struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants, who have fled conflict in Africa and the Middle East and have arrived in Italy and Greece this year. The EU's military exercise would involve destroying ships used by people smugglers before they could be used for transporting migrants. Representatives at the Belek summit were, however, debating whether to begin the operation now or after Libya's warring factions had come to a consensus on governing the country. While France and the United Kingdom were not willing to wait, Germany expressed the fear that military operations now could jeopardize peace initiatives in the country. Russia and the Ukraine Meanwhile, in the second and final day of the NATO summit, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was facing "evolving" challenges from Russia and the Middle East. "To the east, a more assertive Russia has used force to change borders and intimidate neighbors," Stoltenberg said. "To the south, violent extremism had reached a level unprecedented in modern times," he added, referring to the "Islamic State's" ("IS") barbaric practices. The NATO head said the alliance would work to improve its capacity against Russia's "hybrid warfare" in eastern Ukraine - meaning, the combination of conventional military techniques with non-conventional methods, such as cyber attacks and propaganda. The Ukraine conflict, which began with Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March last year, has left around 6,000 people dead, including civilians. A ceasefire between Kyiv and pro-Russia rebels has proven shaky and a lasting solution seems elusive. German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has however stressed that European countries would use the Minsk truce deal, signed in February this year, as a basis for future talks on Ukraine. US and European countries accuse Russia of supporting rebels, who have declared a part of Ukraine's east as the Republic of Donbass.

The European Union and NATO have agreed to work closer together to face “new threats” from Russia. The two also plan to adopt new strategies to ease the wave of refugees coming to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs head said on Thursday that members of the European bloc needed to closely work ... Read More »

Kremlin critic Navalny spared prison time

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been spared a prison term, after a Moscow court ruled against turning his suspended sentence into jail time. It was a tense hearing in the courtroom on Wednesday, with Navalny arriving with a bag packed with his belongings, ready to be taken to a penal colony. Navalny, who led mass street protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011 and 2012, has denied any wrongdoing in the 2013 case that saw him convicted for stealing from a state firm. He insists that the case is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent. Navalny received a suspended sentence after a very controversial trial over his alleged embezzlement from a timber firm in the northern Kirov region. Since then, the 38-year-old Navalny, who shot to prominence with his online anti-corruption campaigns and rousing rhetoric at protests, has received a second fraud conviction. He faces a string of probes against him and his associates. Navalny's supporters charge that the decisions on his cases originate in the Kremlin rather than in court. In 2013, Navalny took part in the Moscow mayoral election, running on the ticket of the party of Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister who was assassinated in February.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been spared a prison term, after a Moscow court ruled against turning his suspended sentence into jail time. It was a tense hearing in the courtroom on Wednesday, with Navalny arriving with a bag packed with his belongings, ready to be taken to a penal colony. Navalny, who led mass street protests against Russian ... Read More »

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