Armenian PM Attacks Russian-Led Alliance At Summit In Yerevan
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has criticized the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for its refusal to support Armenia when it faced "Azerbaijan's aggression."
Speaking at a CSTO summit in Yerevan on November 23, Pashinian said it was "depressing that Armenia's membership in the CSTO has failed to contain Azerbaijani aggression." He said this had been "hugely damaging to the CSTO's image both in our country and abroad."
Armenia asked for military help in September after deadly clashes broke out between the two Caucasus neighbors, but the CSTO responded only by sending its secretary-general to the conflict zone and offering to set up a working group to analyse the situation.
Six countries -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia -- comprise the CSTO, which was established in October 2002.
Pashinian said his country had supported CSTO member Kazakhstan immediately in early January when Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev asked CSTO troops to enter his country following unprecedented antigovernment protests.
WATCH: Hundreds of Armenians unhappy about Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to their country gathered at two separate rallies in Yerevan on November 23.
"Armenia is ending its chairmanship of the CSTO. Although it is an anniversary year [for the CSTO], for Armenia it was not an anniversary year at all. In the last two years, a CSTO member-state has been attacked by Azerbaijan at least three times, and actually, till now, we have not received any reaction from the CSTO regarding Azerbaijan's aggression, which is a big blow to the CSTO's image," Pashinian said.
Armenia says dozens of square kilometers of its sovereign territory were seized by Azerbaijan during the military conflict between the two countries in May 2021, in November 2021, and in September this year.
Pashinian met later on November 23 with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Yerevan summit to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues.
At the start of the meeting Pashinian reportedly noted that the CSTO did not manage to reach a consensus on all issues on the agenda of the summit.
Pahinian said during the summit that he was not ready to sign draft documents regarding "joint measures on providing assistance to Armenia" that he said did not address Yerevan’s concerns regarding the CSTO's political position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
"Under these conditions, the lack of a clear political assessment of the situation and the failure to make the above decision may not only mean the CSTO's refusal from allied obligations but may also be interpreted by Azerbaijan as a green light from the CSTO for further aggression against Armenia," Pashinian said at the summit.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the CSTO was a "necessary" organization whose services were "very much in demand" to resolve regional conflicts.
"It is very important that Armenia and Azerbaijan agree on a peace treaty," said Peskov, who accompanied Putin to Yerevan. "This is our main task. And we all have to do our utmost to...make it happen," he told reporters after the summit.
During his meeting with Putin, Pashinian raised the issue of honoring agreements that Armenia and Azerbaijan have reached through the Russian president’s mediation.
"These are very important issues, which, of course, we need to discuss, just as we need to discuss the agenda, which, we hope, will lead to a lasting peace in our region," Pashinian said.
Putin, as quoted by the Kremlin, highlighted the allied nature of Russian-Armenian relations that he said have "deep roots."
In his remarks at the summit the Russian leader said that a meeting between the leaders of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in Sochi, Russia, on October 31 and their joint statement afterward created "a good basis for future compromises" between Yerevan and Baku.
Putin said that only through consistent implementation of agreements on border delimitation, unblocking of transport links, and solutions to humanitarian problems will it be possible to achieve normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"We hope that this will eventually pave the way for a peace treaty between Yerevan and Baku," Putin said.
Prior to the summit hundreds of activists representing civil society and democratic institution rallied on November 23 in downtown Yerevan, demanding Armenia leave the CSTO. Among the demonstrators were Ukrainian citizens who protested Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in late February.
The leaders of the CSTO's member states -- Putin, Pashinian, and Toqaev along with Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus, Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan, and Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan -- met in the Armenian capital as Russia continued shelling Ukrainian towns and cities with missiles targeting energy infrastructure.
It was announced at the summit that Kazakh politician Imanghali Tasmaghambetov will replace Belarusian politician Stanislau Zas at the post of secretary-general of the CSTO.
The 65-year-old Tasmaghambetov, who has been known as one of the most loyal people to Kazakhstan's former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, used to serve as Kazakhstan's prime minister, deputy prime minister, mayor of the Kazakh capital, Astana, and the country's largest city, Almaty.
His last official position was ambassador to Russia, the position he held before he announced his retirement in 2019.
With reporting by and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and AFP
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The National Crime Agency did not identify the man in its December 3 statement.
But Russian state news agency TASS identified the man as Mikhail Fridman, a Russian-Ukrainian billionaire and one of the principals behind the Alfa Group conglomerate.
In its statement, the crime agency said a 58-year-old man was among three men who was arrested by officers from the Combating Kleptocracy Cell on December 1 at a "multimillion-pound residence" in London.
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government on December 2 announced that it will agree with Romania and Croatia's joining the Schengen zone, but will block Bulgaria's admission.
It said its veto was prompted by Bulgaria's failure to achieve satisfactory results in the fight against corruption and organized crime.
The EU justice ministers will decide on accepting Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania in Schengen at a meeting on December 8 and 9.
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Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on December 2 that it was "too early" to change the Netherlands' position regarding Bulgaria.
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"We always achieve our goal and Russia's economy will be destroyed, and it will pay and be responsible for all its crimes," the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram.
"But it would be necessary to lower [the cap] to $30 to destroy the enemy's economy quicker," Yermak added.
In reaction to the move, the Kremlin said on December 3 that it would "not accept" a price limit.
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media that the Kremlin was "analyzing" the move, adding, "We will not accept this price cap."
EU ambassadors reached the deal for the $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil on December 2 after breaking a deadlock over the price, with Poland saying it was not low enough.
The G7 and Australia later on December 2 joined the EU in adopting the $60 price cap.
The move is meant to help achieve the goal of restricting Russia's primary source of funding for the war in Ukraine while preventing a spike in global prices.
The cap will keep global markets well supplied while "institutionalizing" discounts created by the threat of such a limit, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on December 2.
Poland had refused to back the price-cap measure over concerns the ceiling was too high, before its ambassador to the EU confirmed Warsaw's agreement on December 2 in the evening.
Europe needed to set the cap by December 5, when an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea and a ban on insurance for those supplies take effect.
The embargo will prevent shipments of Russian crude by tanker vessel to the EU, which account for two-thirds of imports, potentially depriving Russia's war chest of billions of dollars.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that the price cap "will help us achieve our goal of restricting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's primary source of revenue for his illegal war in Ukraine while simultaneously preserving the stability of global energy supplies."
The price cap "will immediately cut into Putin's most important source of revenue," Yellen said.
The announcement is the culmination of months of effort by a coalition of countries, and Yellen commended the "hard work of our partners in achieving this outcome."
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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"Russian invaders shelled Kherson -- damaged power grids. The city was left without electricity again," Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram, adding that technicians were already at work trying to repair the damage and restore power to the recently liberated city located on the right bank of the Dnieper River.
Kherson was returned to Ukrainian control on November 11, as the Russian military retreated to the left bank of the Dnieper. Russian artillery took new positions across the river and has been regularly pounding the city with artillery and rockets.
Three people were killed the previous day in the city by Russian shelling, Yanushevych said.
Millions of Ukrainians are struggling without electricity and heating at the onset of winter following waves of Russian strikes across the country, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said on December 2 that further attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure were "inevitable."
Ukrainian officials have responded with defiance, vowing to do everything to contain the damage.
Maksym Tymchenko, chief executive officer of DTEK, a major power company, said on December 2 that all six of DTEK's power stations had been attacked, some of them several times. The company has managed to bring them all back to the grid, he said.
Tymchenko voiced confidence that there was no chance "for the Russians to plunge Ukraine into darkness."
Yet, there was a power-generation deficit and issues with electricity transmission, Tymchenko told the Kyiv Security Forum.
He said that in Kyiv, the company was trying to introduce "rolling controlled blackouts: three-four hours of electricity supply, followed by four hours break. This situation will continue, we hope, until next week only, if there are no further attacks. But we are prepared for further attacks."
Additionally, he said, "We managed to accumulate enough coal stock for the country, not just for our company. We have enough gas storage to use gas for power generation. So we have enough capacity for the whole country."
"Transformers, substations, high-voltage transformers: these are what we've been in deficit of, and what we appeal to our international partners for. Some of the equipment is already on the way to Ukraine," he said.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko told the forum that last week Kyiv had faced an almost total blackout. "There was no heat and water supply. And about 4,000 employees of utility companies worked day and night to restore them."
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told the forum that the months ahead would be difficult.
"The enemy still has significant resources, but there are more and more signs that he needs a pause at any cost," he said.
As fierce fighting continues in the east, where Kyiv's forces fought off waves of attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the military reported on December 3 that over the previous day it shot down an enemy helicopter and six drones.
The General Staff said in its regular update that Russian forces launched five missile strikes, 27 air strikes, and 44 rocket attacks at civilian infrastructure and Ukrainian Army positions along the contact line.
Meanwhile, Britain's Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that Russia is likely planning to encircle Bakhmut in the Donetsk region with tactical advances to the north and south.
Although the capture of Bakhmut would have limited operational value, it could allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, the ministry said on December 3. "There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut's capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia," it said on Twitter.
The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.
With reporting by Reuters and CNN
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The Group of Seven (G7) and Australia have joined the European Union in adopting a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil, a move that the countries say will help achieve the goal of restricting Russia's primary source of funding for the war in Ukraine while preventing a spike in global prices.
EU ambassadors reached a deal for the $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil earlier on December 2 after breaking a deadlock over the price, with some countries saying it was not low enough.
The decision must still be approved by EU members but is expected to go through. Europe needed to set the cap by December 5, when an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea and a ban on insurance for those supplies take effect.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that the price cap, which was led by the G7, "will help us achieve our goal of restricting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's primary source of revenue for his illegal war in Ukraine while simultaneously preserving the stability of global energy supplies."
The price cap "will immediately cut into Putin's most important source of revenue," Yellen said.
The announcement is the culmination of months of effort by a coalition of countries, and Yellen commended the "hard work of our partners in achieving this outcome."
The agreement comes after a last-minute flurry of negotiations that saw Poland holding up the agreement as it sought to set the cap as low as possible. Following more than 24 hours of deliberations, Warsaw finally relented late on December 2.
A joint G7 coalition statement said the group was "prepared to review and adjust the maximum price as appropriate," taking into account market developments and potential impacts on coalition members and low and middle-income countries.
The price cap will work by prohibiting shippers and insurance companies from handling cargoes of Russian crude unless it is sold at or below the price cap.
The world's key shipping and insurance firms are based in G7 countries, giving them leverage to set the price cap and make it difficult for Moscow to sell its oil for a higher price.
With reporting by AP
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The Constitutional Court on December 2 also declined the appeal of Zeljko Komsic, a member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, to adopt a temporary measure regarding the amendments to Bosnia’s election law imposed by the high representative for Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, on October 2 shortly after the polls closed on Bosnia’s general election.
Komsic’s appeal said Schmidt’s step to impose the decision after the voting concluded was a “direct assault on the integrity of the election process" because voters possibly would have voted differently had they known how the elections law was going to be changed.
“By the opinion of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the applicants have not clearly stated, outside the realm of the abstract, what sort of irretrievable damage could be done if the disputed decision were to remain in place, nor have they produced evidence on the validity of their claims,” the court stated.
UN Nuclear Chief Says Iran Ties Need To Get Back On Track
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