Daily: 11/01/2022

Потрібне «особисте лідерство» канцлера Німеччини, аби змусити Росію до переговорів – посол України

На думку Мельника, новий німецький уряд повинен «вже сьогодні ухвалити політичне рішення, щоб прибрати «Північний потік-2» з дна Балтійського моря»

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WHO Warns Half of Europe Could Become Infected with Omicron in Coming Weeks

Europe could see half of its population infected with the omicron variant over the coming weeks, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” said Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe during a virtual press conference.

The combination of omicron and delta variants has caused more than 7 million new infections in the first week of 2022, he said.

“Today the omicron variant represents a new west-to-east tidal wave, sweeping across the region on top of the delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021,” he said.

The WHO says omicron spreads more rapidly than delta, but there is not a scientific consensus about how much serious illness and death it causes relative to other variants. It does appear to infect fully vaccinated people.

The rising number of cases has begun to put stress on countries’ health systems.

“The rapid increase in cases will lead to an increase in hospitalizations, may pose overwhelming demands on health care systems and lead to significant morbidity, particularly in vulnerable populations,” the organization said.

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Russia’s Putin Says Western Leaders Broke Promises, But Did They?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his senior aides have repeatedly claimed that Western powers broke promises they made not to expand NATO as the Soviet Union collapsed.

In his annual end-of-year press conference in Moscow in December, Putin accused NATO of deceiving Russia by giving assurances in the 1990s that it would not expand “an inch to the East” — promises made to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during negotiations between the West and the Soviet Union over German unification, the Russian leader said.

“They cheated us — vehemently, blatantly. NATO is expanding,” Putin said. He cited former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker as Exhibit One in his indictment and quoted a remark Baker made to Gorbachev in 1990, saying, “NATO will not move one inch further east.” 

The Russian leader has made the claim frequently about NATO skullduggery, accusing Western powers of taking advantage of a weakened, disoriented Russia as the Soviet Union fell apart. And the West’s supposed trickery and violation of a solemn pledge not to expand has figured prominently as an important component in a Putin foreign policy narrative which presents Russia as a victim and aggrieved party.

In a speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, he asked, “What happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”

And then again in a Kremlin speech after Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, he accused Western leaders of having “lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed before us an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East.”

After that speech, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer said in an essay, “Western leaders never pledged not to enlarge NATO,” but that the story “fits so well with the picture that the Russian leader seeks to paint of an aggrieved Russia, taken advantage of by others and increasingly isolated—not due to its own actions, but because of the machinations of a deceitful West.” 

Most authoritative Western scholars and historians who have studied diplomatic memos, the minutes of meetings and transcripts released by both sides since the 1990s dispute the idea that NATO made any formal pledges.

And Western leaders have vigorously protested the Putin narrative, saying there was never any deal about not expanding NATO into central Europe. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, on the eve of bilateral talks between American and Russian diplomats in Geneva, told reporters: “NATO never promised not to admit new members. It could not and would not — the ‘open door policy’ was a core provision of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty that founded NATO.”

Blinken referred reporters to remarks in 2014 by Mikhail Gorbachev to Russia Beyond, a multilingual project operated by the nonprofit of the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti. During the interview, the former Soviet leader was asked why he had not sought a document to legally encode what Baker had said about not moving “one inch further east.”

What Baker meant

Gorbachev explained that the Baker remark was being taken out of context and replied: “The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all.” But another issue was discussed: “Making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR [German Democratic Republic] after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context.”

Gorbachev added, “The agreement on a final settlement with Germany said that no new military structures would be created in the eastern part of the country; no additional troops would be deployed; no weapons of mass destruction would be placed there. It has been obeyed all these years.”

But Gorbachev did say in the interview that what has unfolded since 1990 with more countries deciding to join NATO was “a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990,” although he did not elaborate.

Scholars take Gorbachev to mean that the West had portrayed the coming era as one of security cooperation between East and West with the United States working with Russia on the development of a new, inclusive European security arrangement. That inclusive security structure did not materialize, although Putin’s critics argue the blame for that lies more with Russian adventurism, than with NATO. 

Gorbachev also acknowledged in May 1990 when signing off on German reunification that NATO expansion was likely, saying that he was aware of “the intention expressed by a number of representatives of east European countries to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and subsequently join NATO.”

Declassified American, Soviet, German, British and French documents posted online in 2017 by the National Security Archive at George Washington University in the American capital suggest Gorbachev had some reason to be disgruntled later.

“The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory,” the Archive notes in its assessment of posted documents. 

Boris Yeltsin became angry when the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic states joined NATO in waves from 1997 onward. Yeltsin upbraided then U.S.-President Bill Clinton, who maintained that NATO was not breaking promises and argued, as subsequent U.S. administrations have done, that sovereign independent states have the right to choose whether to join alliances.

Russian diplomats say the principle that countries can choose their alliances should not override Moscow’s essential security needs and concerns. For Moscow, the “old principles of security on the continent are no longer working. NATO expansion has created a new military and political landscape,” Fyodor Lukyanov, an influential Russian international affairs analyst, noted recently.

“Russia will have to change the system,” he argued in a commentary, suggesting that countries adjacent to Russia should “retain their sovereignty but stay out of the geopolitical fray.” 

Western policy makers say that Russia in effect acquiesced to enlargement when in 1997, it and NATO signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. In that political agreement, which was meant to build East-West trust and establish habits of consultation and cooperation, NATO committed to avoid stationing permanent substantial combat forces on the territories of the former Warsaw Pact states which had joined the Western alliance. It could, however, rotate detachments in and out to conduct drills and maintain the interoperability and integration of alliance forces.

Yeltsin wanted a Russian veto on any further expansion included in the Founding Act, but Western leaders rebuffed him. NATO has avoided stationing substantial forces in the central European countries, although some of their leaders have argued, since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, that Russia has been breaking the commitments it made in the Founding Act to show the same restraint as NATO with force deployments, military buildups, and incursions.

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В Узбекистані журналістам та блогерам заборонили висвітлювати події у Казахстані

Центральні засоби інформації Узбекистану інформацію про протести в сусідній країні дають дозовано, зазначає узбецька служба Радіо Свобода

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Білорусь: опозиціонерку Марію Колеснікову перевели до колонії в місті Гомелі

Політична ув’язнена продовжить відбувати термін у жіночій колонії №4

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США: група республіканців у Конгресі пропонує надати Україні статус «НАТО-плюс»

Внесений законопроєкт також передбачає, що США мають офіційно визначити, чи Росія є державою-спонсором тероризму

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МЗС: близько 150 громадян України звернулися до посольства в Казахстані по допомогу в поверненні на батьківщину

«У зв’язку із поступовою стабілізацією безпекової ситуації частина співвітчизників повідомляє про зміни своїх планів і вирішує залишатися на території Казахстану»

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У Латвії заарештували двох підозрюваних у шпигунстві на користь Росії

За версією слідства, затримані передавали російським спецслужбам інформацію про збройні сили Латвії та розширення присутності НАТО в країні

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Казахстан: Токаєв доручив зупинити роботу компанії з утилізації відходів, яку пов’язують із дочкою Назарбаєва

Токаєв також згадав Нурсултана Назарбаєва, заявивши, що завдяки йому в країні «з’явилася група дуже прибуткових компаній і прошарок людей, багатих навіть за міжнародними мірками»

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Учасники «нормандського формату» продовжать контакти на рівні радників для узгодження саміту лідерів – ОП

«Настав час предметно домовлятися про припинення конфлікту, і ми готові до необхідних рішень під час нового саміту лідерів чотирьох країн»

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НАЗК підтвердило викриття «Схем», що нардеп Волинець не задекларував позашляховик

Раніше «Схеми» зафіксували, як Михайло Волинець неодноразово користувався автомобілем Toyota Highlander

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EU Parliament President Sassoli has Died – Spokesperson

European Parliament President David Sassoli died on Tuesday in hospital in Italy where he was admitted on Dec. 26, his spokesperson and office said. 

Sassoli, 65, died at 1.15 a.m. his spokesperson, Roberto Cuillo, said on Twitter.  

Sassoli, an Italian socialist and former journalist from Florence, had been hospitalized last month due to a “serious complication” related to his immune system, his office had said on Monday. 

He had been president of the 705-seat parliament since 2019.   

In his inaugural speech, Sassoli had urged Europeans to counter the “virus” of extreme nationalism and called for a reform of EU rules on migration and political asylum. 

His term in the predominantly ceremonial role had been due to end this month. 

Due to illness, he had been unable to chair the Strasbourg-based parliament in recent weeks and had missed the European Commission’s annual state of the union event in September. 

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Письменник Віктор Шендерович оголосив про виїзд із Росії

«Від особистої участі у кримінальній справі, яка мені світить за заявою «кремлівського кухаря» Пригожина, я, мабуть, утримаюся, і саме зі здорового глузду»

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Помер президент Європарламенту Давід Сассолі

Політик перебував у лікарні в Італії з 26 грудня

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Undocumented Afghan Refugees in Turkey Struggle to Access COVID Treatments, Vaccines

Undocumented Afghan migrants who fled to Turkey to escape the Taliban say they are unable to get treatment and vaccines for the coronavirus.

While officially registered refugees qualify for health care in Turkey, it is believed that thousands of undocumented Afghan migrants are in the country.

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021 following the withdrawal of Western forces prompted thousands to flee to neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals had already left their home country for security reasons or to escape poverty. 

VOA spoke to several refugees in the central Turkish city of Erzurum, which lies on a major route for migrants heading west to Europe and is a stopover for many refugees. Some settle and find work in the region. 

According to the United Nations, Turkey is hosting around 183,000 Afghan asylum-seekers, while 300,000 Afghans are permanently settled there. However, unofficial estimates suggest thousands more Afghan migrants are undocumented, living and working in Turkey under the radar and unable to access basic services such as health care. 

“I am from Badakhshan province in Afghanistan. I came to Turkey two months ago. I am 18 years old. We have no ID cards, so the hospitals don’t treat us,” Afghan migrant Muhammed told VOA. 

Lack of ID card a concern

Muhammed works for a local dairy company in Erzurum along with several other Afghan migrants, including his friend Islam. They live in a small, run-down apartment in the city. 

“There are eight or nine people living in this room. Five people have ID cards, and the rest don’t have ID cards,” Islam said. “If any of those who don’t have an ID card catches coronavirus, the hospitals don’t treat them. Those who have no ID card cannot have a vaccine. If they catch coronavirus, we all will catch coronavirus.” 

Several Afghan migrants told VOA they chose not to register as official refugees, fearing arrest and deportation. Many said the status of Afghan refugees remains unclear, and they want clarification from the government. 

Ramped up border security

In recent months, Turkey has ramped up border security and detained hundreds of Afghan migrants in deportation centers. It’s not clear if Ankara intends to deport the migrants back to Afghanistan. Some migrants report being detained for several weeks before being issued with official refugee status and set free. 

The Turkish government did not respond to VOA questions on the number of undocumented Afghan migrants or on the lack of access to health care. Erzurum officials said any unregistered refugees would be arrested.

The United Nations said Turkey is hosting about 4 million refugees, 3.7 million of whom are Syrians fleeing conflict. 

Refugees are a shared problem

In an email to VOA, Selin Unal, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, said that other countries must help share the burden of caring for Afghan refugees. 

“UNHCR is calling on neighboring countries to keep their borders open for those forced to flee and are now seeking protection. Since August, UNHCR has received increasing numbers of Afghans in neighboring countries who have approached our office and partners, indicating their intention to seek asylum. Others still in Afghanistan report hoping to reach neighboring countries to access international protection,” Unal said. 

“Turkey has been hosting the largest refugee population in the world since 2014 and its comprehensive legal framework provides the necessary tools to address the needs of the various categories of Afghan citizens currently living on its territory and seeking its protection. This is a challenging time, effective access to registration remains crucial by Afghan nationals seeking international protection in Turkey and UNHCR is working with national authorities to support effective, fair and fast asylum procedures,” the email said. 

The UNHCR did not provide an estimate for the number of undocumented Afghan refugees who are living in Turkey and unable to access health care. 

Memet Aksakal contributed to this report.


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US, Russia Hold ‘Frank and Forthright’ First Day of Talks Amid Ukraine Tensions

The U.S. and Russia have launched “frank and forthright” discussions aimed at de-escalating tensions between the two powers as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to station an estimated 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, the White House said Monday.

“There are two paths for Russia to take at this point, for President Putin to take,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “He can take the path to diplomacy. There’s two more rounds of talks this week. We’ve seen them as a package of three, which I think they also reiterated from their side. Or there’s a path of escalation. We are surely hopeful, that the path to diplomacy is the path that they will take.” 

Biden is asking Putin to order the troops back to barracks. The White House said, in several recent statements, that the U.S. “will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.” 

“We explained to our colleagues that we have no plans, no intentions to ‘attack’ Ukraine,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters after the talks ended Monday. “There is no reason to fear any escalation in this regard.”

The Kremlin is concerned about the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The collective security alliance was founded to counter the former Soviet Union. Ukraine, a former Soviet state, has been seeking to join NATO, over Moscow’s opposition. Putin says the current troop buildup is necessary for self-defense against an aggressive West, and that he does not plan to invade.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday, “We’ve seen no major changes to the force posture by the Russians in the border areas around Ukraine. There continues to be a sizable element there. … If the Russians are serious about de-escalating, they can start by starting to remove some of those troops, decreasing some of that force posture.” 

Diplomats from the United States and Russia met Monday in Geneva. Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke twice by phone in December about the situation in Ukraine; neither is participating directly in this week’s talks.

Monday’s discussions are the first of three rounds of talks planned for this week that will bring the U.S. and Russia to the negotiating table. The other two rounds will involve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Wednesday in Brussels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday in Vienna. 

In Monday’s bilateral talks, the two parties discussed “reciprocal action that would be in our security interest and proved strategic stability,” said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. diplomat present. That includes possible limits – on both sides – on the size and scope of future military exercises in the region.

Sherman noted that the two nations did not discuss political unrest in Kazakhstan, where recent fuel-price demonstrations grew into larger protests against pro-Russian authoritarian rule.

The U.S. held firm on a few issues, she said, including against Russia’s demand that Ukraine be denied NATO membership. 

“We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open-door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance. We will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States. And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO,” Sherman said. 

Russia’s Ryabkov said, “Unfortunately we have a great disparity in our principled approaches to this. The U.S. and Russia in some ways have opposite views on what needs to be done.” 

Sherman further conveyed that “if Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what happened in 2014. We are very ready and aligned with our partners and allies to impose those severe costs.”

She said those costs could include sanctions against key financial institutions, export controls, increased NATO presence in allied territory and more security assistance to Ukraine. 

Ahead of Monday’s U.S.-Russia session, top diplomats from both countries expressed little optimism that tensions between these two longstanding rivals would be eased in one week of discussions. 

“It’s hard to see we’re going to make any progress with a gun to Ukraine’s head,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s State of the Union show.  

Russia has denied it plans to invade Ukraine and demanded an end to NATO expansion and a halt to the alliance’s military exercises in central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997.  

Washington expects Moscow to promote its own narrative outside of the talks, Psaki said.

“We are preparing ourselves for the possibility and likelihood – no one should be surprised, I should say – if Russia spreads disinformation about commitments that have not been made, or if it goes even further and instigate something as a pretext for further destabilizing activity,” she said. “And so we would continue to urge everyone not to fall for any attempts to push disinformation out there.”

VOA’s Nike Ching and Carla Babb contributed to this report. This report contains content from Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 


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Суд у Тбілісі залишив у в’язниці людей, які допомагали Саакашвілі повернутися до Грузії

Чотирьох людей звинувачують у «приховуванні тяжкого злочину», одного з них – у безпосередній допомозі Саакашвілі в незаконному перетині кордону

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Росія має два шляхи, але в Білому домі «сподіваються», що вона обере дипломатію – речниця

«Повернення військових до казарм, висловлення намірів це зробити було б легким шляхом продемонструвати наміри до деескалації»

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Spain PM Urges Europe to Treat COVID as More ‘Endemic’ Illness

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Monday he plans to ask European officials to consider treating COVID-19 more like an endemic illness — a regularly occurring milder disease like the flu — and move away from the detailed tracking system that the pandemic has required.

In an interview with Spain’s Cadena SER radio, Sanchez said deaths as a proportion of recorded cases have fallen dramatically since the initial onset of the pandemic. He said he believes the pandemic has reached a point where the evolution of the disease can “be evaluated with different parameters.”

Sanchez said it would be a gradual, cautious process but said it is time to open the debate “at the technical level and at the level of health professionals, but also at the European level.”

He also confirmed a report from the country’s leading newspaper El País, that Spanish health authorities are already drafting a new monitoring system in which every new infection would not need to be recorded, and that people with symptoms would not necessarily be tested but will continue to receive treatment.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says a virus, such as the one that causes COVID-19, transitions from a pandemic to an endemic phase when a virus does not go extinct but merely drops in prevalence and severity over a long period of time. 

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