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German Foreign Minister slams NATO’s ‘warmongering’ against Russia

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticised recent military manoeuvres of NATO in Eastern Europe against Russia, accusing the military alliance of “warmongering”, and calling for more dialogues with Russia.

“What we shouldn’t do now is to inflame the situation further with loud saber-rattling and warmongering,” Xinhua news agency quoted Steinmeier as saying in an interview to a local newspaper.

“Anyone who believes that a symbolic tank parade on the eastern border of the alliance will bring more security is mistaken,” he said, “We are well advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”

NATO launched a large-scale exercise in Poland on June 6. The two-week drill involved 31,000 troops, 14,000 of them from the United States.

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced to deploy four multinational battalions to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Steinmeier warned that it would be “fatal to narrow the view to the military and to seek the tranquillity only through deterrence”. Instead, dialogues and cooperation were also needed.

“We must also enhance dialogues with our partners about the benefits of disarmament and arms control for security in Europe,” the top German diplomat said, adding that it was in people’s interests “to unite Russia in an international partnership of responsibility”.

Middle East

Putin vows to continue supporting Syria’s sovereignty in New Year’s telegram to Assad

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Russia will continue its assistance in “upholding its state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and promoting a political settlement and economic recovery,” President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad in a New Year’s message.

The Russian leader expressed hope that “the situation in Syria would continue changing for the better,” emphasizing that “defeating terrorists and rapidly bringing the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic back to normal” would benefit the “interests of the whole world and would improve security in the Middle East.”

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Lavrov, Tillerson discuss need for urgent North Korea negotiations: Moscow

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the need to start a negotiations process.

“The sides were united in the opinion that nuclear missile projects in North Korea violate the demands of the UN Security Council,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two men spoke by telephone.

Lavrov “once again highlighted that it is unacceptable to exacerbate tensions around the Korean peninsula with Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Pyongyang and increasing military preparations in the region,” it said.

“It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible,” the statement said, adding that it was Tillerson who initiated the call.

The UN Security Council on Friday slapped new sanctions on North Korea that will restrict oil supplies vital for its missile and nuclear programmes, the latest response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States, while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.

Pyongyang has slammed the UN sanctions as an “act of war”.

Moscow has called for talks between North Korea and the United States, warning of a “risk of uncontrolled escalation”. Russia has also criticised Washington’s military drills with South Korea saying it provokes Pyongyang.

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Russian presidential election slated for March 18

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Moscow, Dec 15: The Russian Federation Council, or the upper house of parliament, on Friday officially set the country’s presidential election for March 18, 2018.

A resolution to set the date will effectively give a start to the election campaign, chairman of the Federation Council’s Constitutional Legislation Committee Andrei Klishas said in a statement.

President Vladimir Putin, who has declared his intention to participate in the race as an independent candidate, is widely expected to win his fourth term, reports Xinhua news agency.

The latest public opinion poll by government-owned research centre VTSIOM showed that Putin’s approval rating stood at 53.5 per cent as of December 10, up from 53 per cent a week earlier, leaving all possible rivals far behind.

To be registered as an independent presidential candidate, a candidate has to collect at least 300,000 voters’ signatures on his or her behalf by February 1, 2018.

If a candidate wishes to run within the framework of a political party, this party will have to collect no less than 100,000 signatures on the candidate’s behalf.

The election was previously planned for March 11, but later it was postponed to March 18, when the country will celebrate the Day of Incorporation of Crimea.

The peninsula joined Russia in 2014 following a local referendum, which Western countries did not recognise as legitimate.

The law declaring March 18 a national holiday was adopted in 2015.

IANS

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