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Russia

Putin warns Finland on joining Nato

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia would respect Finland’s choice whether to join NATO but he painted a dire picture for Finland if it would be a NATO member.

Putin described the losses Finland would suffer as a NATO country. He said that NATO would be keen on fighting against Russia “to the last Finnish soldier alive.

Putin warned that Finnish defence forces would no longer be independent but be part of NATO infrastructure that would reach the Russian borders.

Putin made the remarks at a joint press conference after holding talks with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto. He arrived at Niinisto’s summer residence in Naantali on Friday afternoon for a one-day working visit.

On his part, Niinisto said small steps could be taken to enhance confidence, referring to the situation in Ukraine and the tension in the Baltic Sea area.

Niinisto tied the possible dismantling of sanctions against Russia to the progress in peace talks on Ukraine crisis.

Putin claimed that Russia never provokes and he said the West created the situation in the Crimea and Ukraine through provocations. He said attempt is also being made to increase tension in the Baltic Sea.

America

US intelligence chiefs say Russia still meddling, threatening 2018 elections

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

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Dan Coats

WASHINGTON — Russia and other adversaries will continue to engage in cyber warfare to “degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances,” the nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday.

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that every facet of society is being targeted with cyber intrusions.

In strong language, Coats said Russia President Vladimir Putin has been emboldened by Russia’s successful interference in the 2016 elections and is targeting the 2018 election cycle.

“There should be no doubt that (Putin) views the past effort as successful,” Coats said.

The national intelligence director’s comments come against the backdrop of continuing congressional and criminal investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Kremlin coordinated their activities with President Trump’s campaign.

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Middle East

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

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Putin-and-Assad

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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Russia

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

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Lavrov Tillerson

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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