Connect with us

Emerging Markets

EU states demand Russia release of Alexei Navalny

Published

on


A bus ride across the runway apron and a brisk walk through the brightly lit terminal corridor was all the freedom Alexei Navalny was granted on his return to Russia before he was detained by police waiting for him at passport control.

The arrest of Mr Navalny, Russia’s most vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was met with uniform condemnation from western governments, with a number of EU states threatening to impose sanctions if the Kremlin did not release the 44-year-old campaigner.

Mr Navalny was returning from Berlin after recovering from an assassination attempt using novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union, in August. He and European governments have blamed the attack on the Kremlin, but Moscow has denied any involvement despite the use of the poison and claimed he could have been poisoned outside Russia.

Moscow arrested Mr Navalny on Sunday evening for allegedly breaching the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence, which could see him jailed for up to three and a half years.

Lithuania’s foreign ministry said the country would “immediately raise issues concerning the EU’s possible response to the detention and persecution of Navalny, and new sanctions against Russia”.

“It seems that Navalny, who dared to challenge the government, has made another most unfortunate mistake. He has survived,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, foreign minister.

Mr Navalny’s supporters say his arrest is designed to prevent him from campaigning ahead of critical parliamentary elections in September, with Mr Putin’s ruling party polling at record lows.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, described his detention as “unacceptable” and called for his immediate release.

Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, echoed that view. “It’s completely incomprehensible that he was arrested immediately after his arrival by the Russian authorities,” he said.

“Russia is, through its own constitution and through its international obligations bound to the principle of the rule of law and the protection of civil rights. These principles must of course apply to Alexei Navalny, too. He should be released immediately.” 

Both Mike Pompeo, the outgoing US secretary of state, and Jake Sullivan, president-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for national security adviser, condemned the arrest and calling for his release.

“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents,” Mr Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

The EU imposed sanctions on six officials it said were involved in the attack after western laboratories confirmed that Mr Navalny had been poisoned using a chemical weapon during a campaign visit to Siberia.

But some European politicians called on Brussels to do more.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, said: “A quick and unequivocal response at EU level is essential. Respecting citizens’ rights is the basis of democracy.” 

Tomas Petricek, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, said he would “propose a discussion on possible sanctions” at a meeting of EU ministers, and accused Moscow of “violating international human rights treaties”.

Mr Navalny was separated from his wife and his lawyer at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and detained by officers before being transferred to a police station in the north of the city.

Russian authorities issued an arrest warrant for the anti-corruption campaigner after alleging that he had violated the terms of a suspended sentence by failing to appear at in-person meetings. A court was asked last week to change that sentence to a jail term.

The sentence relates to a 2014 fraud conviction that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled was politically motivated. Russia has also launched an investigation into new fraud allegations. If Mr Navalny is found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 10 years.

“I am not afraid,” Mr Navalny told reporters moments before he was detained. “I know I am right. I know that the criminal cases against me are fabricated.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, dismissed what she said were “pre-prepared comments” from foreign officials and called on them to “respect international law, do not encroach on the national legislation of sovereign states and deal with the problems in your own country”.





Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Emerging Markets

China lands spacecraft on Mars

Published

on

By


China has landed a spacecraft containing a rover on Mars, according to state media, in a further sign of its bold ambitions in the sphere.

The rover was part of the Tianwen-1 unmanned mission launched in July last year. Tianwen means “questions to heaven” and was named after a poem by Chinese poet Qu Yuan.

The mission, which was described by Chinese media as a “new major milestone” and the “first step in China’s planetary exploration of the solar system”, was intended to match the US by successfully landing on the red planet.

The Global Times reported that the lander and the rover from the Tianwen-1 probe reached a plain on Mars called Utopia Planitia on early Saturday morning local time, citing information from the China National Space Administration.

The Tianwen-1 probe’s lander and rover separated with the orbiter at about 4am, after which it had a three hour flight before entering Mars’ atmosphere, according to the newspaper.

The spacecraft then “spent around nine minutes decelerating, hovering for obstacle avoidance and cushioning, before its soft landing”. The rover is named Zhurong after a Chinese god of fire, and is 1.85m and weighs 240kg. It is expected to transverse the planet for about 92 days.

The probe was launched into space on July 23 by the Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang launch pad in Hainan province, in the south of the country.

The achievement of the Mars landing is part of a wider expansion of China’s space programme. The country’s engineers launched the first part of its permanent space station into the Earth’s orbit late last month.

In 2018, China for the first time launched more vessels into orbit than any other nation.

The US views China’s efforts in space in strategic terms. “Beijing is working to match or exceed US capabilities in space to gain the military, economic and prestige benefits that Washington has accrued from space leadership,” according to the annual threat assessment published by the office of the US director of national intelligence.



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Iron ore sinks from record high on concerns over China crackdown

Published

on

By


The scorching rally that propelled the price of steel-making commodity iron ore to a record high came to a shuddering halt on Friday on concerns China will crack down on speculative activity.

The main iron ore futures contract in Singapore fell as much as 14 per cent to $190 a tonne before recovering to $209, while there were also big drops in China where the most active contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange slumped almost 8 per cent.

The sell-off came as the local government in Tangshan, China’s main steel-making city, said it would examine illegal behaviour and suspend production at mills found to be manipulating market prices by spreading rumours and hoarding material, according to reports from Reuters and Bloomberg.

“China’s central government seems to be very concerned about this major input for its steel-intensive economy,” said Tom Price, head of commodities strategy at Liberum. “I think what the pullback reflects is the government trying to rein in prices.”

Line chart of $ per tonne showing Iron ore prices have fallen after a strong rally

Authorities in China have sought to cool hot commodity markets, with Premier Li Keqiang calling this week for stable prices. Iron was trading at $90 a tonne a year ago and hit a record high of $230 this week. Tangshan, which accounts for 14 per cent of China’s steel output, has introduced production curbs as part of a crackdown on pollution.

However, these measures have been slow to take effect as mills in the rest of the country have rushed to crank up output to take advantage of reduced capacity in Tangshan and cash in on record domestic steel prices. A decision to remove the export tax rebate for some steel products on June 1 has also led to other mills increasing production.

As a result, China’s steel production hit a record level in March, with output up 19 per cent year on year to 94m tonnes, according to financial group ANZ. The firm said production was even higher in April, with exports up 20 per cent year on year. That in turn boosted iron ore, which climbed 35 per cent over the past month.

“What the Chinese government is trying to do is incrementally contain the steel market, mindful of the fact they have spent a fortune resurrecting their economy over the past 12 months and they don’t want to kill the recovery,” said Price. “The measures are quite clever.”

Iron ore has led a broad advance in commodity markets over the past year, fanning talk that another “supercycle” — a long period of high prices — has arrived.

That has been a boon for big iron producers such as Anglo-Australian company BHP and its Brazilian rival Vale, which require a price of just $50 a tonne to break even.

However, most analysts think the iron ore market will remain tight and prices elevated for the rest of the year. That view is based on rising steel demand outside China as big economies accelerate and while important producers in Australia are operating at full capacity.

“While the price has been thumped in the past couple of days, demand remains robust, helped by the fantastic margins the steel industry is enjoying,” said Andrew Glass, Singapore-based founder of Avatar Commodities.

Elsewhere, copper was set for its first weekly loss in more than a month amid worries that a tightening of credit in China could hit demand for the metal, used in everything from household goods to electric vehicles. Copper, which started the week at $10,412 a tonne, was trading at $10,245 on Friday.



Source link

Continue Reading

Emerging Markets

Biden says ‘strong reason’ to believe pipeline hackers are in Russia

Published

on

By


Joe Biden said the US government has “strong reason” to believe the hackers behind a massive cyber attack that shut the Colonial petroleum pipeline were based in Russia, as he urged Americans to not panic over temporary fuel shortages.

“We do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack. But we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia. That is where it came from,” the US president said in a speech on Thursday afternoon at the White House.

“We have been in direct communication with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take decisive action against these ransomware networks,” he added, noting he hoped to discuss the issue with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

The 5,500-mile pipeline system has capacity for 2.5m barrels a day of liquid fuels such as petrol diesel and jet fuel, which it carries from Gulf Coast refineries to major hubs in the north-east. The FBI has indicated that the shutdown was caused by a ransomware attack by hacking group DarkSide.

Cyber experts claim Russia tacitly allows ransomware gangs to operate in the country and will not prosecute them. In return, those criminals do not attack Russian companies and can be called upon to share their access to victims’ systems, experts say.

Last month, the US Treasury accused one of Russia’s intelligence services, the FSB, of “cultivating and co-opting” the notorious ransomware group Evil Corp, which has been sanctioned.

The Colonial pipeline — responsible for carrying almost half of the motor fuel used on the US east coast — began the process of fully reopening on Wednesday evening, five days after it was hit by a cyber attack that triggered a spate of panic-buying by motorists across the US south-east.

Biden said the US government expected a “region by region return to normalcy beginning this weekend and continuing into next week”. He urged Americans to avoid panic-buying petrol, and said he had called on state governors and local authorities to keep a lookout for any illegal price gouging by businesses.

“Don’t panic, number one. I know seeing lines at the pumps or gas stations with no gas can be extremely stressful, but this is a temporary situation,” Biden said. “Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days.”

Shortages at filling stations triggered by panic-buying continued on Thursday, with 70 per cent of stations in North Carolina running dry and about half in Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina, according to GasBuddy, a data provider.

The situation in some major urban hubs was beginning to improve, however. The amount of stations without fuel in Atlanta fell from a peak of 73 per cent overnight to 68 per cent by Thursday afternoon.

Colonial on Thursday morning said it had made “substantial progress” in bringing its operations back online and that all of its markets would begin receiving product by the afternoon.

Prices at the pump have continued to rise. National average petrol prices rose to $3.03 on Thursday, according to the AAA, an automobile association. They crossed the $3 a gallon threshold on Wednesday for the first time since 2014.

Gasoline futures retreated on the news of Colonial’s reopening, as traders anticipated supplies returning to normal. Contracts for June delivery slipped 7 cents to $2.08, their lowest level since April in Thursday afternoon trading.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending