Lithuania Warns Russia Over Pressuring Its Neighbors

So we had to spend a little more time negotiating. In the end I was satisfied with the fact that we have remained true to the crucial Geneva agreements,” Mr. Lavrov said. But the idea of using the diplomatic momentum from the chemical weapons deal to drive wider peace negotiations does not look promising. Western and Arab countries who are sponsoring the fractious Syrian rebel coalition appear helpless to get any kind of consensus among their proxies, much less herd them into negotiations with the regime by mid-November, as Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed to do. “Until recently we have been relying on our Western partners, who pledged to push the opposition to the negotiations table, and we hoped they would manage it quickly. But so far they have not succeeded. And I am not sure they will by mid-November,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow Tuesday. Russian experts say that if Western powers are serious about promoting a negotiated peace, they must first abandon the illusion that the growing body of jihadist-linked Syrian rebels can ever unify behind a democratic and secular program for the country. Sergei Markov, a political analyst who’s been a frequent adviser to President Vladimir Putin in the past, says there are groups of moderate rebels who could be induced to negotiate a peace settlement and political transition for Syria. But, he says, the US must first make a firm decision to exclude the jihadists as the common enemy of all, and work for a settlement between regime and moderate rebels. That’s a big leap for Washington, which still sees Assad as the main enemy and believes that the jihadist problem can be dealt with after the regime’s overthrow, Mr.

Russia will charge Greenpeace activists with piracy

If found guilty, the 30 detained activists could face a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail. They will be charged according to Section 3 of the Criminal Codes Article 227 (piracy committed by an organised group, Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying on Tuesday. AFP reports that the protesters are in shock over being detained by a democratic state: All but four of the activists are non-Russians from countries including Britain, the United States, Finland and Argentina. Russia has jailed the activists from Greenpeaces Arctic Sunrise protest ship without charge pending an investigation into alleged piracy, after several scaled a state-owned oil rig on September 18. The activists have complained of cold cells and a lack of suitable clothing and food, said Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoners rights watchdog. Many of them are in a state close to shock, she told AFP after visiting the prisoners. They had never expected that they would face such consequences for their peaceful protest in a democratic state. I think I see the disconnect here. If Greenpeace expected the authoritarian Russian government to react in a similar manner as Western democracies, well, they simply havent done their homework. This is the same government that has imprisoned a female punk-rock band to a two-year sentence for criticizing Vladimir Putin. Their hunger strike ended today , by the way, with no concessions from the Kremlin: The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service says that an imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot is ending her hunger strike nine days after it began. The service told the state news agency ITAR-Tass that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was in stable health after ending the hunger strike on Wednesday. An opposition leader who said he had spoken with Tolokonnikova also tweeted that she was ending the strike. Interfering with Gazproms operations is a more serious manner than insulting Putin.

Vilnius, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will host a summit in November between the bloc and six states in eastern Europe and the Caucasus that are negotiating closer trade ties with Brussels. All six are ex-Soviet republics that Russia views as part of its sphere of influence. It has been blocking some of their exports and threatening to limit Russian gas supplies in an effort to persuade them not to turn away from Moscow. Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004, has had its transport trucks held up at Russian customs for up to 20 days at a time in recent weeks, causing heavy losses for its sizeable trucking industry. Asked whether Vilnius might retaliate, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said: “We could also apply the same measures.” “As you know, the Kaliningrad region is isolated, geographically isolated, so we could apply some measures also to cut something,” he told Reuters late on Tuesday, adding that no discussions along those lines had taken place. “Transport, we could cut off trains, but not only trains, also the supply of goods, whatever. It is theoretically possible. It was not discussed, it’s not our way of thinking, it’s not our methods,” he said. The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, with around 430,000 people, is enclosed by Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east but it has a large port on the Baltic. Aside from sea shipments, it relies on road and rail links with Russia that cross Lithuania and Belarus. GEORGIA WAR The EU is locked in an increasingly tense stand-off with Russia over its Eastern Partnership policy, which is designed to draw six countries – Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia – more closely into the European fold. At the Vilnius summit on November 28-29, the EU is expected to sign a free trade deal with Ukraine and take further steps towards free trade agreements with Moldova and Georgia. No substantial progress is expected with the other partnership states, which remain more closely aligned with Moscow. Russia, meanwhile, wants several of the countries to sign up to its own customs union, launched with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2010. Armenia, which relies on Russia for support in a long-standing dispute with Azerbaijan, agreed in September to join the Russian-led trade bloc.