After fresh mandate, Putin tells West: ‘I don’t want arms race’

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with candidates who participated in the last presidential election, Boris Titov, Maxim Suraikin, Ksenia Sobchak, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Pavel Grudinin, Sergei Baburin and Grigory Yavlinsky, at the Kremlin in Moscow Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
0

After fresh mandate, Putin tells West: ‘I don’t want arms race’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a softer tone toward the West on Monday after winning his biggest ever election victory, saying he had no desire for an arms race and would do everything he could to resolve differences with other countries.
Putin’s victory, which comes at a time when his relations with the West are on a hostile trajectory, will extend his political dominance of Russia by six years to 2024. That will make him the longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and has raised Western fears of spiralling confrontation.
But Putin, 65, used a Kremlin meeting with the candidates he soundly defeated in Sunday’s election to signal his desire to focus on domestic, not international, matters, and to try to raise living standards by investing more in education, infrastructure and health while reducing defense spending.
“Nobody plans to accelerate an arms race,” said Putin.
“We will do everything to resolve all the differences with our partners using political and diplomatic channels.”
His comments, which are likely to be heard with some skepticism in the West following years of confrontation, mark a change in tone after a bellicose election campaign during which Putin unveiled new nuclear weapons he said could strike almost any point in the world.
With nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, the Central Election Commission (CEC), announced that Putin, who has run Russia as president or prime minister since 1999, had won 76.69 percent of the vote.
With more than 56 million votes, it was Putin’s biggest ever win and the largest by any post-Soviet Russian leader.
But the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a rights watchdog, said restrictions on fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, had restricted the scope for political engagement and crimped competition.
“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” the OSCE said in a statement.
The CEC said earlier on Monday it had not registered any serious complaints of violations.
Backed by state TV and the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating of around 80 percent, Putin faced no credible threat from a field of seven challengers.
His nearest rival, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, won 11.8 percent while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky got 5.6 percent. His most vocal opponent, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, was barred from running.
Navalny, who had called on voters to boycott the election, urged his supporters not to lose heart and said his campaign had succeeded in lowering the turnout, accusing authorities of being forced to falsify the numbers.
Near-final figures put turnout at 67.7 percent, just shy of the 70 percent the Kremlin was reported to have been aiming for before the vote.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down suggestions that tensions with the West had boosted turnout, saying the result showed that Russians were united behind Putin’s plans to develop the country.
He said Putin would spend the day fielding calls of congratulation, meeting supporters, and holding talks with the losing candidates.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the first to offer his congratulations to Putin, but Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned whether there had been fair political competition.


Indonesian 15-year-old raped by brother jailed over abortion

Updated 34 min 45 sec ago
0

Indonesian 15-year-old raped by brother jailed over abortion

  • The girl, who was raped by her brother eight times starting in September last year, had the abortion about six months after becoming pregnant
  • Police arrested the siblings in June after a male fetus was discovered at a palm oil plantation near Pulau village in Jambi province

JAKARTA: A 15-year-old girl who was raped by her older brother has been jailed for six months for having an abortion, an Indonesian official said Saturday.
The girl was sentenced Thursday alongside her 17-year-old brother in a closed hearing at Muara Bulian District Court on the island of Sumatra, court spokesman Listyo Arif Budiman said.
“The girl was charged under the child protection law for having an abortion,” he told AFP.
Her brother was sentenced to two years in jail for sexually assaulting a minor.
Indonesia forbids abortion unless a woman’s life is at risk or under certain circumstances if she is raped.
The law requires that an abortion must be performed by a registered professional no later than six weeks into a pregnancy, and the woman must undergo counselling.
The girl, who was raped by her brother eight times starting in September last year, had the abortion about six months after becoming pregnant, Budiman said.
She was helped by her mother who is facing separate charges.
Police arrested the siblings in June after a male fetus was discovered at a palm oil plantation near Pulau village in Jambi province.
Prosecutors had originally asked that the girl be jailed for one year and her brother for seven. They say they may still appeal the decision.
Global health authorities and rights groups have long criticized Indonesia’s abortion laws, which they say restrict women’s rights to reproductive health and lead many to undertake dangerous abortions at illegal clinics.
Abortions account for between 30 and 50 percent of maternal deaths in the country, according to a 2013 World Health Organization report.