UK’s May urges EU unity against Russia as Kremlin slams UK

Theresa May arrives for a EU summit in Brussels, where she sought unified condemnation of Moscow over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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UK’s May urges EU unity against Russia as Kremlin slams UK

BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister Theresa May urged European Union leaders on Thursday to unite and condemn Russia for not respecting international rules or borders, while Moscow slammed the UK as untrustworthy in its investigation of the poisoning of a former spy.
Amid heated words and frosty relations between London and Moscow, May accused Russia of staging “a brazen and reckless attack against the United Kingdom” by attacking Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury.
“I will be raising this issue with my counterparts today because it is clear that the Russian threat doesn’t respect borders and indeed the incident in Salisbury was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe and its near neighbors, from the western Balkans to the Near East,” May said as she arrived an EU summit in Brussels.
Britain blames Moscow for the attack with a military-grade nerve agent and has called Russia a growing threat to Western democracies. Russia has fiercely denied the accusations.
Both nations have expelled 23 of each other’s diplomats in a feud that shows no signs of cooling.
Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, hit back Thursday, saying his country “can’t take British words for granted,” and accusing the UK of having a “bad record of violating international law and misleading the international community.”
 

It is clear that the Russian threat doesn’t respect borders and indeed the incident in Salisbury was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe and its near neighbors, from the western Balkans to the Near East.

Theresa May


“History shows that British statements must be verified,” he told reporters in London. “We demand full transparency of the investigation and full cooperation with Russia” and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Britain says it is complying with the international chemical-weapons watchdog over the March 4 attack on Skripal — a former Russian intelligence officer convicted of spying for the UK — and his daughter.
Experts from the OPCW have come to Britain to take samples of the nerve agent that has left the Skripals in critical condition.
May wants nations at the EU summit in Brussels to make a strong statement against Russian President Vladimir Putin. EU foreign ministers have already expressed their “unqualified solidarity” with Britain, but May will try to swing the 27 other EU leaders behind a more strongly worded statement that explicitly condemns Russia.
European politicians and leaders vary in how far they are willing to go in blaming Putin’s Kremlin.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose former Soviet state shares a border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, offered her full backing to Britain and said she was weighing whether to expel Russian diplomats from her country over the Salisbury attack.
German politician Manfred Weber, leader of the biggest group in the European Parliament, said Putin “wants to destabilize the European idea, European cooperation, and that’s why we don’t have to be naive, we have to be strong.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiprias was more cautious. He said “we have to express our solidarity to the UK, to the British people, but at the same time we need to investigate.”
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, a former criminal lawyer, said he wanted to hear what May had to say.
“I have the principle that first I listen, and then I take a decision,” he said.
EU Council President Donald Tusk is seen by the UK as supportive, saying this week that Europe must “reinforce our preparedness for future attacks.”
But British officials are irked that another EU chief, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, congratulated Putin on his victory in Sunday’s presidential election in Russia. Election monitors say the Russian vote did not take place on a level playing field since state media gave so much coverage to Putin.
The Salisbury attack has sent relations between London and Moscow to Cold War-style lows.
On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was “emetic” — vomit-inducing — that Putin is rejoicing over hosting the World Cup soccer tournament this summer. Russia responded that Johnson was “poisoned with venom of malice and hate.”
Johnson also said Russia’s hosting of the June 14-July 15 tournament could be compared to the 1936 Olympics, which was used as propaganda exercise by Nazi Germany.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the comparison an “utterly disgusting statement which is unworthy of a foreign minister of any country.” He called Johnson’s words “insulting and unacceptable.”


Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

Updated 20 September 2018
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Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

  • With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released
  • Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines wil boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines

JAKARTA: After 20 months being held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines, three Indonesian fishermen were finally reunited on Wednesday with their respective families at the Foreign Ministry.

Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir handed them over from the government to their respective family representatives in a ceremony which was held without media presence.
 
"The condition on the field was getting more difficult. But we made the most of our contacts and assets on the field, and with the Philippines government support we were able to get them released,” Fachir said in a statement from the ministry. .
 
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, said the handover was held in private because “it was not a cause for celebration.”
 
“We are grateful for their release, but we still have two Indonesians who were abducted on Sept. 11 and we don’t want to hurt their families’ feeling,” Iqbal said.
 
The three fishermen are Hamdan bin Saleng, Sudarling bin Samansunga, and Subandi bin Sattu, who hail from Selayar and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi province. They were freed from their captors on Friday in Sulu province on the southern Philippines.
 
Rudi Wahyudin, a representative of Sattu’s family, said the family members were devastated during the 20 months Sattu was held hostage but they tried to keep their hopes up by keeping in touch with the foreign ministry to get updates of efforts to release him and his fellow fishermen.
 
“It’s normal for people in our village in Bulukumba to migrate and work abroad. Now his wife has asked Sattu to quit working overseas and find another job close to home instead,” Wahyudin said.
 
Indonesian ambassador to the Philippines, Sinyo Harry Sarundajang said the military attache and he flew to Zamboanga City to pick up the three men, after the embassy received information of their release from the West Mindanao Command.
 
“We thank President Duterte and the Philippines government for their attention and cooperation on this matter. It was a long and delicate process to release them and we had to be very careful because we didn’t want anyone to become victim in the process,” Sarundajang said at the press conference.    
 
According to the ambassador, the three men were moved and had to island-hopped to various small islands on the Sulu archipelago as their captors were avoiding the Philippine military operation.
 
The three men were working as crew members in a Malaysian fishing boat when they were abducted in the waters of Sabah in Malaysia on Jan 2017.
 
Iqbal said there are about 6,000 Indonesians working in fishing vessels in Sabah. Since 2016, there has been 34 Indonesian citizens who were kidnapped by armed militants in the southern Philippines and 13 of them were fishermen who were abducted from their vessels in the waters of Sabah.
 
With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released.
 
“We are now working to release the two fishermen who were abducted on Sep 11. We have expressed our concerns to the Malaysian authority on the lack of security on their waters,” Iqbal said.
 
He added that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea between the three countries, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines.
 
The three neighboring countries agreed in May 2016 to launch joint patrols in the area following a series of hijacking and kidnapping of Indonesian vessels and crew members. The initial maritime patrol was launched in June 2017 and was beefed up with air patrols in Oct 2017.