German FM tells Russia its behavior must change

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Updated 16 April 2018
0

German FM tells Russia its behavior must change

  • Russia has denied any efforts to influence Western elections and any role in cyberattack in Germany
  • Germany says it will use its relationship with Moscow to ensure Russia played a “constructive” role

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday criticized Russia for a series of activities beyond its borders, blaming it for a cyberattack on his own ministry, and said Moscow must change its ways.
Maas listed a series of what he called problematic actions that also included the lack of progress in implementing a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, a poison gas attack in Britain, support for the Syrian government, and efforts to influence Western elections.
“We had an attack on the Foreign Ministry where we have to assume that it stemmed from Russia,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF. “We can’t just wish all that away ... And I think it’s not only reasonable but necessary to point out that we do not view those as constructive contributions.”
German government officials in February disclosed what they called an “isolated” cyberattack on the government computer network that was first discovered in December.
The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency last week said there was “a high likelihood” that Moscow was behind the attack.
Maas, a Social Democrat who has adopted a tougher stance on Russia than his predecessors from the same party, told the other German public broadcaster, ARD, on Sunday that Moscow had been an increasingly “difficult partner” but Berlin was committed to maintaining dialogue, particularly on the crisis in Syria.
“It is time, I think, to point out that we expect constructive contributions from the Russian side, including on the Syrian conflict. And also that they don’t always simply protect (Syrian President Bashar) Assad,” he said.

Tensions running high
Russia has denied any efforts to influence Western elections, and scoffed at suggestions it was behind the cyberattack in Germany. It also denied involvement in a poison gas attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain.
Western air strikes aimed at destroying Syria’s chemical weapons facilities have exacerbated tensions between Moscow and the West, already at a new post-Cold War high after the expulsion of more than 130 Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
Syria denied using chemical weapons against its civilian population.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, another Social Democrat, who has served as foreign minister, on Sunday warned against demonizing Russia and said Germany had a particular role to play in maintaining dialogue with Moscow, given its history.
Steinmeier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper he was concerned about a “galloping alienation between Russia and the West” and urged German politicians to avoid portraying Russia and its people as an enemy.
Maas on Saturday called for a new international effort to end the war in Syria, and said Germany would use its relationship with Moscow to ensure Russia played a “constructive” role.
“Whether we like it or not, the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved without Russia,” he said on Sunday.
Germany, which relies on Russia for about a third of the gas it uses, has long walked a careful line with Moscow — pushing for continued sanctions over Ukraine and eastern Ukraine while also maintaining dialogue and trade relations. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 25 April 2018
0

Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.