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Lukashenko meets with Putin and accuses the West of trying to “destabilize” Belarus

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At the beginning of the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi (southern Russia, on the Black Sea coast), Alexander Lukashenko said that there was “an attempt to destabilize the situation to the levels of August last year,” referring to anti-government protests after the August presidential elections, which the domestic opposition and Western countries considered falsified.

“It’s clear that our Western friends want …” Lukashenko said, clearly nervous before presenting “various documents” to his Russian colleague about an incident last Sunday involving the arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia. Sapega, the Efe news agency indicated.

“So that you understand what happened. So that you understand what kind of people they are, ”he said.

The Minsk leader, who has been in power since 1994 and increasingly isolated on the international stage, also criticized the European Union for punishing the state-owned airline Belevia for closing its airspace, believing that the company was not involved in the incident with the Ryanair flight that resulted in the Athens airline. Vilnius flight.

“Why is the Belavia fleet punished? It has nothing to do with this. They took everything. There they show their true colors, ”he stressed.

In turn, Putin recalled the incident that took place in 2013, when Austria, at the request of the European Union, forced the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales to land on suspicion that a former CIA analyst, Edward Snowden, was on board and was subject to arrest. order issued by the United States.

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“They made the Bolivian president land. They took the president off the plane, and nothing: silence, ”he said.

Russia justified Minsk’s actions, criticized the sanctions imposed by the European Union, and considered that Protasevich’s case after the device was redirected due to an alleged bomb threat was an internal affair of the neighboring country.

Lukashenko, widely criticized since August 2020 for accusations of rigging a presidential election that guaranteed him a sixth consecutive term, delivered a fiery speech in front of two chambers of parliament, in which he guaranteed a response to European sanctions and pledged that he acted to protect the safety of Belarusians.

In response and during a reception at his summer residence, Putin welcomed the presence of his colleague and recalled that he is “in the process of building a strengthened alliance” between Russia and Belarus, reaffirming the support of the neighboring country and ally. , also a former Soviet republic.

“We have made steady progress in this direction (…), and this work is already leading to concrete results for our citizens,” Putin added.

Lukashenko believes that Europe intends to “strangle” his country, where many high-ranking officials have already been sanctioned due to repression of critics of the regime and an unprecedented protest movement in 2020.

Today, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid called on the West to go even further and stop the “cash flow” directed to Alexander Lukashenko.

For its part, Brussels presented a project in support of Belarus, which provides for assistance to the country in the amount of US $ 3 billion (2.4 billion euros) in the event of a transition to democracy and Lukashenka’s departure from power.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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