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Ukrainian Femen protesters prepare to pour buckets of ‘blood’ on themselves before Vladimir Putin’s arrival in Milan. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP
Lizzy Davies in Milan,
The Ukrainian feminist protest group Femen has staged a two-woman demonstration against Vladimir Putin in Milan, where he is expected to attend a summit of world leaders on Thursday.
The protesters stood in front of Milan’s cathedral and poured buckets of red wine, which they said represented the blood of Ukrainian people, over their bare chests.
The message “Stop ignoring Ukrainian bloodshed” was written on one woman’s torso, while the other made direct reference to the two-day summit of more than 50 European and Asian leaders: “ASEM allies of Putin,” read the message on Femen leader Inna Shevchenko’s chest.
“We believe that welcoming a killer, a person who is killing a whole nation right now – and this Ukrainian blood is right here, is on us – and shaking his hand, is ignoring the big torture, the big killing and the war in Ukraine that is started and supported by Putin,” she told AFPTV.
Although its main purpose is economic, the ASEM summit looks set to be dominated by the security situation in eastern Ukraine, where a fragile ceasefire struck last month has been repeatedly violated. An ongoing dispute over Russian gas supplies to Ukraine is becoming increasingly urgent as winter approaches.
Putin and the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, are scheduled to meet at a breakfast on Friday morning. The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, will also host David Cameron, Angela Merkel, François Hollande and the EU’s top officials.
It is possible that Putin and Poroshenko may also meet face-to-face in a separate bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit. Poroshenko has been quoted as saying the whole world had “high expectations” of his talks with Putin.
Opposition leader says Russian president is ‘thumbing his nose’ at the rest of the world over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17.
Shorten said Putin knew more about the plane tragedy than he had let on so far. Photograph: Alexey Druginyn / Ria Novosti / EPA
Gay Alcorn and agencies
Australia should not welcome Vladimir Putin to the G20 summit because the Russian leader is “thumbing his nose” at the rest of the world over the shooting down of MH17, the opposition leader Bill Shorten says.
The government has confirmed the Russian president will attend the summit in Brisbane in November.
Shorten said there was plenty of evidence pointing to Russian involvement in the 17 July downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, in which 38 Australian citizens and residents were among the 298 dead.
Ukraine and western countries have accused Russian-based rebels of shooting down the plane with a Russian-made missile, allegations Putin has denied.
“It was an act of murder,” Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Monday. “How is it that the president of the Russian Federation, Putin, can thumb his nose at the rest of the world, go wherever he wants, without there being any repercussions or any cooperation with the independent investigation as to how this happened?” He said Putin knew more about the plane tragedy than he had let on so far.
“I happen to think that when you deal with an international bully the way you do it isn’t by laying out the red carpet, so no, I don’t think he’s welcome, I don’t think most Australians want him here.”
The Labor leader said Tony Abbott should not meet Putin.
“I wouldn’t give him the time of day,” Shorten said.
On Sunday Shorten said he thought most Australians would be “extremely uncomfortable” about welcoming Putin.
Paul Guard, whose parents, Roger and Jill Guard, were killed in the MH17 crash, said little would be achieved by Putin staying away from the G20 leaders’ summit next month.
“It wouldn’t achieve much by uninviting him because dialogue is the way forward and I hope the G20 might be a good platform on which to strongly voice our disapproval of his government’s policy and approach to Ukraine,” Guard told Guardian Australia.
“It might be uncomfortable for people to shake hands with him (but) at the end of the day, what do you achieve by not inviting someone like that? It would only play to his domestic politics.”
Guard pointed out that Australia had little say in the matter. Russia is a member of the G20 and the federal government has indicated there was little support from other members to exclude the Russian president.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned he intends to use tough language with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Australia next month in demanding full Russian cooperation with the Dutch investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in July.
Putin has confirmed that he will attend next month’s summit of the world’s 20 biggest economies, being held in Australia’s east coast city of Brisbane.
Abbott told reporters on Monday he will seek a bilateral meeting with Putin about Russian-backed rebels shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine on July 17. The attack killed 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Abbott says he expects his conversation with Putin will be the toughest that the Russian leader has at the summit.
Two pro-Russian separatist soldiers carry the remains of an Uragan missile in front of a burning house, after it was fired on a north western district in Donetsk on Oct. 5, 2014. © AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL
Julia Kukoba reporting,
Russia says it will withdraw 17,600 troops from its border with Ukraine in the Rostov region, where they had been temporarily based “for military exercises,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov late on Oct. 11.
Putin had a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after a session with the permanent members of Defense Council of Russian Federation. “As a result of the report, Putin instructed to proceed with the return of troops to their standing stations,” Peskov said.
Putin claimed that the planned removal of Russian troops was due to completion a one-year training at a southern region that borders east Ukraine, where Russian-backed insurgents have been battling government troops since April. Russia has been accused of actually supplying both troops in weapons to support the insurgents in Eastern Ukraine – the claims it has denied.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to meet with Russian counterpart in Asia-Europe summit in Milan on Oct. 16-17. Presumable topics are a peace plan for eastern Ukraine and an ongoing natural gas.
Russian opposition politician Borys Nemtsov already called Putin’s decision “the end of Novorossiya project,” referring to the idea of creating a pro-Russian state in southeastern Ukraine.
“(Putin) wanted Novorossiya from Donetsk to Odessa, and, instead, got lesser parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. He wanted a surface pathway to Crimea through Mariupol. He insteads got Russian people building trenches in Mariupol not to let in the invader,” Nemstsov says. “He wanted it done like in Crimea – without a single shot – and he got 4,000 casualties on both sides.”
It remains to be seen, however, just how willing Russia will be on living up to its commitments. Announcement about withdrawing Russian troops from Ukrainian border hit the news in March and May, but it both cases it wasn’t supported by factual evidence.
Both Pentagon and NATO offered their own evidence showing that several thousand combat troops and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles remained in eastern Ukraine to support the pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian army.
(Kyiv Post staff writer Julia Kukoba can be reached at email@example.com).
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) visiting the Ukrainian defence line near the town of Kurahovo, Donetsk Oblast on Oct. 10. © AFP
Pavel Polityuk reporting,
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday he expected planned talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin next week in Italy to be difficult but said Moscow had a crucial role to play in bringing peace to his country.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Moscow of backing a pro-Russian separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine by providing troops and arms. Russia denies the charges but says it has a right to defend the interests of the region’s Russian-speaking majority.
The Kremlin has said Putin and Poroshenko may hold talks on the sidelines of a summit of Asian and European leaders in Milan on Oct. 16-17.
“I don’t expect the talks will be easy. I’m used to this, I have a lot of experience of conducting very difficult diplomatic talks. But I’m an optimist,” Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted Poroshenko as telling reporters.
Poroshenko said some European leaders might also join his talks with Putin. Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov has said a “Normandy-style meeting” could not be ruled out – a reference to talks in France in June involving Putin, Poroshenko and the leaders of Germany and France.
“The key and main question is peace. Russia’s role in the issue of providing peace, as you understand, is difficult to overestimate,” Poroshenko said. “And today we raise the issue of moving from declarations to concrete steps.”
Putin and Poroshenko are known so far to have met twice since the Ukrainian leader’s election in May, firstly in Normandy and then in the Belarussian capital Minsk in August when they agreed on the need for a ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
GAS DEAL EYED
A ceasefire began on Sept. 5 and has broadly held despite frequent violations, especially around the airport of Donetsk, the biggest city of eastern Ukraine.
The European Union and the United States have imposed economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, where Moscow has also annexed the Crimea peninsula. In retaliation, Russia has banned most Western food imports.
The United Nations said on Wednesday the death toll from the conflict in eastern Ukraine now stood at more than 3,660 people.
Poroshenko also said on Saturday he hoped to make “significant progress” in Milan on resolving Ukraine’s long-running gas pricing dispute with Russia.
Russia shut off gas deliveries to Ukraine in June over what it said were more than $5 billion in unpaid bills and Ukraine faces a possibility of energy shortages this winter if no deal is reached, risking a replay of the disruptions to Europe’s gas supplies seen in 2006 and 2009.
“We believe that Ukraine’s proposals are absolutely clear, concrete and justified. We are sure that we are significantly closer to solving this issue,” he told reporters.
Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine at a meeting in Paris on Oct. 14.
Poroshenko, whose country holds parliamentary elections later this month, has faced some domestic criticism over elements of a peace plan agreed with Russia, especially his offer of autonomy to rebel-held regions of eastern Ukraine.
Interfax reported late on Friday that Poroshenko had sacked one of those critics, Serhiy Taruta, a billionaire businessman, as governor of the Donetsk region. Poroshenko has appointed in Taruta’s place as governor Oleksander Kikhtenko, a former head of interior ministry forces, Interfax said.
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Donetsk; Writing by Alexander Winning in Moscow; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Gareth Jones).