‘In what capacity?’ Putin puzzled as Zelensky invites outgoing PM May to chaperon their talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a tongue-in-cheek approval for a proposed multilateral meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, but questioned his choice of the outgoing British PM as a participant.

On Monday, Zelensky’s office released a video address to Putin, in which he claimed that the two leaders needed to talk in person. “We do not change or reject any diplomatic format. We suggest talking. We need to have a talk, don’t we?” Zelensky said.

Putin, who was asked for a response during a press conference on Thursday, agreed that a meeting with Zelensky “may be interesting,” but chided the Ukrainian president over the list of proposed attendees. Zelensky wants the leaders of the US, the UK, Germany and France to chaperon him during the talks with Putin, and referred to them all by name in the address. The Russian leader said that the inclusion of the outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed strange to him.

“As far as I know, in a couple of weeks she resigns from the office of the prime minister of Britain. In what capacity is she being invited to the meeting? It’s not clear. Did she even agree to it or not?” Putin remarked.

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The Russian president said that such details should be worked out before he and Zelensky could have a productive meeting. He expects that a serious, top-level Russian-Ukrainian summit will only be possible after snap parliamentary elections are held in Ukraine later this month, and the new legislature appoints a new government.

Putin and Zelensky have been trading rhetorical barbs through the media for months. The Ukrainian leader draws on his artistic talent and sense of comedy for inspiration, while his Russian opponent has the benefit of decades of experience as a world leader in his armory.

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Putin on Guaido’s Plea to God: Get Back to Earth and Dialogue

Putin emphasized the need to renew a “peaceful dialogue without any sort of interference” that in turn makes things “worse for all Venezuelans.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, while addressing the current situation in Venezuela, said on Thursday that since opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself president “before God” yet received no heavenly “signs,” it's time to get back to earth and dialogue.

RELATED: China and Mexico Reject US Interference in Venezuelan Affairs

During an official state visit to Italy, Putin recalled that on Jan. 23 Guaido raised his eyes to heaven and, addressing God, proclaimed himself the “interim president" of Venezuela, in violation of the Constitution of the Latin American nation. 

"But God did not tell us what his reaction to this message was, he did not give us any sign, that's why I believe we should return to sinful earth and abide by democratic procedures," the Russian head of state remarked. 

Like many times before, Putin emphasized the need to renew a “peaceful dialogue without any sort of interference” that in turn makes things “worse for all Venezuelans.”

Even though the majority of world leaders, including Russia and China, have not recognized Guaido’s "leadership," the United States (U.S.) and its regional allies, especially the right-wing "Lima Group," continue to do so. Thus, and with U.S.-backing, the opposition lawmaker has tried and failed to oust democratically elected president, Nicolas Maduro.

The last attempt was carried out on April 30, when Guaido urged the armed forces to support his effort to oust Maduro. The lawmaker appeared outside an air force base with dozens of National Guard members, which later turned out that had been tricked into showing up at the highway interchange of Altamira. 

Guaido and opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez — who violated his house arrest — tried to get the army and people to join their coup but failed. 

Despite all, the Venezuelan government has continued to push for mediated talks with the opposition, through the Uruguayan Mechanism launched between Mexico and Uruguay with the support of 15 state-members of the Organization of American States (OAS).

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Li said, “The international community must insist in the respect of the objectives and principles of the U.N. Charter, as well as the basic rules of international relations,” and that the U.S. "should not interfere with (Venezuela's) domestic affairs.”

Meanwhile, President Maduro confirmed the commitment of his government to hold talks in Norway and assured that next week he will announce "good news."

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Putin, After 3 Days, Says Fire-Hit Russian Submarine Was Nuclear-Powered

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin disclosed on Thursday for the first time that a secret military submarine hit by a fatal fire three days ago was nuclear-powered, prompting the defence minister to assure him its reactor had been safely contained.

Russian officials have faced accusations of trying to cover up the full details of the accident that killed 14 sailors as they were carrying out what the defence ministry called a survey of the sea floor near the Arctic.

Moscow's slow release of information about the incident has drawn comparisons with the opaque way the Soviet Union handled the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster, and another deadly submarine accident -- the 2000 sinking of the nuclear-powered Kursk, which claimed 118 lives.

Russia, which says the details of the submarine involved in the latest accident are classified, said the fire took place on Monday, though it was only officially disclosed late on Tuesday.

Until Thursday there was also no official word on whether the vessel had a nuclear reactor, despite strong interest from neighbouring Norway.

Putin revealed that the submarine had been nuclear-powered by asking Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a Kremlin meeting about the reactor's condition after the fire.

"The nuclear reactor on the vessel is completely isolated," Shoigu told Putin, according to a Kremlin transcript. "All the necessary measures were taken by the crew to protect the reactor, which is in complete working order."

The fire erupted in the submarine's battery compartment, Shoigu added, and later spread.

Although the Kremlin publicised the meeting on Thursday morning, it was not immediately clear when the men had met.

"There has not been any formal communication from Russia to us about this," Per Strand, a director at the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told Reuters when asked if it had been informed that the submarine was nuclear-powered.

"We understand they brought the situation under control quickly, under difficult conditions, and there was, as such, no nuclear incident that they were obligated to tell us about.

"Still, we would have been happy to have been informed of such incidents," he added.

Top-secret submarine

Russian servicemen attended a memorial service on Thursday in the port city of Kronstadt near St Petersburg in honour of the 14 dead submariners.

Held in the hulking Russian Orthodox Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas, sailors cradled lit candles and looked on as priests read out prayers and a choir chanted in the background.

Shoigu, a close Putin ally, told the president that the submarine, which authorities said had been operating in the Barents Sea area, would be fully repaired.

"Right now, we are assessing how long it will take, how much work there is, and how we can carry it out," he said.

Shoigu's ministry has released photographs of the deceased sailors, hailing them as "real patriots of the Motherland".

Separately, a photograph of a tribute to them circulated on social media which appeared to have been hung on the wall of a Russian military facility. Reuters could not immediately confirm its authenticity, but it said the men had served on board a deep-sea submersible known by the designation AS-31.

Russian media have previously reported, without official confirmation, that the vessel was designated as either AS-31 or AS-12 and is designed to carry out special operations at depths where regular submarines cannot operate.

The submarine is made up of a series of inter-connected spheres that allow it to resist water pressure at great depths. Western military experts have suggested it is capable of probing and possibly even severing undersea communications cables.

Putin ordered Shoigu to prepare posthumous state awards for the dead submariners. An official investigation into the accident, likely to be shrouded in secrecy, is already underway.

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Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump To Discuss Iran, Arms At G20 Summit: Kremlin

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US leader Donald Trump will discuss arms control and Iran and Syria crises on the sidelines of this week's G20 summit in Japan, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

Putin is also set to have talks with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told journalists.

Putin and Trump will meet in Japan's western city of Osaka on Friday.

"As far as the subject of discussions is concerned, a lot depends on the leaders," Ushakov told reporters, adding that they are also likely to touch upon "strategic stability" and Ukraine.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss arms control including New START, a key nuclear weapons agreement that caps the number of nuclear warheads.

Putin said this month that Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the agreement and said Russia was prepared to drop the pact.

The Russian president will meet Britain's May after suggesting that it was time to "turn the page" on the countries' difficult relationship after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury last year.

Putin and May previously met for formal talks on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China in 2016.

Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince will discuss the Russian leader's visit to the kingdom planned for October, while talks with Erdogan will focus on Russia's supplies of S-400 missiles that angered the United States.

Putin is also expected to meet with France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel and have a trilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi.

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We won’t sell out our allies or principles to strike Syria deal with US, says Putin

Russia will not reach any agreement with the United States on the future of Syria at the cost of Syria itself or Moscow’s interests and principles, President Vladimir Putin has said.

During his annual Q&A session on Thursday, a journalist asked Putin if there would be a “grand deal” with the US on Syria as the country begins to recover from years of hostilities and destruction.

“What do you mean ‘a grand deal’? Sounds like some commercial act. No. We don’t sell out our allies, our interests or our principles,” Putin said.

He said that Russia is willing to negotiate a political transition in Syria with various stakeholders. “Can it be done? I believe it can, provided there is goodwill of everyone involved in the conflict.”

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Putin highlighted Turkey and Iran as Russia’s immediate partners in resolving the Syrian crisis, but said countries like the US, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan have legitimate interests in what happens in Syria as do the European nations, which were hurt by mass migration triggered by it. “We have to work together on it,” he stressed.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrates 66th birthday with cake and Russian ice cream from Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrated his 66th birthday on Saturday (June 15) with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Xi considers a close friend and who gave Xi ice cream as a present, Chinese state media reported.

The discussion of senior leaders' private lives is extremely rare in China, and the exact birth dates of most of them are not revealed publicly, as they are considered a state secret.

State television showed pictures of Xi and Putin holding up champagne glasses to toast Xi's birthday at the hotel he is staying at in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, where they are both attending a regional summit.

While Putin gave Xi Russian ice cream - the flavour was not mentioned - Xi gave Putin back some Chinese tea, the report said.

Xi thanked Putin and said that in China Putin was extremely popular, it added.

Pictures on Chinese state television's website showed the two men inspecting a white cake decorated with red and blue confectionery flowers with the words written on it, in somewhat shaky red-coloured Chinese characters, "good fortune double six".

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US attempt to push Huawei from global market is the first sign of looming tech war - Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said US efforts to push Chinese tech giant Huawei out of the global market might be a sign that a new technological war is coming.

“Take the situation around the company Huawei, for example. There are attempts not even to challenge it, but to brazenly force it out of the global market,” Putin told the audience at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday. “In some circles it is even called the first technological war of the coming digital era.”

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Washington has long criticized Huawei and another Chinese tech company, ZTE, over alleged links to the Chinese government. In May, when the trade war between Washington and Beijing escalated, the Trump administration blacklisted Huawei, citing national security concerns.

Putin added that attempts to monopolize a new technological wave by some countries impede solving the global inequality problem and will lead to destabilization.

Despite Huawei's repeated denials of the accusations by Washington, leading global tech companies such as Google, Intel, and Qualcomm, started cutting their ties with the Chinese firm to comply with the US ban. Huawei has already filed a motion in a US court to overturn the ban on its products, saying that it was targeted in “violation of due process.”

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Washington's crusade against the Chinese firm comes as the world's two biggest economies are embroiled in a simmering trade row, which has resulted in tit-for-tat tariffs on billions worth of imports. The latest escalation saw the US raising tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China hitting back with up to 25 percent tariffs on 5,000 US products worth $60 billion.

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Vladimir Putin Says 'Not A Problem' Not To Be Invited To D-Day Anniversary

Petersburg: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said it was "not a problem" that he was not invited to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France, attended by other world leaders.

"We also don't invite everyone to every event. Why should I be invited everywhere?" he said of the memorial at which US President Donald Trump spoke along with French leader Emmanuel Macron.

"I have enough business of my own here," he said during an economic forum in Saint Petersburg.

Putin was at the 70th anniversary of the landings but this week Moscow insisted on the significance of D-Day in the outcome of World War II should not be overplayed.

Russia regularly accuses the West of failing to properly understand or acknowledge the enormous human losses -- estimated at 27 million deaths -- the Soviet Union suffered in the conflict.

Russians in turn often know little about the Western Front or the aid that the Soviet Union received from the United States to fight the war.

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