War in Ukraine: meeting between US and Russian ministers, trial of a journalist, new sanctions… update on the situation

War in Ukraine: meeting between US and Russian ministers, trial of a journalist, new sanctions... update on the situation

Mark Rutte prend la tête de l'Otan. EPA – OLIVIER MATTHYS

Every day, Midi Libre takes stock of the situation in Ukraine. This Wednesday, June 26, 2024, discover the latest news around this conflict.

First meeting in a year between US and Russian defense ministers

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov spoke by telephone on Tuesday, Washington and Moscow said, giving differing accounts of the discussions between the two responsible.

This is the first meeting between the head of the Pentagon and his Russian counterpart in more than a year – Sergei Choigou was at the time at the head of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The US Department of Defense said Lloyd Austin stressed to Andrei Belousov the importance of keeping the lines of communication between the United States and Russia open as tensions have increased. in parallel with the war in Ukraine.

Speaking to journalists, the Pentagon spokesperson said that this telephone conversation was organized on the initiative of Lloyd Austin. In Moscow, we highlighted the warning formulated by Andreï Belousov on the risks for Washington of continuing to supply weapons to kyiv.

The Russian Defense Minister "pointed out the danger of a further escalation of the situation via continued deliveries of American weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces", his services declared via Telegram messaging. This telephone interview comes after Moscow accused Washington over the weekend of being responsible for a deadly Ukrainian attack on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia, by having supplied the missiles used by kyiv.

Entering its third year, the war in Ukraine – presented by Russia as a "special military operation" but denounced by the West as an invasion – gave rise to multiple accusations between Moscow and Washington.

The trial of American journalist Evan Gershkovich opens behind closed doors

American journalist Evan Gershkovich, detained in Russia, briefly appeared before journalists on Wednesday at the opening of his closed-door trial for espionage, an accusation he rejects. Shaved head, Evan Gershkovich, aged 32, presented himself in a glass booth wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves.

No journalists, friends, family members or representatives of the United States Embassy will be allowed to attend the proceedings in the Yekaterinburg court, where Evan Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Russian prosecutors claim that the Wall Street Journal journalist, arrested in March 2023, collected confidential information on the tank supplier Uralvagonzavod on orders from the American CIA.

Evan Gershkovich, his employer and the US government reject these accusations. US President Joe Biden called the journalist's detention "totally illegal". Closed trials are a common procedure in Russia for cases of alleged treason or espionage involving classified state documents.

The Kremlin says the case and its terms fall within the court's jurisdiction but has said, without supporting evidence, that Evan Gershkovich was caught “with his hand in the bag". Almar Latour, chief executive of Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, said in a telephone interview with Reuters that it was a "false trial". "These are false accusations made by an autocratic regime that is waging a war against journalism and reliable information at home and abroad&quot ;, he said.

Detained for nearly 16 months in Moscow's Lefortovo prison, Evan Gershkovich is not the only American imprisoned in Russia, whose relations with the United States have seriously deteriorated due to the invasion Russian from Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was open to the idea of ​​a prisoner swap involving Evan Gershkovich and that contacts had been made with the United States but their content should remain secret . The United States, for their part, accuses Moscow of practicing "hostage diplomacy".

NATO appoints Mark Rutte as Secretary General

The member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Wednesday appointed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as secretary general. This appointment was only a formality since the withdrawal, last week, of the candidacy of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Mark Rutte will replace the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg whose mandate expires on October 1. The decision was taken during a meeting of ambassadors from the 32 member countries at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. Mark Rutte, who is leaving Dutch politics after almost 14 years as Prime Minister, said he was impatient to take on this new role "with great enthusiasm. energy".

"The Alliance is and will remain the cornerstone of our collective security. Leading this organization is a responsibility that I do not take lightly", he said in a message published on the X network.

A virulent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and supporter of unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of its invasion by Russia, Mark Rutte will have the immediate task of maintaining this support collective of NATO to the Ukrainians while avoiding dragging the organization directly into the conflict.

His task could be complicated by the possible return of Donald Trump to the White House following the November presidential election in the United States, the former American president not hiding his skepticism about the functioning of the alliance, or even about its relevance.

EU studies new sanctions regime to counter Russian hybrid threats

European Union (EU) member countries are seeking to establish a new sanctions regime to counter hybrid attacks such as sabotage, cyber activities and disinformation campaigns, shows Wednesday a draft conclusions of the European Council.

European leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss key issues including the war in Ukraine, the Middle East, security and defense, as well as recent political events in Georgia. Officials will also discuss a new framework aimed at combating hybrid attacks that increased last year.

"The European Council strongly condemns all types of hybrid activities, including intimidation, sabotage, manipulation and abuse. #39;interference of foreign information, disinformation, malicious cyber activities and the exploitation of migrants by third countries", we can read in the document.&nbsp ;"In response to Russia's destabilizing actions abroad, the European Council reiterates its call to advance work within the Council with a view to&# 39;establish a new sanctions regime".

Lithuania, in particular, is pushing for a tougher approach from the EU to these attacks. NATO declared itself in May "deeply concerned" by recent hybrid attacks attributed to Russia, which notably affected the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom. The transatlantic alliance has accused Russia of being behind these attacks, accusations regularly denied by Moscow.

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