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Russia’s foreign minister faces Western critics at security meeting and walks out after speech

Russia’s foreign minister faces Western critics at security meeting and walks out after speech

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Russia's foreign minister faces Western critics at security meeting and walks out after speech

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov faced Western critics while attending international security talks Thursday in Northern Macedonia, where he blamed “NATO’s reckless expansion to the East” for war returning to Europe.

Lavrov arrived in Skopje to attend meetings hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The diplomats of several OSCE member nations, including Ukraine, boycotted the event due to Lavrov’s planned attendance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign minister spoke for 15 minutes before walking out of the meetings. He blamed what he described as Western tolerance of the “ruling neo-Nazi regime in Kyiv” for the war that started with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“The very existence of Russians and their decisive contribution to the history of Ukraine are denied,” Lavrov said. “There are plenty of facts. The OSCE and its relevant institutions are silent.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly alleged that Ukraine’s government is made up of “neo-Nazis,” even though the country has a democratically elected Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust.

Putin and other Russian officials have invoked the Holocaust, World War II and Nazism to legitimize the invasion of Ukraine. Historians see their rhetoric as disinformation and a cynical ploy.

Western ministers attending the OSCE meeting were sharply critical of Lavrov after he spoke.

“Russia’s attempts to blame others for its own choices are transparent,” said Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who was speaking when Lavrov walked out.

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“We will not compromise on the core principles of the European security order or allow Russia to deny Ukraine the right to make its own independent foreign and security policy choices – principles that Russia itself has agreed to,” he continued.

Based in Vienna, Austria, the OSCE is an intergovernmental organization focused on promoting security, stability, and cooperation among its participating states.

NATO member North Macedonia lifted a ban on Russian flights to enable Lavrov to attend the meeting. Russian state news agency Tass reported that the minister flew a longer route over Turkey and Greece to reach the summit after Bulgaria blocked his plane from using its airspace.

Greek officials did not immediately return a request for comment.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had said they would not attend the talks due to Lavrov’s participation.
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The Russian minister arrived in Skopje hours after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a brief stop in North Macedonia’s capital late Wednesday.

James O’Brien, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, attended the event Thursday and accused Russia of trying to undermine the work of the OSCE.

“I add my voice to those of my colleagues calling to Russia to stop its violations of the basic principles of the organization, but I’m not sure that they are … willing to listen,” O’Brien said.

North Macedonia’s foreign minister, Bujar Osmani, said the OSCE had endured as an organization despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“War undermines trust, dialogue and our capacity to deliver. Above all, it devastates the lives of ordinarily people,” Osmani said while hosting Thursday’s meetings.  

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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