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Prayut woos Russia at Moscow business forum

Posted by pakin On May - 19 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha told the Thai-Russia Business Dialogue in Moscow yesterday that his government aimed to boost trade five-fold with Russia in the next five years and it wanted to boost economic cooperation.

Last year, the value of bilateral trade between the two countries stood at just US$2.3 billion (Bt81.87 billion) and there is a lot of room for cooperation to increase the volume of trade, he said, noting that this business dialogue was also a good opportunity to discuss more investment opportunities.

Prayut, who went to Russia on Tuesday and will return tomorrow, is there to cement bilateral ties as well as attend a special Asean-Russia summit. He met with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in St Petersburg yesterday and is scheduled to call on President Vladimir Putin in Sochi today.

Prayut had earlier said that his government was interested in cooperating with Russia in the defence sector and would purchase some military hardware such as helicopters from the country.

He also told the business forum that his government had tried to fix internal problems, ease the national divide as well as boost ties with countries in the region and outside.

“Thailand is moving towards a perfect democracy and good governance, and it will be developed to catch up with the rapidly changing global environment,” Prayut said.

The Thai economy is only expected to grow by 3 to 3.5 per cent this year, with the growth mostly generated by domestic consumption, tourism and government spending, he said.

He added that his government was trying to introduce reforms so as to make way for sustainable development and invited Russian businesses to seek opportunities in the Kingdom. He also said that Thailand could become a regional hub for Russian business in the Asean region.

MOSCOW – Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off.

“If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request,” Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance.

An unmanned rocket owned by private firm Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on what was to be a resupply mission.

Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost, a US-led multi-national collaboration.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

Europe stopped delivering supplies to the ISS this summer, and the outpost is now resupplied by Russia and two NASA-contracted private American firms — Space X and Orbital Sciences.

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched its own supply mission from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Russian cargo ship Progress took off for the ISS on a planned mission to replace a sister vessel.

Krasnov said that the impact of the loss of the rocket on Russian operations at the space station would be “minimal.”

Nato to sanction Russia over Ukraine

Posted by pakin On September - 5 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

NEWPORT, United Kingdom – Nato leaders are expected to announce a raft of fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, although hopes remain that a ceasefire can be forged at peace talks in Minsk on the same day.

The leaders are heading into the second and final day of a Nato summit in Newport, Wales that has been labelled the most critical since the end of the Cold War for the Western military alliance as it addresses a multitude of crises from Ukraine to Iraq to Afghanistan.

They agreed on Thursday to set up new funds to help Ukraine’s military effort and treat wounded soldiers in a five-month conflict that has seen more than 2,600 people killed.

EU and US officials said sanctions against Russia would be announced on Friday in response to a major escalation of Russian military support to the rebels in eastern Ukraine in recent days.

But they added implementation could be delayed pending the ceasefire talks in Minsk.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced “careful optimism” about the talks, which will be attended by Russia and pro-Moscow rebels.

Nato leaders are also expected to approve plans to position troops and military equipment in eastern Europe to reassure ex-Soviet bloc member states unnerved by Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine.

“While talking about peace, Russia has not made one single step to make peace possible,” Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after Ukraine-focused talks at the leaders’ summit on Thursday.

“Instead of de-escalating the crisis, Russia has only deepened it,” he said, adding that previous Russian statements on peace had been “a smokescreen for continued Russian destabilisation of the situation”.

More lethal than ever

Rasmussen left open the door to a seven-point peace plan put forward on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: “If we are witnessing genuine efforts for a political solution, I would welcome it”.

Poroshenko said he was hopeful about the plan because the initiative had come from pro-Moscow rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine.

But he added that political talks would be a “tough challenge”, warning that Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity were “not for negotiation”.

Poroshenko said some Nato members would cooperate with Ukraine on “non-lethal and lethal military items”, although he did not specify which countries were involved and whether it would include direct arms supplies.

Former US presidential contender and outspoken Kremlin critic John McCain, on a visit to Kiev, urged Western allies to provide Ukraine with weapons to fend off Russia, and warned that otherwise the country could end up being “landlocked”.

His concerns were backed up by a statement from the Pentagon, which said Russian forces massed near Ukraine’s eastern border are “more lethal” than before and heavily armed with artillery and air defence weaponry.

“The force that we see arrayed on the border is exceptionally capable, probably more capable, more lethal than anything that we’ve seen up until now,” spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

Poroshenko earlier briefed a group of Nato leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hollande called for a “real ceasefire” that would lead to a broader political agreement, and said France would only deliver warships worth 1.2 billion euros to Russia in November if these conditions were in place.

There was little sign of change on the ground, with AFP reporters hearing explosions on the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Mariupol and renewed shelling and gunfire in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also lashed out, denying Russian involvement and accusing the United States of undermining peace efforts by supporting “a pro-war party” in Kiev.

He said Washington was “drunk on anti-Russian rhetoric” after repeated accusations from the West that Russia is training and supplying rebels and sending its soldiers into Ukraine.

Mass Iraq kidnapping

Ukraine tops the agenda at the two-day talks, but the 28 Nato leaders must also tackle the menace of Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria, and a problematic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Cameron and Obama said in an editorial in the Times that they would not be “cowed” following the beheading of two US journalists by Islamic State (IS) jihadists, and promised to “confront” the radicals.

There were reports of fresh brutality on that front.

Police and witnesses said IS kidnapped dozens of residents of a village in Kirkuk province after locals there burned one of its positions along with a jihadist flag.

Rasmussen said NATO would “seriously” examine any request from Iraq for help in its campaign against the Islamic State, while Cameron said Britain was actively considering arming the Kurds.

Nato meanwhile faces another quandary in Afghanistan, where the alliance is due to end its combat operation this year, but finds it has no government to hand over to as presidential elections have failed to produce a winner.

Rasmussen warned that time was running out for a solution, raising doubts about Nato’s planned post-2014 training mission after it formally concludes its longest-ever war this year.

“Time is short,” he said.

MOSCOW – Moscow and Kiev representatives will meet in Minsk Monday after Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the stakes in the Ukraine conflict by calling for statehood to be discussed for the restive east of the former Soviet state.

Putin’s remarks on Sunday came just hours after the European Union gave Moscow — which the bloc accuses of direct involvement in the Ukraine insurgency — a week to change course or face new sanctions.

“We need to immediately begin substantive talks… on questions of the political organisation of society and statehood in southeastern Ukraine,” the Russian leader was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

Moscow has previously only called for “federalisation” that would grant greater rights to the eastern regions of Ukraine, where predominantly Russian-speakers live.

But Putin had sparked speculation that he may be seeking to create a pro-Russian statelet when he began to employ the loaded tsarist-era term “Novorossiya”, or New Russia, to refer to several regions in southeast Ukraine.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that Putin was not talking about “Novorossiya’s” independence from Ukraine, but rather “inclusive talks”.

“Only Ukraine can agree with Novorossiya,” he was quoted as saying.

Kiev has warned that it was on the brink of “full-scale war” with Moscow over the crisis in its east, which Europe fears would put the whole continent at risk of conflict.

The EU agreed to take “further significant steps” if Moscow did not rein in its support for the rebels, with new sanctions to be drawn up within a week.

– ‘Terrorists and Russian soldiers’ –

Kiev said the invigorated rebel push of the past days has included substantial numbers of Russian regular army contingents, which are now concentrating their forces in major towns.

“Terrorists and Russian soldiers continue to concentrate personnel and equipment in regional centres,” said security spokesman Andriy Lysenko.

Representatives of Kiev, Moscow and the OSCE were due to meet in Minsk, the capital of Belarus which borders both countries, on Monday under the so-called Contact Group on Ukraine.

It was unclear whether Ukrainian separatists would take part.

Russia has insisted repeatedly that Kiev must speak with rebels holding parts of east Ukraine if the conflict is to be resolved.

Kiev, however, has been reluctant to sit down at the table with the separatists, especially when many of their leaders are Russian.

A Kremlin statement said that Putin and his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko “emphasised the importance of organising” the meeting gathering representatives of “the Kiev authorities, the southeastern regions, the OSCE and Russia” during a phone call.

NATO will hold talks in Britain from Thursday at which the Ukraine crisis is expected to top the agenda.

The alliance last week accused Moscow of sending at least 1,000 troops across the border to fight alongside the rebels, along with artillery, tanks and armoured vehicles.

– ‘Practically a state of war’ –

Moscow denies direct involvement in the conflict, but there have been media reports of secret military funerals for those sent to fight in Ukraine.

Russia admitted that Russian paratroopers had been captured in Ukraine, but alleged they crossed the border by accident.

Soviet-made T-64 assault tanks seen by AFP near Starobesheve, a town about 30 kilometres southeast of Donetsk seized by the rebels, had only one number to mark them out, at the back, while fighters wore unmarked fatigues.

One pro-Russia rebel perched on the side of a tank, however, was decisive that they were not taken from the Ukrainians.

“No, they are ours,” he told AFP, before being hushed by his comrade, who added quickly: “Yes, we took them from the Ukrainians.”

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose Baltic nation is wary of the resurgent power on its eastern border, warned that “Russia is practically in a state of war against Europe” and called for EU military assistance to Kiev.

US President Barack Obama will visit Baltic nation Estonia on Wednesday with a simple message for Putin, do not mess with NATO’s ex-Soviet members.

More than 2,600 people have died in the Ukraine conflict since mid-April.

– Last city standing –

Rebels have pushed a lightning offensive around Ukraine’s Azov Sea in the past week, prompting speculation of a possible attempt by Moscow to establish a corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula it annexed in March.

Ukraine’s border guard service said its two ships were fired upon off the Azov Sea coast close to the city of Mariupol, though could not confirm reports that the attack came from Russian air force.

Mariupol “is the last big town in the region under Ukrainian control, home to half a million people,” commander of Ukraine’s Azov battalion, Andriy Biletskiy told AFP.

Inside the strategic port, volunteer battalions were bracing for a desperate defence of the city, manning barricades of barbed wire and trenches.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, spoke to Russian media Saturday about “preparing a second large-scale offensive”.