Putin Marks Anniversary of Annexation of Ukrainian Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Putin Marks Anniversary of Annexation of Ukrainian Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a video celebrating the anniversary of the incorporation of regions of Ukraine to join Russia in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday insisted that the residents of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow annexed a year ago “made their choice — to be with their Fatherland.”

In an address released in the early hours to mark the first anniversary of the annexation, Putin insisted that it was carried out “in full accordance with international norms.”

He also claimed that residents of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions had again expressed their desire to be part of Russia in local elections earlier this month. Russia’s Central Election Commission said the country’s ruling party won the most votes.

"Just as a year ago in the historic referendums, people again expressed and confirmed their will to be with Russia and supported their countrymen who, through their labor and real actions, proved worthy of the people's trust," he said in a video of just over four minutes issued at midnight.

Putin reiterated his stance that Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine saved people from nationalist leaders in Kyiv who had unleashed a "full-scale civil war" and "terror against those who think differently.”

The West has denounced both the referendum votes carried out last year and the recent ballots as a sham. The votes were held as Russian authorities attempted to tighten their grip on territories Moscow illegally annexed a year ago and still does not fully control.

A concert was held in Red Square on Friday to mark the anniversary, but Putin did not participate.

The address came after Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday it would enlist 130,000 men for compulsory military service this fall, beginning Oct. 1, in most regions of the country. It announced it would for the first time begin enlisting residents of the annexed territories as part of its twice-yearly military conscription campaign.

Russia says conscripts are not deployed to what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, or to serve in the annexed territories. However, after their service, conscripts automatically become reservists, and Russia has previously deployed reservists to Ukraine.

In Ukraine, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell referenced the anniversary of the regions being “illegally annexed” by Russia in a video recorded during an unannounced visit to the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday. Speaking from the city’s Transfiguration Cathedral, severely damaged in a Russian missile strike in July, Borrell reiterated the EU’s support for Ukraine.

“Odesa is a beautiful historic city. It should be in the headlines for its vibrant culture and spirit. Instead, it marks the news as frequent target of Putin’s war,” the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chief wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, the governor of Ukraine’s partly occupied southern Zaporizhzhia region, Yurii Malashko, said five people were wounded on Saturday in two missile strikes on the village of Matviivka, located on the northeastern outskirts of the regional capital, also called Zaporizhzhia.

Air defenses shot down 30 out of 40 Iranian-made kamikaze drones aimed at the Odesa, Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia provinces overnight, the Ukrainian air force said Saturday.

Vinnytsia regional Gov. Serhii Borzov said that air defenses shot down 20 drones over his central Ukrainian region, but that a “powerful fire” broke out in the town of Kalynivka when a drone struck an unspecified infrastructure facility.



Macron Condemns Israeli Settler Violence in Call with Netanyahu

A truck drives past a settler's termporary shelter at a construction site in Givat HaMatos, an Israeli settlement suburb of annexed east Jerusalem on December 7, 2023.  (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
A truck drives past a settler's termporary shelter at a construction site in Givat HaMatos, an Israeli settlement suburb of annexed east Jerusalem on December 7, 2023. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
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Macron Condemns Israeli Settler Violence in Call with Netanyahu

A truck drives past a settler's termporary shelter at a construction site in Givat HaMatos, an Israeli settlement suburb of annexed east Jerusalem on December 7, 2023.  (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)
A truck drives past a settler's termporary shelter at a construction site in Givat HaMatos, an Israeli settlement suburb of annexed east Jerusalem on December 7, 2023. (Photo by MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the Israel-occupied West Bank.
Macron's Elysee office said the two held a phone call on Friday, during which Macron had also reaffirmed the need to protect the civilian population of Gaza and had told Netanyahu of the importance of reaching a lasting ceasefire deal.
While Macron reiterated France's solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism, he nevertheless told Netanyahu to "take the necessary measures" to end the attacks by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.
Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank has increased since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has condemned violence against Palestinians by Jewish settlers in the West Bank, saying in a state of law, only the police and the military had the right to use force.


US Imposes New Human Rights-related Sanctions

FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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US Imposes New Human Rights-related Sanctions

FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - The Treasury Building is viewed in Washington, May 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The United States issued fresh human rights-related sanctions on Friday targeting individuals in multiple countries, including Iran, according to a post on the US Department of Treasury website.

The new sanctions target Chinese, Iranian individuals and others under the Global Magnitsky Act program, which freezes the assets of those who US officials believe are involved in human rights abuses and blocks Americans from doing business with them.

“Our commitment to upholding and defending human rights is sacrosanct,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms—wherever they occur in the world—strike at the heart of our shared humanity and our collective conscience. Treasury’s targeted sanctions announced today and over the past year underscore the seriousness of our commitment to promoting accountability for human rights abuse and safeguarding the US financial system from those who commit these egregious acts.”

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iranian intelligence officers Majid Dastjani Farahani and Mohammad Mahdi Khanpour Ardestani.

It said they have recruited individuals for various operations in the US, to include lethal targeting of current and former US Government officials as revenge for the death of Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani.

“Farahani and Ardestani also recruited individuals for surveillance activities focused on religious sites, businesses, and other facilities in the United States,” it said.


Official: EU Expected to Adopt Further Sanctions Against Hamas

Demonstrators lift flags of the Palestinian Hamas group during a rally after the Friday prayer in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank on December 8, 2023, protesting Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Demonstrators lift flags of the Palestinian Hamas group during a rally after the Friday prayer in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank on December 8, 2023, protesting Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)
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Official: EU Expected to Adopt Further Sanctions Against Hamas

Demonstrators lift flags of the Palestinian Hamas group during a rally after the Friday prayer in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank on December 8, 2023, protesting Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Demonstrators lift flags of the Palestinian Hamas group during a rally after the Friday prayer in Hebron city in the occupied West Bank on December 8, 2023, protesting Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

A senior EU official said on Friday he expected the bloc to adopt further sanctions against Hamas in the coming weeks.

"I'm pretty sure that the sanctions on Hamas will be adopted in the next couple of weeks, something like that," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The EU on Friday put two Hamas commanders on its terrorist list.

The two individuals are Mohammed Deif, Commander General of the military wing of Hamas, and his deputy Marwan Issa, the EU said.

Effective Friday, the two commanders are subject to the freezing of their funds and other financial assets in EU member states, while EU operators are prohibited from providing funds and economic resources to them.


As Ties Warm, Türkiye’s President Says Greece May Be Able to Benefit from a Turkish Power Plant

A handout photo made available by the Hellenic Presidency Press Office shows Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou (R) welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, Greece, 07 December 2023. EPA/THEODORE MANOLOPOULOS / HELLENIC PRESIDENCY HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the Hellenic Presidency Press Office shows Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou (R) welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, Greece, 07 December 2023. EPA/THEODORE MANOLOPOULOS / HELLENIC PRESIDENCY HANDOUT
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As Ties Warm, Türkiye’s President Says Greece May Be Able to Benefit from a Turkish Power Plant

A handout photo made available by the Hellenic Presidency Press Office shows Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou (R) welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, Greece, 07 December 2023. EPA/THEODORE MANOLOPOULOS / HELLENIC PRESIDENCY HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the Hellenic Presidency Press Office shows Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou (R) welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L), during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, Greece, 07 December 2023. EPA/THEODORE MANOLOPOULOS / HELLENIC PRESIDENCY HANDOUT

Türkiye is considering allowing neighboring Greece to benefit from a nuclear power plant it plans to build near its Black Sea coast, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Friday.
Erdogan made the comments on his return from a visit to Athens on Thursday, where longtime regional rivals Greece and Türkiye took significant steps toward mending their troubled ties.
“We strive to develop and expand cooperation with Greece not only in the field of energy but also in all areas, including nuclear energy,” Erdogan told a group of journalists on his flight back. “For example, we can provide Greece the opportunity (to benefit) from energy from our nuclear power plant to be built in Sinop (Province).”
His comments were reported by state-run Anadolu and other media on Friday.
During Erdogan’s visit on Thursday, Greece and Türkiye signed more than a dozen cooperation deals on trade, energy and education and announced a roadmap for future high-level consultations aimed at avoiding crises.
Erdogan traveled to Greece promising to pursue a “win-win” approach that could lay the foundation for broader cooperation.
“I believe that my visit, which took place in a very positive atmosphere, will open a new page in Türkiye-Greece relations,” Erdogan said.
Longstanding disputes have led Athens and Ankara to the brink of war three times in the past 50 years.
The latest flare-up occurred in 2020, when Greek and Turkish navy ships shadowed each other in the eastern Mediterranean over a dispute about maritime boundaries and exploration rights for resources.
Erdogan was cited as saying he believes that a fair sharing of the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean is possible “as long as we build the groundwork that will ensure this, work out a roadmap and not allow provocations.”


Putin Will Seek Another Presidential Term in Russia

Vladimir Putin (AA)
Vladimir Putin (AA)
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Putin Will Seek Another Presidential Term in Russia

Vladimir Putin (AA)
Vladimir Putin (AA)

Vladimir Putin has moved to prolong his presidential term in Russia for another six years.
Putin still commands wide support after nearly a quarter-century in power, despite starting an immensely costly war in Ukraine.
Putin on Friday announced his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election that he is all but certain to win.
He has started an immensely costly war in Ukraine that has taken thousands of his countrymen’s lives, and provoked repeated attacks inside Russia.
Whether due to real or coerced support, Putin is expected to face only token opposition on the ballot for the March 17, 2024, election.
He already is the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin.


Dutch Police Arrest Syrian Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

Rotterdam Police officers. (Getty Images/AFP)
Rotterdam Police officers. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Dutch Police Arrest Syrian Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

Rotterdam Police officers. (Getty Images/AFP)
Rotterdam Police officers. (Getty Images/AFP)

A Syrian refugee was arrested Friday in the Netherlands on suspicion of crimes against humanity including sexual violence while he was allegedly head of an interrogation team in a militia aligned to the government of President Bashar Assad.

The arrest of the 55-year-old man marks the first time Dutch authorities have charged a suspect with sexual violence as a crime against humanity, the National Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.

He is the latest suspect charged in the Netherlands with crimes committed during Syria's grinding civil war. Under universal jurisdiction, the Netherlands can prosecute certain crimes even if they were committed abroad.

The Netherlands and Canada have also taken Syria to the United Nations' top court, accusing Assad's administration of a years-long campaign of “institutionalized” torture against its own people.

Following an investigation by the Dutch National Police's International Crimes Team, prosecutors alleged that the man, whose identity was not released, was head of the interrogation department of the National Defense Force in the western Syrian city of Salamiyah in 2013-14. The NDF is a paramilitary group fighting on the side of the Syrian government in the country's civil war.
“He is charged with complicity in torture in an official capacity with specific intent, complicity in torture as a crime against humanity and complicity in various forms of sexual violence as a crime against humanity,” The Associated Press quoted prosecutors as saying.
The suspect arrived in the Netherlands in 2021 and was granted asylum. He was tracked down by police following a tip that a person with a similar name was chief interrogator for the NDF in Salamiyah, prosecutors said.
Further details were not released. The suspect is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.


UK Paid Rwanda Additional $126 mln for Contested Migrant Plan

Demonstrators hold placards while protesting against the government's policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, outside the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London, Britain, 15 November 2023. EPA/NEIL HALL
Demonstrators hold placards while protesting against the government's policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, outside the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London, Britain, 15 November 2023. EPA/NEIL HALL
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UK Paid Rwanda Additional $126 mln for Contested Migrant Plan

Demonstrators hold placards while protesting against the government's policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, outside the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London, Britain, 15 November 2023. EPA/NEIL HALL
Demonstrators hold placards while protesting against the government's policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, outside the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in London, Britain, 15 November 2023. EPA/NEIL HALL

Britain paid Rwanda an additional 100 million pounds ($126 million) in April, on top of 140 million pounds it previously sent, as the bill for its contested plan to relocate asylum seekers to the East African country continues to rise.
The Rwanda scheme is at the center of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's strategy to deter illegal migrants but as yet none have been moved there because of legal battles since the scheme was announced in 2022, Reuters said.
The divisive policy is now seen as a threat to Sunak's leadership - with an election expected next year - after his immigration minister resigned this week.
On top of the 240 million pounds Britain has sent to Rwanda, London is also set to pay the East African country an additional 50 million pounds next year, according to a letter published by the British interior ministry on Thursday.
The revelations about the growing cost of a policy - which legal experts have warned could yet fail - was slammed by the opposition Labour party and will likely draw fresh criticism from some lawmakers within Sunak's own party.
"Britain can’t afford more of this costly Tory chaos & farce," Labour's shadow interior minister Yvette Cooper said on social media platform X.
But the new minister for legal migration, Tom Pursglove, justified what he called the 240 million-pound "investment" on Friday, saying that once the Rwanda policy was up and running it would save on the cost of housing asylum-seekers in the UK.
"When you consider that we are unacceptably spending 8 million pounds a day in the asylum system at the moment, it is a key part of our strategy to bring those costs down," Pursglove told Sky News.
The money sent to Rwanda would help its economic development and get the asylum partnership with the UK up and running, Pursglove added.
The payments to Rwanda were not linked to a treaty the two countries signed on Tuesday, the interior ministry letter said.
The treaty seeks to respond to a ruling by Britain's Supreme Court that the deportation scheme would violate international human rights laws enshrined in domestic legislation.
"The Government of Rwanda did not ask for any payment in order for a Treaty to be signed, nor was any offered," the letter said.
Sunak appealed to his Conservative lawmakers on Thursday to unite behind his Rwanda plan after Robert Jenrick quit as immigration minister on Wednesday, saying the government's draft emergency legislation to get the scheme up and running did not go far enough.


Russian Missiles Kill One, Wound Four in Air Strike on Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members cover a tank with a camouflage net at their position, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova./File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members cover a tank with a camouflage net at their position, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova./File Photo
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Russian Missiles Kill One, Wound Four in Air Strike on Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members cover a tank with a camouflage net at their position, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova./File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members cover a tank with a camouflage net at their position, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova./File Photo

Russian warplanes fired 19 long-range missiles at targets in Ukraine on Friday morning, killing one civilian in a central region, wounding four more and damaging an industrial facility, Kyiv officials said.
The strike was the first big salvo of missiles Russia has fired at targets, including the Ukrainian capital, in weeks. Russia has mainly been using drones for its overnight attacks in recent weeks, Reuters said.
"Unfortunately, one person is dead. Preliminarily, four people are wounded. They are all in hospital. Two people are in severe condition," Dnipropetrovsk's regional governor Serhiy Lysak said on the Telegram messaging app.
Air defenses shot down 14 incoming missiles over the region outside Kyiv and the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said in televised comments.
The strike damaged an unnamed industrial facility and more than a dozen homes in the towns of Pavlohrad and Ternivka and the village of Yuryivska, Lysak said.
Russia used seven Tu-95 bombers to launch missiles at different regions across the country, the air force said in a statement.
Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv's military administration, said the Ukrainian capital had been targeted in the attack but that all the missiles were downed by air defenses as they approached.
Missile debris damaged privately-held homes in several settlements in Kyiv region, smashing windows and destroying some walls, governor Ruslan Kravchenko said.
Air alerts were announced at about 0700 a.m. (0500 GMT) and lasted for over 2 hours.
Officials reported an earlier overnight missile attack that struck the northeastern Kharkiv region.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said rescuers and police were clearing rubble after the attack damaged a five-story residential building, at least seven residential homes and 20 cars.


Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to Take Steps towards Normalization

Azerbaijan holds a November military parade in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office/AFP/File
Azerbaijan holds a November military parade in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office/AFP/File
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Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to Take Steps towards Normalization

Azerbaijan holds a November military parade in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office/AFP/File
Azerbaijan holds a November military parade in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani Presidential Press Office/AFP/File

Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan said Thursday they would exchange prisoners of war and work towards normalizing their relations, in a joint statement hailed by the European Union and the United States as a breakthrough after three decades of conflict over disputed territory.
The Caucasus neighbors have long fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan reclaimed after a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists in September.
Both countries have said a peace agreement could be signed by the end of the year, but peace talks -- mediated separately by the European Union, the United States and Russia -- have seen little progress.
The two sides agreed in Thursday's joint statement to seize "a historical chance to achieve a long-awaited peace in the region".
"The two countries reconfirm their intention to normalize relations and to reach the peace treaty," the statement said.
Baku will free 32 Armenian prisoners of war, while Yerevan will release two Azerbaijani servicemen, according to the statement.
They also agreed to continue discussions on "more confidence building measures, effective in the near future".
COP29
As a sign of good faith, Armenia announced it was withdrawing its bid to host UN-led climate talks next year, paving the way for Azerbaijan's candidacy.
The annual negotiations on fighting climate change, known as COPs, rotate among regions and were due to be hosted by an Eastern European country in 2024 after this year's COP28 in Dubai.
"As a sign of good gesture, the Republic of Armenia supports the bid of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host (COP29) by withdrawing its own candidacy," the statement read.
"Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan do hope that the other countries within the Eastern European Group will also support Azerbaijan's bid to host."
A grouping of Eastern European nations must unanimously choose the COP29 host, but Russia is reportedly opposing an EU member holding the event as tensions with the bloc run high during the war in Ukraine.
Non-EU countries Armenia and Azerbaijan were both seen as candidates, but Baku's offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh has escalated tensions with Moscow.
'Key step'
Armenia's foreign ministry said Yerevan had "responded positively to the offer of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to organize the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington".
EU Council President Charles Michel praised the statement, calling it a "key step".
"Delighted to welcome a major breakthrough in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations as they issue a joint statement," he wrote on social media.
The United States also welcomed the steps by the two countries.
"This commitment represents an important confidence building measure as the sides work to finalize a peace agreement and normalize relations," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement Thursday.
Stalled talks
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev have met several times for normalization talks mediated by the EU.
But the process stalled over the last two months as two negotiation rounds failed to take place.
Azerbaijan refused to participate in talks with Armenia that were planned in the United States on November 20, over what it said was Washington's "biased" position.
In October, Aliyev declined to attend negotiations with Pashinyan in Spain, that time accusing France of bias.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been scheduled to join Michel as mediators at those talks.
There has been no visible progress so far in EU efforts to organize a fresh round of negotiations.
The traditional regional power broker Russia has seen its influence wane in the Caucasus.
Aliyev sent troops to Karabakh on September 19, and after just one day of fighting, Armenian separatist forces that had controlled the disputed region for three decades laid down arms and agreed to reintegrate with Baku.
Almost the entire Armenian population of the mountainous enclave -- more than 100,000 people -- fled Karabakh for Armenia, sparking a refugee crisis.
Azerbaijan's victory marked the end of the territorial dispute, which led to two wars in 2020 and the 1990s that claimed tens of thousands of lives from both sides.


Putin and Raisi Seek Harmonizing Bilateral Ties, Address Regional Issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin (Iranian Presidency)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin (Iranian Presidency)
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Putin and Raisi Seek Harmonizing Bilateral Ties, Address Regional Issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin (Iranian Presidency)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Kremlin (Iranian Presidency)

There has been a significant alignment in the positions of Moscow and Tehran on the majority of regional issues, as Russian President Vladimir Putin engaged on Thursday in discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi.

While both parties affirmed satisfaction with the trajectory of bilateral relations and the expansion of cooperation in various domains, it became evident that issues pertaining to coordinating efforts to confront Western sanctions imposed on both countries, addressing hot-button regional issues—particularly the situation around Gaza—were at the forefront of the discussions.

The leaders, meeting at the Kremlin, underscored the importance of navigating these challenges collaboratively and fostering a strategic alignment in response to shared concerns.

As Putin opened the talks, he told his Iranian counterpart that he was ready for a stopover in Iran on Wednesday, thus extending his Middle East tour and holding a meeting ahead of time.

“Dear Mr. President, I am very glad to see you in Moscow. Yesterday, you know, I was there in the neighboring region. I was flying directly over the territory of your country to my colleagues and at a certain point I had an idea of landing in Tehran for a meeting right away. But I was told: ‘The president is almost on the way to Moscow,” Putin said with a laugh.

Commentators observed that Putin’s gesture was deliberate, seen as a confirmation of Russia’s commitment to deepening communication with all countries in the region.

“Our relations are developing very well. Please convey my best wishes to leader (Ali) Khamenei,” Putin told Raisi, referring to Iran's Supreme Leader.

“Thanks to his support, we have gained good momentum over the past year,” Putin added, noting that the volume of trade between Russia and Iran increased by 20%, yielding positive results.

The Russian leader also said that his country is engaged in extensive collaboration with Iran across various sectors, notably in the energy domain.

“We have large infrastructure projects, we have been discussing for a long time, and now we have come to the practical implementation of the construction of the North–South railway,” said Putin.

“We work naturally, traditionally, in the field of energy. In the field of education, we have a significant number of Iranian students studying here. In general, work is quite active in almost all areas,” he added.

Putin emphasized that the two countries are actively working to synchronize their efforts on issues of mutual concern, proposing a discussion on the situation in Palestine.

He also underscored the particular significance of signing the partnership agreement between Tehran and the Eurasian Economic Union, anticipating the event to take place by the end of 2023.