News / Europe

    EU, Putin Spar Over Human Rights, Trade, Syria

    Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, attend a news conference as part of the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg, June 4, 2012. Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, attend a news conference as part of the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg, June 4, 2012.
    x
    Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, attend a news conference as part of the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg, June 4, 2012.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (R) and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, attend a news conference as part of the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg, June 4, 2012.
    MOSCOW - European officials met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss a variety of issues including the Kremlin’s human rights record, trade and the Syria crisis, among other things.

    Newly elected President Vladimir Putin defended his country’s human rights record, saying that he had no knowledge of anyone who could be described as a political prisoner in his country. Mr. Putin made the comments after reporters asked about the opposition's demands to free some 40 people who they say are being held as political prisoners.

    Mr. Putin’s critics often say that former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the country’s number one political prisoner. The European Court of Human Rights stopped short of finding political motives for Khodorkovsky’s 2005 conviction for tax evasion and fraud, but it has yet to rule on his second conviction, which also includes fraud.

    President Putin also defended a bill that raises fines for unsanctioned street protests, saying that Russia’s controversial law on rallies is democratic.

    Mr. Putin said the violation of rules regulating mass protests is being applied to those who break the rules. He said as far as he knows, everybody is walking freely now, probably preparing for new protests. He says this is normal.

    Mr. Putin reclaimed the presidency last month after facing some of Russia's largest protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union. His critics say he rules the country through a tightly controlled political system and corruption - a charge he vehemently denies.

    Meanwhile, Russia is expected to join the World Trade Organization at the end of the year after 18 years of negotiations. As a member of the WTO, the Kremlin will be required to abide by global rules.

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said European leaders are looking forward to working with Russia.

    "We are the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Russia, the biggest client of your biggest export and it is energy," said Barroso. "And we share a common interest in living in a peaceful and stable neighborhood, and in [a] multilateral rules-based international system. In recent years, we achieved much progress in our bilateral relations, working for Russia's WTO accession, with our partnership for modernization, with the common steps for a visa-free dialogue.”

    Leaders also touched on the Syria crisis and Russia's defense of the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the face of a violent opposition backlash. The talks failed to resolve differences in how to deal with Syria's 15-month-long conflict.

    Speaking at the end of the summit, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the Russian leader and the 27-nation bloc have "some divergent assessments."

    In a joint news conference with Mr. Putin, Mr. Van Rompuy said both sides need to work together to achieve an immediate stop to Syria's violence and launch a process of political transition.

    The Kremlin has long maintained that dialogue is necessary with both Mr. Assad's government and rebels.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday she told her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that the focus of international diplomacy on Syria is shifting to a political transition rather than negotiations with Mr. Assad's government.

    Syria and Russia remain close allies, and Russia has been a major arms seller to the country as part of a deal that allows Moscow to maintain a naval base there. Western leaders confirmed last week that a Russian ship loaded with weapons for Syrian government forces arrived in the country.

    Mr. Putin denies the shipment exists.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora