Archive for February, 2020

Thugs break into homes of 3 Sputnik employees in Ankara, shout anti-Russian & nationalist slogans

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Thugs break into homes of 3 Sputnik employees in Ankara, shout anti-Russian & nationalist slogans

Groups of people descended on homes of three Russia’s Sputnik agency staffers in Ankara, Turkey, chanting “Turkey for the Turks” and accusing journalists of treason for working for Moscow, RT Editor-in-Chief reported on Twitter.

What appears to be a coordinated attack on Sputnik employees in the Turkish capital was first reported by Margarita Simonyan, RT and Sputnik’s Editor-in-Chief on Saturday, and later confirmed by the agency itself.

Simonyan tweeted that three separate groups, each numbering about 10 hooligans, swooped on the flats of three agency’s employees, hurling threats and accusing them of betraying their homeland, Turkey, for doing journalistic work for the Russian outlet.

“They were shouting: ‘Turkey for the Turks!’ ‘Traitors!’ and ‘Russian spies!'”, Simonyan tweeted, comparing the raids to the pogroms against ethnic Armenians by Turks in the Ottoman Empire.

“My great-grandmothers would have experienced a déjà vu now.”

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FILE PHOTO. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. ©Presidential Press Office / Handout via REUTERS
‘Get out of the way, let us deal with Assad regime’, Erdogan says he told Putin regarding Idlib, Syria

Simonyan noted that it she was now awaiting a police response to the assaults, adding that it’s unclear at the moment how the perpetrators obtained the home addresses of “not the most public of our employees.”

The agency has confirmed that unknown miscreants attempted to storm into the apartments belonging to three of its journalists.

Police were called to the scene. However, by the time officers arrived, the attackers were already gone, the agency said. No one has been hurt as result of the incident.

The attack comes at the time of increasing tension between Moscow and Ankara. While partners in the Astana peace process, the two countries have been increasingly at odds over the Syrian army ongoing anti-terrorist offensive in Idlib against armed militants, some of which are backed by Turkey.

The situation has escalated even more after Turkey said that 33 of its troops were killed in a Syrian strike in the last militant stronghold this week, vowing retaliation to Damascus and calling NATO consultations on the issue.

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Thanks NATO, but what about missiles? Ankara urges US to deploy Patriot systems to Turkey amid Idlib standoff

While the US-led military alliance sided with Turkey, scolding both Syria and Russia for the flare-up in Idlib, the block stopped short of pledging any additional military assistance to Ankara, prompting Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to ask the US to redeploy Patriot anti-aircraft missiles on Turkish soil.

Moscow dismissed the accusations, saying that the slain Turkish troops were embedded with terrorists and were not supposed to be in the area at the time of the bombing in the first place. Ankara, despite suffering heavy casualties, refused to withdraw its troops. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday demanded Russia “gets out the way” and lets his armed forces to settle scores with the Syrian military one-on-one.

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Thanks NATO, but what about missiles? Ankara urges US to deploy Patriot systems to Turkey amid Idlib standoff

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Thanks NATO, but what about missiles? Ankara urges US to deploy Patriot systems to Turkey amid Idlib standoff

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Washington to redeploy its Patriot anti-aircraft systems on Turkish soil, insisting that the country needs some “support” from its NATO allies amid the crisis in Syria’s Idlib.

Cavusoglu thanked NATO for its quick reaction to the strike on Turkish troops in the Syrian province that left 33 soldiers dead, but urged the bloc to show more support – which he suggested might come from individual allies.

“The US Patriots were stationed in Gaziantep before. They can send them again. Especially since a NATO member, Turkey, needs support from its allies,” Cavusoglu said on Saturday after meeting with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Qatar.

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Turkish Armed Forces' soldiers continue to conduct fortification and transition activities in Idlib, de-escalation zone in Syria on February 20, 2020 © Getty Images / Ibrahim Hatib / Anadolu Agency
Even NATO is unwilling to touch Turkey’s Idlib mess with a ten-foot pole

Patriot anti-aircraft systems belonging to the US and the Netherlands had indeed been stationed in the country, but they were removed back in 2015. This prompted Ankara to go on a quest to buy own anti-air defenses from abroad, ultimately resulting in the S-400 deal with Russia.

Turkey’s desire to get its hands on the Patriot missiles has been widely reported by Turkish and American media, but all the available official statements have so far been sending mixed signals.

Earlier in the week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed doubts that Ankara would be able to acquire any Patriots from the US, stating that “they have no such thing in their hands.” Turkey will have to rely on Russian-made S-400 systems which are expected to become operational in April, he added. It was not immediately clear whether Erdogan was speaking about purchasing Patriots or getting them deployed under NATO cooperation.

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FILE PHOTO: Patriot systems © Inquam Photos/Ovidiu Micsik/via REUTERS
There are ‘no Patriots’ US could give Turkey, Erdogan says as its S-400s get prepped for deployment

Reinvigorated rumors about Patriot deployment in Turkey come amid soaring hostilities in Syria’s province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian soldiers were fighting this week, resulting in dozens of Turkish soldiers getting killed in strikes said to be targeting jihadists. While Ankara claims it seeks to protect “Syrian people” by backing the attack on the Syrian Army, Damascus insists that Turkey rushed to support assorted “rebel” and terrorist groups that have been on the verge of defeat in Idlib.

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Over 100,000 flock to watch exiled ex-Catalan leader Puigdemont speak (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Over 100,000 flock to watch exiled ex-Catalan leader Puigdemont speak (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Catalonia independence supporters flocked to the French town of Perpignan for a huge rally to listen to former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont speaking to them in person for the first time since his exile.

The small southern French town of Perpignan is located in what Catalan independence supporters consider to be Northern Catalonia. With a population of 120,000, Perpignan suddenly witnessed just as many Catalonians flooding its streets. The town, located just 30 kilometers from the French border with Spain, became the venue for an event featuring a speech by Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan pro-independence leader who fled his home country following the ill-fated 2017 referendum.

Over 100,000 people joined the rally at a Perpignan Exhibition Center parking lot, according to various estimates. The organizers put the number at as many as 150,000. Some demonstrators went to the city the day before to not miss anything. The number of those trying to attend the event, organized by a group called the Council for the Catalan Republic and headed by Puigdemont himself, was so big that thousands of people were still stuck in traffic on the border when the exiled pro-independence leader was about to begin his speech.

Photos and videos posted on social media show huge crowds of people occupying the broad sun-lit parking lot and waving Catalan flags, as well as holding signs and banners reading: ‘Independence’ and ‘freedom’.

In his short address that lasted only about 12 minutes, Puigdemont took a jab at Madrid by saying that an independent Catalan Republic is the “only way out of a monarchy that descended directly from Francoism.”

Former Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont blows a kiss to the audience during a rally in Perpignan, France, on February 29, 2020. ©  Reuters / Nacho Doce

He also vowed to “never stop” and called on his supporters to mobilize and “prepare” for future victories. “The state only hears the voice of mobilized people so we must be in a state of constant mobilization.”

The rally was also attended by other pro-independence leaders, including the former education minister, Clara Ponsati, who also addressed the crowd, urging Catalans to “fight the Spanish state both through the institutions and in the streets.” Current Catalan leader Quim Torra delivered a speech as well. Ahead of the event, the exiled Catalan leader was welcomed by Perpignan Mayor Jean-Marc Pujol, who said that “freedom of expression has no borders.”

This is the first time the former Catalan leader, who is wanted in Spain on charges of sedition, has come so close to his homeland. Following the referendum, in which 92 percent voted to split from Spain (with a turnout of 43 percent), Puigdemont was forced to flee from prosecution, along with Ponsati and several other regional government officials, and has resided in Belgium ever since.

In May 2019, Puigdemont was elected to the European Parliament, while the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that his status of MEP grants him parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

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© Reuters / Nacho Doce
‘We will be independent,’ Catalonia’s regional leader vows

The situation in Spain following the referendum, which was met with a brutal crackdown by Spanish law enforcement, remains quite tense. The region has seen massive demonstrations both in favor of independence and unity with Spain.

The jailing of major figures behind the independence push, including Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, by the Spanish authorities only added fuel to the fire as they were met with massive protests as well. Rallies repeatedly spiraled into clashes with police.

October 2019, when the independence leaders received their sentences, saw particularly massive outbreaks of violence as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Barcelona and blocked major regional transport routes as well as the city’s airport.

On Saturday, French authorities took extensive security measures ahead of the rally in Perpignan by mobilizing all regional police forces. Police were additionally reinforced by five gendarmerie squadrons and a riot police company from Carcassonne. The event, however, was peaceful.

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Corona-fear: France bans all mass public gatherings in confined spaces as German, Swiss fairs canceled

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Corona-fear: France bans all mass public gatherings in confined spaces as German, Swiss fairs canceled

No gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces will be allowed in France due to fears of the coronavirus epidemic, Paris has announced, as neighboring nations have canceled mass events, bracing for an outbreak.

The French authorities announced the restrictions as the number of confirmed cases in the country climbed to 73. Fifty-nine people remain in the hospital after testing positive for the infection, Health Minister Olivier Veran said at a press conference on Saturday. Twelve people have successfully recovered while two died from the disease: a 60-year-old French teacher and an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.

The minister spoke after emergency meetings of the French cabinet and National Security Council to assess the epidemics.

The ban on mass gatherings will remain in place until further notice. Among the scheduled events affected by it are a half-marathon run in Paris and an agriculture show, both of which were supposed to take place on Sunday.

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Screenshot of a tweet by Reuters news agency © Twitter
Reuters issues correction, deletes tweet after backlash for reporting ‘just 1 American with coronavirus in hospital: VP Pence’

On Friday, the French authorities declared the coronavirus a stage-2 outbreak on a 3-stage scale. Veran said his ministry’s recommendation to the public is to wash hands regularly and avoid handshakes.

Notably, the virus has already disrupted the operation of the 110 Air Base Creil outside Paris, where several cases of Covid-19 were identified. The military facility has been put on lockdown due to the outbreak.

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FILE PHOTO. View of the main entrance of Creil's hospital, where people tested positive for coronavirus have been treated.
Secretive military base outside Paris hit by coronavirus, French defense minister confirms

Other nations in Europe are taking their own precautions against the spread of the virus. Germany’s ITB Tourism Fair was canceled on Friday. The event was scheduled for next week and was projected to attract 10,000 visitors.

The event was called off by the organizers on the advice of the German government and after local health officials instructed them to impose strict checks on attendees. They would have been required to prove they hadn’t visited places with high risk of infection in recent weeks, which Messe Berlin, the organizer of the fair, found too difficult to guarantee.

Switzerland imposed its own ban on events likely to attract more than 1,000 people on Friday for the same reason as France. This means the country will not be able to host a car show in Geneva, a 10-day international event that was supposed to start next week. The Swiss authorities said the prohibition will remain in place at least until mid-March.

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‘We’ve seen no evidence’: Social media networks blow up US officials’ claim of ‘Russian coronavirus disinformation campaign’

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Doors not really open: Greek police stop wave of refugees with closed border gates, tear gas (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Doors not really open: Greek police stop wave of refugees with closed border gates, tear gas (VIDEOS)

Greek police used tear gas to turn back 4,000 people at the border with Turkey who flooded the checkpoint after Ankara announced it will no longer stop people from crossing into the EU.

People seeking to enter Europe rushed to the Turkish border town of Edirne on Friday, but found the Greek authorities were not willing to let them in. Since the 2015 migrant crisis, both Greece and Bulgaria have erected fences on their borders with Turkey. Both nations ramped up security after Ankara effectively tore up its agreement with the EU, under which it kept millions of refugees in its territory in exchange for financial aid and political concessions.

In the first 24 hours of the border crisis, 4,000 people were stopped from crossing into Greek territory, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Saturday. Footage from the scene shows large crowds of masked men walking and running near the barrier chanting “Turkey, Turkey.” Clouds of tear gas can also be seen.

The crowd trapped in the buffer zone between the Turkish and Greek checkpoints is, of course, not all male. Women and children also got caught up in the confrontation between police and the more active migrants.

The Greek police officers may not have been the only ones armed with gas grenades, however. Police showed journalists Turkish-made devices which they say landed on the Greek side of the border after being tossed by people in the crowd.

The problem is likely to escalate further as more people are led to the border by the hope of a better life in Europe, only to find that the doors which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared open, are anything but.

Ankara’s move came amid a military crisis in Idlib, Syria, where Turkish and Syrian soldiers were engaged in heavy fighting this week. Erdogan declared on Saturday that as many as 4 million new refugees could enter Turkey across its fortified border with Syria and that the EU’s failure to meet its part of the bargain left Turkey with little choice.

Petsas said 66 people have been detained by Greek police at the border and that none of them had anything to do with Idlib.

Greece was the primary entrance point into the EU from Turkey and is still struggling with the large number of asylum-seekers. Local residents on Lesbos staged violent protests this week after the government in Athens announced plans to build a new center for housing immigrants on the already-overcrowded island.

A group of 27 people reportedly arrived on Lesbos Saturday morning after a five-hour trip from Turkey.

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US and Taliban sign agreement on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on US and Taliban sign agreement on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

Washington and the Taliban movement have signed a deal that lays out conditions for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.

The agreement was signed by US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban's senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday.

The deal will see Washington and its allies withdrawing their troops from five bases in Afghanistan within the next 135 days. The remaining American soldiers will leave the country in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments.

The document lays the groundwork for future negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country. The US has agreed to facilitate the talks and lift sanctions from Taliban members by August, provided the negotiations commence as planned. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called on all of his fighters to honor and abide by the agreement.

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US troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. November 2019. © Olivier Douliery / AFP.
US set to withdraw ALL troops from Afghanistan in 14 months if deal with Taliban is upheld – statement

The US and Afghan governments said earlier that the peace agreement will include guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used by terrorist groups to target the US and its allies.

Also, Washington and Kabul agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban by March 10, vowing to release up to 5,000 and 1,000 people respectively.

The US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, expelling the Taliban from the country’s capital Kabul and other major cities. The years that followed saw prolonged fighting and the resurgence of militants. In the end, officials in Washington reluctantly agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which stalled several times.

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US set to withdraw ALL troops from Afghanistan in 14 months if deal with Taliban is upheld – statement

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on US set to withdraw ALL troops from Afghanistan in 14 months if deal with Taliban is upheld – statement

Washington and its allies plan to pull all of their troops out of Afghanistan within 14 months if commitments under the planned US-Taliban deal are implemented in full, the joint US-Afghan document says.

According to the statement by the US and Afghan governments, the US will first scale down the number of soldiers it has currently stationed in Afghanistan, from 13,000 to 8,600, within the first 135 days following an agreement with the Taliban, which is expected to be signed later on Saturday. The remaining US and NATO troops will withdraw from the country within 14 months, clearing all of their bases.

The withdrawal process is conditional on the Taliban fulfilling its commitments under the deal. The peace agreement will include guarantees “to prevent the use of Afghan soil by any international terrorist groups or individuals [working] against the security of the United States and its allies.”

US President Donald Trump said earlier that the agreement may pave the way for the end of political violence in Afghanistan and allow American soldiers to return home.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attack, and has been fighting the Taliban insurgency ever since.

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Leaving soon? US troops on patrol in Afghanistan (file photo)
Trump announces US-Taliban peace deal, ‘path forward to end war’ in Afghanistan

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Top Pakistani diplomat calls for ‘responsible’ withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in wake of peace deal with Taliban

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Top Pakistani diplomat calls for ‘responsible’ withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in wake of peace deal with Taliban

Pakistan’s foreign minister has urged the US to pull its troops out of Afghanistan in a responsible fashion, after US President Donald Trump said that the expected peace deal with the Taliban may bring American soldiers home.

“We want a responsible withdrawal,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Reuters in Qatar’s capital Doha, where US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to oversee the signing of a peace deal with the Taliban on Saturday.

“It’s an important day… Hopefully it will set the tone for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Qureshi said of the upcoming event.

When asked by Fox News last month whether the US should leave the region, Qureshi said: “Even if you withdraw, do it responsibly. Do not do what you did in the 1980s, when you created a vacuum, and destructive forces came in to fill that vacuum.”

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Leaving soon? US troops on patrol in Afghanistan (file photo)
Trump announces US-Taliban peace deal, ‘path forward to end war’ in Afghanistan

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, after several years of fighting, and stayed in power until it was banished from Kabul and other major Afghan cities during the 2001 US invasion which followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Taliban and other militants have resurged in recent years, winning more ground from the US-backed government.

Trump announced the upcoming peace deal on Friday, saying that it can potentially end the decades-long civil war in Afghanistan and “bring our troops home.”

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‘Useless struggle’: longstanding feud between Russia & Poland only benefits third parties – Polish ex-president to RT

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on ‘Useless struggle’: longstanding feud between Russia & Poland only benefits third parties – Polish ex-president to RT

Relations between Poland and Russia have been historically ‘chaotic’. However, continued strife benefits neither Moscow nor Warsaw, former President Lech Walesa believes, warning that other nations exploit it for their own good.

Moscow and Warsaw need to bury the hatchet and sort out their troubled shared history as part of an open and honest dialogue instead, Walesa believes, adding that the endless quarrels that have lasted for decades have so far led the two neighbors nowhere. 

“We can’t change history,” the former president told RT. Still, Walesa – who led the struggle against the Communist rule and Soviet influence in his homeland in 1980s – said it is high time the two nations laid “the old ghosts to rest” and started cooperating.

“We have this trail of mutual grievances, and until we deal with that we won’t arrive at a compromise,” he said, adding that the two nations are now engaged in a “useless struggle.”

Ghosts of the past

Relationships between Moscow and Warsaw, which have never been particularly cozy, have seen another downturn in recent months after Poland pushed a resolution through the European Parliament pinning part of the blame for the outbreak of WWII on the USSR. The move sparked an angry reaction from Russia, which has long been dissatisfied with Warsaw’s policy of WWII revisionism, including the removal of monuments to Soviet soldiers who died to liberate Poland from the Nazis.

The situation then spiraled into a diplomatic row as Warsaw continued to level accusations against Moscow. Russia, in turn, argued that Poland was “rewriting history,” while the US and Germany rushed to the defense of their NATO ally. This disagreement led to Polish President Andrzej Duda snubbing a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Jerusalem simply because the Israelis invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to speak at it.

This did nothing to calm the situation, and in late January Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski demanded that Russia pay its dues for what he called "war crimes" and "occupation" during the Communist rule. Walesa notes that, in its drive to blame past tragedies on Russia, Warsaw tends to ignore the role of its modern allies and friends in the West.

“Treaties were signed, securing the obligations and duties of the Western powers, but they betrayed us, and it was felt by everyone in Poland,” he said, referring to defense cooperation agreements Poland had with the UK and France before it was attacked by Germany in September 1939.

Perceived threats & imaginary allies

Even now, other nations still benefit from the continued and largely senseless rivalry between Moscow and Warsaw, he warned.

“Every time we ran into a disagreement between us, there were always some third parties profiting from it. They took advantage of our differences and disagreements. The time has come for us to put an end to this and build good relations.”

Even now, countries like the US – which Warsaw sees as a sort of bastion, helping protect it from the perceived threat posed by its eastern neighbor Russia – might in fact be pursuing its own goals under the guise of help.

“They made money off of us, off our conflicts. It is time to put an end to that. That is what Americans are like.”

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FILE PHOTO: Polish soldiers march along Red Square during a Victory Day parade in 2010 © REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
‘Warsaw is closer to Moscow than to Washington’: Polish ex-president Walesa vows to break ice with Russia

The former dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate recalled how Washington said it supported his anti-Communist movement while simultaneously cozying up to Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev. “They said they were helping us, but they were actually helping Gorbachev. I had to fight that system and the US.”

“If we could come to an agreement with Russia, it would shock all of Europe and the US. They use the discord between us to their advantage.”

He also said that the ever-increasing American military presence on Polish soil, hailed by the current authorities as a boon to national defense, is in fact senseless and does not enhance Poland’s security.

“I think that it’s psychologically comforting to have US troops on Polish soil,” he admitted, before noting that “by all logic, there is no point in it.”

“As you probably know, we have so many weapons we can annihilate all life on Earth ten times over. Now they are arguing over the eleventh time. There will be no eleventh time.”

‘Populists & rabble-rousers’

It is not just some outside influence that drives Poland towards constant conflicts with Russia, though. Many national politicians are ready to sacrifice international relations to their own narrow political goals as well, Walesa believes. He explains that political leaders simply have no new ideas to offer their voters, and thus prefer to stir up nationalist sentiments and cling to outdated boogeyman stories.

Initial attempts at reconciliation between the two nations after the collapse of the Soviet Union were soon abandoned, and what we hear now is “the voices of populists and rabble-rousers” that managed to take power and hijack the agenda amid the lack of more sound political ideas.

The former president holds quite critical views on the EU as well. He did admit that Poland’s membership of the bloc helped it to move forward and adapt to the changing world. Despite this, he is under no illusion as to where the union is heading.

He pointed to the fact that most voters have grown weary of the mainstream political elite, signaling an urgent need to change for the whole system. “Lately, in many countries the majority of people don’t go and cast their vote. So I am asking you, how is this democracy then?”

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FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows barracks and buildings of former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex in Oswiecim, Poland.
In its obsession with Russia, Polish government now rushes headlong into disgusting Holocaust revisionism

“In the near future, though, we’ll face a truly grave problem. Politicians will have disappointed people so much with their lying and stealing that the only ones to turn up for elections will be the candidates themselves.”

Yet the EU bureaucrats continue with their daily routines while sticking to the same old habits and simply silencing any dissenting voices. “Today a country is part of the EU, and tomorrow it becomes the fifth column,” Walesa said.

“What we have is the EU taking our money and acting against us. It is chaos and confusion all around… We should keep up with the times and the changes taking place. And what we do all the time instead is argue with the Russians, and nothing good comes out of it.”

To resolve these issues, the Poles, together with other Europeans, need to abandon the logic of confrontation and turn to genuine dialog instead – a dialog that should involve Russia as well.

“I’d say we’re all living in the era of discourse and discussions. We can find a different kind of solution. We need to reconcile with Russia. We need to leave the past behind and start building something new.”

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Elements of 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, convoy to the Hohenfels Training Area for Combined Resolve XIII on Jan. 18, 2020. © Global Look Press/Sgt. Megan Zander/Keystone Press Agency
NATO’s Defender Europe 2020 is war against Russia role-play, no matter what they tell you

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Turkish President Erdogan: I asked Putin to step aside and let Turkey fight ‘Syrian regime’

Posted by RT on February 29, 2020  |   Comments Off on Turkish President Erdogan: I asked Putin to step aside and let Turkey fight ‘Syrian regime’

As tensions in Idlib province reach the boiling point, Turkey has asked Russia to let it fight the Syrian government face-to-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed.

Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Turkish leader told his AK Party on Saturday.

Erdogan was explaining to lawmakers his government’s handling of the escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian troops have engaged in several clashes over the past weeks. The hostilities have all but ruined Turkey’s 2018 agreement with Russia on de-escalating the violence in the area, which remains the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria.

Describing his phone conversation with Putin, Erdogan said if Russia’s interest in Syria was to keep a military presence there, Turkey, a NATO member, does not object to it.

I asked Mr Putin: What's your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime.

Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to help Damascus fight against jihadist groups. Moscow said helping the Syrian government prevented future attacks launched by this would-be entity against other nations, including Russia.

Erdogan said Ankara now considers Syrian government troops a legitimate target for its attacks, claiming Damascus lost over 2,000 soldiers in Idlib. It was not immediately clear if the casualty number only represents Syrian troops killed directly by the Turkish military or includes those killed by Turkish-backed armed groups. Erdogan added that “seven warehouses with chemicals” were also destroyed in Syria, but did not offer any details or evidence regarding whether Syria still had chemical weapons in its possession.

The Turkish leader said fighting against the Syrian government is necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which would cause a new influx of refugees into Turkey across the border. Part of the Turkish response to the situation was opening the border with Europe to asylum-seekers. Erdogan said the EU failed to support Turkey, which already hosts over 3,6 million refugees from Syria and faces as many as 4 million new arrivals now.

We will not close those doors... Why? Because the European Union should keep its promises.

The Turkish president said he expects the international community and NATO in particular to support his country in the fight against the Assad government.

He claimed Turkey’s incursion into Syria was made by invitation “from the Syrian people” and that Ankara is not interested in territorial expansion or capturing Syrian oil. The latter remark seems like a veiled jab at US President Donald Trump, who said “securing the oil” in eastern Syria was a major achievement of the US troops deployed there.

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Polish, NATO and Turkish flags on the wind on Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate TCG Gokova Republic of Turkey navy warship board are seen in Gdynia, Poland on 19 April 2019 TCG Gokova participates in the NATO SNMG1 © Getty Images/NurPhoto/Michal Fludra
'Stakes higher' in Idlib but NATO 'won't run to Erdogan's aid' despite efforts to have allies intervene in Syria

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