President Vladimir Putin said he valued the partnership of President George W. Bush, but voiced suspicion the US might be behind what the Kremlin sees as efforts to isolate Russia and even destabilize it. \nWith Russia already feeling hemmed in by US bases in formerly Soviet Central Asia and US military trainers in Georgia, Putin has taken issue with Western, and particularly US, activism in Ukraine, where the presidential election that sparked a weeks-long crisis goes into a third round this weekend. \nHis emotions came boiling to the surface during a three-hour Kremlin news conference on Thursday. \nPutin was asked for a reaction to an interview in which Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that "for every superpower, Russia without Ukraine is better than Russia with Ukraine." \n"If we interpret this [statement by Kwasniewski] as striving to limit Russia's ability to develop relations with its neighbors, then it means a desire to isolate the Russian Federation," Putin said testily. \n"I don't think that is the goal of US policy," he said, but added he would ask Bush about it when they meet in Slovakia in February. Putin then blamed the US, without elaborating, for a policy on Chechnya "aimed at creating elements that would destabilize the Russian Federation." \nThe comments were in line with Putin's increasingly combative attitude toward the West and especially the US. The Kremlin is convinced that the US is behind a campaign to install Ukraine's pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko at the helm of the nation Russia has always regarded as its main satellite. \nPutin has long been used to reticence from Bush, but even if Bush, until now, had refrained from direct criticism of Putin's policies at home, he challenged Moscow over its involvement in the Ukrainian presidential campaign and stood firm on insisting that the fraudulent second round be held again. \nAnalysts close to the Kremlin have accused Poland of working in Ukraine at the behest of the US, which they allege is trying to deepen its influence in Europe and push Poland to the top ranks of the EU. \nPresident Aleksander Kwas-niewski told reporters in Warsaw Thursday that Putin's remarks were unfair. \n"The words said today by Putin, in my opinion, are unfair words, a price that Poland and I must pay for our involvement in solving the political crisis in Ukraine," Kwasniewski said. \n"In the interview I said that Poland and the world need Russia to be present in solving the crisis in the Ukraine and that a democratic Russia and democratic Ukraine will serve the world in the best way," he said. \nPutin said his personal relationship with Bush remained strong, but he has bristled at US criticism of the Kremlin's political restructuring proposals, which include an end to direct elections for governors. \nHe tried to reassure a reporter who expressed similar misgivings that Russia would not turn back to the Soviet era. \n"I don't think we should move toward an authoritarian state, especially a Soviet-style authoritarian state. That wouldn't help create favorable conditions for economic development and would limit the society's ability to control the government. That would be excessive," he said.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications