EU leaders were to raise the crisis over Russian oil giant Yukos and seek reassurance that it did not mark a purge against big business in three days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin starting yesterday.
The official agenda for Putin's meetings with Italian, EU and French officials is dominated by a battery of economic, security and cultural issues touching on everything from billion-dollar gas deals to museum art shows.
But diplomats say the arrest last month of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the then-chief executive of Yukos, is bound to be raised, with EU leaders seeking reassurance that the crisis does not mark the start of a purge against big business in Russia.
"I hope the President of the Russian Federation will share with us ... his assessment on what is happening," EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said on Tuesday evening.
An EU official in Brussels, who declined to be named, told reporters the way the Yukos case was being handled was "way off what we would consider acceptable in the European Union."
Judging by Putin's recent comments, the EU can expect a stout defense of the move against Yukos, which sent the company's shares into a tailspin and shocked investors who had seen a sturdy recovery since Russia's 1998 economic meltdown.
"All of them must learn to live according to the law," Putin told a group of Italian journalists this week, repeating his argument that Khodorkovsky's arrest was purely a judicial matter and that privatizations of the 1990s would not be jeopardized.
Putin will have a sympathetic listener in his first host, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has met the Russian leader five times this year and considers him a friend.
The two men are expected to sign a number of accords in the economic and cultural fields, including major deals in the gas sector, possibly involving Russia's Gazprom and Italy's largest utility, Enel.
After a day of meetings with Italian leaders, Putin will cross the river Tiber to see the ailing Pope John Paul.
He has promised to encourage the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches to improve ties soured by a decade of post-Communist suspicions.
Many obstacles, however, stand in the way of reconciliation between the two Christian faiths and Putin looks unlikely to secure a swift visit by the pope to Russia -- one of the only major states the 83-year old pontiff has yet to visit.
Italy holds the rotating EU presidency and today hosts the twice-yearly Russian-EU summit -- an event soured in recent times by EU concerns over Chechnya and blocked trade talks.
The EU official said that Russia's uncompromising war against Chechen rebels was not formally on the agenda this week but would certainly be raised.
He added that the main subject of discussion would be the "common spaces" agreed to at a summit in May -- common economic space, common space on internal security, common space on external security, and one on research, science and education.
"We now have the will but we need to agree on the content for these," he said.
The final leg of Putin's lightning visit will take him to France for brief talks with President Jacques Chirac.
Apps and Web sites that use artificial intelligence (AI) to undress women in photos are soaring in popularity, researchers said. In September alone, 24 million people visited undressing Web sites, the social network analysis company Graphika said. Many of these undressing, or “nudify,” services use popular social networks for marketing, Graphika said. For instance, since the beginning of this year, the number of links advertising undressing apps increased more than 2,400 percent on social media, including on X and Reddit, the researchers said. The services use AI to recreate an image so that the person is nude. Many of the services only
JUMPING BAIL: The democracy advocate said made the decision after ‘considering the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, my physical and mental health’ Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow (周庭), who was jailed over her role in massive 2019 protests, on Sunday said she had moved to Canada and would not return to meet her bail conditions. Chow was one of the best-known young faces of the 2012, 2014 and 2019 protest movements against Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule in Hong Kong. She spent about seven months behind bars for her role in a protest outside Hong Kong police headquarters in 2019, when huge crowds rallied week after week in the most serious challenge to China’s rule since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover. On Sunday
TAKING STOCK: It was not yet clear how damaging the espionage, dating to 1981, has been, as authorities are still assessing the situation, the State Department said A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested and charged with spying for Cuba over a 40-year span, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday, detailing a shock betrayal by a suspect who called the US “the enemy.” US Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the allegations against Victor Manuel Rocha, a onetime member of the White House’s National Security Council now accused of using his positions within the government to support Cuba’s “clandestine intelligence-gathering mission” against the US. The charges against Rocha, 73, expose “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign
DARK WARNINGS: If Trump survives his court trials, neither the Supreme Court nor the US Constitution could stop him from becoming president for life, a ‘Post’ column said Former US president Donald Trump on Tuesday declined to rule out abusing power if he returns to the White House after Fox News host Sean Hannity asked him to respond to growing criticism of his rhetoric. The Republican presidential front-runner has talked about targeting his rivals — referring to them as “vermin” — and vowed to seek retribution if he wins a second term for what he argues are politically motivated prosecutions against him. As Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary, US President Joe Biden has stepped up his own warnings, contending that Trump is “determined to destroy American democracy.” “Under no