The results of tests that Germany says prove Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was the victim of a nerve agent attack have been handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), officials said on Wednesday.
The German government sees no reason to hand the evidence directly to Russia, Deputy spokeswoman Martina Fietz said.
“We continue to appeal to the Russian side to deliver information,” Fietz added.
She described the poisoning of Navalny as a violation of international laws against chemical weapons, rather than a mere spat between Berlin and Moscow.
A spokesman for the German Defence Ministry confirmed that the test samples had been handed over to the OPCW, of which Russia is a member.
Navalny, 44, was taken to Berlin’s Charite hospital two days after falling ill on a domestic Russian flight on Aug. 20.
The facility said on Monday that Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics, had been woken from his medically induced coma and that he was responding to verbal stimuli.
The Russian government denies any involvement and has so far refused to conduct a criminal investigation into the claim that Navalny was poisoned.
Germany’s ambassador to Russia, Geza Andreas von Geyr, went to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday for talks on the dispute, the German embassy in Moscow said.
According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow was expecting Germany to present sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok.
However, the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin had said earlier that the ambassador’s appointment at the ministry had been scheduled long in advance.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Germany had been thwarting Russian doctors’ attempts to establish close dialogue with their German colleagues on assessing the matter.
“The unconstructive approach by the German authorities is accompanied by groundless accusations against Russia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The massive misinformation campaign that has been unleashed clearly demonstrates that the primary objective pursued by its masterminds is to mobilise support for sanctions, rather than to care for Alexei Navalny’s health or establish the true reasons for his admission to hospital,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
After falling ill, Navalny spent two days in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk before Russian officials allowed him to be evacuated to Berlin on a German-organised flight.
Russian health and law enforcement officials said they found no hard evidence that Navalny was poisoned.
Germany was treating the case “as constructively as possible,” a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in Berlin said.
The results of the tests, carried out in a special laboratory belonging to the Bundeswehr military, were provided with full transparency, she added.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed
Russia conducts its largest 2020 military exercise in Caucasus
Russia began its largest military exercise of this year on Monday in the southern part of the country’s Caucasus region, with about 80,000 troops to participate.
Forces from Russian allies Belarus, China, Armenia, Myanmar and Pakistan are taking part to strengthen coordination in joint military efforts, Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The Caucasus-2020 exercise is to take place for five days at military bases in southern Russia and in the Black and Caspian seas, the statement said.
Russian media reported that Iranian forces would participate in naval drills in the Caspian Sea.
The exercise is to focus on combating cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as electronic warfare activities, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed
Why FG is investing massively in railways, seaports — Amaechi
The Federal Government’s focus on railway and seaport development is a necessity to drive the nation’s economy, according to the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi.
Amaechi stated this at the virtual 15th Annual Kaleidoscope Global Business Conference hosted by the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York on Sunday.
“Many Nigerians have asked why the construction of railways.
“Eighty per cent of the cargoes we have in Nigeria are mostly imported, because the Nigerian economy is yet to generate enough production.
“However, the president is of the view that if we must produce, we must have infrastructure that enables that production, hence the focus on transportation, power and works,” he said.
The minister said although the railway project had started before the President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation’s seaports were not included in the design.
He stated that one of the first things the administration did was to rework the plan to link the rail network to seaports across the country.
“So, we started with the Apapa seaport. We are working there now and I believe by December, we should conclude the Lagos-Ibadan rail line extension into the port.
“We then added the Warri Seaport, the Calabar seaport and Tin Can Island. We are making sure that all of them include seaports,” Amaechi said.
According to him, contract for the 386km rail line from Kano to Maradi in the Republic of Niger will be awarded on Wednesday.
He added contract award for the 1,500km eastern rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri would follow on Sept. 30.
The minister highlighted other rail line projects in the country, including Abuja to Itakpe, and Itakpe to Warri, which he said had been completed
He said the Warri line would also be extended to the Warri seaport being developed by the federal government.
Amaechi also highlighted the government’s seaport digitalisation programme, which he said would be completed in 2021.
Mr Gurjit Singh, former Indian Ambassador to Germany, Indonesia and the African, described Nigeria as the giant of Africa.
Singh, who is the Chairman of the CII Task Force on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, said the Nigerian rail sector had the potential to drive the nation’s development as was the case in India.
He urged Nigeria to take advantage of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor initiative to access public private partnership funding for its infrastructure projects.
Organised by United States-based Kaleidoscope Business Project, the event brought together Nigerian state governors, ministers, business executives and prospective foreign investors.
The participants included Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau, Douye Diri of Bayelsa, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Samuel Ortom of Benue and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara,
The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and the Minister of State for of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Uchechukwu Ogah, also participated.
They took turns to highlight the investment opportunities that abound in their respective states and sectors in addition to the invest facilitation and security measures in place.
Welcoming the participants, the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, said the conference was part of the government’s efforts to open more windows of business opportunities in Nigeria to the world.
“With the opportunities that abound in Nigeria, this Conference aims at identifying those investors that are able, willing and committed to long term direct investment into the Nigerian economy.
“And it goes without saying that those from the Nigerian side are as desirous to meet investors in order to establish mutually beneficial relationships.
“Let me emphasise the need for us to jointly work together to enhance NIgeria economic growth and industrialization on our shared values and sound principles of mutually beneficial partnership and on a win-win business matrix,” Okoyen said.
Edited By: Felix Ajide
Nigeria, EU envoys meet to resolve access to airspace, travel ban
The Federal Government and envoys of the European Union (EU) on Friday in Abuja met to resolve the issue of access to airspace following the ban on some airlines by the Nigerian government.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the meeting is coming after the Federal Government opened its airspace on September 5.
Speaking to journalists at the end of the closed door meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the meeting was at the instance of the EU envoys.
Onyeama said that the meeting also discussed the issue of access to the European space of passengers coming from Nigeria, stating that the Nigerian side was very keen on knowing what exactly applied to Nigerians.
He further said there was obviously some misinformation which made the situation altogether not very clear.
“We understand that this has created some concerns and tensions, so we are here to listen to each other, diplomatically and politely.
“And in a friendly manner to try and see how we can begin to resolve outstanding issues of concern on either side.
“So, what we have asked the European side, to let us have, is the detailed information on Nigerians that can access European space from Nigeria.
“So, which category of Nigerians can in this present time and with the release and restrictions announced by the EU are affected? Who are the people considered on essential travel?
“And what chances does an average Nigerian have to visit a European country from here?
“So, to give us that information so that every Nigerian will be in a position to know whether they can access the European space irrespective of the fact whether they have a visa or no visa.
“There are a lot of Nigerians who have long-term visas, two-year Schengen visa and so forth and clearly, not all of them are able or have to write now as it stand, to enter Europe. So, we want to have that information,”Onyeama stated.
Onyeama also said that the Nigerian side decided and pointed out that just as the EU reviews its policies every two weeks, the Nigerian Government is also doing same and also look into the policies during PTF meetings.
Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria, said the availability of flights from Europe to Nigeria was very essential due to the ongoing collaboration between the EU and Nigeria.
Karlsen also said the EU appealed to its partners on the Nigerian side to reconsider the possibility of having again, some of the larger air carriers from Europe, flying with Nigeria.
He added that Nigeria was never picked out, even as he said there was never a ban against flights coming from Nigeria to Europe.
“Nigeria was never picked out, there was never a ban against flights coming from Nigeria to Europe, there was never, as I see it, a retaliation or reciprocity at play here.
“Merely, what Europe has done is exactly the same that Nigeria has done namely, looking at very carefully, what essential groups of people should come in a time of crisis.
“And how can we provide protocols to handle that in terms of testing and isolation, if needed,”Karlsen said.
In his remarks, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Europe is the strongest partner of Nigeria as far as the aviation sector is concerned.
Sirika said that whatever was done was not targeted at the EU and was subject to review.
NAN reports that in attendance from the Nigerian side were the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; Minister of State, Health, Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora; the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu.
The EU delegation included the Ambassadors of Germany, Netherlands, and France.
Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Wale Ojetimi
UN urges Belarus to grant entry to UN rights expert
Belarus should grant free access to specialised UN experts to monitor human rights issues, including prisons, the UN Human Rights Council urges in a resolution.
In addition to demanding entry for UN Belarus monitor Anais Marin, the Human Rights Council also calls on Belarus to stop using violence, torture and arrests to quash civil rights.
The resolution, which was initiated by European countries says Belarus authorities should start a dialogue with the opposition and civil society.
The resolution was adopted with 23 yes votes, two no votes from Eritrea and Venezuela, and 22 abstentions.
Similarly, Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, appealed to the UN on Friday for an international monitoring mission to be sent to Belarus to document an ongoing violent police crackdown on her supporters.
“The scope and the brutality of the extensive force used by the regime is in clear violation of all international norms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN,” Tikhanovskaya said in an address to the UN Human Rights Council.
At least 7,000 protesters have been detained in Belarus since a disputed presidential election more than a month ago.
The UN has received 450 reports of torture and other abuse of detainees.
President Alexander Lukashenko, 66, has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and EU member state Poland, for more than a quarter-century, tolerating little dissent.
Tikhanovskaya placed second in the Aug. 9 election, according to the disputed official tally.
She says she won and has demanded a new election. There have been protests in Belarus every day since the vote.
“We demand … an international monitoring mission to document the regime’s atrocities,” Tikhanovskaya, 38, told a special meeting of the UN council via video link.
She dismissed the Belarusian leadership’s allegations that, by seeking to intervene in Belarus’ post-election crisis, foreign powers have been meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
“It is very important to recognise that standing up for democratic principles and human rights is not interfering in internal affairs.
“It is a universal question of human dignity,” Tikhanovskaya said.
The UN Human Rights Council held the urgent debate in spite diplomats from Belarus and its close allies trying to prevent reports on violations from being presented at the meeting in Geneva.
“It is vital for the future of Belarus to break these cycles of increasing repression and violence,” Deputy UN Rights Chief Nada al-Nashif said.
“Civil society is a valuable partner, not a threat,” she added.
After al-Nashif’s speech, envoys from Belarus, Russia, Venezuela and China raised a long series of points of order to complain that the UN official had been allowed to speak, and to stop additional reports from a UN rights investigator and from Belarusian civil society representatives.
The Austrian diplomat, who presides over the Human Rights Council, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, finally issued a ruling to stop these interventions.
Belarusian Ambassador Yury Ambrazevic rejected all accusations voiced in the council, which heard video messages from the foreign ministers of Denmark, Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
“We believe it is not acceptable to use this body here to interfere in the election in any individual country,” Ambrazevic said.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Ifeyinwa Omowole