Moscow, Jul 20 (AP/UNB) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he believes Russians and Ukrainians constitute one nation and that the countries should find a way to integrate.
Putin made the comments in an interview with the American film director Oliver Stone on June 19; material from the interview was used in a Stone film about Ukraine and the full transcript was published by the Kremlin on Friday.
"I believe that Russians and Ukrainians are one people ... one nation, in fact," Putin said. "When these lands that are now the core of Ukraine joined Russia ... nobody thought of themselves as anything but Russians."
In light of this bond, Putin said "we can use this as our competitive advantage during some form of integration."
Berlin, Jul 19 (AP/UNB) —Germany is marking the 75th anniversary of the most famous plot to kill Adolf Hitler, honoring those who resisted the Nazis — who were stigmatized for decades as traitors — as pillars of the country's modern democracy amid growing concerns about the resurgence of the far-right.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will speak Saturday at an annual swearing-in ceremony for some 400 troops before addressing a memorial event, paid tribute ahead of the anniversary to executed plot leader Col. Claus von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators and highlighted their importance to modern Germany.
"Only if we understand our past can we build a good future," she said.
Von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944, during a meeting at his headquarters in East Prussia. Hitler escaped the full force of the blast when someone moved the briefcase next to a table leg, deflecting much of the explosive force. The plot crumbled when news spread that Hitler had survived. Von Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters were executed within hours.
The story had little resonance in the immediate post-World War II years, when many still viewed the July 20 plotters as traitors, as they had been painted by the Nazis in the aftermath of the failed assassination.
The resistance against the Nazis only came to be "laboriously accepted" over subsequent decades, said Johannes Tuchel, director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, and even in the 1980s many believed its memory would fade away. Only in 2004 did a survey show that a majority of Germans believe the resistance to the Nazis is "important for our political culture," he added.
"Those who acted on July 20 are an example to us, because they showed that they followed their conscience and set their stamp on a part of German history that otherwise was defined by the darkness of Nazism," Merkel said last week in her weekly video message.
Tuchel said von Stauffenberg is a "symbolic figure" of the resistance, an officer who evolved from supporting Nazi policies to becoming a ferocious opponent of the regime after Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He acknowledged that the resistance within the German military was, in overall terms, tiny: 200 to 300 people were involved in the July 20 plot. The German military had some 8 million men under arms at the time, and only "a handful or two" of its more than 1,000 generals and admirals participated.
But the memorial Tuchel heads, in the Berlin complex where von Stauffenberg worked and was executed, seeks to display the full breadth of German resistance to Hitler's regime after the Nazis took power in 1933.
Students in Munich formed the White Rose movement, distributing pamphlets urging "passive resistance" starting in 1942. Its leaders included siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were executed in 1943 and also have become resistance icons.
Helmuth James von Moltke's so-called Kreisau Circle started working in secret to end the dictatorship in 1940. And in 1938, carpenter Georg Elser attempted to kill Hitler and other senior Nazi leaders at an event in Munich, but was thwarted as the Nazi leader unexpectedly left the room minutes before a bomb exploded.
Tuchel conceded that, even now, there are shortcomings in historians' knowledge of the resistance and promised more research in the coming years into the role of women who opposed the Nazi dictatorship, responding to a recent call from parliament.
This year's anniversary comes amid a spike in concerns about rising numbers of far-right extremists in Germany, weeks after the killing of a regional official from Merkel's party who had supported the chancellor's welcoming approach to migrants. An extremist with previous convictions for violent anti-migrant crime has been arrested as the suspected killer.
"Today, we are obliged to confront all tendencies that want to destroy democracy — including right-wing extremism," Merkel said in her message on the July 20 plot.
Historians worry about efforts by far-right groups in Germany and parts of the hard-line nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, to appropriate the resistance for their own ends. AfD entered the national parliament in 2017 and its support in the polls stands above 10%. In 2017, a local AfD association came up with an ad claiming that "Sophie Scholl would vote for AfD," co-opting the name of the White Rose activist in a widely decried attempt to legitimize the party by implying that Merkel's government is a dictatorship.
Robert von Steinau-Steinrueck, the head of the July 20, 1944 Foundation — which started in 1949 to support the plotters' families — denounced such "attempts at fraudulent labeling, mixing up opposition in democracy with resistance to a dictatorship just because some people don't like the result of democratic processes."
Berlin, Jul 17 (AP/UNB) — The new leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's party took over Germany's defense ministry on Wednesday in a risky but potentially rewarding move, reversing her previous insistence that she wouldn't join the Cabinet.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeded Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected Tuesday as the new head of the European Commission.
Kramp-Karrenbauer narrowly won the leadership of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union in December. She has concentrated so far on trying to renew the party, among other things seeking to heal divisions with conservatives who were irked by Merkel's welcoming approach to migrants in 2015 and other moves.
However, she has seen her poll ratings drop sharply following several gaffes, and has struggled to raise her profile given that she lacks a seat in parliament and also wasn't in the Cabinet. Kramp-Karrenbauer had insisted in recent days that she would continue to concentrate on the party, but has now changed tack abruptly.
Merkel says she won't seek a fifth term as chancellor. It isn't yet clear who will run as the CDU's candidate for chancellor in Germany's next election, which is due in 2021 but could come earlier if her fractious coalition with the struggling center-left Social Democrats collapses.
The defense ministry offers Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, who has served as governor of Saarland state but not in the federal government, a chance to gain foreign and security policy experience.
But it also is notoriously difficult to run, with concerns including the poor state of the German military's equipment and managing a transition from conscription to a professional force.
While von der Leyen's unexpected elevation to the European Union's top job after 5½ years as defense minister suggests that the post can be a springboard to promotion, it has left most recent occupants as diminished figures in domestic politics. Von der Leyen herself was long considered a potential successor to Merkel but faded out of contention while at the defense ministry.
An ambitious younger conservative who also ran in last year's CDU leadership election, Health Minister Jens Spahn, had been considered favorite to become defense minister. Kramp-Karrenbauer's move to take the job avoids giving a potential rival more exposure.
Kramp-Karrenbauer didn't address the reasons for her choice in brief remarks to reporters at the defense ministry, and took no questions.
She said she was taking on the job "with great respect, whole-heartedly and full of conviction," and is "very much looking forward to this task."
Dubai, Jul 17 (AP/UNB) — Portugal's foreign ministry is clarifying that its decision to temporarily stop granting visas to Iranians is due to work on improving security at its Tehran consular building.
The foreign ministry says the decision is not linked to any assessment of security conditions in Iran or any political consideration.
The ministry issued the clarification in a statement late on Tuesday, hours after Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a Portuguese parliament committee the halt on issuing visas to Iranians was due to "security reasons."
At the time he declined to give more information about what was behind the decision, saying he would only provide details privately to lawmakers on the committee.
The husband of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran says she has been transferred to a hospital mental health facility.
Richard Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that his 40-year-old wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now in the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital in Tehran.
He says he is "hopeful" this means she will be receiving better treatment and care.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran while traveling with the couple's young daughter in April 2016 and has been sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, which she denies.
She and her husband recently ended a hunger strike designed to call attention to her plight. British officials have failed to secure her release despite repeated efforts.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the charitable Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Iran says remarks by the country's foreign minister about Iran's missile program possibly being up for negotiations with the U.S. meant to challenge Washington's arms sales policy to the region — and were not meant to indicate a readiness by Tehran for any such talks.
The Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, tweeted late on Tuesday that Mohammad Javad Zarif's comments "threw the ball into the U.S. court while challenging America's arm sales" to its Mideast allies.
Zarif had said in an NBC News interview that if the U.S. wants to talk about Iran's missiles, "they need first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
Iran has long rejected negotiations over its missile program.
Iran's mission to the United Nations also described Zarif's comments as purely "hypothetical."
Copenhagen, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — A Muslim cleric found guilty in Italy of planning terror has been detained in Norway on an Italian arrest warrant, The Norwegian domestic security agency said.
Iraqi-born Mullah Krekar was detained late Monday, the PST security agency said. It was not immediately clear whether he would be extradited.
The agency tweeted hours after an Italian court found Krekar guilty of attempting to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and create an Islamic caliphate, and sentenced him to 12 years.
Italian prosecutors had alleged Krekar, who is based in Norway, is behind Rawti Shax, a European network aimed at violently overthrowing the government in Kurdistan. Krekar, who has denied the allegations, plans to appeal, said his Italian lawyer, Marco Vernillo.
In 2015, European authorities arrested 15 Iraqi-Kurdish nationals on terrorism-related charges. Rawti Shax recruited foreign terrorist fighters to be sent to Iraq and Syria and provided logistical and financial support, according to the Italian prosecutors who spearheaded the probe. They alleged that Krekar was the leader.
Only Krekar and five others were charged, according to Vernillo.
Krekar, born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, had refused to travel to Italy, fearing he would be extradited to Iraq after the trial.
A refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan who came to Norway in 1991, the 63-year-old cleric has several convictions in Norway, including for threatening Prime Minister Erna Solberg. He also praised the 2015 extremist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Norwegian officials have long wanted to get him out of the country.
Krekar founded the now-defunct Ansar al-Islam insurgent group of Sunni Kurds, which aimed to install an Islamic caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan. It reportedly merged with the Islamic State group in 2014.
Norwegian courts have ruled in favor of his extradition and the government has given him travel documents so he can travel to Italy, escorted by Norwegian police. According to his lawyer, Brynjar Meiling, Krekar lives legally in Norway and should not be extradited because of fears for his life.