Thursday

8th Dec 2016

Putin accuses US of 'blackmail' on French bank fine

Russia has accused the US of using bank fines to “blackmail” France on arms sales, amid Western division on Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin made the claim in a speech to Russian ambassadors in Moscow on Tuesday (1 July).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • With an invasion force parked on the border, Putin also renewed his threat to 'protect' Russian speakers in Ukraine (Photo: kremlin.ru)

“We are aware of the pressure our American partners are putting on France to force it not to supply Mistrals to Russia. We even know that they hinted that if France does not deliver the Mistrals, the sanctions will be quietly lifted from their banks, or at least they will be significantly minimised,” he said.

“What is being done to the French banks can cause nothing but indignation in Europe … What is this if not blackmail?”

He noted that: “Europe is our natural and most significant trade and economic partner.”

He added that “ever more European politicians and businessmen are coming to understand that someone [the US] simply wants to use Europe in their own interests, that it is becoming a hostage of someone’s near-sighted, ideologised approaches.”

He also said France and Germany sided with Russia in condemning Ukraine’s decision to end the ceasefire against pro-Russia rebels.

“Unfortunately, [Ukrainian] President Poroshenko has resolved to resume military action, and we failed – when I say ‘we’, I mean my colleagues in Europe and myself – we failed to convince him that the road to a secure, stable and inviolable peace cannot lie through war,” he noted, following telephone conferences with French, German, and Ukrainian leaders this week.

His remarks on the Mistrals - two warships being built in France for Russia - come after the US at a recent G7 event criticised the project.

US regulators this week fined French bank BNP Paribas $9 billion over its illegal funding of the Cuban, Iranian and Sudanese regimes.

The French bank has admitted guilt and the French government has said it respects the independence of US regulators.

But France and the US have taken opposite lines on Poroshenko’s ceasefire decision.

France’s ambassador to Moscow, Jean-Maurice Ripert, told Russian news agency Interfax on Tuesday that he “regrets” the Ukrainian move and that France and Germany are putting “pressure” on Poroshenko to change his mind.

He told Interfax on Wednesday that “no one in Brussels has suggested considering the third phase of sanctions [economic sanctions]” against Russia at this stage.

But when asked by press on Tuesday if the US is supporting Poroshenko’s decision, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “Yes, we are. And look, it takes two to keep a ceasefire, right? … the fact remained that the separatists, many of them, weren’t adhering to it, and he has a right to defend his country”.

Her statements came after Nato’s military chief, US general Philip Breedlove, said on Monday that Russia has an invasion force parked on Ukraine’s border and is actively fuelling the Ukraine insurgency.

“Russian irregular forces are very active inside eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed forces are active inside eastern Ukraine. And Russian financing is very active inside eastern Ukraine".

The show of trans-Atlantic disunity comes amid deepening division inside the EU.

Austria last week invited Putin to Vienna and signed a new deal to build its part of South Stream - a Russian gas pipeline deemed to violate EU energy laws by the European Commission.

Hungary on Tuesday also said it will build its part of the project.

Meanwhile, France and Germany oppose the appointment of Polish FM Radek Sikorski as the EU’s new foreign policy chief because they say he is too outspoken on Russia.

Italy, a leading opponent of sanctions, also took over the rotating EU presidency on Tuesday, while its foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, is becoming a favourite to get the EU foreign post.

A Ukrainian diplomatic source told EUobserver that “unless the EU and US stand united” in a forceful approach to Russia “they will not achieve anything”.

He added that Poroshenko’s decision to end the ceasefire is due to growing awareness in Kiev that its Western allies will not help in security terms despite Ukraine’s signature of a strategic treaty with the EU.

“It is becoming clear that we have to rely on ourselves [to stand up to Putin],” the source said.

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  2. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  4. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  6. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  7. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  8. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  9. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  10. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  11. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  12. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome