Europe’s week: Ukraine talks fall flat and European Parliament President dies

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For several months now Russia has been amassing troops at the Ukrainian border, deeply worrying Kyiv and Brussels.

Top-level talks finally took place this week in various venues between Russia and the United States and NATO to de-escalate the crisis.

No sizable progress was made, with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying talks had reached a “dead end”.

His US counterpart US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had stern words for Moscow too.

“Anything is possible in the world, but I will say this, it won`t be about diplomacy failing. It will about be about President Putin having made a choice that actually, I think, will bring great, great sorrow to his countrymen and women because there will be great economic costs to Russia if they take this action. I think he knows that,” Sherman said.

Moscow and Washington are confronting virtually unbridgeable differences on many issues — including a repeated demand by the Kremlin for hard guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO.

And if the US and its allies do not meet its demands, Russian President Putin warned the Kremlin would take unspecified “military-technical measures”.

In an interview with Euronews, Heather Conley from the German Marshall Fund, said talks may not be enough to resolve the crisis.

“I fear we cannot dialogue our way through some very important principles, the principles of sovereignty, of territorial integrity, of the right of a country to choose its alliances and its relationships,” Conley said.

“Although we must remain open to dialogue and we hope to provide de-escalation and reducing and mitigating risk. This is really about the future of international security, European security and the role of Europe and the United States.”

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She added that Putin is seriously focused on bringing back the former Russia.

“What Vladimir Putin is very serious about is rolling back 30 years of international agreements after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is his intent,” Conley said. “The Kremlin will continue to escalate to receive accommodations from the West…they will do that in a cost-effective way.

“But make no mistake, I think Mr. Putin believes his historical legacy is repairing that historical Russia that he noted, and it’s about forcing Ukraine into the Russian orbit, whether he does that with troops, cyber-attacks or pressuring the West to accommodate his views. It’s going to be all of the above.”

Sassoli dies

On Tuesday, Italian MEP and president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, died at the age of 65.

He had been struggling for months with poor health having suffered in the past from leukaemia and was struck by a severe case of pneumonia in September during a plenary session of the Parliament and had to be hospitalised.

Sassoli returned to Italy to recover, but had a relapse that kept him away from his duties for a while.

The tributes flooded in following his death, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen leading the way.

“Today is a sad day for Europe. Our Union loses a passionate European, a sincere democrat and a good man,” she said on Tuesday.

“David Sassoli was a man of deep faith and strong convictions. Everyone loved his smile and his kindness, yet he knew how to fight for what he believed in.”

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As head of the executive arm, von der Leyen was in constant touch with Sassoli to move forward legislative proposals her team drafted through the hemicycle the Italian presided over.

“He wanted Europe to be more united, closer to its people, more faithful to our values. That is his legacy,” she remarked with solemnity. “And that is how I will remember him. As a champion of justice and solidarity, and a dear friend.”

His funeral was held on Friday at Rome’s Santa Maria degli Angeli, the church where Italian state funerals are held.

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