Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged better ties between Moscow and the European Union, declaring the Kremlin "ready" for an improved relationship.

Putin says Russia wants better ties with Europe

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged better ties between Moscow and the European Union, declaring the Kremlin “ready” for an improved relationship.

Addressing the annual World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time since 2009, Putin struck a conciliatory tone, saying Russia and Europe shared a common history and needed to return to a “positive agenda”.

His appeal comes after tens of thousands of Russians on Saturday protested in support of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, whose jailing has triggered a wave of condemnations from Western countries.

“Of course, Western Europe and Russia should be together. Today’s situation is not normal,” Putin said by video link.

“If we can rise above the problems of the past then a positive phase of relationships would await us.”

“But love is impossible if it is only declared by one side. It should be mutual,” Putin added.

The Russian leader also urged Europe to “get rid of the phobias of the past” and said Moscow was prepared for an improved relationship.

“We are ready for it, we want it,” Putin said.

He did not specify how Russia and Europe could improve ties.

Also on Wednesday, however, Russia’s foreign ministry said Europe’s response to the situation with Navalny had “cast doubt on the very possibility of building further interaction with the European Union”.

The ministry added in a statement that the response was “the apogee of unfriendly steps”.

In recent years, relations with Brussels have gone from bad to worse, with the bloc accusing Moscow of being behind the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter with a Soviet-designed nerve agent, Novichok, in the English town of Salisbury in 2018.

More recently, the West said Putin’s top domestic critic Navalny had also been targeted with Novichok. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the claims.

Navalny’s team has called on the West to introduce new sanctions against Russia and punish billionaires seen as close to Putin. Agence France-Presse

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Duterte says gov’t going ‘full-throttle’ on vaccine drive to ensure student safety

By Prince Golez

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday vowed that the government will go “full- throttle” in its mass coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccination program to ensure safe return to schools.

Duterte made the statement during the simultaneous inauguration of school buildings at the Gen. Gregorio H. Del Pilar Integrated School and Virginia Ramirez-Cruz High School in Bulakan, Bulacan.

“I assure you that the government is exerting all efforts to go full-throttle in this Covid-19 vaccination program to ensure the safety of students before the resumption of the face-to face-learning,” the Chief Executive said.

In his speech, Duterte also underscored the need for timely completion of government structures and projects and directed all concerned agencies to ensure the least inconvenience to the public during construction and maintain the highest ethical standards.

“Our investment in education infrastructure affirms our continuing commitment to promote the right of the people to quality and accessible education at all levels,” according to him.

“A good education is a valuable gift we can proudly pass on to succeeding generations of Filipinos. Let us join hands in developing the full potential of your youth as bearers of our nation’s sustainable future,” he concluded.

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