Russia – Dismissal of Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza’s appeal against his 25-year jail sentence (Aug. 1, 2023)
France expresses its disappointment and its profound disapproval regarding the July 31 ruling dismissing Vladimir Kara-Murza’s appeal against his 25-year jail sentence in a penal colony. The decision to uphold this sentence is an illustration of the ways that the Russian judicial system is manipulated against those who criticize the government.
The Russian journalist and political activist, who was awarded the Vàclav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Council of Europe in 2022, notably worked with the Russian NGOs Open Russia and the Free Russia Foundation, which the Russian authorities consider “undesirable.” He was sentenced to 25 years in a penal colony, the maximum sentence under the Russian criminal code, for treason and spreading “disinformation” regarding the actions taken by Russia in Ukraine.
France calls on Russia to comply with its international obligations to respect human rights and to immediately and unconditionally free the political prisoners and drop the charges against them. We salute the courage of the women and men who, like Vladimir Kara-Murza, Aleksei Navalny, Oleg Orlov, Aleksandra Skochilenko, and many others, defend freedom of speech and freedom of opinion, despite the risks that this entails.
Ukraine – Condemnation of Russian strikes targeting Odesa (Aug. 2, 2023)
France utterly condemns the latest round of Russian strikes in Ukraine, which hit the port infrastructure of Izmail on the Danube River the night of August 1. A grain elevator, grain hangars, freight terminal tanks, warehouses and administrative buildings were all damaged or destroyed.
After pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia is once again deliberately putting global food security at risk by destroying essential grain export infrastructure. Russia is simply pursuing its own interests at the expense of the most vulnerable by causing crop prices to rise and attempting to prevent one of its main competitors from exporting the agricultural goods that they produce. France will continue to provide food aid to the countries that have been hit the hardest by the food insecurity resulting from the Russian aggression.
Once again, these strikes targeted civilian infrastructure, in violation of international humanitarian law. As Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna has repeatedly emphasized, these unacceptable acts are war crimes and cannot go unpunished. In close coordination with its partners, France will continue to provide military support to Ukraine to help it strengthen its air defenses, as well as support for the Ukrainian courts and the International Criminal Court to combat impunity for such crimes.
Regarding the French citizens who have chosen not to leave Niger, has France been assured by the coup leaders that their safety is guaranteed?
Our citizens’ safety in Niger is our top priority. That is why we decided, as was stated by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to begin an operation to allow those French and European nationals who wish to leave the country to take flights that we have provided for them. To date, over 350 of these nationals have been evacuated on the first two flights.
Local commitments have been made to ensure that the evacuations take place under proper conditions.
Regarding our compatriots who have decided to remain in the country, our embassy continues to work in Niger and to mobilize its efforts to ensure their safety.
To what degree are you coordinating with the U.S., given that they also have armed forces there?
We are working together very closely with the U.S. and our other partners, especially our European partners.
Were French nationals able to obtain spots on the Italian flight, thanks to a reciprocity-type arrangement between Italy and France?
There were no French nationals on the Italian flight, however, there is of course mutual solidarity among Member States. We have an excellent partnership with the Italians on these matters. The Minister has spoken several times with her counterpart, Mr. Tajani.
Is a French representative attending the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff meeting that is taking place in Abuja through this coming Friday?
As France is not a member of ECOWAS, of course we do not have a representative attending the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff meeting, which began today in Abuja, Nigeria.