Russian President Vladimir Putin, while visiting a Russian agriculture equipment factory, joked that if he were to lose the elections that he would seek a new career as a tractor driver.
He said that if something were to go wrong “I’ll start working as a tractor driver after March 18,” referring to Russia’s presidential election which is slotted for Mar. 18, 2018.
In December 2018, Putin announced that he would seek a reelection for a second consecutive term.
In addition to Putin, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Jirinovsky, TV presenter Yekaterina Gordon, businessman Sergey Polonsky, journalist Kseniya Sobçak, and economist and politician Grigori Yavlinsky will also participate in the presidential race.
Kremlin calls US sanctions move attempt to influence Russian elections
The Kremlin said on Monday that a new U.S. sanctions report expected to be released imminently was an attempt to influence Russia's presidential election in March, but predicted it would fail to impact the vote.The United States could release reports as early as Monday detailing the possibilities for expanding sanctions against Russia, including a list of oligarchs and potential restrictions on the holding of Russian government debt.Moscow and Washington remain at odds over U.S. allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Russia denies, as well as over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.It is not clear whether the U.S. reports will definitely trigger new sanctions, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Russia regarded them as an unfriendly attempt to sway the March presidential election."We do think this is a direct and obvious attempt timed to coincide with the elections in order to influence them," said Peskov. "We do not agree with this and are convinced that there will be no influence."Russia holds a presidential election on March 18, which opinion polls show incumbent Vladimir Putin should easily win."The publication of this list on its own doesn’t mean anything," said Peskov. "It isn’t the start of a new sanctions wave. So we will have to analyse what will happen next."
US, Russia to meet nuclear treaty obligations, US says
The U.S. and Russia are likely to meet a key Feb. 5 nuclear arms reduction treaty deadline, the State Department said Thursday."The United States has met the central limits of the New Start Treaty in August, 2017. We assess at this time that Russia has also progressed toward meeting those limits," spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.The U.S. "has no reason" to believe Moscow will not meet its own obligation by Monday, Nauert said.The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, sets central limits for Moscow and Washington's nuclear weapons stockpiles, capping deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched missiles and heavy bombers at 700, setting the maximum number of deployed nuclear weapons at 1,550, and limiting deployed and non-deployed ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles and bombers at 800.Russia and the U.S. will exchange data over the next month on their nuclear arsenals, according to Nauert."We hope each country will confirm the compliance of the other as soon as possible after this data exchange, and then we'll hopefully have an update for you on the fifth, with additional information," she said.
Diplomatic sources highlight Turkey's efforts in Sochi
Turkey spoke for the Syrian opposition at this week's Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, Russia "to make sure the opposition would be in the constitutional list", diplomatic sources said.Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomatic sources told Anadolu Agency that "if Turkish officials had not been present in the meeting, the invited to the constitutional committee would be consisted without the will of Turkey".The sources said Sochi was not a "peace plan on its own, but provided additional value"."UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura was given a great responsibility within this regard," the sources said. "Until now, these meetings were organized to meet with a structure that only represents regime and opposition forces. Many other groups were present in Sochi.""[Mistura] will not choose a total of 150 officials in this committee, but a group of 25-30, maximum 40 people in it."The sources said a total of 600 people were invited, and Turkish officials "made an effort for the Syrian opposition not to waste the [its] gains so far.""They were not there physically, but their [aspirations] were explained and recorded thanks to Turkey," the sources added.US, Turkish FMs discuss Sochi talks, Afrin opErdoğan, Putin discuss Sochi talks, Afrin op on phoneGeneva to set schedule for drafting Syrian constitutionConstitutional committeeOn Tuesday, the Syrian opposition decided not to participate in the Sochi summit and instead announced that Turkey could do it on its behalf, the diplomatic sources said.A Syrian opposition delegation arrived at Sochi for the summit but later changed their minds when they saw pictures with Syrian regime flags on it. Afterwards, they gave Turkey the authority to represent it at the summit, said the sources.A proposal to form a constitutional committee was agreed upon on Tuesday at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in the Russian city of Sochi, organized by Ankara, Tehran, and Moscow.Parties at the two-day congress said in a final statement they wanted to bring an end to the ongoing conflict in the region as soon as possible.The statement also called on “all friends of Syria to take all necessary steps to help the country to reintegrate into the international community and restore its status as a distinguished member.”“To that end we agreed to form a constitutional committee comprising the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic delegation along with wide-represented opposition delegation for drafting of a constitutional reform as a contribution to the political settlement under UN auspices in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254,” the statement said.The constitutional committee will include “government, opposition representatives, Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women,” according to the statement.It added that the final agreement on the “mandate and terms of reference, powers, rules of procedure, and selection criteria for the composition” of the committee is to be reached in the UN-led Geneva process.The statement called on the UN secretary-general to assign his special envoy to Syria to assist the constitutional committee work in Geneva.