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‘Welcome home’: Trudeau greets 2 Michaels as they arrive in Canada – Global News

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Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have landed safely back in Canada after spending more than 1,000 days in detention in China.

The two men were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after they landed in Calgary on Saturday morning, Global News has confirmed.

Read more:
Could release of 2 Michaels, Meng Wanzhou thaw Canada-China relations? Experts are mixed

Trudeau announced on Friday night that the two men had been released and were on their way back having boarded a plane with Canada’s ambassador to China Dominic Barton.

“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” the prime minister said on Twitter.


Click to play video: 'Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada following release from Chinese prison'



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Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada following release from Chinese prison


Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada following release from Chinese prison

“You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”


Trudeau pictured early on Saturday after welcoming the ‘Two Michaels’ in Calgary.


Global News

Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Marc Garneau, thanked international partners for helping secure their release.

“We are inspired by the courage and resilience they have shown during this long ordeal,” he wrote on Twitter.

Read more:
Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor freed from China after Meng Wanzhou released: Trudeau


Click to play video: 'Michael Kovrig returns home, embraces family for first time in over 1,000 days'



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Michael Kovrig returns home, embraces family for first time in over 1,000 days


Michael Kovrig returns home, embraces family for first time in over 1,000 days

Trudeau’s announcement on Friday came hours after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was released from house arrest in Vancouver and allowed to return home to China after securing a deal to drop U.S. charges against her.

As part of the new deferred prosecution agreement, Meng pleaded not guilty to charges that she committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Kovrig, a former diplomat, and businessman Spavor were detained in China days after Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 on behalf of the United States.


Click to play video: 'Michael Spavor leaves border agency office in Alberta after returning to Canada'



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Michael Spavor leaves border agency office in Alberta after returning to Canada


Michael Spavor leaves border agency office in Alberta after returning to Canada

The two men were convicted on espionage charges in separate trials earlier this year. Spavor was later sentenced to 11 years in prison, while a sentence had yet to be issued for Kovrig.

Canada has repeatedly demanded China release the pair, saying they were arbitrarily detained on bogus charges.

While China has denied that Kovrig and Spavor’s arrests were a retaliatory measure, officials had also suggested that the pair could be released if Meng is allowed to return home to China and the case against her is dropped.


Click to play video: 'Trudeau says Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig ‘on their way home’'



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Trudeau says Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig ‘on their way home’


Trudeau says Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig ‘on their way home’

“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal,” Trudeau said during a news conference Friday.

“It is good news for all of us that they are on their way home to their families.”


Click to play video: 'Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison'



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Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison


Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison

News of their release was welcomed with a mix of surprise and relief.

Jacco Zwetsloot, a long-time friend of Spavor who lives in Seoul, South Korea, said he did not expect the two men to be freed so quickly after Meng’s release.


Wife of Michael Kovrig, Vina Nadjibulla (L) and his sister Ariana Botha speak to the media outside Toronto airport before seeing Michael in Toronto, Ontario, on September 25, 2021.


Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images

“That was beyond my wildest imaginings,” he told Global News. “It was incredible news.”

“I’m just glad that the process is over and that Michael’s ordeal was over and that he’s back with his family in Calgary.”

Read more:
Here are the key events leading to the release of Meng Wanzhou, ‘Two Michaels’


Click to play video: 'China releases ‘Two Michaels’ just hours after Meng Wanzhou plea deal'



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China releases ‘Two Michaels’ just hours after Meng Wanzhou plea deal


China releases ‘Two Michaels’ just hours after Meng Wanzhou plea deal

Jonathan Dunbar, another one of Spavor’s friends, said “this whole thing ended as suddenly as it began”.

Dunbar, who first met Spavor back in 2006, said he was curious to hear from his friend what he went through over last three years in China.

“I want to know what happened, what he experienced, what his side to all these experiences were,” he told Global News.


Michael Kovrig embraces his wife Vina Nadjibulla, left, after arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

– With files from Global News’ Bryan Mullan, Jeff Semple, Sean Boynton

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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FBI raids Washington home linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

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FBI agents on Tuesday raided a Washington mansion linked to  Russian Oleg Deripaska, a metals billionaire with ties to the Kremlin and to Paul Manafort, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s one-time 2016 campaign chairman.

An FBI agent stood outside the house in one of Washington’s wealthiest neighborhoods, with yellow “CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER” tape across the front of the mansion, while members of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team carried boxes out of the property.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed the agency was conducting a court-authorized law enforcement activity at the home, which the Washington Post has previously reported was linked to the Russian oligarch.

The specific reason for sealing off and searching the mansion was not immediately clear, and the FBI spokesperson did not provide details. A representative for Deripaska said the homes belong to relatives of the oligarch.

Deripaska, 53, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018. Washington imposed sanctions on him and other influential Russians because of their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Reuters could not immediately determine Deripaska’s whereabouts.

Deripaska once employed Paul Manafort, who served for a period as the chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign and who was convicted in 2018 on tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

He owns part of Rusal via his stake in the giant aluminum producer’s parent company En+ Group. Washington previously dropped sanctions against both companies but kept them on Deripaska.

Rusal’s Moscow-listed shares extended losses after the report, falling 6%.

The representative for Deripaska, who declined to give their name because of company policy, confirmed the raid on the home in Washington as well as one in New York City, and said both belong to Deripaska’s family rather than the executive himself.

“The FBI is indeed currently conducting searches of houses belonging to Oleg Deripaska’s relatives. The searches are being carried out on the basis of two court warrants related to the U.S. sanctions. The houses in question are located in New York and Washington, DC and are not owned by Oleg Deripaska himself,” said the representative did not provide any further details.

Deripaska previously sued to have the U.S. sanctions lifted but his case was dismissed in June.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, Kevin Fogarty Jonathan Landay; additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Susan Heavey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Mark Porter and Howard Goller)

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Tradition vs credibility: Inside the SE Asian meet that snubbed Myanmar

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 Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore pushed for a harder stance against Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing at a “tense” meeting that decided to exclude him from a regional summit this month, four people with knowledge of the talks said.

Southeast Asian ministers were divided between sticking to a tradition of non-interference and the need to retain credibility by sanctioning the coup leader, who has led a bloody crackdown on dissent since seizing power from Myanmar’s civilian government on Feb. 1, the sources said.

In the end it was the chair Brunei, with majority backing, that chose to keep him from attending the virtual Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit set for Oct 26 to 28, and invite instead a “non-political representative” from Myanmar.

The decision broke with ASEAN’s decades-long policy of engagement and non-interference in the affairs of member nations.

“The mood in the meeting had never been more tense,” said one of the people with knowledge of the discussions.

“If you asked me if ASEAN would do something like this a year ago, I would have said it would never happen,” said a regional diplomat. “ASEAN is changing.”

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Twitter the outcome of the meeting was a “difficult but necessary decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility”.

Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said before the meeting that the bloc could no longer afford to take a neutral stance on Myanmar, adding that if it relented, “our credibility as a real regional organization disappears … We’re a bunch of guys who always agree with each other on the worthless things”.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry and a spokesperson for Indonesia’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

The 10-member ASEAN also includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

International pressure has been mounting on ASEAN for a harder line against Myanmar’s failure to take agreed steps to end violence, allow humanitarian access and start dialogue with its opponents.

The grouping’s perceived ineptitude has sparked outrage in Myanmar, with some anti-junta protesters burning the bloc’s flag.

Since overthrowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, detaining her and most of her allies and ending a decade of tentative democracy, Myanmar’s military has killed more than 1,000 people and arrested thousands in a bid to crush resistance, monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says.

Fighting has flared nationwide between junta troops and hastily assembled pro-democracy armed groups.

In a televised address on Monday, making his first remarks since the snub, Min Aung Hlaing defended the military’s actions, saying it was seeking to restore order and ASEAN should take note of violence out by its opponents, before announcing an amnesty for thousands of political prisoners. [L1N2RE08M]

Earlier, a spokesman blamed ASEAN’s decision on “foreign intervention”, saying the United States and representatives of the European Union had pressured other members of the grouping.

CREDIBILITY AT STAKE

For decades, Myanmar’s military has been a thorny issue for the regional bloc, as previous ruling juntas came under fire for brutally crushing pro-democracy movements.

Friday’s decision came after weeks of failed diplomacy over the crisis and days after plans were scrapped for a visit to Myanmar by ASEAN’s special envoy Erywan Yusof when the junta denied him a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, citing the criminal charges she faces.

These include violating the official secrets act.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore first floated the idea of sidelining the junta head at a meeting this month of ASEAN foreign ministers, said the regional diplomat, as a tactic to win access to Suu Kyi, who is being held at an unknown location.

Two of the sources said there were fears that Min Aung Hlaing’s presence would deter other global leaders from attending the larger East Asia Summit, set for a few days after the ASEAN summit.

Last week, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres postponed a call with Southeast Asian ministers to avoid being in the same online room as a Myanmar military representative.

“The threats to disengage weren’t made, at least explicitly, but there was anxiety on the part of member states that it would begin to affect ASEAN’s credibility in a broader sense,” said Aaron Connelly, a Southeast Asia researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The regional leaders discussed on Friday requests to attend the summit from Myanmar’s parallel civilian government, the National Unity Government, which two sources said has been in quiet talks with Indonesia, among other nations, but stopped short.

The selection of a “non-political representative” now falls to the junta, which is likely to choose someone seen as comparatively neutral but tied to the regime, three of the sources said.

But the decision to sideline Min Aung Hlaing represents “the most severe sanction that any ASEAN member state has ever been dealt by the organisation,” said Connelly.

People regionwide have “lost faith and hope in the mechanism of ASEAN to protect its own community members,” said Fuadi Pitsuwan, a fellow at Chiang Mai University’s School of Public Policy.

It might be time to “re-evaluate” the non-interference principle, he added.

“Let’s see if this would kick start another round of this existential deliberation and whether it would end differently.”

 

(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng, Karen Lema, and Shoon Naing; Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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China, Russia navy ships jointly sail through Japan strait

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A group of 10 military vessels from China and Russia sailed through a narrow strait separating Japan’s main island and its northern island of Hokkaido on Monday, the Japanese defence ministry said on Tuesday.

It was the first time Japan , which closely monitors military exercises in its region, has confirmed the passage of Chinese and Russian naval vessels sailing together through the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the Sea of Japan from the Pacific.

The Tsugaru Strait is an international strait which is open to foreign ships, including military vessels.

“No violation of territorial waters has taken place, and no international rule has been ignored,” a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.

Russia and China held joint naval drills in the Sea of Japan as part of naval cooperation between the two countries from Oct. 14-17 involving warships and support vessels from Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

Moscow and Beijing have cultivated closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a time when their relations with the West have soured.

 

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; editing by Richard Pullin)

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