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Obama-Putin Confab, Erdogan vs. Facebook, Bitcoin Bits

Satoshi Nakamoto, the man Newsweek claims invented Bitcoin
Satoshi Nakamoto, the man Newsweek claims invented Bitcoin

During a one-hour phone conversation, President Barack Obama told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he had violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity by sending troops into Crimea, The Daily Telegraph reports. Putin in turn told Obama that the new Kiev government had imposed “absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions,” Reuters quoted a Kremlin statement as saying. According to the statement, Putin “stressed the paramount importance of Russian-American relations to ensure stability and security in the world. These relations should not be sacrificed for individual differences, albeit very important ones, over international problems.”

European Union leaders decided yesterday to suspend negotiations with Russia on investment and visa-free travel but warned Moscow that a second round of sanctions, which could include freezing assets and travel bans, was possible if it “jeopardizes the Ukrainian sovereignty,” Euronews quotes French President Francois Hollande saying. At the same time, Brussels also agreed to sign an association agreement that includes free trade with Ukraine. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged all parties to “avoid further deterioration” and appeared to criticize the threat of sanctions, Itar-Tass reports.

Meanwhile, the speaker of Russia’s upper House of Parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said there will be no war with Ukraine. “It’s complete nonsense, it absolutely does not reflect our intentions, the feelings of empathy and the pain we feel for the Ukrainian people,” ITV reports. Matviyenko also said that the Parliament would support the referendum in Crimea if voters decide to join Russia. In Kiev, however, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared that no one in the civilized world would recognize the “so-called referendum,” echoing Obama’s words that the vote was “illegal.”

Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets claims that former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has been taken to a Moscow hospital after a heart attack and that his condition is “grave.”

The situation in Ukraine is likely to affect the Paralympic Games set to begin today in Sochi, two weeks after the end of the Winter Olympics. This morning, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told radio station France Info that no officials would travel there, as their presence would be “inappropriate.” Similarly, the U.S., Britain and Germany will not send representatives to Sochi. But Ukraine announced that its athletes would take part in the games, the BBC reports.

This week’s issue of Newsweek features a story about the Japanese-American man it says is behind the virtual currency Bitcoin. Is this him?

Meanwhile, the Japanese government said today that transactions in the virtual unit could be subject to taxation, even though it doesn’t recognize it as a currency, The Japan Timesreports. This comes one week after the collapse of Mt. Gox, an exchange based in Tokyo. For more on Bitcoin, we offer this America Economia/Worldcrunch piece: Bitcoin Cometh: Why Digital Money Is Bound To Take Over.

An officer from the National Guard and a civilian were shot dead yesterday in Caracas after clashes erupted over a barricade removal, bringing the number of deaths since the beginning of the demonstrations to 20, El Universalreports. According to Al Jazeera, witnesses say the shots came from a crowd of protesters, while Diosdado Cabello, the president of the country’s National Assembly, blamed "snipers" positioned on top of a nearby building. In the meantime, President Nicolás Maduro gave 48 hours to Panamanian ambassador Pedro Roberto Pereira and three of his fellow diplomats to leave the country, one day after severing ties with Panama, which he accused of conspiring against Venezuela.

A recent study shows that the malaria virus risks spreading among populations that live in the South American highlands and Africa due to warmer temperatures, the BBC reports.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to ban YouTube and Facebook after damning audio recordings of him and his son have fueled a corruption scandal against him.

A new poll shows that 71% of American Catholics think Pope Francis represents a “major change in direction.” Read more fromThe New York Times.

And Argentine officials have found the remains of a Spanish ship that sank in 1765.


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It's A Golden Era For Russia-Turkey Relations — Just Look At The Numbers

On the diplomatic and political level, no world leader speaks more regularly with Vladimir Putin than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But the growing closeness of Russia and Turkey can also be measured in the economic data. And the 2022 numbers are stunning.

Photo of Erdogan and Putin walking out of a door

Erdogan and Putin last summer in Sochi, Russia

Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via ZUMA
Aytug Özçolak


ISTANBUL — As Russia has become increasingly isolated since the invasion of Ukraine, the virtual pariah state has drawn notably closer to one of its remaining partners: Turkey.

Ankara has committed billions of dollars to buy the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, and contracted to Russia to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant. The countries’ foreign policies are also becoming increasingly aligned.

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But the depth of this relationship goes much further. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin more than any other leader: 16 times in 2022, and 11 times in 2021. Erdoğan has visited Russia 14 times since 2016, compared to his 10 visits to the U.S. in the same time period (half of which were in 2016 and 2017).

But no less important is the way the two countries are increasingly tied together by commerce.

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