«Розглядаємо можливість примусової евакуації 33 дітей із 5 населених пунктів «помаранчевої зони»: Загризове, Богуславка, Шийківка, Маліївка, Нова Кругляківка»

BRASILIA — The murder of British reporter Dom Phillips in the Amazon rainforest two years ago was not an isolated crime in a region where violence against journalists has soared in recent years, a report published on Wednesday said.  

As the world’s interest in the Amazon as a barrier against climate change has grown, so has the work of journalists reporting on environmental and other crimes in the vast and often lawless region but it has come at a price.  

Cases of violence against journalists more than doubled from 20 to 45 between 2021 and 2022, years when former hard-right President Jair Bolsonaro was in office, according to the Vladimir Herzog Institute, a nonprofit rights organization.  

Bolsonaro eased environmental controls and gutted enforcement agencies to foster development in the Amazon, which spawned a boom in illegal gold mining and logging.  

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who took office last year, has said he will confront organized crime contributing to destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest. Deforestation has slowed but progress has been hard on other fronts.  

Violence against journalists retreated in 2023, the report from the Herzog Institute showed, but remained slightly above the historical average.  

Dom Philips was shot in 2022 by illegal fishermen when traveling with Bruno Pereira, an expert on isolated indigenous people who was tracking the activity of poachers on protected reservation land.  

The Herzog Institute report, which documents 230 cases of violence against journalists in the Amazon since 2013, said reporters have left the rainforest fearing for their lives after receiving threats from miners, loggers and ranchers who have occupied indigenous lands.

In 2020, Roman dos Anjos, who reported on illegal gold mining in the Yanomami reservation, was kidnapped, beaten and left in the forest with broken limbs. He survived the ordeal and is still waiting for his kidnappers to be brought to justice.  

In 2020, a journalist who investigated the sale of mercury, which is used by wildcat miners to separate the gold from ore, was chased and threatened by miners in Rondonia state capital Porto Velho. On a reporting trip a year later, gunmen fired in the air to scare him away, the Herzog Institute said.  

In 2022, in the same city, criminals machine-gunned the office of the local newspaper Rondonia ao Vivo, which had criticized the interests of farmers pushing the agricultural frontier into Indigenous lands, the report said.  

“The Brazilian State urgently needs to ensure the safety of journalists and their sources,” TV reporter Sonia Bridi, a veteran of Amazon coverage, wrote in the report. “The Amazon is a territory increasingly controlled by criminal organizations.”

Seoul, South Korea — North Korea and Russia have signed a treaty containing a mutual defense clause, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced Wednesday, during a rare Putin visit to Pyongyang.

Following a day of highly publicized events, Putin and Kim signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership agreement,” formally upgrading relations that have expanded since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The text of the agreement has not been released. But following the signing, Putin said the deal contains a clause that “provides for the provision of mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties.”

The move amounts to a significant change of Russian policy toward North Korea, potentially restoring a mutual defense treaty that had been abolished following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Following the signing ceremony, Kim said the relationship has been elevated to the level of an “alliance,” although Putin did not use that phrase in his public comments.

According to a Kremlin readout, Putin noted that Russia “does not rule out the possibility that its cooperation with the DPRK in defense and technology will be developed further,” using an acronym for North Korea’s official name.

The development is sure to rattle Western leaders, who have condemned Russian-North Korean cooperation as a violation of international law. U.S. officials accuse North Korea of supplying Russia with thousands of containers of munitions, including ballistic missiles, for use on the Ukraine battlefield.

The treaty signing surprised many observers, who had predicted that any formalization of the relationship would fall short of a formal alliance.

“Kim Jong Un has been able to extract more concessions than we thought he would be able to from his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea specialist and professor of international relations at King’s College London.

The move appears to be an attempt to reanimate Soviet-era relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, although not all analysts are convinced that ties have reached that level.

“Clearly, it’s an important development, but I think we will need to see this relationship continue on a strong footing for a number of years before we can say there has been a definite change in the relationship,” said Pacheco Pardo.

Close, but how close?

In recent years, Russia and North Korea have projected a unified stance as each country’s relations with the West deteriorated. But the partnership has faced significant strains.

As recently as 2017, Russia supported United Nations Security Council resolutions in response to North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons program. Russia now opposes those sanctions, with Putin on Wednesday calling them part of a “confrontational U.S. policy.”

Treaty relations between Moscow and Pyongyang also have been turbulent.

In 1961, North Korea and the Soviet Union signed a friendship and mutual assistance treaty that included a provision for military intervention in emergencies. That deal was abolished after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The two countries signed a new treaty in 2000, but it focused on economic rather than military matters. Russian officials say the latest document will replace that pact.

Kim Gunn, a South Korean lawmaker who earlier this year stepped down as South Korea’s top nuclear envoy, condemned the signing of the mutual defense clause, which he said is “only harmful to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

But in Kim’s estimation, the move is aimed at establishing the appearance of an alliance rather than the real thing. “Don’t be dismayed by the facade of the visit, because that’s exactly what they intend to achieve,” he told VOA.

Details matter

Analysts will closely parse the language of any new treaty signed by Putin and Kim – if the agreement text is released.

In addition to North Korea, Russia also shares comprehensive strategic partnerships — its highest form of interstate relations — with countries that include Vietnam, Mongolia and some Central Asian nations. However, not all those relationships are described as alliances.

“Language matters for these things, in terms of what specific commitments and obligations are made,” said Mason Richey, associate professor at South Korea’s Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. “Mutual assistance in case of attack would qualify as an alliance.”

But Richey said he has “serious questions” about the ostensible alliance between Russia and North Korea, “especially as post-Cold War Russia has a spotty record in supporting its strategic partners.”

“North Korea would do well to examine the experience of Armenia in its last war with Azerbaijan. Russia was not very helpful to its supposed ally,” Richey said.

Asked by VOA what he thinks of the North Korean-Russian treaty development, former Russian diplomat Georgy Toloraya said the agreement “means what it says … nuclear umbrellas.”

But, he added, “Security guarantees do not equal alliance.”

Late arrival

The treaty signing Wednesday capped a busy day for Putin, who arrived at the Pyongyang airport around 3 a.m. — several hours later than Russian officials had earlier anticipated.

Despite the late hour, Kim greeted Putin with a hug while standing on a red carpet rolled out next to Putin’s plane.

The Russian leader later received a grandiose welcoming ceremony in Pyongyang’s central Kim Il Sung Square, where buildings were draped in massive Russian and North Korean flags and portraits of the two leaders.

North Korean residents waved bright flower bouquets as Putin and Kim observed an honor guard before departing for negotiations.

At the outset of the talks, Putin thanked North Korea for its “consistent and unwavering support” for Russian policy, including in Ukraine, reported Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Kim expressed his “full support and solidarity” for what he called Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, and he vowed to “unconditionally support” Russia’s policies, according to Russian media.

Late Wednesday, Putin presented Kim with a luxury, Russian-built Aurus limousine — the second such vehicle that Putin has given to Kim in recent months.

According to Russian television, Putin got behind the wheel, taking Kim for a ride around the grounds of the Kumsusan Palace — a national landmark that contains the embalmed bodies of Kim’s father and grandfather.

Putin was expected to depart late Wednesday for Hanoi, the second stop on his foreign tour.

Днем раніше 216 депутатів проголосували за виклик генпрокурора для доповіді – після виходу розслідування «Схем» про те, що дівчина Вербицького у 2024-му році придбала елітне майно на суму щонайменше 52 мільйони гривень

AMBLETEUSE, France — The rising tide crept above their waists, soaking the babies they hugged tight. Around a dozen Kurds refused to leave the cold waters of the English Channel in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable: French police had just foiled their latest attempt to reach the United Kingdom by boat.

The men, women and children were trapped again on the last frontier of their journey from Iraq and Iran. They hoped that a rubber dinghy would get them to better lives with housing, schooling and work. Now it disappeared on the horizon, only a few of its passengers aboard.

On the beach of the quiet northern French town of Ambleteuse, police pleaded for the migrants to leave the 10-degree Celsius water, so cold it can kill within minutes. Do it for the children’s sake, they argued.

“The boat is go!” an increasingly irritated officer shouted in French-accented English. “It’s over! It’s over!”

The asylum-seekers finally emerged from the sea defeated, but there was no doubt that they would try to reach the U.K. again. They would not find the haven they needed in France, or elsewhere in the European Union.

Europe’s increasingly strict asylum rules, growing xenophobia and hostile treatment of migrants were pushing them north. While the U.K. government has been hostile, too, many migrants have family or friends in the U.K. and a perception they will have more opportunities there.

EU rules stipulate that a person must apply for asylum in the first member state they land in. This has overwhelmed countries on the edge of the 27-nation bloc such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

Some migrants don’t even try for new lives in the EU anymore. They are flying to France from as far away as Vietnam to attempt the Channel crossing after failing to get permission to enter the U.K., which has stricter visa requirements.

“No happy here,” said Adam, an Iraqi father of six who was among those caught on the beach in a recent May morning. He refused to provide his last name due to his uncertain legal status in France. He had failed to find schooling and housing for his children in France and had grown frustrated with the asylum office’s lack of answers about his case. He thought things would be better in the U.K., he said.

While the number of people entering the EU without permission is nowhere near as high as during a 2015-2016 refugee crisis, far-right parties across Europe, including in France, have exploited migration to the continent and made big electoral wins in the most recent European Parliamentary elections. Their rhetoric, and the treatment already faced by many people on the French coast and elsewhere in the bloc, clash with the stated principles of solidarity, openness and respect for human dignity that underpin the democratic EU, human rights advocates note.

In recent months, the normally quiet beaches around Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne-Sur-Mer have become the stage of cat-and-mouse games — even violent clashes — between police and smugglers. Police have fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Smugglers have hurled stones.

While boat crossings across the Channel represent only a tiny fraction of migration to the U.K., France agreed last year to hold migrants back in exchange for hundreds of millions of euros. It’s an agreement akin to deals made between the European Union and North African nations in recent years. And while many people have been stopped by police, they are not offered alternative solutions and are bound to try crossing again.

About 10,500 people have reached England in small boats in the first five months of the year, some 37% more than the same time period last year, according to data published by the U.K.’s Home Office.

The heightened border surveillance is increasing risks and ultimately leading to more deaths, closer to shore, said Salomé Bahri, a coordinator with the nongovernmental organization Utopia 56, which helps migrants stranded in France. At least 20 people have died so far this year trying to reach the U.K., according to Utopia 56. That’s nearly as many as died in all of last year, according to statistics published by the International Organization of Migration.

People are rushing to avoid being caught by authorities and there are more fatalities, Bahri said. In late April, five people died, including a 7-year-old girl who was crushed inside a rubber boat after more than 110 people boarded it frantically trying to escape police.

LONDON — General elections in the United Kingdom will be held on July 4, and thousands of Hong Kongers who are eligible to vote through the British National (Overseas) program, or BNO visa, are expected to make their voices heard.

The program was launched in January 2021 in response to a harsh Chinese security law imposed on Hong Kong seven months earlier. Since then, more than 150,000 Hong Kongers have received visas. The policy allows them to build new lives in the U.K. and gives them the right to vote.

In towns such as Sutton and Wokingham, where many Hong Kongers live, the influence of Hong Kong society is obvious as the election approaches. Candidates seeking to secure their votes are addressing their concerns and needs.

Lucy Demery, a Conservative Party parliamentary candidate for Wokingham, lived in Hong Kong for 17 years and once joined peaceful protests against the strict rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

She told VOA that she wants to make sure that she is “the biggest, strongest advocate for the Hong Kong community here.”

“It’s a priority of mine to make sure that all Hong Kongers in Wokingham feel safe and secure and integrated into the community here. … It’s really a Conservative government that initiated the BNO settlement scheme, which I’m very proud of,” she said.

In Sutton, parliamentary candidates from all parties met with more than 70 BNO Hong Kongers and journalists on Saturday. The event was organized by local community groups Sutton Hong Kongers and Vote for Hong Kong 2024.

The candidates expressed support for integration and providing a safe environment for the Hong Kong people. They also took a firm stance on international issues involving China, emphasizing the importance of human rights and democracy.

Hersh Thaker, a Labour Party candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, said, “This is going to be one of the most remarkable migration stories in British history when you look back at the number of people that have come over from Hong Kong, but actually the contribution that has been made to this country as a result of this has been extraordinary.”

But not all Hong Kongers are eager to participate in the political process.

Richard Choi, Sutton Hong Kongers’ organizer, told VOA, “It’s important for Hong Kongers to feel safe. They are too scared to get involved in politics. They are afraid of speaking out. It’s hard to get feedback from them. Even though their email address, postcode, and data are not required, people still don’t want to get involved. Article 23 [of Hong Kong’s national security law] and the spy incident make it even worse.” 

Last month, the U.K. prosecuted three people under the country’s National Security Act of 2023 for allegedly assisting Hong Kong intelligence agencies to conduct foreign interference activities in the U.K. According to the prosecution, Chung Biu Yuen, the executive manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, was the suspected mastermind of the activities.

Article 23 of Hong Kong’s national security law has also been used against Hong Kongers in the U.K. The Hong Kong passports of activists Simon Cheng and Nathan Law, who are in exile in the U.K., have been revoked, and their families in Hong Kong have been harassed.

Demery said the U.K.’s strengthened national security law is crucial in protecting the safety of Hong Kong people.

“It was also a Conservative government which strengthened our national security laws in the U.K., which allows us now to be cracking down on some transnational oppression from Hong Kong and China on our territory,” she said.

Bobby Dean, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, trained democracy activists in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He expressed concerns about China’s threat to the Hong Kong community in the U.K. and called on the government to take a tough stance.

“In the West, for too long, [we] have been too lenient and too concerned about how bad state actors like Russia and China might react to the language and rhetoric that we use, and so, we really soften that,” he said. “China and Russia are looking at the hard calculation, not the tone of what we say.”   

During the event, some Hong Kongers expressed their concerns about higher tuition fees for those who haven’t lived in the U.K. for three years. One BNO passport holder said, “People misunderstand that Hong Kong people are rich. But many of us cannot afford £50,000 [$63,000] a year in tuition fees for our children because we are still classified as internationals.”

Tom Drummond, the Conservative Party candidate for Sutton and Cheam, said he would help solve the problem of expensive tuition fees.

“We need to rebuild trust. We are all standing to make your lives better. I will be your voice in Westminster instead of your voice in Sutton. But I think it’s important to realize that we’re standing, all of us. And whoever’s elected, I’ve got no doubt, they’re going into it for the right reasons,” he said.

Luke Taylor, the Liberal Democrats candidate for Sutton and Cheam, said, “I think I would give you the reassurance that as Liberal Democrats, we have a history of standing on, as a party, the right side of controversial issues. We are not afraid to be contrary to the established view.”

Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.

Згідно зі знімками, зробленими о 14:30 за Києвом, на території нафтобази триває пожежа. Однак оцінити ступінь ураження поки складно, бо клуби диму обмежують видимість

Tbilisi, Georgia — On top of a steep hill overlooking Tbilisi, tucked behind the city’s ancient fortress, sits a sprawling, futuristic $50 million mansion that locals call “the glass palace.” A shark tank, private zoo and helipad lie within the heavily guarded compound. Its owner, Bidzina Ivanishvili, reportedly calls it his “James Bond” house.

Ivanishvili is Georgia’s richest citizen by far. The 68-year-old multibillionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party was rarely seen in public for much of the last decade — but he is now pulling the strings of Georgian politics, according to Eka Gigauri, head of the anti-corruption group Transparency International in Georgia.

“Ivanishvili is the real ruler of this country,” Gigauri said. “He owns one-third of Georgian GDP, and he made his fortune in Russia in the late ’90s. He still has the interests in Russia through his offshore companies — and not only him but his family members as well. …

“Is it possible to expect, or is it realistic to expect, from such an individual that he will do everything for Georgia to become the EU and NATO member? I don’t think so,” Gigauri told VOA.

Ivanishvili, for his part, has rarely spoken in public since a brief term as prime minister in 2012-13 apart from a speech in late April in which he defended a controversial “foreign agent” law as needed to prevent foreign intelligence agencies from undermining the government through the financing of nongovernmental organizations.

West vs Russia

Analysts say Georgia is torn between a future aligned with the West or with Russia.

Protests erupted in March this year after the government introduced the “foreign agent” law, which requires any organization receiving more than 20% of its funding from foreign sources to register as a foreign agent. It closely resembles similar legislation in Russia which has forced many nongovernmental and media organizations to close or move abroad.

The protests against the legislation in Georgia have evolved into anti-government demonstrations, as the country prepares for crucial elections in October.

Ghia Nodia, a political analyst at Georgia’s Ilia State University, said, “With this so-called Russian law or foreign agent law, [Georgian Dream] effectively turned its back on Europe, even though they don’t admit to it openly.”

EU aspirations

The Georgian government insists it still wants to join the European Union by 2030, although the bloc has warned that the foreign agent law could derail that process. The EU granted official candidate status to Georgia last year, hoping to set it on the path to democratic reform and Western integration. But the West misread Georgia’s billionaire puppet master, Nodia said.

“The Georgian state has been captured by a specific person — Bidzina Ivanishvili — who is very secretive, whose agenda was not clear for people,” Nodia said. “Some people, including in the West, had illusions that he was maybe a little bit of a strange guy, but ultimately he is also committed to values and norms of Western democracy.

“But they were proved wrong and skeptics were proved right, unfortunately. And it appears that he never had any real kind of commitment to democratic norms,” Nodia told VOA.

 

Protests

The streets of Tbilisi have become a canvas for anti-government graffiti. Alongside EU, U.S., Georgian and NATO colors, protesters have daubed the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag — a show of solidarity as Kyiv tries to resist Russian occupation and domination. One slogan reads “Georgia is Ukraine; Ukraine is Georgia.”

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine forced Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party into the limelight, said Nodia.

The invasion “somehow put him on the spot that he had to take sides more clearly. He didn’t want to. But eventually he moved more in the Russian direction, even though Georgian Dream tries to hide it, not to say it openly. Ivanishvili made a strategic decision that Russia is winning this war, so we should stay with the winner, or prospective winner, as he saw it,” Nodia said.

Stoking fear

At a government-organized rally in April aimed at countering the opposition demonstrations, Ivanishvili said a Western “global party of war” was meddling in Georgia, citing a host of conspiracy theories about the role of nongovernmental organizations in the country. His party accuses the West of trying to persuade Georgia to open a new conflict against Russia, without providing any evidence.

The propaganda is part a well-rehearsed autocratic playbook, said Aka Zarkua of the Governance Monitoring Center in Tbilisi, a nongovernmental organization that tracks government spending and communications.

“The main propaganda line right now is that if we [Georgian Dream] are out of power, war with Russia is inevitable. So that is one of the biggest things. And as a country which experienced Russian aggression three or four times in the last 30 years, and a population traumatized by this experience, it is working,” Zarkua said.

“They are trying to portray the West and Western countries — especially the United States and European Union — as some kind of enemy of Georgian traditional interests and family values,” Zarkua said.

The government denies stoking public fear. Fridon Injia, an MP with the European Socialists party who voted for the foreign agent law, told VOA the government is seeking to carve its own independent future.

“The main goal of the Georgian government now is to maintain peace, because we have seen what the war has done to other countries. So, it’s our main goal to maintain peace and for the Georgian government to avoid any kind of provocation that could spark a military conflict,” Injia said.

 

Western mistakes

Since regaining independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has received financial and political support from the West. In addition to its EU aspirations, Georgia is a close partner of NATO, and the alliance decided in 2008 that the country would become a future member, although no timeline has been agreed upon.

So why has Georgia strayed from its path to Western integration?

“If we’re talking about Western mistakes, the biggest mistake was the overall assumption about the threat of Russia and tyranny — that it was a headache, but not a fundamental threat,” said Giga Bokeria, chairperson of the European Georgia party and the secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia from November 2010 to November 2013.

“Even after the 2008 invasion in Georgia, even after the 2014 invasion in Ukraine, there was no shift in understanding that this is a fundamental battle, and that resetting the relationship [with Russia] was only empowering the heirs of the evil empire of the Soviet Union,” Bokeria said.

“So, it’s a lack of focus, lack of attention, and overall, a misunderstanding that what’s going on in Georgia is part of this bigger confrontation with Russia. But now I think … that after this full-scale invasion in Ukraine we now see an overall turn to a sober understanding of the challenge,” Bokeria told VOA.

Backlash

The Geogian  government was taken by surprise at the strength of the backlash to the foreign agent law, which has politicized younger generations, said analyst Ghia Nodia.

“Some people say that now we are actually more optimistic than we were in February or March before this law was introduced. Because this law and protest woke up the Georgian people. We are kind of facing a precipice,” he said.

While there is optimism that the October election could bring a change of geopolitical direction in Georgia, it’s clear that the government — and its billionaire master Ivanishvili — won’t relinquish power without a fight.

Washington — China aims to mark a new milestone in space exploration next week when its Chang’e-6 probe is expected to return to Earth from the far side of the moon with rock and soil samples.

Scientists involved in the project say the probe is likely to bring back a “treasure trove” of material that will shed light on the differences between the front and back of Earth’s satellite.

James Head is an American planetary scientist and professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University.  He has 15 years of experience in cooperating with the Chinese scientific community and participated in the research for the Chang’e-6 lunar landing.

He told VOA in a video interview that the samples brought back by Chang’e-6 from the far side of the moon will be “a treasure chest of fragments of materials, all of which are going to tell us something about why the moon is different on the near side and the far side. It’s just amazing.”

“It’s going to be an international treasure trove of information for space planetary scientists,” he added.

The strength of China’s space science and technology, demonstrated by the Chang’e series of lunar exploration projects, has also attracted the participation of other countries.

The European Space Agency, France, Italy, and Pakistan responded to the “Chang’e-6 Mission International Payload Cooperation Opportunity Announcement” released by the China National Space Administration in 2019.

They were selected to carry out exploration on the lunar surface and lunar orbit.

Head said, “Not every country has the ability to launch rockets to the moon. So, if you can use your capability, then that’s a big deal for international relationships for the countries — essentially the way they’re perceived in the world.”

The mission, which comes 55 years after the U.S. first sent humans to the moon, has attracted the attention and participation of European and American scientists.  However, it also comes at a time when geopolitical tensions are pulling Russia and China closer together to counter Western democracies.  Analysts worry that our lunar exploration and space research are quickly being divided into two camps as well.

As China makes significant progress in its lunar program, it is also actively courting other countries to form a parallel alliance with the U.S.-led lunar exploration program.

China and Russia have been planning to cooperate in building the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) since 2021. On June 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law approving the cooperation agreement signed by Russia and China last year on the joint construction of the ILRS.

Countries currently participating in the ILRS initiative also include Venezuela, Pakistan, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Nicaragua and a university in the United Arab Emirates.

Namrata Goswami, lecturer in space policy and international relations at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, told VOA, “They’re (China is) actually changing the narrative to tell nations that want to collaborate with them, that their station is like a strategic high ground, and nations that actually collaborate with China will benefit from this particular focus, which is space resource utilization, and they have stated that officially now.”

The Chinese government has said it adheres to the peaceful use of space, but Western analysts have questioned China’s motives for developing the moon.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told VOA in an email, “China tends to have a more mercantilist view of the moon that aligns with its authoritarian form of government, which is in stark contrast to the open, transparent, and free market approach of the United States and its partners.”

China has even proposed establishing an Earth-Moon space economic zone and has drawn up a roadmap for it with an annual “total output value of more than US$10 trillion” by around 2050.

Harrison said, “China’s main partner for its lunar research base is Russia, and they have managed to attract a handful of other nations to join them, most of which have no significant space capabilities or financial resources to contribute.”

In contrast, NASA and the U.S. State Department jointly launched the Artemis Accords in 2020, reaching a multilateral arrangement with more than 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, stipulating the principles of civil exploration and cooperation among the contracting parties in outer space.

Neither China nor Russia have joined the agreement initiated by the U.S. Dmitry Rogozin, former head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, even said that the Artemis Accords were “illegal” and not in compliance with international law.

“You do see a very clear strategic alignment structure forming, also very long-term clear ambitions as to what each coalition is hoping to do,” said Goswami.

Experts say the lunar exploration race of China and Russia versus the U.S. is about more than just resource extraction.

Harrison said, “This is really about setting precedent for how space commerce will be conducted and establishing norms of behavior for activities on the moon. A key component of this race is building international partnerships with shared values and a shared understanding of how the lunar economy should work for the benefit of all. In this respect, China has fallen behind the United States and the free world.”

For the European Space Agency, the Chang’e-6 may be their last lunar exploration experiment in cooperation with China, according to an interview posted on the website SpaceNews.

“For the moment there are no decisions to continue the cooperation on the Chang’e-7 or -8,” Karl Bergquist, ESA’s international relations administrator, he told SpaceNews.

China plans its next lunar probes in the Chang’e series around 2026 and from 2028.

Bergquist also told SpaceNews the ESA will not be involved in the China-led ILRS.

“ESA will not cooperate on ILRS as this is a Sino-Russian initiative and space cooperation with Russia is at present under embargo,” he said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the European Union, together with the U.S., has imposed embargoes and sanctions on several Russian industries, including a technical embargo on the Russian space industry. The European Space Agency has also terminated its planned lunar exploration project with Russia.

Meanwhile, China has stepped-up its space cooperation with Russia, including allowing Moscow Power Engineering Institute to open a branch at its newest spaceport on southern Hainan Island.

Europe and China’s space technology cooperation will continue at least until the Chang’e-6 probe lands back on Earth. The ESA is offering ground support for the return flight from its Maspalomas space station in Gran Canaria island in Spain.

The probe is scheduled to land at a site in Inner Mongolia around June 25.  

Seoul, South Korea — Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to arrive Tuesday in North Korea, where he is expected to sign a treaty outlining Moscow’s expanded cooperation with Pyongyang, according to Russian state media.

Putin has decided to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his two-day visit, reported the Russian news agency TASS.

The report provided no details of the document, though earlier the agency quoted a Putin foreign policy aide as saying it would likely cover defense matters.

Earlier Tuesday, Putin vowed to work with North Korea to counter sanctions as both countries expand their “many-sided partnership,” according to a letter published in North Korean state media.

In the letter, Putin said the two countries would develop trade mechanisms “not controlled by the West” and would “jointly oppose illegitimate unilateral restrictions.”

Russia is a long-time supporter of North Korea. Though ties have sometimes been rocky, both countries recently found more reasons to work together, especially following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. officials say North Korea has provided Russia with 11,000 containers of munitions, as well as ballistic missiles, for use in the Ukraine battlefield. Both North Korea and Russia deny such weapons deals even though a growing number of independent observers have documented North Korean weapons being used against Ukrainian forces.

“Moscow and Pyongyang will likely continue to deny violations of international law but have notably shifted from hiding their illicit activities to flaunting their cooperation,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Defense ties

U.S. officials have expressed concerns that Russia may provide advanced weapons or other help related to North Korea’s nuclear program.

Such worries intensified last September when Kim inspected numerous advanced Russian weapons while touring several military sites in eastern Russia, including a modern space launch facility.

Though North Korea’s latest satellite launches showed signs of Russian assistance, analysts debate how far defense cooperation would go, noting that Russia does not often share its most advanced military technology.

“These states do not share durable alliance institutions and values; they are only weakly bound together by resistance to the enforcement of international laws and norms,” said Easley.

Treaty history

Analysts will closely parse the language of any new treaty signed by Putin and Kim.

Russia currently has comprehensive strategic partnerships with countries including Vietnam, Mongolia, and some Central Asian nations.

While such documents form the basis for Russia’s “highest type of interstate relations,” they do not amount to alliance treaties, observed former Russian diplomat Georgy Toloraya.

“I don’t think that this treaty would include a clause which directly calls for military assistance, but it will certainly give room to imagine a situation where this could be provided,” he said in an interview with VOA.

In 1961, North Korea and the Soviet Union signed a friendship and mutual assistance treaty that included a provision for automatic military intervention in emergencies.

That deal was abolished after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The two countries signed a new treaty in 2000, but it focused on economic rather than military matters.

According to Putin aide Yuri Ushakov, the treaty being negotiated by Kim and Putin would replace all other bilateral treaties.

Obstacles

If Putin’s letter is any indication, his visit will also likely focus on expanding economic ties, including by ramping up exchanges related to education, culture, and tourism.

However, this plan faces obstacles due to United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit a wide range of economic engagement with North Korea.

While Russia says it no longer supports U.N. sanctions on North Korea, it has not formally announced that it will stop observing them.

Instead, Russia may search for what it sees as loopholes that facilitate cooperation even in areas that are subject to U.N. sanctions, such as North Korean laborers earning income abroad.

For instance, North Korean IT specialists could work remotely from their home country without technically receiving income abroad, said Toloraya, a former member of the U.N. Panel of Experts, which was meant to monitor enforcement of the North Korea sanctions.

Russia earlier this year effectively abolished the U.N. panel – one of its boldest steps to unilaterally degrade the U.N. sanctions regime it once supported.

What North Korea wants

For Kim, Putin’s visit is meant to provide a boost in domestic legitimacy, especially amid North Korea’s increasingly public frictions with its main economic backer China, said Kim Gunn, who earlier this year stepped down as South Korea’s top nuclear envoy.

“North Koreans feel nervous about that, because their economy is 99% dependent on China,” said Kim, who is now a member of South Korea’s National Assembly. “Kim Jong Un’s answer is to say, ‘Don’t worry, we still have Russia.”

In the lawmaker’s view, Kim Jong Un also likely hopes that Putin’s visit will give him leverage with Chinese President Xi Jinping, creating a situation where both Russia and China vie for North Korea’s favor.

But, Kim Gunn added, the new Russia-North Korea relationship is likely a “marriage of convenience,” rather than a restoration of Soviet-era ties.

“Russia is not the former Soviet Union,” he said. “And Russia is at war in Ukraine – they are pouring all their energy into this war. There’s not so much room for Russia to do anything with North Korea.”