Anniversary apology: Ex-minister jailed: Undersea cables:
Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally held a face-to-face meeting with the survivors and families of victims of the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last year. “I know that some would have wanted such a meeting sooner,” she said before the closed-door meeting, referring to a searing letter from some of the relatives that had been published in Der Spiegel. They had slammed the intelligence services for failing to prevent the attack – by a Tunisian asylum seeker who had been identified as a potential threat, and who had been under surveillance – and criticised Merkel for not acknowledging their suffering or even sending them her condolences. This week, at the unveiling of a memorial to the attack’s 12 victims, Merkel admitted to mistakes in the handling of the atrocity and vowed to “make things better that did not work [before]”. She said that survivors and victims’ families would receive more state aid.
Vladimir Putin’s former economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been found guilty of accepting a $2m bribe and sentenced to eight years in prison – an unexpectedly harsh sentence, which has been seen as a warning to members of the political class not to step out of line. Ulyukayev supposedly received the bribe in exchange for backing energy giant Rosneft’s acquisition of a stake in another firm. But the politician had in fact been publicly opposed to the deal; he says he was framed by Rosneft’s powerful boss, Igor Sechin, as an act of revenge. Sechin, a close ally of President Putin, was a lynchpin of the case. He did not appear at the trial, saying he was too busy, but Ulyukayev was convicted anyway.
Russia has ridiculed the idea that it might cut the communications cables that run beneath the Atlantic in order to harm the UK and other Nato nations. Last week, in a speech warning that the West was facing military aggression from Russia across several fronts, the chief of the UK defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, urged Britain and Nato to prioritise the protection of the undersea cables, which are essential to global commerce and the operation of the internet. Russian warships have often been spotted sailing close to cables that criss-cross the ocean floor. However, Moscow issued a statement describing the idea as nonsense, and accusing the armed forces of coming up with “mind-boggling” scenarios for its own advantage. “The reasons look obvious – but even if the UK military needs money so badly, why intimidate people this much?”