Russian President Vladimir Putin has traveled to Slovenia, a member of the European Union (EU) and NATO, amid tensions between Moscow and the two blocs.
Putin traveled to Slovenia on Saturday to attend a World War I memorial and a ceremony to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the death of some 300 Russian prisoners of war in an avalanche in the Julian Alps in 1916.
“We will continue our efforts to educate and present history to people, in particular to the youth with the objective of not only remembering the sufferings and trouble caused by wars, but also to raise awareness about the need to strengthen reason, confidence and security in Europe and the world,” Putin said.
The Russian president met with his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor, whose country has maintained friendly relations with Russia even as it joined EU sanctions against Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.
Pahor was quoted by Russia’s TASS agency as saying that Putin’s visit “pays respect to the traditional friendship of Slovenia and Russia, despite some differences in the two countries’ relations over their positions on certain pressing issues.”
The United States and the 28-member EU imposed a series of sanctions on Russia in the summer of 2014 over the allegation that Moscow is arming and supporting pro-Russia forces fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow, however, has strongly rejected the accusations and imposed tit-for-tat sanctions against the EU.
Tensions with NATO have also escalated as the Western military alliance moves further east toward Russian borders.
Ukraine detains ally of ex-president
In a separate development, Ukrainian law enforcement authorities said on Saturday that they had detained Oleksandr Yefremov, a top ally of ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych.
He has been accused “infringement on the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” which is punishable by seven to 12 years in prison.
Yefremov was apprehended at the Kiev airport as he was about to fly to Austria, according to Ukrainian media.
Yanukovych was forced to step down during a 2014 revolt.
Prior to his arrest, Yefremov, the former head of a Ukrainian parliamentary faction, had governed Lugansk, one of the two eastern regions which has declared independence from Ukraine.
He was indicted for helping the pro-Russia forces take over the administrative buildings in the volatile region in March 2014.