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RUSSIA

France bids to cut EU’s reliance on Russian gas

As the Ukraine crisis intensifes and threatens to divide Russia from the West, France and Poland made a joint call for a European-wide energy union that would help reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies.

France bids to cut EU's reliance on Russian gas
A view of the Russian gas giant Gazprom's recently built Adler thermal power plant. France wants to cut Europe's reliance on Russian gas. Photo: Yuri Kabodnov/AFP

France and Poland put forward a proposal for a European energy community on Thursday, to counter the dependence of some European countries on Russian gas.

French President Francois Hollande and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk made the proposal, against the background of the Ukraine crisis, for discussion at a European summit on energy policy in June.

Hollande said in a joint statement that the purpose was to make "Europe more independent, more coherent, more cooperative in its energy policy".

France and Poland were putting forward a plan with six points to convince all members of the European Union to head towards "the European energy community", he said.

The term is a reference to the founding pillars of the European Economic Community, which preceded the European Union, and which began with a Coal and Steel Community.

Tusk said that the proposal would serve the interests of the entire European Union which, he said was in a "critical situation" in view of the crisis in Ukraine

The European Union could no longer be so dependent on Russian gas, he said.

The EU had to invest in infrastructure which would connect all of its members to a network of gas pipelines, and also had to push forward with new sources of energy.

Tusk raised the possibility of the EU buying liquefied gas from the United States or from Australia, saying steps in these directions should be made as soon as possible.

Countries to the south, in the Mediterranean basin coud also be important suppliers, he said.

Tusk said that the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, had expressed support for the French-Polish proposal and that experts working for the President of the European Commission were already working on the proposals for the summit in June.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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