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Found 122 results

  1. MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, the Interfax news agency cited the Kremlin as saying. Putin was paid a rare visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday. Greeting Assad at his Black Sea residence of Sochi, Putin said he would follow up the meeting with telephone calls to Trump and to Middle Eastern leaders including the Emir of Qatar.
  2. Russia's meteorological service confirmed on Monday "extremely high" concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 in parts of the country in late September, following European reports about the contamination this month. "Probes of radioactive aerosols from monitoring stations Argayash and Novogorny were found to contain radioisotope Ru-106" between September 25 and October 1, the Rosgidromet service said. The highest concentration was registered at the station in Argayash, a village in the Chelyabinsk region in the southern Urals, which had "extremely high pollution" of Ru-106, exceeding natural background pollution by 986 times, the service said. It did not point to any specific source of the pollution, but the Argayash station is about 30 kilometres from the Mayak nuclear facility, which in 1957 was the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Today Mayak is a reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel. On November 9, France's Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety issued a report saying Ruthenium-106 had been detected in France between September 27 and October 13. It said that the source of the pollution was probably an accident somewhere between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains, adding that the concentrations measured in Europe were not a danger to public health. Ruthenium-106 is a product of splitting atoms in a reactor and does not occur naturally. Russia's nuclear corporation Rosatom said at the time that "radiation around all objects of Russian nuclear infrastructure are within the norm and are at the level of background radiation."
  3. Journalists watch Russian President Vladimir Putin on a big screen during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files VIENNA: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) media watchdog said on Thursday moves by the United States and Russia to force some foreign media to register as ?foreign agents? were unacceptable and dangerous. Russia?s lower house of parliament this week approved a law allowing Moscow to force foreign media to describe news they provide to Russians as the work of ?foreign agents? and to disclose their funding sources. Earlier, on Thursday, Russia named nine US government-sponsored news outlets likely to be labelled ?foreign agents?. US intelligence officials accuse the Kremlin of using Russian media organizations it finances to influence US voters. Washington has required Russian state broadcaster RT to register a US-based affiliate company as a ?foreign agent?. ?Branding media entities as ?foreign agents? is a dangerous practice, as it can narrow the space for freedom of the media,? said Harlem Desir, media freedom chief of the OSCE. The OSCE ? which also oversees election monitoring ? is one of the few security forums which brings Russia and the United States to the same table. It has a 700-strong observer mission monitoring the conflict in Ukraine. ?I call on both the United States and the Russian Federation to reconsider and refrain from requiring media entities to register as ?foreign agents??, Desir said in a statement, labelling both countries? moves as ?not acceptable?. The Kremlin denies meddling in the US election and has said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the United States amount to an attack on free speech. The new media law in Russia is retaliation, it says.
  4. White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends bilateral meetings held by US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files WASHINGTON: The leaders of the US Senate Judiciary Committee said on Thursday they had not received the information they requested from Jared Kushner ? President Donald Trump?s son-in-law ? including emails, phone records and documents related to communications with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In a letter to Abbe Lowell ? Kushner?s attorney ? Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein requested all those documents, as well as transcripts from interviews with other committees. Among requested documents ? which they described as known to exist but not provided to the Judiciary Committee ? were the phone records and emails to Kushner concerning WikiLeaks and a ?Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite?, both forwarded by Kushner. WikiLeaks released emails stolen from Democrats that helped Trump?s campaign against Hillary Clinton ? his Democratic rival. Grassley is the chairman and Feinstein the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which is conducting one of the main congressional investigations of Russian involvement in the 2016 US election and allegations of collusion between Trump?s campaign and Moscow. Both Trump and the Russian government deny such activities. Flynn ? who had been a Trump campaign adviser ? was fired from his post as national security adviser after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year. The letter to Lowell said the committee requested the documents on October 18, and some, but not all the material requested, was provided on November 3. ?We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee?s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,? Grassley and Feinstein wrote. Lowell and a White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kushner is among numerous Trump advisers who have acknowledged interaction with Russian intermediaries.
  5. The World Anti-Doping Agency maintained its suspension of Russia on Thursday, raising the spectre of a possible ban from February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. WADA's Foundation Board, meeting in Seoul, came to the decision after its Compliance Review Committee recommended that Russia's anti-doping body, RUSADA, "should not be reinstated". The decision had been expected after Russia refused to admit running a state-sponsored doping system, as detailed in an explosive report for WADA by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren. The International Olympic Committee is expected to decide whether Russia can compete in Pyeongchang at an executive board meeting next month in Lausanne. Russia was declared "non-compliant" by WADA in 2015 after the McLaren report alleged institutionalised doping culminating at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi -- where the hosts topped the medals table. Russia's secret service and sports ministry were accused of orchestrating an elaborate plot that included using a "mousehole" to switch dirty samples at the doping laboratory in the Black Sea resort. WADA has told Russia to "publicly accept" the report's findings and allow access to urine samples at its Moscow anti-doping laboratory, among its key demands before returning to compliance. Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov admitted that Russia's anti-doping system had failed, but he said officials at RUSADA and their Moscow laboratory were to blame. "We accept the fact our national anti-doping system has failed... (but) we absolutely deny a state-sponsored doping system," Zhukov told the WADA meeting, echoing previous denials. He added that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren report "is impossible". Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov pointed to improvements within RUSADA, and insisted it was independent of state control as he pleaded for the agency to be reinstated. "RUSADA performs all functions within the World Anti-Doping Code," he said. "I guarantee RUSADA will be fully independent, it is a totally new organisation. "We are ready to go forward and work openly in the full standards of WADA. Please let us be compliant." Progress has been made, and WADA has already partially lifted its ban on RUSADA, giving it the right to collect samples. It also audited the body in September. But suspicions remain. Foundation Board member Adam Pengilly asked how WADA could "trust" Russia's new anti-doping regime "until there is a real acknowledgement of what happened?" Last week, WADA also said it had obtained an "enormous" internal database of Russian drug test results from 2012-2015. Despite WADA's refusal to readmit Russia, it may not be fatal to the country's chances of competing in Pyeongchang. In 2016, the IOC ignored WADA's calls to ban Russia from the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro over the McLaren report, instead leaving the decision to individual sports bodies.
  6. Russian President Vladimir Putin will next week host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria. Photo: AFP file ANKARA: Russian President Vladimir Putin will next week host Turkish and Iranian counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for summit talks on Syria, officials from Turkey and Russia said Thursday. With the violence in Syria diminishing but still no political solution in sight, the three presidents will meet at Putin?s official residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on November 22. The meeting ?the first such three-way summit between the trio ?comes as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran cooperate with increasing intensity on ending the more than six-year civil war in Syria. They are sponsoring peace talks in Kazakh capital Astana and also implementing a plan for de-escalation zones in key flashpoint areas of Syria. Turkey?s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that the three leaders would discuss progress in reducing the violence in Syria and ensuring humanitarian aid goes to those in need. Describing Iran, Russia and Turkey as the three ?guarantor? countries, he said the talks would look at what they could do for a lasting political solution in Syria. Confirming the summit, Putin?s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was just these three countries who were the ?guarantors of the process of political settlement and stability and security that we see now in Syria?. There was no immediate comment from Tehran. ?Six meetings in one year? The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran. Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow?s military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as tipping the balance in the conflict. Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad?s ouster in a conflict that has left more than 330,000 dead. But Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian war plane over Syria. In recent months, Turkey has markedly toned down its criticism of the Assad regime and focused on opposing Syrian Kurdish militia seen by Ankara as a terror group. According to the Anadolu news agency, Putin and Erdogan have already met five times this year and spoken by telephone 13 times. Erdogan last met Putin for talks in Sochi only days ago on November 13, agreeing on the need to boost elements for a lasting settlement. Turkey earlier this month said Russia had decided to postpone a planned Syria peace conference with all parties after Ankara objected to the potential inclusion of Kurdish forces. Moscow denied this was the case, saying a date for the conference had never been set. Peskov told reporters in Moscow that the date for the ?Congress of Syrian National Dialogue? had still yet to be fixed.
  7. (L-R) Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa, Venezuela's minister of agriculture Wilmar Castro Soteldo, and finance minister Simon Zerpa give a press briefing in Moscow, Russia, November 15, 2017. AFP/Alexander Nemenov MOSCOW: Venezuela signed a debt restructuring deal with major creditor Russia on Wednesday, as rating agencies declared Caracas in partial default. The country is seeking to restructure its foreign debts, estimated at around $150 billion after it was hit hard by tumbling oil prices and American sanctions. A Venezuelan delegation led by Finance Minister Simon Zerpa signed the deal restructuring $3.15 billion of debt taken out in 2011 to finance the purchase of Russian arms. Under the agreement, Caracas will pay back its debts over 10 years, with "minimal" reimbursements for the first six years, Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The reduction of the burden of debt... will allow the utilisation of funds to develop the country's economy, improve the debtor's solvency and increase the chances of all creditors recovering loans already made," according to the statement on the ministry's website. "These are very favourable terms that Venezuela can honour. This deal strengthens the relations between our two countries," Venezuelan vice president for the economy Wilmar Castro Soteldo told a press conference in Moscow. But the goal of solvency seemed a distant one Wednesday after S&P Global Ratings said it had placed Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA in "selective default" for failing to make interest payments on some of its debt. The rating agency this week declared the country itself in selective default after it failed to make $200 million in payments on two global bond issues. Fitch also downgraded PDVSA and cash-strapped Venezuela over delayed payments, but Caracas insisted it was in the process of paying up. "It's a respite, but a slight respite," Orlando Ochoa, a Venezuelan economist, told AFP. "It doesn't change the context, it doesn't help to stabilize the economy or substantially increase its ability to pay." Caracas has only $9.7 billion in foreign reserves and needs to pay back at least $1.47 billion in interest on various bonds by the end of the year, and then about $8 billion in 2018. Russia and China are the two main creditors and allies of Venezuela, which owes them an estimated $8 billion and $28 billion respectively. The Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed confidence that Caracas could "properly handle" its debt crisis, adding that financial cooperation was "proceeding normally". Food and medicine shortages In response to the downgrading by rating agencies, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Venezuela was already catching up on the payments. "Today, we have begun interest payments on Venezuela's foreign debt and last week, PDVSA made its debt interest payments," he said on state television Tuesday. "We pay our debts, despite what the rating agencies, the US Treasury, the European Union or (US President) Donald Trump say." A committee of 15 financial firms meeting in New York meanwhile put off a decision for a third straight day on whether to declare a "Failure to Pay Credit Event" at PDVSA. They were to reconvene Thursday to determine whether holders of PDVSA debt with default insurance ? known as credit default swaps ? can collect payment. PDVSA is vulnerable to creditors potentially moving to seize crude shipments or refinery assets abroad, particularly from its US subsidiary Citgo. If a selective default spreads to other bond issues, particularly the nation's sovereign debt, the South American country would probably be declared in full default. A full default ? recognition that Venezuela is unable to repay its massive debt ? would have enormous consequences for the country, whose population is already suffering severe food and medicine shortages because of a lack of money to import them. 'Violent narco-state' President Nicolas Maduro has formed a commission to restructure Venezuela's sovereign debt and PDVSA's obligations. But participants in a first meeting in Caracas Monday said officials had given no concrete details on its plans. Though the government declared the meeting a "resounding success" the Eurasia research group is more sceptical. "The lack of substance at the 13 November meeting with bondholders suggests that the government lacks a strategy for debt talks and is looking to buy time and relief from creditors," it said. A default can be declared by the major rating agencies, big debtholders or the government itself. Maduro is also under fire internationally for marginalising the opposition, which controls the legislature and stifling independent media. The United States called an informal meeting of the UN Security Council, where US Ambassador Nikki Haley slammed Venezuela as an "increasingly violent narco-state" that poses a threat to world security. Permanent council members Russia and China boycotted the talks. Venezuela's envoy to the UN, Rafael Ramirez, called the meeting a "hostile" act of US "interference."
  8. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) head Ciaran Martin. Image Courtesy: The Telegraph via Simon Williams LONDON: Russia has launched cyber attacks on the UK media, telecoms, and energy sectors in the past year, Britain's cybersecurity chief said Wednesday, amid reports of Russian interference in the Brexit referendum. "Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear," Ciaran Martin, head of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said at a technology conference in London, according to his office. "Russian interference, seen by the NCSC over the past year, has included attacks on the UK media, telecommunications and energy sectors," Martin said. The centre has coordinated the government's response to 590 significant incidents since it was created in 2016, though it has not detailed which were linked to Russia. Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accused Moscow of "seeking to weaponise information" in order to "sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions". Russia's cyber activities include "deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images", she said in a speech. The scathing criticism was rejected by Russia's foreign ministry, which accused May of trying to distract the British public from problems at home. Parliamentary probes Moscow's alleged attempts to influence last year's referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union are part of investigations underway in London. On Wednesday, May told lawmakers that parliament's intelligence and security committee would be looking into Russian interference. Meanwhile, parliament's digital, culture, media, and sports committee has requested data from Twitter and Facebook on Russia-linked accounts and aims to interview social media executives at the British embassy in Washington early next year. Damian Collins, the committee chairman, said it was "beyond doubt" that Russia had interfered in UK politics. He said there was a pattern of behaviour of Russian organisations seeking out opportunities to create division, unrest and instability in the West. "Foreign organisations have the ability to manipulate social media platforms to target voters abroad," Collins told AFP. "This is seriously organised buildings of hundreds of people engaged in propagating every day fake news through social media," he added. "It is one of the biggest threats our democracies face and we have to be serious about combatting it." But May's spokesman emphasised that "There has been no evidence of successful interference in our electoral processes." Pro-Brexit 'bots' Researchers at Swansea University in Wales, working with the University of California, Berkeley, looked at 18,000 Twitter users who had registered in Russian but were tweeting in English around the time of the referendum. Russian-related accounts put out around 45,000 Brexit tweets on June 23 and 24, of which 13,180 were at least six words long, Swansea researcher Tho Pham told AFP. "The massive number of Russian-related tweets were only created a few days before the voting day, reached its peak during the voting and result days then dropped immediately afterwards," the research paper said. They were posted by both "bots" and humans, with the majority of the posts pro-Brexit. Bots spreading misinformation into the echo chambers of social media "might lead to the case that bots could shape public opinions in negative ways", the paper concluded. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who examined 2,752 accounts suspended by Twitter in the United States, found that 419 were operating from the Russian Internet Research Agency and attempting to influence British politics, The Guardian reported. Professor Laura Cram, the university's neuro-politics research director, told the newspaper they tweeted about Brexit 3,468 times ? mostly after the June 23 referendum. The content overall was "quite chaotic and it seems to be aimed at wider disruption. There's not an absolutely clear thrust. We pick up a lot on refugees and immigration", she said.
  9. MOSCOW: Russia would be able to list any foreign media outlet as a "foreign agent" under new measures expected to be approved Wednesday, a lawmaker said, as Moscow responds to US pressure on the Kremlin-backed RT channel. The move comes as Washington fights what it calls a barrage of "fake news" from Russian media and online outlets aimed at interfering in US domestic politics. Parliament is set to approve a set of amendments to an existing media bill Wednesday, meaning they could go into force as early as next week, deputy speaker of Russia´s lower house of parliament Pyotr Tolstoy told Rossiya 24 channel. "(The law) gives the relevant government institution the opportunity to classify media outlets that receive money from abroad as foreign agents," he said, when asked which outlets are likely to be put on the list first. Most likely the list will be maintained by the ministry of justice, which already keeps a similar database of non-governmental organisations which have been designated as "foreign agents". The bill is a tit-for-tat response to Washington´s move to register T&R Productions LLC, a corporation which operates US studios of state channel RT, as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Asked to clarify exactly who could be listed as a "foreign agent" in Russia, Tolstoy said "these are media outlets that receive money from foreign governments regardless of their ownership structure". TASS news agency however published details of more sweeping amendments, according to which the measures could apply to any media outlets receiving money "from international and foreign organisations, foreign citizens." Tolstoy said outlets that are put on the list will be subject to similar treatment as "foreign agent" NGOs under the law that was adopted in 2012. Such media will "have to file the relevant reports and most likely mark its product," he said. The law applying to NGOs forced many organisations to close. Others have complained that government institutions refuse to work with them following the acquisition of the "foreign agent" label, which in Russia is akin to being branded a spy.
  10. Russian President Vladimir Putin (R, front) and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (L, front) enter a hall during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Pavel Golovkin/Pool SOCHI: Russia and Turkey plan to launch the first reactor at Turkey?s Akkuyu nuclear power plant in 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday. Speaking alongside Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Putin said the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom would begin work at the Akkuyu site in the near future.
  11. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 Summit, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/Files ISTANBUL: Turkey and Russia have agreed to focus on a political solution in Syria, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. Erdogan said he was glad Turkey had started to send agricultural goods to Russia but wanted the last restrictions on bilateral trade lifted. He was speaking after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
  12. MOSCOW: Russian lawmakers raced Friday to draft measures requiring US media outlets to register as foreign agents, saying they could be adopted as early as next week. American social networks might also be affected because US news organisations would have to post a "foreign agent" tag on their social media pages, said Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The measures, which are being prepared ahead of Russia's presidential election in March, would be a huge blow to already tattered US-Russia ties. State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin charged deputies with updating existing legislation after state-controlled Russia Today (RT) television was ordered by Washington to register as a "foreign agent" by Monday. Volodin told Russian reporters the new measures, which are likely to affect dozens of US news organisations operating in Russia including CNN and Voice of America, could be adopted at first reading on Wednesday and at a third and final reading next Friday. Washington has been fighting what it calls a barrage of "fake news" from Russian media, including RT and the Sputnik news agency, which it says is aimed at interfering in US domestic politics. "What the US authorities are doing today is an infringement on fundamental civil rights, on freedom of speech," Volodin said. "The United States speaks beautifully about the freedom of speech when it comes to other countries but acts dogmatically itself." Tolstoy called for the mobilisation of all of the country's political forces, saying it was "an emergency situation". Lawmakers said the measures targeting US media would be "reciprocal" and would set the same limitations that US authorities were seeking to impose on Russian media. In a Facebook post, Tolstoy suggested that social networks would not have to register as foreign agents. "This does not mean someone is impinging on Facebook, Twitter etc," he wrote. Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor, for its part, proposed blocking the websites of foreign media groups and nongovernmental organisations, without any need for a court order. Roskomnadzor has repeatedly threatened to block Facebook and Twitter if they do not comply with a government demand to store the personal data of Russian nationals on Russia-based servers. In 2012, Moscow adopted a law which requires NGOs that receive funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents", a move critics said was part of a clampdown on civil society. Lawmakers said the existing law would be amended to include media groups. 'Huge number of limitations' The head of Russia Today, Margarita Simonyan, said on national television Thursday that the broadcaster was "suddenly" told by Washington that it had until Monday to register as a "foreign agent" or face having its accounts frozen, among other measures. She said RT would file a legal challenge against the demand by the US Department of Justice, which could require it to identify itself as a "foreign agent". Registering would also hinder the channel's work in the United States because it would have to publicise internal documents including their employees´ addresses and salaries. "It will very much complicate the possibility of interviewing people because we will have to report this too," she said. "There are a huge number of limitations." She also said the demands contradicted both democracy and freedom of speech. "It deprives us of fair competition with other international channels, which are not registered as foreign agents," she was quoted as saying by RT. Simonyan also denounced the US move in a caustic tweet. "The US Department of Justice wheeled out a cannibalistic Monday deadline," she tweeted. "Can you feel the smell of freedom?" Washington, which considers RT a propaganda arm for the Kremlin, told it in September to register its American operation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is aimed at lobbyists and lawyers representing foreign political interests. The same month Simonyan complained to President Vladimir Putin that RT and Sputnik had come under pressure in the United States. "As soon as we see concrete steps limiting the activities of our media, there will be a retaliatory response," Putin said at the time.
  13. A nine-storey residential building partially collapsed in Izhevsk, Russia, following a suspected gas explosion. Photo: AFP MOSCOW: At least three people were killed and three others injured when a corner section of a nine-storey residential building collapsed in the provincial city of Izhevsk, Russian authorities said Thursday. "At 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) Moscow time, there were three dead and three injured," emergencies ministry representative Pyotr Fomin said in televised remarks. "One child is among the dead," added Alexander Brechalov, the head of the Udmurtia region of which Izhevsk is the capital. According to the local health ministry, a member of the rescue team was also injured. The cause of the collapse was likely a gas explosion and other residents have been evacuated from the building, emergencies ministry official Igor Kutrovsky said. A representative of the Investigative Committee, Vera Filippova, said a probe into the collapse has been launched. According to the emergencies ministry, the building collapsed in the late afternoon, and video footage showed flats on all nine floors reduced to debris, with dust rising from the pile. A total of eight apartments were completely destroyed and 220 rescuers were on the scene looking for survivors. The damaged building is a typical Soviet-era residential block made of concrete panels. "There was the sound of such a loud blast that even the building shook," a witness named Olga who lives in a neighbouring building told state television. Fomin told TASS news agency that the collapsed area had 28 residents, estimating that "not more than 10-15 people" were at home when the accident happened. The ministry sent reinforcements to Izhevsk, which is located some 940 kilometres (585 miles) east of Moscow, and has a population of about 650,000. Explosions caused by natural gas leaks are frequent in Russia, especially in older Soviet-era buildings. The last serious gas explosion in February 2016 killed seven people, including two children, when part of a block of flats collapsed in the city of Yaroslavl, north of Moscow. Another in February 2012 killed 10 people in the southern city of Astrakhan and destroyed the entire side of a nine-storey building.
  14. Opponents of Russia's national side can be forgiven for confusion as they face two identical players: twin brothers Anton and Alexei Miranchuk. The 22-year-old Miranchuk siblings appeared together in the national squad for the first time last month after manager Stanislav Cherchesov rewarded their solid performances for Russian league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow. "We gave the new players a chance to show their worth in matches with teams that have already qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals," Cherchesov told journalists after friendlies with South Korea and Iran. "(Mario) Fernandes, (Konstantin) Rausch and the Miranchuk twins looked impressive with their club sides this season and we needed to test them in the national squad. "That helped us to finalise the pool of the candidates into our World Cup squad." The country's football chief Vitaly Mutko hailed the brothers from the southern Krasnodar region as part of a new generation of dedicated players, a much welcome boost after a dreadful Euro 2016 campaign. Players such as the Miranchuks are "highly motivated" and "have a completely different attitude to football", Mutko stressed. "It's a generation of professionals." The twins meanwhile said their invitation to the national side had done wonders for their confidence. "It was incredibly motivating for us when we got the call up to the national squad," Anton Miranchuk, who made his senior Russia debut in October's 4-2 win over South Korea, told AFP. "I just couldn't put my feelings into words." "Of course it's a great responsibility," his brother Alexei, who earned the first of his 12 international caps in 2015, added. "When you join the national squad, it's a new experience, new feelings and new opportunities. It's cool." Cossack character The players' mother Yelena Miranchuk said the family traces its origins back to the Cossacks, independent horsemen forces who guarded Tsarist Russia's borders. She told Russian television she believes this gave her sons their active and uncompromising nature. The brothers started out training with the Olympus club of their native town of Slavyansk-on-Kuban in their home region. After a couple of years, Spartak Moscow invited the boys to join their football academy. They came to Moscow with their mother, a trained teacher who got a job at their school's boarding house. "It was non-negotiable that our mum came with us," Anton said. "She's the head of our family -- she has always been with us, she has watched and supported us the whole time," Alexei added. "Things might have gone differently without her keeping an eye on us." After the Miranchuk brothers turned 16, Spartak released them for not being physically strong enough, forcing them to join Lokomotiv's academy. Their natural talent soon shone through and they became integral members of Lokomotiv's youth squad, winning three consecutive Russian titles. Alexei then made his debut in the Russian Premier League in 2013 but Anton was made to wait before getting his chance. Anton was sent on loan to Estonian high-flyers Levadia Tallinn for the 2016 campaign, during which he scored 15 goals in 33 matches. That form abroad earned him a brief cameo alongside his brother for Lokomotiv at the end of the last season, before thrusting him into a regular role this term. 'Spiritual connection' But the separation was hard, Anton admitted. "We've been together since we were born. I feel a constant spiritual connection with my brother and I feel I miss him after just a couple of days apart. "But I don't regret my secondment to Estonia. It was very useful to get regular match practice and experience. It helped me a lot to win a place in Lokomotiv's line-up when I came back." His brother Alexei naturally agreed. "For me it was really hard to play and to progress without my brother," he added. "But now I feel that this parting was for the best. "Now everything has got back to normal and I feel we're both ready to go up to the next level."
  15. Russia funded substantial investments in Twitter and Facebook through a business associate of Jared Kushner, the Paradise Papers revealed Sunday. A major investor in Twitter and Facebook had financial ties to two Russian government-owned firms known as vehicles for the Kremlin?s politically sensitive dealings, newly unearthed documents show. The records show that one of the Kremlin-owned firms, VTB Bank, quietly directed $191 million into an investment fund, DST Global, that used the money to buy a large stake in Twitter in 2011. They also show that a subsidiary of the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom heavily funded an offshore company that partnered with DST Global in a large investment in Facebook. Paradise Papers: ICIJ releases another database revealing offshore companies The database comprises 13.4mn documents revealing over 25,000 companies owned by the world's rich and influential individuals DST Global?s founder, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and other partners in the deals reaped large gains when they sold their stakes shortly after Facebook?s initial public offering in 2012 and Twitter?s in 2013. There is no indication that the Kremlin gained influence over Twitter or Facebook or received inside information about the firms as a result of investments associated with Milner, the ICIJ said on its website. The disclosure shows that years before Russia meddled in last year?s US presidential election, the Kremlin had a financial interest in American social media. These revelations come at a time when Congress is investigating the US tech giants? role in the spread of Russian disinformation during Donald Trump?s successful campaign for the White House. It is publicly known that Milner put together large investments in Twitter and Facebook. The Russian government?s ties to the investments were not previously known.
  16. MOSCOW: Russia dismissed Thursday a report by a UN-led panel that blamed the Syrian regime for a sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun and said the use of the substance was part of a "theatrical performance" by militants. A panel including diplomats and military officers presented Moscow's version of events complete with diagrams and satellite imagery, saying the Syrian regime did not carry the blame for the April attack which killed over 80 people. "We believe that the report turned out to be superficial, unprofessional and amateurish," said Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the foreign ministry's security and disarmament department. "The mission did their research from a distance, that in itself is a scandal." He said, "the use of sarin has been confirmed" but insisted it was not delivered by an aerial bomb but rather used "as a theatrical performance, a provocation" by the rebels. At least 87 people died on April 4 this year when sarin nerve agent projectiles were fired into Khan Sheikhun, a town in the Idlib province of northwestern Syria. Images of dead and dying victims, including young children, in the aftermath of the attack provoked global outrage and a US cruise missile strike on a regime air base. A joint panel by the United Nations and the world's chemical watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that the Syrian regime was responsible and that the air force had dropped a bomb on the town, releasing the deadly nerve agent. Russia and Syria have, however, presented an alternative theory that an explosive device was set off on the ground. Ulyanov on Thursday suggested the sarin gas was poured inside the crater left by the bomb. 'Baseless verdict' Ulyanov spoke as part of a panel of the foreign ministry, air force and other Russian officials presenting slides that showed elaborate diagrams of regime warplanes' trajectories and satellite images in an effort to cast doubt on the UN report. The Russian officials also showed video footage of rescue personnel working in the crater wearing "only respirators and cotton gloves." Ulyanov claimed the video had been filmed after rebels detonated the bomb on the asphalt and before the sarin gas was poured into the crater. "If it were an aerial bomb, the bomb's tail would be in the crater, but there are no traces of an aerial bomb," he said. Ulyanov also said witnesses cited in the UN report were not confirmed to have been in the town on April 4 and "could have been sunning themselves on a beach in the United Arab Emirates." "The verdict against Damascus that has been issued so confidently turned out to be baseless," he said. "You cannot issue a verdict against Damascus based on newspaper publications." Ulyanov's intervention came after US President Donald Trump´s White House issued a string statement denouncing Moscow´s previous attempts to undermine the work of the UN-OPCW´s Joint Investigative Mechanism. "This unconscionable attack marks the fourth time that the JIM has confirmed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons, underscoring the brutal and horrifying barbarism of Bashar al-Assad and making the protection provided by Russia even more egregious," Trump´s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said. "Russia's attempts to undermine and eliminate the JIM show a callous disregard for the suffering and loss of life caused by the use of chemical weapons and an utter lack of respect for international norms," she added. Despite criticising the work of the UN-OPCW on the report, Ulyanov said Russia would on Thursday present a draft resolution extending its mission in Syria, following a veto on a similar US proposal in the Security Council last week. Russia previously opposed renewing the mandate of the panel, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, prior to the release of the Khan Sheikhun report.
  17. A 3D-printed Facebook like button is seen in front of the Facebook logo, in this illustration taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Files Facebook Inc faced harsh criticism in Washington on Wednesday over its failure to prevent Russian operatives from using its platform for election meddling, but the earnings report it issued hours later showed just how insulated its business remains from political risk. The social network said its quarterly profit soared 79 percent and revenues were up nearly 50 percent in the third quarter as marketers poured money into Facebook's advertising offerings, whose power to target and influence users has actually been showcased by the election scandal. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg condemned Russia?s attempts to influence last year?s election through Facebook posts and advertisements designed to sow division, and repeated his pledge to ramp up spending to confront the problem. Zuckerberg said that spending would include 10,000 additional people to review content on the network, though based on past practice many of those people will be contractors. The spending would hit profits, Facebook said, with expenses expected to grow by 45 percent to 60 percent next year. ?What they did is wrong, and we are not going to stand for it,? Zuckerberg said of the Russians, on a conference call with analysts. The company?s share price, which hit a record $182.90 earlier on Wednesday, initially rose in after-hours trading, but later fell into negative territory on discussion of the higher spending. Shares have gained almost 60 percent this year. ?While the investigations into Russian activity on the platform have been getting a lot of attention, they?re not detracting from Facebook?s power as an ad platform,? analyst Debra Aho Williamson of research firm eMarketer said in an interview. The political storm in the United States over how Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc?s Google handle false news stories and political manipulation of their services gathered strength this week as three separate congressional committees held hearings. Zuckerberg did not appear at the hearings. But lawmakers threatened tougher regulation and fired questions at Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, excoriating the company for being slow to act and slow to share what it knew with Congress. The chief executive told analysts that legislation to force disclosure of election ads ?would be very good if done well.? In a series of disclosures over two months, Facebook has said that people in Russia bought at least 3,000 U.S. political ads and published another 80,000 Facebook posts that were seen by as many as 126 million Americans over two years. Russia denies any meddling. MOBILE ADS DOMINATE Facebook?s total advertising revenue rose 49 percent in the third quarter to $10.14 billion, about 88 percent of which came from mobile ads. Analysts on average had expected total ad revenue of $9.71 billion, according to data and analytics firm FactSet. Facebook in the third quarter gave advertisers for the first time the ability to run ads in standalone videos, outside the Facebook News Feed, and the company is seeing good early results, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told analysts. ?Video is exploding, and mobile video advertising is a big opportunity,? Sandberg said. More than 70 percent of ad breaks up to 15 seconds long were viewed to completion, most with the sound on, she said. Facebook executives, though, declined to give details on the performance so far of Watch, a video tab the company rolled out two months ago. ?It?s too early to be talking about any stats there,? Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner said in response to an analyst question. Zuckerberg said Facebook would be spending heavily in making the Watch tab a place where ?people want to talk and connect around,? rather than a spot to passively consume programs. The 49 percent increase in total ad sales in the latest quarter compares with a 47 percent rise in the prior quarter and a 51 percent jump in the first quarter. Facebook has been warning for more than a year about reaching a limit in ?ad load?, or the number of ads the company can feature in users? pages before crowding their News Feed. Advertisers seem unfazed, though, spending heavily as the social network continues to attract users. The average price per ad rose 35 percent. The nearly 50 percent jump in ad revenue ?is phenomenal, especially when for the past few quarters they?ve been trying to bring that expectation way, way down. Yet it keeps going up,? Tigress Financial Partners analyst Ivan Feinseth said. Of the Russia scandal enveloping Facebook publicly, Feinseth said: ?In the bigger picture, I don?t think it?s a really big factor.? The company?s performance was strong in comparison with smaller social media firms Snap Inc and Twitter, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said. ?Facebook grew revenues by $3.3 billion year-over-year for the quarter. This is more than Twitter and Snapchat generate combined for the full year,? he said. Facebook said about 2.07 billion people were using its service monthly, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Net income rose to $4.71 billion, or $1.59 per share, from $2.63 billion, or 90 cents per share. Analysts on an average were expecting the company to earn $1.28, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Total revenue increased 47.3 percent to $10.33 billion beating analysts? estimate of $9.84 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
  18. ASTANA: Russia, Turkey and Iran pledged in Kazakhstan Tuesday to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a "congress" to help nudge peace efforts towards a more lasting political settlement. A joint statement released by Russia and Iran, who support the regime, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, referred to an "initiative of Russia" to hold a congress to bring Syrian government representatives and opposition groups together. A statement on the Russian foreign ministry website on Tuesday listed 33 Syrian organisations invited to a "Congress of Syrian National Dialogue" in the Russian city of Sochi on November 18. The congress proposal was one of the few notable outcomes from the seventh round of talks on Syria held in the Kazakh capital Astana and widely viewed as Moscow's attempt to stamp its own imprint on a settlement for Syria. However, representatives of the Syrian opposition in Astana immediately cast doubt on the plan. Yahya al Aridi, an advisor for the Syrian opposition, called the suggestion "a jump in the air to another place". The talks that began in January have run parallel to negotiations taking place in Geneva with the backing of the United Nations. Recent rounds of talks in the Central Asian nation have focused on ironing out the details of a Russia-led plan establishing four de-escalation zones in Syria. The plan was first tabled in Astana in May to minimise fighting between government forces and moderate rebel factions and improve civilians' access to aid. But international organisations have warned that the zones are failing to curb a recent uptick in fighting that has seen the humanitarian situation in the country worsen significantly.
  19. MOSCOW: Russia said Tuesday its submarine deployed in the Mediterranean fired three ballistic missiles to destroy a command post of Daesh group in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province. "A missile strike with three Kalibr missiles destroyed a command post with large numbers of militants and armed vehicles and also a large weapons and ammunition depot," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook. It said the strikes targeted the area around the town of Abu Kamal, one of the few remaining urban strongholds of Daesh in Syria. The ministry added it could confirm "the destruction of all the given targets." It posted a video on Twitter of a missile blasting out of the sea. There have been heavy clashes between the Syrian army and Daesh group in the city of Deir Ezzor, capital of the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria. Russia said Tuesday that its Veliky Novgorod submarine has carried out four cruise missile strikes on terrorist groups since it was deployed to the Mediterranean in late August. At Russia's Syrian naval base of Tartus in the eastern Mediterranean, Russian ships have played a prominent role backing up an aerial bombing campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The submarines are covered from Syria by Moscow's S-300 and S-400 missiles systems and its Bastion coastal defence system.
  20. Paul Manafort ? the former chairman of Trump's 2016 election campaign ? leaves US Federal Court after being arraigned on twelve federal charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election in Washington, US, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan WASHINGTON: Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 US election charged President Donald Trump?s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering on Monday. A third former Trump adviser ? George Papadopoulos ? pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI, it was announced on Monday. It was a sharp escalation of US Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller?s five-month-old investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt the election in Trump?s favour, and into potential collusion by Trump aides. 68-year-old Manafort ? a longtime Republican operative ? and Gates were arraigned at a federal courthouse in Washington. Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in a 12-count indictment, ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine?s former pro-Russian government. The judge ordered house arrest for both men and set a $10-million unsecured bond for Manafort and an unsecured bond for Gates at $5 million. With unsecured bonds, they are released without having to pay but will owe money if they fail to appear in court. There will be another hearing on Thursday. Mueller?s investigation and others by congressional committees into alleged Russian efforts to influence the election have cast a shadow over the Republican president?s first nine months in office. Neither Trump nor his campaign was mentioned in the indictment against the pair. The charges, some going back more than a decade, centre on Manafort?s work for Ukraine. A White House spokeswoman said the indictment had nothing to do with Trump or his campaign and showed no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia. ?We?ve been saying from Day One there?s no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all,? spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a news briefing. The charges against Manafort could put pressure on him to cooperate with Mueller?s Russia investigation, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago. ?If I were the defence lawyer, I?d be looking into cooperating,? he said. Guilty plea In a development directly related to Trump?s 2016 election campaign, it emerged on Monday that Papadopoulos ? a former campaign adviser ? pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Mueller?s office said Papadopoulos had lied to FBI agents about the timing of contact between him and a professor in London who claimed to have information that would hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos ? a little-known former foreign policy adviser to the campaign ? made a plea bargain, which stated that he has since ?met with the Government on numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions?, according to a court document. White House spokeswoman Sanders played down Papadopoulos? campaign role, saying it was ?extremely limited? and that he was a volunteer. ?He asked to do things (and) he was basically pushed back or not responded to in any way,? she told a news briefing. ?Any actions that he took would have been on his own.? US intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the election, by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit Clinton. Manafort ran the Trump campaign from June to August of 2016 before resigning amid reports he might have received millions of dollars in illegal payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Trump on Monday reiterated his frustration with the Mueller probe, which he has called ?a witch hunt?. Moscow also denies the allegations. ?Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren?t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????,? Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to Clinton. Mueller has been investigating Manafort?s financial and real estate dealings and his prior work for the Party of Regions ? a political group that backed former pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Both Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income from Ukraine work and laundered money through scores of US and foreign entities to hide payments from US authorities, the indictment said. They concealed from the United States their work and revenue as agents of Ukrainian political parties and used their wealth to lead a ?lavish lifestyle? without paying taxes on the income, it says. Gates was a longtime business partner of Manafort and has ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. He also served as deputy to Manafort during his brief tenure as Trump?s campaign chairman. Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer called for the Trump administration to avoid interfering with Mueller?s probe. ?The rule of law is paramount in America and the investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded. The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel?s work in any way,? Schumer said.
  21. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the campaign early last year, entered the plea October 5, admitting he sought to hide contacts with a Moscow linked professor offering "dirt" on Donald Trump?s election rival Hillary Clinton. Photo: AFP file WASHINGTON: A Trump campaign aide has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators probing the campaign?s possible links to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to court documents unsealed Monday. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the campaign early last year, entered the plea October 5, admitting he sought to hide contacts with a Moscow linked professor offering "dirt" on Donald Trump?s election rival Hillary Clinton. "Through his false statements and omissions, defendant Papadopoulos impeded the FBI?s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the campaign and the Russian government?s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election," the indictment said. The indictment and plea were unsealed Monday a short time after former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business partner Rick Gates were charged with conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and making false statement. They were the first indictments to be made public by special counsel Robert Mueller since he took over the Russia probe in May.
  22. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, has been looking into possible links between Trump aides and foreign governments WASHINGTON: The investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election will enter a new phase as early as Monday, when the first charges resulting from the probe could be unsealed and a target taken into custody. A federal grand jury approved the indictment on Friday and a federal judge ordered it sealed, a source briefed on the matter has told Reuters, adding it could be unsealed as soon as Monday. The indictment could mark a dramatic turn in special counsel Robert Mueller?s investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 race and any possible links with officials from President Donald Trump?s campaign. The Russia investigation has cast a shadow over Trump?s 9-month-old presidency and widened the partisan rift between Republicans and Democrats. US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her. Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has been looking into possible links between Trump aides and foreign governments, as well as potential money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes, according to sources familiar with the probe. He also is exploring whether Trump or his aides have tried to obstruct the investigation. Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation a week after Trump?s May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia. Trump initially said he fired Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate. In a later interview with NBC, he cited ?this Russia thing? as his reason. Trump has denied the allegations of collusion with the Russians and called the probe ?a witch hunt.? The Kremlin also has denied the allegations. On Sunday, Trump tried to shift the focus back to Democrats and Clinton, tweeting that the Russia issue was being used to sidetrack the Republican push for tax reform and praising Republican ?anger and unity? on the need to look into whether Democrats and the Clinton campaign paid for a portion of a dossier that detailed accusations about Trump?s ties to Russia. Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said the president?s tweets ?are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate.? Priebus, Spicer among those interviewed Investigators led by Mueller have interviewed former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House and campaign officials. In July, FBI agents raided the Virginia home of Trump?s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mueller?s team. Mueller also has investigated Michael Flynn, an adviser to Trump?s campaign and later his national security adviser. Flynn was fired from that post in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year. The indictment in Mueller?s probe was first reported by CNN, which said the target could be taken into custody on Monday. That possibility spurred some of Trump?s conservative allies to call for Mueller?s firing. Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken former adviser who left the White House in August, said on Twitter that Mueller ?should be stripped of his authority? and investigated if he executed warrants in the probe. The White House said in the summer that Trump had no intention of firing Mueller even though he questioned his impartiality. Republicans also criticized leaks to the press about the indictment and raised the possibility that those responsible could be prosecuted. But Republican Senator Rob Portman said on NBC?s ?Meet the Press? that Trump had been ?too defensive? about the Russia probe. He said there should be broad outrage about Russia?s attempted meddling.
  23. WASHINGTON: A federal grand jury on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters. The indictment was sealed under orders from a federal judge so it was not clear what the charges were or who the target was, the source said, adding that the indictment could be unsealed as early as Monday. The filing of charges by the grand jury in Washington was first reported earlier on Friday by CNN, which said the target could be taken into custody as soon as Monday. US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help President Donald Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with those Russian efforts. ?If the Special Counsel finds it necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,? Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a May 17 letter appointing Mueller. Sources familiar with Mueller?s investigation said he has used that broad authority to investigate links between Trump aides and foreign governments as well as possible money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment to Reuters on Friday. Trump, a Republican who was elected president last November, has denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and condemned investigations into the matter as a witch hunt. The Kremlin has denied the allegations. The special counsel?s investigation also includes an effort to determine whether the president or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice. Mueller?s team has conducted extensive interviews with former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House officials. In July, FBI agents raided the Virginia home of Trump?s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mueller?s team. Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to lead the investigation a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a federal investigation into possible collusion with Russia. Trump initially said he fired Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate and hurt morale, but in a later interview with NBC he cited ?this Russia thing? as his reason.
  24. An image ? obtained as a screenshot from the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation ? shows an intercontinental ballistic missile being fired from a cosmodrome, Plesetsk testing ground, Russia, October 26, 2017. Geo.tv via Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation/Youtube MOSCOW: Russia conducted several ballistic missile tests on Thursday from "land, air, and sea" as part of its strategic nuclear programme, the Defence Ministry announced. A "Topol" intercontinental ballistic missile was fired from the Plesetsk testing ground in the northwest of the country and three ballistic missiles were launched by two nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs), two from the Okhotsk Sea, north of Japan, and one from the Barents Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Russian military forces "have carried out an exercise to manage its strategic nuclear forces", the ministry said in a statement. Strategic bombers Tu-160, Tu-95MC, and Tu-22M3 also took off from several Russian air bases and launched cruise missiles at "ground-based" targets in Kamchatka, eastern Russia, in the Komi Republic in the north, and on Russian military terrain in Kazakhstan. "All objectives of the training have been successfully completed," the statement said. In early September, Russia carried out joint military exercises with Belarus on NATO's eastern flank, causing concern in Poland and the Baltic states due to the size of the drills and doubts over Moscow's intentions. On Thursday, NATO members challenged Russia over "discrepancies" concerning the number of troops involved and the figures officially announced by Moscow. "There is a discrepancy between what Russia briefed before the exercise? and the actual numbers and the scale and the scope of the exercise," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC).
  25. A cyber attack Monday hit a Ukrainian international airport and three Russian media outlets just four months after the "NotPetya" malware spread from two countries across the world. Photo: AFP KIEV : A cyber attack Monday hit a Ukrainian international airport and three Russian media outlets just four months after the "NotPetya" malware spread from two countries across the world. Ukraine?s Odessa International Airport said on Facebook that its "information system" stopped functioning in the afternoon. "All airport services are working in a reinforced security regime," the airport said without elaborating. Its website showed air traffic going in and out of the Black Sea resort city according to schedule. Russia?s Interfax news agency -- one of the country?s biggest -- also sent its last dispatch at 2:13 pm (1113 GMT) before falling silent. A cybersecurity expert told AFP that the Fontanka news site in Russia?s second city of Saint Petersburg and a third media outlet "whose name, unfortunately, we cannot reveal at this time" had also gone offline. "We cannot say what it is at the moment," Yevgeny Gukov of the Group-IB IT security firm said in Moscow. Gukov said the malware appeared to be using an encryption scheme that prevented analysts from deciphering the malicious code. A statement later issued by Group-IB said the attack appeared to have its origins in Russia and had also affected some corporate sites in Turkey and Germany. "This ransomware infects devices through a number of hacked Russian media websites," Group-IB said. "Based on our investigation, this has been a targeted attack against corporate networks, using methods similar to those used during the (NotPetya) attack." The July "NotPetya" attack was a modified version of the "Petya" ransomware that hit last year and demanded money from victims in exchange for the return of their computer data.