Russia: Nine Hospitalized After TNT Blast In St. Petersburg

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Nine hospitalized after TNT blast in St. Petersburg, state media says

Firefighters outside a Perekrestok supermarket in St. Petersburg where an explosion injured 10 people.

Moscow (CNN) Nine people were hospitalized after a blast inside a store in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, state-run news outlets Tass and Sputnik reported Wednesday, citing local officials.

A total of 10 people were injured, Sputnik said.
Preliminary data shows that an explosive device found at the scene contained 200 grams (7 ounces) of TNT, state-run RIA news agency reported. The device was inside a locker at a chain supermarket called Perekrestok, located in an entertainment complex.

Firefighters respond to the blast at the Perekrestok supermarket in Kalinina Square.

Tass reported that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal investigation into the explosion, citing Svetlana Petrenko, an official representative for the committee.
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The city has been a target for at least one other explosion this year. Fourteen people were killed and dozens more were injured on April 3 when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the city’s metro system.
The April explosion, which has been linked to terrorism, occurred on a passenger train traveling through a tunnel in the center of the city.

Russia Sets up Permanent Military Presence in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Russia Sets up Permanent Military Presence in Syria

Tuesday, 26 December, 2017 – 11:45
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as they attend the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 30, 2017. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Russia’s Defense Minister announced on Tuesday that Moscow has started forming a permanent force at naval and air bases in Syria, reported the RIA news agency.

The bases are located in Tartus naval facility and Hmeimim air base.

RIA news agency quoted Sergei Shoigu as saying: “Last week the Commander-in-Chief (President Vladimir Putin) approved the structure and the bases in Tartus and in Hmeimim (air base). We have begun forming a permanent presence there.”

The Tartus naval facility, in use since the says of the Soviet Union, is too small to play host to larger warships.

According to the RIA report, the agreement will allow Russia to keep 11 warships at Tartus, including nuclear vessels. The agreement will last for 49 years and could be prolonged further.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered on December 11 the withdrawal of his country’s forces from Syria.

Russian News outlet RT has registered as an agent of a foreign government in America

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Why has RT registered as a foreign agent with the US?

A man tries on a VR goggles at the stand of Russia's state-controlled broadcaster RT during the 10th Russian Internet Week in Moscow on November 1, 2017.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image captionA man tries on a VR goggles at the RT stand during Russian Internet week

News outlet RT has registered as an agent of a foreign government in America, after years of accusations that it was a propaganda arm of the Russian government. So what is RT and why has it become the subject of fierce debate in the US?

It was a late February afternoon when millions of Americans’ phones and laptops started buzzing with breaking news from the White House.

“Gen Flynn was fired amid the scrutiny…”

“The White House national security adviser fired…”

President Trump had asked National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to leave the White House, said the reports. Flynn had misled Vice-President Pence about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

It was the first resignation in the new presidential administration. But one media outlet, RT, reported it differently: “General Flynn retires as National Security Adviser”

Misleading headlines are only one part of RT’s approach to news, which makes the American government and analysts believe it is just an arm of the Kremlin.

What is RT?

RT, originally Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), began broadcasting internationally in 2005 in English, Arabic, and Spanish as a subsidiary of RIA Novosti, one of three Russian state-owned news broadcasters.

The broadcaster focused on Russia-related news reports and said its goal was to improve the image of the country in the US. At its launch, it promised a “more balanced picture” of what Russia is.

Several years later, it shortened its name to RT and began focusing on US news, positioning itself as an alternative to US mainstream media on both online and US cable television.

In late December 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin dissolved RIA Novosti and transferred all its subsidiaries to a new organization International News Agency Russia Today.

On the same day, Putin appointed a well-known but controversial media figure, Dmitry Kiselev, as the general director of the new organisation.

Dmitry KiselevImage copyrightAFP
Image caption Dmitry Kiselev and three other presenters interviewing Prime Minister Medevey in 2008

Mr. Kiselev was placed on the EU’s individual sanctions list in 2014 for being a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine”, including false claims of US State Department involvement.

He is also known for his homophobic views, including saying gay people should be banned from being blood or organ donors.

“In case of car accidents, their hearts must be buried or burnt and never used to save someone’s life,” he told Russian TV show in 2012.

A few American media personalities, the most prominent being Larry King, have presented programmes on RT America’s television network.

What’s the evidence of their Russian government connections?

“The edge between journalism and propaganda is very thin, especially, if we are talking about the media which is founded by the government,” says Lata Nott, the Newseum Institute’s executive director.

“Not all materials of RT are propaganda, but it is very clear that they have only one angle and they have never criticised their own government.”

RT’s major problem, Nott says, “is lack of transparency regarding sources of their budgeting”.

It is all very unclear.

RT uses production companies to produce content for an American audience. The company operates the same way in the UK.

The production company registered with the US government, T & R Productions LLC, is owned by Mikhail Solodovnikov. But a recent report by the Atlantic Council named two different production firms in the US, both owned by Russian-born businessman Alex Yazlovsky.

In the registration, Solodovnikov notes his firm’s funding comes from TV Novosti, and admits the Russian government finances the organization. But Solodovnikov also says he is not “sufficiently aware of who supervises, owns, directs, controls or subsidizes” TV Novosti.

RT doesn’t make its supervisory board public, according to the Atlantic Council report, and while it reports annually to the Russian Ministry of Press on its expenditures, their financial statements are not made public.

American intelligence agencies have a low opinion of the network. Ex-CIA director James Clapper has called RT “a mouthpiece of Russian governmental propaganda,” whose assets and executives are closely tied to Vladimir Putin.

An unclassified version of a January US intelligence report points to RT and Russian-backed website Sputnik as a key part of Russian interference with the US election, arguing the outlet served “as a platform for Kremlin messaging”.

“The Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT’s coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging because of their ideological beliefs,” the report states.

It also details close links between editorial management and the Russian government and cites RT and Sputnik’s ramping up of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton stories around March 2016, including Russian talking points that Clinton’s election would lead to a war between US and Russia.

What happened between RT and Twitter?

Twitter recently banned RT from advertising on the platform, citing the CIA report, said they will invest $1.9m they received from the outlet from advertising to support research into limiting misinformation on the platform.

However, RT Twitter accounts are not banned from Twitter.

Sean Edgett, acting general counsel at Twitter,Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image captionSean Edgett, acting general counsel at Twitter, answered questions in front of Congress last week

RT has accused Twitter of “forgetting to tell the US Senate it pushed RT to spend big bucks on election ad campaign”, sharing an advertising pitch Twitter had made to RT, and accused the platform of being part of a “coordinated attack on Russian media and freedom of speech”.

What’s FARA and why is the US government forcing RT to register?

The US government requires all agencies, individuals and organizations controlled or funded by international governments and undertake a political activity, to be registered with the justice department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara).

Fara began as a reaction to attempts by Nazi Germany to spread propaganda inside the US. In the 1940s, the Soviet news agency TASS and later newspapers Izvestia and Pravda were registered as agents of the Soviet government.

Since the law was enacted, 221 Russian companies have registered as foreign government agents, including a travel agency, a postal service, and numerous financial institutions.

RT claims that it is a “publicly funded” media outlet, similar to the BBC or Germany’s Deutsche Welle and would qualify for an exemption.

But to prove the exemption, the Atlantic Council writes, RT would need to disclose its finances, board members and show evidence of editorial independence from the Russian government.

Other international media outlets are registered as agents of foreign governments, including China Daily, NHK Cosmomedia, and KBS Korean Broadcasting System.

This week, RT decided to register under Fara.

“Between legal action and registration (as a foreign agent), we have chosen the latter,” tweeted RT editor Margarita Simonyan.

“Congratulates the US [on its] freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it,” Simonyan added.

Registering as a foreign agent doesn’t mean RT will be forced to stop broadcasting, but it will need to label all US material “on behalf of” the Russian government.

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Report: Hundreds arrested at anti-corruption protests in Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Report: Hundreds arrested at anti-corruption protests in Russia

Protesters clash with Russian police 01:33

Story highlights

  • Hundreds of arrests reported at the Moscow demonstration
  • Protests come in wake of killing of a vocal Putin critic in Ukraine

Moscow, Russia (CNN)Prominent Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny was detained during an anti-corruption protest in the heart of Moscow on Sunday, according to tweets by Navalny and his press secretary.

Navalny downplayed his detention in a series of tweets and encouraged protesters to keep marching.
“Today we are discussing (and condemning) corruption, not the detentions. Well, I was detained. So what. It OK. There are things in life that are worth being detained for,” Navalny tweeted.
Similar demonstrations were planned in 100 cities across Russia on Sunday, according to organizers. Tass, a state-run news outlet, reported that 8,000 people attended the protest in Moscow.
Hundreds of arrests were reported at the Moscow protest. Russian human rights group OVD-Info tweeted that more than 700 had been detained — while state-run news agency Ria Novosti said 500 had been held.

Police detain a protester in central Moscow on Sunday.

“The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday,” acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement. “We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads.”
Toner said, “Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values.”
The protest drew a heavy police presence but remained largely peaceful. Riot officers flanked crowds while plainclothes officers moved among the demonstrators. Police told those on the street that the protest was unsanctioned and asked them to move on.
Navalny praised turnouts for the protests in early morning tweets. “Far East started fine,” he tweeted, referring to a photo of protesters gathering in the city of Vladivostok, located on Russia’s far eastern coast. Navalny also shared photos and tweets from various parts of the country.

‘He is not your Dimon’

The protests are part of a campaign called “He is not your Dimon,” which uses the diminutive form of the Russian name Dmitry to refer to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Navalny has accused Medvedev of amassing a global property empire through various forms of corruption.
In a report published on March 2, Navalny said Medvedev has a portfolio of assets including “huge pieces of land in the most sought-after regions, yachts, apartments in old mansions, agricultural complexes and wineries in Russia and abroad.” Navalny’s report claims this was all purchased through “bribes from oligarchs, and state bank loans.”
Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, told state-run news agency RIA Novosti, “It is pointless to comment on the propagandistic outbursts of a convicted opposition figure, who has already announced he is running some kind of election campaign and fighting against the authorities.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the report “not the first creative effort from this well-known convicted citizen,” according to Tass.

Moscow protest in sight of Kremlin

Protesters in Moscow walked along Tverskaya Street, one of the city’s main arteries that starts at the Kremlin walls. “I can’t support our government, really,” one protester said. “They steal our money using their power.”

Opposition supporters take part in an unauthorised anti-corruption rally in central Moscow on Sunday.

The Moscow Police Department put out a statement Thursday urging people not to attend, calling it illegal and warning of a high risk of “provocative acts, designed to violate public order.” Police said the organizers of the event were offered an alternative location but declined. The Kremlin said Friday the event was “illegal” and a “provocation.”
Navalny, who rose to prominence during the large-scale anti-government protests in Russia in 2011, has announced he plans to run for the Russian presidency in 2018. In February, he was found guilty of embezzlement in a retrial of a case that dates back to 2013. Russian law prevents convicted criminals running for public office, but Navalny has appealed the verdict.
Sunday’s demonstrations come at a time when the safety of critics of Vladimir Putin is under scrutiny. On Thursday, former Russian lawmaker and vocal critic of the Russian government Denis Voronenkov was shot dead outside a luxury hotel in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Navalny has not commented on the killing. CNN has contacted him for comment.
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