Russian president Vladimir Putin signs law to label journalists as ‘foreign agents’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Russian president Vladimir Putin signs law to label journalists as ‘foreign agents’

Foreign agents, defined as involved in politics and receiving money from abroad, must register with the justice ministry, label publications with the tag and submit detailed paperwork or face fines.

WORLD Updated: Dec 03, 2019 06:23 IST

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Moscow
Russian legislation passed in 2012 already gave authorities the power to brand media organisations and NGOs as foreign agents, a term that has Soviet-era overtones.
Russian legislation passed in 2012 already gave authorities the power to brand media organisations and NGOs as foreign agents, a term that has Soviet-era overtones.(REUTERS FILE)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law allowing independent journalists and bloggers to be labelled as “foreign agents”, a move that critics say will violate media freedom.

Russian legislation passed in 2012 already gave authorities the power to brand media organisations and NGOs as foreign agents, a term that has Soviet-era overtones. The new law, which now extends to individuals, will come into effect immediately, according to a document published on the Russian government website.

Foreign agents, defined as involved in politics and receiving money from abroad, must register with the justice ministry, label publications with the tag and submit detailed paperwork or face fines.

Nine human rights NGOs, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, have expressed concern that the amendments may be aimed not only at journalists, but also at bloggers and internet users who benefit from scholarships, funding or revenues from a relevant media outlet.

NGOs said in a joint statement last month the law was “a further step to restrict free and independent media” and “a strong tool to silence opposition voices”.

Authors of the bill have said it is intended to “perfect” existing legislation on “foreign agents” that already covers NGOs and media organisations. Russia says it wants the law as a tit-for-tat mechanism if its journalists are defined as foreign agents in the West. Russia first passed legislation allowing media organisations to be slapped with the label in 2017, after Kremlin-funded RT television was declared a foreign agent in the United States. Russian opposition politician Alexi Navalny’s organisation has been branded a foreign agent, as has US-financed media outlet Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and Voice of America.

The term foreign agent was used negatively during the Stalinist era in the 1970s and 1980s for opponents accused of being paid by the West.

Xi, Putin witness launching ceremony of China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

Xi, Putin witness launching ceremony of China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline

Xinhua
Xi, Putin witness launching ceremony of China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline

Xinhua

The Heihe section of the east-route natural gas pipeline.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had a video call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Monday afternoon, as the two heads of state jointly witnessed the launching ceremony of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline.

“East-route natural gas pipeline is a landmark project of China-Russia energy cooperation and a paradigm of deep convergence of both countries’ interests and win-win cooperation,” Xi told Putin via the video call in Beijing.

He congratulated the launch of the pipeline and expressed appreciation to the construction teams from both countries.

The east-route natural gas pipeline began providing China with Russian natural gas, which is scheduled to reach 5 billion cubic meters in 2020 and increase to 38 billion cubic meters annually from 2024, under a 30-year contract signed between the China National Petroleum Corp and Russian gas giant Gazprom in May 2014.

Speaking highly of the arduous efforts Chinese and Russian builders and companies have made in frozen and snow-covered land in the past five years, Xi said they have shown to the world their consummate skills and the fruitful results of China-Russia cooperation.

Xi and Putin witnessed the signing of the pipeline agreements in 2014 in Shanghai.

The launch of the pipeline is not only an important result at the current stage but also a new start for future cooperation, Xi said.

He called on both countries to make the pipeline a safe and green pipeline of development and friendship, ensure the safe operation of the pipeline and boost the sustainable development of the regions along the line.

Xi, Putin witness launching ceremony of China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline

Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping has a video call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Beijing to witness the launching ceremony of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline, December 2, 2019.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Russia. Xi and Putin announced in June in Moscow to lift bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the new era.

Stressing that he and Putin agreed to continue putting bilateral ties as a priority of each other’s foreign relations and enhancing strategic coordination and cooperation, Xi called on both countries to redouble their efforts to initiate more key projects like the east-route natural gas pipeline, to boost both countries’ development and better benefit both peoples.

Putin, who made the video call from the Russian city of Sochi, said it is of great historic significance that the east-route natural gas pipeline was launched on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Russia-China diplomatic ties.

The launch has lifted bilateral strategic coordination to a new level, said Putin.

Hailing the five-year toil of construction teams from both countries on the project under extreme weather and the completion on schedule, Putin said Russia will provide 1 trillion cubic meters of natural gas to China in the next 30 years.

This is conducive to the realization of a Russia-China trade volume of 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2024, Putin said.

Russia stands ready to work with China to ensure the smooth implementation of the landmark strategic project, he said.

During the video call, China and Russia representatives at northeast China’s Heihe station and Russia’s Atamanskaya compressor station and Chayandin gas field reported in turn to the two presidents that they were ready to receive or provide natural gas. Xi and Putin then gave the go-ahead to the teams.

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng attended the ceremony in Beijing.

The cross-border gas pipeline has a 3,000-km section in Russia and a 5,111-km stretch in China.

Mummified Pup Died in Siberia 18,000 Years Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Mummified Pup Died in Siberia 18,000 Years Ago … And Might Be a Wolf (or Something Else)

The pup still had its milk teeth, suggesting it was under 2 months old when it died.

The pup still had its milk teeth, suggesting it was under 2 months old when it died.
(Image: © Sergey Fedorov/The Siberian Times)

A young pup that spent 18,000 years buried in Siberian permafrost looks remarkably lifelike and pettable — for a freeze-dried mummy. From its frozen tomb, the Ice Age canine’s body emerged in near-perfect condition, retaining even the pads and nails on its small feet and plenty of hair, down to its tiny eyelashes and delicate whiskers.

The pup still had its milk teeth, suggesting it was under 2 months old when it died; The body is so well preserved that its resemblance to a wolf is clearly visible, The Siberian Times recently reported.

But is the youngster a wolf … or a dog?

Dogs are descended from wolves, and their lineage may have split from their lupine ancestors’ as early as 40,000 years ago, according to ancient DNA evidence. Scientists at the University of Stockholm’s Centre for Palaeogenetics conducted genetic tests on the Siberian pup’s remains, but they were unable to determine if the mummy represented a dog or a wolf, the Times reported.

Related: Photos: Is Ice Age Cat Mummy a Lion or a Lynx?

DNA analysis did tell the scientists that the pup was a male. They named it “Dogor” — “friend” in the Yakut language — though in English, the name references the mummy’s uncertain status: dog or … something else, according to the Times.

The scientists named the pup "Dogor" — "friend" in the Yakut language.

The scientists named the pup “Dogor” — “friend” in the Yakut language. (Image credit: Sergey Fedorov/The Siberian Times)

Researchers discovered the mummified pup during the summer of 2018 near the Indigirka River in Yakutia, in the northeastern part of Russia. The oldest known fossil of a domesticated dog dates to 14,700 years ago, though remains of dog-like canines are known from 35,000 years ago, another research team reported in 2017 in the journal Nature. In the study, the scientists suggested that dogs diverged genetically from their wolf ancestors between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago.

What does this mean for the Siberian pup? A mummified canine dating to 18,000 years ago could be a dog, a wolf or possibly even a transitional form — an animal with traits of both species, the Times reported.

“This is intriguing,” said Sergey Fedorov, a researcher with the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia, and one of the scientists investigating the puppy. “We can’t wait to get results from further tests,” he told the Times.

Preserved in ice

After spending 18,000 years buried in Siberian permafrost, this pup looks pretty good.

After spending 18,000 years buried in Siberian permafrost, this pup looks pretty good. (Image credit: Sergey Fedorov/The Siberian Times)

Over the past several years in Siberia, melting permafrost has released some astonishingly well-preserved examples of ancient animals. In 2017, paleontologists unearthed an astonishing mummy of a young horse from a crater in Yakutia; the 2-month-old foal lived 30,000 to 40,000 years ago and its body was whole and undamaged, with its skin and hooves intact. And in 2018, a man searching for mammoth tusks discovered the mummy of a young Ice Age feline. Like the newfound puppy, the wild kitten’s species was hard to pin down, and experts suspect it could be a cave lion or a Eurasian lynx.

Then in June, a man walking by a river in Yakutia in Russia spied the enormous, severed head of an Ice Age wolf, dating to more than 40,000 years ago.

The frozen Siberian wilderness also recently revealed something more gruesome than ancient animal remains: a bag containing 54 severed human hands, buried in snow on a river island and found in 2018. Unlike the Ice Age mummies, the hands were modern in origin and were likely discarded illegally by a nearby forensic lab, according to Russian authorities.

Originally published on Live Science.

College shooting kills one, injures four in the Far East of Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SIBERIAN TIMES)

 

College shooting kills one, injures four in the Far East of Russia

By The Siberian Times reporter
14 November 2019

19 year old student opens fire at group mates before turning the gun on himself.

One of the victims injured during the college attack. Picture: Amurskaya Pravda

Two injured students are reported to be in grave condition after morning attack at the Amur College of Construction, Housing Maintenance and Utilities in the center of Blagoveshchensk.

The young man identified by Russian police as Daniil Zasorin opened fire from Izh-81 pump-action shotgun at fellow students, and later at police officers who tried to stop him.

Student Alexey Golubichniy, 19, was initially reported to be killed in the attack, but later local media and Russian Ministry of Health corrected the reports saying he was alive.

Golubichniy’s friend named Kirill said: ‘He wasn’t killed, he was gravely wounded and went through a surgery. When the attacker ran inside the room, Alexey refused to run away and said that the wasn’t scared.’

 


College shooting kills one, injures four in the Far East of Russia


Zasorin refused to stop and opened fire at traffic policeman, who fired back and wounded the gunman. The attacker who by then was inside the classroom turned the gun at himself. Pictures: Amurskaya Pravda


Three other male students confirmed as wounded were identified as Kasiyan Kamanets, 19, Igor Stasyuk, 17 and Vladislav Rozhkov, 20.

They were rushed to hospital with neck and back injuries.

Zasorin was reported to carry a gun in a bag past the college security man, and assembled it in a bathroom before walking upstairs to his class room.

He pushed a young female teacher out of the class, shut the door and opened fire.

As other students fled the building in panic, one of them managed to report the attack to a nearby traffic police patrol.

Zasorin refused to stop and opened fire at traffic policeman, who shot back and wounded the gunman.

The attacker who by then was inside the classroom turned the gun at himself.

College shooting kills one, injures four in the Far East of Russia
College shooting kills one, injures four in the Far East of Russia. Picture: Amurskaya Pravda


The tragedy was reportedly caused by Zasorin’s conflict with group mates.

He was described as ‘quiet and peaceful’ by fellow students.

‘The attacker was acting along, he is dead. My deepest condolences to relatives of everyone wounded and killed, their families will be given support and help’ said Vasily Orlov, acting governor of the Amur region.

Criminal investigation was launched into the circumstances of the attack, with several investigators flying to Amur region from Moscow at the order of Head of Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin.

The Real Reason Trump Withheld Military Is A Favor To Putin?

The Real Reason Trump Withheld Military Aid To UKraine Is A Favor To Putin?

 

This is just an oped on my part, I am only giving you my opinion about this issue. This is something that I have thought to be the truth ever sense the Ukraine story broke. As most of the world knows President Putin of Russia took the State of Crimea by military force from the country of UKraine a few years ago and Russian forces have been at war with the nation of UKraine in the east of that country ever sense. So, of course Mr. Putin does not want the US selling military arms to the nation of UKraine because those weapons are being used against his Russian soldiers on the battle field. I simply believe that it only makes sense that Mr. Putin wanted Mr. Trump to freeze that weapons sale to the Ukrainian government. As most of the world realizes, including the Republicans in the US Congress and Senate, Mr. Trump is nothing but a Putin Patsy. Now because of all of Mr. Trumps habitual lying he has found himself on the impeachment hot seat, it isn’t like he can actually tell the truth about his collusion with the Russian government to undermine an American Ally. These are just my thoughts, right, wrong or only somewhat correct, or not. What are you thoughts on this matter?

Russia: Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria a ‘wrong move’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria a ‘wrong move’

Moscow, which is allied with Assad regime, says reprisal attack after rockets launched at Israel is in ‘stark contrast’ with international law; IDF said it coordinated with Kremlin

Russia's deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, speaks with journalists after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Lebanon, December 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, speaks with journalists after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut, Lebanon, December 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Russia on Wednesday condemned Israel for striking Iranian targets in Syria overnight, saying the operation was in contravention of international law.

In the predawn hours, the Israeli Air Force launched a large airstrike operation, targeting dozens of Iranian and Syrian military sites in Syria in response to a rocket attack on northern Israel the day before.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said that at least 11 people were killed, including seven “foreigners” who were likely Iranian, and that others were injured during the overnight strikes.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the strikes were a “wrong move” that is in “stark contrast” to international law, Interfax reported.

He added that Moscow had reached out to its allies regarding the incident, the report said.

Russia backs the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and has criticized previous Israeli attempts to prevent an Iranian entrenchment near Israel’s northern border.

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The IDF had said it coordinated its aerial campaign with Moscow through the deconfliction mechanism the two countries established in light of Russia’s significant military presence in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly said that it will not accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and that it will retaliate for any attack on the Jewish state from there.

Israel’s leaders issued fresh threats to Iran after the operation, with the defense minister saying even Tehran’s leaders were “not immune.”

“The rules have changed: Whoever fires at Israel during the day will not sleep at night. That was the case last week and it is the case this week,” said newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, also referring to last week’s targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror chief Baha Abu al-Ata in his home in Gaza, which sparked a two-day conflagration.

“Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: You are not immune anymore. Wherever you send your octopus tentacles, we will hack them off,” Bennett added.

A senior defense official told reporters Israel believes it killed and injured a number of Iranians in the strike. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reiterated the image of an octopus as a metaphor for Iran’s actions in Syria, as well as the implicit threat to attack Iranian leaders.

“Iran is an octopus with its head in Tehran that sends its tentacles to wrap around us. We have not yet threatened Tehran, but we are beginning to get close to the head of the octopus. We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport. We assess that there are Iranians killed and injured,” the official said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

The official said that Israel destroyed six Syrian air defense batteries, as well as multiple buildings on Syrian military bases that are controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the strike: “I have made clear that anyone who attacks us, we will attack them. That is what we did tonight toward military targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian military targets in Syria.”

The IDF said it was girding for several possible Iranian responses, from total calm to a full-scale attack.

“We are preparing for defense and attack, and we will respond to any attempt to retaliate,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters Wednesday morning.

“We are ready for three scenarios: no response, a minor response, and a more significant response,” he said.

Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which could account for the casualties.

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Zilberman said the targets of its strikes were all located within 80 kilometers of Israel’s border and were focused around Damascus and the Syrian Golan Heights.

The Quds Force is a part of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations, and is a key actor in Syria — both against rebels and in Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself along Israel’s border and threaten the Jewish state from there.

AFP contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Russian spies likely intercepted ambassador’s cell phone call with Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Russian spies likely intercepted ambassador’s cell phone call with Trump

Washington (CNN)US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s cell phone call to President Donald Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine this summer appears to be a shocking security breach that raises significant counterintelligence concerns, according to several former officials, who told CNN there is a high probability that intelligence agencies from numerous foreign countries, including Russia, were listening in on the conversation.

“If true, the cell phone call between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump is an egregious violation of traditional counterintelligence practices that all national security officials — to include political appointee ambassadors such as Sondland — are repeatedly made aware of,” according to Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who oversaw operations in Europe and Russia before retiring this summer.
“I cannot remember in my career any time where an ambassador in a high counterintelligence environment like Kiev would have such an unsecure conversation with a sitting president. This just should not happen,” he said.
Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, revealed during the first public impeachment hearing Wednesday that a member of his staff, who was accompanying Sondland to meetings in Kiev, saw the ambassador call Trump from his cell phone and overheard the President asking about “the investigations.”
Taylor confirmed that he had come to understand the term “investigations” meant matters related to the 2016 election and to probes of Joe and Hunter Biden and Burisma.
“Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward,” Taylor told lawmakers.
The call occurred on July 26, according to Taylor — the day after Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump solicited “interference” from a foreign country to help his 2020 presidential campaign.
This new information could strengthen Democrats’ argument for impeachment that Trump engaged in an alleged quid pro quo but it also serves as another example of top US officials ignoring security protocols related to sensitive communications.
It remains unclear if Sondland’s cell phone was encrypted but US ambassadors do not typically have that type of protection on their mobile devices, according to current and former US government officials.
The State Department did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on whether Sondland’s cell phone was outfitted with any sort of enhanced security.
Normally, a US ambassador talking to the President would do so from the embassy using a secure line, one former intelligence official told CNN. “Of all the communications, cell phones are even more vulnerable than non-secure landlines, which are way more vulnerable than secure communications facilities,” the former official said.
That lapse was only amplified by the fact that Sondland made the call in public, where it could have been easily overheard and in a foreign country that is already being targeted by foreign adversaries of the US, including Russia, current and former officials said.

‘Crazy for today’s age’

“Why a president is talking to an ambassador on a non-encrypted telephone is crazy for today’s age, and worse in public,” said Todd Carroll, a former FBI official who served as assistant special agent in charge of the cyber and counterintelligence branch.
“Ukraine is one of the most open areas for intelligence agencies to work in. Both sides. I was told when I was there in 2010 that expect all your calls to be monitored,” Carroll added.
The Russians, in particular, maintain a particularly large intelligence presence in Ukraine and are known to target the communications of US officials.
“There is little doubt that the Russians and perhaps multiple other foreign intelligence services would have intercepted this call. Moscow undoubtedly would have been pleased,” according to Polymeropoulos.
“This would offer the Russians some important validation that President Trump was in effect doing exactly what Moscow almost certainly was already aware of: that our President was inserting a serious wedge into ongoing US security assistance programs that Ukraine so desperately needed in their ongoing battle with Russia,” he added.
Fiona Hill, a former Russia aide on Trump’s National Security Council, testified in October that she had previously tried to get Sondland to stop using his personal cell phone for work.
“I mean, some of it was comical, but it was also, for me and for others, deeply concerning. And I actually went to our Intelligence Bureau and asked to have (redacted) sit down with him and explain that this was a counterintelligence risk, particularly giving out our personal phone numbers,” Hill told House investigators.
“All of those communications could have been ex-filtrated by the Russians very easily,” she said.
CNN has previously reported that Trump was using his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, raising concerns that his calls were vulnerable to eavesdropping from foreign governments.
“All communications devices of all senior government officials are targeted by foreign governments. This is not new,” Bryan Cunningham, executive director of the Cyber security Policy and Research Institute at the University of California-Irvine, told CNN last year.
“What is new in the cell phone age is the ease of intercepting them,” Cunningham added. “Of course, calls are only secure if both parties use a secure device.”

MH17 disaster: Phone-taps ‘show Russia directed Ukraine rebels’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

MH17 disaster: Phone-taps ‘show Russia directed Ukraine rebels’

An investigator inspects the wreckage of flight MH17Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine

An international inquiry into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believes high-level Russian officials were directing separatists in eastern Ukraine linked to the attack.

Investigators allege a top aide of President Vladimir Putin was in contact with rebel leaders on a regular basis.

All 298 people on board were killed when a missile struck the plane over rebel-held territory on 17 July 2014.

Russia’s foreign ministry has rejected the latest findings.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said international investigators had manipulated the inquiry to suit a predetermined conclusion.

Investigators have charged four people, including a separatist defence chief. The suspects are due to go on trial, probably in absentia, in April 2020.

What do the investigators say?

The Netherlands-based inquiry team have not linked Russia directly to the attack on the plane but they say the phone-taps show contact with two of the four suspects already charged with murdering the passengers and crew.

While MH17 is not mentioned in the phone-taps, provided by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence, investigators believe Moscow officials knew what was going on on the ground and had influence over “administrative, financial and military matters” in the separatists’ self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Media captionHow does a Buk missile system work?

The inquiry has already said the Bukh Telar missile launch system came from Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based at Kursk.

They are now appealing for more witnesses to come forward.

Who are the high-level Russians?

The inquiry team names Vladislav Surkov, a former Kremlin strategist and deputy prime minister, and Sergey Aksyonov, the man placed in charge of Crimea when it was occupied and annexed by Russia months before.

They say Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is also mentioned in several calls.

Map shows the route taken by flight MH17

“The indications for close ties between Russian government officials and leaders of the DPR raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the Buk Telar which brought down flight MH17 on 17 July 2014,” said Andy Kraag, head of the criminal investigation division of Dutch police.

What is in the phone-taps?

Two of the suspects already charged are mentioned in the phone-taps. Igor Girkin was so-called defence minister in the DPR and, according to prosecutors, Sergei Dubinsky was his deputy.

DPR leaders always insisted they were volunteers not directed by anyone but the inquiry team says it has spoken to witnesses who say key figures were directed from within Russia.

They say DPR leader Alexander Borodai was recorded saying: “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”

They also quote Mr Borodai apparently talking to Vladislav Surkov a fortnight before the MH17 disaster talking about Russian reinforcements.

Media captionAn animated video from the Dutch Safety Board shows the damage to the plane and how it was caused

Investigators believe leading rebels were equipped by Russia’s FSB security service with secure phones that cannot be tapped and operate via the internet, apparently nicknamed “the glass”.

Sergei Dubinsky, they allege, called someone named Semenov saying: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”

Although four people have been charged and are due to go on trial in April, probably in absentia, it is thought more evidence could yet emerge from rebel ranks in the DPR.

The aim of the inquiry team is to find out who ultimately pushed the button that brought down MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and who was in charge.

The 298 who died included 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Belgians, four Germans, three Philippine nationals, one New Zealander and one Canadian.

Russia has argued that the investigation and trial is aimed at discrediting the country in the eyes of the international community.

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

President Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) take part in a joint press conference during Erdogan’s visit to the White House on Wednesday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

After welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the opening day of public impeachment hearings for a second visit to the Oval Office, President Trump did something highly unusual for such encounters: He invited a select group of Republican senators to join the two leaders’ meeting.

Trump’s decision to invite fellow Republicans only from the GOP-led upper chamber of Congress was telling. Bipartisan legislation and resolutions condemning Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion of northern Syria (three days after Trump removed U.S. forces from that area) have abounded on both sides of the Capitol, but only the Democrat-held House of Representatives has actually voted on and passed such measures.

On Oct. 16 — the same day that Trump announced sanctions against Turkey for its Syria incursion — every member of the House GOP leadership voted in favor of a bipartisan resolution opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area invaded by Turkey and calling on Erdogan to end military action there immediately. The measure passed 354-60, with only Republicans voting against it.

Trump then dropped the sanctions for Turkey’s incursion after one week, citing a cease-fire agreement worked out between Turkey and Vice President Pence.

The House was not swayed. It responded Oct. 29 with the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act. PACT, as the bipartisan measure was dubbed, calls for sanctions against high-ranking Turkish officials and a State Department estimate of the net worth of Erdogan and his family members.

“These sanctions are specifically designed to target the Turkish officials and institutions responsible for the bloodshed in Syria without senselessly hurting the Turkish people,” House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said in a floor speech preceding the 403-16 vote that passed the measure. “After all, it is Erdogan—not the Turkish people—that is responsible for this horror. Erdogan is an authoritarian thug.”

House Republicans joined in the condemnation of Turkey’s leader. “We’re sending a message to the Erdogan government that the U.S. will hold them liable for their actions,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “If he does not want to act like a NATO nation, then his government will feel the repercussions of such decisions.”

The PACT floor action took place the same day the House infuriated Turkey by holding the first full chamber vote ever to condemn as “genocide” the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks. Again, the vote was overwhelmingly lopsided in favor, 405-11.

For decades, Turkey had successfully lobbied Congress to prevent such a vote characterizing that killing of Armenians as genocide.

“When I was ambassador to Turkey 15 years ago, there was a very deep well of public support for Turkey in the United States and particularly in the U.S. Congress, and that really doesn’t exist very much anymore,” says Eric Edelman, who served as the top U.S. diplomat in Ankara during the George W. Bush administration. “I think that the Turks have counted for some time on the personal relationship between [Erdogan and Trump] to get them out of the deep trouble they’re in in the Congress.”

Turkey’s acquisition in July of Russia’s S-400 air defense system crossed a line for many lawmakers. The Russian system is not only incompatible with NATO military equipment — it is designed to shoot down advanced aircraft such as the F-35 stealth fighter jet, 100 of which Turkey had planned to acquire as a partner in the international consortium building the Lockheed Martin warplane.

For choosing Russia’s S-400 over Raytheon’s Patriot surface-to-air missile system, Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 consortium and training of its pilots to fly the stealth fighter at U.S. military bases was suspended.

But lawmakers are demanding further punishment for Turkey’s defiance. The House’s PACT measure designates Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400 system as a “significant transaction” with Russia’s arms industry. That would automatically oblige the Trump administration to impose on Turkey 5 of 12 sanctions listed by the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

Under that law, it’s actually up to the executive branch to determine if a “significant transaction” has occurred. Because the Trump administration has failed to do so, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced a privileged resolution in the Senate obliging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make such a determination within 30 days of the resolution’s passage. Such a rarely used privileged resolution could bypass the Foreign Relations Committee and would have to be voted on by the full Senate, where it would not need the 60 votes usually required for final consideration.

“The administration is breaking the law by ignoring this provision [of CAATSA] and kowtowing to Ankara,” Menendez said last week on the Senate floor. “Turkey must be sanctioned for the S-400 system, and it should happen today — otherwise, it will send a global message that we are not serious about sanctioning significant transactions with the Russian military.”

It appears unlikely the privileged resolution will sway Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Do we know what the political impact such sanctions will have inside Turkey?” McConnell asked late last month on the Senate floor. “Will they weaken President Erdogan or rally the country to his cause? Do we know the impact sanctions will have on U.S. companies?”

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Edelman sees further sanctions, which could limit U.S. arms sales to Turkey, as problematic. “It’s a little bit awkward to be saying we’re going to sanction you because you’re buying Russian military equipment, we don’t want you buying Russian military equipment,” he says, “and so the punishment is you’re not allowed to buy American military equipment.”

The U.S. has been the source of nearly two-thirds of Turkey’s imported weapons of war, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“If you go back over the last few decades, Turkey is one of the major importers of U.S. weapons,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “A huge proportion of their arsenal comes from the United States.”

But efforts in both the House and Senate to curtail arms sales to Turkey, which hosts several key U.S. military bases, have failed to gain much traction in a Congress where most lawmakers have significant numbers of defense contractors in their home states.

The peril of pushing too hard on placing U.S. weapons off limits to Turkey is that Turkey may go shopping elsewhere, says Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“If the current trends continue — more sanctions or an absolute ban on weapons sales to Turkey — then Turkey pivots and buys all of its arms from Russia and other suppliers,” says Gordon, who oversaw Turkish affairs in the Obama White House. “And then the strategic relationship within NATO is really broken.”

Turkey’s relationship with Congress may already be broken. Not so much, though, at the Trump White House.

Author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

‘Anonymous’ author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

USA TODAY

The anonymous official who has written a scathing account of the presidency of Donald Trump suggests the president might refuse to leave office even if convicted in impeachment hearings or defeated narrowly in the 2020 election – and says Trump is preparing his followers to see either outcome as a “coup” that could warrant resistance.

“He will not exit quietly – or easily,” the author, self-described as a senior administration official, writes in A Warning, a book that builds on an explosive op-ed by the same unnamed author last year. USA TODAY obtained an early copy of the book.

“It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing. He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

From ‘Anonymous’:Read key excerpts from inside Trump White House on Putin, Pence, Hillary

As the House of Representatives prepares to open public impeachment hearings Wednesday, the book also says that Trump ordered aides more than a year ago to pursue a “deliberate and coordinated campaign” to obstruct an impeachment inquiry and other congressional investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is considering obstruction of Congress as a possible Article of Impeachment.

The book’s author is identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” and its forthcoming publication has created a firestorm over both its depiction of a dysfunctional president and the decision by the writer to remain anonymous.

Cover of "A Warning" by an anonymous senior Trump administration official.

“The coward who wrote this book didn’t put their name on it because it is nothing but lies,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Many of the disclosures echo news stories that have portrayed the president as impulsive, sometimes uninformed and regularly willing to defy established norms. There is already no shortage of books by Trump critics, including former FBI director James Comey and others who have served in his administration, that raise questions about the president’s fitness for office.

But The New York Times op-ed in 2018 and the new book, being published next Tuesday by Twelve, have commanded enormous attention because the author had an inside view, often participating in small White House meetings where crucial decisions were made.

The author portrays himself or herself as sharing some policy views with Trump and initially having a positive if wary view of the possibilities of his presidency.

The author says the intended audience for A Warning isn’t those who closely follow politics but rather those who don’t, particularly voters from across the country who were drawn in 2016 to Trump’s promise to shake up the establishment.

Dropping Pence from the ticket?

The book says that Trump “on more than one occasion” discussed with staffers the possibility of dropping Vice President Mike Pence before the 2020 election.

“Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was under active consideration to step in as vice president, which she did not discourage at first,” the author writes, saying some advisers argued that putting Haley on the ticket would help the president bolster his support among female voters.

In an interview Friday with USA TODAY, Nikki Haley dismissed out of hand the suggestion that she might replace Pence. In her new book, With All Due Respect, Haley offers a generally positive portrait of Trump, and the president rewarded her with a friendly tweet urging his millions of followers to buy a copy.

Pathway of impeachment:How it works, where we are

“Anonymous” depicts Trump as impatient, immoral, cruel, even dangerous as he rejects the limits placed on presidents by Congress and the courts.

As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the book says, the White House counsel’s office began to develop a “contingency plan” to shield the administration if Democrats gained control of Congress, and with that the ability to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. New lawyers were hired and internal procedures revamped, the author writes.

“The goal wasn’t just to prepare for a barrage of legislative requests,” the book says. “It was a concerted attempt to fend off congressional oversight. When Democrats finally took the House, the unspoken administration policy toward Capitol Hill became: Give as little as possible, wait as long as possible. Even routine inquiries are now routed to the lawyers, who have found unique ways to say “We can’t right now,” “Give us a few months,” “We’re going to need to put you on hold,” “Probably not,” “No,” and “Not a chance in hell.”

Trump impeachment inquiry:Early findings and how Republicans are opposing them

The author says the administration’s refusal to comply with congressional requests and even subpoenas “go beyond standard practice and have turned into a full block-and-tackle exercise against congressional investigators across an array of Trump administration controversies.”

On the president’s actions with Ukraine, now the heart of the impeachment inquiry, the author writes that the idea Trump was trying to battle corruption abroad – rather than gain some partisan political advantage at home – was “barely believable to anyone around him.”

But the book provides no significant new information or insights into that episode.

‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards

The author’s agent, Matt Latimer, said the author didn’t take an advance payment for the book and plans to donate a substantial amount of the royalties to nonprofit organizations that encourage government accountability and an independent press.

Among other allegations, the book says:

  • Several top advisers and Cabinet-level officials last year discussed a mass resignation, “a midnight self-massacre,” intended to call attention to what they saw as Trump’s questionable and even corrupt behavior. “The idea was abandoned out of fear that it would make a bad situation worse.”
  • If a majority of the Cabinet called for Trump’s removal under the rules of the 25th Amendment, Pence would have been willing to go along with them. But the author provides no evidence to back up that assertion, and Pence in recent days has strongly denied it.
  • Trump told officials that, if they took illegal actions on his behalf, he would give them presidential pardons. “To Donald Trump, these are unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on a Monopoly board.”
  • Trump was “particularly frustrated that the Justice Department hasn’t done more to harass the Clintons.” The president suggested to his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, that he might “un-recuse” himself from the Mueller inquiry into Russian election interference, presumably so he would feel free to order a more aggressive inquiry into Trump’s 2016 opponent. “You’d be a hero,” the president told him.