Vladimir Putin Re-elected by Landslide 76.65 Pct

Moscow, Mar 19 (Prensa Latina) Russian leader Vladimir Putin overwhelmingly won reelection by landslide with 76.65 percent with 99 percent of the ballots counted according to the latest official reports at 05:21 local time.

The Russian Election Commission said Monday almost 55.5 million of voters supported his candidacy.

The above 76 percent vote collected is Putin's all time high electoral support, far higher than the 52.9 percent he got in 2000, his 71.31 percent in 2004 and 63.6 in 2012, the Russian Central Electoral Commission outlined.

Addressing a rally at his campaign headquarters, Putin thanked his supporters, shared views on key issues and lay out his plans for the future, on which he said: 'We need a leap forward.'

He said his international agenda will be to develop relations with nations on all continents, adding Russia is ready to overcome all difficulties with Europe, while underscoring that China is Moscow's strategic partner and he's planning to expand links with Beijing.

The President stressed 'it is important for Russians to understand that there are huge challenges before us, and we must overcome these challenges, we must complete the nation's tasks. And I count on us all to continue this work together.'

First-time Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin came in second with 11.83 percent, while veteran nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic party), who first ran against Boris Yeltsin in 1991, finished third with 5.6 percent.

The rest of the other five candidates running for president did not reached 2 percent.

They were Civil Initiative party leader Ksenia Sobchak, Sergei Baburin (All-People's Union party), Maxim Suraykin (Communists of Russia party), Boris Titov (Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights) and Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko party).

Results of the presidential election in Russia show the Russian people are happy with the domestic and foreign policies implemented by the current leadership and voted for the continuation of the political course, observer from Italy Claudio D'Amico told Sputnik News.

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Militant groups split & clash in E. Ghouta, civilians seek shelter – Russian MoD

Militants groups holding Eastern Ghouta have begun fighting each other after one faction attempted to separate from the terrorists, the Russian military said. Civilians are seeking shelter and trying to escape street fighting.

The confrontations broke out a day after the Russian Defense Ministry demanded that the Failak Ar-Rahman group separated from Jabhat Al-Nusra terrorists, currently known as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. In exchange, the militants were offered safe passage out of the embattled suburb of Damascus.

“Open fighting between the members of illegal armed units is underway in the streets, civilians are forced to seek shelter not to accidentally become victims of hostilities," Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin told reporters on Monday.

© Ruptly

A Russia-backed ceasefire came into effect in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta around two weeks ago, in order to allow humanitarian aid deliveries and the evacuation of civilians. Two humanitarian corridors were established in the areas of Muhayam al-Wafideen and Mlekha to provide for the safe passage of local civilians. Both passages have been constantly shelled by the militants, injuring and killing those who were trying to escape, according to Russian MoD and eyewitnesses.

The first group of 52 civilians, half of whom were children, managed to flee the militant-held Eastern Ghouta on Sunday. Their safe passage was secured by the Russian and the Syrian forces after they had held talks with the armed groups controlling the area.

The situation in the militant-held enclave remains “tense,” according to Zolotukhin. They also continued the bombardment of Damascus and its suburbs, firing seven mortar shells on Sunday, the official added. No one was injured in the attacks.

Despite the provocations, the humanitarian operations went on, the Russian military said. The spokesman reiterated that the safe routes in Eastern Ghouta remain open to both civilians and militants who are willing to flee.

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‘Urgently engage with Russia’: US senators call for dialogue after new nuclear arsenal unveiled

A group of US lawmakers have called for strategic dialogue with Moscow. They feel that the matter is “more urgent” following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unveiling of a number of cutting-edge weapons systems.

“A US-Russia Strategic Dialogue is more urgent following President Putin’s public address on March 1st when he referred to several new nuclear weapons Russia is reportedly developing, including a cruise missile and a nuclear underwater drone,” a letter signed by US Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reads.


Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly at the Manezh Central Exhibition Hall © Grigoriy Sisoev

The letter, addressed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was published on Thursday. The senators stressed that while the countries have many “significant” disagreements, including alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections and the “annexation” of Crimea, Moscow and Washington need to come to the negotiation table.

“Due to these policy rifts, not in spite of them… the United States should urgently engage with Russia to avoid miscalculation and reduce the likelihood of conflict.”

The lawmakers are concerned that some of the brand-new Russian nuclear weapons are not covered by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, commonly known as the New START, and thus call for the agreement to be extended. The weapons in question include a cruise missile with virtually no range limit and a nuclear-powered underwater drone.

However, the letter did not miss a chance to accuse Russia of non-compliance with the 1982 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and called on the State Department to address the alleged violation. Moscow and Washington have traded accusations of INF-Treaty violations for several years. The US constantly accuses Russia of developing missile systems with ranges prohibited by the agreement, without providing any specific information to support such allegations.

Moscow has its own list of complaints regarding US shortcomings in relation to the INF Treaty. These include the US drone program, and the ground placement of a naval vertical-launch system in Europe as part of the Aegis Ashore program. Russia contends that these constitute violations of the treaty. In December 2017, Putin said that Washington was apparently creating conditions to leave the accord, and said that the process of its withdrawal has actually already begun.


Two US soldiers standing outside the base for the Nato protective shield in Deveselu, Romania, 12 May 2016. The Aegis system, developed by the US Navy, is stationed in Deveselu © KAY NIETFELD

There had been rumors that the Russian and American top diplomats, Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson respectively, may meet while they are both in Africa. However, the US State Department denied that there had been any discussion of possible bilateral talks. When asked about it, the Russian Foreign Minister said the claims that such discussions never happened are “untrue.”

On March 1, the Russian leader presented a set of advanced Russian nuclear weapons, some of which are not yet named. During his state of the nation address, Putin stressed that Russia would not need all these new weapons had its legitimate concerns been heeded by the US and its allies. “Nobody wanted to talk to us about the root of the problem. Nobody listened to us; so listen to us now!” he said.

The speech drew a hysterical reaction from the Western media and accusations of saber-rattling and starting “a new arms race,” Putin told NBC Washington was in fact to blame for it. The Russian president referred to the US decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) back in 2002.

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USA: Concrete Jungle

Should there was any doubt, it has already vanished. United States has become an elegant jungle swarmed with millionaires, the bruised middle class and homeless people, among others.

In this regard. El Nuevo Herald columnist Guillermo Descalzi wrote on Monday that his government is characterized by its lavish indifference and fears an unbridled extreme right.

The latter includes, firstly, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The journalist added that politicians bow their heads before the National Rifle Association (NRA) “that has planted USD $23 billion for them since 1990 to provide its interests with shade”.

Institution has flatly refused to eliminate the Second Amendment to the 1791 Constitution that blesses guns purchase and possession.

Since 2013, there have been 291 school shootings and 18 so far this year.

Journalist and writer Guillermo Descalzi stresses that it is time to acknowledge that there are mental health patients who curiously go unnoticed, as well as that it is Hemingway’s time and to say farewell to arms.

He also pointed out that “action must be channeled in this Hemingwayesque country”.

It’s good to remember that during the 2016 elections Trump proclaimed himself a friend of the National Rifle Association, and assured he would protect its interests, as he has done so far.

That organization is one of the lobbies that manage real power in U.S., as it happens with the Jewish one and others.

One may ask: Who is to blame for the recent brutal killing of 17 teenagers in Florida?

The same individual who has defended to the death free sale of rifles and other weapons in US stores.

As well as those who, led by Donald Trump, have become champions of the sale and use of guns and powerful rifles in that country.

So, Nikolas Cruz is not the one who should be taken to the dock, but Donald Trump, firstly, and NRA’s executives, secondly.


Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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‘Syrian ceasefire problematic because of sponsors fueling violence’

Terrorist groups have instructions to escalate violence in Syria, and are so desperate that they could resort to using chemical weapons, political science professor Maged Botros told RT.

Syria's ceasefire agreed upon by the UN Security Council on Saturday appears already to be unraveling with reports of violations in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.

The Western media was quick to point the finger at the Assad government. Damascus has been bombing Eastern Ghouta for a week, targeting Al-Nusra Front terrorists – something which is allowed under the UN resolution.

However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, it was militants in Eastern Ghouta who violated the truce. Moscow says Damascus was shelled several times after the ceasefire came into force.

Political science professor Maged Botros says the violence is unlikely to end soon.


FILE PHOTO © Bassam Khabieh

In his view, while the ceasefire could break the “vicious circle of seven years of human atrocities,” no government would “allow its capital to be shelled all the time.” Besides that, he told RT, the Syrian government is alleging that the terrorists are using human shields in Ghouta.

He is also skeptical that the truce will work “simply because there are sponsors of violence, they are fueling violence: you have Qatar, you have Turkey, you have other states, they have interests in Syria.”

Following the vote, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said that “it would be naive to think that internal Syrian questions can be solved by a resolution.” He added that Moscow had “supported the intentions” behind the document, but that no ceasefire was possible “without agreement from warring parties.”

According to Botros, “all the parties involved have interest to continue on with this violence.”

In a joint telephone call with the Kremlin on Sunday, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure the ceasefire was fully implemented as soon as possible.

Botros argues though that it is not in Russia's hands as Moscow cannot put pressure on terrorist groups.

“Terrorist groups have instructions to escalate violence. Terrorist groups are in the state of desperation. They are so desperate that I can believe that they use chemical weapons as the last card on the table,” he told RT.     

‘It is imperative for the Syrian govt to take over Eastern Ghouta’

Dr. Jamal Wakeem, professor of history and international relations at Lebanese University in Beirut, told RT that “the US thinks that the ceasefire was meant not for the Syrian government to take control of Eastern Ghouta, which should remain a region to direct a threat to the capital, to Damascus.”

RT: Do you think this ceasefire will be possible to implement?


Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria. February 22, 2018. © Bassam Khabieh

Jamal Wakeem: I believe that the ceasefire is conditional and this is noted in the UN resolution because the Syrian government and its Russian ally will continue its operation against Al-Nusra and ISIS (Islamic State/IS) which are on the terrorist lists. This is on the one hand. And on the other hand, I believe that we need to see what would be the reaction of the US because the US was the one to call for the UN resolution, for the ceasefire at the beginning. However, the Russian intervention amended this ceasefire to fit the needs for fighting terrorism in Syria. While the US thinks that the ceasefire was meant not for the Syrian government to take control of Eastern Ghouta, which should remain a region to direct a threat to the capital, to Damascus. And there were plans to link Eastern Ghouta to Al-Tanf region controlled by the US, to open a corridor that would allow US troops and US-backed terrorists to reach the outskirts of Damascus. I don’t trust the American intentions.      

RT: Turkey claims the resolution doesn’t affect its operation against Kurdish groups in Afrin. Is this a fair interpretation of the ceasefire agreement?

JW: The Turks are manipulating the resolution the way they want because so far after one month of military operation they didn’t achieve tangible results in the outskirts of Afrin. They couldn’t take hold of the city. The Kurdish parties mended fences with the Syrian government. And the city went back to government control in Syria. Erdogan wanted that a certain situation would be imposed in northern Syria that could fit his own interests and that he could present it as a gain to the Turkish public. And that is why the Turkish government declared that… it will continue its military operation.  

RT: With parts of Eastern Ghouta occupied by terrorist groups that are not party to the ceasefire, how can any safe humanitarian access be guaranteed?

JW: I believe that the humanitarian aid that the US called for is a mere pretext for it to open the corridor to the terrorists and to supply them with ammunition and with other logistics. I believe that this was the true intention of the US. That is why I believe that Russians has to intervene and to amend the resolution as to fit the strategy of fighting terrorism, mainly ISIS and Al-Nusra. We need to admit the fact that the US is using terrorist groups as tools for its war by proxy on the Syrian government and on Syria and also on the Iraqi government to control these two countries that are highly strategic for American geopolitical strategy in the region.  

Eastern Ghouta is the last stronghold for the terrorists to direct attacks on the Syrian capital. The insurgents or the terrorists are launching continuous attacks on civilians in the eastern part of the city. And many civilians have died so far. That is why for the Syrian government it is imperative to take over Eastern Ghouta.

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Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump and the Decline of the US Empire

"From the point of view of U.S. power, (Trump) is harming it, but from the point of view of U.S. elites, he's giving them everything they want," Chomsky said.

Renowned U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky welcomed a teleSUR team into his office at the University of Arizona to discuss the presidency of Donald Trump and the decline of an empire.

RELATED: Noam Chomsky on Our Wonderful Indonesian Moderates

"From the point of view of U.S. power, (Trump) is harming it, but from the point of view of U.S. elites, he's giving them everything they want," Chomsky said, describing the current administration as a "two-level wrecking ball."

The political activist and cognitive scientist went on to describe the incumbent U.S. president as a "con man."

"Everyday there's one insane thing after the other... and while this show is going on in public, in the background, the wrecking crew is working.

"What they're doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population. This goes from workers' rights to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, anything you can think of is being dismantled."

Chomsky reasoned that the ultra-wealthy, Wall Street and the constituents of those in power couldn't be more pleased with efforts made to increase their fortunes.

"That's why the stock market goes up: the stock market has not much to do with the economy, but it keeps booming because that's the rich people."

Chomsky pointed out that the decline of the United States, a trend tacitly expressed whenever Trump vows to "make America great again," began not recently but back in 1949 when China became independent.

The loss of China was followed, Chomsky said, by "McCarthyism, repression and the destruction of unions." It continued under President John F. Kennedy when he was weighing whether to escalate in Vietnam and said: "I don't want to be responsible for the loss of Indochina."

The decline of the U.S. empire further accelerated when Europe and other industrial societies reconstructed in the wake of World War II: "decolonization took place" and the empire has yet to recover, Chomsky said.

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Moscow slams ‘illegal’ US presence in Syria as Pentagon reserves right for ‘defensive’ attacks

Russia has reminded the US that its presence in Syria is illegal after the coalition struck pro-government militias. Washington however reserved the right for “defensive” attacks to achieve peace “from a position of strength.”

The US presence in Syria is “actually illegal,” the Russian Ambassador to the UN reminded his Western counterparts on Thursday at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council. “Nobody invited them there,” Vasily Nebenzya stated, emphasizing that a hard fought for stability in Syria is being jeopardized by US actions.

On Wednesday, the US-led coalition said it carried out several “defensive” airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir Ez-Zor province in retaliation for what they described as an “unprovoked” attack on the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and foreign military “advisers.”

FILE PHOTO. Oil well on the outskirts of the city of Deir ez-Zor. © Mikhail Voskresenskiy

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Syrian militia unit was advancing against a “sleeper cell” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists near the former oil processing plant of al-Isba, when it suddenly came under massive air strikes. At least 25 militiamen were injured in the attack, the Russian MoD noted, clarifying that pro-government troops targeted by the coalition did not coordinate their operation with the Russian command.

The US, however, maintains that the militia attacked the SDF. The Pentagon said Syrian forces moved “in a battalion-sized unit formation, supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” The battle which lasted over three hours, the US claims, began after 30 artillery tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF unit’s location.

“At the start of the unprovoked attack on Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers, coalition aircraft, including F-22A Raptors and MQ-9B Reapers, were overhead providing protective overwatch, defensive counter air and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] support as they have 24/7 throughout the fight to defeat ISIS,” Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Military.com.

“Following a call for support from Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, a variety of joint aircraft and ground-based artillery responded in defense of our SDF partners, including F-15E Strike Eagles,” he said in a statement Thursday. “These aircraft released multiple precision-fire munitions and conducted strafing runs against the advancing aggressor force, stopping their advance and destroying multiple artillery pieces and tanks.”

@RT_com 'Actions of the US coalition do not comply with legal norms. Beyond all doubt, it is aggression' https://on.rt.com/8yo4

Damascus called the attack a “war crime,” while the Russian military asserted that Washington’s true goal is to capture “economic assets” in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova affirmed that the US military presence in Syria poses a dangerous threat to the political process and territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the strike another violation of Syria’s sovereignty by the US.

The US, however, remained unmoved, promising to continue to support the US-allied forces in Syria at any cost. “We continue to support SDF with respect to defeating ISIS... ISIS is still there, and our mission is still to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday. “We will continue to support them. Our goal is to ensure that our diplomats can negotiate from a position of strength, with respect to the Geneva process.”

@RT_com 'What right does the US have to defend illegal formations in Syria?' - former US diplomat @JimJatras https://on.rt.com/8yow

“They [US] constantly assert that they are fighting international terrorism there, but we see that they go beyond this framework,” Nebenzya told the UNSC. He warned the US-led coalition members that it is “criminal” to engage the only forces “who actually fight” international terrorism in Syria.

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The Trump Effect: ICE Immigrant Arrests Rose by 30% in 2017

ICE carried out more than 140,000 arrests that year after Trump authorized federal agents to target all immigrants regardless of criminal record.

Arrests of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. rose by 30 percent in 2017 compared to a year earlier under the administration of Donald Trump who has expanded the authority of immigration agents and ramped up anti-immigration policies in the United States, an analysis by the Pew Research Center showed Thursday.

RELATED: ICE Continues Targeting Prominent Immigration Activists

Data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, shows that it made 143,470 arrests over the course of 2017 and that the biggest percentage increases of arrests were in Florida, northern Texas and Oklahoma.

Meanwhile from Jan. 20, when Trump was inaugurated, to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 ICE made 110,568 arrests, 42 percent more than over the same time period in 2016, according to the research center.

“Recent immigration arrest patterns demonstrate a growing emphasis by federal authorities on interior enforcement efforts,” the center said meaning that ICE federal agents are targeting undocumented immigrants who live in cities around the U.S. rather than those around border areas with Mexico or Canada.

The rise in arrests stems from a Trump executive order signed shortly after he came to office expanding ICE enforcement to include all undocumented immigrants instead of the limits that had been placed on the agency by his predecessor Barack Obama to focus on those who committed serious crimes.

RELATED: Trump Goes For Anti-immigration Traction Through New Rules

However, the research center points out that the number of arrests made in 2017 is far less than those made in Obama’s first year in office. ICE arrested almost 300,000 undocumented immigrants in 2009, which had prompted pro-immigration activists to call Obama “deporter-in-chief”.

Also the 2017 record of arrests is only the highest over the past three years, meaning that arrests during Obama’s presidency were still higher the first few years of his eight-year tenure before declining towards the end of his presidency.

Official data shows that between 2009 and 2015 his administration deported more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders.

However, Trump might manage to beat Obama’s record as he has signed several orders in recent months that could see the the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries.

RELATED: Immigration Activist Ravi Ragbir Facing Deportation After ICE Arrest

Some of the ICE arrests in recent months generated large backlash in the U.S. as they targeted immigration activists and immigrants who have been living in the country for decades with families and jobs and had not committed any crimes.

Jorge Garcia made international headlines last month when pictures of him hugging his family at the airport as he was being deported by ICE agents despite having lived in the U.S. for 30 years, paying taxes and having children in the country with no criminal record. The 39-year-old came to the U.S. when he was 10-years-old from Mexico and had sought legal status for years without luck.

Also last month, Jean Montrevil, Haitian immigrant rights activist and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, was deported back to his country less than two weeks after he was arrested by ICE, agents, despite having lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and having no criminal record.


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