"Putin Tried To Muck Around Our Elections Again": US Defence Secretary

Washington: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that Russia tried to meddle in the US midterm elections last month -- just as it did in the 2016 vote that brought President Donald Trump to power.

The already strained ties between Washington and Moscow have "no doubt" worsened over Russian's continued attempts to interfere in the US voting process, Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines," the Pentagon chief said.

Putin has "continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended," Mattis said, stressing he was unsure whether there were growing threats from Russia.

"We'll do whatever is necessary to defend them."

Mattis spoke as President Donald Trump suddenly scrapped a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, citing a Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Ahead of last month's vote, Twitter and Facebook shut down thousands of Russian-controlled accounts, while 14 people from Russia's notorious troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, were indicted.

And US law enforcement agencies warned that "Americans should be aware that foreign actors -- and Russia in particular -- continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord."

The troll farm's finance chief, named as Yelena Khusyainova, was indicted by the US Justice Department days before the November 6 midterms, becoming the first person to face charges of interfering in the US vote.

Russia in turn condemned the US for indicting her, saying the accusations were fabricated in order to impose further sanctions on Moscow.

Trump himself is at the center of a probe into whether his 2016 presidential campaign conspired with Russian operatives to tilt the election in his favor.

  • Published in World

Syria, Russia accuse rebels of wounding scores in Aleppo gas attack

BEIRUT (Reuters) - More than 100 people were wounded in a suspected toxic gas attack in Syria’s Aleppo late on Saturday, which a health official said was the first such assault in the city.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia blamed the attack on insurgents, which rebel officials denied.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday its warplanes bombed militants who had fired chlorine gas at Aleppo.

Moscow said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and helped broker a ceasefire in the insurgent stronghold of Idlib.

A monitoring group said air strikes hit rebel territory in the northwest on Sunday for the first time since Russia and Turkey agreed a buffer zone there in September.

In Aleppo city which the government controls, the shells had spread a strong stench and caused breathing problems, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said.

State news agency SANA said on Sunday 107 people were injured, including children, after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking.

It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since government forces and their allies clawed back the city from rebels nearly two years ago.

“We can not know the kinds of gases but we suspected chlorine and treated patients on this basis because of the symptoms,” Zaher Batal, the head of the Aleppo Doctors Syndicate, told Reuters.

Patients suffered difficulty breathing, eye inflammation, shivering and fainting, he said. Hospitals had discharged many people overnight.

Batal said this was the first gas attack against civilians in the city since the conflict erupted more than seven years ago.

STRETCHERS AND OXYGEN MASKS

No group has claimed the attack so far. Russia said it came from territory that former al-Qaeda militants control in Idlib.

“The explosive (shells) contain toxic gases that led to choking among civilians,” Aleppo police chief Issam al-Shilli told state media.

Pictures and footage on SANA showed medical workers carrying patients on stretchers and helping them with oxygen masks.

State media said the army hit back at militants near the city but did not elaborate. Syria’s foreign ministry urged the U.N. Security Council to condemn and punish the attack.

Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razak, an official from the Nour el-Din al-Zinki insurgent faction, said rebels did not own chemical weapons or have the capacity to produce them.

“The criminal regime, under Russian instructions, is trying to accuse the rebels of using toxic substances in Aleppo. This is purely a lie,” he tweeted.

Abu Omar, a Failaq al-Sham spokesman, accused Damascus of trying to create “a malicious charade” as a pretext to attack rebel towns.

The UK-based Observatory said government shelling earlier on Saturday had killed two women and seven children in a village in Idlib.

The Russian-Turkish deal in September had staved off an expected army offensive against the Idlib region, including nearby parts of Aleppo and Hama provinces.

The dominant force among an array of factions holding sway in Idlib is Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by fighters formerly linked to al-Qaeda.

A past U.N.-OPCW inquiry found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in April 2017 and has also used chlorine several times. It also blamed Islamic State for using mustard gas.

Assad’s government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the war.

  • Published in World

Russia Worried about US Attempt to Destroy Disarmament System

Moscow, Nov 22 (Prensa Latina) Russia expressed on Thursday its deep concern over the attempts of the United States to destroy or reform the current system to limit the proliferation of weapons in the world, especially nuclear weapons.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov told the Italian news agency Agi that his country and the United States, as possessors of the largest arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, have a responsibility to maintain strategic stability in the world.

With the intention of guaranteeing total freedom of action, Washington announced its possible withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), he said.

In addition, some political circles in the US question the extension in 2021 of the Treaty for Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons (Start III), recalled the Russian diplomat, who is visiting Italy.

The position of withdrawing from the INF and leaving the Start III aside is a dangerous and lacks perspective, the experienced Russian diplomat said.

For Lavrov, the return to the policy of guarantee of mutual destruction between Russia and the West has nothing to do with the 21st century and in that sense, he asked himself if the concentration of the Atlantic Alliance on the Russian border and the response from Moscow offers more security for the world.

However, the areas and challenges against which Russia and the United States could work together are growing: from the fight against terrorism to the solution of situations of regional crises or, even, the climate, argued the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Statements by US President Donald Trump that his country will strengthen its nuclear power until others 'do not come to their senses' are aimed at our nation and China, he estimated.

At the same time, he considered that relations between his country and Italy are on the rise and, he said, the fruitful results of the recent meeting in this capital between President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are proof of that.

Lavrov stressed that despite the unilateral sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, and other Western powers, some 500 Italian companies maintain their jobs in this state. In addition to the Italian investments in Russia, the European country plans to participate with its ENI company in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which brings gas directly from this nation to a concentrator plant in Germany, after crossing the Baltic Sea bottom.

In Italy, there are more and more politicians at different levels who propose ending the unilateral sanctions applied by the West against Russia since in 2014 it rejected the coup in Kiev and supported the sovereignty of Crimea and the cause of the rebels in the Donbass.

  • Published in World

Russian Loses Interpol Presidency After US Pushes Opposing Vote

The election had been hotly contested, with anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe.

Russian interior ministry’s Alexander Prokopchuk loses an election, held in Dubai, for Interpol's new president. The favored candidate was best by South Korean Kim Jong-yang after heavyweight opposition.

RELATED: Facebook Sued For Censorship by Russian News Agency

Last week, The Times had reported that Prokopchuk, who currently serves as one of Interpol's vice-presidents, was the "favorite" to lead the organization. However, the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) 194 member states, in a shock decision, chose Kim following several terse exchanges which prompted Moscow to state that critics were running a "campaign aimed at discrediting" Prokopchuk.  

The election had been hotly contested, garnering anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe. Several U.S. senators openly urged voting nations to oppose the Russian candidate, while other countries threatened to disrupt Interpol membership structure if Prokopchuk was elected.

The General Assembly is INTERPOL’s supreme governing body. Here's how it works.

., , , and I oppose Russian leadership of Interpol. Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents, and journalists. Read our full statement here: Read our full statement here: wicker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/11

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov retorted to the constant pushback, stating that the U.S. senators' action was an “intervention in the voting process.” 

Additionally, during his stint as Interpol's Moscow bureau chief, Prokopchuk was accused, but not prosecuted or charged, of allegedly using international arrest warrants to target critics of the Kremlin.

"Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety. To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future," Kim said.

 
  • Published in World

Cuban President's Tour: Reunion with Friends of all Time

Russia, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos, five visits to those countries of the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, cemented in just two weeks old and valuable relations, confirming that times pass, but the real ones friends are left.

Almost like a road map, Díaz-Canel used his Twitter account to report the main incidents in each nation and his impressions about a journey aimed at ratifying 'the continuity of the Revolution and thanks for the solidarity that fuels our resistance'.

The Cuban president made a brief stop in France, where he met with the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, and with the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay.

From there he traveled on Friday 2 to Russia, where he held official talks with his counterpart from that country, Vladimir Putin.

He also met with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, the headlines of the Duma (Lower House), Vyacheslav Volodin, and the Senate, Valentina Matvienko, the communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russians Kiril.

At the end of their stay in Moscow, Diaz-Canel and Putin signed a joint statement in which they reaffirmed the strategic partnership between their countries, condemned the interventionism and advocated a multi-polar world.

The visit left the balance of the agreement of a greater participation of Russia in projects related to energy, transport, pharmaceutical, metallurgy, culture and humanities.

At the start of the Asian leg of his tour, the Cuban president arrived at noon on Sunday 4 to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), where he received a massive popular reception at the airport and the main avenues of Pyongyang.

In addition to holding official talks with the chairman of the State Committee of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, Diaz-Canel met more than once with him and renewed the friendship between the two nations.

Our relations are historical and are based on mutual respect and admiration, founded on the friendship of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz and the great leader Kim Il-sung, he said.

The Cuban president also met with the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, and with Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju.

The respective delegations signed cooperation agreements in areas such as tourism, education and public health.

When he left, he wrote in his Twitter account: 'The delegation of #Cuba says goodbye to the beautiful # RepúbicaPopularDemocráticaDeCorea, to which we thank their unwavering condemnation of the blockade, a cruel and unjust policy that also suffers the Korean people for sanctions against their government #NoMasBlock '.

In China, Díaz-Canel attended the first International Exposition of Imports in Shanghai, attended by more than three thousand local and foreign companies.

In the Asian giant he was received by President Xi Jinping; Prime Minister Li Keqiang; and the President of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Li Zhanshu.

After the official talks, the parties signed agreements to increase production capacity in prioritized collaboration projects and the granting of a Chinese loan that will support the acquisition of construction equipment for the renewable energy and tourism sectors, among others.

Diaz-Canel arrived in Vietnam almost at midnight on Thursday 8 and the following day held official talks with the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam and President of this country, Nguyen Phu Trong, who imposed the Order of Ho Chi Minh.

The two presidents also witnessed the signing of the trade agreement that over the next few years will govern the operations of the two countries in this area.

In Hanoi, Diaz-Canel was also received by the Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the head of the National Assembly, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.

On Saturday 10, he traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam and its main economic, industrial and financial center, and from there he flew directly to the neighboring Lao People's Democratic Republic (RDPL).

In Vientiane held official talks with the president and general secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, Bounnhang Vorachith.

Both also witnessed the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Education and Sports of the RDPL and the National Institute of Physical Education, Sports and Recreation of the Antillean nation.

Members of its delegations also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Bank of the RDPL and the Central Bank of Cuba.

Diaz-Canel also met with Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and the head of the National Assembly, Pany Yathotou.

  • Published in Cuba

US won’t let Russia ease North Korea sanctions, Haley says

Russia says it’s trying to ease sanctions on North Korea to make aid organisations’ work there possible. The US says it won’t let that happen.

Following a closed-door UN security council meeting this Thursday requested by Russia and China, US ambassador Nikki Haley told press members that Russia is trying “to lift banking restrictions” against North Korea, an option which she says is off the table:  “So now we know what their agenda is, we know exactly why they’re trying to do it and we’re not going to let it happen.” 

 
At the meeting, the Russian Mission to the UN released a statement referring to “serious humanitarian problems” resulting from the current American-championed sanctions. The statement claims the restrictions are interfering with the ability of nonprofits and humanitarian aid organizations to work in North Korea – even though they’re not directly subject to the sanctions regime. It urges the council “to examine as soon as possible the options to rectify the situation using the entire tool set available to the UNSC.

Echoing Trump’s statements on the matter, Haley responded that sanctions would not be lifted since the North Koreans “haven’t done anything to warrant us getting rid of them yet,” adding that “The threat is still there.

Earlier this year Haley accused Russia of violating the sanctions agreements and asked the UN to impose punishment. Russia, China and South Korea, in turn, have been pushing for the US to make small concessions in order to facilitate dialogue.

  • Published in World

Diaz-Canel invites Putin to visit Cuba in 2019

President of Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay a visit to Cuba in 2019.

"Considering the importance of your visit, we would like to invite you to pay a visit to Cuba once again in 2019, which will mark five years since that moment (Putin’s last visit to Cuba - TASS)," he said during the talks in the Kremlin.

Dq mUcKWsAABs3T

The Cuban leader pointed to the high level of relations between Russia and Cuba describing them as fraternal.

The Russian delegation at the talks includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov and Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak.

Putin and Diaz-Canel will sign a joint statement after the negotiations and make a statement for the media.

The Kremlin press service earlier reported that the two countries’ leaders planned to discuss the current state and prospects for deepening bilateral strategic cooperation in various areas and exchange views on pressing global and regional issues.

According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin and Diaz-Canel will also raise the issue of military-technical cooperation. He declined to comment on whether providing loans to Cuba for the purchase of military equipment would be discussed during the talks.

  • Published in Cuba

Tensions aside: US to take delivery of 4 rocket engines from Russia

Despite political tensions here on Mother Earth, Russian-American cooperation in space still persists. The US will take delivery of four Russian-built engines crucial for its Atlas rockets, with several more to come.

Four RD-180 rocket engines built by Russia’s NPO Energomash have been commissioned for the US buyers, the manufacturer said in a news release. “On October 26, 2018, Pratt & Whitney, United Launch Alliance and RD AMROSS singed the engine log books,” it reads. 

Prior to the handover, Pratt & Whitney and United Launch Alliance (ULA) checked the engines along with NASA and US Air Force experts to ensure they are of good quality. The RD-180s are now ready to be shipped out, and this is not a one-of-a-kind purchase.

Three more rocket engines will be supplied later in November. And in April, the US bought four more engines from Russia, according to Energomash.

The United Launch Alliance, a joint company owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has relied on Energomash RD-180 engines for years to power the Atlas V rocket. They recently ordered 20 engines from Energomash despite economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

 
Aside from RD-180 engines, the US buys RD-181s from Russian manufacturers. The RD-181 is used to propel Antares rockets that launch Cygnus cargo tugs to the International Space Station for NASA.

When the US introduced its initial set of restrictions against Moscow, space exploration was excluded. As NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said“when other channels of communication break down, nations can still communicate on space exploration and space discovery and science.”

NASA has been doing its utmost to cut its dependency on Russian engines and to produce a viable alternative to the dual-nozzle, kerosene-fueled RD-180s, but to no avail so far. And while some Russian officials have at times vowed to ban the rocket engine sales, they are continuing.

Space is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains relatively unscathed by political tensions. “We’re all breathing the same air. We can draw borders, but from space you can’t see them,” NASA astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock said last year.

“In the US we have a sarcastic saying: ‘We can put a man on a Moon, but we cannot figure out how to get along with our Russian partners,” the New York native said after working at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed