Russia: Trump promised to make visit to Moscow if Putin accepts invite to White House

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that President Trump indicated he could visit Moscow if Russian leader Vladimir Putin comes to the United States.

Lavrov told state television that Trump mentioned the possible trip when he called Putin on March 20 to congratulate him on his re-election to another six years in office.

State-run news agency RIA Novosti, citing the foreign ministry, said Trump invited Putin to Washington and said he would be glad to see his Russian counterpart in the White House.

Lavrov, who met with Trump in Washington in May, said Russia was expecting Trump to formalize the invitation, RIA Novosti reported. 

“We proceed from the fact that the U.S. president in a telephone conversation ... made such an invitation, said he would be glad to see (Putin) in the White House, would then be glad to meet on a reciprocal visit,” Lavrov said in comments posted on the foreign ministry's website.

“He returned to this topic a couple of times, so we let our American colleagues know that we do not want to impose, but we also do not want to be impolite, and that considering that President Trump made this proposal, we proceed from the position that he will make it concrete.”

Both the White House and the Kremlin previously revealed that Trump had invited Putin to the White House during the same call, when the two leaders discussed wanting to meet soon.

A visit by Putin to Washington would anger Trump's critics, amid special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible links between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russians who sought to influence the election by hacking emails and spreading fake news.

Trump has repeatedly said his campaign did not collude with Russia to gain advantage in the election. Lavrov has dismissed the meddling allegations as a baseless "claptrap."

Trump met face-to-face with Putin for the first time at the Group of 20 summit of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany, in July. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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More: Lavrov rejects as 'claptrap' charges of Russian election meddling

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Skripals poisoning ‘highly likely’ staged by British intelligence – Russian Foreign Ministry

The UK’s behavior after the Skripal incident suggests that the attack was organized by the British spy agencies or was at least beneficial for them, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.

“It was highly likely that the false-flag incident with the poisoning of the Russian citizens in Salisbury was beneficial for, or perhaps organized by, the British intelligence services in order to mar Russia and its political leadership,” Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow on Thursday, markedly using the same phrase regarding probability as London officials and their allies.

 
A destroyed street in Douma in Eastern Ghouta on April 16, 2018 © Louai Beshara

Such a false-flag operation would perfectly fit into the “general Russophobe course of the [UK] Conservative government to demonize our country,” the spokeswoman stated, adding that the UK has “frequently committed such acts in the past.”

The “National Defense Strategy of the UK and the banquet speech of PM Theresa May at the end of last year,” also contribute to such version of events, according to Zakharova. The document and May’s speech have clearly envisioned “countering Russia” as one of the main priorities for the UK.

London’s actions in the aftermath of the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in the town of Sailsbury have raised many questions in Moscow. Russia says the UK did everything possible to disrupt the investigation and conceal facts, while squarely pinning the blame on Moscow. Russia has vehemently denied the allegations and repeatedly urged the UK to show some proof, or at least make information on the incident publicly available.

“The firm refusal to cooperate with Russia on the Salisbury poisoning investigation, London’s violations of the consular convention, reluctance to cooperate with the OPCW and concealment of the basic data to conduct a transparent investigation are the shining proofs of that,” Zakharova concluded.

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‘Julian Assange could die in Ecuadorian embassy’ – Pamela Anderson

Anderson appeared on Tuesday’s installment of ‘Good Morning Britain,’ hosted by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. Having complemented the former Playboy model on her looks, and asked her if she had dressed up for his benefit, Morgan got down to more serious matters.

“He’s awful. It’s terrible,” said Anderson when asked how her friend Assange was doing. “They’ve cut off internet access. He’s a political prisoner in the heart of London. It’s very surprising. Cut off from everybody.”

Asked if she “feared he was going to die in there,” Anderson replied: “He could. He’s human and I don’t know who could tolerate this, he’s a political prisoner and he’s a hero so we need to support him.”

Anderson confirmed she can no longer communicate with the man for whom she has previously expressed her love. “No, nobody can visit him right now. His lawyers possibly.” Anderson went on to say that she had visited him every time she was London up to now but that is no longer possible and she is very concerned about his health.

“I’m very, very, very, concerned, deeply concerned for him. He’s one of the most important people on the planet right now,” she said. “He’s exposing all of these war crimes and truths and we really need him at this moment. And it’s not a coincidence that he is being silenced at this time.”

Anderson believes it’s possible her relationship with Assange is being investigated. “Probably, gosh, I wouldn’t be surprised,” the Canadian address admitted before reiterating her concerns for Assange and calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to do something.

“The UK is being so stupid they have to make a decision, they keep on passing the buck no-one wants to take responsibility and they want to extradite him to the US, 100 percent, and that would be life in prison or worse,” Anderson continued.

“There’s so much going on in the world right now, I want to know what he’s thinking.”

Anderson went on to say that Assange is being “abused” and that it’s a human rights issue.

When Reid suggested that many people feel Assange should face “justice,” Anderson replied: “For what? Telling the truth and exposing war crimes. He’s not the culprit, just the messenger. You should know you’re journalists, it’s the same thing.”

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In US 6,300 People Evicted Every Day, Mainly Blacks: Report

One of the main findings of the newly launched project is the deep racial undertone behind a vast majority of these evictions. 

In the United States, 6,300 people are evicted every day, according to a new, one of its kind project called the Eviction Lab

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The project launched by Princeton University sheds light on U.S.'s eviction and housing crisis, as it sifted through nearly 80 million evictions going back to 2000. The lab found that in 2016 alone, there were nearly four evictions filed every minute. 

One of the main findings of the newly launched lab is the deep racial undertone behind a vast majority of these evictions. 

Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology who runs the project at Princeton University, told Democracy Now, "The legacy of racial discrimination in America is deeply connected to the eviction crisis. One of our big findings for the data that we’ve just released is the concentration of evictions in the Southeast, especially in counties that have large numbers of African Americans in them. 

"And I think that this is deeply connected to our legacies of systematically dispossessing African Americans from the land, which is a history that goes from slavery all the way up to the recent subprime crisis." 

Eviction Lab, which is the country's first nationwide database on evictions, also indicated that the evictions could lead to poor health, depression, job loss and a lost chance to find decent housing in the future.  

"Families lose not only their homes, but children often lose their schools. You often lose your things, which are piled on the sidewalk or taken by movers. And eviction comes with an official mark or a blemish, and that can prevent you from moving into safe housing in a good neighborhood. It can also prevent you from moving into public housing," Desmond argued.  

"And then there’s health effects, like depression. We have a study that shows that moms who get evicted experience high rates of depression two years later."

According to Eviction lab findings, cities like North Charleston and Richmond faced the highest number of evictions in 2016, per the latest extensive database available.

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"This is not just a problem that’s in New York or San Francisco or Boston—cities we often talk about as being hotbeds of the affordable housing crisis. If you go to Wilmington, Delaware, one in 13 renter families are evicted every year. If you go to Tucson, Arizona, or Tulsa, Oklahoma, Albuquerque, New Mexico, you see very high eviction rates," Desmond said, according to Democracy Now. 

In some eviction cases recorded in recent years, the tenants said they weren't sure who was evicting them, which Desmond concluded was maybe because the property was "flipping hands very quickly and maybe being consolidated in fewer hands in some cities." 

"I’d ask a tenant, “You know, what’s happening? What brought you to this situation?” And their answers were very confused. They’d say, “Well, I got a letter from this company, and I sent my check there. They sent it back. They said my property is owned by another property," Desmond informed. 

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US requests UNSC vote on alleged chemical attack in Syria – reports

The US has requested a vote at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution for a new inquiry into the alleged chemical incident in Douma, Syria. It comes as Russia urges the UN to dispatch investigators to the site.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote at 3pm New York time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday, according to media reports, citing diplomatic sources. “The vote has been requested,” an unnamed diplomat told RIA Novosti.

 
United States envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses the Security Council, April 9, 2018. © Brendan McDermid

It comes as Moscow and Damascus have urged the UN’s chemical weapons watchdog to send experts to the site of the alleged incident as soon as possible.

“Due to the rapid escalation of the situation, Russia calls on the technical secretariat to urgently send the mission’s experts to establish the facts of the alleged chemical weapons usage in Syria in order to clarify all the details of the incident,” Russia’s mission to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday. It added that any delays would only play into the hands of those who desire to use the reported incident as a pretext to launch an attack on Syria.

While the US will supposedly be seeking an inquiry into the alleged incident, Washington has already pinned the blame for it on Damascus and its allies. Following the first reports that came from the controversial White Helmets and other anti-government groups, US President Donald Trump called his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad an “animal,” adding that there would be a “big price to pay” for the purported use of chemical weapons.

READ MORE: 'Post-fact mindset in US: First punishment & then search for evidence to rationalize war-mongering'

On Monday, the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, appeared to speak of the alleged chemical attack as a proven fact, blaming Russia and the “monster” Assad for it.

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Russia & Syria call for on-the-ground probe in Douma, pledge to provide security to OPCW experts

Moscow has proposed to create an independent investigative mechanism into the alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma, promising, along with the Syrian army, to guarantee prompt access for experts to the site.

Russia's envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, has reiterated that Russia will support a thorough investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the rebel-held town of Douma over the weekend.

"Let us recall that our draft resolution to set up such a mechanism is in blue. And we stand ready to adopt it today if necessary," Nebenzia said, referring to the Russia-sponsored UNSC resolution to establish an independent investigative mechanism under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

A photo showing a child being washed after what the White Helmets and other anti-government groups in Syria claim was a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta, on April 7. The Russian military says the photos were staged. © Reuters

Moscow is ready to serve as a guarantor of security for those OPCW experts who would inspect the site of the incident, Nebenzia added, stressing the need for the probe to be carried out without delay. The experts may "immediately, tomorrow, fly to Damascus," the diplomat said.

"There, the Syrian authorities and Russian troops will provide conditions to travel to the area of the alleged incident for them to familiarize themselves with the situation," Nebenzia said, reminding the UNSC member-states' representatives that "that is what President Trump and other western leaders called upon us to undertake."

The Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari said his country is also ready to welcome the OPCW team as soon as possible and to provide them with everything necessary for a comprehensive investigation.

"My country, Syria, stresses its unlimited cooperation with the OPCW to fulfill the commitments stated in the convention of the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons," he said.

Highlighting the importance of a swift investigation, Nebenzia noted that it should be conducted on the ground, and not through third parties. Moscow has repeatedly criticized the OPCW investigation into last April's Khan Sheikhoun incident as "unprofessional." One of the major flaws of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), as pointed out by Moscow, was that the whole investigation was conducted remotely. As a result, the findings of the OPCW report, that blamed the attack on the Syrian government, were mostly based on speculation by analysts, accounts by unidentified witnesses and material evidence submitted by third parties with no chain of custody being implemented.

In November, the mechanism's mandate expired and Moscow vetoed a resolution to extend its authority, arguing that it was effectively "dead" and couldn't be revived, stressing a need for a new, "professional, objective and unbiased" mechanism to replace its discredited predecessor. Moscow at the time proposed a resolution to create one but it was not passed by the UNSC.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Nebenzia did not specify if Russia would put the resolution to a vote on Tuesday. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said she is looking forward to the Security Council voting on the resolution proposed by the US.

 

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian man collects and bags the body of a dead bird, reportedly killed by a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province © Omar haj kadour

The US draft, leaked to the media, implies that Syria might be found in violation of UNSC Resolution 2118 as a result of the investigation by a proposed "Independent Mechanism of Investigation."  The resolution, adopted in 2013, provided for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. Damascus has repeatedly stressed its compliance, denying allegations of the use of toxic agents in the offensives on rebel-held regions.

"The Syrian Arab Republic stresses once again it does not possess any chemical weapons of any type, including chlorine," Jaafari said at Monday’s UNSC meeting.

The US-sponsored draft "condemns in the strongest terms the continued use of chemical weapons" and also stipulates that measures might be taken against Syria under the UN Charter Chapter 7, which paves the way for the use of force.

Nebenzia denounced the draft, saying that it contains "some unacceptable elements." "There is nothing there that would meet the high standards of the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention," he said.

The UNSC President, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations, said that he expects the countries' delegations to continue to work on the draft for the rest of Monday and on Tuesday, describing the situation as "very difficult."

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NATO crossed ‘red line’ with military build-up around Russian borders – envoy to NATO

NATO has crossed a line with its “unjustified” military build-up on Russia’s doorstep, Russian envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko has warned. He added that global security cannot be ensured without Russia.

 
A US soldier walks to the welcoming ceremony for US-led NATO troops at polygon near Orzysz, Poland on 13 Apr. 2017 © Kacper Pempel / Reuters

Relations with states neighboring Russia never developed “military dimensions” despite strained relations with some of them, including with the Baltic states, Grushko said. But the situation has now changed, thanks to the military bloc, he told a discussion panel at the Valdai Club on Tuesday.

“Now, thanks to NATO, we have a military dimension, it was their choice, they crossed the red line,” Grushko said.

While the West has been trying hard to isolate Russia and fuel anti-Russian hysteria, international security is the only thing that suffers from this approach, according to Grushko. Any NATO and EU attempts to create “isolated safe havens” are doomed to failure, the diplomat said, as the creation of solid security systems cannot succeed without Russia.

The situation on Russia’s doorstep is also reminiscent of “Cold War schemes,” which should already have been buried as they were proven to be inefficient. However, if the alliance turns its back on Russia, it will only harm its own security, the Russian official added.

“If they do not want dialogue, then there won’t be any. It takes two to tango, as you know, it will be a conscious choice of the alliance,” Grushko said.

In the wake of international hysteria over the Skripal case and following the mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from a range of countries, NATO cut the permanent size of the Russian mission from a maximum of 30 to 20. Grushko stressed that the alliance is damaging itself with such moves, as it merely decreased the already reduced level of bilateral cooperation.

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USA-huge student march: Another one?

A true flood of people gathered last Saturday in several cities of the United States and the world to demand greater control over firearms.

On this march, highly awaited, several media outlets sounded out people’s reaction and thus reported what happened.

For example, Los Angeles Times published that the demonstrators demanded a legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, like those used in Parkland and Las Vegas shootings in recent months.

Among the participants was 18-year-old student Enma Gonzalez, one of the representatives of the preparatory schools in Florida, who said from the podium: “Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job”.

According to the publication, minutes earlier, she stood in silence during six minutes and twenty seconds, the time it took the gunman to carry out the massacre in Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. In Los Angeles City, the demonstrators, carrying posters, denounced the National Rifle Association (NRA) and demanded changes.

There, student Giselle Jimenez, 17, held a sign reading: "Silly me, I didn’t know that not wanting children to be slaughtered by assault rifles was being political”.

Famous singer Paul McCartney was at the march in New York to honor his former bandmate and friend, John Lennon.

He attended the rally wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “We Can End Gun Violence", and told the CNN: “One of my best friends was murdered by gun violence right here, so this protest is important to me".

As it’s known, Lennon was shot to death on December 8, 1980, in front of his apartment in that city.

In New Orleans, the students too carrying posters criticized House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, seriously wounded in a shooting.

Olivia Keefe, 17, said “the gun-control legislation should not be a partisan issue; it is not about Democrats or Republicans at all… This is about common sense".

Media outlets estimated that the figures of the participants are inexact, because hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Washington.

The students from the Majory Stoneman Douglas High became survivors and political activists of this march that had a world response.

"Welcome to the revolution", said Cameron Kasky, one of the Parkland student organizers, in his speech aimed at members of Congress. And added: “We’re the change… Represent us or get out”.

Delaney Tarr, another Majory Stoneman Douglas High school student said: “We are a movement and we won’t stop!”.

On the other hand, Trump neither listened to the echo of the march nor the speeches by the students, because last Saturday, he was at his elegant West Palm Beach, Florida golf course, alongside his wife Melania.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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