China tests Russian anti-viral drug which might treat coronavirus as Moscow warns of possible 'mass outbreak'

While health chiefs prepare for a potential pandemic, China is testing a Russian anti-viral drug in the hope that it might help control the new coronavirus. It comes as prospects of a vaccine look slim for the foreseeable future.

Triazavirin, developed at Yekaterinburg’s Ural Federal University, was originally developed to combat ‘Bird Flu’ (H5N1), and, given that there are some similarities between the two infections, researchers feel it’s worth a punt. The medicine is already known to be effective against 15 types of flu.

Russia’s Deputy Health Minister Sergei Kraevoi confirmed the news on Tuesday. He also revealed that the Chinese still haven’t shared samples required for a vaccine with foreign researchers, adding that without these it’s impossible to start looking for a remedy.

“It takes literally several months, from two to five (to conduct preclinical studies),” Kraevoy said. “To do this, you need a live native virus. Unfortunately, at the moment we don’t have this very important living virus,” he explained.

Kraevoi conceded that Russian officials are preparing for a possible large-scale infection, but he gave assurances that the country has sufficient stock of equipment and medicine to deal with the consequences.

Launched in the local market at the end of 2014, it’s claimed Triazavirin is effective against Rift Valley fever and the West Nile virus, in addition to other viral infections. It is also being studied for possible use against Ebola.

The number reported of cases of the new coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) worldwide now exceeds 20,600 people with 426 dead in China alone, according to the latest data. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a public health emergency.

The main symptoms include a dry cough, weakness, increased body temperature, and difficulty breathing. It was first reported in late December in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus is transmitted by droplet transmission, as well as by touching the eyes with hands which have the virus on them.

Russia has, so far, recorded two cases; both of the sufferers are Chinese citizens. In a bid to stop the spread of the infection, authorities have closed the Far Eastern border with China, canceled work and group travel visas for Chinese citizens, shut down passenger railway connections, and heavily restricted flights between the two countries.

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Moscow releases Ukrainian Navy boats seized during ‘violation’ of Russian territorial waters near Crimea in 2018

Three Ukrainian military boats seized by the Russian border guards during an attempt to illegally pass through the Kerch Strait last year have been returned to Kiev, Moscow has announced.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the ships were evidence in the criminal probe into the 2018 incident and agreed to hand them back to Ukraine because “all the necessary investigative activities” related to the vessels were completed.

Russia intends to prevent any future provocations near its border in a robust manner, including with a goal of ensuring the safety of maritime travel.

The Ukrainian Navy confirmed receiving the boats and said they would soon be transported to the port city of Odessa. Notably, the crews were released in September during a breakthrough Russian-Ukrainian prisoner swap.

Russia: Ukrainian military ships seized in Kerch Strait tugged towards...

The vessels got detained on November 25, after an attempt to cross the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. It is now best known for the monumental bridge that Russia built across it to connect the Crimean Peninsula with mainland Russia, and is heavily guarded.

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Both Ukrainian and Russian ships have passage rights, but there are strict safety rules, which Moscow said the Ukrainian Navy had breached. The attempt escalated into an altercation between Russian border guards and Ukrainian crews, who reportedly refused to take directions and declared that they had the right to pass as they please.

The conflict stopped short of bloodshed and resulted in arrests of the Ukrainian sailors and their ships for “violation of territorial waters.” Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) - which is in charge of border troops – accused Kiev of staging “a provocation.”

The Ukrainian sailors were quickly lauded as national heroes and political prisoners in their home country. Moscow countered, arguing the entire mission was an obvious ploy of Poroshenko to score political points ahead of the presidential election. If true, his plan obviously failed when he suffered a crushing defeat by Volodymir Zelensky, who won over 73 percent of the vote in the run-off in April.

The crews of the boats were released as part of a large prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine on September 7, which Zelensky negotiated with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a wider effort to deescalate tensions between the two nations.

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The release of the military boats comes shortly ahead of talks in Paris scheduled for December 9, which will be the first personal meeting between the two leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will mediate the event, which was confirmed last week.

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We must be ready to use ‘hard power’ against Moscow and Beijing – UK defense chief

The UK must be ready to use ‘hard power’ against Russia and China, defense chief Gavin Williamson has said. The remark has raised eyebrows in Moscow, which calls it “irrelevant” to reality and aimed at securing a larger budget.

The UK needs to strengthen its "lethality" and must be ready to "use hard power" to uphold it interests against nations like Russia and China, Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson said on Monday.

Delivering a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London, he accused "resurgent" Moscow of boosting its "military arsenal" to bring former Soviet states like Georgia and Ukraine "back into its orbit."

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The UK defense chief lashed out at Beijing as well, warning the audience that China is "developing its modern capability and commercial power."

We have to be ready to show the high price of aggressive behavior, ready to strengthen our resilience.

The politician made the remarks as London prepares to send its largest warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea on a mission to enforce freedom of navigation rights.

Williamson’s statement was met with a mixed reaction in Russia, with the nation’s embassy in the UK calling it “completely irrelevant” to reality, yet “worrying” in its militaristic spirit.

“Certainly, it’s convenient to threaten society with the so-called ‘Russian threat’, distracting it from the relevant internal and external problems that Great Britain faces today,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Apart from that, the British minister is pursuing a very particular goal with such statements: painting our country as an ‘aggressor’, he is trying to steadily expand the state funding of the UK’s military-industrial complex.”

Williamson, 42, is known for pushing Britain to reassert its role as an influential military power. He also often makes headline-grabbing bombastic statements. In September, commenting on plans to send British troops to the Arctic, he called the region the nation’s "backyard."

At the end of last year, he unveiled plans to build military bases in the Far East and the Caribbean, suggesting that it will help the UK to become a "true global player" after leaving the EU.

During the tensions over the Skripal poisoning case, Williamson went on a fiery tirade against Moscow, saying that Russia should "go away and shut up."

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Moscow slams EU’s ‘arbitrary’ chemical-weapons sanctions, threatens to retaliate

Russia has threatened to respond to “freshly invented” punitive measures imposed by the EU over the Skripal poisoning. Moscow says it’s an arbitrary punishment that disrespects established non-proliferation norms.

The accusations that gave rise to the sanctions “don’t stand up to criticism,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We reserve the right to retaliatory measures in response to this unfriendly act.”

On Monday, Brussels used its new powers against four Russian nationals over the March 2018 poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK.

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Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (named in the sanctions ruling as Russian intelligence agents Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga) were subjected to a European asset freeze and a travel ban, along with Igor Kostyukov, the head of Russia’s main intelligence directorate (the GRU), and his deputy, Vladimir Alekseyev.

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The EU also sanctioned five Syrians who it claims were involved in the Damascus government’s chemical-weapons program.

“It’s notable that among the first subjects to be added to the EU’s ‘chemical’ restrictions list are citizens of Russia and Syria – two countries that (unlike, for example, the US) have ensured the complete destruction of their chemical weapons arsenals under OPCW control,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripal poisoning and offered to help with the investigation. London has not provided any conclusive proof of Russian involvement.

The EU Council adopted a new regime of restrictive measures on October 15, 2018. Under the new regulations, the EU reserves the right to sanction persons and entities it deems to be involved in the development and use of chemical weapons, without seeking the opinion of the UN Security Council.

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Russia’s FSB busts ISIS cell planning terrorist acts in Moscow

An Islamic State terrorist cell that was planning attacks in the Russian capital was detained in Moscow Region on Friday, Russia’s Security Service (FSB) said.

The group consisted of six members, who received commands from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist kingpins in Syria, the FSB said in a statement.

“The detained planned to carry out resonant terrorist attacks in Moscow, using both firearms and improvised explosive devices,” the statement read.

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The group was funded by money transfers from abroad and through local criminal activity. It put much effort into covering up its operations and avoiding detection by police.

During the search of the terrorist hideout, the FSB discovered automatic firearms, cash, communication devices with reports on preparing the terrorist attacks, as well as blueprints for improvised bombs.


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Moscow has noticed US attempts to meddle in Russian election process – foreign ministry

Moscow has seen attempts to meddle in the Russian elections coming from the US, a senior Russian diplomat said. It comes as Google is suspected of possibly violating the law by selling political ads for unsanctioned rally.

Andrey Nesterenko, a senior Russian diplomat, said the US “certainly does” attempt to meddle in the Russian electoral processes, Interfax reported. He was speaking after a briefing on the issue.

“Our collective opinion is that electoral sovereignty is a principle that all civilized nations should respect,” the diplomat said, adding that Moscow will notify “our American partners that the actions of their media outlets allow us to state that they are close to breaking Russian law.”

FILE PHOTO © Maciej Toporowicz

On Sunday, several Russian regions, including Moscow, will hold elections. Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny is calling for protests to denounce the plebiscite, which he calls biased. Among other ways to spread the word about the event, Navalny’s public movement is using paid ads on Google services like YouTube. Holding an event dedicated to an election campaign on the exact day of the election is banned by Russian law.

The Russian Central Election Commission, media watchdog Roskomnadzor (RKN), and the Russian Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) earlier notified Google that its platform is being used to conduct improper political activities in Russia.

“Living in a proper law-abiding nation, we expect every actor to play by the rules. Especially an informed player. If the opposite happens, I believe we have tools at our disposal [to address that],” Andrey Kashevarov, the deputy head of FAS, said.

Vadim Subbotin, the deputy head of RKN, said YouTube ads “serve as a conduit for incitement of anti-social behavior during the election campaign.” He said Google and other social media platforms “offer virtually unrestricted instruments” to “individuals seeking to destabilize the situation in Russia.”

The accusations from Moscow come shortly after the revelation that the FBI had unsuccessfully tried to recruit several Russian billionaires as informants. The US agency hoped people such as tycoon Oleg Deripaska could provide insider information about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, among other things, according to the New York Times. Moscow, which denies interfering in the US election, said the report confirms the US’ duplicity in the matter, demonstrating that it was meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.

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US violated international law over Russian diplomatic missions, Moscow tells Washington

Washington has violated international law with respect to Russian diplomatic missions in the US, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a protest note filed to DC.


FILE PHOTO: Ballerina at the original Bolshoi Theatre stage © Ramil Sitdikov

The ministry expressed “protest at the continued violation of international law by the US with regard to” Russian diplomatic missions and consulates in the US, according to a statement on its website.

The complaint concerns Russian diplomatic properties in Washington DC, San Francisco, and Seattle, as well as in the states of Maryland and New York.Moscow said that the “negative consequences” undermine not only US-Russian relations, but also “the principles of the sovereignty of states and international cooperation.”

Moscow said that it has a right to take “additional countermeasures” against US diplomatic property on Russian soil if the US “continues violations” against its facilities.

In a separate statement, also released on Friday, the Foreign Ministry  urged the UN Secretary-General to look into the matter.The relevant letter to Antonio Guterres was sent on May 18, the ministry said.

The diplomatic spat between Moscow and Washington dates back to December 2016, when on New Year’s Eve, the outgoing Obama administration expelled Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland.

Russia did not immediately retaliate as the new Trump administration was taking office. However, the downward trend in US-Russia ties persisted and, in the summer of 2017, Washington slapped a new round of sanctions on Moscow, which retaliated by ordering the US diplomatic mission to downsize.

In response, the US took new hostile action, shutting the Russian Consulate-General in San Francisco, as well as the country’s trade missions in Washington and New York.

In May this year, US authorities removed the Russian flag from the diplomatic compound in Seattle. The Russian embassy condemned this “unacceptable treatment” of the national symbol.

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FIFA World Cup Round of 16 draw revealed

After an enthralling opening two weeks, the World Cup lifts the stakes with only 16 teams left to battle for football's greatest prize.

There are no more second chances with all remaining matches sudden death.

There are some scintillating match-ups on offer in the Round of 16 with the powerhouse nations France and Argentina going head to head.

Cristiano Ronaldo's push for for footballing immortality continues as Portugal take on Group A winners Uruguay on Monday morning.

The rest of the knockout games include Brazil taking on surprise packets Mexico, Croatia going up against hosts Russia, Sweden and Switzerland facing off and Croatia to clash with Denmark while Belgium will play Japan.

The knockout round will conclude on Wednesday morning (AEST) with England's match against Colombia.

All matches will be broadcast live, free and in HD on SBS.

FIFA World Cup Round of 16

Saturday 30th June

France v Argentina - Live on SBS from 11pm (replay 6.3oam Sunday)

Sunday 1st July

Uruguay v Portugal - Live on SBS from 3am

Spain v Russia - Live on SBS from 11pm (replay 6.30am Monday)

Monday 2nd July

Croatia v Denmark - Live on SBS from 3am

Brazil v Mexico - Live on SBS from 11pm (replay 6.30am Tuesday)

Tuesday 3rd July

Belgium v Japan - Live on SBS from 3am

Sweden v Switzerland - Live on SBS from 11pm

Wednesday 4th July

Colombia v England - Live on SBS from 3am (replay 6.30 am)

  • Published in Sports
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