Iran's statement on downed Ukrainian airliner

Iran said on Saturday that its armed forces had “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The incident came hours after Iran launched a wave of missiles at Iraqi bases housing American troops in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals, in a US drone strike.

The Iranian armed forces were first to acknowledge the error, saying the Boeing 737 had been mistaken for a “hostile target” at a time when enemy threats were at the highest level.

Following are the main elements from the five-point statement:

The armed forces said it had opened an investigation into what it called the “heartbreaking incident” after the Ukraine International Airlines plane (UIA) was brought down on Wednesday.

1. The Iranian armed forces had been on their highest level of alert after launching missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops and following “threats by the criminal American president and military commanders.”

2. Flights by the US military had increased around Iran after the missile operation and following some reports of aerial targets moving towards “strategic centres” in the Islamic republic.

3. After taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, UIA flight PS752 turned, got close to a “sensitive military site” of the Revolutionary Guards and appeared to fly like a “hostile target.” Due to “human error“, the plane was hit, which “unfortunately led to the martyrdom of a number of our dear compatriots and loss of life of a number of foreign nationals.”

4. The statement expressed “condolences and sympathy” with the families of those who died and gave an assurance that a “repetition of such mistakes would become impossible” through changes in operational procedures. It also said the armed forces would immediately present the “culprit” to the judiciary.

5. Finally, it said “relevant officials from the Revolutionary Guards should, as soon as possible, give detailed explanations to the honourable people in the national media.”

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Missile strike, terrorist attack, engine explosion among main theories on Boeing crash in Iran – Ukraine's Security Council

Kiev will establish if its airliner, which crashed near Tehran with 176 on board, was hit by a ‘Russian-made’ missile, collided with a drone, or was targeted by terrorists, a Ukrainian security council official has said.

Ukraine has sent dozens of investigators to Iran to look into possible causes of the crash, including “an explosion inside the plane following a terrorist attack,” collision with an unmanned aerial vehicle, or a direct hit by “a surface-to-air missile,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the security council, told Censor news outlet.

Kiev is now in talks with Tehran regarding access to the crash site, the official added. They said investigators will search it for any “wreckage of a Russian-[made] Tor missile,” referring to allegations that popped up on social media.

READ MORE: Plane caught fire mid-air, attempted to turn around: Iran issues initial report on Ukrainian airliner crash

Iran has acquired 29 Tor-M1 missile systems over a decade ago, receiving delivery of the final batch in 2007. Developed back in Soviet Union, the all-weather, short-range system has been immensely popular with armies across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

That claim may not sit well with Iran’s preliminary findings, which it disclosed earlier in the day. The country’s civil aviation authority said the Boeing 737-800, operated by Ukraine International Airlines, caught fire when it was airborne. Pilots tried to return to Imam Khomeini airport from which they departed, but to no avail. They made no distress calls during the emergency, it has emerged.

Also on rt.com Eerie CCTV footage shows horrifying images of Ukrainian airliner breaking into pieces in Iran...

On Wednesday, Ukraine had initially suggested that the crash was due to an engine fire or another technical issue, but later retracted the statement. Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky cautioned the public against spreading conspiracy theories and speculating on what could have cause the crash – which has already been named the deadliest in the history of modern Ukraine.

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Fidel Castro honored by Chernobyl program beneficiaries

Children and family members who benefitted from the Cuba-sponsored Chernobyl program paid tribute to the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, at a meeting held at Havana´s Embassy in Ukraine, diplomatic sources reported Monday.

The Cuban Ambassador to Ukraine, Natacha Díaz Aguilera, welcomed those who, in many cases, came from other cities to express their gratitude to the Cuban doctors, the people, and Fidel for their dedication and tenacity in treating more than 23,000 Ukrainian children.

Testimonies from those present highlighted the professionalism and humanism of Cuban doctors who, as one mother expressed, not only physically cured their children but also gave them moral support to face their sufferings and becoming good men and women.

Those present told their experiences at the program´s venue—the Tarará Resort, east of Havana-- to Cuban documentary filmmaker and photographer Roberto Chile, who is in Ukraine heading of a group of journalists.

Many told of their impressions and anecdotes about Fidel's visits to Tarará and his interest in every detail of the lives of the young patients that Cuba welcomed as its children.

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Impeachment Inquiry into Trump: to be, or not to be?

A prominent U.S. lawyer, Joseph Malu, does not rule out the progress of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.

His criteria were made public in the interview granted to the outstanding TeleSUR journalist Jorge Gestoso.

The climax of such interview occurred when Malu mentioned the telephone call made by Trump to Ukraine’s president, Vladimir Zelenski, when he “asked him for a favor:” to provide intelligence on Joe Biden, the potential Democrat candidate for the 2020 presidential elections.

According to the lawyer, it looks like obstruction of justice.

Malu highlighted that the fact of Trump accepting he made that call is, at least, explosive; as he allowed the entry of a foreign head of state into the U.S. domestic affairs.

According to observers, this ongoing situation reminds them of the Watergate scandal, which took place few decades ago.

Such scandal resulted in the resignation of the then Republican President Richard Nixon.

Back then, his men were accused of political spying against political adversaries.

It seems there are similarities between the two cases.

“Any similarity is a mere coincidence.”

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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US: New bitter questions on Trump

The most recent events involving Donald Trump are addressed by this EFE newswire.

It starts: the drumbeats of the impeachment process resounded on Monday, but the White House did not want to know.

Likewise, it points out that Trump’s answers to Democrats —characterized by no strategy at all, chaos, improvisation, and mistakes— may wind up hurting himself.

It adds that before the actual crisis, the government’s response has been inaccurate and “Trump growingly looks like himself.”

Michael Cornfield —Political Science professor at the George Washington University— stated to the press that “the President is drunk on power and he is now looking for a new fight.”

EFE warns it is necessary to know Trump’s basic behavior to understand this White House reaction.

Chris Edelson, Politics professor at the American University, highlights he has no strategy to face the upcoming impeachment.

And adds, “he is a gangster. He thinks he is the Big Boss in the mafia world. He is an abuser and authoritarian. And he believes Republicans will always support him no matter what.”

He takes last Tuesday’s phone conversation as an example. This chat was leaked to the press between the President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, before announcing a potential impeachment inquiry.

“Hey, can we do something about this whistleblower complaint? Can we work something out?’ The head of the White House asked.

Pelosi´s answer was sharp: “Yes, you could tell your people to abide the law.”

Afterwards, Trump showed once again this behavior in a private meeting with diplomats in New York where he suggested they should “get rid of” the whistleblower.

As previously reported, the whistleblower is a CIA agent who worked at the White House.

In the meeting Trump said:

“Who’s the person who provided such information to the whistleblower? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?” Everything he said was leaked to the press.

The aforementioned professor Edelson said that Trump’s statements reminded him of the George Orwell’s novel “1984.”

And he added, “Trump said he did not do it, but he later asserted that there were no wrongdoings if he did.” The analysts said that is the “doublethinking” language.

In recent days, the New York Times released that Trump pressed in a phone conversation his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelenski, so he could open an inquiry on former Vice President and current Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, to undermine his presidential run for 2020.

EFE argues that such presidential formula and his attacks against the media have brought back hefty return for him. This week only, he has raised 13 million USD for his campaign.

Contrary to the common sense, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has attended every debate in major television networks on daily basis.

The goal was to defend his role, but he ended up incriminating himself even more, paired with other scandals.

Giuliani, via Fox News, read the messages exchanged with diplomats to prove that Trump’s contacts with Ukraine were already known by the U.S. State Department.

According to Karen Hult, expert in the dynamics of the West Wing, Giuliani has emerged as Trump's main speaker in this crisis because the White House communications office has failed to structure a strategy and currently has an "inconsistent" relationship with the leader.

The apotheosis of this entire riot occurred on Wednesday. That day the White House mistakenly sent an email to Democratic lawmakers outlining their strategy on how Republicans should answer questions about the controversial call between Trump and Zelenski.

In the brief, entitled "What you need to know," the White House advised lawmakers to use the word "myth" to describe the conversation between the two leaders and asked the Democrats to "blame a media frenzy of false accusations."

As if that were not enough, then the White House sent another message to the Democrats asking them to please return their strategy.

Here you have the small world of that powerful nation, which proclaims itself the utmost example of democratic values of the world.

And it is now sunk in a profound crisis that rushes from chaos to an unstoppable rupture that goes deeper as days pass by.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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Trump confirms he discussed Biden in call with Ukrainian president

U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.

Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.

Trump's call with Zelensky has been at the centre of an escalating battle in Washington since Friday, when news outlets reported Trump repeatedly asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate whether Biden, the Democratic front-runner to take on Trump in next year's election, misused his position when he was vice-president.

Trump told reporters at the White House that their phone conversation was mostly congratulatory but also touched on corruption and the Bidens.

"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice-President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine," Trump said.

Democrats have said that if Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden, it is tantamount to promoting foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Trump has denied doing anything improper. His allies, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have defended the president's phone call, which, according to news reports, was the subject of a complaint made by an as-yet-unnamed whistleblower.

Joe Biden, Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former vice-president, says if the reports are true, 'then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.' (Kathryn Gamble/Reuters)

If an investigation shows that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden, the U.S. Congress may have no choice but to pursue impeachment, Democratic House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Sunday.

Schiff had previously shied away from calling for impeachment, but his comments on CNN's State of the Union showed his stance had shifted.

"If the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader to do something illicit, to provide dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that conduct represents," Schiff said.

Other lawmakers have called for the Democratic leadership to pursue impeachment immediately, but Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far resisted calls to formally begin the process.

In a letter to colleagues later on Sunday, Pelosi warned the administration against keeping the details of the whistleblower complaint secret. The administration has so far resisted sharing the details of the complaint with lawmakers.

"If the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation," Pelosi wrote.

Meanwhile, Trump on Monday shrugged off talks of impeachment while speaking with reporters as he arrived at the UN General Assembly.

Asked how seriously he was taking the threats by Congress, Trump said, "Not at all seriously." 

Romney voices concern

Senator Mitt Romney, who has clashed with Trump in the past, sounded a rare note of concern among Trump's fellow Republicans, many of whom have remained silent, defended Trump or escalated their attacks on Biden in the days after the reports about the Trump-Zelensky call.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, shown speaking at a bilateral meeting in Toronto on July 2, is at the centre of an escalating battle in Washington between Democrats and Trump. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

"If the president asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme," Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said in a Twitter post.

Impeachment proceedings in Congress that begin in the House can lead to a president being removed from office, but Democrats would need the support of Republicans, who control the Senate.

Multiple news organizations reported on Friday that Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate whether Biden misused his position as vice-president under Democratic President Barack Obama to threaten to withhold U.S. aid unless a prosecutor who was looking into a gas company in which Biden's son was involved was fired.

Biden has confirmed he wanted the prosecutor fired but denies it was to help his son. Biden said the wider U.S. government, the European Union and other international institutions also wanted the prosecutor fired for his alleged failure to pursue major corruption cases.

Biden said on Saturday there should be an investigation into Trump's call, saying it "appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power." He said he never spoke to his son about Ukraine.

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Azur Air Ukraine to launch flights to Cuba in autumn

The Ukrainian airline Azur Air Ukraine plans to launch flights to the Cuban resort town of Varadero from October 2019.

"Azur Air Ukraine CEO Karen Antonov announced the launch of flights to the resort town of Varadero in Cuba, together with the tour operator ANEX Tour," reads the statement on avianews.com.

According to the booking system of the tour operator, flights will be performed from Kyiv once in 10 days starting from October 25, 2019 till April 10, 2020.

At present, there are no direct flights between Ukraine and Cuba. Ukrainians can get to the Island of Freedom using a transfer flight.

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Cuba’s generosity after Chernobyl

Millions have watched Chernobyl, the TV series about the 1986 nuclear meltdown, and your coverage has been extensive (Report, 13 June). But an important related story has not had a mention at this time of renewed interest. Following the catastrophe, the tiny island of Cuba stepped forward and cared for over 20,000 young cancer victims from 1989 to 2011, – medical care, schooling, clothing, food, accommodation, playgrounds – all free of charge. A specialised medical facility was opened to the east of Havana, and Cuban doctors travelled to the affected region to treat patients in their homeland.

No other country in the world launched such a massive programme. The Cubans responded – as “an ethical and moral”, not a political question, as it was put at the time, and the programme continued despite changing governments in the Ukraine.

Today, the aftermath persists. Just a few weeks ago, Cuba announced that it will resume the programme in a new facility for the sons and daughters of the victims, who are now showing ailments similar to those of their parents. The tightening of the blockade against Cuba  affects not only the Cuban people, but also the thousands of patients being cared for by Cuba’s renowned international medical teams. Surely worth a mention on several counts?

  • Published in Cuba
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