Moscow expels 23 UK diplomats & shuts British Council in response to ‘provocative moves’

Moscow expels 23 UK diplomats & shuts British Council in response to ‘provocative moves’
The Russian Foreign Ministry said 23 UK diplomats must leave Russia in response to Britain’s “provocative actions and groundless accusations” over ex-double agent Sergei Skripal’s poisoning. The British Council will also be shut.

Britain’s ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning, where he was informed of Moscow’s response to London’s claims that Russia is behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, on March 4 in Salisbury, UK.

The ministry issued a statement saying 23 employees of the British embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae. The diplomats must leave within a week. It also announced the operation of the British Council in Russia will be ceased given its “unregulated status.”

In addition, Russia is revoking its agreement on the opening and operation of the UK Consulate General in St. Petersburg due to“disparity in the number of consulate facilities of the two countries.”

“The British side has been warned that in case further moves of an unfriendly nature towards Russia are implemented, the Russian side reserves the right to take other response measures,”the statement added.

London earlier ordered 23 Russian diplomats to leave the UK by March 20. Including family members, around 80 people will be uprooted from the country, according to Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko.

Bristow told reporters upon leaving the ministry that “this crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the UK,” again linking Skripal’s murder attempt to a “chemical weapon developed in Russia.” He added that London’s steps were not directed against the “Russian people.”

On Friday, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered the suspected nerve agent attack – a claim Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called “shocking and unforgivable.”

“Sooner or later the British side would have to present some kind of comprehensive evidence [of Russia’s involvement], at least, to their partners [France, the US, Germany], who declared solidarity with London in this situation,” Peskov added.

Moscow has repeatedly offered its full cooperation in investigating the incident, which London claims involved a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok. Both nations are members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which means that London is obliged to include Moscow in the investigation.

Courtesy: RT

Washington no more: Palestine turns to Moscow for future Israel talks

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Washington no more: Palestine turns to Moscow for future Israel talks
It is no secret that Palestinian trust in Washington as an impartial broker and mediator in future peace talks with Israel has been shredded.

And given the Trump administration’s reckless, not to mention illegal, decision to declare Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, who can blame them?

This historic rupture with Washington on the part of the Palestinian Authority was articulated by President Mahmoud Abbas, at the start of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

“We [the Palestinians] state that from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the US in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions,” he said.

With these sentiments, the Palestinian leader provides more evidence of damage to Washington’s moral standing and political authority in the Middle East due to the actions of the Trump administration. Consequently, it is to Moscow that Abbas and the Palestinians are now looking to help mediate future diplomatic initiatives with Israel.

Of course, no one with even the most basic understanding the tortuous history of the Palestinian struggle for justice will have been under any illusions when it comes to Washington’s bias in favor of its close ally Israel when it comes to this issue. However, President Trump has removed even the patina of impartiality that Washington had sought to maintain, deciding for transparently domestic reasons to go where no previous US president had dared go in acceding to the likewise-domestic agenda of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital city.

With Netanyahu now on the verge of being indicted in Israel on corruption charges, perhaps we gain a deeper understanding of not only the domestic context in which the recognition of Jerusalem was so crucial to him in December, while the police investigation into these corruption allegations was ongoing, but also Israel’s aggressive posture in Syria of late.

None of this, of course, does anything to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians, whose rights continue to be negated on a daily basis by Israel in the form of its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with the siege of Gaza, which falls under the category of collective punishment.
It should be noted that the Palestinians still foresee a role for the US in future talks and peace initiatives, but from now only on a multilateral basis in conjunction with Russia, along with, it is to be presumed, the EU and the UN with the region. The involvement of the UN in future talks is especially necessary, despite its authority of having been consistently subverted by Washington and Israel of late.

Regardless, it would be folly for either to believe that there is any scope for a unilateral or bilateral approach when it comes to resolving this issue. Illusions of this sort will only succeed in dragging the world back to 19th-century colonial and imperialist norms, and would be disastrous for stability, peace and the security of all.

When it comes to the pressing matter of where we are and the challenge of navigating towards any kind of workable resolution that can satisfy the Palestinians’ righteous demand for justice and Israel’s need for security, along with the overall stability of the region upon which both depends, we encounter the salient truth that only the strong can compromise and only equals can reach agreement.

Often lost in the avalanche of obfuscation and dissembling that has traditionally suffused this seemingly intractable question is the simple fact that it is Israel occupying Palestinian territory not the Palestinians occupying Israeli territory. It is Israelis building and expanding illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, not the Palestinians building and expanding illegal settlements on theirs. And it is the Israelis who are currently holding close to 2 million Palestinians under siege (in Gaza) not the Palestinians holding close to 2 million Israelis under siege anywhere.

Clearly, in a perfect world international law would be equally applied and equally respected by all states and nations no matter the size of the economy, military might or historical weight said state or nation enjoys. But such a perfect world is not the one we live in.

The challenge then lies in persuading Israel that justice for the Palestinians, which is now long overdue, is also in its own strategic and security interests, regardless of the self-evident morality involved.

Oppression breeds resistance, and by any objective measure the Palestinians are an oppressed people. If history proves anything it is that until those who are oppressed are free, neither will those who oppress them be free.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

71 dead after Russian passenger plane crashes near Moscow, officials say

 

LONDON — A Russian passenger plane crashed shortly after leaving a Moscow airport Sunday, killing all 71 people on board, Russia’s Transport Ministry said.

There were 65 passengers and six crew members aboard the short-haul flight.

“Judging by everything, no one has survived this crash,” Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said Sunday afternoon.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry told Reuters earlier Sunday that two bodies had been found at the site of the plane crash. NBC News was unable to immediately verify the report. Investigators told Reuters that debris and human remains were spread over a radius of more than half a mile from the crash site.

The Saratov Airlines flight was heading from Moscow to the city of Orsk near the Kazakhstan border before plummeting to the ground outside the capital.

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 71 dead after Russian passenger jet crashes near Moscow 2:14

Russian officials said all passengers aboard the airliner are believed to have been residents of the Orenburg region, where the plane was headed, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

The Russian Ministry for Civil Defense said the plane crashed in the Ramenskoye area, which is around 25 miles southeast of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Russian emergency services were on the scene, with over 150 people deployed to deal with the incident, the ministry said.

Footage and stills from news agencies showed fragments strewn across a snowy field with no buildings nearby.

The Saratov Airlines flight #6W703 crashed around five minutes after take off and was falling with up to 22,000 feet per minute, according to Flightradar24, which tracks airplane traffic across the globe.

The tracking service said the flight involved a seven-year-old Antonov An-148 aircraft.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said all possible causes for the crash were being looked into.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put off a planned trip to Sochi in order to closely monitor the investigation. Putin was to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in the Black Sea resort, where the president has an official residence.

Instead, Abbas will meet with Putin in Moscow later on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Image: Crash site
Emergency services at the site where a Russian passenger plane crashed outside Moscow, February 11, 2018. MAXIM SHEMETOV / Reuters

TASS reported that the passenger plane had been flying since 2010, but was put into storage during 2015-2017 because of a lack of parts. According to the news agency, the plane re-entered service for Saratov Airlines in February 2017. The plane was ordered by Rossiya Airlines, a subsidiary of Aeroflot.

Shabby equipment and poor supervision had plagued Russian civil aviation for years after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but its safety record has improved markedly in recent years.

The last large-scale crash in Russia occurred on Dec. 25, 2016, when a Tu-154 operated by the Russian Defense Ministry on its way to Syria crashed into the Black Sea minutes after takeoff from the southern Russian city of Sochi. All 92 people on board were killed.

In March 2016, a Boeing 737-800 flown by FlyDubai crashed while landing at Rostov-on-Don, killing all 62 people aboard.

An onboard bomb destroyed a Russian Metrojet airliner soon after taking off from Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheikh resort, killing 244 people in October 2015.

Image: Crash site
The crash site of Russian passenger plane outside Moscow, February 11, 2018. STRINGER / Reuters
Courtesy:NBC NEWS

Russia’s police detain opposition leader Alexei Navalny at rally

The opposition leader had joined a rally calling for a nationwide boycott of the 2018 presidential election. Russian authorities warned Navalny against organizing protests, saying it would have “certain consequences.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, centre, is detained by police officers in Moscow, Russia

Russian authorities on Sunday detained Alexei Navalny at a rally aimed at garnering support for a boycott of Russia’s presidential election slated for March.

“I have been detained,” Navalny said in a tweet. “That doesn’t matter … You’re not coming out for me, but for your future.” In a separate tweet, his account posted a video showing the arrest.

Read more: Alexei Navalny: Russia’s opposition leader

Задержание одного человека теряет малейший смысл, если нас много. Кто-нибудь, придите и замените меня

Earlier in the day, police descended on Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, forcing their way in using an angle grinder, a spokeswoman for the opposition leader said.

What we know

  • Navalny was arrested at a rally calling for a nationwide boycott of the 2018 presidential election.
  • More than 180 people have been detained at rallies across the country, according to independent monitors.
  • Ahead of the rallies, police raided Navalny’s offices in Moscow.
  • Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that rallies held without official permission would result in “certain consequences,” which seems to suggest official reprisals could take place.

Read more: Russia warns US against ‘meddling’ in presidential election

What they said

In a video before the rally, Navalny urged Russians to rally in the streets, saying: “If you don’t go, you won’t forgive yourself later. Sooner or later, they will cut your door too.”

In December, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that “calls for boycott” could be “breaking the law.”

Human Rights Watch has called on Russian authorities to end their crackdown on the opposition leader’s presidential campaign, saying: “The pattern of harassment and intimidation against Navalny’s campaign is undeniable.”

Read more: Russia’s high court reaffirms Navalny ban from presidential race

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny take part in a procession during a rally for a boycott of a March 18 presidential election in Moscow, Russia Thousands have taken to the streets in support of Navalny’s call to boycott the presidential election, in which incumbent President Vladimir Putin is expected to win

Why are Russians protesting: Protesters aim to rally against the March 18 presidential election they say is rigged to hand President Vladimir Putin a fourth term in office, cementing his Kremlin power until 2024.

Why has Navalny been banned: Russian authorities said he is ineligible because of a criminal conviction for financial crimes that Navalny claims is politically motivated.

Why do protesters want to see Putin go: Putin has been in power, both as president and prime minister, for 18 years now. Many feel this is too long and also accuse the president and his allies of corruption and authoritarianism.

Read moreRussia’s presidential election: What you need to know

What happens next: The presidential election, slated for March, is widely expected to happen despite the calls for a boycott. However, Navalny is hoping to significantly decrease participation to mar the vote.

Watch video02:21

What to expect from Russia in 2018

ls,tj/rc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

Thousands evacuated from Moscow buildings as Russian cities inundated with bomb threats

Thousands evacuated from Moscow buildings as Russian cities inundated with bomb threats
Over 20 shopping centers, railway stations and universities had to be evacuated in Moscow, following warnings that they had been rigged with explosives. In total, 190 sites have been evacuated across 17 Russian cities after bomb threats, a security source told RIA news agency.

 

Очередная эвакуация. БЦ “Город столиц” и ТЦ Афимолл, Москва-Сити. Угроза взрыва, говорят, ждут кинологов.

“This appears to be a case of telephone terrorism, but we have to check the credibility of these messages,” an emergency service source told Tass news agency, noting that the calls began at the same time, and continued after the evacuations had begun.

Tass reported that over 20,000 people had been affected by the evacuation in Moscow alone.

Emergency services said that police units including explosives specialists and officers with sniffer dogs are examining the buildings. Several later reported that police cordons had been lifted.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Эпидемия анонимных звонков о минировании в России. Эвакуация ТЦ Метрополис в Москве. А здесь о том, что происходит: https://www.bfm.ru/news/364795 

Among the locations affected are three of the capital’s biggest railway stations, more than a dozen shopping centers – including GUM, located next to Red Square – and at least three universities, the leading First Moscow State Medical University, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations among them.

Tass reported that the railway timetable remained unaffected by the police operation. Social media accounts show bemused crowds milling passively outside evacuated buildings, and there have been no reports of disturbances of public order.

President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the incidents, but his press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that he would not be commenting “as this is a matter for the security services to address.”

An epidemic of hoax bomb warnings has plagued Russia over the past week. Security services told the RIA news agency that over 45,000 people were evacuated from public places in 22 Russian cities on Tuesday, adding that many of the calls appeared to have come from Ukraine.

Terrorist false alarms are punishable by up to five years in prison under Russian law, and multiple police investigations have been opened.  However, the possibility that the hoaxers are using pre-recorded messages – as appears to be the case in earlier, identical messages – automated dialing systems and digital means of concealing their true location present difficulties in identifying the culprits.

Courtesy, RT

 

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies
Russia won’t stop delivering oil products to North Korea, as dialogue, not sanctions, is the only solution to the crisis, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

South Korea has proposed cutting all crude supplies to the North in response to the latest missile test.

“Pyongyang needs to be involved in dialogue, conditions must be created in which Pyongyang will feel secure, and that will allow us to search for solutions,” Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

The spokesman stressed the current level of oil supplies to North Korea from Russia is minimal, so the suspension of them is pointless.

“The Russian president repeatedly, including at a press conference in Beijing, said the volume of trade and economic cooperation and the supply of oil and oil products to Korea is at an insignificant level, at a meager level, so in this case, it is hardly reasonable to continue talking about this. There are no significant quantities there,” said Peskov.

Pyongyang has been buying most of its oil from China and trying to boost imports from Russia as an alternative source of energy.

Earlier this week, South Korea pushed for a global embargo on oil exports to North Korea as the UN Security Council discusses a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang.

The proposal followed Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful missile test it claimed involved a hydrogen bomb.

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea https://on.rt.com/8mb2 

Photo published for Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Moscow and Seoul have agreed to develop projects involving North Korea.

rt.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the idea of driving Pyongyang into a corner with sanctions pressure to solve the current crisis didn’t make sense.

“It is clear that it is impossible to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula by sanctions alone and pressure,” the president said at the economic forum in Vladivostok, following talks with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In.

Courtesy, RT

Russia & Iran to boost military cooperation as both get hit by US sanctions

Russia & Iran to boost military cooperation as both get hit by US sanctions
Moscow and Tehran have agreed to strengthen military and technological cooperation as the Russian Deputy PM visited Iran following the latest round of US sanctions.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has met Iranian government officials during his visit to the country on Saturday. Rogozin leads the Russian delegation invited to the inauguration ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in May.

Rogozin held talks with Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan. The officials reportedly discussed new supplies of Russian arms to Iran. They agreed upon the implementation of deals boosting military and technological cooperation, according to Fars news agency.

READ MORE: Sanctions retaliation: Russia tells US to cut embassy staff, stop using storage facilities

The move comes just three days after the US decision to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia and Iran, along with North Korea. The ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ was overwhelmingly approved by American lawmakers at the end of July and signed by Trump on Wednesday. The US leader himself said that the “legislation is significantly flawed” and warned that it puts “US-Russia relations at all-time & dangerous low.”

The move triggered a strong response from all subjects of the newly introduced economic restrictions, as well as concerns from the US’ European allies.

Moscow considers the bill “a full-fledged economic war on Russia,”according to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He also called the legislation a “humiliating defeat” for Trump, which leaves no room for improving bilateral ties.

Russia promised retaliatory measures even before the bill was officially signed by Trump. Following congressional approval, Russia decided to reduce the number of US diplomatic staff in Russia to 455, and suspend the use of embassy storage facilities, warning that more restrictions may come.

Iran slammed the measures as a violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, promising to “show an appropriate and proportional reaction” to America’s “hostile” act. Tehran also blamed Washington for attempting to curb foreign investment in the Iranian economy.

READ MORE: ‘Anachronistic’: N. Korea slams ‘international hooligan US brandishing sanctions club’

Several European government officials said the US law would harm their national interests, as the restrictive measures would target European companies taking part in Russian-EU energy projects, including the Nordstream II pipeline.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel criticized the restrictive measures as “diametrically opposed to the interests of Germany and the EU.” Earlier, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries called on the European Commission “to look into countermeasures” against the “illegal” sanctions.

READ MORE: Trade war? EU ready for economic counter-sanctions if US anti-Russia bill signed – top officials

The Austrian chancellor also slammed the move, calling it “absolutely unacceptable.” France voiced its opposition to the sanctions, saying they target companies beyond US jurisdiction and violate international law.

The EU vowed to defend its economic interests and issue an “adequate” response if the sanctions on Russia hurt the interests of European companies working with Russia, according to European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Courtesy, RT

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