Fitch upgrades Russia’s credit rating from stable to positive

Fitch upgrades Russia’s credit rating from stable to positive
In a press release, the Fitch credit agency has upgraded Russia’s sovereign credit rating from “stable” to “positive,” though it also predicted that economic growth will be slow and oil revenues will not rise to the heights of the early 2010s for some time.

In a statement issued on Friday, Fitch said that Russia’s Issuer Default Rating (IDR) had been raised to reflect the country’s improving economy.

“Russia continues to make progress in strengthening its policy framework underpinned by a more flexible exchange rate, strong commitment to inflation targeting and a prudent fiscal strategy, reflected in the recently approved budget rule,” the statement read.

READ MORE: Russian Central Bank slashes key rate as inflation slows & economy grows

“This policy mix will result in improved macroeconomic stability and, together with robust external and fiscal balance sheets, increases the economy’s resilience to shocks.”

The level of inflation declined from 7.1 percent in 2016 to 4.1 percent in 2017, and is expected to average 4.5 percent in 2018-19, which Fitch calls “an unprecedented level of low inflation for Russia.” However, oil revenues are project to form around 36 percent of the budget, which is far below the level of 50 percent in 2011-2014.

Courtesy, RT

China banks reportedly to halt business with North Korea as South Korea sends $8 million

North Korea learned this week Chinese banks will no longer do business with the Hermit Kingdom, in the strongest sign yet pressure from the Trump administration to choke off funding to the rogue nation is working.

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Chinese banks received a document Monday stating they should halt financial services and loans to new and existing North Korean customers as a result of strict U.N. sanctions passed earlier this month, a source told Reuters on Thursday.

“Our bank is fulfilling our international obligations and implementing United Nations sanctions against North Korea. As such, we refuse to handle any individual loans connected to North Korea,” the document reportedly said.

NORTH KOREA SAYS SANCTIONS BLOCK IMPORTS OF ATHLETES’ GEAR

The move comes after repeated calls from the Trump administration for China to help cut the flow of money to Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship in an effort to cripple the regime’s missile and nuclear programs. China and Russia agreed to the recent UN sanctions against North Korea, which included a ban on natural gas liquids and condensates. But Trump has explicitly called out China on Twitter, writing he’s “very disappointed” in the country and accusing them of “doing NOTHING for us with North Korea.”

China, North Korea’s closest ally, has urged a diplomatic solution to solve the current crisis. “War Stories” host Lt. Col. Oliver North told Fox News on Monday, however, he believes China will only truly try to tame its volatile neighbor if it believes Trump could take military action.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, center, presides over an interagency meeting for humanitarian aid to North Korea at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. South Korea on Thursday decided to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea to help children and pregnant women, but didn't determine when to provide the $8 million worth of assistance amid tensions created by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests. (Kim Seung-doo/Yonhap via AP)

South Korea on Thursday decided to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea to help children and pregnant women, but didn’t determine when to provide the $8 million worth of assistance amid tensions created by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.  (AP)

“They [China] don’t think we are really sincere about military action. It’s going to take action, not words,” North said.

China’s surprising instructions to banks this week, however, were at least partially undermined when South Korea on Thursday approved $8 million in supposed humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Some South Korean officials fear the new aid will send a mixed signal to international leaders. Son Kim-ju, a lawmaker and spokesman of the opposition People’s Party, told The Associated Press the announcement is “badly timed.”

“The international community is strengthening sanctions and pressure against North Korea and even [President Moon Jae-in] is in the United States to strengthen international coordination against the North Korean problem,” Son said. “If our government contradicts itself and beats to a different beat, it won’t be able to gain the approval of its own people, let alone other countries.”

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho gets into a car at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing. Ri in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, described as "the sound of a dog barking" U.S President Donald Trump's threat to destroy his country. The comments are the North's first response to Trump's speech at the U.N. General Assembly. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho described Trump’s threats against Kim Jong Un’s regime as “the sound of a dog barking.”  (AP)

UN SANCTIONS A ‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’ FOR NORTH KOREA: OLIVER NORTH

A set date on when the money will begin flowing into North Korea has not been decided.

Moon previously said humanitarian aid and political issues should be handled separately. Seoul stopped the aid in January 2016 after Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test. But after meeting with ministries and civilian experts, Moon decided to resume aid to help North Korean children and pregnant woman, the Unification Ministry said. The money is intended to support programs run by U.N. Children’s Fund and U.N. Food Program.

The ministry added the assistance doesn’t include cash and there’s “realistically no possibility” the North could use it to support its military. About 18 million of the 25 million people who live in North Korea experience food shortages with a high child and mortality rates, according to the U.N.

Moon also said Thursday he doesn’t seek to collapse Kim’s regime and is ready to help the country if it seeks peace, Yonhap News Agency reported. The South Korean leader also urged North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

There’s been no shortage of animosity between the U.S. and North Korea during the U.N. General Assembly this week, with attacks coming from both sides. Trump, in his U.N. speech, mocked Kim by calling him “rocket man,” who’s on “a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life,” Trump said Tuesday.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho fired back Wednesday, telling reporters the president’s threats were “the sound of a dog barking.”

“There is a saying that goes: ‘Even when dogs bark, the parade goes on,’” Ri said. “It would be a dog’s dream if [Trump] intended to scare us with the sound of a dog barking.”

Ri then joked he felt “sorry” for Trump’s aides when asked about the “rocket man” comment.

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday targeting North Korea’s trading partners, calling it a “powerful” new tool aimed at isolating and denuclearizing the regime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Courtesy, Fox News

Drone footage of Deir ez-Zor shows city recovering from 3-year ISIS siege (EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS)

Drone footage of Deir ez-Zor shows city recovering from 3-year ISIS siege (EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS)
Ten days on after Damascus finally reclaimed the city of Deir ez-Zor, held in an ISIS blockade for three years, daily life in the city seems to be returning to normal. Meanwhile, the army keeps pushing out the terrorists from the province.

On September 5, the provincial capital finally saw the terrorist siege broken, which brought relief for up to 125,000 inhabitants, trapped by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants. Largely left without functioning infrastructure, locals struggled to survive for nearly three years, mostly relying on aid airdropped by the UN, Russia, and the Syrian government.

With the land route opening, convoys with food and medical supplies have started to flow freely to exhausted citizens, ready to reclaim their lives after years of constant danger, hardships, and hunger.

READ MORE: ‘We’ve been dead already’: Deir ez-Zor residents recall horrors of ISIS blockade

“We spent [the time under siege] like slaves,” grocer Abu Mohammad says, according to Syrian news agency SANA. “Hunger killed some of us, both young and old, and it almost killed us but then the Syrian Arab Army’s vanguards arrived and brought us salvation and victory. ISIS terrorists used to target homes, shops, and even fields, preventing food from reaching the neighborhood and seizing all of it, leaving the locals to fall prey to hunger and disease.”

While the drone hovered over Deir ez-Zor, showing the locals walking freely on the streets, Syrian Army units kept advancing further along the Euphrates River and striking the remaining pockets of IS resistance. On Friday, the troops recaptured the Al-Baghiliyah district, lying northeast of Deir ez-Zor.

4541
Courtesy, RT

Why Russia props up the dangerous North Korean regime

Hollie McKay

As North Korea continues to develop a nuclear-weapons program, threatening the U.S. and neighboring countries while starving and enslaving much of its population, the regime of Kim Jong Un continues to receive an increasing amount of both public and private support from Russia. But why?

“Putin is weakening sanctions against North Korea to weaken the concept of sanctions themselves,” Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which seeks to illuminate human rights abuses in communist governments, told Fox News. “Russia is under heavy international sanctions and Putin wants to empower naysayers in the West who think sanctions ae either too inefficient or too provocative of the dictatorial regimes they are levied against.”

However, Russia did go along this week in siding with the latest round of U.S.-pushed sanctions, approved by the U.N. Security Council. If properly enforced, the new sanctions would severely limit North Korea’s access to international currency and fuel required for its prohibited ballistic missile and nuclear programs. It won’t be able to export textiles, one of its only export industries. In addition, importing oil and fuel will be a marginally harder, as will propelling its people off to make money in labor jobs abroad.

Nonetheless, the sanctions initially proposed by the U.S. – which included completely cutting off oil imports – were significantly diluted largely at Russia’s behest. Moscow is also one of the biggest food-aid donors to North Korea, which is widely accused of pouring its finances into military and missile spending rather than feeding its impoverished population.

Furthermore, experts contend that Russia has long been a prominent recipient of North Korea’s cheap, hard labor trade. For more than fifty years, North Koreans have been sent to do logging in the bitter forests of Siberia. Yet more recently, they are reported to have been used as construction workers in cities such as St. Petersburg which is preparing for the 2018 World Cup, as well as working in private homes across the country.

A brand new ferry system was even set up just four months ago to carry cargo and passengers between Vladivostok, Russia, and Rason, North Korea. But this week, it emerged that U.S. officials now believe Russian smugglers are operating to undercut sanctions by way of these two ports, with Russian entrepreneurs setting up “front” companies to conceal transactions and launder payments, according to the reporting of The Washington Post.

The alleged movements are believed to provide something of a lifeline to Kim Jong Un’s regime, and could effectively keep it from faltering under the hefty and mounting sanctions.

According to Geoff Hellman, Chairman and CEO of the Economic Policy Forum which focuses on business dealings in the Asia-Pacific Region and Russia, it is all an “Asymmetric Hybrid Warfare” (AHW) tactic aimed at promoting Russia’s image at home, as a place of “law and order, peace-loving and devoted to economic prosperity” compared to a more “war-mongering” United States.

“Russia supports actions that benefit Russia. Russia purports to support sanctions against North Korea, but in practice supports North Korea in its effort to evade sanctions,” he said. “Russia employs criminal networks to set up front companies in Singapore, for example, to transship oil.”

Russia and North Korea indeed share a feeble but consequential 11-mile land border and 12-mile maritime border that functions as supply routes between the two nations. But perhaps more significantly, relations between the two countries have deep roots dating back to the end of World War II when North Korea served the Soviet Union as a potent communist ally on the eastern flank.

The Embassy of Russia in North Korea – officially referred to as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – boasts both historic and future economic and trade ties between the two nations, highlighting that Russian private companies seek to enter the “untapped Korean market” while the government too has grand plans.

“Russia and the DPRK undertake joint efforts to implement bilateral and multilateral economic projects such as the construction of the gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea through the DPRK territory as well as electric power lines using the same route and connection of the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Korean railways,” the embassy states. “If implemented, the projects will be economically beneficial to all the participants.”

In 2012, Russia agreed to discard some 90 percent of North Korea’s $11 billion Soviet-era debt, with the remaining debt fraction to be paid into an account devoted to promoting trade between the two countries.

MILLIONS OF AMERICAN LIVES COULD BE AT STAKE AS NORTH KOREA THREATENS TO ATTACK POWER GRID

And even though Putin recently declared his condemnation of North Korea’s provocative testing exercises, he insisted that a military response would lead to a “global catastrophe.” Putin’s Russia has held a long-running policy of pushing back against U.S.-mandated regime change, and by backing North Korea at the ire of the United States, Russia is able to assert itself as a prominent player in the world of foreign affairs.

“Russia may not like what North Korea is doing, but in taking this stance they get to be a player on the world stage again which is one of their goals,” explained Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Center. “And it is a way to position themselves against the U.S., which hasn’t been complying with their wishes. There hasn’t been the big reset Putin had hoped for with Trump.”

North Korea has undertaken 16 missile tests this year alone – including two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and one possible hydrogen-bomb test this month. President Trump has warned the rogue state that the sanctions imposed are “nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.”

NORTH KOREA THREATENS ‘PAIN AND SUFFERING’ IN RETALIATION FOR NEW U.N. SANCTIONS

But, by forging closer ties to a U.S. enemy, Moscow may have greater leverage in getting what it wants from Washington.

“By Putin’s calculation, misbehavior by North Korea makes his stock go up as the U.S. pleads for Russian assistance,” noted Ryan Mauro, national security expert at the Clarion Project. “From a bargaining perspective, it makes sense for Russia to assist North Korea and see what it can get America to offer in exchange for assistance.”

Yet at least for now, the U.S. State Department is formally maintaining that “Russia supports the overall goal of de-nuclearizing the Korean Peninsula,” and is hopeful that “they will follow through on their agreements.”

“Remember, Russia doesn’t see the same degree of problem here as the U.S. and South Korea do. Korean missiles won’t be aimed at Russian soil,” added one Moscow-based official.

The Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

Courtesy, Fox News

 

Robert Mueller
In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Andrew Harnik—AP

Robert Mueller Has Trump’s Letter About Firing James Comey

(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators is in possession of a letter drafted by President Donald Trump and an aide, but never sent, that lays out a rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The letter was written in the days before the May 9 firing of Comey, but was held after objections from the president’s lawyer and others, according to two other people familiar with the process who were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. On that day, the White House released a different letter announcing Comey’s firing, one signed by Deputy Attorney General Attorney Rod Rosenstein that cited the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a basis for Comey’s dismissal.

The earlier letter could serve as key evidence to Mueller’s team, which is now investigating whether Trump fired Comey to impede the FBI investigation into his campaign associates’ ties to Russia. The White House has said Trump was acting on the Justice Department’s recommendation when he fired Mueller, though the president said in a television interview days later that he was thinking of “the Russia thing” when he made the move. The new letter, which was first reported by The New York Times, could provide additional context on Trump’s thinking and motive as he prepared to oust Comey.

The Justice Department turned the letter over to Mueller’s team, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity. A statement from the Justice Department said the department had been fully cooperative with Mueller’s investigation.

One week after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. That investigation, which had been overseen by Comey, is also looking into the financial dealings of several Trump associates.

During a May weekend at the president’s New Jersey golf club, Trump asked White House aide Stephen Miller to draft a letter outlining a case for Comey, according to two people familiar with the situation. But the letter, which contained a rationale for the dismissal, was not sent after White House counsel Don McGahn objected, thinking some of its contents were problematic, according to one of the people familiar with the letter.

The Associated Press has not reviewed the letter.

Trump had been fuming about Comey for weeks, upset that he would not say publicly that the president was not under investigation, which Trump said Comey had assured him privately. The eventual letter released explaining Comey’s dismissal contained those claims.

Miller, the firebrand aide who helped design Trump’s travel ban and hardline immigration policies, had become a trusted adviser to the president during the campaign and remained in his inner circle even after fellow nationalist and chief strategist Steve Bannon began to fall from the president’s favor.

Instead of using the directive Miller penned, a separate letter written by Rosenstein and focused on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was sent to the FBI director when he was dismissed.

Courtesy, TIME

Moscow denies banning US diplomats from their compound ahead of deadline

Russia has not barred US diplomatic staff from retrieving their belongings from the suburban residence at Serebryany Bor on the outskirts of Moscow, a foreign ministry source said, refuting claims that access to the recreational compound had been denied ahead of the deadline to vacate the premises.

On Monday, American embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson told RIA and Reuters that US diplomatic staff had been blocked from entering the Serebryany Bor recreational compound for two days, despite being allowed to use the so-called Dacha until noon Tuesday.

The accusations by the US diplomatic staff is a “deliberate provocation,” a source from the Russian foreign ministry told RIA after the news agency reached out for an official comment.

On Friday, following the US Congress’ approval of new sanctions against Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry told Washington to reduce the number of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia to 455 people by September 1. Moscow has also ordered Washington to suspend the use of a warehouse and surrender the Serebryany Bor Dacha by August 1.

The source explained that the US embassy sent cargo trucks to a property located on a national reserve territory, where any industrial size vehicles are not allowed without proper clearance.

The source noted that the Americans, “simply did not bother to inform the Moscow department of environmental protection in advance that they were going to send three large trucks there.”

Furthermore, on Monday, the Russian foreign ministry urgently arranged for special vehicle access with the environmental protection agency for American staff, but the US side appears to have deliberately left the vicinity of the compound.

“At the entrance to the reserve, the park security workers wanted to hand out permission slips to the embassy staff to pass through,” the source said, noting that the US team simply “turned around and drove away,” apparently after receiving orders from headquarters.

“As far as we know, they are going to return on Tuesday morning, but American diplomats continue to tell the media that they were supposedly driven away,” the ministry’s source concluded.

Courtesy: RT

Russia criticizes Donald Trump’s Cuba policy, calls it: ‘Cold War rhetoric’

The US president partially reversed Washington’s diplomatic and commercial opening to Cuba that was unveiled in 2014. The Kremlin accused Trump of pandering to a small group of Cuban-American voters.

Cuban and US flags in Havana (Imago/Belga)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry slammed US President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back US relations with Cuba, accusing Trump of resorting to “Cold War” rhetoric.

“The new line towards Cuba announced by US President Donald Trump takes us back to already half-forgotten rhetoric in the style of the Cold War,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Watch video01:36

US-Cuba relations under Trump

The statement on Sunday added, “It’s clear the anti-Cuba discourse is still widely needed. This can only induce regret.”

Despite Trump’s campaign pledge to improve relations with Moscow, there has been no discernible improvement in cooperation between the two countries. Indeed, last week, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to support new sanctions against Russia.

On Friday Trump ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and a crackdown on US business dealings with the Cuban military. The president said he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” liberalizing ties with Havana.

US President Trump holding the executive order on US-Cuba policy (Reuters/C. Barria)Trump shows-off his newly signed executive order Friday, rolling back US policy on Cuba

Obama’s opening to Cuba

In December 2014, Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time in more than half-a-century. Washington had severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after communist rebels led by Fidel Castro toppled the right-wing government of Fulgencio Batista.

Watch video42:31

Cuba – Nostalgia and Change

After Castro’s regime nationalized all US property in Cuba in 1960, Washington responded by seizing all Cuban assets on US soil and tightening its comprehensive embargo against the island nation.The US leases the territory of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which includes the infamous US detention facility there.

Despite the sanctions, which were intended to inflict sufficient pain on the Cuban government to bring about its collapse, the Castro regime persevered. Obama concluded that the Cold War policy had failed, and sought a policy of detente with Havana.

Moscow maintains close ties with Havana, and in March signed a deal to renew oil shipments to the Caribbean island for the first time in more than a decade.

It said that easing of sanctions under Obama was a “well-thought-out political decision in which there were no losers except marginal Castro opponents.”

Gonna take a whole lot of Carriers (which was not a success) to offset foolish policy reversal cost in loss of US jobs.

bik/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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