Trump’s top security advisor says Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

McMaster last year with Trump
McMaster last year with Trump (Associated Press)

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Saturday that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election was “now really incontrovertible” following the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three companies.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, McMaster lent credence to a widening scandal that President Trump has routinely dismissed as a hoax.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster said, noting that the United States was becoming “more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion.”

The 37-page indictment handed down Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III describes a vast, secret, social-media campaign financed by a Russian entrepreneur with ties to President Vladimir Putin that worked to harm Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and promote Donald Trump.

These are the first criminal charges related to election meddling brought in the Mueller investigation. Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod J. Rosenstein said there was no allegation in the indictment of an American citizen participating willingly in the scheme.

In a tweet, Trump claimed that the charges prove his campaign “did nothing wrong.”

At the same Munich meeting with McMaster on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the accusations against his countrymen as “just blabber.”

Courtesy: L A Times

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

Russia looks to dump US dollar in settlements with Iran

Russia looks to dump US dollar in settlements with Iran
Moscow and Tehran are continuing talks on using national currencies in trade, according to Russia’s Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan.

He told TASS that “central banks” working groups have met several times.

“As far as we can understand, negotiations are underway,”Dzhagaryan said.

“We hope that in 2018 we shall achieve progress and will be able to use widely the favorable conditions we may have if we manage to approach final decisions,” he added.

Last year, during the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Moscow, the two sides agreed to continue cooperation aimed at stabilizing the global energy market and ensuring sustainable economic development. They said they will be working on favorable conditions for using national currencies in settlements. Moscow and Tehran have also discussed developing inter-bank cooperation between the two countries and ensuring an increase in trade and investments.

Putin and Rouhani also focused on the potential creation of a free-trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which consists of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Rouhani told journalists that such a trade zone could significantly improve the trade situation and “create new conditions” in regional trade.

In November, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the best way to beat US sanctions against Iran and Russia is joint efforts to dump the American currency in bilateral trade.

He told President Putin that by using methods such as eliminating the US dollar and replacing it with national currencies in transactions between two or more parties, the sides could “isolate the Americans.”

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

Israel military targets Iranian drone and strikes Syria, F-16 crashes

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will protect itself from “any threat or any attempt to harm its sovereignty” after its military downed an Iranian drone that infiltrated the region.

“Israel is seeking for peace, but we will continue to defend ourselves against any attack against us, and against any attempt by Iran to establish military bases in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said Saturday after meeting with top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He said had spoken with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the recent involvement.

Israel’s military launched a “large-scale attack” after shooting down the infiltrating drone and struck Iranian targets deep in Syrian before one of its own jets was downed.

The raids hit at least 12 targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets that were part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. The offensive marks Israel’s most substantial involvement in Syria to date.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The wreckage of the jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon.

Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, in its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring Syria began in 2011. Responding anti-aircraft fire led to the downing of an Israeli fighter plane. (AP Photo/Rami Slush) ***ISRAEL OUT***

Investigators inspect the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel.  (AP)

Israel would not confirm whether the aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

According to Syrian state TV, which quoted a military official, Syrian air defenses struck more than one Israeli plane, and called the Israeli raids that hit a base a “new Israeli aggression.”

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the drone was “on a military mission sent and operated by Iranian military forces” and that Iran was “responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

The drone was in Israel’s possession, the military said.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Although Israel has shot down several drones from Syria that have infiltrated the country’s territory in the past, the attack on an Iranian site in response to Saturday’s incident signals an escalation in the Israeli retaliation.

The military confirmed the Syrian target of the drone’s launch components were destroyed.

Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Iranian involvement along Israel’s border in Syria and Lebanon has been a growing concern as it fears Iran could use the region to position attacks or develop a land route from the country to Lebanon in an effort to deliver weapons to Hezbollah more efficiently.

But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli airstrikes but has rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early morning hours.

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.

netanyahu

Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Gadi Eizenkot, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman meet.  (Yonat Friling)

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” he said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

However, the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies denied the drone violated Israeli airspace, saying it was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Russia, which backs Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country, called for restraint and appeared to criticize Israel’s actions.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Fox News’ Yonat Friling and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Courtesy: Fox News

Alexei Navalny: ‘There is no pro-Putin majority’ in Russia

Opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been barred from running for president in Russia. In an interview with DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova, he explains why he is calling for a boycott of the country’s upcoming election.

Alexei Navalny (DW)

DW: On January 28, you were arrested at an unauthorized demonstration in Moscow. Are you going to spend the election day on March 18 as a free man or behind bars?

Alexei Navalny: The indications seem to be that I will be spending the election day, and I am referring to “election” in quotation marks, in a special prison. That’s the plan, I suppose. On January 28, I was arrested and then immediately released. But I still haven’t been given my papers back. Apparently, I’ve still got 30 days in jail ahead of me. It is probably planned that they will start on February 17, and then I will be released on March 18, 19 or 20.

Read more: Alexei Navalny — the opposition leader captivating Russia’s youth

What sort of consequences should the participants who took part in the demonstrations across the country on January 28 expect?

The current leaders have the ability to proceed against the protest movement in two ways: First, they can prohibit all such actions and second, they can try to impose demonstrative punishments. At least 40 people were arrested. Some of them have already been released, and some are still in custody.

The most important thing, it seems to me, is that people are no longer letting themselves be intimidated. It has become clear to people that if they keep being afraid then the only remaining way to express political beliefs, to march on the streets, will also be barred.

Anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow (Reuters/M. Shemetov)Demonstrators across Russia took to the streets on January 28 to protest against Putin and the presidential election

On January 29, the US Treasury Department presented a report to Congress on Russian oligarchs and top officials, listed according to their assets and proximity to the Kremlin. What do you make of this so-called Kremlin Report?

The list should actually be much longer. These are the people who are the corrupt core in Russia, who are the main beneficiaries of corruption. I would like to see them all subject to individual sanctions. It would also be desirable if they could not live abroad, for example, and travel over to Germany and then come back and tell us how terrible European depravity is, referred to as “Gayropa,” and that we should choose another path here.

What do you hope to achieve by calling for a boycott of this election in Russia? Do you believe that elections can bring about any change in President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime?

Of course I think they can. That’s why I wanted to stand for election. I traveled all over the country. I made speeches. I even made appearances in areas that are considered to be absolutely “pro-Putin,” such as the Kemerovo Oblast. I also spoke in Novokuznetsk. I know full well that it is possible to win an election against Putin. Frankly, he knows that himself. That’s why he wouldn’t let me stand for election.

Read more: Navalny supporters demand ‘Russia without Putin’

It is always said that Russia does not need a revolution or a Euromaidan, which is the name given to the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest that began in 2014 in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. At the same time, it is said that only you can manage to get people out onto the streets. How do you define the limits of what is considered a peaceful protest?

First of all, I’m not the only one who can get people out onto the streets. There are many wonderful people who are undertaking actions in different regions. Secondly, it is not I who brings people onto the streets, but the notion of injustice. Putin himself brings people on the street through his corruption, his incompetent administration of the country.

I certainly believe the people have the right to protest against a tyrannical regime. But what’s happening in Russia at the moment are only absolutely peaceful actions. You can see that the mood of the demonstrators is much more peaceful than that of the authorities, who manage to turn every demonstration into a military operation.

DW's Zhanna Nemtsova interviewing Alexei Navalny (DW)DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova spoke with Alexei Navalny

Is it realistic to expect that the pro-Putin majority will become a majority in society that wants to see change?

There is no pro-Putin majority. There are people for whom the illusion has been created that there is no one else except Putin. We’ve done dozens of surveys in focus groups all over the country. The most important thing they say when they are asked why they vote for Putin: “There is no one else. We don’t like Putin, but there’s no one else.” And that is precisely what the Putin regime is based on. There is no majority.

We can achieve a majority of our own, precisely because we work in real terms and have a real agenda. We are talking about poverty, injustice, the unfair distribution of wealth and the rising costs of healthcare and education. In fact, we form a majority, which already comprises around 30 percent of the inhabitants of the largest cities. If we keep working on it, there will be many more. That is our task. It’s possible to achieve.

A fourth term in office for Putin is inevitable. Many believe that after the elections there will be harsher crackdowns, including against you and your supporters. Are you prepared for this?

Putin has not just been in power for a couple of years, but since 1999. We have seen a general intensification of repression after each re-election. He can’t hold onto power otherwise. That is why the repressions will certainly increase. But we’re ready, we’re not afraid. We’re not giving up.

Blogger and lawyer Alexei Navalny, 41, is regarded as the most influential opposition politician in Russia. He has been barred from running as a presidential candidate, based on previous convictions for financial crimes. The European Court of Human Rights has described Navalny’s suspended sentence as “arbitrary.”

The interview was conducted by Zhanna Nemtsova

COURTESY: DW

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

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