Tag Archives: russia

China, Russia veto United Nations cross-border help to Syria

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The two nations veto UN resolution to maintain two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver aid to northwest Syria.


Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to extend aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria, which the UN says is crucial to save millions of lives.

The six-year-long UN approval of aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey is authorised until Friday. The remaining 13 UNSC members voted on Tuesday in favour of the resolution drafted by Germany and Belgium.

The Security Council will now vote on a rival Russian proposal to approve one Turkish crossing for aid access for six months. During the coronavirus pandemic, the UNSC has been operating virtually, which means members have 24 hours to cast a vote on a draft resolution.

Earlier on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said cross-border access was “vital to the wellbeing of the civilians in northwest Syria … Lives depend on it.”

The UNSC in January allowed cross-border aid operation to continue from two Turkish crossings for six months, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Russia and China.

Displaced Syrians sit in the back of a truck loaded with belongings as they flee along the M4 highway, in Ariha in the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on June 8, 2020, heading north.

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Tuesday’s vote was the 15th time that Russia used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

“We are seeing a repeat of what happened six months ago. Until that point, the UN had four border crossing authorised for aid delivery,” said Media editor (known to Noble Reporters Media) reporting from New York.

Millions of people have fled Syria since the conflict began in 2011 and millions are internally displaced [File: Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP]

“After using its veto in December, Russia managed to get that reduced to two crossings,” he said, adding that the “clock was ticking until the existing authorisation runs out on Friday”.

‘Despicable and dangerous’
Last month, Germany and Belgium proposed reopening the Iraq crossing for six months to help Syria combat the coronavirus, but it was cut from the draft resolution that was put to a vote on Tuesday, again due to opposition by Russia and China.

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It was an “extremely negative development”, a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“They want to strangle the population even more,” the diplomat continued, adding that aid “cannot reach the population from one” crossing point.

“Insisting on only one crossing point is cynical and it doesn’t meet the needs of the people,” said the diplomat.

Sherine Tadros, head of Amnesty International’s UN office, said it was “impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring the crossing points”.

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“For millions of Syrians, it is the difference between having food to eat and starving,” she said. “For hospitals, it is about having enough supplies to save lives. That’s why Russia and China’s abuse of the veto power is despicable and dangerous.”

The International Rescue Committee was also quick to condemn the Russian and Chinese vetoes.

“Blocking access to food, healthcare supplies, vaccines, and ventilators is unacceptable anytime but in the year of COVID-19, it is even more reprehensible,” said IRC president David Miliband in a statement.

Refugee tents replaced with homes in Syria’s Idlib
In January, Moscow, Syria’s closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorisation to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.

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Russia, like China, argues that the UN authorisation violates Syria’s sovereignty and that the aid could be distributed by the Syrian authorities.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun blamed unilateral sanctions against Syria, imposed by the United States and the European Union, for exacerbating the country’s humanitarian situation and urged they be lifted.

Western nations and the UN secretariat, on the other hand, insist that cross-border aid is the only credible option in Syria, and that the flow of relief supplies would face multiple obstacles if it had to pass through Damascus’s control.

According to a report published by the UN on Tuesday, the humanitarian situation in Syria is disastrous.

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“Syria’s economy is devastated,” said Hanny Megally, one of the authors of the report. “The country has been in a nine-year conflict. People are suffering.”

“An estimated 2.8 million people in northwest Syria – 70 percent of the region’s population – require humanitarian assistance,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the UNSC on June 29.

A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to a civil war, with Moscow backing al-Assad and Washington supporting the opposition.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, some estimates say at least 500,000 people have been killed. Millions of people have fled Syria and millions are internally displaced.


#Newsworthy…

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Putin may remain in power till 2036 with new Russia rule

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President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered amendments that would allow him to remain in power until 2036 to be put into the Russian Constitution after voters approved the changes during a week-long plebiscite.

“The amendments come into force. They come into force, without overstating it, at the people’s will,” Putin said after he signed a decree to have the constitution revised.

“We made this important decisions together, as a country.” the Russian president said during a video-conference with lawmakers who worked on drafting the amendments.

According to a copy of the decree released by the Russian government on Friday, the amendments will come into force on Saturday. The changes allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms after his current one expires in 2024, but also outlaw same-sex marriages, mention the “belief in God as a core value” and emphasize the primacy of Russian law over international norms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a televised address to the nation in Moscow on June 23, 2020
 Alexey Nikolsky—Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images

Putin proposed amending the constitution in January and insisted on putting the language on his eligibility for office and the other topics up to a nationwide vote that wasn’t legally required after the changes were approved by Russia’s parliament and rubber-stamped by the country’s Constitutional Court.

The citizens’ vote was initially scheduled for April 22, but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The balloting concluded on Wednesday amid widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.

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Kremlin critics denounced the results of the plebiscite — with 78% “yes” votes and a nearly 68% turnout – as falsified and undermining the legitimacy of the amendments.

Central Election Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova rejected the accusations on Friday, saying that the results of the vote are “authentic” and their legitimacy is “indisputable.”

“The vote was carried out with the utmost transparency,” she said.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said Friday that lawmakers would start working on bills implementing the amendments immediately, without taking their traditional summer break.


#Newsworthy…

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Pollution in Arctic tundra: Russian mining giant admit

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A Russian mining giant behind an enormous Arctic fuel spill last month said it had suspended workers at a metals plant who were responsible for pumping wastewater into nearby tundra.

Norilsk Nickel cited a “flagrant violation of operating rules” in a statement on Sunday, announcing it had suspended employees responsible for dumping wastewater from a dangerously full reservoir into wildlife.

The incident occurred at the Talnakh enrichment plant near the Arctic city of Norilsk, the company said, one month after the unprecedented fuel leak led President Vladimir Putin to declare a state of emergency.

More than 21,000 tonnes of diesel leaked from a fuel storage tank at one of the company's subsidiary plants near Norilsk. The fuel seeped into the soil and dyed nearby waterways bright red.

A source told Russian Interfax news agency on Sunday that in the most recent case, approximately 6,000 cubic metres of liquid used to process minerals at the facility had been dumped and that the discharge had lasted “several hours”.

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It was impossible to determine how far the wastewater had dispersed, the source said.

Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta published videos from the scene showing large metal pipes carrying wastewater from the reservoir and dumping foaming liquid into nearby trees.

The journalists claimed the factory deliberately funnelled the wastewater into wildlife areas and hastily removed their pipes when investigators and emergency services arrived on the scene.

The Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said it had received reports of “unauthorised dumping of liquid waste into the tundra” on the site of the facility, and had opened an inquiry.

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Heavy machinery used to clear the pipes crushed a car delivering officials to the scene, national Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported.

No injuries
Interfax said no one was injured in the incident which was also being probed.

Norilsk Nickel spokeswoman Tatiana Egorova earlier on Sunday told the AFP news agency that employees of the factory had pumped out “purified water” and that an internal investigation was under way.

Russia’s natural resources agency said the decision to remove water from the reservoir was taken to avoid an emergency after heavy rains and recent tests had caused water levels to increase dramatically.

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The local emergency services in a statement said the wastewater was unlikely to reach the nearby Kharayelakh River.

The massive fuel spill last month took place at a plant owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, which had said the fuel tank had collapsed or sank due to melting permafrost due to climate change.

Putin declared an emergency situation after the accident and the head of Norilsk Nickel, oligarch Vladimir Potanin, promised to pay the costs of the clean-up.

The Russian authorities said earlier this month they had cleared the spill from the surface of a river, but the full clean-up could take years.


#Newsworthy…

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Russia denies paid Taliban spy to attack NATO forces.

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The Taliban also denies the New York Times report, which it denounced as an attempt to defame the armed group.


Russia and the Taliban have denied a media report saying that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered money to Taliban-linked fighters to kill US troops and other members of the NATO coalition operating in Afghanistan.

Noble Reporters Media says that US intelligence officials concluded several months ago that the Russian unit had last year secretly offered rewards to the fighters in return for successful attacks. The information was later independently reported by the Washington Post.

The officials said the Taliban-linked fighters, or elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected at least some reward money from the Russians, although it remains unclear what attacks were connected to the scheme, according to the report.

Russia on Saturday denounced the accusations, with the Russian embassy in Washington, DC calling them "baseless and anonymous".

The tweet added the claims had “already led to direct threats to the life of employees of the Russian Embassies in Washington DC and London”.

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Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied to the New York Times that the group has “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame the armed group.

“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless – our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

In 2019, 20 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan but there have been no reported Taliban attacks on the US positions since the two countries reached an agreement in February that paves the way for the US to withdraw from the nearly 20-year long conflict.

Severe implications
US officials have previously linked the Russian intelligence unit in question to assassination attempts and operations in Europe meant to destabilise Western powers, according to the report.

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However, the most recent allegations, if true, would be the first time the unit has been proven to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops, the report said.

While the US and Afghan governments have previously accused Russia of supporting the Taliban, the allegation would represent a major escalation in Russia’s involvement during a time the Trump administration has been struggling to end the US presence in the country.

The report said the determination by intelligence officials is based, at least in part, on interrogations of captured Afghan fighters and individuals accused of crimes in the country.

‘Cozying up’ to Russia
The unnamed officials also told the newspaper that Trump and his National Security Council had been briefed on the intelligence in March, but had not yet authorised any action in response.

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“The story says that the Trump administration was told about this, including the president, in march, many many months ago, and that they debated several responses, including a diplomatic complaint up to sanctions, but so far have not acted,” NRM learnt

“Critics are pointing out that the president did do one thing, he invited Vladimir Putin to the now cancelled G7 summit, and that’s created its own kind of controversy today,” she said, referring to the so-called Group of Seven, an economic organisation composed of world powers from which Russia was expelled in 2014. The group is currently set to meet in the US in September, after delaying due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One critic is senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine who tweeted that Trump was "cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G7 all while his Administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban".

Officials told the Times it was not clear at what level in the government the Russian intelligence unit’s plan was authorised or what larger goal the scheme was meant to achieve.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Fighters fly out of Libya amid Haftar retreat

‘A very meaningful event’ because LNA deprived of its most effective foreign fighting force near Tripoli, analyst says.


Russian fighters in Libya were flown out a town south of Tripoli by their Libyan allies after retreating from front lines at the capital, the town’s mayor said.

The reported departure of the Russians on Sunday was another blow to the Libya National Army (LNA) of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar and his foreign allies.

The Russian fighters allied to the LNA retreated with their heavy equipment from the capital to the airport of Bani Walid, a town some 150km (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, said Salem Alaywan, Bani Walid’s mayor.

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He said the Russians were flown out of western Libya to Jufra, a remote central district and LNA stronghold.

“They [the Russians] were flown in three military planes to Jufra and their military vehicles were driven there,” he said.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied any foreigners were fighting with his force.

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1,200 mercenaries
But the Russians’ presence has been widely documented by diplomats and journalists. Pictures purportedly showing Russians, some sitting on trucks, in Bani Walid were posted on social media.

According to a leaked United Nations report, Russian private military contractor Wagner Group deployed about 1,200 mercenaries to Libya to strengthen Haftar’s forces. They have been identified using equipment typically reserved for Russia’s armed forces.

UN monitors identified more than two dozen flights between Russia and eastern Libya from August 2018 to August 2019 by civilian aircraft “strongly linked to or owned by” Wagner Group or related companies.

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NobleReporters, gathered from Tripoli, said Haftar’s immediate gains in the assault on the capital a year ago have been attributed to the fighting prowess of the military contractors from the Wagner Group.

“We don’t know why they’re leaving at this crucial time because Haftar is losing on the ground. The withdrawal of the Russian [fighters] could have major consequences for Haftar’s forces,” he said.

‘Meaningful event’
The Tripoli government, known as the GNA, has with Turkish help made sudden strides, seizing a string of towns from the LNA, capturing the strategically important al-Watiya airbase, and destroying several Russian-made air defence systems.

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“The withdrawal [of the Russians] from the greater Tripoli area is a very meaningful event because it deprives the LNA of its most effective, best-equipped foreign fighting forces on that key front,” said Jalel Harchaoui, research fellow at the Clingendael Institute.

The GNA has deployed Syrian fighters allied to Turkey, while Haftar is also using Sudanese. The LNA still holds the town of Tarhouna south of Tripoli with the help of a local armed group.

Haftar’s forces, backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have been trying to capture the capital for 13 months, but suffered a string of defeats in recent weeks in fighting against Turkey-backed forces of the Tripoli government.

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In the past two days, LNA forces have withdrawn from some positions in southern Tripoli in what they described as a humanitarian gesture. Forces allied to the internationally recognised government re-entered some of those areas.

Libya has been without central government control for nine years, and since 2014 it has been divided between two main rival governments in the east and the west. The conflict has turned into a proxy war between the foreign allies of the two sides.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Over 10,500 fresh cases reported. [Russia]


Russia registered more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections on Friday, as Moscow unveils mass antibody testing and a national lockdown eases.

Health officials reported 10,598 new infections in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 262,843, the second-highest in the world after the United States.

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Russia says its high number of cases is due in part to a massive testing campaign that has seen more than six million tests carried out.

Moscow accounts for roughly half of all infections and the city said it would be launching mass voluntary tests for antibodies from Friday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin this week announced that a nationwide lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the virus would be eased, even as health officials record a steady increase in new cases.

Despite its high number of cases, Russia’s official coronavirus fatality rate is low in comparison to countries like the United States, Britain, Italy and Spain.

The country reported 113 new coronavirus deaths Friday, bringing Russia’s total to 2,418.

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Authorities say this is because Russia was able to learn lessons from the experiences of western Europe, moving quickly to isolate travellers and people at risk, and launch a vast campaign to test and quarantine those infected.

But critics have cast doubt on the figures, accusing the authorities of under-counting by blaming virus-related deaths on other causes.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Cases in Russia surpass 200,000

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The number of people confirmed to have the coronavirus in Russia has exceeded 200,000, data posted on an official website set up by health authorities showed on Sunday.

The total number of cases increased to 209,688 after another 11,012 tests came back positive in the last 24 hours, it showed, with the total number of people dying since the outbreak began remaining relatively low at 1,915.

The trend will likely make the number of Russia’s confirmed cases the biggest in Europe in a matter of days.

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However, officials have said the daily rate — which has been over 10,000 for the past seven days — has much to do with aggressive testing.

Russia has performed 5.4 million tests, while Britain less than two million.

Most of the cases are in or around Moscow, and some regions have already begun to lift lockdown restrictions.

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The Moscow mayor announced last week that industries and construction sites will begin work on May 12, but that masks and gloves will now be mandatory in public areas and shops.

The Russian capital has made special passes required for moving around outside, but many people can be seen in the streets, especially in good weather.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Russian Prime Minister Test Positive.

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Russian Prime Minister, Mikhali Mishustin, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Mishustin revealed this in a video meeting the President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

He said he will self-isolate to avoid putting members of the cabinet at risk.

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According to him, “It just became known that the coronavirus tests I took came back positive, so I must oblige by the self-isolation rules and it’s mandatory [that I do that] for the safety of my colleagues.”

He also urged Putin to sign a decree appointing Andrey Belousov to his role on an acting basis.

Speaking on the development, Putin while assuring him that anyone could contact COVID-19 wished the Minister a quick recovery.

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“What is happening to you now can happen to anyone. I hope that you stay able to work and will actively participate in government decision-making.

“Without your opinions and your participation these decisions will not be made,” he added


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Russia president hold back on tough measures.


President Vladimir Putin postponed a vote on constitutional reforms and urged Russians to stay home to contain the coronavirus on Wednesday, but did not impose the kind of strong measures taken in other countries.

In a rare televised address to the nation, Putin said Russia could not isolate itself from the spreading pandemic but focused mainly on support for the struggling economy.


“The health, life and safety of people is our absolute priority,” Putin said.

The vote on constitutional reforms, which had been due to take place on April 22, “must be postponed to a later date”, he said, without specifying when.


The reforms, proposed by the president and approved by lawmakers over the last few months, would reset presidential term limits and potentially allow Putin, in power for 20 years, to stay in office until 2036.

Critics have denounced the project as a way for Putin to remain “president for life”.


He also took the unusual step of declaring March 28 to April 5 a non-working week in order to slow the spread of the virus, urging Russians to stay at home.

“It is extremely important now to prevent the threat of the disease spreading rapidly,” he said.


‘Can affect everyone’

“This can affect everyone. What is happening today in many Western countries — in Europe and across the ocean — can become our nearest future.”

He unveiled a series of measures to support Russians and boost the economy, including breaks on consumer loans and mortgage payments, support for small- and medium-sized businesses and early payouts of social benefits.


The coronavirus and a dizzying fall in oil prices have sparked a two-pronged crisis for the Russian economy, with the ruble falling to its lowest levels since early 2016.

This presents a huge challenge to Putin’s promises to boost growth and raise living standards.


The Kremlin announced Putin’s address as Russia on Wednesday recorded its biggest spike in confirmed coronavirus infections so far, with 163 new cases for a total of 658 across the country.

One person who was infected has died but officials are not linking the death to the virus.


Concern has risen as the number of cases steadily grows.

Putin met with top officials to discuss containment measures on Tuesday, putting on a yellow hazmat suit as he visited a major hospital treating coronavirus patients.


Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who heads a coronavirus task force, told Putin that the actual number of cases was probably “significantly” higher than official figures.

Russia previously imposed 14-day quarantines on people arriving from abroad, closed schools and told elderly residents in Moscow, where most of the cases are concentrated, to self-isolate.


It halted cultural and sports events and closed fitness clubs, cinemas and night clubs, although restaurants and cafes were allowed to remain open.

Authorities have repeatedly denied plans to impose lockdowns like those seen in China, Italy, Spain, France or Britain, but the warnings from officials on Tuesday were stark.


“The problem is that the volume of testing is very low and no one has a clear picture” of the situation in Russia and the world, Sobyanin told Putin.

‘Italian’ scenario

Denis Protsenko, head doctor of Moscow’s new hospital treating coronavirus patients, told Putin that Russia needed to be ready for an “Italian” scenario, referring to what is now the hardest-hit country in the world in terms of deaths.


“If there is a big spike, and Moscow is headed there, our hospital is ready to transform,” he said.

Russian lawmakers have proposed imposing severe punishments — including up to seven years in prison — for people breaking coronavirus quarantine rules.


Apart from traditional New Year’s greetings, Putin rarely addresses the public on television. The last time was over unpopular pension reform in August 2018.

Putin did not say whether he will postpone plans for a massive military parade on May 9 to mark 75 years since the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Dozens of foreign leaders have been invited to take part.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday the postponement of the celebration had been discussed but no decision was yet made.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: More than 500 lions released in Russia to curb roaming.


Social media went on frenzy on Sunday as some reports claimed that Vladimir Putin has ordered a release of around 500 lions on the streets of Russia to ensure that people remain inside their houses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pictures and Videos of lions on a street were being circulated and a tweet also claimed that “Vladimir Putin has given Russians two options. You stay at home for 2 weeks or you go to jail for 5years. No middle ground.”

However, it has been found that this is a FAKE NEWS and no such orders have been passed in Russia.

The picture of a lion on the street is from the year 2016. It was clicked in South Africa.


Meanwhile, the claim that people will have to face a jail term of five years if they break 15-day home quarantine is also incorrect.

However, people across the world have been asked to stay indoors and move out only if there is an emergency situation due to coronavirus outbreak.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Russia announces 1st death.


Russia said on Thursday a 79-year-old woman with underlying health issues who tested positive for the new coronavirus had died from pneumonia, the country’s first confirmed death resulting from the virus.

Russia, which has temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed an array of flight restrictions, has reported 147 coronavirus cases so far, less than many other European countries.


That figure has risen sharply in recent days, however, but authorities have said the situation is under control and that most infected people have entered Russia from coronavirus hot spots.

Some doctors have questioned the veracity of Russian data, given what they say is the patchy nature of testing. But the government has said it has been transparent about its handling of the crisis, and that its statistics are accurate.


Moscow’s coronavirus crisis centre said in a statement on Thursday that the elderly woman who died had begun receiving treatment last week in a private clinic before being moved to a hospital specialising in infectious diseases.

It did not say where the woman was thought to have picked up the virus but said her circle of close acquaintances had been identified and was under medical observation.


None of them was displaying any serious coronavirus symptoms, it said. Russians above the age of 60 were strongly advised to minimise contact with other people, it added.

“The main message of the government is not to panic and that everything is under control,” NobleReporters learnt


“But there is a lot of concern, of course. People don’t trust the low number of cases the government is reporting, and are worried that the government is hiding the true story – something, of course, they have experienced a lot in the past. Even the comparison with the Chernobyl nuclear explosion has been made.

“People have been panic buying – also out of experience, that food could come in short supply.


“There are different schools of thought here. There are experts who believe that Russia, by quickly closing the border with China, did manage to keep the infections low. Also, there were quarantine rules in place for people coming from affected countries, with very high prison terms if violated.

“But there are also many experts who believe that we simply don’t know how widespread the virus is at this stage. The government has centralised testing, which is done by one Siberian-based company – and experts have called this test unreliable. Other companies who have developed tests are not allowed to sell them.


“Also, doctors have said they did not report suspected cases of COVID-19 because they were worried patients would be sent to a government facility where they could be put in the same room with other patients, and face an even more dangerous situation. Doctors also did not report because they were worried they would have to close their practice because of the fear of spreading the virus.

“One sign that things could be a lot worse is the sudden increase of pneumonia cases – up 37 percent, to 2,000 cases.


“Another sign is that the government in recent days has also tightened its measures, closed borders for all foreigners until May 1, closed schools, and the elderly have been advised to stay home.

“And a 500-bed infectious diseases hospital is being built outside of Moscow, which should be done by next month. That’s another big issue – the lack of proper healthcare has been a big issue in the past few years, and people wonder how the government is going to cope when the virus becomes widespread. The government says they have 12,000 intensive care beds and a population of 147 million, but questions are being raised about the condition of healthcare facilities and their equipment.


“Streets here still look normal and busy. People are still going about their usual business. The Metro is less crowded, though people are taking their cars, causing huge traffic jams.”

More than 218,900 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 8,926 have died, with cases and deaths outside China overtaking those in the country where the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally. Infections outside China have been reported by 172 countries.

In Mainland China, which has 80,907 cases, there have been 3,245 deaths. Italy, the second-hardest hit nation, has seen 2,978 deaths among 35,713 confirmed cases.


#Newsworthy…

Russia: Putin sign new law that could make him rule till 2036.


Russian President, Vladimir Putin has signed a law on constitutional changes that could keep him in power for another 16 years.

Last week, 67-year-old Putin made an appearance in parliament to back an amendment that would allow him to ignore a constitutional ban on him running again in 2024.


The Kremlin has revealed in a statement that Putin signed off the constitutional changes on Saturday just three days after it was passed through the Russian parliament with only one vote against it.

Russia’s constitutional will now approve the changes after a nationwide vote on the amendments to the constitution planned for April 22.

Under current law, Putin would not be able to run for president again in 2024 because of term limits, but the new measure would open the way for him to run for two more six-year terms.

If approved, the move would make Putin the ruler of Russia for 36 years, the longest tenure in the country’s modern history. He has been in power since 2000.


#Newsworthy…

Russia: 94 persons escape Boeing plane’s death


A Boeing 737-500 airliner with 94 people on board made a hard landing in northwestern Russia on Sunday, carrier UTair said, but no one was badly hurt.
It said the airliner, arriving at Usinsk airport in the Komi Republic about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) from Moscow, made the hard landing because of wind shear – a sudden change of wind velocity and/or direction.

The plane’s main landing gear was damaged in the landing but the crew managed to bring the aircraft to a halt on the runway, UTair said in a statement. All passengers and crew safely left the airliner.


Pictures posted on the websites of the regional government and emergency situations ministry showed the airliner lying flat on its belly on a runway covered partly with snow.

Last week in Istabul, a Pegasus Airline Boeing 737 almost made a hard landing, skidding off the runway with several fatalities and scores of injuries reported.


#Newsworthy…

My decision to rule for life; Putin says Russia will support him


Russian President, Vladimir Putin in his annual state of the nation address delivered on Thursday in Moscow announced new shocking reforms and sweeping changes to the country’s constitution that will make him President for the rest of his life.

In a shock announcement, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said his government was stepping down after Putin used his annual state of the nation address to propose constitutional reforms that would strengthen parliament’s role


On Thursday during a live address on national TV, Putin said he was sure the Russian people will support his sweeping changes to the country’s constitution that could keep him in power beyond 2024 long after his presidential term ends.

In his address, Putin described how power would be shifted from the presidency to parliament and the state council and comes as the Russian parliament backed his surprise choice for a new prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin.


“Of course these are very serious changes to the political system,’ Putin said in his address as he promised a referendum on the plans.

“It would increase the role and significance of the country’s parliament … of parliamentary parties, and the independence and responsibility of the prime minister.”

Russian President, Vladimir Putin


“I’m sure that Russian people will support me,” he added.

In his speech, Putin also called for the power of the State Council, an advisory body, to be increased and enshrined in the constitution ensuring he rules for life just like China’s leader Xi Jinping.


#Newsworthy…

Russian’s entire government resigned over President Putin’s plan


Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister of Russia and the entire Russian government have resigned after President Vladimir Putin proposed a constitutional reform that would allow him remain in power indefinitely.

Speaking in his annual address to parliament on Wednesday, Putin proposed a referendum on amending Russia’s constitution to increase the powers of parliament while maintaining a strong presidential system.


“I consider it necessary to conduct a vote by the country’s citizens on an entire package of proposed amendments to the country’s constitution,” Putin said.

He also suggested an amendment of the constitution to allow lawmakers to name prime ministers and cabinet members.


“It will increase the role of parliament and parliamentary parties, powers and independence of the prime minister and all cabinet members,” Putin said.

“We will be able to build a strong prosperous Russia only on the basis of respect for public opinion.


“Together we will certainly change life for the better. Russia must remain a strong presidential republic.”

After President Putin made his plans known, his entire government including the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tendered their resignation to him.

Hours after the government resigned, Putin named federal tax chief Mikhail Mishustin, 53 years old and a relatively unknown technocrat, as the new prime minister.

According to RIA news agency, Mishustin will face a vote of approval in the lower house of parliament on Thursday.


#Newsworthy…

Russian president, Putin suggested to Bashar Assad to invite Trump to Damascus

…to become normal


A video has emerged where in a lighthearted exchange last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to Syrian President Bashar Assad that he invite US President Donald Trump to visit Damascus ‘to become normal’.

Assad signalled he was prepared to go ahead with the idea. Putin said he would pass the message to Trump.


The video, according to multiple reports was shot during Putin’s visit last week to Syria.

It was aired Sunday by the Russian-1 channel and it showed a conversation between Putin and Assad as they visited the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Damascus.


Assad mentioned the New Testament story of Paul the Apostle, who became a Christian after experiencing a miracle as he traveled to Damascus where he planned to arrest disciples of Jesus.

According to Christian lore, the incident happened on the road where the church is located.


“If Trump arrives along this road, everything will become normal with him too,” Assad jokes to a smiling Putin, according to a translation by the Axios website.

Putin responds that Trump would be keen to visit and if he wasn’t, he’d convince the American leader to come.


According to the original Axios transalation, Putin agreed with Assad that Trump needs some healing in Damascus. He laughed and told Assad: “It will be repaired … invite him. He will come.” Assad answers that he is ready to invite Trump, to which Putin responds, smiling: “I will tell him.”

It was the second time that leaders would crack joke on American leader, that would be recorded on video. At NATO summit in London last month, Canadian leader, Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson were all captured on video mocking Trump.

Putin’s unannounced visit to Damascus was his second to the country during its ongoing civil war, where Russian troops have been fighting alongside Syrian government forces since 2015. It came amid a crushing Russian-backed offensive by Syrian forces on the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

In addition, tensions between the US and Iran, an ally of Syria and Russia, have skyrocketed after the US killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Iraq, saying he was planning attacks on American interests. Iran responded with a missile attack on two US bases, also in Iraq, causing no injuries.


#Newsworthy…

Putin – Trump’s impeachment, all made up… Senate won’t uphold it.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin has dismissed the impeachment charges against US President Donald Trump which he claimed were all made up.

Speaking during an annual press conference, Putin said he expects the US president to survive the historic proceedings.

Describing the impeachment proceedings as political infighting, the Russian leader insisted that the Democrats were seeking to make up for their loss in the 2016 presidential elections “by other means”.

“The Democratic party, which lost the elections, is achieving results through other means, by accusing Trump at first of conspiracy with Russia, then it turns out, there was no conspiracy at all.

“It then turned out that there was no collusion and it could not form the basis for an impeachment, and now there is this made-up pressure on Ukraine.”

Recall that President Trump became the third president in US history to be impeached, after the House passed two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Newsworthy…

Russia banned for four years from participating in all sporting events.

By the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada)…

It means the Russia flag and anthem will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said the ban was part of “chronic anti-Russian hysteria”.

“It is obvious that significant doping problems still exist in Russia, I mean our sporting community,” he said. “This is impossible to deny.

“But on the other hand the fact that all these decisions are repeated, often affecting athletes who have already been punished in one way or another, not to mention some other points – of course this makes one think that this is part of anti-Russian hysteria which has become chronic.”

Wada’s executive committee made the unanimous decision to impose the ban on Russia in a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday.

It comes after Russia’s Anti Doping Agency (Rusada) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019.

It had to hand over data to Wada as a condition of its controversial reinstatement in 2018 after a three-year suspension for its vast state-sponsored doping scandal.

Wada says Rusada has 21 days to appeal against the ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said the decision showed its “determination to act resolutely in the face of the Russian doping crisis”.

He added: “For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of Rusada’s reinstatement conditions demanded a robust response.

“That is exactly what has been delivered.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and rejoin the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial.”

But Wada vice-president Linda Helleland said the ban was “not enough”.

“I wanted sanctions that can not be watered down,” she said. “We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.”

A total of 168 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the country was banned following the 2014 Games, which it hosted in Sochi. Russian athletes won 33 medals in Sochi, 13 of which were gold.

Russia has been banned from competing as a nation in athletics since 2015.

Despite the ban, Russia will be able to compete at Euro 2020 – in which St Petersburg will be a host city – as European football’s governing body Uefa is not defined as a ‘major event organisation’ with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

Fifa said it had “taken note” of Wada’s decision, adding: “Fifa is in contact with Wada to clarify the extent of the decision in regards to football.”

In a statement, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said: “Those responsible for the manipulation of data from the Moscow laboratory before it was transferred to Wada appear to have done everything possible to undermine the principles of fair and clean sport, principles that the rest of the sporting world support and adhere to.

“This sincere lack of respect towards the rest of the global sporting movement is not welcome and has zero place in the world of sport. It is only right that those responsible for this data manipulation are punished.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it “supported” Wada’s decision.

How did we get here?

Rusada was initially declared non-compliant in November 2015 after a Wada-commissioned report by sports lawyer Professor Richard McLaren alleged widespread corruption that amounted to state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field athletics.

A further report, published in July 2016, declared Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports.

In 2018, Wada reinstated Rusada as compliant after the national agency agreed to release data from its Moscow laboratory from the period between January 2012 and August 2015.

However, positive findings contained in a version courtesy of a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the January 2019 data, which prompted a new inquiry.

Wada’s compliance review committee (CRC) recommended a raft of measures based “in particular” on a forensic review of inconsistencies found in some of that data.

As part of the ban, Russia may not host, or bid for or be granted the right to host any major events for four years, including the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

What was the reaction?

Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Russian anti-doping official who fled to the United States after his allegations about a state-sponsored doping programme, says there remains “more to do”.

“Finally, fraud, lies and falsifications of unspeakable proportions have been punished in full swing,” he said in a statement.

“Those involved in the corruption of certain sports such as track and field, weightlifting, skiing, biathlon and bobsled, should be punished retroactively. The results of the London and Sochi Olympic Games should be reanalysed and reconsidered with the new knowledge available today.

“We only have a few months to reanalyse the samples from the 2012 London Games because, according to Wada rules, we only have eight years to review.

“There is a whole generation of clean athletes who have painfully abandoned their dreams and lost awards because of Russian cheaters. We need to take the strongest action to bring justice back to sport.”

UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) chief executive Nicole Sapstead said Wada’s decision to impose a ban on Russia was the “only possible outcome” to “reassure athletes and the public and continue the task of seeking justice for those cheated by Russian athletes”.

However, Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said not imposing a blanket ban on all participation by Russian athletes – even under a neutral flag – is a “devastating blow” to clean athletes.

“The reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform,” he said, adding that it was “another horrendous Groundhog Day of Russian corruption and domination”.

“Wada promised the world back in 2018 that if Russia failed yet again to live up to its agreements, it would use the toughest sanction under the rules. Yet, here we go again; Wada says one thing and does something entirely different.”

British powerlifter and Paralympic medallist Ali Jawad, who is a member of UK Anti-Doping’s athlete commission, said Wada had been “soft”.

“To protect the next generation of Russian athletes, we need to make sure Russia and the system is punished to the fullest extent,” Jawad told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The only way we can change that is meaningful change and what kind of message does this send out to the future generation? That, actually, state-sponsored doping, we are going to treat it softly.”

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told Radio Wales that Wada has now “stepped up” and moved forward after “not taking it as seriously”.

“There are a couple of things; there will be clean Russian athletes, it is a shame for them, but there are lots of clean athletes that have been affected by anyone who has doped,” she said.

“For the athletes who are clean, the British athletes that have lost out, Goldie Sayers, the British bobsleigh team who get their medals years later, it is no recompense.”

Triple Olympic medallist Kelly Sotherton, who was retrospectively awarded her 2008 heptathlon bronze after Russia’s Tatyana Chernova failed to have a doping ban overturned, says she understands why tougher sanctions were not imposed.

“I think they are thinking of the majority of athletes who are doing the right thing, not the wrong thing,” she said.

#Newsworthy

Russian tycoon & billionaire, Dmitry Obretetsky died in a motor clash accident

…while heading to Surrey with his dog

A Russian tycoon living in Britain has died after he was hit by a car while walking his dog near his Surrey home.

Surrey Police confirmed in a statement that 49-year-old Dmitry Obretetsky, whose company was the official distributor of Mars and Nestle was the man that was knocked down in Oxshott on November 25.

He died in hospital five days later. His dog Oscar was also killed in the three-car crash.

Russian billionaire tycoon Dmitry Obretetsky mysteriously killed in crash involving three cars while walking his dog in Surrey

Obretetsky’s friend Pavel Borovkov today questioned whether he was deliberately killed, telling Russian news outlet Life: ‘You know, people drive cars very carefully in (Britain)… I don’t exclude that he was specially knocked down.’

He also paid tribute to the tycoon as “a wonderful friend and colleague, an understanding and friendly person”.

He added: “Dmitry was a man of diverse interests – he did not focus only on business.

“We remember how at the famous quarter-final of Euro 2008 he proudly, completely alone in a crowd of Dutch fans, held a large Russian flag with the inscription ‘Volgograd’.

“He loved contemporary music – hard rock. He was a fan of Ozzy Osbourne.”

Surrey Police are appealing for witnesses and dashcam footage after the father of three was mysteriously killed.

A police spokesman said: ‘We are continuing to investigate the circumstances around the collision.’

Dmitry Obretetsky ‘s death is the latest of a string of prominent Russians who have died in mysterious circumstances in the UK. In 2008, Badri Patarkatsishvili died at an estate near Leatherhead, while Alexander Peripilichnyy died near Weybridge in 2012, and in 2013, Boris Berezovsky died near Ascot.

Obretetsky was reported to be a billionaire who made his fortune in Volgograd after the fall of the Soviet Union before moving to Surrey with his wife and children

He founded a household chemicals retail company and was owner of Magnat Trade Enterprise, official distributor for Mars, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble in Russia.

His consulting company LLC Advant said: “We know very little about what happened. Of course, this is a great loss and tragedy for all of us.”

#Newsworthy…