“Missiles Will Be Coming” To Syria- Donald Trump

The United States President, Donald Trump has warned Russia on Wednesday of an imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack, declaring that missiles “will be coming”.

Trump said this in response to Russia’s warning on Tuesday that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria over the assault on a rebel enclave would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

He lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming,
nice and new and ‘smart!’,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

“You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” Trump said, referring
Moscow’s alliance with Assad.

In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said “smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not legal government”.

Damascus and Moscow refer to rebels fighting Assad as terrorists.

The Syrian government and Russia say the reports of a poison gas assault on the Syrian town of Douma are bogus.

After the attack, the rebel group holed up in Douma – Jaish al-Islam – finally agreed to withdraw from the town.

That sealed a big victory for Assad, who has now crushed the rebellion in the eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

Moscow’s threat to shoot down U.S. missiles came from the Russian ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin,
who said he was referring to a statement by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff.

Zasypkin also said that any hostilities with Washington should be avoided and Moscow was ready for negotiations.

But his remarks could raise fears of direct conflict for the first time between major powers backing opposing
sides in Syria’s protracted civil war.

The WHO said on Wednesday that 43 people had died in Saturday’s attack on the town of Douma from “symptoms
consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”, and more than 500 in all had been treated.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it hoped all sides involved in Syria would avoid doing anything that could
destabilise an already fragile situation in the Middle East, and made clear it strongly opposed any
U.S. strike on its ally.

Moscow and Washington stymied attempts by each other at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to set up international investigations into chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America on Friday to focus instead on talks with Western allies
about possible military action to punish Assad over the suspected gas attack.

Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the attack was established.

“If there is a strike by the Americans, then … the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the
missiles were fired,” Zasypkin, the Russian ambassador, told Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, speaking in Arabic.

The Russian military said on March 13 that it would respond to any U.S. strike on Syria by targeting any missiles
and launchers involved.

Russia is Assad’s most powerful ally and its devastating air power has helped him wrest back large areas of territory from rebels since 2015.

Zasypkin also said a clash between Russia and the United States over Syria “should be ruled out and therefore we
are ready to hold negotiations”.

 

Sanctions Against Russia To Develop For At Least 6 Years

Sanction Policies against Russia will last for at least 6 years by the Western states the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tank said in a report on Wednesday.

“We should expect the sanctions against Russia to develop for at least the next six years.

“The sender countries will target the most vulnerable parts of the Russian economy, society and political system.

“Level of integration of the Russian elites, intellectual and business communities, and major social groups with global institutions and processes will suffer most due to the sanctions.

“Moreover, instability in the economy and social area, amid continuing inequality as a result of these anti-Russia sanctions may lead to public protests in the country,’’ the think tank explained.

The think tank, however, called for preserving and strengthening Russia’s ties with other nations and eliminating the country’s social and economic vulnerabilities caused by the sanctions.

The RIAC added such policies would give Russian diplomats the room to maneuver in their contacts with the West.

“The main tactical objective today, is to prevent or limit as much as possible the process of ‘escalating sanctions.

RIAC said it was also to ‘’create conditions in which the sanctions do not produce the desired political results for the sender countries.’’

The U.S., EU member states and a number of other Western nations initially introduced their sanctions against Russia in 2014.

They cited Moscow’s alleged involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and Crimea’s reunification with Russia as a result of a referendum for their action.
However, Russia has denied having a role in the conf

lict, saying that the Crimean referendum had been held in line with international law.

Moreover, Moscow imposed food embargo on products from the states which had targeted it with restrictions.
However, the classification of Western anti-Russia sanctions has significantly expanded since then.

Most recently, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and entities, including major private and state-owned organisations.

 

The European Game Of Expulsions By Owei Lakemfa

Serious diplomacy has, this Easter Season, given way to the farcical drama of European countries expelling Russian diplomats, with the latters’ country also retaliating. This week, 25 countries, including non-European allies like the United States, Australia and Canada, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), had knocked out 158 Russian diplomats, with Russia absorbing the punches and throwing its own. There is the joke that American president, Donald Trump was watching the CBS 60 Minutes programme, when he was asked how many Russian diplomats should be expelled, and he looked at the screen, saw 60 Minutes and decided that 60 Russians should be expelled.

In descending into Cold War politics, no shots have been fired, and may not be; it is actually more of shadow boxing. The ostensible reason for this street musical is the tragic attempted murder of Russian double spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were on March 4, found unconscious in Salisbury, Britain. Skripal was a Russian intelligence agent found guilty of “high treason in the form of espionage” and imprisoned in 2006 before being exchanged in 2010 for some Russians accused of spying in the US.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the poison used was a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” and concluded that Russia was “highly likely” to have made the attempt. Also, the attack bore resemblance to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who fled prosecution and took asylum in Britain. On November 1, 2006, he fell ill and passed away twenty days later. The autopsy showed he had ingested poison – polonium-2010, and the Russians were accused of administering it.

The Russians denied being behind the Salisbury attack and asked the British for evidence beyond mere suspicion. An angry Britain responded by expelling 23 Russian diplomats, and the latter retaliated by also expelling an equal number of British diplomats and shutting down the British Council in Russia.

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured.

As a non-actor in this drama, and examining Prime Minister May’s submission to the British Parliament this Monday, that no other country “has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act”, I wonder if this is the same country that produced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his fictional smart detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’. If it is true that the poison was the type produced in Russia, is there no possibility that a third country or party could have used it, knowing that Russia will be blamed?

As it is, Britain has no conclusive proof, no evidence, and makes no presumption of innocence; it simply found Russia guilty, probably on the basis of the latter’s ‘bad boy’ image. It is like a crime committed in a neigbourhood and the police asks itself ‘who is the bad guy around’ and concludes that he is not just the suspect, but is in fact guilty. There is a saying that if the witch cries in the night, and the child dies in the morning, who does not know that it was the witch that killed the child? For good old fashioned Britain, Russia is the witch; it must have carried out the attack.

Britain might have been quite distraught and emotional about the Salisbury attack, but how do you explain the herd-like reaction of over two dozen countries, expelling Russian diplomats? Is it just a matter of siding with an ally, even if its position is highly flawed or an attempt by the European Union to show Britain that it needs solidarity within a common union, rather than Brexit?

The Euro-American outrage over the attack on Sergei Skripal is more political than a concern for human life. If this were not so, there should have been a similar wave of expulsion of Saudi Arabia diplomats for the country’s atrocious bombings of social gatherings, hospitals and schools in Yemen, which (according to the United Nations) had by November 2017 resulted in 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 injured. Rather than call the Saudis to order and stop these war crimes, countries like United States and Britain have increased their weapon sales to the Saudis. The Independent newspaper reported that rather than caution the Saudis, Britain, in the wake of the Yemeni massacres, increased the number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia by almost 500 percent, with over £4.6 billion realised from these sales of arms.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

Perhaps the most honest admission that the reasons for the expulsion of Russian diplomats is primarily political, came from the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, who told the press that the Salisbury attack was a mere trigger; he lists some of the sins of Russia: “We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine, we have seen cyber attacks, we have seen hybrid tactics, we have seen Russia investing heavily in modern military equipment and the willingness to use military force against neighbours”.

There is also the apprehension that Russia’s international image would be boosted by its hosting the 2018 World Cup, so there is need for Russia-bashing. Hence, amongst Britain’s ‘sanctions’ against Russia, is barring cabinet ministers and members of the royal family from the World Cup. Also, the British secretary of state for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson revealed that pressure is being put on the English team to boycott the World Cup in Moscow, because Russian president, Vladimir Putin would likely use it “like Hitler used the 1936 Olympics”.

So the international leaders of human rights and the sanctity of human life, have reduced the victims of the poison attack, to mere pawns in the chess game against Russia. The current expulsion game is like a reality show; even Stoltenberg admits that the primary effect on Russia is that the expulsions may reduce its capability to carry out intelligence work in the countries its diplomatic strength have been reduced. Generally, sanctions against Russia by the West have become seasonal with a lot of drama, but little effect. One major one was the 2014 sanctions over the Russian “annexation” of Crimea and its alleged interference in Ukraine.

I feel I am in a cinema hall waiting for the second part of this expulsion film; so I need to stretch my legs, get popcorn and a bottle of Zobo drink to watch Part II, which may be titled “Russia Retaliates”.

Russian Coach Cherchesov Bemoans Losses

World Cup hosts Russia were left to feel the pains of their successive loses to Brazil and France which bare their dire shortcomings ahead of the June kickoff to the international football extravaganza.

It was a month to forget for coach Stanislav Cherchesov and fans who cannot wait to see their team make it past the World Cup group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.

As well as the two defeats, racism reared its ugly head in Russian football once again, as French players Paul Pogba and Ousman Dembele were allegedly subjected to racial monkey chants on Tuesday.

The month began with bad news for Cherchesov as two starting defenders and a striker all suffered identical knee injuries that have ruled them out of the World Cup.

The impact of their absence was on vivid display in a 3-0 loss to Brazil on Friday in Moscow and 3-1 defeat by France in Saint Petersburg.

France’s Kylian Mbappe made Russia’s backline look pedestrian while scoring two and silencing the crowd of 50,000.

And only some instinctive saves from veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev had averted added humiliation as Russia were totally outplayed by Brazil.

“Except for Akinfeev and one or two others, I simply do not see anyone who can play at a high level at a tournament such as a World Cup,” former Russia coach Oleg Romantsev lamented.

 

– ‘We’re not ready’ –

Russia have not won in their last five matches 0 — all at home — and conceded a combined nine goals in their last three.

It is true that the four latest results came against teams of the highest calibre and included a 3-3 with Spain after a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in November.

But Russia had previously developed a reputation of playing up to the level of their competition.

The decision to line up four former World Cup winners in a row was meant to prove Russia had nothing to fear on home soil.

That claim now looks increasingly hollow after losing three of the four.

“If we lose, it shows we are not ready to play in the World Cup,” Russian Football Union member Andrei Sozin warned ahead of the France showdown.

Russia and Uruguay are still the favourites to progress from World Cup Group A, though, which includes Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

But their failure to do so would consign this generation of players to one of the darkest chapters of Russian and Soviet football history.

The problems for Cherchesov come at both ends.

The loss of striker Alexander Kokorin has left Fedor Smolov — author of Russia’s goal on Tuesday — as Cherchesov’s only proven scorer.

Moscow’s Sport Express newspaper said Russia will probably look to their attacking midfielders for salvation because they have no other viable striking options.

Yet it remains unclear how Cherchesov intends to patch up his back line without injured pair Georgy Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin.

Sport Express called Russia’s problems at the back almost irreparable.

“There is no competition in defence,” the newspaper wrote.

“And the saddest thing is that time after time, we gave up goals after individual mistakes by centre backs who are simply a class lower than their competition.”

Russia’s stand-in centre-back Roman Neustadter strongly disagreed.

“The longer we play together before the World Cup, the better we will get,” he said.

Russia will close out preparations on May 30 in Innsbruck against Austria and June 5 against Turkey in Moscow.

Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats

Russia President Vladimir Putin has expelled 23 British diplomats from Russia.

This action is coming shortly after 23 Russian diplomats were expelled from the UK following a nerve attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in the Salisbury, England.

Asides expelling British diplomats, Russia also shut down the UK consulate in St Petersburg and the British Council cultural organisation. The Russian foreign ministry said the move was a “response to the provocative actions of the British side and baseless accusations of the Russian Federation relating to the Salisbury incident”. It warned the UK against “further actions of an unfriendly nature”.

After being updated by the British Ambassador in Moscow, Theresa May has warned the Kremlin that Britain will not be cowed by its decision to expel 23 British diplomats in an escalation of the dispute following the Salisbury attack.

Responding to President Putin’s decision to escalate diplomatic tensions, Mrs May told a gathering of Conservative Party members that his antics would not distract from the fact that Russia was “in flagrant breach of international law.” Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in London, Mrs May said Russia’s response, which includes shutting down the British Council, did not “change the facts of the matter”,

Mrs May said: In light of their previous behaviour, we anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners.

“But Russia’s response doesn’t change the facts of the matter – the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable.

“It is Russia that is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Mrs May reiterated her intentions to “dismantle” the Russian spy network operating out of the UK and to suspend all planned contact between the UK and the Kremlin.

She said: “We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from the Russian Government.”

 

Russian Football Clubs Promise Peace In Europe Despite Violence

Moscow clubs are all promising that their supporters will be well and perfectlybehaved as they resume European action on Tuesday . This came out after clashes involving Russian supporters in Spain in which a policeman died of a heart attack.

The violence between followers of Spartak Moscow and Athletic Bilbao on February 22 sprung up pandemonium suggesting  that hooliganism could mar the first World Cup hosted by Russia.

It also echoed a brutal attack by muscle-bound Russians on English fans before the start of a Euro 2016 match in the French port city of Marseille that shocked the sporting world.

The Marseille mayhem left 35 people injured — three of them seriously — and saw the Russians involved proclaim themselves champions of the thug world.

These are not the bragging rights World Cup organisers are proud of — and ones Moscow’s CSKA and Lokomotiv will want to shed on Thursday.

CSKA will host French side Lyon while Lokomotiv travels away to Atletico Madrid for last 16 Europa League matches at which Russian fans’ behaviour may be as important as the result.

‘Safe in Moscow’

The return of Russian supporters to Spain for Lokomotiv’s encounter against the red half of Madrid is being watched especially closely.

The Russian Premier League leaders’ president Ilya Gerkus took pains to condemn the violence in Bilbao in which a policeman later died of a heart attack and insisted that Lokomotiv supporters were much better mannered.

“What happened in Spain is horrible,” Gerkus told the TASS news agency. “But I am confident that our fans are not like those who did all that.”

CSKA spokesman Sergei Aksyonov agreed that any French concern about flying to Moscow was unwarranted.

“Our team have hosted a number of Champions League and Europa League matches in recent years,” Aksyonov told AFP.

“The visiting teams’ supporters always felt completely safe in Moscow.”

Russian football officials point to similar security fears arising before Liverpool and Manchester United Champions’ League games in Moscow against Spartak and CSKA in September.

Both matches passed off without incident despite the volatile possibility of the sides resuming their Marseille hostilities.

Spartak blames the Bilbao violence on a hostile press that stoked public fears of the Russians ahead of the match.

The Moscow team further accuses “Basque radical groups” of heeding those warning and pouncing on the Russians as they were approaching the stadium.

“We knew that we would not be welcomed in Bilbao,” Spartak deputy president Nail Iznmailov was quoted as saying by TASS.

The world football governing body FIFA also stuck by Russia the day after the incident.

“FIFA has complete trust in the security arrangements and comprehensive security concept developed by the Russian authorities and the Local Organising Committee,” a FIFA spokesperson told AFP.

“As demonstrated during the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, Russia’s already high security standards have been adapted to meet the specific needs of such major sporting events.”

Hooliganism experts say Russia’s powerful FSB security service has cracked down hard on football gangs and blacklisted many of their leaders ahead of the World Cup.

The Russian government’s official plan is to force both foreign and domestic supporters to undergo background checks before receiving a special FanID card required to attend World Cup matches.

A security source said Russian law enforcement agents were also working with their counterparts from England and other countries to determine which fans were safe.

Russia Ban Lifted By IOC

The International Olympic Committee has lifted the doping ban on Russia, restoring the country’s rights in full, Russian officials said on Wednesday.

“The rights of the Russian Olympic Committee have been fully restored,” said the head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov.

Zhukov said Russia received a letter from the IOC Wednesday which confirms that no other Olympic athletes from Russia tested positive for doping, following two positive Russian drug tests at this month’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

“All of the doping tests that were conducted on our athletes in the last days of the Olympics were negative,” Zhukov said.

The IOC decided in a meeting Sunday that in such an event the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee would be lifted.

Russia was banned in December from taking part in the 2018 Olympics following revelations of widespread doping, though 168 athletes were deemed “clean” and were cleared to go to Pyeongchang to compete under the Olympic flag.

However, two Russians, curler Alexander Krushelnitsky and bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeyeva, were kicked out of the Olympics after their doping tests were revealed to be positive, with Krushelnitsky being stripped of his bronze medal.

Russia’s Olympic ban followed the uncovering of a doping conspiracy where tainted urine samples were switched with clean ones.

The government has denied any state involvement in the plot but a top sports official Vitaly Mutko, currently a deputy prime minister, was suspended by the IOC for life.

Russia Pays $15m Doping Fine To The Olympic Body

Russia has paid the $15 million it was fined in December when it was suspended by the International Olympic Committee for mass doping.

“The fine has been paid,” the source said.

The payment of the fine by the Russian Olympic Committee is one of the IOC’s key criteria in deciding whether to lift Russia’s suspension before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday.

The IOC barred Russia from the Olympics on December 5 after allegations that it had organised a huge system of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where hosts Russia topped the medals table.

A team of 168 Russian athletes deemed to have proved they are “clean” have been allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under the banner Olympic Athletes from Russia.

But Russia was embarrassed by the positive drugs test for curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky — one of the competitors who was extensively screened before he was allowed to attend the Games.

His case is due to be heard in a special session of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday.

Krushelnitsky, who tested positive for the endurance booster meldonium, has denied knowingly taking the substance and says he is in “shock” at the result.

Trump Slams FBI For Ignoring Signs

US President Donald Trump slammed the FBI Saturday for failing to heed signs that could have prevented the Florida school shooting, charging the agency was too preoccupied with probing his campaign team over Russian election meddling.

Allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and collusion with the Trump campaign are being investigated by several congressional committees and by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who took charge of the federal government’s probe from the FBI last year following the sacking of its former chief James Comey.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable,” he wrote on Twitter.

“They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

Troubled teen Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people with an assault rifle at his former high school in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

It was the 18th school shooting of the year and sparked renewed calls for gun control.

US authorities have come under mounting scrutiny for failing to act on a series of warning signs.

The FBI admitted Friday it received a chilling warning in January from a tipster who said Cruz could be planning a mass shooting, but that agents failed to follow up.

Cruz was also known to local police after his mother repeatedly reported him for violent outbursts, while records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel show authorities investigated him in 2016 after he cut his arms on messaging app Snapchat and threatened to buy a gun.

Mueller’s investigation has so far swept up four members of Trump’s campaign, with two agreeing to work for the probe under a plea deal.

On Thursday Mueller indicted 13 Russians for allegedly running a secret campaign to tilt the vote, but did not accuse any Americans of knowingly participating in that effort.

AFP.

Instagram Removes Posts To Favour Deputy Prime Minister Sergie Prikhodko Of Russia

Instagram has received a lot of backlash from the citizens of Russians following an accusation that the photo app is helping bury evidences that prove Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko enjoyed luxurious hospitality from billionaire tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

According to reports Instagram removed the post which was meant to form part of an investigation published last week by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, alleging that Prikhodko had vacationed on Deripaska’s yacht off the coast of Norway.

Russia’s communications watchdog has said it asked photo sharing website Instagram to remove posts that allegedly show  The site, which is owned by social media giant Facebook, obliged to the request on Thursday.

Both Prikhodko and Deripaska have denied the allegations.

Kremlin critic Navalny decried Instagram’s decision to comply with Russian authorities. In a rare tweet posted in English, Navalny wrote:

“@instagram decided to comply with Russian illegal censorship requests and deleted some content about oligarch Deripaska. Shame on you, @instagram! This content was spotlighted by our corruption investigation.”

The videos were reportedly recorded and uploaded by a woman called Nastya Rybka, who said she was hired by a modeling agency to spend time on Deripaska’s yacht. Rybka, who worked as an escort, also claimed she had an affair with the aluminum magnate.

A 25-minute video of Navalny presenting the investigation in Russian was also uploaded to YouTube last week, where it has already amassed some 5 million views.

As of Thursday, the video still remained online, although Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had issued a request to Google to delete the video.

 

Ex Governor Jailed For Accepting Bribes

The Russian state media has reported that former Governor and Opposition Leader, Nikita Belykh, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on Friday for accepting bribes of 750,000 dollars. The time he has already spent in custody will count towards his prison term, .

Belykh, who headed the central Kirov region for seven years until he was detained at a Moscow restaurant in 2016, was accused of offering protection for investment projects in exchange for bribes.

Belykh has denied wrongdoing and condemned the charges as trumped up.

Before becoming governor, Belykh headed the Union of Right Forces political party, previously led by prominent opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015.
His murder, blamed on Chechen hitmen, sent shock waves throughout the country’s fragmented political opposition.