‘Reckless Russians’: BoJo and NATO head need no proof to blame Moscow

By ethan / March 19, 2018

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg wasted no time backing the UK’s accusations against Moscow in the Skripal case, but the absence of facts did not seem to matter in this case or other “examples” of Moscow’s “reckless behavior.”

The NATO Secretary General delivered the comments at a joint press conference with the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Brussels on Monday, where Johnson came to secure European support in the Skripal case.

READ MORE: Evidence before accusations: Austria asks for full-fledged Skripal investigation

Stoltenberg branded the Salisbury chemical incident an “attack,” despite the fact that the exact causes of the alleged poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were still undetermined and not even a shade of evidence has surfaced yet. The UK blamed Moscow for the incident, naming the mysterious Novichok nerve agent, presumably of Soviet origin, as the toxin involved.

“The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory. It showed total disrespect for human lives. And the attack was an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules,” Stoltenberg stated, adding that the incident followed a pattern of “reckless behavior” on Russia’s part.

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Members of the emergency services wearing protective clothing work near the bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018.  © Henry Nicholls

The official provided examples of such “behavior,” which consisted of a usual set of anti-Russian allegations raised over the past few years. The only fact Stoltenberg mentioned was the reunification of Crimea with Russia, following the 2014 referendum. As usual, the NATO chief described the reunification as an act of “illegal annexation” and a violation of the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” The other “examples” he mentioned did not hold water and were mere speculations, namely alleging that Russian was involved in the civil conflict in eastern Ukraine and “different types of hybrid tactics including cyber-attacks” of some sort.

“We have seen that Russia continues to interfere in our democratic political processes and undermine our democratic institutions,” Stoltenberg stated, without giving any concrete examples.

Johnson provided a similar list of “samples” of Russia’s allegedly “reckless behavior,” also adding the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign in Syria to the list. It was unclear how the Foreign Secretary considered fighting internationally recognized terrorist groups under the invitation of a country’s democratically elected government would be considered “reckless.”

Stoltenberg insisted that NATO’s approach to Russia was “firm, defensive and proportionate,” but with “openness to a meaningful dialogue.”

“We continue to call on Russia to provide complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Stoltenberg said, while he accused Russia of “disregard for international peace and security,” which was apparently shown through Moscow’s reaction to the UK’s accusations over the Skripal case.

READ MORE: ‘Why would Russia blow Novichok program by assassinating an old bloke?’ – former ambassador (VIDEO)

Russia has firmly dismissed all the allegations and urged the UK to provide samples of the nerve agent or some other evidence, instead of simply producing hysterical accusations.

“The fact, that they [UK officials] categorically reject to file an official request and deliberately and arrogantly fan anti-Russian rhetoric in the public sphere bordering on hysteria, indicates that they clearly understand they have no formal pretext to go down a legal road,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

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Was Corbyn's hat photoshopped to look 'Russian?' Alex Salmond clashes with BBC journo

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Alex Salmond has engaged in a heated exchange with British journalist John Sweeney over accusations that the BBC Newsnight program photoshopped Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s hat to make him look ‘more Russian.’

 Twitter has been ablaze with accusations that the BBC’s current affairs program intentionally photoshopped an image of Corbyn to give viewers the impression that he is somehow a traitor to Britain and an agent of Russia. 

 The image — which showed Corbyn wearing a Lenin-style hat imposed on a backdrop of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow with a red filter applied — appeared during a discussion between Labour Party MP Harriet Harman and former Labour leader Ed Miliband about escalating tensions with Russia.

On his LBC radio show, the former Scottish first minister asked Sweeney “if the BBC did or did not photoshop the Jeremy Corbyn image?” — but before even answering the question, Sweeney immediately changed the subject to Salmond’s relationship with RT, which broadcasts The Alex Salmond Show.

When Sweeney finally answered the question, denying that the hat had been photoshopped, Salmon shot back: “I’m looking at this image, there’s no doubt that in the picture of Jeremy Corbyn of a perfectly respectable hat on with a peak, seems to have been transformed into red picture of Jeremy Corbyn against the Kremlin and the peak of the hat seems to have disappeared.”

Sweeney responded by calling Salmond “silly” before changing the subject once again. Salmond then asked why the BBC had put a red filter over the picture, which they had not done when they showed Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson in front of the same background. Sweeney laughed but did not answer. 

 Salmond continued to push Sweeney: “You can not come on as a serious journalist and say that picture, a perfectly innocent picture of Jeremy Corbyn, of an innocent looking hat has suddenly been transformed with a red background against the Kremlin and the hat seems to have been changed to make it look like a Cossack!”

 Each time Salmond pushed Sweeney to explain why the BBC presented Corbyn as a “Kremlin stooge,” Sweeney changed the subject to discuss unrelated topics like the treatment of opposition figures in Russia and the recent Russian presidential election.

 Corbyn has been criticized, even by members of his own party, for refusing to blame Moscow for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

“To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security,” Corbyn wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian.

Sweeney continued to deny that the BBC treated Corbyn disrespectfully and was uninterested in Salmond’s suggestion that the channel should apologize to Corbyn, again shifting the focus to RT and away from accusations levelled at the BBC. “I’m not going to say sorry to anyone who works for Russia Today,” he said.

Some Twitter users have suggested that while the BBC may have only darkened the hat and not photoshopped it entirely, the intention was still to paint Corbyn as a Russia-sympathizer and Communist.

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Jim Carrey faces Twitter backlash for ‘monstrous’ portrait of White House spokesperson

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Comedian Jim Carrey turned to art (loosely defined) to mock President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. His derisive portrait was widely rebuked on social media, however.

The ‘Bruce Almighty’ star unveiled his magnum opus to his 17 million Twitter followers over the weekend. “This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!” Carrey wrote.

Many users were less than impressed with the caricature, accusing Carrey of bullying and sexism.

Carrey has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration and has tweeted similarly unflattering portraits of Republican figures in the past.

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Skripal case: EU demands ‘disclosure of Novichok program,’ Russia says it has 'nothing to disclose’

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Moscow says it is “miffed” at the European Union’s “hasty, speculative, and evidence-free” judgment on the Sergei Skripal incident, and maintains that it has no stocks of Novichok, the nerve agent purportedly used to poison him.

On Monday, the European Council, which represents the heads of governments of the EU states, issued a statement that it “takes extremely seriously the UK Government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible” for the March 4 attack.

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A police car is parked at the cordon near the tent covering the park bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned in Salisbury, Britain, March 19, 2018 © Peter Nicholls

The Council went on to say that it was “shocked at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years” and it called on Moscow “to address urgently the questions raised by the UK and the international community and to provide immediate, full and complete disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret “the European Union has ignored obvious facts…and has let its decisions be driven by misconstrued notions of European solidarity, and its anti-Russian reflexes,” it said in a press release published on Monday evening.

Moscow then accused Brussels of “ignoring” the OPCW, the international chemical weapons watchdog, which officially declared that Russia had finished destroying its store of similar weapons last year.

“We have nothing to ‘disclose’ as is demanded by the European Union, as no agents under the name of Novichok are produced or stockpiled in Russia. Perhaps it should redirect its queries to the UK or other member states where such substances are evidently still being developed,” said the Foreign Ministry.

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Spartak Moscow fans vote for manager Carrera in Russian presidential election

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Vladimir Putin may have run out a clear winner in the 2018 Russian presidential election, but Spartak Moscow fans tried their best to make manager Massimo Carrera a candidate in the ‘race for the Kremlin’.

Putin secured another six-year term as Russian president, which was confirmed on Monday after all the ballot papers had been counted. But Spartak Moscow fans managed to alter some of those to include the name of their manager – Massimo Carrera.

Italian Carrera won the race for the Russian Premier League (RPL) title last year, bringing Spartak their first league title in 16 years. Loyal Spartak fans clearly wanted to show their high opinion of the managerial maestro by trying to vote him as Russian president as well.

Carrera came to Spartak in the summer of 2016, having previously been second in command to current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte at Juventus and Italy, capturing the Russian title at the first attempt.

READ MORE: ‘Our matches were an event’ – Putin talks secret service football games in East Germany

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‘Why would Russia blow Novichok program by assassinating an old bloke?’ – former ambassador (VIDEO)

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Former British ambassador Craig Murray scoffed at the notion that anyone could believe the UK’s argument that Russia poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The diplomat turned blogger talked to RT on Monday.

The former ambassador to Uzbekistan detailed a claim first made in his blog, that the language around London’s accusation against Moscow has been “very carefully formulated.”

Continuing, Murray claimed “The UK’s laboratory, Porton Down, refused to say that this nerve agent was made in Russia. The UK government put them under heavy pressure to say this nerve agent was made in Russia. They [Porton Down] said there was no evidence it was made in Russia.”

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© I-Images

Murray asserted that a linguistic formula was agreed upon, which labeled the nerve agent used in the poisoning as “a type developed by Russia.” The blogger detailed that “exactly the same formulation” was used in a NATO communiqué, Theresa May’s address to Parliament, the UK statement to the UN Security Council, and was contained in a recent EU statement.

“They’ve never said this nerve agent was made in Russia, [or] was produced in Russia, [or] was manufactured in Russia.”

Murray went on to challenge London’s assertion that the nerve agent was solely produced by Russia. “The alleged chemical formula for producing Novichoks was published – you can buy it from Amazon – it was published 12 years ago in a book. And the Iranians with OPWC [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] supervision synthesized Novichok in 2016. So many people can make this.”

On Monday, the UK is set to hand samples of the A-234 nerve agent (also known as Novichok) used in Skripal’s poisoning to a UN watchdog, the OPCW. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Russia on Sunday of creating and storing the Novichok nerve agent, which London says was used in the attack on Skripal. Johnson claimed that the UK has “evidence… collected over the past 10 years” that Moscow has been developing nerve agents “for the purpose of committing murder.”

Murray expressed his disappointment that no UK journalists have asked: “Can you confirm that this was definitely made in Russia?”

“The idea that we have an investigative or free journalism in this country has been sadly exposed by this case.”

If Russia had the program that Johnson outlined, which the guest estimated would have cost hundreds of millions, Murray wondered why Russia would blow it on “assassinating an old retired bloke in Salisbury they let out of prison a decade ago?”

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Uber suspends self-driving vehicle tests after fatal crash

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Uber is pausing its autonomous car tests after a woman died in Arizona. The pedestrian was hit by a self-driving Uber vehicle.

The woman died after being hit by the self-driving car operated by the company in Tempe, Arizona, the New York Times reports. The vehicle was driving in autonomous mode with a human driver at the wheel when it struck the unnamed woman as she was crossing the street, Tempe police said.

The woman was taken to hospital but later died from her injuries, NBC 26 reports. The incident occurred near Mill Avenue and Curry Road early Monday morning, according to ABC15.

Tests in San Francisco, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Toronto are being paused, the company told Bloomberg in an email on Monday.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” Uber said in a tweet. “We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident.”

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Radioactive substance worth $70mn seized in Ankara, 4 detained – reports

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Four people were arrested in Ankara after they were found to have a nuclear substance in their car, local media reported. They were aiming to sell the substance for more than $ 70 million, according to NTV news channel.

READ MORE: Mysterious enriched uranium particle detected in skies over Alaska

Around 1.4 kilograms of the synthetic radioactive substance californium was found in the car during the raid, according to NTV and the state-run Anadolu Agency

The raid was conducted by the authorities in Ankara, who were acting on a tip-off.

Californium is used in nuclear reactors. Its name was derived from the University of California, where it was originally synthesized.

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Putin to meet PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic medalists in Kremlin

By ethan / March 19, 2018

President Vladimir Putin will hold a special meeting on Tuesday with Russian Paralympians who earned medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Games in South Korea.

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© Carl Recine

“On March 20, President Putin will meet the winners and medalists of the XII PyeongChang Paralympic games in the Kremlin to present them with state honors,” the Kremlin press office said on its website on Monday.

As well as the Olympic team, which Putin welcomed at the end of the PyeongChang Games, he also traditionally greets members of the Paralympic squad and presents state honors to those who were among the podium finishers at the Winter Games.

Russian Paralympians were forced to compete in PyeongChang under a neutral flag, but won a total of 24 medals, putting them second in the overall standings.

Russian skiers Anna Milenina, Ekaterina Rumyantseva and Mikhalina Lysova claimed 16 medals between them, including seven golds.

In January, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ruled to keep in force the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) over alleged doping violations, obliging the Russian team members to compete as neutrals in South Korea, without the national flag and anthem.

Despite only 30 Russians being declared eligible for PyeongChang, the reduced squad managed to win a total of eight gold, 10 silver and six bronze medals to finish second in the overall standings.

READ MORE: 30 Russian Paralympians approved to compete as neutrals at PyeongChang

That put them just behind the USA, whose team in South Korea boasted double the number of athletes.

The US squad, represented by 68 competitors, topped the PyeongChang medals table with 13 gold, 15 silver and eight bronze medals.

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Violence breaks out at Tommy Robinson’s ‘free speech’ rally (VIDEO)

By ethan / March 19, 2018

Supporters of the ex-English Defence League leader Robinson scuffled with counter-protesters during a ‘free speech’ rally held at Hyde Park’s iconic Speakers’ Corner. Scores of police were on hand to attempt to keep the peace.

Before Robinson’s address, Speakers’ Corner veteran HeikoKhoo was harangued and abused by the right-winger’s supporters. One man ripped off Khoo’s hat, while others shouted obscenities and surrounded the left-wing activist.

The supporters had rallied to hear Robinson read out a ‘banned speech’ by Generation Identity’s Martin Sellner, who was denied entry to the UK. Robinson delivered the speech to thousands who braved the cold weather, gathering in the snow at Speakers’ Corner, a landmark of free speech in London. Marx, Lenin, and George Orwell all gave speeches at the iconic Hyde Park location.

A handful of Muslim counter-protesters confronted Robinson and his group, pushing back against police and the protesters. Scuffles broke out and it is understood that police made a handful of arrests.

A live stream posted from Robinson’s YouTube channel showed large crowds of supporters and counter-protesters, while police can be seen around the far-right speaker, who made headlines last week for punching a migrant in the face in Rome. Supporters could be heard chanting “free speech,” making Robinson’s voice impossible to be heard clearly for those viewing at home.

Muslim protesters responded with cries of “Allahu Akbar!” with both groups trying to drown the other out. According to one attendee, Robinson vowed he would be back at Speakers’ Corner next week to challenge the Muslim speakers who are there, among others, on a weekly basis.

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