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1. Ex-Russian president comments on EU ‘peacekeepers’20:51[-/+]

These “wolves in sheep’s clothing” will be combatants and return in body bags, says Dmitry Medvedev

Any EU “peacekeepers” sent to Ukraine will be considered enemy combatants directly involved in the conflict and treated accordingly, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a radio interview that the bloc was discussing “some kind of peacekeeping force” for Ukraine, perhaps under a NATO aegis. The Kremlin responded by calling the idea “extremely dangerous.”

Medvedev, who is the deputy chair of the Russian Security Council, called the idea peak cynicism. The US-led bloc “continues to stuff the Kiev regime with weapons, tanks and other military equipment,” he said on Telegram, so it’s hard to imagine they want peace.

“Their true intentions are clear – to establish a peace advantageous to them from a position of strength on the contact line. To introduce their ‘peacekeeping’ troops into Ukraine with machine guns and tanks, in some blue helmets with yellow stars,” wrote Medvedev.

Read more
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
NATO fighting on Kiev’s side – Lavrov

“It is clear that the so-called NATO peacekeepers are just going to enter the conflict on the side of our enemies,” he added. “It’s also obvious that such ‘peacemakers’ are our direct enemies. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will be a legitimate target for our armed forces if they are placed on the front line without Russia’s consent, with weapons in their hands and directly threatening us. And then these ‘peacemakers’ must be ruthlessly destroyed. They are soldiers of the enemy. They are combatants.”

The only thing that remains to be clarified, Medvedev concluded, is whether Europe is ready for “a long line of coffins” coming back from Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly warned the US and its allies to desist from sending weapons to Ukraine, as this only prolongs the conflict and risks a direct confrontation between nuclear-armed powers. NATO has sent over $100 billion in military aid – including tanks and fighter jets – to Kiev, while insisting the bloc is not a participant in the conflict.

However, multiple high-ranking Western officials have said that “strategic defeat” of Russia was their objective, and, according to Moscow, the US recently vetoed any ceasefire in Ukraine – belying its previous insistence that it was up to Kiev to make that decision.

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2. Russia’s revised foreign policy concept: Key points20:32[-/+]

Moscow aims to defend the emerging multipolar world order against the vestiges of Western domination

Offering a glimpse into the nation’s strategic priorities beyond its borders, Russia has released its updated foreign policy concept, signed into effect by President Vladimir Putin on Friday. With significant implications for Moscow’s relationships with key players around the world, the document will undoubtedly be closely scrutinized in the weeks ahead.

Putin explained that the need to review the key document was caused by “drastic changes” in the international landscape, including what Moscow described as an ongoing “hybrid war” waged by the West against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

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3. Norway's wealth fund unable to withdraw funds from Russia20:16[-/+]

Hundreds of millions of dollars are stuck in the country due to Western sanctions, the fund's management says

Norway's $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, one of the world's largest investors, is still unable to divest its holdings in Russia as the custodian bank is under Western sanctions, the Norwegian Finance Ministry said on Friday.

The Oslo-based Government Pension Fund is the world’s biggest owner of publicly traded companies with a portfolio of about 9,000 stocks. It has around 0.2% of its assets invested in Russia.

“The market for trading in Russian financial instruments is still subject to comprehensive sanctions and has not been normalized as of March 2023,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Nordic country’s authorities decided to sell Russian stocks right after the start of the military operation in Ukraine. The fund held shares in 47 Russian companies and government bonds valued at 25 billion Norwegian crowns ($2.4 billion) at the end of 2021.

However, at that time the fund’s management was resisting pressure to shed Russian assets, with CEO Nicolai Tangen saying it would be “a wrapped gift to the oligarchs who buy our shares.”

READ MORE: Russia makes payment on sovereign debt

Since then, Western nations have imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia which now prevent the Norwegian pension fund from divesting its assets.

“The concrete and practical problem is that the custodian bank that we use is under sanctions, and can't assist us with settlement of transactions, and neither with voting on shares” in Russian companies, deputy CEO, Trond Grande said in January. The situation is “deadlocked” he noted, adding that “there is no way we can either sell or buy or vote on these shares.”

Details of the fund’s portfolio at the end of 2022 released in January revealed a loss of about $2.8 billion from Russian holdings, compared to their value at the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, Russia has repeatedly warned that sanctions imposed on the country would backfire. Earlier this month, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Western nations would “suffer from their own restrictions” while being “disappointed” by Russia's resilience.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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4. Chinese students get time off to ‘fall in love’20:07[-/+]

Nine colleges encouraged students to use their week off in April to find a mate

A group of vocational colleges in China have granted their students a week off in April with the express purpose being to enjoy the outdoors and find a romantic partner.

The colleges of the Fan Mei Education Group are all vocational schools for jobs within the aviation industry, including pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers.

“The school implements the spring break system in the hope that students can learn to love nature, love life, and enjoy love,” the Mianyang Aviation Vocational College announced in a statement on March 23. It encouraged students to “walk out of campus, get in touch with nature, and with your heart feel the beauty of spring.”

In its own statement, the Qingdao Aviation Technology Vocational College said the purpose of the spring break between April 1 to 7 was to “enjoy the flowers and to fall in love.”

Read more
Chinese mission leads to major lunar discovery

While the college announcements made no mention of the country’s aging population or shrinking labor force, some Chinese social media users and Western media outlets linked the decision to concerns surrounding China’s declining birth rates.

“I’m sure this is just another attempt to push people into having more babies,” one person wrote on the Chinese social media site Weibo, according to Fox News.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported a population drop of 850,000 in 2022, the first decrease since 1962. The data showed a record-low birth rate and the highest death rate since 1976. Last October, President Xi Jinping pledged to “boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing, and schooling.”

In addition to chasing romance, the students will still have college work to do during their week off — but the assignments include writing travel diaries, crafting or filming videos of their holiday activities, according to China Youth Daily.

The love-themed spring break is an extension of China's annual one-day national tomb-sweeping holiday, known as the Qingming Festival, which falls on April 5 this year.

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5. Richard Branson’s rocket firm axes nearly entire workforce20:07[-/+]

Virgin Orbit will let go 85% of its staff and cease operations for the foreseeable future, a filing says

Richard Branson’s satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, has revealed it will cut 675 jobs, or almost all of its personnel, after failing to secure funding over a failed mission.

According to a Friday filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the California-based firm will eliminate all but 100 positions, with the layoffs reportedly to affect every team and department.

“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company,” CEO Dan Hart told employees during an all-hands meeting on Thursday afternoon, as quoted by CNBC. “We have no choice but to implement immediate, dramatic and extremely painful changes,” he reportedly said, stressing it would be “probably the hardest all-hands that we’ve ever done in my life.”

According to the chief executive, Virgin Orbit is ceasing operations “for the foreseeable future.” The company will “provide a severance package for every departing” employee, Hart promised, with a cash payment, extension of benefits, and support in finding a new position. A “direct pipeline” has been reportedly set up with sister company Virgin Galactic for hiring.

The announcement, which sparked fears that the firm may be on the brink of collapse, comes after Virgin Orbit's failure in January in its mission to launch the first satellite from UK soil. The company, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, revealed the results of the investigation in February, showing that its rocket’s fuel filter had become dislodged causing an engine to become overheated and other components to malfunction over the Atlantic Ocean.

READ MORE: ‘Historic’ UK space mission ends in fiasco

The mission was supposed to be the first launch of commercial satellites from Western Europe for Virgin Orbit, a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. In 2020, the company’s first launch using LauncherOne ended up in failure, but later Virgin Orbit conducted several successful missions from US soil, delivering satellites to Earth orbit.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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6. Plant fungus infects humans – report20:03[-/+]

A disease that typically affects trees has been found to have caused symptoms in a man in India

Doctors in India have recorded the first known case of a human becoming infected by a plant fungus that is usually found in trees.

Chondrostereum purpureum, which is more commonly known as silverleaf fungus, often affects species of roses and turns their leaves a silvery color before killing branches or even the whole plant.

However, it now appears that the fungus can also infect humans, after a 61-year-old man from eastern India was admitted to hospital with a range of symptoms that had been bothering him for three months, including fatigue, hoarseness, a cough, and difficulty swallowing.

After performing an X-ray of the patient’s chest, doctors failed to identify the issue, but a CT scan of the man’s neck revealed an abscess, which was tested and eventually identified as silverleaf fungus.

Read more
Dangers posed by toilet paper exposed

Chondrostereum purpureum typically spreads through spores that are released into the air, allowing it to infect nearby plants. It is not clear how the Indian man became infected with the fungus.

The patient was a plant mycologist, according to the case report, but he denied ever working with silverleaf fungus. However, he had worked with decaying materials, mushrooms, and other plant fungi in the course of his research.

Doctors completely drained the abscess and treated the infection with antifungal medication. The man has since been discharged from hospital, and there is no sign of recurrence, according to the researchers.

While the team believes that this particular case may have been caused by the patient working in close proximity to the fungus, they nevertheless raised concerns about the potential of the silverleaf fungus, as well as other strains, to cause illness in people.

“Among the millions of fungi present in the environment, only a few hundreds of fungi are able to infect humans and animals,” they explained in the report. “That animal and human diseases can be caused by plant pathogens is a new concept that raises serious questions regarding the propensity of such infection to occur in healthy as well as immunocompromised individuals.”

“If the fungi can escape the phagocytosis pathway and is able to evade the host immune system, then they can establish themselves as human pathogens,” the researchers warned, noting that multiple new pathogenic fungi and zoonotic viral and bacterial diseases have been discovered in the past several decades, presumably due to global warming, alteration of ecosystems, international travel, and unplanned urbanization.

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7. Fyodor Lukyanov: China’s Xi is right, the world is currently undergoing changes not seen for a century19:05[-/+]

It’s time to buckle up, because the post-WW2 and Cold War systems no longer suit the global order

Humanity has been gripped by a frenzy. The political and military crisis in Europe has captured everyone's attention, but in global terms it’s only part of a larger picture. The tensions over Ukraine, and even the wider conflict concerning post-Cold War European security, are elements (but not the core reasons) behind a major shift.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping parted company with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, it was no coincidence that he remarked that the changes now taking place are the biggest in a century. A hundred years ago, the old world was fast disappearing. Empires were crumbling, the structure of societies was changing, and old ideologies were being radicalized in an attempt to meet people’s needs or point them in the right direction. Two World Wars, a global economic crisis, the resurgence of all sorts of local conflicts, and social experiments – that were generally very costly for the people – were all signs of the very changes the Chinese leader was recalling. No one wants to go through that again. Still, there is hope that certain constraints have emerged in recent decades that will prevent extremes – from nuclear weapons to the ability to respond more flexibly to socio-economic upheavals.

In recent days, the news has seemed to confirm the seriousness of the tensions. Germany saw its biggest strike for decades, with transport workers protesting against worsening conditions. France is on fire after the government decided to raise the retirement age, bypassing a parliamentary vote as the reform failed to win a majority. In Israel, a violent confrontation has erupted over the cabinet’s intention to curb the powers of the judiciary, which its opponents see as a coup attempt.

It is clear that each of these events has its own circumstances and that there is no direct link between them. What they have in common is that they are all manifestations of a painful socio-political transformation.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. Members of the 118th Congress stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Andrey Sushentsov: The people who brought you the Iraq war loudly support arming Ukraine. Where will this lead?

The second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first have been very comfortable times for the world as a whole. In terms of the overall geopolitical arrangement, we saw first a rather strong balance based on bipolar confrontation, then a relatively stable hegemony. But there has also been progress in the social and economic senses.

Many positive changes took place after the Second World War. The welfare state model spread across most of Europe, and even the United States, with its more modest traditions in this sphere, made great strides. Similar changes also took place on the other side of the Iron Curtain, with a focus on improving living standards and consumer diversity added to the traditional priorities of defence. In the Third World, as colonial possessions were disappearing there was an enthusiasm for freedom and a belief in the future. Even if many of the new states carried little heft.

The end of the Cold War brought with it new expectations. The ‘free world’ enjoyed a ‘peace dividend’ (reduced military spending) and the opportunity to extend its economic expansion into previously closed areas. The former socialist countries took advantage of the opening up in every way they could and – at least for individuals – there were more opportunities than before. This was often to the detriment of state capacity, but it was believed that this was the general trend – the individual was more important. Eventually, the former Third World tried to take advantage of both. Many countries in Asia, for example, have benefited greatly from globalization. Meanwhile, a lot of people from states which have underachieved have chosen to move to wealthier locations.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. Wearing traditional shirts, Thomas Bach (center, left), IOC president, and Xi Jinping (center, right), president of the People's Republic of China, attend dinner on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Timofey Bordachev: Why the West’s standoff with Russia and China is a big opportunity for the world’s second-tier powers

Both periods had one thing in common – a widespread feeling that tomorrow would be better than yesterday. However, now, just like that, it’s over.

At present, it’s commonplace to accuse political elites of unprofessionalism and bad governance. Without making excuses for individual politicians, the current generation – which grew up in these very favourable conditions – has had to deal with shifts of a tectonic nature.

The exhaustion of the previous financial model of the capitalist economy, the communications revolution (one of the main results of which is the mental divide between the mature and the young), technological change with inevitable consequences for the labour market, an ageing population in the developed countries, and a rejuvenation in previously troubled states is creating a completely different international environment. Moreover, the interconnectedness of the planet does not allow anyone to isolate themselves from the general instability, which spills over national borders in various forms. Moreover, as was the case a century ago, the growth of socio-political activism among the masses is leading to the radicalization of political groups. And with traditional parties and ideologies in deep crisis, radicalization can take quite archaic forms.

We will take our cue from Xi, who sees the changes taking place as a sign of necessary renewal. And we will manage the costs somehow.

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8. Italy bans ChatGPT19:03[-/+]

The country's data protection authority has demanded that the chatbot’s creator OpenAI take action or face hefty fines

Italy’s data protection watchdog has banned access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, due to alleged privacy violations. The decision came after a data breach on March 20 that exposed users’ conversations and payment information.

ChatGPT, which was launched in November 2022, has become popular for its ability to write in different styles and languages, create poems, and even write computer code.

However, the Italian National Authority for Personal Data Protection criticized the chatbot for not providing an information notice to users whose data is collected by OpenAI. The watchdog also took issue with the “lack of a legal basis” that would justify the collection and mass storage of personal data intended to “train” the algorithms that run the platform.

Although the chatbot is intended for people over the age of 13, the Italian authorities also blasted OpenAI for failing to install any filters to verify user age, which they claim can lead to minors being presented with responses “absolutely not in accordance with their level of development.”

The watchdog is now demanding that OpenAI “communicate within 20 days the measures undertaken” to remedy this situation or face a fine of up to 4% of its annual worldwide turnover. The decision to block the chatbot and temporarily limit the processing of Italian users’ data via OpenAI has taken “immediate effect,” the organization added.

Read more
Musk demands AI pause

Meanwhile, over 1,100 AI researchers and prominent tech leaders, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, have signed an open letter demanding a six-month moratorium on “giant AI experiments.”

The signatories claim that “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity” and that the rapidly advancing technology should be “planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.” The group has strongly cautioned against allowing an “out-of-control race to develop and deploy even more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

The letter states that if the AI developers can’t govern themselves, governments must step in, creating regulatory bodies capable of reigning in runaway systems, funding safety research, and softening the economic blow when super-intelligent systems start taking over human jobs.

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9. Russia makes payment on sovereign debt19:00[-/+]

According to the country’s settlement depository, Moscow fulfilled its obligations on Friday

Russia’s Finance Ministry announced on Friday it has settled two issues of dollar-denominated Eurobonds “in full” by sending 17 billion rubles ($221.1 million) in coupon payments to the National Settlement Depository (NSD).

According to the ministry, the payments were on Eurobonds maturing in 2030.

“Thus, obligations on servicing the state securities of the Russian Federation were fulfilled by the Finance Ministry in full,” the statement said.

The payments were made under the mechanism that enables transactions in rubles that was introduced last June, in response to Western sanctions and US attempts to prevent Russia from making debt payments in foreign currency.

Moscow accused Washington at the time of trying to engineer an artificial default, since the country was fully capable of paying its debts.

The mechanism has allowed Russia to pay its foreign-currency debt obligations on time.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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10. Japan bans exports of kids’ toys to Russia18:28[-/+]

The restrictions are intended to prevent “the strengthening of Russia’s industrial base”

Japan has introduced new restrictions against Russia on Friday, adding children’s toys to a new list of goods subject to an export ban.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has revised its trade restrictions on “goods that contribute to the strengthening of Russia’s industrial base,” according to an official statement issued on Friday.

The updated list includes goods such as steel, aluminum, construction machinery, electrical equipment, radio equipment for navigation, aircraft, and spacecraft. The list also features goods for children, such as toys, scale models, puzzles and items on wheels (bicycles and prams).

“In the more-than-200-year history of sanctions, there have never been bans on the supply of goods for children,” Andrey Suzdaltsev from the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics wrote on his Telegram channel. “Apparently, Japan has declared war on the children of Russia,” he added.

According to a report by independent news network BNN, the “inclusion of toys in the export ban, especially the popular Pokemon franchise… highlights Japan’s intent to exert pressure on Russia through various avenues, including targeting consumer goods that hold both cultural and economic significance.”

The embargo will come into force on April 7.

Read more
Japan skirting Russian oil price cap – media

Tokyo’s latest ban is an expansion of restrictions imposed earlier this year, which covered items that can be used for military purposes, dual-use goods, certain commodities, and semiconductors.

Since the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, Japan has imposed sanctions on the Russian leadership, banks and companies, and stripped Russia of its most-favored-nation status in trade. Tokyo has blacklisted over 50 enterprises and more than 900 individuals. The Japanese authorities have also frozen the assets of Russian banks and the assets of nearly 40 companies and organizations.

Moscow responded by including Japan on its list of so-called “unfriendly” countries, and banned dozens of Japanese politicians and media representatives from visiting Russia. Among other measures, Russia ended an arrangement dating back to 1991 that allowed Japanese citizens to visit the Kuril Islands without a visa, and has broken off talks with Japan on formally ending the Second World War, citing Tokyo’s “openly unfriendly” conduct. The two states never formally concluded a peace treaty after WWII, due to a dispute over the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain, which Japan calls its “Northern Territories.”

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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11. Wimbledon lifts Russia and Belarus ban, with a catch18:24[-/+]

Players from both nations will be required to sign ‘neutrality agreements’ to play at the Grand Slam tennis tournament

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will once again be permitted to compete at Wimbledon after the All England Club (AELTC) announced on Friday that it was ending the suspension imposed last year following the onset of the conflict in Ukraine.

Players such as Russia’s Daniil Medvedev – currently ranked fifth in the world – and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka – ranked second – will once again be eligible to participate in the Grand Slam event “subject to competing as neutral athletes,” the AELTC said.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted,” the group’s chairman, Ian Hewitt, added.

The criteria for inclusion, the AELTC explained in the Friday statement, includes prohibiting players from expressing support for Russia’s ongoing military action in Ukraine. Players will also be barred from receiving financial support from either Russia or Belarus – but they won’t be required to criticize their government.

Read more
UK tennis faces ‘existential threat’ over Russian ban – LTA

The decision taken last year by the AELTC to suspend Russians and Belarusians came in sharp contrast to stances adopted by the sport’s various governing bodies. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had all approved the participation of players from both nations to compete as neutrals.

However, Wimbledon’s ban drew criticism from both the ATP and WTA, who withdrew ranking points from the event – effectively commuting the event into an exhibition tournament. Both bodies also imposed fines on the AELTC and its partner, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

The LTA, which organizes various UK tournaments that take place in advance of Wimbledon, said in February that it faced an “existential threat” if the suspension of Russians and Belarusians was to continue, fearing further disciplinary measures. Russian player Andrey Rublev has described the suspensions as “complete discrimination.”

Reports last year suggested that Wimbledon organizers had expressed concerns about the potential negative optics of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, presenting a winners’ trophy to a player from either Russia or Belarus – particularly amid other sporting sanctions imposed upon both countries by various sports federations following advice issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last year.

The 2022 Wimbledon womens’ event was won by the Moscow-born Elena Rybakina, who has represented Kazakhstan on the international stage since 2018.

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12. Verdict announced in Gwyneth Paltrow ski-crash trial18:05[-/+]

The Hollywood star was accused of being responsible for a collision on a Utah mountain in 2016

Oscar-winning American actress Gwyneth Paltrow has been found not guilty in a trial over a ski collision, with the opposing party ordered to pay a symbolic $1 in damages and cover her legal costs.

A Utah jury sided on Thursday with Paltrow, 50, who was sued by retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, 76, over an incident that took place at the Deer Valley ski resort in 2016.

Sanderson accused the Hollywood star of having crashed into him on the track, resulting in him suffering concussion and several broken ribs. Initially, he had demanded more than $3 million in compensation for what the plaintiff described as lasting brain damage which affected his personal life, but later this sum was knocked down to $300,000.

Read more
Gwyneth Paltrow attends the WSJ Tech D.Live at Montage Laguna Beach on November 13, 2018 in Laguna Beach, California
Hollywood star stands trial over ski crash

In a countersuit, Paltrow demanded $1 from the optometrist, disputing his version of events. The actress insisted that it was Sanderson who crashed into her from behind, adding that she initially thought that she was being sexually assaulted.

She also contested the testimony of Sanderson’s witness Craig Ramon, a member of the optometrist’s online ski chat group, who claimed to have seen Paltrow running into him from behind. The actress, however, cast doubt on this allegation, pointing out that Ramon was colorblind and standing some 40 feet away (12 meters) from the scene at the time of the incident.

“I don’t know how he can be positive about what he saw, especially with how much he changed his story,” Paltrow said.

She also dismissed the opposing party’s claim that she had left the crash scene without waiting to see whether Sanderson was all right, insisting that she stayed “long enough for him to say that he was OK.”

Meanwhile, Paltrow’s ski instructor wrote in a report after the collision that he “clearly observed [Sanderson] as the uphill skier.” Under Utah law, the downhill skier has priority on a track.

Paltrow is best known for her roles in films like ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, and the Iron Man series. In 1999, she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in ‘Shakespeare In Love’. She is also the founder of the Goop lifestyle brand, which is reportedly valued at around $250 million.

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13. EU underestimating Russian economic capacity – Orban17:37[-/+]

The country has managed to adapt to sanctions after first restrictions were introduced in 2014, Hungarian leader says

Western countries are making a mistake by underestimating Russia's ability to adapt to sanctions, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated on Friday.

According to Orban, Moscow had demonstrated it could adjust its economy to restrictions following the first wave of Western sanctions, introduced after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and to reunify with Russia in 2014.

"I remember well that in 2015 we exported a lot of food products to Russia…In three years, Russia has built its agriculture and food industry to such an extent that if Hungary wanted to export food there today, it would either not work or be much more difficult than before the imposition of sanctions," the politician told Kossuth Radio.

The Russian economy has shown its resilience to sanctions and "underestimating" the ability of a country as "huge" as Russia to adapt to restrictions is a "fatal mistake," Orban added.

The Hungarian premier is a vocal critic of the bloc's approach to the conflict in Ukraine, and has repeatedly argued that sanctions are hurting the EU more than they hurt Russia.

READ MORE: Spain still dependent on Russian gas – media

Orban has previously insisted that the punitive measures "were supposed to hit Russia, but hit Europe." The sanctions have had a devastating impact on Budapest, he added, by sending energy prices soaring and raising costs throughout the economy.

EU sanctions introduced against Russia over its military operation in Ukraine have cost Hungary's economy €10 billion but have failed to stop the conflict, according to the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Russia has survived the loss of Western markets and its economy is developing in a new way, with GDP expected to grow as soon as the second quarter of this year, President Vladimir Putin said earlier in March.

Russia's foreign trade grew by more than 8% last year, while inflation is expected at around 4% this year. This comes as "other Europeans" are trying "to convince everyone of the imminent collapse of the Russian economy," even though EU inflation rates are higher, the Russian president noted.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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14. Kiev protests Russia's UN Security Council role17:28[-/+]

Moscow’s upcoming presidency of the UNSC is a “bad joke,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has argued

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has attacked Russia’s upcoming presidency of the UN Security Council, claiming it would turn the body into an “insecurity council.”

The presidency of the UNSC rotates monthly between its 15 members, with Russia scheduled to assume the role on Saturday, April 1, in accordance with alphabetic order.

“Russian UN Security Council presidency on April 1 is a bad joke,” Kuleba posted to Twitter on Thursday, also accusing Moscow of waging “a colonial war” against Ukraine.

The minister insisted that Russia, which is one of five UNSC permanent members along with the UK, China, France, and the US, has “usurped its seat” on the council.

“The world can’t be a safe place with Russia at UNSC,” Kuleba alleged, accompanying the post with the hashtags “#BadRussianJoke” and “#InsecurityCouncil.”

Kuleba’s remarks were echoed by Kiev’s envoy at the UN, Sergey Kislitsya, who argued that “as of 1 April, they’re taking the level of absurdity to a new level.”

Read more
Kremlin ‘regrets’ lack of Nord Stream probe by UN

With Russia assuming the presidency, the UN Security Council will be “immobilized and incapable to address the issues of their primary responsibility, that is prevention of conflicts and then dealing with conflicts,” he claimed.

Kislitsya added that he would be staying away from the UNSC next month, and would only attend meetings in the event of an “issue of critical national security interest.”

Ukraine is not a Security Council member, but its representative has often been called to speak at the body throughout the conflict with Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has made it clear that Russia has no intention of giving up its presidency of the UNSC.

“Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and will exercise all the rights that are provided by this, naturally, remaining a responsible member of the Security Council and the UN as a whole,” he said.

Speaking about the month-long Russian presidency, Peskov promised that it would be “eventful.”

READ MORE: UNSC vote on Russian resolution fuels suspicions – Moscow

Moscow’s permanent representative at the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said earlier this week that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would visit several meetings of the UNSC in April.

Russia has said that the “signature events” organized as part of its presidency will include sessions dedicated to multipolarity, the situation in the Middle East, and the problem of uncontrolled global arms supplies.

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15. Biden rejects call to expel Russians16:58[-/+]

The US president dismissed demands by the Wall Street Journal, but called for Moscow to release journalist Evan Gershkovich

US President Joe Biden has urged Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in the city of Ekaterinburg this week on suspicion of espionage. At the same time, Biden rejected a call by the newspaper to expel Russian journalists or Moscow’s ambassador in Washington as a retaliatory step.

Biden spoke briefly about the unfolding row on Friday before boarding Marine One to fly to a Mississippi town recently devastated by a tornado.

“Let him go,” the US leader replied when asked what his message to Moscow was regarding Gershkovich.

Asked whether his administration planned to expel Russian diplomats or journalists, as proposed by the WSJ, Biden said: “That’s not the plan right now.”

Read more
WSJ demands retaliation after journalist’s arrest in Russia

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Thursday that Gershkovich had been detained in Ekaterinburg while allegedly attempting to collect classified information about a Russian defense producer. The reporter is suspected of espionage on behalf of the US government, a charge that could carry a prison term of up to 20 years.

The WSJ rejected the allegation as “dubious on its face” and claimed that the Russian government had taken Gershkovich “hostage” in preparation for a future prisoner exchange.

“The Biden Administration will have to consider diplomatic and political escalation. Expelling Russia’s ambassador to the US, as well as all Russian journalists working here, would be the minimum to expect,” the newspaper declared in an editorial on Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the proposed retaliation would be “absurd and wrong,” and reiterated the claim that Gershkovich had been caught “red-handed.”

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16. Talk of peacekeepers in Ukraine ‘extremely dangerous’ – Kremlin16:38[-/+]

Moscow has raised concerns over Hungarian PM’s claims that EU is set to discuss sending ‘some kind of force’ to Ukraine

A discussion about a possible deployment of Western peacekeepers in Ukraine is potentially a very dangerous idea, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has warned, in response to comments made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday.

“If we are talking about some kind of serious negotiations, then this is a potentially extremely dangerous discussion. In world practice, such forces, as a rule, are used only with the consent of both parties. In this case, it is potentially a very dangerous topic,” Peskov told journalists.

His statement comes after Orban revealed that EU leaders are close to holding a “legitimate” discussion on whether or not member states can or should send “some kind of peacekeeping force” to Ukraine, despite a probable rebuke from Russia.

The Hungarian leader warned that the Ukrainian conflict is only getting bloodier and more brutal, and questioned why EU leaders are not focused on trying to achieve peace through diplomatic means rather than the provision of more deadly tools to Kiev and the fueling of hostilities.

“If this continues, the danger of a world war is not a literary exaggeration,” the prime minister said.

Read more
An aerial view shows Kremlin's towers, with State Duma building in the background, in Moscow, Russia.
Kremlin comments on Ukraine peace initiatives

Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last year, Budapest has consistently opposed sanctions on Russian energy resources and has refused to send military aid to Kiev’s forces, citing the need to maintain and to equip Hungary’s own army.

Meanwhile, Russian MP Alexey Chepa has suggested that if the EU does decide to send a peacekeeping force to Ukraine, it would certainly be interpreted as a direct involvement in the conflict and an attempt to provoke a Russia-NATO war.

Chepa stated that in this case Russia could be forced to seek help from its Collective Security Treaty Organization partners, which include Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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17. Kremlin comments on Ukraine peace initiatives16:16[-/+]

The latest ceasefire plan set out by Belarus warrants discussion, Putin’s spokesman has said

Belarusian proposals for a suspension of hostilities in Ukraine can be discussed but they don’t change Moscow’s analysis of the conflict, the Kremlin spokesman has stated.

Dmitry Peskov noted that the initiative formulated by the key Russian ally could not be directly compared to the roadmap for peace in Ukraine set out by China.

The latest proposals for a truce, which were outlined by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday, involve a ban on the movement of troops and weapons, so neither Russia nor Ukraine could use the armistice to regather their forces.

Asked about the initiative during a conference call with journalists, Peskov said Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin would have an opportunity to discuss the proposals when they meet next week. He noted that nothing had changed for Russia regarding Ukraine, and military action “remains the only path to achieve the goals of our nation.”

Read more
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
Key Russian ally calls for truce in Ukraine

The Russian official declined to compare Lukashenko’s plan to proposals released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry last month, which would see the conflict de-escalated and its core issues addressed, including NATO’s expansion in Europe. It also states that the territorial integrity of all nations must be respected.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia earlier this month in a move that Ukraine’s Western backers perceived as a gesture that undermined Beijing’s position as a mediator in the conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Xi of providing “diplomatic cover” for Moscow and urged the world not to be “fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms.”

Russia has said it was giving the Chinese proposals careful consideration, but Peskov said some parts “cannot be implemented at this moment due to the unwillingness or rather incapacity of the Ukrainian side to disobey its handlers and commanders.”

“Those commanders, who are not in Kiev, as we know, insist that the war continues,” he added.

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18. Brussels reveals decision on Russian oil price cap16:11[-/+]

The current $60-per-barrel ceiling won’t be changed, the EC says

The European Commission (EC) has informed member states that the price cap on Russian crude oil will remain unchanged, Bloomberg reported on Friday. The EC is said to have argued that the current cap has proved effective in curbing Moscow’s energy revenues, while not destabilizing the global market.

The EU’s executive body reportedly told members of the bloc earlier this week that the current price limit of $60 will not be lowered by the Group of Seven (G7) nations.

The measure came into force in December and bans Western corporations from providing insurance and other services to shipments of Russian crude, unless the cargo is purchased at or below the set price. Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the goal of reducing Moscow’s energy revenues and keeping global oil prices from spiking had been achieved.

According to an IEA report, which formed the basis of a review into the cap, Russia’s estimated oil export revenues fell to $11.6 billion last month. That figure was down $2.7 billion from January, when volumes were significantly higher.

Read more
US rejects calls to lower Russian oil price cap – Politico

The G7 had previously agreed to review the price ceiling in mid-March, while EU legislation requires the threshold to be set at 5% below average market rates. On that basis, Poland and the Baltic states had been pressing for a review of the price cap downwards.

However, the restrictions cannot prevent Russia from shipping its crude at any price if the cargos do not use services and vessels of enterprises based or registered in G7 and EU countries.

According to Bloomberg, Russian producers still rely on Western insurers to cover more than half of the tanker fleet that transports their crude.

EU members were informed that there was some openness to the possibly of making the price-cap mechanism less rigid, sources told the agency, without providing details on what that would mean in practice.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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19. America, the reality TV show, reaches new depths with Trump’s indictment15:46[-/+]

US politics have gotten even raunchier with the country’s first prosecution of a former president

Just when one might have supposed that American politics couldn’t get any trashier, New York City prosecutor Alvin Bragg and former President Donald Trump have proven that the nation hasn’t yet reached the bottom.

The US political system now resembles a reality television show, and with Trump’s indictment on Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury, viewers should cringe at how vulgar and obnoxious the program has become. In fact, if it were a scripted soap opera, it would be too unbelievable and tacky for daytime TV audiences.

Consider the story line, which begins with a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star, stage-named Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence on allegations of an affair with the Republican Party’s leading presidential candidate. Then you have the boisterous defendant, a former reality TV star who has been divorced twice and is currently married to an ex-model 24 years his junior. And don’t forget Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, who is financially backed by billionaire Democratic Party sugar daddy George Soros and is so far left that he’s almost allergic to prosecuting alleged crimes – unless they involve self-defense or a Republican suspect.

One of the tenets of a good drama is that it makes the viewer empathize with one or more of the characters, but in this case, it’s tough to root for anyone. For starters, it’s rather distasteful to have a president who might have reason to pay hush money to an adult film actress. He’s apparently the first American president to have done so, just as he’s also the first who: played a role in a ‘Wrestlemania’ skit; became a billionaire while running six of his businesses through bankruptcy protection from paying creditors; got caught on tape boasting about grabbing women “by the pu**y”; and tried to force an elderly lady out of her home to make room for a parking lot next to his casino. The list of unseemly firsts could go on. Suffice to say that if Jerry Springer’s tabloid talk TV show hosted politicians, Trump would be the first to get an invitation.

With Thursday’s indictment, the twice-impeached Trump is also now the first current or former US president to be criminally charged. Team Soros has set a perilous new precedent by using the criminal justice system to take out a political rival. The people who talk so much about protecting freedom and democracy are trying to take Trump off the menu of 2024 election options for US voters, essentially deciding for them whom they can choose. It’s the behavior of a banana republic, and there’s really no turning back.

Read more
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks earlier this month at a political event in Des Moines, Iowa.
Top Republican breaks silence on Trump’s possible arrest

It’s also ironic that for all his faults, Trump is being prosecuted for the wrong reasons. As is typical in a twisted justice system, the supposed villain isn’t punished for his alleged serious offenses; rather, the case is about something bogus or piddling.

It's not illegal to pay hush money, even to a porn star. As legal scholar Jonathan Turley has pointed out, Bragg is trying to resuscitate seven-year-old allegations that both the US Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission found unworthy of pursuing. The criminal charge that could have been relevant – failing to declare a political donation – would require proving that the payment was made for the sole purpose of helping Trump’s presidential campaign. It’s not hard to imagine other potential motivations for a married celebrity and businessman to keep such embarrassing allegations from becoming public.

Bragg, who campaigned for his DA office on a promise to prosecute ‘Bad Orange Man’, likely felt pressure to appease his Trump-hating supporters by following through. He faced criticism last year after declining to file charges against the former president, prompting two senior prosecutors on his team to resign in disgust. Turley called Bragg’s case against the former president “long on politics and short on the law.”

As if the whole episode isn’t disgusting enough at face value, we have corporate media outlets doing their usual bit of hyping and spinning, cheerleading the Democratic Party’s latest effort to put Trump in prison. Just as distastefully, Trump has used the indictment as a fund-raising tool and urged supporters to protest on his behalf – disregarding how ugly the strife in the streets could become.

The fact we even have the Trump saga to talk about is a reflection of how much American politics has spiraled downward over the past few decades, making any sense of dignity or decorum a distant memory. Even just two decades ago, it would have been hard to believe that the standards for elected high office in the US would slide this far.

For instance, the political career of former Senator John Edwards, a Democrat presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, was essentially ended by revelations of an extramarital affair. It used to be assumed that such scandals were career killers. The Democrat frontrunner in the 1988 presidential race, Gary Hart, dropped out in disgrace after news of his infidelity broke. Prior to Trump, there had only been one US president with a divorce on his resume, and talented orator Ronald Reagan could charm voters into forgetting about a breakup that occurred more than 30 years before he was elected.

Read more
Hunter Biden arrives at the White House earlier this month with his wife, Melissa Cohen, and son Beau.
Ex-stripper wants love-child she had with US president’s son to be a Biden – media

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, was a political laughingstock after a plagiarism and dishonesty scandal torpedoed his first presidential campaign in 1988. By the time he ran for president in 2020, he was an agedly confused gaffe machine whose lying had only increased in frequency. He had also been accused of sexual assault by a former intern, and all the world could go online and see video footage of Biden getting uncomfortably close to young girls at public events.

Voters apparently didn’t care, and the media took a far different approach than in 1988, running interference for Biden rather than scrutinizing his character. In fact, when a bombshell report exposed the Biden family’s influence-peddling operation just a few weeks before the 2020 election, the press helped squash the story and promote a lie that it was Russian disinformation. The media showed surprisingly little interest in the evidence contained on a laptop computer abandoned by Biden’s son, Hunter, who was kicked out of the Navy Reserve for a failed drug test and fathered a child out of wedlock with a woman he reportedly met while she was a stripper and he was having an affair with his brother’s widow.

If this is the best that America has to offer, the nation has bigger problems than its politics. The US becomes more divided, dysfunctional, debased and degenerate every day. Could the Roman Empire, while in its death throes, really have been any more depraved and corrupt than America 2023? And this should ring familiar: the Romans viewed themselves as superior beings, without equal anywhere, and felt destined to rule the world.

The collapse of Rome, when it came, wasn’t pretty. Constant wars, overspending and political instability weakened the foundation. Inflation ran rampant, wealth inequality widened and democracy crumbled amid increasing political violence and decadence. The degraded republic was ruled by madmen in its latter days, accelerating its downfall.

As we watch American politics devolve like a raunchy reality TV program, it feels almost like we’ve seen this show before.

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20. Germany can make do without Russian gas – regulator15:33[-/+]

Consumers are still being urged to conserve energy ahead of next winter

Germany is planning to fill up its gas storage facilities for next winter without Russian supplies, according to the head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Mueller.

The official said that the nation’s tanks are not empty ahead of the end of the current heating season, claiming that this will allow Berlin not to turn to Russian piped gas.

“We are now coming out of the winter with relatively full storage facilities. This will help fill the storage facilities over the summer without Russian pipeline gas,” Mueller told Germany’s DPA news agency on Thursday.

According to data provided by the regulator, Germany’s gas storage facilities were 64.3% full as of Tuesday. On November 14, they were 100% full.

While the EU has not banned Russian pipeline gas imports, their flows dwindled significantly after Ukraine-related sanctions were imposed last year. They were also affected by the sabotage that disabled the Nord Stream pipeline, one of the main routes for Russian gas to Europe. As a result, Germany no longer receives Russian gas directly.

READ MORE: Germany’s energy crunch explained

Germany currently receives liquefied natural gas (LNG) via floating terminals in Wilhelmshaven, Lubmin, and Brunsbuttel. It is rapidly building up its own infrastructure to replace Russian supplies of natural gas.

Last week, a member of the German Bundestag, Andrej Hunko, claimed that the shift had turned the nation’s dependence on Russian natural gas into an addiction to LNG from the US.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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21. Key Russian ally calls for truce in Ukraine15:27[-/+]

Moscow and Kiev would freeze movement of troops and military equipment under the deal, the Belarusian president has suggested

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has urged Russia and Ukraine to agree a ceasefire, warning Kiev that its apparently imminent counteroffensive could lead to the conflict spiraling completely out of control.

In a speech to the Belarusian parliament on Friday, Lukashenko stated that the only path to peace in Ukraine lies through diplomatic engagement. Moscow and Kiev “should stop now before escalation ensues,” he argued.

“I will try to risk suggesting a cessation of hostilities… to declare a truce without the right to move or regroup troops on both sides, [and] without the right to transfer weapons, ammunition… and military equipment… for everybody just to freeze,” the president said.

Lukashenko claimed that the West had previously attempted to use a truce to strengthen its hand in Ukraine, but that if it did so again, Russia “would be obliged to use all its military and industrial might to prevent escalation in the conflict.”

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Belarusian fighters in Poland before going to fight for Ukraine.
Moscow warns neighbor of threat from Ukraine

The comment was likely a reference to remarks by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande. The two former leaders admitted last year that the now-defunct 2014 and 2015 Minsk Agreements, which sought to pave the way for peace by giving the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state, were merely an attempt to buy time for Kiev’s forces to become stronger.

Lukashenko warned that a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive, which could take place this spring, “would be extremely dangerous” and could “dash all hopes for a negotiating process and bring about an irreversible escalation in the conflict.”

Commenting on Lukashenko’s ceasefire proposal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart would discuss the issue next week at the Supreme Council of the Union State, a supranational organization seeking to boost ties between the two countries.

“However, in the context of Ukraine nothing changes,” Peskov added. “[Russia’s] special military operation continues, since it is now the only tool to accomplish the goals that our country is facing.”

Moscow has repeatedly said it is open to talks with Kiev on condition that it recognizes “the reality on the ground.” That includes the new status of four former Ukrainian regions which voted overwhelmingly to join Russia last autumn. However, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky last year signed a decree prohibiting negotiations with the current Russian leadership.

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22. Stoltenberg predicts when Sweden could join NATO15:27[-/+]

The Nordic country’s path to membership of the bloc has been held up by Turkiye

Sweden’s path to NATO membership could become clearer after the upcoming elections in Türkiye, which represent a threat to the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the bloc’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told Politico.

“My aim remains that after the Turkish elections, but before the Vilnius summit, we can also have the ratification of Sweden,” the NATO chief said in comments published by the outlet on Thursday, referring to the annual meeting of alliance leaders in Lithuania this July.

Sweden applied to join NATO alongside its Scandinavian neighbor Finland last May, but while the Finnish application was ratified this month by Erdogan’s government, Stockholm’s bid was met with resistance. The delay related to an ongoing row over Sweden’s backing of Kurdish groups which Türkiye designates as terrorist organizations.

Last year, Sweden also suspended arms sales to Ankara following the launch of a Turkish offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria. Hungary has also so far not opted to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership.

Read more
The Turkish Parliament vote to approve Finland's application to join NATO, with 276 votes, in Ankara, on March 30, 2023.
Nordic nation cleared to join NATO

With Erdogan’s premiership thought to be hanging in the balance ahead of May’s elections, however, Stoltenberg suggested that this could present an opportunity to clear a major road-block in the way of Stockholm’s NATO application.

He warned, however, that he can provide “no guarantees” on behalf of “sovereign national parliaments.” He added that Finland’s ratification for joining the alliance proves that “NATO’s door remains open.”

Should Sweden’s membership of NATO be certified, it would mean that around 96% of people in the European Union would live in a NATO country – and even while Stockholm remains mired in the application process, Stoltenberg clarified to Politico that the Nordic nation is “now sitting at the NATO table.”

Polling in Türkiye suggests Erdogan’s leadership is under threat amid public discontent over the ruling AK Party’s response to February’s earthquakes, which killed at least 45,000 people. Some 1.5 million people were left homeless, with an estimated 500,000 new homes now required to accommodate them, according to UN estimates.

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23. Putin approves new foreign policy doctrine15:22[-/+]

The strategic document places a heavy emphasis on the Western “hybrid war” against Russia

President Vladimir Putin has signed an updated version of the nation’s foreign policy doctrine, a key strategic document which outlines the principles, goals and priorities of Russia’s international diplomacy. The new document features a focus on Western efforts to undermine Russia amid the Ukraine conflict.

Putin explained that the key document had to be altered due to “drastic changes” in the international landscape.

The move was announced by the president on Friday during a meeting with top Russian Security Council officials, including, among others, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

Outlining the key provisions of the paper, Lavrov noted that it reflects “revolutionary changes on [Russia’s] external perimeter which received a visible boost after the start of the special military operation” in Ukraine more than a year ago.

The document puts Western, and particularly American, efforts to undermine Russian interests in the spotlight, stating that “The United States and their satellites have used measures, taken by the Russian Federation to protect its vital interests regarding Ukraine, as a pretext to escalate their long-standing anti-Russian policies, and have unleashed a hybrid war of a new type.

Read more
Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in an annual extended meeting of the Board of the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow on March 20, 2023.
West building WWII Axis-style alliance – Putin

This hybrid war, the concept argues, seeks to “weaken Russia in every possible way,” including by undermining its military, economic, and technological potential as well as aiming to “limit its sovereignty in external and internal politics and to erode its territorial integrity.”

However, the paper asserts that Moscow “does not see itself as the West’s enemy, does not isolate itself from it and harbors no hostile intentions towards it.” It adds that Russia expects Western powers to “recognize the futility of confrontational policies and hegemonic ambitions” and to eventually return to pragmatic cooperation with Russia based on mutual respect.

The Russian Federation is ready for dialogue and cooperation on such a basis,” the concept stresses.

The previous version of the foreign policy concept document, which was signed in 2016, was heavily focused on fighting terrorism, boosting international cooperation, enhancing Russia’s global footprint, and safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty.

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24. WSJ demands retaliation after journalist’s arrest in Russia15:09[-/+]

Expulsion from the US of all Russian journalists and the country's envoy is the “minimum to expect” amid espionage case, newspaper said

The arrest of a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent in Russia on espionage charges amounts to taking him hostage, the US newspaper has claimed. It has also accused President Joe Biden’s administration of showing weakness in the face of the detention and has demanded tough action.

Evan Gershkovich was “snatched” in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg by the “notorious Federal Security Bureau,” the newspaper said on Thursday, in an editorial piece. The FSB, the Russian law-enforcement agency, is named the Federal Security Service but is better known under its Russian-language abbreviation.

On Thursday, the agency reported detaining Gershkovich as he was allegedly trying to obtain classified information about a defense plant located in the Russian Urals. The FSB claimed he was working for the US government and is suspected of espionage, a crime punishable by up to 20 years' jail under Russian law.

Gershkovich, the WSJ said, was in Ekaterinburg “on a reporting trip” and denied the espionage allegation as “dubious on its face.”

“The FSB could have expelled him long ago if it really believed he is a spy,” the article stated. The incident “looks like a calculated provocation to embarrass the US and intimidate the foreign press still working in Russia.”

Read more
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talks to reporter at the White House on March 30, 2023 in Washington, DC.
US State Department urges Americans to leave Russia ‘immediately’

The newspaper speculated that the arrest of Gershkovich was a Russian response to the charges that the US Department of Justice brought earlier this month against Sergey Cherkasov, who had been charged as a possible Russian spy by The Netherlands in 2022 and also sentenced by a court in Brazil to 15 years for falsely identifying as a Brazilian national.

The WSJ claimed that the Kremlin had a “habit of taking Americans hostage” and implied that Moscow could use Gershkovich for a prisoner swap. The newspaper urged the US government to act tough in response.

“The Biden Administration will have to consider diplomatic and political escalation. Expelling Russia’s ambassador to the US, as well as all Russian journalists working here, would be the minimum to expect,” it declared.

On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described as “absurd and wrong” the idea of kicking Russian journalists out of the US. He reiterated that Gershkovich had been caught “red-handed” violating Russian secrecy laws.

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25. Indian business has great prospects in Russia, SPIEF director tells RT14:44[-/+]

New Delhi could fill the void left by Western companies, according to Aleksey Valkov

The trade and economic partnership between India and Russia has gone from strength to strength in the wake of Western sanctions on Moscow, the director of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) has said.

RT spoke with Aleksey Valkov on the sidelines of the two-day Russia-India Business Forum in New Delhi to find out more about the expanding alliance. According to the official, Russia is a long-standing and proven partner to India, and last year became one of New Delhi’s top five trading partners for the first time.

Bilateral trade hit a record $39.8 billion for the 2022–23 fiscal year, he noted, citing official data.

Valkov highlighted the key industries seeing rapid development in Russia-India relations, namely hydrocarbons, nuclear power, pharmaceuticals, chemical fertilizers and high-tech products.

“Indian business has the opportunity to fill vacant niches in other sectors of the Russian economy,” he said, pointing to five core areas of potential cooperation: transport infrastructure; agriculture and agro-processing; support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs); the digital transformation and cutting-edge technologies, along with manufacturing and trading.

Valkov pointed out that India is already supplying Russia with medicines, car and machine parts, textiles and clothing, and food products. In the food sector, Russia is importing Indian tea and coffee, rice, fruit, seafood and confectionary.

Read more
Indian imports of Russian oil skyrocket – official

Russia’s exports to India include mineral oils and fuels, mineral resources, precious stones and metals, fertilizers, project goods, vegetable oils, rubber and rubber products, paper and cardboard, iron and steel, inorganic chemicals, plastic products and pharmaceuticals.

On the issue of a newly established rupee-ruble mechanism for trade settlements, the SPIEF director argued that transactions in national currencies promote sovereignty and deepen independent cooperation between nations. “Our continued joint work to support mutual settlements in national currencies will help reduce costs and save time, as well as lowering certain risks associated with payments,” he claimed.

When discussing the upcoming 26th SPIEF event, due to take place in St. Petersburg on June 14-17, Valkov noted that the venue has proven itself to be an effective tool for promoting businesses that want to develop their activities in Russia.

“Participants have the opportunity to negotiate with representatives of federal ministries, but if the interests of all parties are focused on a particular Russian federal subject, all regions are represented at the venue, as well as companies across numerous sectors that will be on hand to hold negotiations at the venue,” he explained.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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26. Trump ‘Shaman’ gets early release14:13[-/+]

The Capitol riot participant has been moved to a halfway house after serving just over half of his sentence

January 6 rioter Jacob Chansley, also known as the ‘QAnon Shaman’, has been granted early release from federal prison and transferred to community confinement in Arizona, officials announced on Thursday.

The 35-year-old was sentenced to 41 months’ imprisonment in November 2021, after pleading guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding for his involvement with the January 6 US Capitol riots earlier that year.

After serving 27 months of his sentence, Chansley was transferred on Tuesday from Arizona’s Federal Correctional Institution Safford to a halfway house overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Phoenix Residential Reentry Management Office, a spokesperson told Business Insider.

Chansley’s attorney during the trial, Albert Watkins, welcomed his former client’s release, saying in a statement to the news outlet: “It is appropriate that this gentle and intelligent young man be permitted to move forward with the next stage of what undoubtedly will be a law-abiding and enriching life.”

The change for the ‘QAnon Shaman’ comes after Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted a section of his show earlier this month to present previously unaired surveillance footage from the Capitol riots. Carlson has claimed that the videos contradict the official ‘violent insurrection’ narrative propagated by Washington and instead show that the protesters, on the whole, acted peacefully. Chansley could also be seen in the footage peacefully walking through the Capitol building with a police escort.

Read more
Jacob Chansley protests inside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021
Elon Musk demands release of ‘QAnon Shaman’

Twitter CEO Elon Musk had also demanded Chansley’s release, claiming that he “was falsely portrayed in the media as a violent criminal who tried to overthrow the state.” Musk shared videos of Chansley peacefully walking around the Capitol, thanking the police and encouraging his fellow protesters to “go home.”

Chansley was one of nearly 1,000 people arrested in connection with the riot, 306 of whom were charged with obstructing an official proceeding, according to Justice Department figures.

The January 6 Capitol riots stemmed from allegations made by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election had been stolen from him by the Democratic Party through the use of fake ballots and voter fraud. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress in an attempt to stop the final Electoral College vote count that would formalize the victory of Joe Biden.

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27. Spain still dependent on Russian gas – media14:06[-/+]

Madrid claims it can’t stop LNG imports, which have soared by more than 170%, El Confidencial reports

Spain’s imports of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Russia in January and February saw a massive year-on-year surge of 172%, El Confidencial reported on Friday, citing data from Spanish energy company Enagas.

Purchases of super-chilled fuel from the sanctioned country since the beginning of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine have soared by 84%, making Spain the biggest importer of Russian LNG among EU member states.

The impressive growth of LNG imports in spite of the EU’s pledge to eliminate its reliance on energy exports from Russia have reportedly caused major concern in Madrid and Brussels.

Earlier this month, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson called for Russian LNG shipments to be stopped, saying energy companies shouldn’t renew long-term contracts once current ones expire.

Read more
EU country doubles Russian gas imports

Similarly, Spain’s Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge asked companies – including Naturgy, Repsol, TotalEnergies, Axpo, Pavilion, Enagas, Met Energy, Enet Energy, EdP, CEPSA and BP – not to sign up for new purchases from Russia.

However, Spain and the rest of the EU have no mechanism to stop the flow of LNG from Russia, El Confidencial reports. The importers are reportedly private companies and trading operations are completely legal, since Russian LNG has not been targeted by EU sanctions.

Prior to its military operation in Ukraine, Russia supplied nearly 40% of the gas consumed by EU countries, mostly through the pipeline network. Over the past year, EU gas purchases from Russia have been in steady decline. They are currently hovering about 10% of the bloc’s entire consumption, according to Brussels. The latest increase in LNG purchases from the sanctioned country comes amid EU attempts to fill the void resulting from the sharp reduction in pipeline supplies.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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28. US ‘disappointed’ with UN court ruling on Iran14:06[-/+]

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Washington to pay compensation to Iranian individuals and firms

The US State Department has criticized a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which found that some Iranian funds were seized illegally by American authorities.

Judges at the UN’s top court in The Hague concluded on Thursday that a 2016 decision by the US Supreme Court was in violation of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between the two countries. Back then, the US court ruled that certain assets belonging to Iranian companies should be paid to victims of terrorist attacks blamed by Washington on Tehran.

“Iran is entitled to compensation for the injury caused,” the ICJ said, adding that the US has 24 months to agree on an amount for the payout, or the court will determine one itself.

However, the judges rejected Tehran’s bid for $1.75 billion in assets owned by Iran’s Central Bank (Bank Markazi) in the US to be unblocked, arguing that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction over the matter.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: A US army soldier is seen on patrol at an undisclosed location in Syria, October 27, 2020.
US troops suffered ‘brain injuries’ in Syria

“We are disappointed that the Court has concluded that the turnover of assets of other Iranian agencies and instrumentalities to US victims of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism was inconsistent with the Treaty,” US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said on Thursday.

The 1955 agreement, signed more than two decades before the Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed government in Iran, “was never intended to shield Iran from having to compensate US victims of its sponsorship of terrorism,” he insisted. The US withdrew from the treaty in 2018.

Speaking at a news conference on the same day, Patel argued that the ICJ’s decision to keep the funds of Bank Markazi frozen was “a major blow to Iran’s attempt to avoid its responsibility, in particular to the families of US peacekeepers, who were killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barrack in Beirut.”

Iran denies its involvement in the attack in the Lebanese capital, which killed 299 people of whom 241 were US troops, as well as other terrorist incidents blamed by Washington on Tehran.

READ MORE: Biden sends warning to Iran

The Iranian Foreign Ministry welcomed the ruling by the ICJ, calling it “proof of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s righteousness and the violations by the US government.”

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29. EU nation killed civilians in Iraq – media investigation13:20[-/+]

The Netherlands has decided to declassify data on airstrikes in the Middle East after media expose

The Dutch government agreed to release previously classified information about its air sorties in Iraq and Syria, after media exposed as false claims that no civilians were killed in a 2016 strike by the European nation on a building in Mosul, Iraq. A US military assessment had identified the target as a terrorist HQ.

The database, released on Thursday, details Dutch F-16 missions between October 2014 and December 2018, which were part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a US-led military campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). It disclosed over 2,200 weapon deployments relating to over 600 airstrikes. The Dutch Ministry of Defence also pledged to conduct its own investigation into suspected killings of civilians by anti-IS coalition forces.

The move was in reaction to an exposé published on the same day by the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, its current affairs program Nieuwsuur, and the newspaper NRC. It provides evidence that at least seven civilians, including a three-year-old girl, were killed in a Dutch airstrike at a residential building in Mosul on March 22, 2016. The strike hit a residence outside of the campus of Mosul University, where academics and their families were housed.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. A US Air Force Reaper drone armed with 500 lb bombs seen by hangers at a air base. ©Louie Palu / ZUMA Press via Global Look Press
US shadow unit’s deadly ‘self-defense’ strikes in Syria revealed – media

The raid was previously detailed in a 2017 assessment by the US Central Command (CENTCOM), which was obtained by The New York Times and released in 2021. CENTCOM claimed that the building was used by IS militants as a military headquarters and that no civilians were allowed into the building.

The Dutch media research, which was carried out with the help of Airwars, a London-based NGO which records claims of civilian harm in airstrikes, found eyewitnesses who contradicted the US account.

Residents of the building said militants were present in the neighborhood because they had their wives and children housed in the homes of people who'd fled from Mosul. But they never detected any military activity and believe the US had every opportunity to know this, considering that the coalition forces constantly flew surveillance drones over the area.

The Dutch government deflected accusations of underreporting civilian casualties, after national media reported in 2019 that at least 70 non-combatants had been killed in a 2015 air strike on the Iraqi city of Hawija. Prime Minister Mark Rutte referred to CENTCOM at the time, stating that they were “the arbiter in such cases” and have “all the knowledge and experience” to make assessments authoritatively.

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30. Icon of US industry to quit Russia – RBK13:16[-/+]

3M is reportedly selling its assets in the country

American industry and safety equipment giant 3M is in talks to sell its assets in Russia to a domestic paint manufacturer, business daily RBK reported on Friday.

The US conglomerate owns two plants in the country where it produced devices for the oil industry as well as personal protective equipment. 3M suspended operations in Russia in March last year following the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine and decided to sell its assets in September.

According to RBK’s sources, the buyer is VPM Research and Production Holding, an industrial paints and coatings manufacturer.

3M’s assets in Russia are estimated at about $50 million. However, deals with foreign investors from so-called “unfriendly” countries (those that imposed sanctions against Russia) typically only receive government approval if the assets are sold with at least a 50% discount off market value, the daily writes. The American company will reportedly only sell its equipment and not its technology, which will also see the price reduced.

READ MORE: Hungarian firms forced to leave Russia – envoy

3M, originally the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, operates in 70 countries and employs 90,000 people globally.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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31. Ukraine dragging feet on prisoner swap – official12:10[-/+]

The exchange list has grown to more than 130 names but Kiev remains silent, Russian ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova has said

Ukraine appears to be attempting to derail a potential prisoner swap with Moscow, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova claimed on Friday.

In a post on Telegram, Moskalkova said she was “extremely concerned that another prisoner exchange is being disrupted.”

The commissioner stated she had received assurances around three weeks ago that 70 Ukrainian service members that Kiev did not initially want to swap “would be included in the list and repatriated,” but that not much progress had been made since.

“Time goes on, the list has been extended: now it has 133 names on it, but the Ukrainian side remains silent,” Moskalkova said. In a follow-up post, she published the full names and dates of birth of the service members in question.

In early March, Moskalkova said Kiev had refused to exchange as many as 70 of its soldiers. However, she later signaled that Ukraine had changed its stance, claiming that confirmation had been provided by her counterpart in Kiev, Dmitry Lubinets.

Read more
Russian servicemen released from Ukrainian captivity in the latest prisoner swap between the two countries, March 7, 2023.
Russia and Ukraine conduct prisoner swap

Moscow and Kiev have conducted regular prisoner exchanges since the outbreak of hostilities more than one year ago, and they remain one of the few functioning diplomatic channels between the pair.

On March 7, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced it had secured the release of 90 servicemen who had been in “mortal danger” while in captivity. Meanwhile, officials in Kiev said a total of 130 people had been returned to Ukraine.

Last week, Ukraine stated it had transferred an unspecified number of heavily wounded prisoners back to Russia without any conditions, in line with international humanitarian law. The Russian Ministry of Defense did not comment on the move, although Moskalkova confirmed five injured Russian service members had been repatriated.

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32. Nordic nation cleared to join NATO10:27[-/+]

Turkiye is the last country to ratify Finland’s membership application

Türkiye’s parliament has unanimously approved Finland’s bid to join NATO, clearing the last hurdle for the Nordic nation to officially become a fully-fledged member of the US-led military bloc.

In a vote on Thursday, all 276 Turkish MPs present voted in favor of ratifying Finland’s application. Türkiye was the last of 30 existing members to endorse Helsinki’s bid, after Hungary formally supported its accession earlier this week.

Finland is set to formally join NATO at the bloc's summit in Lithuania in July.

Earlier this month, Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his objections to Finland’s membership, saying it had taken “authentic and concrete steps” in fulfilling its promises, which included a crackdown on Kurdish groups Ankara deems “terrorist.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the ratification, adding that it would “make the whole NATO family stronger and safer.” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto also thanked the bloc’s members for their “trust and support.”

Read more
Hungarian lawmakers, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, vote to ratify Finland's NATO application in Budapest, Hungary, March 27, 2023
Hungary ratifies NATO expansion

“Finland is now ready to join NATO. We look forward to welcoming Sweden to join us as soon as possible,” he added.

While in recent weeks Türkiye had softened its stance on Finland joining the trans-Atlantic alliance, the same does not apply to Sweden. Ankara has accused Stockholm of harboring Kurdish “terrorists” and failing to make good on its promises.

Relations between Türkiye and Sweden were further complicated by a Koran-burning protest in Stockholm in January.

Sweden’s accession to the US-led bloc is also being held up by Hungary, with its officials pointing to “an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed.” Earlier this month, Budapest blasted Stockholm for what it called spreading “lies” about the rule of law in the country.

Both Finland and Sweden ditched their decades-long neutrality stance and applied to join NATO last year, citing changes in the security environment after Russia started its military operation against Ukraine in February 2022.

Earlier this month, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Moscow “regrets” that the two Nordic nations applied to join the bloc. Russia “does not pose any threat to these countries, since it does not have any disputes with them,” he said at the time.

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33. Israel carries out airstrike near Damascus – Syria10:19[-/+]

The attack outside the capital resulted in property damage, the Syrian military said

The Syrian Defense Ministry has blamed Israel for firing missiles at an area outside the country’s capital Damascus early on Friday.

The aerial attack took place at 12:17am local time and targeted a location in the Damascus countryside, the ministry said in a statement on Facebook.

It said the missiles had come from the direction of the Golan Heights, a Syrian region that has remained under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Syrian air defenses were activated, shooting down “several” of the incoming missiles, it added.

There were no casualties as result of the strike but properties were damaged, the statement read.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA has published pictures of explosions in the night sky, which were likely the result of the country’s air defenses.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Syria's air defenses intercept an Israeli missile in the sky over Damascus, Syria, February 24, 2020.
Syria reports another missile attack

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has a policy of not discussing its operations outside the country, has not commented on the attack.

On Thursday, two Syrian soldiers were reportedly wounded in an airstrike in the southern part of Damascus. Last week, the airport in the country’s second-largest city Aleppo was closed for two days after an attack damaged its runway.

Israel has repeatedly struck Syrian territory since the outbreak of the civil war in the neighboring country in 2011, with the aim of reducing the presence of its arch-rival Iran there. Tehran – together with Moscow – is assisting Damascus in its fight against terrorist groups.

During his previous tenure as Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged at one point that “hundreds” of such attacks had taken place over the years.

Syrian authorities have condemned the Israeli raids, insisting they violate the country’s sovereignty and international law.

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34. Brits warned of empty shelves in grocery stores09:54[-/+]

Shortages of fresh vegetables could become commonplace in the UK in the near future, farmers warn

UK consumers may have to get used to empty shelves in supermarkets due to unprecedented shortages of fresh vegetables amid record food price inflation and skyrocketing energy costs, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

British shoppers have been experiencing a scarcity of fresh food for months as sales of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and some fruits were limited by most of the country's largest supermarkets due to supply deficiency. Poor weather conditions have disrupted harvests in Europe and North Africa, while inflation led to higher costs for produce from the UK's key markets such as Spain, the outlet said.

Britain imports around 95% of its tomatoes over the winter, according to the British Retail Consortium. In January, the UK bought 266,273 tons of vegetables – the smallest amount for any January since 2010 when the country's population was 7% smaller than at present, tax office data showed.

READ MORE: UK shop price inflation hits new high – data

This comes as British consumers are grappling with record grocery price inflation, which has surged to 17.5% in the four weeks to March 19.

Analysts say a supply squeeze is resulting in higher costs, while the country's departure from the EU poses a greater logistical challenge for bringing vegetables to the island as exporters are discouraged by additional paperwork.

Meanwhile, British farmers are struggling with higher energy costs, which reduce their ability to grow fruits and vegetables in heated greenhouses.

"There are real risks that empty shelves may become more commonplace," president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, told Reuters.

The union expects fresh vegetable production to be the lowest this year since 1985 due to the decision to exclude agriculture from a government support scheme which provides aid to companies hit by high energy costs. Farmers also warn that the shortage of tomatoes will widen to other home-grown crops, including cauliflower and carrots.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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35. Benefits of globalization ‘unfairly distributed’ – IMF09:35[-/+]

Governments should combine their efforts to boost international trade in an equitable way, Kristalina Georgieva says

The globalization of the world economy has led to unfair distribution of wealth between countries and peoples, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday.

According to Georgieva, who was addressing the Boao Forum in China’s Hainan, countries should work together in order to stimulate international trade in an equitable way for more people to benefit from globalization. She also noted that global supply chains have to become more diverse and secure.

“We must recognize that the benefits of globalization are not shared fairly between countries and people,” the IMF chief said.

Georgieva cited IMF research showing that the long-term cost of trade fragmentation could be as high as 7% of global gross domestic product, and Asia would be the most adversely affected.

She called on countries in a relatively stronger position to help vulnerable nations, especially those under debt distress, claiming that such assistance would be particularly important against the backdrop of high interest rates and currency depreciation.

“We urgently need faster and more efficient global mechanisms for providing debt treatments to these countries,” Georgieva stated, adding that such mechanisms would significantly benefit both debtors and creditors.

READ MORE: Globalization is ‘almost dead’ – tech guru

Dubbed ‘East Davos’, the Boao economic forum was established in 2001 with the aim of improving cooperation among Asian countries, as well as strengthening their economic ties with other parts of the world. The forum provides a platform for dialogue between officials, entrepreneurs, experts and scientists on economic, social and other issues. The event, which kicked off on Tuesday in Hainan, will run until March 31.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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36. US troops suffered ‘brain injuries’ in Syria07:59[-/+]

The Pentagon has revealed additional injuries in recent attacks on US outposts in northern Syria

Six American soldiers suffered “traumatic brain injury” following two attacks on US bases in Syria, the Pentagon has said, blaming the strikes on “Iranian-backed groups.” Washington has warned Tehran that it would respond “forcefully” to any similar incidents in the future.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder detailed the previously unreported injuries during a Thursday press briefing, saying they were the result of two separate attacks on March 23 and 24.

“In addition to the seven injured service members that I highlighted [previously], there were an additional six US service members that have subsequently been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as a result of the-Iranian backed attacks,” he told reporters, noting that all were in stable condition after post-attack medical screenings.

Asked whether the troops diagnosed with brain injuries had been evacuated for treatment, Ryder said they had not and remained on their bases in Syria, but added “there is the potential, obviously, for additional medical care.”

Read more
US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint press conference with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Biden sends warning to Iran

Four of the service members sustained the injuries during a March 23 drone attack on a US base in Hasaka, in Syria’s northeast, while the other two were wounded in a separate strike one day later on a mission support facility dubbed ‘Green Village.’ One US contractor was also killed in the attacks, while five additional soldiers and another contractor were injured.

US forces carried out multiple air strikes in retaliation, killing at least eight “militants,” according to the Central Command. Ryder said he could not name the groups targeted, but claimed the fighters were “not Iranians.” Instead, he described them as individuals “associated with” the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), though officials so far have provided little evidence to support the claim. Nonetheless, Ryder alleged a “pattern of Iranian and Iran-backed attacks” in both Iraq and Syria.

In the wake of the two attacks and Washington’s response, President Joe Biden warned that the US would “act forcefully” to protect its personnel in the future, though insisted the United States does not “seek conflict” with the Islamic Republic.

READ MORE: US launches airstrikes in Syria

American soldiers have occupied parts of Syria intermittently for nearly a decade, many embedded with Kurdish militias in Syria’s oil-rich northeast. The government in Damascus has repeatedly urged the US to end its military presence, insisting the deployments are illegal under international law, and has accused US forces of stealing vast quantities of oil, wheat and other resources and smuggling them out of the country.

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37. Trump indicted: What happens next?06:41[-/+]

The former US president is expected to appear in court next week, according to his lawyer

A New York grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump following a lengthy investigation into alleged hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The decision marks the first time a former US president has ever faced criminal charges, sending the courts into uncharted legal territory.

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38. Florida will not extradite Trump – governor03:02[-/+]

Ron DeSantis has slammed the “Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda”

Donald Trump’s potential top rival for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has ripped into the New York City prosecutor behind the criminal indictment of the former president.

“Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda,” DeSantis said in a tweet on Thursday.

So far there have been no reports of any potential extradition requests. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office told AP that prosecutors had reached out to Trump’s legal team to “arrange a surrender” and a court appearance, expected sometime next week.

Read more
Trump responds to indictment

DeSantis previously said he would not get involved in the case “in any way,” indicating that he would not attempt to block any request for the Florida resident’s extradition to New York. However, he has now echoed Trump’s belief that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”

“The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American,” DeSantis added.

Trump did not reveal his next steps, but warned in a post on Truth Social that this “witch-hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden,” while his lawyer Joe Tacopina vowed to “vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

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39. Trump responds to indictment02:00[-/+]

The former US president has denounced the indictment against him as “political persecution and election interference”

Former US President Donald Trump has accused his political opponents of weaponizing the American justice system to remove “by far the leading Republican candidate” in the next election, following a Manhattan grand jury’s decision to indict him.

“I believe this Witch-Hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden. The American people realize exactly what the Radical Left Democrats are doing here,” Trump said in a post on Truth Social on Thursday. He urged his supporters to remain united in order to “throw every last one of these Crooked Democrats out of office.”

The grand jury voted on Thursday to indict Trump in a case that centers on an alleged hush payment of $130,000 made to porn actor Stormy Daniels via his then-lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump has consistently denied the affair and any knowledge of the payment, and warned of potentially disastrous consequences if he is arrested.

The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference.

Trump did not reveal what his next steps would be, but his lawyer Joe Tacopina has vowed to “vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office told AP that prosecutors had reached out to Trump’s legal team to “arrange a surrender,” expected sometime next week.

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40. EU issues warning to China over Ukraine01:15[-/+]

Beijing’s “friendship” with Moscow is a “risk” for the bloc, according to Ursula von Der Leyen

In a bid to be “bolder” on China, the EU plans to reassess and “de-risk” their ties, while considering Beijing’s position on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine a crucial part of their future relations, President of the European Commission Ursula von Der Leyen said on Thursday.

“How China continues to interact with Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” she said.

It marked the first time the EU chief has given a full speech on the bloc’s relations with Beijing. She stated that the EU needed to be “bolder” in its dealings with China, which has become “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.”

The European Union needs to “stress-test” and “de-risk” its relations with Beijing, both politically and economically, starting with getting a “clear-eyed picture on what the risks are,” von Der Leyen said. She did, however, advise against “decoupling” from China altogether, saying it was “neither viable – nor in Europe's interest.”

Read more
Chinese President Xi Jinping gestures after the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) during the APEC Summit in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
China is winning the diplomatic struggle against the US

She further noted that the ties between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, the Chinese and Russian leaders, were particularly concerning. The two presidents met in Moscow last week, and were filmed saying warm goodbyes as their two-day encounter ended, with China’s leader declaring they were driving geopolitical change around the world.

“Most telling,” von der Leyen said, “were President Xi’s parting words to Putin on the steps outside the Kremlin when he said: ‘Right now, there are changes, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years. And we are the ones driving these changes together’.”

The Chinese Communist Party’s “clear goal is a systemic change of the international order with China at its center,” von der Leyen said. “We have seen the show of friendship in Moscow which says a thousand words about this new vision for the international order.”

In a first, von der Leyen hinted that the EU might abandon the pursuit of a major trade deal with China, which was agreed upon in 2020 but stalled by the European Parliament after some of its members were subjected to sanctions by Beijing.

Next week, the EU chief is traveling to China with French President Emmanuel Macron.

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41. US State Department urges Americans to leave Russia ‘immediately’01:13[-/+]

The call was prompted by the arrest of a WSJ correspondent Evan Gershkovich in Russia on espionage charges

The US government has called on Americans who are traveling to or residing in Russia to leave the country “immediately” in the aftermath of the arrest of Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent Evan Gershkovich. While Moscow said he was caught “red-handed” trying to obtain state secrets, the US has condemned the arrest as an assault on “press freedom.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the development, adding that “in the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices.”

“We reiterate our strong warnings about the danger posed to US citizens inside the Russian Federation. US citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately,” the top diplomat said in a statement.

A similar message was conveyed by the White House, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stating that the “targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable.”

Read more
An undated ID photo of journalist Evan Gershkovich
Kremlin comments on arrest of WSJ correspondent

“We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists and freedom of the press,” she added, urging Americans to “heed the US government’s warning to not travel to Russia” or leave should they happen to already be in the country.

The call was somewhat watered down by US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who explained Washington was not actually calling upon all Americans to literally leave Russia and was not encouraging news outlets to withdraw their correspondents from the country.

Gershkovich, a WSJ correspondent who covers news from Russia, Ukraine, and the former USSR, was detained in the city of Ekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced earlier in the day. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the journalist was caught “red-handed” while trying to obtain Russian state secrets.

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42. US grand jury indicts Donald Trump01:02[-/+]

The former president is “expected to surrender to authorities” next week, according to media reports

Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on Thursday for his alleged role in paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to his lawyer and court sources cited by US media.

While specific charges were not immediately made public, Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, confirmed to AP that the grand jury voted to indict Trump on Thursday. CNN and other US outlets also confirmed the indictment, citing multiple “sources familiar with the matter.”

“We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” Tacopina said, insisting that his client “did not commit any crime.”

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed the indictment, which is expected to be officially announced in the coming days. Trump will be requested to surrender and appear in court to face arraignment on the still-sealed charges, multiple news agencies reported, citing unnamed sources.

Read more
Former U.S. President Donald Trump
Trump warns of ‘death and destruction’

The case centers on an alleged payment of $130,000 made by Trump to Stormy Daniels via his then-lawyer Michael Cohen during the final stages of his campaign for the US presidency in 2016. It was previously alleged in a legal case against Cohen that Trump later reimbursed him with several payments of $35,000 which were recorded as legal expenses, opening up further allegations of possibly falsifying business records, the non-payment of taxes and potential violations of campaign finance law. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to the alleged hush-money payment.

Trump had consistently denied the affair and any knowledge of the hush payment, and warned last week of potentially disastrous consequences if he is arrested and charged. The former president has since called on his supporters to “protest” and “take our nation back” in the event that he is officially charged and arrested by the “corrupt and highly political Manhattan district attorney’s office.”

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43. US Navy employs new suicide prevention strategy – APЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Recruiting chaplains to connect with young sailors might be a good way to improve mental health without any social stigma

The US Navy plans to deploy more chaplains as regular members of crew aboard ships in an effort to tackle growing mental health distress, which has led to a spate of suicides, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

The Navy plans to have 47 chaplains aboard ships based at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, within the next two years — up from 37, currently.

The chaplains deployed are both naval officers and clergy from various denominations, AP said, but have routinely only been employed on the largest aircraft carriers – with up to 5,000 personnel.

The goal, according to the outlet, is for the clergy to “connect with sailors, believers and non-believers alike, in complete confidentiality,” noting that the approach has led to several cases in which chaplains were able “to talk sailors out of suicidal crises.”

The Navy reported a total of 70 suicides in 2022 alone – the second highest annual number in over a decade, according to military data.

Read more
Families of soldiers who died by suicide are shown demonstrating during the November 2021 Veterans Day Parade in New York City.
US veteran suicides far higher than reported – study

Asked in January what issue kept him up at night, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday answered “suicides.” The mental health issue, he said, was a “vexing problem” for the Navy.

Family members of two young men who died by suicide in Norfolk said having chaplains available to talk could facilitate access to mental health care “without stigma or retaliation.” At the same time, there must be accountability and “a chain of command committed to eliminating bullying and engaging younger generations,” they said, according to AP.

One challenge for sailors is that most communication is off-limits while at sea for security reasons, “lest a Russian frigate show up while you’re texting mom,” Capt. David Thames, an Episcopal priest who manages chaplains for the Navy’s surface fleet in the Atlantic, explained.

Gilday named so-called “Adjustment disorder” as the most common mental health diagnosis among sailors during a Wednesday budget hearing at the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee. Investing in chaplains can help “separate life stress from mental illness” and get the right care for sailors, he said.

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44. US base hosting president’s plane in lockdown over ‘active shooter’Чт, 30 мар[-/+]

Joint Base Andrews has been put on lockdown after an active shooter was reported at the housing complex of the site

An active shooter incident has been reported at Joint Base Andrews (JBA) near the US capital, with an armed individual spotted near housing units of the installation. Located in Maryland on the outskirts of Washington DC, the base is home to a fleet of US government aircraft, including the presidential Air Force One.

“An armed individual has been reported near base housing. Stay away from base housing. Initiate Lockdown Procedures. Individual is a white male, wearing a purple sweatshirt, black shorts, carrying a AR-15 style rifle with no orange tip,” JBA said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties at the base. Shortly after announcing the lockdown, JBA urged the public to call 911 “if you see any people out moving.” The base’s law enforcement, as well as foot and mobile security patrols are continuing the search for the suspect, it added.

Later in the day, JBA further elaborated on the incident, clarifying that there was actually “no active shooter" as there had not been any shots fired on the base. Still, the security of the base continued its search for the “armed individual” spotted earlier on.

Early in February, JBA premises were penetrated by an intruder, who gained “unauthorized access” to the base’s housing area. The intruder was confronted by a resident of the base, who discharged a firearm. The suspect was promptly apprehended by security forces afterwards, with no injuries or damage reported.

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45. Facebook ‘disappears’ RT ArabicЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The American social network has refused to explain banning the channel's page, which had 17 million subscribers

Mark Zuckerberg’s flagship social network has deleted the page for RT Arabic, rejecting all appeals and handing the address to another user, the channel’s head Maya Manna said on Thursday.

“Two weeks we fought with Facebook to restore the suspended page of RT Arabic, with 17 million subscribers,” Manna said on her Telegram channel. “We tried to get an explanation of what triggered the shutdown, because we never got any strikes or comments.”

After several awkward non-explanations, Facebook’s customer service “simply wished us luck, closed our case, and turned over the URL to another user,” Manna wrote. “Internet democracy in all its glory!”

Facebook blocked the page on March 15, without any explanation or advance warning. Attempts to access the page resulted in the message, “this content isn’t available right now.”

Read more
Facebook blocks RT Arabic

Manna protested the move, calling it proof that the West doesn’t believe in free speech, only “total censorship and blocking.” By way of example, she brought up the EU ban on all “Russian state media” after the military operation in Ukraine began in February 2022, including all of RT’s channels.

“Apparently, this is not enough – the very fact that we exist does not allow them to sleep peacefully,” Manna added.

YouTube was quick to apply the EU ban globally, but continued operating in Russia, its CEO at the time, Susan Wojcicki, told the World Economic Forum in Davos last May. The Ukraine conflict showed that information had “a key role” and “can be weaponized,” said Wojcicki, so YouTube wanted to “help [Russian] citizens know what’s going on and have perspectives from the outside world.”

In November last year, after Facebook’s parent company Meta amended its “violent speech” rules to allow calls of “death to Russians” in the West, the Russian Justice Ministry added it to the register of extremist organizations. The decision affected Facebook and Instagram, but not the messaging platform WhatsApp, because it fell under a different legal category.

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46. Ukrainian FM gives estimate on EU accessionЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Ukraine to become an EU member ‘much sooner than many expect’ unless bloc creates more ‘artificial’ obstacles, Dmitry Kuleba says

Ukraine has made great progress on its EU-accession path and now the bloc has to reform itself to incorporate the country into its membership, Kiev’s top diplomat Dmitry Kuleba has said.

The foreign minister made the remarks on Thursday as he spoke at an online event hosted by Chatham House, a leading British think tank on foreign policy. Ukraine is seeking to launch accession talks with the EU next year, Kuleba revealed.

“Our goal is to open accession talks in 2023. I’m not going to give you a year when Ukraine will become a full member, I will only say that this is going to happen,” the diplomat stated.

Read more
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky gives a speech at the European Parliament on February 09, 2023.
Ukraine is taking care of Europe – Zelensky

While abstaining from giving any more precise estimates on accession, Kuleba insisted it would happen “much sooner than many expect,” especially if “the European Union does not come up with any artificial new conditions, demands [and] procedures to slow this process down.”

The bloc now has to reform itself to have Ukraine in its ranks, Kuleba asserted, adding that Kiev has already proved “that it’s ready to do its homework much faster than anyone expects.”

“What is really funny about the European integration of Ukraine is that, for 20 years, the EU was saying to Ukraine ‘You have to reform yourself, and we will decide then whether you will become a member.’ That was kind-of the premise,” he said.

While reform was an issue in the first 20 years of Ukraine’s EU integration, we will not allow … and we call on the European Union not to make reform of the European Union an excuse for delaying Ukraine’s accession.

Joining the EU has been among the top talking points for pro-Western Ukrainian politicians for decades already, yet little-to-no actual progress had been made until the ongoing hostilities between Kiev and Moscow broke out last year. The conflict greatly sped up the joining process, with Ukraine receiving EU-candidate status last June.

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47. UK to use AI to detect foreign threatsЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Artificial intelligence will be used in conjunction with traditional spying techniques, a UK government minister said

The UK’s intelligence services are set to use information compiled by artificial intelligence to help detect foreign threats that might be overlooked by humans, according to plans outlined by security minister Tom Tugendhat.

In a column published in The Telegraph on Wednesday, Tugendhat said a new government department – the Open Source Intelligence Hub (OSINT) – will use information gathered from open sources to assist its more traditional intelligence services, MI5 and MI6.

Formal plans, including the scope and size of the unit, have yet to be established but are expected to be put in place by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in May.

“Traditional spying will still lift the curtain on the plans of our enemies,” Tugendhat wrote. “We still need to listen and look where they want to hide.”

Read more
Musk demands AI pause

He added that “intelligence has changed” over the past decade, prompting the UK’s intelligence services to divine new methods to identify and eliminate foreign threats. The new hub will also add “richness and detail” to existing methods of information gathering, he said.

Tugendhat denied that AI would be used to gather intelligence on the British public, insisting it would only survey information which was already in the public domain.

The move comes a little more than two weeks after UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt set aside £3.5 billion ($4.3 billion) in the government’s budget to fund programs in London’s science and technology sectors, which he predicted last year would transform it into a tech “superpower.”

The AI unit will also be used to target distributors of alleged “disinformation,” Tugendhat explained. “We’re seeing our security undermined by the attempt to tear us apart, to spread disinformation, to spread lies in our communities,” he said.

The newly introduced unit should rival the work being done by the likes of Bellingcat, the controversial group which specializes in the analysis of open-source information, Tugendhat said. While billed as an investigative fact-checking group, Bellingcat also receives funding from a number of Western states and was designated as a “foreign agent” by Russia in 2021.

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48. Saudi Arabia makes move towards Russia-China blocЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Kingdom has approved “partner” status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has signed the documents granting Saudi Arabia the status of “dialog partner” with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – the political, economic and security bloc currently chaired by China.

The king signed off on the memorandum of understanding at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, held at the al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In addition to formalizing the partnership, King Salman also approved the technical and vocational training with China. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman thanked Beijing for mediating the talks with Iran, which culminated in the re-establishment of “good neighborly relations” earlier this month.

The Saudi state agency also said that Iran was set to join the bloc “soon.” Tehran had applied for membership in 2021.

Read more
Iran's top security official Ali Shamkhani (R), Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi (C) and Musaid Al Aiban, the Saudi Arabian national security adviser, in Beijing, China on March 10, 2023.
How the China-brokered Saudi-Iran deal will change the Middle East

The SCO was created in 2001 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. It has since expanded to India, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan as full members. The status of dialog partner was created in 2008, and includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Türkiye.

The bloc initially focused on security concerns, primarily terrorism, separatism and extremism. It has an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on jointly addressing security, crime and drug trafficking. Over the years, it began fostering cooperation in matters of trade, economics, and culture as well.

In addition to taking a step closer to the SCO, Saudi Arabia is reportedly interested in joining the BRICS group – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Russia’s ambassador to the kingdom, Sergey Kozlov, said in February.

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49. French energy giant sued for ‘war crimes complicity’ – AFPЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

TotalEnergies is reportedly accused of helping produce fuel for Russian warplanes

Two associations have filed a complaint against French oil and gas major TotalEnergies, accusing the firm of “war crimes complicity” in Ukraine, AFP reported on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the case.

According to the news agency, the complainants are the France-based Darwin Climax Coalition and the Ukrainian group Razom We Stand, who accuse the energy major of holding a stake in a firm which operates a Russian natural gas field, supplying products that are eventually refined into jet fuel. They claim the fuel is used by Russian warplanes in Ukraine.

“By continuing to exploit a deposit” producing gas condensate which is then transformed into fuel, TotalEnergies “contributed to supplying the Russian government with the means necessary for the commission of war crimes,” the complaint reportedly says.

TotalEnergies has rejected the claims, calling them outrageous and defamatory. “These accusations against our Company, which conducts its operations in strict compliance with European Union policy and applicable European sanctions measures, are particularly serious and unfounded in the light of the explanations we have provided,” the company stated.

Last October, the two associations filed a similar complaint, which was closed with no further action after an “exhaustive legal and factual analysis of all the elements submitted by the complainants and, at its own initiative, TotalEnergies,” according to French anti-terrorism prosecutors.

Lawyers for the associations said they plan to contest the decision, and accused the prosecutors of bowing to political pressure.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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50. ‘Extremely critical situation’ in NATO member's military – generalЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Danish military “lacks soldiers like never before,” according to a top commander

The Danish military’s second-in-command has warned that the country is “years” away from having a combat-capable army, according to comments he made this week to the government-owned TV 2 broadcaster.

Brigadier General Henrik Lyhne said Denmark’s military is facing what he referred to as its worst staffing issue in decades – a factor which he said will complicate efforts to meet Copenhagen’s NATO obligations. He added that low wages and below-par personnel housing have contributed to an exodus from the armed forces. This, in turn, has led to problems in Denmark supplying troops to the US-led military bloc’s eastern flank in Latvia.

“This is an emergency call,” Lynhe said in an interview broadcast on Monday. “The situation is extremely critical, especially because we lack soldiers like never before. I have been in the armed forces for 40 years, and it has never looked so bad.”

He added that approximately 20-25% of positions in the Danish military are currently vacant, and that even if “more money is injected soon” it would take years to restore it to previous standards.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. The Danish Army presents Caesar howitzers in Oksboel, Denmark in 2021.
NATO member weakens itself by helping Ukraine – analyst

A key issue, Lyhne said, is the unpreparedness of Denmark's 1st Brigade, known as the ‘Army’s First’, which is around 1,000 soldiers short of its expected complement of 4,000, according to an internal memo from the Ministry of Defense.

According to TV 2, which reported on the memo, the document states that Denmark is meeting just three of NATO’s 17 strength objectives. This relates to various military hardware goals, such as delivering short-range air defense systems to the army. This has led to rebukes from NATO staff as well as the UK and the US, according to TV 2’s reporting of the ministry memo.

NATO determined in a 2020 evaluation of Denmark’s military that there was already a “critical deficit” in its military which would likely render it “practically useless in a sharp conflict.”

In response to Lyhne’s comments, Danish acting defense minister Troels Lund Poulsen told TV 2 this week that the country’s military situation was “critical.” Danish military analyst Jens Wenzel Kristofferson questioned, also to TV 2, if Denmark can consider itself a “core ally” to NATO when it lags so far behind in military requirements.

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51. Russian human rights chief issues Ukrainian language appealЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Children should be able to study their native language in Russia, Tatyana Moskalkova has said

Ukrainian-speaking children in Russia should be provided with opportunities to study their native language, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has said.

In an interview with RIA Novosti published on Thursday, Moskalkova touched on the issue of displaced children and their education, as well as young people from the four former Ukrainian territories – Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – which were incorporated into Russia after referendums last year.

“There were kids who said: ‘We want to be in Russia, but we would like to continue learning the Ukrainian language.’ If it’s their native language, then, of course, why not,” Moskalkova said.

She stressed that it is important for Russian authorities to provide the necessary conditions “so that a family that has grown up in a certain system can preserve its traditions and its language.”

Read more
File photo: The Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow.
Moscow outlines Ukraine peace demands

Moskalkova also discussed allegations that Russia had carried out the “unlawful deportation” of children from Ukraine. The claims prompted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, earlier this month.

Moskalkova said she had repeatedly raised the issue with officials in Ukraine, requesting that they provide lists of children deemed to have been “forcibly deported.” However, the human rights commissioner said that she had not received a response, and that discussions with UN representatives had likewise not yielded any evidence to back up the claims.

“I contacted a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on this issue. According to the charter, they can talk with refugees one-on-one to receive information,” Moskalkova explained. She claimed that the representative “said that he did not meet a single person who would be forcibly kept [by Russia] in temporary accommodation centers or anywhere else.”

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52. Russian Muslims issued trading banЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Short positions and margin trading have been prohibited

Russian Muslims have been prohibited from acquiring shares in companies that do not comply with Sharia law, according to a ruling by the Council of Ulema issued on Wednesday. It also banned margin trading and short transactions.

Margin trading is when investors borrow money to buy stock at interest. A “short” position is generally the sale of stock the investor does not own, with the belief the stock will decrease in value. Both are considered risky trading.

The statement on the council’s website adds that believers are no longer allowed to loan or lease company shares.

“It is forbidden to acquire and conduct transactions with shares of companies related to Sharia-prohibited activities, such as alcohol production, pig farming, gambling, etc.,” the document reads.

Security shareholders are now obligated to pay zakat or the annual Muslim tax in favor of the needy. The ruling also advised not to conduct transactions with shares of foreign organizations or companies that do not publish financial statements.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Representations of cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Ethereum, DogeCoin, Ripple and Litecoin are seen on a PC motherboard.
Crypto trade is HARAM, largest Muslim nation’s religious council rules

At the same time, it allowed acquisition and transactions with shares of companies engaged in a permitted type of activity and doing business without placing or raising funds at usurious interest. Islamic law prohibits usury – or the collection and payment of interest.

“These can be, for example, shares of construction, automotive and oil companies, but subject to a number of conditions,” the Council specified.

The Islamic financial system has the same tools as the conventional one, but the percentage basis is replaced with the provision of shares in the company, and, hence, income. This means the bank shares all the risks with its borrower. Therefore, lending under Islamic banking is purpose-oriented.

Usury or any other activity that involves receiving interest income is unacceptable in Islam. Financial transactions should be based on real trade or business and should not be connected with activities prohibited by Sharia law, such as gambling or alcohol.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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53. Russian MP makes promise to conscriptsЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Troops called up for mandatory service in spring will not serve in Russia’s new territories bordering Ukraine, he claimed

Conscripts called up for mandatory military service in April will not be sent to any of the new Russian territories bordering Ukraine, the head of the State Duma Defense Committee announced on Wednesday.

Andrey Kartapolov added that there would be no conscription in the near future in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, nor in Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, which became part of Russia in late September.

“The reasons are clear,” the MP told journalists. “There is a special military operation going on there, they have nothing to do there. When the situation is normal, then we will return to the issue of the possibility of conscription from these regions.”

Kartapolov’s comments followed rumors that Russian conscription centers were preparing for a second wave of mobilization with a view to deploying new troops to the conflict zone in Ukraine.

These rumors have been repeatedly dismissed by a number of top government officials, with Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin describing them as “purely the work of the enemy.” He explained that the military commissariats were doing routine preparations for the upcoming annual spring conscription.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Russian conscripts.
Russian conscription age to change

In an interview with Interfax, Kartapolov also addressed the planned increase in the military age in Russia. He said the recently introduced draft law on the gradual increase in the age of conscription would not be implemented in spring because the State Duma, Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, only plans to consider the bill after April 17.

The bill was introduced earlier this month and proposes to raise the minimum and maximum age of conscription in Russia. Currently, able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to undergo mandatory military service. However, under the draft legislation, this range would increase over several years, reaching 21 to 30 in 2026.

The idea of increasing the conscription age was proposed by Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in December. During a report for President Vladimir Putin, he also suggested raising the strength of the Russian standing army to 1.5 million, citing the threat posed by NATO in Europe.

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54. Hungarian firms forced to leave Russia – envoyЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The country’s businesses have reportedly been facing harassment in Ukraine

Hungarian businesses have been forced out of Russia due to pressure from elsewhere, despite demonstrating a pragmatic approach to working in the country, according to Moscow’s ambassador to Budapest, Evgeny Stanislavov.

“For foreign companies, including Hungarian firms, Russia’s profitable markets remain attractive despite difficulties in logistics and other problems caused by sanctions,” the envoy told RIA Novosoti an interview published on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that companies from his country that continue to do business in Russia were facing discrimination in Ukraine. He accused the authorities in Kiev of banning the sale of medication produced by Hungarian pharmaceutical firms Gedeon Richter and Egis, and of calling for a boycott of energy company MOL.

READ MORE: Hungary reveals cost of anti-Russia sanctions

Stanislavov urged the Ukrainian government to focus on developing the appeal of its market to foreign investors, as “Kiev’s escalation of the military conflict obviously damages it,” according to the diplomat.

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55. Russian central bank reveals how it braced for Western dollar grabЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Moscow stockpiled gold, yuan and foreign currency in cash to offset Western sanctions, the regulator has revealed

The Bank of Russia had been preparing for an escalation of Western sanctions since 2014 and was beefing up additional funds as a hedge against future restrictions on its foreign exchange reserves, the regulator revealed on Wednesday.

Amid “increasing geopolitical risks” the central bank ramped up investments in assets “that cannot be blocked by unfriendly nations” and transferred part of its reserves to gold, Chinese yuan and foreign currency in cash, the regulator announced in its annual report.

The central bank managed to stash billions of imported dollars “in volumes limited by logistics capabilities,” the report said without specifying the amount of accumulated funds. Alternative reserves in dollars and gold bars have been stockpiled in the vaults of the Bank of Russia.

“This safety cushion was created in the form of alternative reserves – less liquid and convenient in everyday life, but more reliable in the face of a tough geopolitical scenario,” the regulator explained.

It was impossible to abandon reserves in dollars and euros, as these currencies were used for settlements in international trade as well as in the domestic financial sector, the central bank added.

“Therefore the structure of foreign exchange reserves needed to take into account the needs of citizens and businesses,” the regulator concluded.

READ MORE: Seizing Russian assets is ‘challenging’ – EU task force head

The central bank could have “unloaded” part of this money to banks during the first wave of Western sanctions to stabilize Russia’s banking system and offset the withdrawal of dollars and euros by “panicking depositors,” the chief analyst from Ingosstrakh-Investment, Viktor Tunyov, believes.

According to some estimates, last year almost $20 billion was withdrawn by depositors from the country’s second largest bank, VTB, alone.

In 2022, Russia was hit by sweeping Western economic sanctions, which included measures to cut the Russian central bank off from the international financial system, while around $300 billion of the bank’s foreign reserves were frozen. Moscow has criticized the seizure of its assets, saying it constitutes theft.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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56. Russia makes ‘goodwill’ missile pledge to USЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Moscow will continue to inform Washington of its launches, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said

Russia will continue to inform the US about its ballistic missile launches despite Moscow suspending its participation in the New START treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has stated.

Russia placed its participation in the New START treaty – the last remaining nuclear accord with Washington – on hold in February.

Explaining the move, President Vladimir Putin said that the 2010 deal had been signed under different circumstances, when Russia and the US did not perceive each other as adversaries. The West had also denied Russian requests to inspect nuclear facilities even though this was allowed for under the treaty, Putin claimed.

Speaking about data sharing between Moscow and Washington on Thursday, Ryabkov stated that “all types of information exchanges, as well as other elements of verification activities in accordance with the New START, have been suspended.”

Read more
Russian Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile system.
Moscow accuses Washington of nuclear weapons ‘hypocrisy’

However, he noted the announcement by Moscow that it will “adhere to the basic quantitative restrictions established in the New START treaty, and will continue to implement the 1988 agreement on the exchange of notifications on missile launches.” Russia will do so “out of good will,” Ryabkov added.

The New START treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by Russia and the US to 1,550. It also confines the two nations to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and nuclear-capable heavy bombers, as well as to 700 ICBMs, SLBMs and strategic bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments.

Ryabkov said that Russia had informed the US of its decision to suspend participation in the New START treaty in both verbal and written form, but that Moscow had not received any such notification from Washington.

This means that the US violated its commitments under the New START treaty when it refused to provide Moscow with a biannual report on nuclear stockpiles earlier this week, Ryabkov argued.

READ MORE: Belarus rebukes West over Russian nukes

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday that Washington was ready to continue exchanging information with Moscow in line with the New START treaty, but only on a reciprocal basis. “Since they [Russia] have refused to be in compliance… we have decided to likewise not share that data,” Kirby said.

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57. Ukrainian FM downplays importance of ‘counteroffensive’Чт, 30 мар[-/+]

Dmitry Kuleba has urged that Western military aid continue until Kiev achieves all its goals confronting Russian forces

A counteroffensive by Ukraine that has been much-anticipated should not be considered as a make-or-break moment in its conflict with Russia, Kiev's Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has said, urging his country's foreign backers to maintain their support regardless of the outcome of this expected operation.

“We should counter by all means the perception of the counteroffensive as the decisive battle of the war,” he told the Financial Times, as quoted on Wednesday.

He said Kiev was concerned that the operation would not result in Ukrainian troops pushing Russia 100%” out of the territory it wishes to reclaim. However, in this scenario of underachievement, he feared, “some people may say this was the last decisive battle and now we have to think of an alternative scenario.”

The Ukrainian leadership has insisted that the only option it is considering is retaking all land lost by Kiev, including Crimea, before any peace talks can start. The government has also prohibited by law any negotiations with Russia for as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in office.

Read more
President Zelensky speaks with Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press.
Zelensky explains why he won’t withdraw from key Donbass city

Kuleba suggested that following a counter-offensive operation like the one anticipated, minority voices “in Washington, in Berlin, in Paris, in London” will try to push for a ceasefire “along the lines of a Minsk III.” He was referring to the two Minsk agreements that were supposed to guide Kiev and its then-breakaway regions to co-operate in a stable peace.

The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics rejected the authorities that came to power in 2014 after an armed coup in Kiev and fought for independence, following which Kiev sent troops to quash them.

Last year, amid the hostilities with Russia, former leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany – the latter two had mediated the Minsk deals – acknowledged that the agreements were really intended to give Kiev time to beef up its military. Moscow said this confirmed that the three parties had negotiated in bad faith, adding that it proved once again that Western politicians were not to be trusted.

During the anticipated counteroffensive, Ukraine is expected to capitalize on freshly-delivered Western weapons, including main battle tanks. Last week, however, Zelensky said his country was not ready to launch one, citing a shortage of armaments.

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58. Musk surpasses Obama in follower countЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The SpaceX and Tesla chief has risen to the top spot several months after purchasing Twitter in a multi-billion dollar deal

Twitter’s owner and chief executive Elon Musk usurped former US president Barack Obama as the most-followed person on the social media platform when he reached approximately 133.08 million followers on Thursday.

Musk’s total narrowly places him in front of Obama, who has around 133.04 million Twitter followers, also as of Thursday. The pair are both comfortably ahead of the third-placed Justin Bieber, with the pop star totalling 113.4 million followers. Other musicians like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift, as well as soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, are also represented in the top ten.

Musk broke the 100 million barrier for the first time last June, months after he first floated the prospect of purchasing the company in April 2022.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California
Musk announces drastic change to Twitter algorithm

Another former US president, Donald Trump, currently stands in ninth position in the followers list with 87.3 million – some 26 million behind both Musk and Obama. Trump hasn’t posted to Twitter since January 2021, when he was banned from the platform in the days after the January 6th, 2021 riots at the US Capitol in Washington DC.

He was reinstated to Twitter in November following Musk’s takeover of the social media company, though he has yet to post a single tweet, preferring instead to publish his thoughts on his Truth Social platform.

Musk’s rise to becoming Twitter’s most-followed figure comes after his $44 billion acquisition of the company in October. Under his leadership, the platform has introduced a series of changes to the social network in a bid to boost revenue – such as the introduction of paid verification – which have occurred alongside widespread cuts of its global workforce. These redundancies have been mirrored in several other Big Tech companies in recent months.

Twitter announced last week that it is to end its ‘legacy verification program’ on April 1. Under its previous ownership, some prominent accounts – including those of politicians and journalists – were assigned a free blue check mark to distinguish them from fraudulent or satirical accounts, provided that they satisfied certain criteria. From Saturday onwards, users will be required to pay at least $8 per month to keep their verified status.

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59. The Taiwan leader’s American visit will only invite chaos to her islandЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Tsai Ing-wen is hastening the demise of her dream of independence from China

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen departed on Wednesday for a trip to Guatemala and Belize, which is also bookended by US stops in New York and Los Angeles.

This comes at a time when another Central American nation, Honduras, has just established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China, i.e., mainland China, leaving the so-called Republic of China – the official name used for the island by the de facto government of Taiwan – in the dust. The move leaves only 13 UN member states (out of 193) that recognize Taiwan as a country.

Rumors that Tsai might meet with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California have been harshly criticized by Beijing. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian stated, “If [Tsai] engages with US House Speaker McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the One China principle, undermines China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Additionally, recent parliamentary delegations from Czechia and Germany to Taiwan have also stoked China’s anger while Nancy Pelosi’s 2022 visit to Taipei is still fresh. During the former house speaker’s visit, flights in China’s Fujian province near Taiwan were disrupted, Taiwan’s “presidential office” was targeted by an overseas DDoS attack, and there was even a bomb threat sent to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. China also held a major military drill that pretty much encircled the entire island, and crossed into Taiwan’s claimed territorial waters in the days immediately following Pelosi’s departure.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech at the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2022.
China issues warning over Taiwan leader’s visit to US

The official response saw Beijiing cut various lines of dialogue and cooperation with Washington, including climate talks that were ongoing between the two major economies. China basically saw Pelosi’s visit not as the rogue actions of a separate and independent branch of government, the legislature, but as a statement by the federal government. Beijing felt the government of President Joe Biden could have intervened to stop the Speaker’s provocative trip, but chose not to do so.

To be sure, even though McCarthy is a Republican and Biden is a Democrat, China will still feel that Biden has the power to eliminate Tsai’s trip. He’s the head honcho, the President of the United States, after all. If Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy goes forward, Beijing will likely accelerate the pace at which it “poaches” diplomatic ties from Taiwan and continue to isolate the leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of Tsai Ing-wen.

As we saw with Honduras, switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, and also with Nicaragua formulating a free trade agreement with Beijing, Central American countries need the economic means to develop. Purely out of necessity, countries like Guatemala, Belize and even Haiti could end up willing to join Beijing in the near future – or wishing they had done so before receiving the Taiwan leader. In my opinion, the international heat from Tsai’s visit to the former two’s countries may just be too dramatic while delivering relatively little in terms of results.

Read more
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at a memorial event on Monday in Taipei.
Taiwanese leader defies China over US visit

Beijing still has the option of hitting Washington where it hurts the most – the economic and trade spheres – by disrupting US supply chains, which are strongly tied to China. This option has always been on the table but wasn’t used even back when Pelosi visited Taiwan. It would hurt China as well, but if Beijing feels it is pushed far enough, it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Most Americans couldn’t find Taiwan on a map, so it’s highly unlikely most of them would know who Tsai Ing-wen is. However, she is a deeply polarizing figure for people with a bit of political sophistication and that’s why her visit is unlikely to be met with universal approval. Instead, it will only make people angry, divided and sew discord. A cursory glance at US politics over the past several years reveals that this is not what the country needs right now. And, indeed, a large protest was staged outside of her hotel in New York City for posterity.

Ultimately, the Taiwan leader’s international sojourn will not net any positives for anyone. In fact, it is likely to speed up the decline of the island’s little remaining diplomatic cover. At the same time, the US and its people could suffer as a result of the controversy. Tsai, the agent of chaos, is simply going on a vanity trip while hastening the demise of her dream for “Taiwan independence.” It also seems that domestic political groups in Taiwan share a similar view.

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60. White House reveals budget for foreign influence operationsЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The US will spend billions to “keep the torch of liberty burning,” President Joe Biden told the virtual Summit for Democracy

US President Joe Biden has announced an additional $690 million in spending on what he described as efforts to support democracy around the world, as well as plans to secure a further $9.5 billion from Congress for the same purpose.

Much of the money will go through a new bureau to be created within the US Agency for International Development, he said on Wednesday. The agency operates under the Department of State and is ostensibly responsible for humanitarian aid programs.

Biden revealed the funding plans during a virtual gathering of leaders of select nations, which his administration considers to be “democracies” as opposed to “autocracies.” The $690 million has been allocated to the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which Biden launched in 2021 during the inaugural Summit for Democracy.

In a fact sheet accompanying the announcement, Washington described several areas in which it says American taxpayers’ money will help strengthen democracy abroad. The list of causes includes supporting “free and independent media,” strengthening “information integrity,” fighting corruption by having the US Treasury “unmask shell companies,” bolstering “human rights and democratic reformers” and defending “free and fair elections.”

Read more
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev.
US democracy ‘a facade’ – Russian security chief

In his remarks at the so-called Summit for Democracy, Biden praised his administration, saying it has demonstrated that the US political system “can still do big things and deliver important progress for working Americans.” Among its achievements, he mentioned lowering costs of some prescription drugs and health insurance premiums and “creating good union jobs” as part of an effort to renew US infrastructure.

The meeting, which Biden twice erroneously called “Summit of Democracies” before correcting himself, is meant to “galvanize action that translate[s] to concrete progress for people around the world,” he said, according to a White House transcript.

“The democracies of the world are getting stronger, not weaker. Autocracies of the world are getting weaker, not stronger,” he declared. “Our world needs to make democracies stronger, to keep the torch of liberty burning for ourselves and generations to come.”

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61. Andrey Sushentsov: The people who brought you the Iraq war loudly support arming Ukraine. Where will this lead?Чт, 30 мар[-/+]

Despite the disastrous consequences of the US invasion of Iraq twenty years ago, many of those responsible for that war – and their media and academic cheerleaders are back for more

This year’s twentieth anniversary of the illegal Iraq invasion paradoxically coincided with major international events. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, was in Moscow on the day, while a Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum opened at the same time.

In 2003, at the height of its power, the US proclaimed its "unipolar moment" in which it would dominate unchallenged, needing no allies and tolerating no objections from adversaries. History, it was believed, had a single purpose, and they would stop at nothing to achieve it. Indeed, American military, political and economic dominance seemed total at the time, echoing the sentiments of Henry Kissinger, who a few years earlier had written "America at the Apex." Twenty years later, we are witnessing the flowering of multi-polarity: in Moscow, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was talking to the Russian President, two countries contributing to a change the world has not seen in a hundred years. This transience of world history shows how quickly historical cycles change, but it is also important that the US itself, through its actions in different parts of the world, is accelerating its course.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fyodor Lukyanov: What you need to know about Russia-China relations, but were afraid to ask

One of the most important strategic mistakes made by Washington was the invasion of Iraq. Based on a false pretext and the deliberate misleading the international community, it led to a series of significant war crimes, a catastrophic civil war, the shattering of Iraqi statehood and enormous repercussions for the entire Middle East. Just a few years of American presence in Iraq resulted in huge numbers civilian deaths, indiscriminate use of force, and the destruction of several cities, including Mosul. During the evacuation of the Russian embassy amid the 2003 US invasion, a convoy of diplomats came under American fire and several were injured. US private military contractors, who at one point had the same presence in the country as official troops, committed a number of war crimes. The abuse of prisoners by the US military at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad has been well documented. When the International Criminal Court raised the question of American citizens being charged over offenses in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US responded that it would prosecute the judges who raised the issue and that they should withdraw their initiatives immediately.

Arguably the greatest crime of the US in Iraq has been to create a civil war that has resulted in a terrible number of casualties with estimates ranging from 600,000 to one million.

From 2005 to 2007, the country’s population curve flattened, despite the fact that it has always had one of the highest birth rates in the region. The dismantling of the central government triggered geopolitical processes in the region and power in the formerly Sunni-ruled country fell into the hands of the Shia Arab majority, which began a rapprochement with Shia Iran. Since then, Tehran’s strategic position in Iraq has remained significant.

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FILE PHOTO. Wearing traditional shirts, Thomas Bach (center, left), IOC president, and Xi Jinping (center, right), president of the People's Republic of China, attend dinner on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Timofey Bordachev: Why the West’s standoff with Russia and China is a big opportunity for the world’s second-tier powers

Some of the consequences of the US invasion have backfired as well. For example, the fight against terror led to an increase in the influence of ISIS, an organization banned in Russia, in Iraq. Unexpectedly, Iran's strengthened role in the country meant that 150,000 US troops were unable to control the situation in Iraq, while a few dozen Iranian diplomats in the embassy in Baghdad were quite capable of doing so. The metastasis of the Arab Spring, which began to spread to various countries in the region, was also one of the consequences of the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, US financial costs for the war are estimated at several trillion dollars. Overall, the politically unsuccessful operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a decline in American influence and status in the region, as evidenced by the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, mediated by China.

The Americans formulated a reasonable objective for the military operation as early as 2007. It was voiced by General David Petraeus at a US congressional hearing. In response to a question about American interests in the country, he said, “Our purpose is not to create a Jeffersonian democracy, our purpose is to create the conditions for our troops to withdraw.” The implication was that pulling out should not look like defeat. At the time, this reasoned objective was well in line with American interests and showed the depth of the strategic error the Americans had made in preparing for the 2003 invasion.

Today, many of those responsible for that war – and their media and academic cheerleaders – are now loudly supporting Washington’s position on Ukraine.

It’s unlikely that the impact of their actions will be any different this time.

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62. Brazil and China sign pact to abandon dollarЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The two BRICS nations will now reportedly trade in their own currencies

Beijing and Brasilia have signed an agreement on trade in mutual currencies, abandoning the US dollar as an intermediary, and are also planning to expand cooperation on food and minerals.

According to media reports, the deal will enable the two BRICS members to conduct their massive trade and financial transactions directly, exchanging renminbi for real and vice versa, instead of using the US dollar for settlements.

“The expectation is that this will reduce costs... promote even greater bilateral trade and facilitate investment,” AFP quoted the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency as saying on Wednesday.

The countries also reportedly announced the creation of a clearinghouse that will provide settlements without the US dollar, as well as lending in national currencies. The move is aimed at facilitating and reducing the cost of transactions between the sides, and getting rid of dollar dependence in bilateral relations.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) announced earlier that such arrangements will boost the usage of the renminbi for cross-border transactions between enterprises and financial institutions in the two countries, and further facilitate bilateral trade and investment.

READ MORE: BRICS holds talks on reserve currency – diplomat

China has been Brazil's largest trading partner for more than a decade, with bilateral trade hitting a record $150 billion last year.

According to the Secretary for International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Brazil, Tatiana Rosito, 25 countries are already making settlements with China in yuan.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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63. Kremlin comments on arrest of WSJ correspondentЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Russia’s FSB caught Evan Gershkovich “red-handed,” Putin’s spokesman has claimed

Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent Evan Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” trying to obtain Russian state secrets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has claimed. The Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Thursday that the reporter had been detained in the city of Ekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage.

Speaking to journalists via conference call, Peskov was asked to comment on the arrest of the American citizen and whether Russia will cooperate with US security services on the issue. The spokesperson stated that he does not know the full details of the case and that the matter remains in the hands of the FSB.

However, Peskov claimed that as far as he was aware, Gershkovich had been caught in the act of trying to collect intelligence about a defense facility, in violation of Russian laws on state secrets. The correspondent, who covers news from Russia, Ukraine, and the former USSR, could face between 10 and 20 years in prison if charged with espionage.

Although Gershkovich had obtained the necessary journalistic credentials from the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia, the FSB alleges that he “acted in the interest of the US government” when he was caught during “an attempt to receive” classified intelligence.

Read more
Credit: facebook.com/evan.gershkovich
Wall Street Journal reporter arrested on suspicion of espionage – FSB

Asked if the incident could provoke a response from US authorities regarding Russian journalists working in America, Peskov said that Moscow hopes no such retaliation will follow because “we are not talking about allegations here. He was caught in the act.”

The WSJ has reacted to the incident by stating that it is “deeply concerned for the safety of Mr Gershkovich.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said that the issue of potentially exchanging the WSJ journalist in a swap deal has not been raised.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has claimed that whatever Gershkovich was doing when he was detained by the FSB, it had “nothing to do with journalism.” She argued that the status of correspondent had previously been used as cover by other Western nationals attempting to obtain classified Russian intelligence.

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64. UK reveals migrant plansЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Government officials are seeking to cut an annual GBP2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) spend on accommodation for asylum seekers

The UK government has revealed plans to place asylum seekers in disused army barracks as it seeks to reduce the cost of temporary housing for migrants, according to a proposal published on Wednesday.

The proposal, which was detailed on Wednesday by UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick in the House of Commons, comes amid controversial plans by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government to reduce cross-channel migration – with Jenrick citing a yearly bill of £2.3 billion ($2.8 billion) currently being paid to temporarily house migrants while asylum claims are processed.

Disused military sites, Jenrick said, will be “scaled up over the coming months and will collectively provide accommodation to several thousand asylum seekers through repurposed barracks blocks and portacabins.”

However, he refused to confirm UK media reports suggesting they intended to place migrants on barges, saying only that the Home Office is “exploring the possibility” of housing asylum seekers on vessels “as they are in Scotland and the Netherlands.”

Read more
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman (C) attends a Commonwealth event in Kigali, Rwanda on March 19, 2023.
Rwanda safe for refugees – London

It comes amid reports that Home Office officials have warned that accommodating migrants on barges or ships could prove to be more expensive than hotels.

Prime Minister Sunak has made curbing illegal migration one of his central priorities since he assumed office in October. He has faced flak from political rivals over the introduction of his Illegal Migration Bill which, among other things, proposes the relocation of migrants from the UK to Rwanda.

The bill also vastly reduces the options migrants might have in objecting to their removal from the UK, and places a renewed emphasis on the office of the Home Secretary Suella Braverman to “remove illegal entrants.” Critics have claimed this violates international law and it has been rebuked by various human rights groups, as well as the European Union and the Council of Europe.

The Labour Party, the chief opposition party in the UK, has accused the government of “an admission of failure.” Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told MPs on Wednesday that the plans have been introduced only after several years of demonstrating an inability to reduce cross-channel migration and the use of hotels as temporary accommodation.

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65. Swiss bank helping rich Americans dodge taxes – SenateЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Credit Suisse violated its own 2014 plea agreement, US lawmakers have claimed

Swiss bank Credit Suisse is complicit in an ongoing scheme by wealthy Americans to evade taxes, despite an earlier commitment to a crackdown, the US Senate Finance Committee claimed on Wednesday.

Credit Suisse pleaded guilty in 2014 to criminal charges for helping rich US clients hide assets in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. As part of the plea agreement, the bank pledged to crack down on tax dodgers.

However, according to the results of a two-year investigation by the committee, the bank failed to comply.

The probe claims to have uncovered “major violations of that plea agreement, including a previously unknown, ongoing and potentially criminal conspiracy involving the failure to disclose nearly $100 million in secret offshore accounts belonging to a single family of American taxpayers.”

Read more
French banks raided in tax evasion sting

According to the report, the total amount concealed in violation of the 2014 plea agreement is more than $700 million.

“Credit Suisse got a discount on the penalty it faced in 2014 for enabling tax evasion because bank executives swore up and down they’d get out of the business of defrauding the United States. This investigation shows Credit Suisse did not make good on that promise,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden.

Credit Suisse had to be rescued by the Swiss government earlier this month following multibillion-dollar losses, among other issues. The bank was purchased by rival UBS for about $3.25 billion.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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66. China ready to boost military cooperation with RussiaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Defense Ministry in Beijing has said it is willing to work with Moscow on strengthening strategic coordination

China is ready to strengthen cooperation with the Russian military in order to jointly uphold international justice, peace and security, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei stated on Thursday.

The announcement comes after a summit between President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow earlier this month. The two leaders reaffirmed the principles of partnership between their nations, and agreed to improve bilateral relations and military coordination.

According to Tan, China is “willing to work together with the Russian military to fully implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state.” That includes further strengthening strategic communication and coordination, he added.

The diplomat stated that the two nations plan to regularly organize joint maritime and air patrols, as well as holding training exercises and strengthening various other areas of cooperation. According to Tan, the aim is to “deepen military mutual trust” with Russia to help ensure international justice and make new contributions to international and regional security. This would “serve the building of a community with a shared future for mankind,” he asserted.

Read more
China and Russia top list of states with largest trade surplus – study

Tan noted the increasingly strong relations between Moscow and Beijing, but insisted that they do not amount to a Cold War-style military-political alliance. According to the spokesman, the ties “transcend this model of state relations” and have a nature of “non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-targeting of third countries.”

The US, meanwhile, has called the growing ties between Russia and China “very troubling.” Officials have also described China as a “challenge,” with the Pentagon requesting a 2024 defense budget of up to $842 billion.

During his press conference, Tan argued that is China a “builder of world peace” and “contributor to global development.” In contrast, he claimed that the US uses its mammoth defense budget – which is the highest in the world – to “wage wars and create turmoil everywhere,” thus making it “the biggest threat to world peace, security and stability.”

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67. EU country considering Olympic boycottЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Poland will continue to resist attempts by the IOC to reinstate Russian athletes at international events, its sports minister has said

Warsaw could boycott the Olympic Games if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk has stated.

The IOC issued a set of “recommendations” to international sports federations on Tuesday regarding athletes from Russia and Belarus, who were banned from competition shortly after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine last February.

Olympic bosses suggested that Russians and Belarusians should be allowed to take part in tournaments abroad under a neutral flag, provided they have no links to the military or security agencies, and haven’t vocally supported Russia’s military operation. The guidelines only refer to individual athletes, not teams, which should still be banned, they said.

Speaking to RMF24 radio on Thursday, Bortniczuk claimed those “recommendations” would have been far more lenient towards Russian and Belarusian athletes if Poland had not threatened the IOC with a boycott. “I know what this statement was originally supposed to be and what it ended up being,” he stated.

Read more
The headquarters of International Olympic Committee (IOC) pictured in Lausanne on March 25, 2023.
IOC unveils ‘recommendations’ for Russian and Belarusian athletes

“The issue of the boycott must remain central in our contacts with the IOC because they’re afraid of it,” the sports minister added.

However, Bortniczuk said he was “99% convinced that the boycott will not be necessary.” Warsaw, which has been one of Kiev’s strongest backers amid its conflict with Moscow, “will win this fight” without resorting to such harsh measures, he claimed.

Poland is scheduled to host a stage of the Fencing World Cup in Poznan in April, in which the International Fencing Federation (FIE) has allowed Russian athletes to compete under neutral status.

Warsaw had earlier warned that it could cancel the event altogether in protest over the move. Bortniczuk now says Russians will be permitted to compete in Poznan, but only if they “sign a certain declaration” in which they reject Moscow’s military operation and condemn what he called Russian “war crimes” in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Ukrainian athletes stopped from staging political stunt

Moscow is also dissatisfied with the IOC’s recommendations. Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Stanislav Pozdnyakov described them as a “human rights abuse” and a breach of Olympic principles and the UN charter. “We consider the proposed conditions unreasonable, legally void and excessive,” he said.

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68. ‘Woe to you, have fear,’ senior Orthodox bishop tells ZelenskyЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Ukrainian president is responsible for a religious crackdown in his country, Metropolitan Pavel has said

A senior bishop in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has issued a strongly-worded rebuke to President Vladimir Zelensky over his role in a crackdown that is gripping the country’s largest religious denomination.

“I am telling you, Mr President, and your entire pack, that our tears will not fall to the ground, but on your head,” Metropolitan Pavel said in a video address on Wednesday.

“You think today that after taking power on our backs, [based] on our wishes, you can treat us like that. Our Lord will not forgive this action, neither to you nor to your family,” the bishop warned.

Pavel heads the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the largest Orthodox monastery in the country, established some 970 years ago. The Ukrainian ministry of culture denied the UOC a renewal of tenancy in the property, meaning that some 220 monks living there would be “kicked out to the streets,” as Pavel described it. The eviction deadline comes this week.

Read more
People attend a service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at a compound of Kiev Pechersk Lavra on March 29, 2023.
Tensions soar in Kiev over iconic Christian monastery (VIDEO)

The bishop blasted the president for refusing to meet senior UOC clerics to discuss the situation. This was particularly hypocritical, he remarked, considering that, as a presidential candidate, Zelensky had sought and received the blessing to run for office from Metropolitan Onufry, the Church leader.

“You have failed to stop the culture minister, who is possessed by hateful malice and devilish fury. This means he is acting with your permission; Woe to you, have fear,” the bishop said.

The minister, Aleksandr Tkachenko, has said that UOC monks could stay at Lavra if they agreed to defect to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a rival schismatic organization backed by Kiev.

The OCU received recognition as a legitimate church in 2019 from the Constantinople Patriarchate, causing a major schism among the Orthodox faithful of the world. Metropolitan Pavel has also accused Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople of having given impetus to the crackdown with this move.

“Woe and shame on you, so-called patriarch [Bartholomew], because everything done today is done with your ill-fated and evil blessing,” he said.

READ MORE: War of the churches: How Ukraine has become unsafe for millions of Orthodox believers

The bishop also likened the current detractors of the UOC to the Bolshevik and Communist leaders who cracked down on all religions when they were in power. He expressed faith that his church will survive the new period of suppression, just like it did the previous one.

“You’ll disappear like dew in the sun, because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword,” he said, quoting in the same sentence from the Ukrainian national anthem and from the Gospels.

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69. Kiev demands cut of Western ‘war profits’ – PoliticoЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Ukraine’s energy minister has said the conflict with Russia has allowed oil and gas majors to rake in record revenues

Major oil companies have made record profits as a result of the conflict in Ukraine and should pay to rebuild the country’s war-torn infrastructure, Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko said on Wednesday in an interview with Politico.

According to Galushchenko, oil and gas majors have generated windfall profits of more than $200 billion due to wild swings in global energy prices, and should transfer some of those funds to Ukraine.

Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the past year in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine have sent energy prices soaring.

In 2022, oil majors Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and TotalEnergies posted a combined profit of $196.3 billion, marking an all-time high for the industry.

“I think it would be fair to share this money with Ukraine. I mean, to help us to restore, to rebuild the energy sector,” Galushchenko said on a visit to Brussels, adding that the record profits had been achieved purely because of the conflict in his country.

READ MORE: Big Oil rakes in record profits

According to the latest assessment by the Ukrainian government, the World Bank, the European Commission, and the UN, the estimated cost of the country’s reconstruction and recovery will be over $400 billion.

The Ukrainian energy minister also called on the West to take further steps to plug sanctions loopholes that allow Russian energy producers to continue exports.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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70. Russian moves: Here are five athletes who electrified their sports with unique tricksЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

From ice hockey to gymnastics, Russian athletes have created numerous signature moves down the years

Russian athletes have undoubtedly made their mark on sports worldwide – so much so that some moves in their chosen disciplines have been named in their honor because of the way they popularized or introduced them. Here, we look at five sports moves named after Russian stars.

‘The Datsyuk Flip’ – ice hockey

Known as the ‘Magic Man’ for the way he handled his stick to pull off some unfathomable moves, Pavel Datsyuk was one of the biggest names in hockey in the 2000s and enjoyed a 15-year career in the elite NHL with the Detroit Red Wings before returning to his homeland.

Datsyuk will forever be a legend in the Motor City for his contributions to Stanley Cup titles in 2002 and 2008, but his participation on this list came after heroics in 2010.

Taking the first shot of a shootout against the Red Wings’ bitter rivals the Chicago Blackhawks in a January regular season game, Datsyuk made a mockery of opposition goaltender Antti Niemi.

Gliding up to the Finn down the middle, Datsyuk did a slight ‘dirty dangle’ that he was famous for, then quickly flicked his wrist to make it appear as if he would backhand his effort. Instead, the Russian scooped the puck with the inside of his stick into the net.

Datsyuk’s audacity understandably sent the Joe Louis Arena into rapture, as well as his teammates. “They can’t believe it on the Red Wings bench,” said one elated commentator. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a slow-mo play like that.”

While Niemi and the Blackhawks had the last laugh that season as he became the first Finnish goalie to win the Stanley Cup, he is often remembered for being on the wrong end of Datsyuk’s trick shot.

The move became immortalized as the ‘Datsyuk Flip’, with hockey enthusiasts attempting to pull it off on the popular NHL video game to this day.

On a side note, the ‘Datsyuk deke’ wasn’t too shoddy either. Again produced in a shootout, it led one pundit to ask: “How many does he have in his repertoire?”

‘The Khorkina’ – artistic gymnastics (uneven bars)

Svetlana Khorkina burst onto the global stage with a pair of silver medals at the 1994 World Championships in Brisbane, not long after her 15th birthday. Two years later, she enjoyed gold-medal success in the uneven bars at the Atlanta Olympics, bouncing back brilliantly after suffering initial disappointment with a 15th-place finish in the all-around final.

The comeback ushered in one of the most revered artistic gymnastics careers of all time, with further high points including another Olympic gold medal and 20 World Championship medals as Khorkina became the first gymnast in history to win three all-around world titles.

Khorkina’s main specialties were the uneven bars and balance beam, and she left a legacy with at least nine moves named after her mainly in those disciplines, in addition to a few spread across floor exercises and the vault.

The first couple – the Khorkina and the Khorkina 2 – come in the uneven bars and involve half-turn hangs. In the former, Khorkina started with a back uprise and then made a straddle flight over the high bar. In the latter, she had inner front support on the low bar, formed a clear hip circle to handstand, then impressively half-turned in full flight to hang on the high bar. There is another move called the Khorkina-Chow or Chow-Khorkina, which was first performed by Amy Chow and is a Stadler one-and-a-half pirouette.

In the 1, 2 and 3 balance beam moves named after her, Khorkina dismounted the apparatus and performed either a full twist, a gainer two-and-a-half twist, or gainer triple twist. In the Khorkina 1 and 2 moves on the vault, there were also plenty of twists and turns with ‘the Khorkina’ in the floor exercise similarly involving a hop with one and a half turns.

Four of these skills are currently listed in the Code of Points (CoP), with Khorkina previously holding the record for the most eponym moves (nine) before some of them were removed ahead of the 2022-2024 quad as part of a regular CoP update.

‘The Besti Squat’ – figure skating

Natalia Bestemianova was a Soviet figure-skating icon who, while overseen by legendary coach Tatiana Tarasova, made her name in the 1980s alongside her partner Andrei Bukin as a four-time world and five-time European champion.

After suffering silver-medal disappointment at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, she finally struck gold in Calgary four years later.

It was throughout 1988 that ‘the Besti Squat,’ unofficially named after Bestemianova, gained prominence as she used it repeatedly in her free dance with Bukin.

The move resembles the spread eagle, given that the skater who executes it glides along an edge with both skates on the ice.

The toes are turned out to the sides with the heels facing one another, and the knees are then bent outwards to a squatting position with the torso upright and thighs parallel to the ice.

Bestimianova, seen here at the 1998 Winter Olympics, made use of the move during a glittering career. © Getty Images

While ‘the Besti Squat’ has become a popular move still used four decades later, not everyone approved of Bestemianova’s performances at the time. Reporting from the 1988 Winter Games, the New York Times claimed that Bestemianova and Bukin’s free dance program “suggested they might take the prize for vulgarity as well,” and that the endless debate as to whether ice dance is sport or art had come to a rest.

“Her aggressiveness did not agree with a submissive image and the pair's overall harsh style made no sense of the spliced-in moves – especially the spread eagle or plie,” it was stated.

Given that the routine landed her gold, however, it is doubtful that Bestemianova, who later became a TV personality on the Russian equivalent of ‘Dancing on Ice,’ cared too much.

The Moscow native was perhaps ahead of her time, with out-of-touch critics falling wide of the mark.

‘The Karelin Lift’ – wrestling

Known as the ‘Russian Bear’, ‘Russian King Kong’, ‘the Experiment’, and ‘Alexander the Great’, Aleksandr Karelin retired in 2000 widely considered to be the greatest wrestler of all time – and among the most dominant athletes ever seen in any sport.

Karelin scooped gold at three consecutive Olympic Games from 1988-1996 and put together a monstrous 887-2 record. He claimed silver in his last Games in Sydney in 2000.

Such was Karelin’s dominance, there were inevitable claims that he used PEDs – although the athlete himself put his phenomenal record down to something else. “No one can completely believe that I am natural. The most important drug is to train like a madman – really like a madman. The people who accuse me are those who have never trained once in their life like I train every day of my life,” he once said.

Given his undisputed reign at the top of his sport, it should be no surprise that Karelin had a move named after him. Known as the ‘Karelin Lift,’ it saw him hold his hapless opponents in the air with his enormous reach and then body-slam them into the mat.

The reverse body lift frequently saw Karelin awarded five points when executed properly, which was the maximum in the sport. The move started while his foe was lying flat on his back on the mat. Once wrapped up in Karelin’s grasp, opponents found it impossible to wriggle free from a grip described as “anaconda-like.”

While it had long been used, Karelin made the lift his own. He was the first heavyweight to add it to his arsenal and wowed the wrestling world by demonstrating it on opponents weighing up to 130kg (285lbs).

‘The Kabaeva’ – rhythmic gymnastics

One of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of the rhythmic facet of the sport, Alina Kabaeva won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 after disappointment in Sydney four years earlier, where she had been widely expected to win the all-around event as the reigning world champion but made a costly error.

Kabaeva boasts 14 World Championship medals and 21 at the European Championships from the late 90s and into the 2000s, but her contributions to her discipline go beyond any silverware amassed since becoming European champion as a 15-year-old prodigy.

Kabaeva revolutionized rhythmic gymnastics by introducing new skills and moves. There are no fewer than four named after her, which have been given Roman numerals to distinguish them.

The ‘Kabaeva I’ is a ring leap she performed with both legs, but the ‘Kabaeva II’ is arguably her most famous, involving a backscale pivot from a standing or grounded position.

Kabaeva was the first to perform the backscale pivot, but her other two moves (the ‘Kabaeva III and IV’) saw her balance with support from her chest and split with hand support.

The 39-year-old, who later ventured into politics, is still known as one of the most flexible athletes to ever grace the mats, and it’s not difficult to see why after a recap of the maneuvers she brought to the continental and global stage.

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71. China completes first LNG trade in yuanЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The transaction involved a shipment from the United Arab Emirates, according to the Shanghai exchange

China has conducted its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) purchase settled in yuan, the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange announced on Tuesday. The trade involved around 65,000 tons of LNG imported from the United Arab Emirates, according to the exchange.

TotalEnergies, which is one of the world’s top exporters of LNG, confirmed a transaction involving the UAE without specifying the details, Reuters reported.

The move is the latest sign of the yuan’s growing role on the international stage, according to the outlet. As part of its de-dollarization strategy, Beijing has been promoting settlements in national currencies other than the US dollar and euro.

During a visit to Saudi Arabia in December, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that his country would “make full use of the Shanghai Petroleum and National Gas Exchange as a platform to carry out yuan settlement of oil and gas trade.”

READ MORE: Russia-China gas megadeal ‘at final stages’ – official

Russia became China’s largest oil supplier in the first two months of 2023 and is set to become the country’s top gas exporter. Moscow has increasingly embraced settlements in yuan amid Western sanctions.

The latest data from the Bank of Russia shows the yuan has become a major player in Russia’s foreign trade, with its share of the country’s import settlements jumping to 23% by the end of last year, from only 4% in January 2022. The yuan’s share in export settlements has also surged, from 0.5% to 16%.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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72. Erdogan accuses West of trying to drag Turkiye into conflict with RussiaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Ankara remains eager to continue “serious” mediation between Moscow and Kiev, the Turkish leader says

The West will not succeed in its attempts to drag Türkiye into a conflict with Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

“We’re experiencing a world marked by crises and wars. We’ve been able to build a strong, independent Türkiye in this environment and we need to maintain it,” the Turkish leader said in an interview with A Haber broadcaster on Wednesday.

“Had it not been for our efforts in the past two years, the Western club would’ve dragged Türkiye into a war against Russia. As long as we’re here, we won’t allow this,” Erdogan insisted.

He reiterated Ankara’s eagerness to help settle the conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the negotiating table. Peace can be achieved through “serious, determined mediation,” he said.

Erdogan’s interview comes six weeks before presidential and general elections take place in Türkiye on May 14. The Turkish president and his ruling AK Party are expected to face a tough challenge following a devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in the country in early February.

Read more
Putin may visit Turkiye – Erdogan

Erdogan also spoke about the Ukrainian conflict during a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Katalin Novak in Ankara on Wednesday, stressing that Türkiye wants to secure peace between Russia and Ukraine “as soon as possible.”

He suggested that the sides could again meet in Istanbul, where talks were previously held shortly after the outbreak of fighting more than a year ago.

Türkiye has maintained contacts with both Moscow and Kiev throughout the conflict. It condemned the use of force by Russia, but at the same time refused to give in to pressure from the US and its allies to join international sanctions against Moscow.

Ankara was also involved in the UN-brokered deal to allow grain exports from Black Sea ports, which was signed between Russia and Ukraine last July. Earlier this month, the agreement was extended for another 60 days.

READ MORE: Moscow outlines Ukraine peace demands

Russia maintains that it’s ready to resolve the crisis in Ukraine at the negotiating table, but says the proposals set out by Kiev and its Western backers have so far been “unacceptable,” leaving it no other choice but to keep pursuing its goals through military means.

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73. Wall Street Journal reporter arrested on suspicion of espionage – FSBЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia for allegedly trying to obtain state secrets, the security service said

A correspondent working for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in Russia has been arrested in the city of Ekaterinburg in the Urals, the FSB security service announced on Thursday.

Evan Gershkovich, who previously worked for the Moscow Times and AFP in the Russian capital, has been accused of trying to collect intelligence about a defense industry factory, in violation of Russia’s laws on state secrets, the statement said. If charged with espionage, the journalist could face between 10 and 20 years in prison.

The FSB alleges that Gershkovich, a US citizen who has accreditation from the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia, “acted in the interest of the US government” when he sought to obtain classified information. He was arrested “during an attempt to receive” the intelligence, the statement added.

The WSJ is “deeply concerned for the safety of Mr Gershkovich,” the outlet said in a statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has commented on the detention, stating that whatever Gershkovich was doing, “it had nothing to do with journalism.” Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that the status of a correspondent and journalistic credentials have previously been used as cover by others, and that other Western nationals have been caught in similar situations in the past.

READ MORE: Russia launches espionage case against US citizen

Before joining the WSJ, Gershkovich was a reporter for Agence France-Presse and the Moscow Times, and a news assistant at the New York Times, according to his bio.

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74. ‘Fatalities expected’ after US military helicopters collideЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The incident happened in Kentucky during a training mission near Fort Campbell

Two assault helicopters operated by the US Army collided on Wednesday night over the state of Kentucky. The fate of their crews has not been confirmed, but the local governor said fatalities were expected.

The two HH60 Black Hawks had taken off from Fort Campbell, a military base on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, the Army said in a statement. They were conducting a routine training mission over Trigg County when the incident occurred at around 10pm.

The modified Black Hawk aircraft belong to the 101st Airborne Division, the ‘Screaming Eagles’, which is the only air assault division in the Army. The county where the crash occurred is around 40km (25 miles) northwest of Fort Campbell.

Governor Andy Beshear wrote on Twitter that state police and fire departments were responding to the incident, and he suggested people should brace for the worst outcome for the crews.

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75. Major exporter to stop shipping Russian grain – mediaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Cargill will stop exporting from Russia in July, RBK reports

Global commodities trader Cargill will stop exporting Russian grain in the new crop year, which starts on July 1, business daily RBK reported on Wednesday, citing a letter sent by the company to Russia’s Agriculture Ministry.

The Russian unit of the American corporation named “earlier discussions on grain export issues and the recommendations of the Agriculture Ministry” as the reason for halting exports, but stressed that the shipments planned for the current 2022/2023 exporting season will be made “in full compliance with the existing quota,” RBK writes.

According to the outlet, in the current export season Cargill’s share in the total export volume of Russian grain stands at around 4%, or 2.2 million tons.

The Russian subsidiary of Cargill has also begun to review of its portfolio of grain export-related assets, according to RBK.

Cargill’s agricultural supply chain activities in Russia include processing and distribution of grain and oilseeds for domestic and export markets. The company owns a river terminal that handles grain export and transit from various areas of Russia and Kazakhstan via ports on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, Cargill Russia’s website says.

Read more
EU countries seek protection from Ukrainian grain

The cessation of export activities by the US company will not affect the volume of Russian grain shipments abroad, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

“The company’s grain export assets will continue to operate regardless of who manages them,” the news agency quoted Russia’s Agriculture Ministry as saying.

Cargill stopped investing in Russia in March 2022 as part of international sanctions pressure on the country, but its local facilities continued to operate. RBK’s sources in the industry suggest Cargill decided to stop grain exports from Russia due to increased regulation of the market.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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76. Rosneft announces major oil deal in IndiaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

New Delhi continues to boost Russian crude imports despite Western sanctions on Moscow

Moscow and New Delhi have agreed to “substantially increase” the supply of crude oil to India and diversify its grades, Russian energy major Rosneft announced on Wednesday.

A deal was reached with the Indian Oil Company during a trip by Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin to the Asian country, the Russian firm said in a press release on its website.

Sechin also met with the heads of some of India’s largest oil and gas companies and discussed wider cooperation in the energy sector, the press release stated. Possible trade settlements in national currencies were also on the agenda.

Russia has become one of India’s top five trading partners, with turnover reaching $38.4 billion in 2022, according to statistics from India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, as cited by Rosneft.

Read more
Russian oil export pivot succeeding – energy minister

Energy accounts for a major portion of bilateral trade. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak, oil purchases by New Delhi surged more than 20-fold last year.

India, the world’s third-largest crude importer, began to boost purchases of Russian oil shortly after the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions.

New Delhi has repeatedly stressed that energy security is its top priority. It has chosen not to succumb to Western pressure and has continued to stock up on Russian supplies, even after the G7 price cap on Russian oil came into force late last year.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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77. Latest leader to cut Taiwan ties heads to ChinaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Honduran president hopes to sign “auspicious agreements” with Beijing during her planned trip

President Xiomara Castro is set to travel to China, just days after Honduras severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established relations with Beijing. The announcement comes as Taipei’s own leader visits the United States, where she is expected to meet with a top lawmaker.

Honduras’ Foreign Ministry publicized the upcoming trip on Wednesday, issuing a brief statement noting that the president would travel to China sometime “soon.”

“President Xiomara Castro will soon travel to the People's Republic of China for an official visit, with a view to signing auspicious agreements between both countries,” the ministry said.

Over the weekend, the Latin American nation opted to sever its decades-long relations with Taiwan, with the government saying it “recognizes the existence of just one China in the world,” and that the leadership in Beijing “is the only legitimate government that represents all of China.” It added that Taiwan is an “inalienable part of Chinese territory,” echoing the ‘One-China’ principle long favored by Beijing.

Read more
Chinese President Xi Jinping gestures after the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) during the APEC Summit in Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
China is winning the diplomatic struggle against the US

China’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision, calling it the “right choice,” while declaring that “engaging in separatists activities for Taiwan independence is against the will and interests of the Chinese nation and against the trend of history, and is doomed to a dead end.”

The announcement of Castro’s upcoming visit came amid a trip to the US by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who stopped in New York on Wednesday before she continues on to Guatemala and Belize. She will also visit California on her way back home, and is expected to meet with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, despite stern warnings from Beijing.

Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said any meeting with the high-ranking congressman would further escalate tensions between the island and Beijing.

“It will be another provocation that seriously violates the One-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back,” she added.

READ MORE: Taiwanese leader defies China over US visit

Elected in 2021 as the first female president of Honduras, Castro is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was removed from power in a military coup in 2009. She is affiliated with the left-leaning Liberty and Refoundation party, and has promoted policies in line with what she has described as “democratic socialism.”

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78. US mulls new no-fly listЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Supporters of the bill said the blacklist would act as a “strong deterrent” against “air rage incidents”

Lawmakers in the US House and Senate have proposed a new federal no-fly list for “abusive” or unruly passengers, introducing a bill that would prohibit those convicted of certain criminal offenses from boarding commercial flights.

The ‘Protection from Abusive Passengers Act’ was put forward with bipartisan support on Wednesday, with Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-California) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) introducing the bill in the House, while Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) did the same in the upper chamber.

“Air rage incidents can pose real safety threats to everyone on board,” Reed said in a social media post, voicing hopes that the act would “improve air travel safety [and] hold unruly passengers accountable.”

If passed, the legislation would create a new federal blacklist for air passengers managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security which is deployed at airports across the country.

Read more
US terror ‘no fly’ list leaked

The bill would impose bans on “any individual who engages in behavior that results in a civil penalty or conviction for assaulting, threatening, or intimidating a crew member or passenger on an aircraft flight,” or who takes any other action which interferes with security personnel.

While the same group of lawmakers proposed similar legislation last year, it failed to pass. In reintroducing the bill, they said banning people from flights would “serve as a strong deterrent” against violent or disruptive passengers.

The new list would be separate from another terrorism blacklist created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and overseen by the FBI and DHS. That list has come under fire in the past after it was found to include young children, among them one four-year-old boy.

The proposed TSA-managed no-fly list has already faced criticism from civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), citing issues with the existing list.

Read more
US ready to ban Chinese airlines using Russia overflights – NYT

“If Congress wants to further reduce air-rage incidents on aircraft, it should look at forcing the airlines to make flying a less miserable experience,” ACLU spokesman Jay Stanley told the Associated Press.

Incidents involving unruly passengers saw a major spike in 2021, as air travel increased after pandemic restrictions were eased at many airports. The Federal Aviation Administration said it received 6,000 reports of problematic passengers that year, resulting in more than 1,100 investigations and $5 million in fines. While the number of incidents fell in 2022, dropping to just over 2,400, the penalties have ramped up significantly, with $8.4 million in fines last year despite fewer reports and investigations.

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79. US spy found dead in Pentagon parking lotЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The cause of the counterintelligence officer’s death remains a mystery

The US military has identified the serviceman found dead in a vehicle near the Pentagon earlier this month, revealing he was a senior intelligence specialist working in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The army officer was named as Master Sgt. Juan Paulo Ferrer Bordador, 42, who was discovered in his car in the Pentagon’s north parking lot following a welfare check on March 14, Army officials said on Wednesday. While an emergency crew responded soon after the officer was spotted, he was already dead by the time they arrived.

Since 2021, Bordador served as the noncommissioned officer leading the Joint Chiefs’ Technical Surveillance Countermeasure program – a team which works to identify and thwart attempted espionage by foreign states.

Read more
Gen. Michael Langley, USMC, commander, U.S. Africa Command, testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.
US general admits to sharing ‘core values’ with coup leaders

The cause of Bordador’s death is not yet known and few other details have been released, but the Army said it would continue to investigate.

Born in the Philippines and later emigrating to the US, Bordador began his military career in 2004 as a counterintelligence agent with the Pentagon’s Force Protection Agency, and was promoted to master sergeant last May, according to an obituary published online. His time in the military took him to a long list of countries, including Japan, Germany, South Korea, Russia, Israel, Canada, Belgium, France and Iraq, where he was deployed for one year beginning in 2010.

The Joint Staff is made up of all six branches of the military and is headed up by Chairman Mark Milley, the highest-ranking officer in the US armed forces and a senior military advisor to the president, defense secretary and National Security Council.

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80. China is winning the diplomatic struggle against the USЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Despite Washington’s campaign to isolate Beijing, it has shown itself capable of steering global politics towards its goals

The past few weeks have seen a comprehensive show of diplomatic force by China. Shortly after Xi Jinping completed a successful trip to Moscow, where he met with Vladimir Putin, Beijing announced it had brokered a deal to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The breakthrough was widely regarded as a blow to US influence in the Middle East. Then China persuaded Honduras to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing, and now high-ranking Western politicians and EU officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, are piling in to visit Beijing.

When viewed as a whole, the last several weeks have seen China enjoy massive diplomatic gains at the expense of the US, pouring freezing water on Washington’s attempts to isolate Beijing ‘Cold War-style’ on the global stage and on a relentless propaganda campaign steeped in negativity and fear-mongering. But in spite of it all, the reality continues to shine through that China is simply too big and too globally significant to isolate, illustrating that Biden’s strategy of creating overlapping multilateral alliances in a bid to contain Beijing isn’t going to work.

China’s ‘great power moment’

China has demonstrated that it is a superpower with the ability to steer global affairs in its own direction, a privilege which the US believed was its own exclusive entitlement. Beijing’s peace proposal for Ukraine and the Saudi-Iran normalisation deal caused a shock to the system in Washington. Xi’s visit to Moscow in particular has brought a new balance to the dynamic around the Ukraine conflict and jeopardized hubris-led US miscalculations that it can escalate the conflict to the point of forcing a zero-sum outcome in favour of its own strategic objectives.

As noted above, European leaders have responded to Xi’s visit, not by turning against China as was hoped, but by intensifying their diplomatic engagement with Beijing and scrambling to remain on board. But what is China’s response going to be? It is reasonable to expect an element of “Then stop siding with the United States against us”. Thus, a potential consequence of China’s strategic partnership with Russia, down the line, could be the weakening of American influence over the EU, which Washington is trying to strengthen by fanning the flames of the Ukraine war. Beijing is thus bringing some much-needed balance to the equation.

Read more
The US is killing its own tech dominance with xenophobic bills

Taiwan is bleeding allies, and the US is powerless to stop it

In the midst of this all, the US was powerless to stop Honduras from recognising mainland China over Taiwan, with the two countries officially opening up diplomatic relations on Sunday. US officials have reportedly tried to “lean on” Honduras to change its mind, even speaking about a “change of heart”. Not surprisingly, Washington’s condescending attitude was rejected – after all, why would Honduras not be entitled to the same diplomatic relations with China that the US itself has? And who is the US to lecture Honduras on what constitutes its national interests?

The move leaves Taiwan with just 13 so-called official “diplomatic allies” left. Although the influence of these states combined is less than the “unofficial” support the US is now granting to Taipei, it nonetheless shows that international recognition of the One China policy, and therefore the affirmation that Taiwan is a part of China, is growing. Further, while Washington is attempting to create conflict over this issue, Beijing is not struggling to get countries to recognize and support its position. The Honduran switch, which Taiwan dubbed “dollar diplomacy”, is a reminder that the economic size and scope of China as a partner is too big to be ignored, and the US cannot do anything about it.

A losing battle?

American foreign policy right now is focused on containing China as a geopolitical rival through protracted military, economic, technological and political strategies. This has included building comprehensive new alliances such as AUKUS, weaponizing human rights issues such as allegations of “Uyghur genocide”, imposing an ever-growing embargo on high-end components and generating military tensions over the island of Taiwan.

However, US assumptions that China can be comprehensively isolated stem from the hubris of the unipolar experience, which chronically overestimates American power and underestimates China’s position. The past few weeks have shown that isolation is not easy to accomplish, and that despite everything, Beijing retains the ability to shape geopolitics to its own accord. The great game thus continues, and Xi Jinping is likely to have a few more tricks up his sleeve yet.

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81. US sends a top spy to South AmericaЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The CIA deputy director’s unusual visit to Paraguay comes ahead of a general election

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo revealed on Wednesday that he was visited by Deputy CIA Director David Cohen to discuss “national security” matters. Paraguay is one of just 13 countries in the world that recognize Taiwan as “Republic of China” and the upcoming election may put that policy to the test.

“We received a visit from David Cohen, deputy director of the US CIA, with whom we discussed strengthening cooperation between our countries in matters of national security,” Abdo tweeted on Wednesday, with a photo of himself and Cohen shaking hands.

The US embassy in Asuncion confirmed the meeting, saying it “took place within the framework of robust bilateral cooperation” between the two countries, and addressed “shared strategies for combating global threats.”

Abdo’s meeting with Cohen was just one in a flurry of US-Paraguay contacts at the highest level this week. Paraguayan Foreign Minister Julio Arriola was in Washington on Monday, and met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Abdo himself flew out to the US on Tuesday.

Located between Argentina and Brazil, with a population of just seven million, Paraguay rarely receives this much attention from Washington. However, Reuters noted that the upcoming election “could determine the country’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan and China.”

Read more
Sergey Naryshkin
Russian spy chief reacts to claim by CIA Director

Paraguay is one of only 13 countries in the world, and the only one in South America, to recognize Taiwan as the “Republic of China” and exchange embassies with Taipei.

Paraguay’s general elections are scheduled for April 30. Abdo is not eligible for re-election, but his Colorado Party hopes to stay in power. Its candidate, Santiago Pena, has slipped in the polls against the Authentic Radical Liberal (PLRA) challenger Efrain Alegre, however.

The US Treasury Department has recently imposed sanctions against Abdo’s predecessor Horacio Cartes and the current vice-president Hugo Velazquez, accusing them of “significant” corruption. Both have denied all allegations.

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82. Pope Francis hospitalizedЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Roman Catholic pontiff complained of breathing difficulties, according to the Vatican

Pope Francis will spend several days at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after tests found a respiratory infection, the Vatican said on Wednesday afternoon. All of his events through Friday have been canceled, and it remains unclear whether the pontiff will be able to keep his Holy Week and Easter commitments as well.

“In recent days Pope Francis has complained of some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement. The tests ruled out Covid-19 but found a “respiratory infection,” Bruni added, which will “require a few days of appropriate medical therapy.”

Earlier in the day, the 86-year-old pontiff rode around Saint Peter's Square in the “popemobile” for a scheduled general audience with the Catholic faithful, hugging the believers and kissing babies.

Bruni’s first statement described the hospital visit as a previously scheduled check-up.

Read more
File photo: Pope Francis at The Vatican, January 2023.
Pope ready to ‘mediate’ in Ukraine’s church crackdown

The Argentinian Jesuit had part of one lung removed in his youth, due to a respiratory infection. He has had other health problems in recent years. In 2021, he had a part of his colon removed at Gemelli. He later used a wheelchair and a cane to walk after a knee injury, ruling out surgery because he had reacted poorly to the general anesthesia.

The pope’s hospital stay comes just ahead of the Catholic Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday celebrations this weekend and culminating with the Easter vigil and mass on April 9.

Francis became pope in 2013, when his predecessor Benedict XVI announced he was retiring – the first pontiff to do so since 1415 – due to advanced age. He was 85 at the time, a year younger than Francis is now. Benedict spent the next decade as “pope emeritus” until his death at the end of December 2022.

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83. Putin may visit Turkiye – ErdoganЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Turkish president hopes his Russian counterpart will attend the opening of a nuclear plant

Russian President Vladimir Putin may travel to Türkiye for the inauguration of the country's first nuclear power plant, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local TV station A Haber on Wednesday. The Akkuyu facility was built in partnership with the Russian state nuclear development agency Rosatom.

The Russian leader will either attend the opening ceremony in person or via video link on April 27, Erdogan said, describing the plant as one of Türkiye’s “indispensable investments” that would help the country “seriously store energy.” Akkuyu’s first reactor is set to become operational later this year, while the entire plant is due to go on-line by 2025. When complete, it will feature four reactors capable of generating 4,800 megawatts.

The Turkish and Russian heads of state spoke on the phone recently regarding collaboration between their two nations on strategic power engineering projects, including the Akkuyu plant and natural gas supplies.

Erdogan thanked his Russian counterpart for his assistance in the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes in Türkiye last month, which included the donation of construction materials and the deployment of Russian rescue personnel and a field hospital in Hatay province. The quakes, centered near the city of Gaziantep, killed an estimated 50,000 people and injured many more.

Read more
Turkiye gives timeline for Russian-proposed gas hub

The Turkish leader also praised Russia’s “positive stance regarding the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” according to a statement released by the Presidential Communications Directorate on Saturday. The two countries signed a deal with Ukraine and the United Nations last July, reopening grain exports from three of the Ukrainian ports that had been blocked with the start of Russia’s military operation last February, and the agreement was extended last week.

As a NATO member nation with strong economic ties to Russia, Türkiye is caught in a difficult position regarding the conflict viewed by many as a proxy war between Russia and the military alliance, which has pumped tens of billions of dollars of weapons into the Ukrainian military over the last year. Ankara and Moscow nevertheless agreed in August to trade gas in rubles and hope to increase bilateral trade volume to $100 billion.

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84. Syria reports another missile attackЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Israel was blamed for the strike, which caused property damage in Damascus

The Syrian military has accused Israel of firing several missiles at Damascus early on Thursday, causing property damage in the capital. The attack came at 1:20am and air defenses managed to shoot down at least some “hostile targets,” the state news agency SANA reported citing military sources.

Loud explosions could be heard over Damascus, but it was unclear where the missiles struck. There were reports of a fire in the Al-Midan neighborhood, a residential area in the south of the city. Other reports said the strike targeted the nearby Kafr Sousa municipality. At least two soldiers were wounded in the attack in addition to some “material damage,” according to SANA. Earlier reports also noted that ambulances were sent to the scene.

According to SANA, the missiles came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Read more
Israel strikes targets in Syria – media

Thursday’s attack comes a week after Israel targeted the airport in Aleppo, damaging the runway and taking it out of service for two days.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syrian territory since 2011, but rarely acknowledges them. On the occasions that the Israel Defense Forces comment on the attacks, they claim to be hitting Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria in pre-emptive self-defense. Damascus has repeatedly protested the raids as a violation of Syrian sovereignty, to no avail.

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85. Ghana slams ‘undemocratic’ meddling by USЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

Remarks by visiting US VP Kamala Harris on LGBT laws should not be tolerated, the country's parliamentary speaker has said

Ghana intends to pass its family values act regardless of what the US says, Speaker of the Parliament Alban Bagbin has told lawmakers. He was speaking in response to remarks by US Vice President Kamala Harris on her African tour in Ghana this week, that LGBT rights were a human rights issue.

Bagbin dismissed Harris' remarks. “These things should not be tolerated. That is undemocratic! What is democracy? That somebody else would have to dictate to me, as to what is good and what is bad? Unheard of!” Bagbin said on Tuesday, at a meeting with legislators to discuss the proposed ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values’ bill.

In a joint press conference with President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday, Harris did not directly address the bill, but affirmed that LGBT rights were “an issue that we consider to be a human rights issue, and that will not change.”

Last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House that LGBT rights were “something that’s a core part of our foreign policy, and it will remain so.”

Bagbin told the Ghanaian lawmakers that they “need to legislate” and should not fear outside pressure. “Don’t be intimidated by any person,” he said. “What are you afraid of, if you have the whole people behind you? If God is with you, who can be against you?”

Read more
African nation poised to adopt death penalty for gay sex

Last week, the parliament in Uganda approved a law that made “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death, and “recruitment, promotion and funding” of homosexual “activities” with up to life in prison.

Ghana’s proposal would make same-sex intercourse a second-degree felony, punishable by three to five years in prison, with those promoting activities banned under the bill facing five to ten years behind bars. “The bill will be passed,” Bagbin told the lawmakers. He also reminded President Akufo-Addo that his job was to execute the laws, not to legislate himself.

“This is a word to his excellency the president – there is no way he can intervene,” he said. “Let’s get this clear: Once this bill is before here, he is not in charge. I am in charge.”

Harris arrived in Accra on Sunday evening, on the first leg of the trip that would take her to Tanzania and Zambia as well. The White House said her visit would focus on democracy, climate change, security, the economy, and the conflict in Ukraine. The US has also pledged $100 million in aid for Ghana and nearby Benin, Togo, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

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86. Zelensky invites Xi Jinping for a visit – APЧт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Ukrainian president has reportedly said he’s “ready to see” his Chinese counterpart in Kiev

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has reportedly lamented that he hasn’t had any direct talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping since Russia’s military offensive against Kiev began last year, and he wants to rectify the situation.

“We are ready to see him here,” Zelensky said in an interview with the Associated Press published on Wednesday. “I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war, but during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have.”

Beijing last month unveiled a 12-point roadmap for ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict, calling for a cease-fire and working toward a “sustainable European security architecture” rather than imposing sanctions and applying “maximum pressure” to force a solution. China has tried to play a “constructive role” in the crisis, resisting US pressure to condemn Russia and join in the West’s anti-Russia sanctions. US officials have dismissed the Chinese proposal as an offer that would help only Moscow.

Read more
A destroyed building in Borodyanka, Ukraine, February 22, 2023.
China unveils roadmap to end Ukraine conflict

Zelensky has hosted a parade of Western politicians in Kiev, including US President Joe Biden and three UK prime ministers. He said last month that he was open to China’s peace plan but would only accept a deal that led to Russia pulling all of its forces out of Ukrainian territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters on Wednesday that she had no information on whether Zelensky’s regime had actually invited Xi to Kiev. Nor was she able to say whether the Chinese president would accept such an offer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a milestone state visit by Xi earlier this month in Moscow, reaffirming partnership principles and multiple bilateral deals with Beijing. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last week called the summit “very troubling.” Officials in Washington have suggested that China is considering sending arms to Russia, saying such a move would have “consequences.”

READ MORE: Zelensky advisor flags obstacle to Xi talks

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87. Tensions soar in Kiev over iconic Christian monastery (VIDEO)Чт, 30 мар[-/+]

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is refusing to vacate Kiev Pechersk Lavra despite mounting pressure from the government

The standoff between the Ukrainian government, the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), and the rival schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), continues over Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the largest Orthodox monastery in the country.

On Wednesday, the UOC failed to meet the deadline to vacate the monastery, rolled out by the government earlier this month. Having accused the church of violating the 2013 deal to administer the property, which is designated a national cultural preserve, Kiev ordered the monks at UOC to leave it. However, no specific violations were cited in the order. Later on, Ukrainian culture minister Aleksandr Tkachenko has said that UOC monks can stay at Lavra, but they would need to defect from the church and join the OCU, a rival schismatic church set up by the state in 2015.

The UOC has urged Orthodox Christians to come to the monastery on Wednesday to protect it and the monks from the looming eviction. Thousands of faithful responded to the call, gathering at the monastery and praying in its courtyard, as footage from the scene shows.

The Lavra has also launched a court case, challenging the lease agreement termination, as well as demanding the government explain what exactly it had violated. According to the monastery’s lawyer, protoireus Nikita Chekman, the case was taken on by a Kiev court, with the first hearing on the case set to take place on April 26. The lawsuit also asks the court to forbid the government from taking any actions against the monks while the case is being considered.

Meanwhile, the rival OCU has appointed a new custodian for the monastery, archimandrite Avraamiy, who swiftly released a video address to the Orthodox Christian faithful. In his address, the schismatic hierarch laid the blame for the ongoing persecution on the UOC itself, accusing it of reluctance to sever its "submission to Moscow" and recognize the OCU. The UOC severed its ties with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) early in the ongoing conflict between the two countries, yet it still faced allegations of collusion with Moscow and mounting pressure from the government and Ukraine’s domestic security services.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: The UOC prepares to leave the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.
UN sounds alarm over Ukraine church crackdown

The UOC was quick to react, forbidding the rival caretaker from delivering mass, as well as accusing him of "turning to schism and grossly violating his vows."

Ukrainian authorities, for their part, have signaled their readiness to pursue the eviction of the monks further. President Vladimir Zelensky hailed the action against the UOC monks as an important step "towards strengthening the spiritual independence of our state and protecting our society from cynical religious manipulations by Moscow." A similar message was conveyed by Aleksey Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s national security council, who said that while the monks "won’t be dragged out by their legs," the monastery will be used only for religious services "in line with effective legislation."

A government commission, tasked with transferring the Lavra buildings back into the government’s use, is set to begin working at the monastery on Thursday, Tkachenko said in a separate statement.

"There was never any talk of the end of monastic life there. What kind of monastic life it will be, we’ll see later on," the minister said.

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88. US Congress calls Chinese Communist Party organ-traffickersСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act vows to hold party members who traffic body parts accountable

The US House of Representatives almost unanimously passed legislation sanctioning organ traffickers on Monday. In its opening statement of policy, the legislation implies that the Chinese Communist Party is overrepresented in the organ trade.

The Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2023 promises to “hold accountable persons implicated, including members of the Chinese Communist Party, in forced organ harvesting and trafficking in persons for purposes of the removal of organs.”

While the text of the bill makes no further mention of China or any other country, its sponsor, Republican congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, spoke at length about the heinous “crimes against humanity” the Party was supposedly guilty of.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. Ukrainian refugees at Velke Slemence border crossing in Slovakia
Ukrainian refugees targeted for sexual exploitation – Thomson Reuters

Every year, under General Secretary Xi Jinping and his Chinese Communist Party, between 60,000 to 100,000 young victims – average age 28 – are murdered in cold blood to steal their internal organs,” Smith declared, adding that organs belonging to members of the Falun Gong sect are considered “highly desirable” due to their “peaceful meditation and exercise practices – and exceptional good health.

The bill allows the president to sanction anyone he claims “funds, sponsors, or otherwise facilitates forced organ harvesting or trafficking in persons for purposes of the removal of organs,” imposing a $1 million fine and up to 20 years in prison, as well as revocation of any US passport or visa. It passed by a landslide vote of 413 to 2, with Republican representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky being the sole holdouts.

Explaining his “no” vote, Massie told Newsweek the legislation “gives the president unilateral broad authority to sanction individuals and politicians without any adjudication or due process.” He was also troubled by the broad definition of “organ trafficker” as “anyone who receives or offers compensation for an organ donation.”

Greene described the measure as “a flawed bill that encourages more US involvement in globalist organizations” in a statement to Newsweek.

The bill was previously introduced in 2021, 2020, and 2016 without the China-specific language, but no previous version ever made it past introduction into the House. It must still be passed by the Senate before going to President Joe Biden to sign.

US foreign policy has grown markedly more belligerent toward Beijing in recent months. Several high-ranking members of Congress have traveled to Taiwan in the last year, while Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen embarked on a trip to the US on Wednesday despite stern warnings from China.

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89. US lawmakers officially end Iraq warsСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The Senate has voted to repeal the congressional authorizations for Washington’s 1991 and 2003 invasions

Decades on from America’s 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq, the US Senate has withdrawn congressional authorizations for the wars to keep future presidents from using them to launch more military conflicts.

Lawmakers voted by a 66-30 margin on Wednesday to repeal the two authorizations for use of military force (AUMF). The 2003 Iraq War, which was illegal under the UN Charter, was started by then-President George W. Bush’s administration on the false assertion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the US.

“The United States, Iraq, the entire world has changed dramatically since 2002, and it’s time the laws on the books catch up with those changes,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said before Wednesday’s vote. “These AUMFs have outlived their use.” He added that keeping the authorizations in force creates the risk that a future administration will abuse them to circumvent congressional authority over war powers.”

Read more
FILE PHOTO: US troops patrol the streets of Duluiyah, north of Baghdad, after the invasion of Iraq, June 13, 2003.
'No state safe' 20 years after Iraq invasion – Moscow

The repeal legislation will next need to pass in the House of Representatives before going to President Joe Biden’s desk for enactment. The White House has said Biden supports ending the AUMFs. Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, said a broad coalition of House members backs the bill, which he co-sponsored with Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine.

“The 4,500 [US troops] who died, the 3,100 who were wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians – what we have to contemplate is the reality that we rushed into a war,” said Kaine, who was not a member of Congress when the authorizations were approved. “This body rushed into a war.”

However, members of the Senate have rejected efforts by Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, to push through a repeal of a separate 2001 AUMF authorizing Bush’s war on terror. That authorization still provides the legal basis for US counterterrorism operations around the world. Paul argued that by keeping the AUMF in place, Congress was keeping the door open for “war everywhere, all the time.”

Then-President Donald Trump used the 2001 AUMF to help justify a 2020 airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, while he was in Baghdad.

READ MORE: New year and new Congress won’t silence the same old war drums in Washington

Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, formally ended the Iraq war in 2011. Three years later, he sent US troops back to Iraq to fight the ISIS terrorist group. US forces then illegally invaded neighboring Syria, where they continue to occupy the country’s oil-rich region to this day.

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90. Moscow outlines Ukraine peace demandsСр, 29 мар[-/+]

Russia’s deputy foreign minister has listed the steps Kiev must take before hostilities can end

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin has offered a ten-point list of steps the government in Kiev needs to take in order for hostilities to cease. In an interview on Wednesday, Galuzin said the future of Ukraine itself will depend on how soon Kiev and its Western backers come to grips with reality.

For Ukraine to bring about peace, its military forces must stand down and the West must halt all deliveries of weapons to Kiev, Galuzin told the outlet RTVI.

Several other conditions he listed have been on the table since the hostilities escalated in February 2022, such as Ukraine’s demilitarization and “denazification,” a pledge to never join the EU or NATO, and the affirmation of Kiev’s non-nuclear status. Another was added in October 2022, and involves the recognition of “new territorial realities” – commonly understood to mean the decision of Kherson, Zaporozhye and the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to join Russia.

Ensuring the protection of the Russian language and the rights of Russian-speaking citizens, as well as all other ethnic groups in Ukraine was also on Galuzin’s list. Moreover, he said Ukraine needs to reopen the border with Russia and restore the legal framework of relations with Moscow and other ex-Soviet republics, which it renounced following the US-backed coup in 2014.

Read more
Kremlin sees only military solution to Ukraine conflict

For the first time, Moscow has demanded the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and the “withdrawal of claims and termination of prosecutions against Russia, its individuals and legal entities,” presumably including the recent International Criminal Court (ICC) warrants for President Vladimir Putin and the children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova.

The last demand on Galuzin’s list was for the West to pay for the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure destroyed by Ukraine’s military since 2014.

Ukraine’s peaceful future depends on respecting the rights of its Russian population, restoring friendly relations with all neighbors, and returning to its founding principle of neutral and non-bloc status, enshrined in the 1990 declaration of independence, Galuzin said.

“The future of the territories of present-day Ukraine should be determined by the inhabitants of this country themselves,” Galuzin told RTVI, noting that this includes “Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Hungarians, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, and Greeks.”

Moscow will simply not tolerate “an openly anti-Russian state, whatever its borders,” as a neighbor, said Galuzin. “Neither Russia, nor any other state, would accept this from the standpoint of security.”

The “peace platform” adopted by the government in Kiev includes Russia’s total withdrawal from all territories Ukraine claims as its own, payment of reparations, and war crimes tribunals for the military and political leadership in Moscow.

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91. Black hole ‘bigger than the majority of galaxies in the universe’ discoveredСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The celestial phenomenon is estimated to have a mass more than 30 billions times that of the Sun

An ‘ultramassive’ black hole described as being on the “upper limit” of how big the cosmic bodies can theoretically become has been discovered by UK scientists, according to a study published on Wednesday by the Royal Astronomical Society.

A team from Durham University discovered the black hole using a technique called gravitational lensing, which enables the observation of phenomena in the distant universe by detecting how they interact with passing light.

Research leader Dr. James Nightingale said discovering this black hole was “extremely exciting” given that it is “roughly 30 billion times the mass of our sun” – a size, he says, which places it high on the scale of how big modern science understands that black holes can become.

“Even as an astronomer, I find it hard to comprehend how big this thing is,” Nightingale told BBC Radio on Wednesday. “This black hole is bigger than the majority of galaxies in the universe.”

Read more
FILE PHOTO: Magnetars are incredibly magnetic neutron stars, some of which sometimes produce radio emission.
Black hole theory questioned after new star defies rules

Nightingale added that the sheer size pushes science’s understanding of black holes to its very limits. He also questioned how a black hole of such incredible mass could be formed “in just 13 billion years of the universe’s existence.”

A black hole is an extremely dense object in space that has gravity so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. Ultramassive black holes are thought to be the biggest objects in the universe and are believed to be at the center of large galaxies, such as the Milky Way.

However, several blind spots still remain as to humanity’s understanding of ultramassive black holes. Their precise origins are unclear but one prevalent theory is that they were formed by the collisions of massive galaxies billions of years ago in the universe’s infancy.

The findings in Wednesday’s report had their origins in 2004, when Durham University Professor Alastair Edge first noticed a telltale arc of light while conducting a review of images of a deep space galaxy survey.

The study of the object progressed with the assistance of Germany’s Max Planck Institute, high resolution imagery from NASA’s Hubble telescope and supercomputer facilities at Durham University, which confirmed the presence of the black hole.

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92. French woman arrested for insulting president – mediaСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The Yellow Vest protester has denied deliberately calling Emmanuel Macron ‘trash’ on social media

A French woman is reportedly facing jail time for allegedly referring to President Emmanuel Macron as ‘trash’ in a social media post. That's according to local outlet La Voix du Nord, which named the woman as "Valerie" from St. Martin, on Tuesday.

Charged with contempt of a public official, she insists she didn’t even mean to describe Macron that way, blaming her phone’s autocorrect, and claims the government is “making an example” of her.

The Yellow Vest protester was arrested on Friday after three police officers appeared at her apartment door, she told the news outlet. Demanding to know if it was a prank – she had never been arrested before, she said – Valerie was taken to the local police station, where she was reportedly told she was suspected of writing “Macron ordure” (Macron trash) on a wall in Arques.

Read more
Riot police charge past burning garbage bins in the street during a demonstration in Paris, France, March 28, 2023
Paris protest turns violent (VIDEOS)

I was just photographed in front of it, smiling,” she explained, denying the accusation.

She was also confronted with a Facebook post from earlier that week, which read, “The trash will speak tomorrow at 1pm, for the people who are nothing, it is always on TV that we find trash.” It was dated the day before Macron was scheduled to give a televised interview to two major French news outlets.

However, Valerie told La Voix du Nord she had not meant to call Macron trash, blaming her phone’s autocorrect for messing up an attempted play on words. She meant to write “hard gold” (l’or dur) but it changed to “trash” (l’ordure), she explained, but neglected to proofread before sending. The police were not convinced.

While Valerie acknowledged that she posts “a lot of videos of police violence or political violence” and speaks her mind on social media, she insisted that she always complies with the law.

Still, she said, she regularly comes across posts like hers insulting Macron in the same way, and few if any are ever prosecuted. “They want to make an example of me. I am not public enemy number one,” she said.

Despite the arrest, she has vowed to continue protesting against “this totally unfair pension reform,” in reference to Macron’s latest austerity measure raising the retirement age by two years, which has proven enormously unpopular with the French. Weeks of violent protests and a heavy-handed police crackdown have roiled the country, while two attempted no-confidence votes failed to unseat Macron’s beleaguered government.

Amnesty International recently condemned the French government for convicting thousands of people on “contempt of public officials” charges similar to Valerie’s every year, using the offense to quash peaceful dissent even as the Elysee waxed poetic about freedom of speech.

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93. Taiwanese leader defies China over US visitСр, 29 мар[-/+]

President Tsai Ing-wen has dismissed Beijing’s threat of retaliation as she begins her trip to the Americas

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has begun a ten-day trip to the US and Latin America after vowing that the self-governing island will continue to engage with countries around the world and won’t be cowed by Chinese threats of retaliation.

“External pressure will not hinder our determination to go to the world,” Tsai told reporters on Wednesday, before boarding a flight to New York. “We are calm and confident, will neither yield nor provoke.”

Tsai made her comments after a spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, warned that the visit would escalate tensions between China and its breakaway province if the Taiwanese leader met with US officials during her travels. “If she has contact with US House Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy, it will be another provocation that seriously violates the One-China principle, harms China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and destroys peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We firmly oppose this and will definitely take measures to resolutely fight back.”

Read more
Former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (center) writes calligraphy on Tuesday at the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum in Nanjing, China.
‘We are all Chinese’ – ex-Taiwanese president

The Taiwanese president will reportedly also travel to Belize and Guatemala after making her first stop in New York. She’s then expected to stop in Los Angeles before returning to Taiwan. Government officials in Taipei told the Financial Times earlier this month that Tsai will meet with McCarthy – the top Republican and the third-ranking person in the US government – while she’s in California.

“Taiwan will firmly walk on the road of freedom and democracy and go into the world,” Tsai said on Wednesday. “Although this road is rough, Taiwan is not alone.”

Belize and Guatemala are among only 13 countries in the world that recognize Taiwan as a separate nation and have full diplomatic relations with the island. Another Latin American country, Honduras, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan this week so it could establish ties with mainland China.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated since last August, when McCarthy’s predecessor as US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, made a visit to Taiwan in defiance of warnings from Chinese officials. China responded by launching unprecedented military drills in the Taiwan Strait and cutting off defense ties with the US.

READ MORE: US takes another swipe at Chinese chip industry

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94. Transgenderism is ‘natural enemy’ of Christianity – Fox hostСр, 29 мар[-/+]

Tucker Carlson has warned of more US anti-Christian violence like transgender shooter’s attack on Tennessee school

This week’s mass shooting by a transgender person who targeted a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, may portend more such violence because of an inherent clash of ideologies, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson has claimed.

“Christianity and transgender orthodoxy are wholly incompatible theologies,” Carlson said on his show Tuesday night. “They can never be reconciled. They are on a collision course with each other.” He added that the two ideologies are diametrically opposed, making transgenderism the “natural enemy” of Christianity.

Monday’s shooting left six people dead, including three children, and Nashville police said the 28-year-old killer may have been motivated by “some resentment” about having been made to attend the Christian school when she was growing up in the area.

Carlson’s show did a segment last week on an alleged rise in transgender militance, citing a report by state-funded broadcaster NPR on activists arming themselves because they perceive themselves as being under threat of attack. He said he concluded at the time that given the clash of ideologies, the anti-Christian side would draw blood first. “Yesterday morning, tragically, our fears were confirmed,” he said, referring to the Nashville shooting.

“Trans ideology claims dominion over nature itself,” Carlson said. “We can change the identity we were born with, they will tell you with wild-eyed certainty. Christians can never agree with this because these are powers they believe God alone possesses.”

That unwillingness to agree, that failure to acknowledge the trans person’s dominion over nature, incites and enrages some in the trans community. People who believe they’re God can’t stand to be reminded that they’re not.”

Carlson criticized President Joe Biden for reacting to the shooting by renewing his call for a ban on assault rifles, saying politicians are using the incident for political leverage rather than examining the root causes.

“Yesterday’s massacre did not happen because of lax gun laws. Yesterday’s massacre happened because of a deranged and demonic ideology that is infecting this country with the encouragement of people like Joe Biden,” he said.

READ MORE: Nashville shooter hid seven guns at home – police

He added that the “trans movement is targeting Christians, including with violence.” Most Christian leaders don’t want to admit that reality, Carlson said, because confronting the threat would require taking “deeply unfashionable positions.”

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95. US Congress reveals where Ukraine money ends upСр, 29 мар[-/+]

Direct aid to Kiev amounted to only 20% of over $100 billion appropriated so far

Most of the money the US Congress has designated for aiding the government in Kiev has actually gone to the military-industrial complex, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee admitted during an oversight hearing on Wednesday.

“Of the $113 billion appropriated, across four supplementals, approximately 60% is going to American troops, American workers, and on modernizing American stockpiles,” said Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican. “In fact, only 20% of the funding is going directly to the Ukrainian government, in the form of direct budgetary assistance.”

McCaul is a staunch supporter of arming Ukraine, and insisted that his oversight of the aid is not intended “to undermine or question the importance of support” for Kiev, but to let American taxpayers know how their money was being spent.

The witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing on “oversight, transparency, and accountability of Ukraine assistance” included the acting or permanent inspectors-general at the Pentagon, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Read more
Kiev discloses its military spending

The trio was featured in a Wall Street Journal report last month about American auditors going into Ukraine to ensure the weapons, equipment and cash are not “diverted” for unintended use. They told McCaul on Wednesday that, so far, there haven’t been any “substantiated” instances of diverting US aid.

“Every dollar counts,” said McCaul, arguing the oversight would promote the efficiency and effectiveness of Ukraine funding, in service of US interests. He also noted that the multinational consulting company Deloitte is working with the Ukrainian government to verify the expenditure of US cash sent to prop up Kiev’s state budget.

“I don’t think the US has ever been engaged in anything quite like this,” McCaul said later in the hearing, referring to the “pipeline” of NATO weapons headed to Ukraine through Poland.

Moscow has repeatedly warned the West that supplying Ukraine with weapons and equipment only prolongs the war and raises the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. The US and its allies insist that sending over $100 billion worth of weapons to Kiev doesn’t make them a party to the conflict, even as many public officials described it as a proxy war that Russia “must lose.”

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96. Musk demands AI pauseСр, 29 мар[-/+]

More than 1,100 professionals agree that the race between researchers poses ‘profound risks to society and humanity’

More than 1,100 AI researchers, tech luminaries, and other futurists have signed an open letter demanding a six-month moratorium on “giant AI experiments” since the text was posted by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute last week.

Notable signatories of the letter include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and transhumanist historian Yuval Noah Harari.

The correspondence warns that “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity.” It also insists that rapidly advancing technology should be “planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources,” rather than allowing an “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

Read more
Elon Musk spars with Bill Gates over AI

Rather than risk losing control of a potentially civilization-ending technology, stakeholders in the AI field should “jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts,” the institute suggests, pausing the development until those protocols are in place. Safety “beyond a reasonable doubt” rather than innovation at all costs should be the goal, it said.

Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the letter continues, while developers should refocus their energies on “making today’s powerful state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy and loyal.”

If the developers can’t govern themselves, governments must step in, creating regulatory bodies capable of reining in runaway systems, funding safety research, and softening the economic blow when super intelligent systems begin gobbling up human jobs in earnest, the letter states.

Musk has long warned about the dangers of AI, predicting in 2020 that the singularity – the point at which machine intelligence eclipses that of humans – would arrive by 2025 and that humans risk ending up as supercomputers’ pets. He initially proposed the Neuralink brain-computer interface as a tool to give humanity a competitive edge against AI.

The billionaire was also one of the founders of OpenAI, the company behind the breakthrough large language model ChatGPT. However, he left the company in 2018, dismissing it as a profit-milking venture co-opted by Microsoft. Musk’s rival (and Microsoft founder) Bill Gates, whose name was absent from the open letter as of Wednesday, has embraced OpenAI, recently declaring that “the Age of AI has begun.” ChatGPT now powers Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

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97. Mysterious object found in vicinity of Nord Stream explainedСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The find turned out to be a spent smoke buoy, the Danish Energy Agency has said

Denmark has salvaged a mysterious object spotted in teh area of the Nord Stream 2 blast site, the Danish Energy Agency said on Wednesday, revealing it turned out to be a discarded smoke buoy.

"Investigations indicate that the object is an empty maritime smoke buoy, which is used for visual marking. The object does not pose a safety risk," the agency said in a statement.

The object was detected earlier this month, with Russian President Vladimir Putin revealing in a TV interview it was found during a Gazprom survey about 30 kilometers away from where the pipeline was breached in sabotage attacks last September.

Denmark invited representatives of the pipeline operator, Nord Stream 2 AG, to partake in the salvage. At the same time, the country is refusing Russia access to the Nord Stream sabotage probe. Danish Foreign Minister Lars Rasmussen has insisted the investigations being carried out by Denmark, Germany and Sweden are enough, given the strong "rule of law" in those countries.

Read more
Kremlin ‘regrets’ lack of Nord Stream probe by UN

The salvage of the buoy comes after the UN Security Council on Monday rejected a Russia-backed resolution calling for an international independent investigation into the blasts on the pipelines. The motion was supported only by Russia, China and Brazil, while 12 other members of the body, permanent and temporary, abstained. Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, said after the vote that "the suspicion [about] who stands behind the Nord Stream sabotage will only increase."

Last month, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh released a bombshell investigation, alleging the sabotage was a joint American-Norwegian operation commissioned directly by US President Joe Biden. The ultimate goal of the operation was to sever Germany from cheap energy supplies from Russia for good, therefore cementing its support in the Ukraine conflict.

Washington and Oslo have strongly denied the allegations, dismissing them as fiction, while the president of Russia said last week that he "fully agreed" with Hersh’s conclusions.

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98. Star Russian conductor makes international comebackСр, 29 мар[-/+]

Valery Gergiev gives a performance in China after being fired in Germany for refusing to condemn Moscow’s actions in Ukraine

World-famous Russian conductor and opera company director Valery Gergiev has made a comeback in China, after being fired in Germany last year for his refusal to condemn Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

“It’s like coming home,” said Gergiev at a news conference this week as he kicked off a three-day programme at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

His shows with Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra marked the first time an overseas group has performed in China since the country reopened to foreign artists this month, post-Covid, according to national media, which hailed Gergiev’s performance as a sign of growing ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Read more
Singer SHAMAN (Yaroslav Dronov) performs at an evening dedicated to the legendary 40th Army in Afghanistan and participants of a special military operation in Ukraine, at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Ukraine makes request to Spotify

Gergiev previously served as the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic in Germany. However, like many prominent Russian artists in the West, he was sacked in March 2022 after refusing to publicly denounce President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. New York’s Carnegie Hall and Metropolitan Opera also banned Gergiev, as well as other Russian musicians and organizations, from performing at their venues.

Since the start of the conflict in late February 2022, the US, the EU and their allies have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Moscow, targeting nearly all sectors of Russia’s economy. Personal sanctions have also been slapped on numerous Russian officials, along with business and public figures.

The clampdown, which has been further propagated by Kiev, has also affected the country’s athletes and artists, many of whom have been banned from performing in the West, participating in international competitions, or being allowed access to Western markets.

Last month, Ukrainian authorities called on the Swedish audio streaming service Spotify to remove all songs by Russian artists who “support the war,” while other nations have demanded a blanket ban on Russian culture, or “mental quarantine” on it, as first suggested by Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys.

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99. NATO fighting on Kiev’s side – LavrovСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The US-led military bloc couldn’t be any more involved in the conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s top diplomat has insisted

NATO countries are now de facto fighting on the side of Kiev and have become “deeply” drawn into the Ukrainian conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“Once again, we drew attention to the subversive line of the NATO countries, which have been drawn into the conflict for a long time and are getting drawn into it deeper… and in fact they are fighting on the side of the Kiev regime,” Lavrov said during a press conference following talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian in Moscow.

He also noted that the West no longer wishes to stop the conflict in Ukraine, and is instead working to prolong it. Lavrov pointed to a recent statement made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who claimed that any ceasefire or truce proposed by Moscow could not be allowed because it would only be in the interests of Russia.

“It is difficult for me to say what such a shallow, frankly speaking, analysis is based on. The only assumption is that the West does not want to stop this war and sees its own geopolitical interests in this war – primarily from the point of view of its attempts to eliminate another competitor on the world stage in the face of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov noted.

Read more
Russia and West face long-term 'fight' – Kremlin

The diplomat also added that the West has a similar stance towards China. “Our Chinese friends are well aware that they too are already mentioned in NATO documents as competitors and long-term adversaries who must be neutralized,” Lavrov said. He noted that Russia, Iran and China will “categorically oppose” Washington and its allies’ attempts to establish Western hegemony.

Russia has repeatedly accused the West of waging a “proxy war” against it in Ukraine by continuing to provide billions of dollars worth of military aid to Kiev while imposing multiple rounds of sweeping sanctions on Moscow.

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100. US mainstream media has lost its hold – Joe RoganСр, 29 мар[-/+]

The notorious podcaster has claimed the big players engage in political point-scoring

World renowned podcaster Joe Rogan has said that many mainstream news sources have become transfixed on the blanket coverage of topics like the January 6th, 2021 riots at the US Capitol at the expense of what he sees as other more newsworthy issues affecting the United States.

Speaking on Tuesday’s edition of his ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast alongside his guest, physician Peter Attia, Rogan complained that the mainstream media had developed an overly-blinkered view of certain topics.

“The media has lost its hold over the narrative,” Rogan said. “Now the media conveniently leaves out anything that it doesn’t want to be at the front and center.”

He cited a renewed focus by the news media on the January 6th incident in Washington DC, during which hundreds of Donald Trump’s political supporters allegedly attempted to intervene in the transfer of power between the Trump administration and that of the president-elect, Joe Biden.

Read more
Joe Rogan attends UFC 274 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, May 7, 2022
Joe Rogan accused of anti-Semitism

But, according to Rogan, the media glare on the January 6th riots comes in parallel to Donald Trump’s bid to return to the White House in the 2024 US presidential election. “All it is is like ‘January 6th. January 6th. Did you see what they did? – Trump is coming back, but January 6th looms large’,” Rogan added.

Instead, Rogan claims that the media instead must ask questions of the man currently occupying the Oval Office.

“How about the fact that the guy who’s the president right now can’t form a f****** sentence?” Rogan asked, referring to US President Joe Biden. “He makes up words and stumbles through things and no one says a goddamn thing about it.”

Rogan’s statements come amid media reports that former US Vice President Mike Pence has been compelled by a federal judge to testify to a grand jury about conversations he had with Donald Trump in advance of the January 6 riots.

Pence has been strongly linked to the forthcoming announcement of a campaign to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, a move which would place him firmly in the proverbial crosshairs of his former political ally Donald Trump.

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