ГПУ: обвинуваченого в скоєнні теракту на Херсонщині засудили до 15 років тюрми

Генічеський районний суд Херсонської області засудив до 15 років позбавлення волі обвинуваченого у скоєнні теракту в селі Новоолексіївка Херсонської області у квітні 2016 року, повідомив речник Генеральної прокуратури Андрій Лисенко.

«Прокурор вимагав для злочинця довічне ув’язнення, суд призначив 15 років. Законність вироку прокуратурою буде вивчено й ухвалено рішення щодо можливого оскарження», – написав Лисенко у Facebook.

14 квітня в селищі Новоолексіївка Генічеського району, поблизу адміністративного кордону з окупованим Кримом, стався вибух в автомобілі ВАЗ-2101 з одеськими номерами, припаркованому в громадському місці. Одна людина загинула, шестеро були поранені.

Правоохоронці кваліфікували цей вибух як теракт.

Новоолексіївка – селище міського типу в Херсонській області, розташоване неподалік адміністративної межі з окупованим Росією Кримом. Саме в Новоолексіївці завершують свій шлях пасажирські поїзди кримського напрямку після припинення «Укрзалізницею» сполучення з окупованою територією.

 

Russian Presidential Candidate Shuns Communist Party Dogma

The Communist Party’s candidate for president would seem to be an odd choice: He’s a millionaire and proud of it. He also openly rejects the basic tenets of Communism.

 

 Pavel Grudinin is the Russian party’s first new nominee in 14 years as it hopes to rejuvenate itself and broaden its appeal from its traditional base of aging voters who are nostalgic for the old Soviet Union.   

 

Not that Grudinin – or any other candidate – has much of a chance of unseating President Vladimir Putin when Russia votes on March 18. The presence of Grudinin and other official candidates are largely viewed as a Kremlin ploy to boost voter participation in an election that has a foregone conclusion.

 

A low presidential vote turnout would be seen as an embarrassment for the Kremlin. That’s why opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was leading a grassroots campaign for nearly a year before being formally barred from running, has been urging his supporters to boycott the presidential election and dent its legitimacy.

 

In contrast, Grudinin is urging voters to come to polls and bring change through the political process.

The 57-year-old agricultural college graduate runs what is still known as the Lenin State Farm, a sprawling collective farm south of Moscow, the capital.

 

With his bushy mustache and salt-and-pepper hair, Grudinin’s looks are often compared to those of a young Josef Stalin. Grudinin worked on the farm in the mid-1980s and was appointed its director a decade later.

 

While most of the collective plots outside Moscow were sold off years ago to property developers, the Lenin State Farm evolved into a successful private business, growing vegetables and raising livestock. Its signature product is strawberries, accounting for a third of all of them produced in Russia.

 

While metal or wooden strawberries adorn lampposts, fences and farm buildings in the town, Grudinin’s self-promoted image of a farmer is not the whole story. He admits that his company over the years has made only a third to half of its income from agricultural production, which he blames on a lack of government subsidies and low wages for consumers who cannot afford his organic produce.

 

In fact, the Lenin State Farm makes most of its money from property deals, leasing and selling land for shopping centers.

 

Corruption is rampant in the Moscow region, home to some of Russia’s most expensive real estate. Yet many international corporations doing business here refuse to pay officials under the table.

 

Communist-capitalist

Grudinin views his deals with companies like the Swedish furniture giant IKEA as a badge of honor, citing it as proof that he does not pay bribes.

 

Grudinin owns 44 percent of the farm and runs it with 33 other shareholders. The Communist-capitalist prides himself on reinvesting the profits back into the business or creating housing, education and other benefits for the community.

 

The small town that bears the same name as the farm is dominated by two Disneyland-like castles with spires and a futuristic building that looks like a sports arena but is actually a high-tech, 1.7 billion-ruble ($30 million) school that the farm built for residents.

 

“We spend this money in line with socialist principles: We spend it on people,” he says.

 

Grudinin boasts that he is fighting corruption just like opposition leader Navalny – but “not only with words but also with deeds, by not paying bribes.”

While Grudinin refuses to recognize Navalny as the only viable alternative to Putin, he is willing to appropriate some of the opposition leader’s agenda.

 

“We have too many bureaucrats and no one is responsible,” Grudinin said on state television. “If I tell the rich ‘instead of buying yachts, you should pay a higher income tax here, just like they do abroad,’ then maybe we will replenish the budget and we will modernize education and health care.”

 

Grudinin, who has declared 157 million rubles ($2.8 million) in income in the past six years, is no political novice. He sat on the local council in the early 2000s and was a member of the ruling United Russia Party until 2010.

 

In Putin’s first presidential election in 2000, Grudinin was one of 100 proxies for him, representing or speaking on his behalf in the campaign.

 

Asked if it feels strange now to run against Putin, Grudinin replies: “I wouldn’t say I’m running against Putin. I stand for a different path for the country’s development.”

 

Coopted by the Kremlin

Although openly critical of the current political order – saying that “people don’t trust the authorities” and that “corruption has taken the upper hand” – Grudinin is careful not to blame it all on the man who has been leading Russia for the past 18 years. Putin is just part of the system, he says.

 

That line echoes the rhetoric of his predecessor, long-time Communist Party chairman Gennady Zyuganov, who has run in four presidential elections since 1996.

 

Once a searing critic of President Boris Yeltsin, the 73-year-old Zyuganov and the Communists have been coopted by the Kremlin. These days, the Communists support all crucial Kremlin directives, such as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, while dissenting on minor issues, which allows Putin to maintain a facade of democracy.

 

While running against Yeltsin in 1996, Zyuganov spooked Russia’s oligarchs and foreign investors by promising to re-nationalize the strategic sectors of the economy while still allowing private property. Grudinin rejects calls to ban private ownership of land – once a key tenet of Communism.

 

Unlike Russia’s oligarchs who make headlines by buying foreign sports teams or giant yachts, Grudinin’s investments like those in the town of 5,000 people have made him a popular figure.

 

‘Putin’s place’

Pavel Samoilov, who works in a car repair shop, says he would love to work for Grudinin but the jobs on the farm are hard to get.

 

“People in the regions are much worse off than what they say on television,” says Samoilov, 33. He says he admires Putin’s foreign policy but says he has “allowed the country to come to ruin.”

 

Putin enjoys national approval ratings of over 80 percent. While Grudinin once was polling second to Putin, he has since fallen to a tie with perennial candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has run for president six times.

 

Many of those who admire Grudinin still do not see him as a leader.

 

Maria, a 40-year-old mother of two who wouldn’t give her last name, sounded ecstatic about the well-equipped local school and kindergarten and likes Grudinin. But she won’t vote for him.

 

“We need to vote for Putin because he is a strong leader,” she said. “This is Putin’s place.”

 

USA Gymnastics: All Directors Have Resigned After Abuse Scandal

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s U.S. governing body, said Wednesday that all its remaining directors have resigned following revelations that the longtime team doctor had sexually abused numerous athletes under his care.

A USA Gymnastics spokeswoman on Friday had said that the full board intended to resign. The U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to revoke the organization’s governing authority if the full board had not stepped down by Wednesday, after former team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault charges.

“We are in the process of moving forward with forming an interim board of directors during the month of February, in accordance with the USOC’s requirements,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “USA Gymnastics will provide information about this process within the next few days.”

Rare Picasso Painting Starts Tour Before Next Month’s Auction

A rare Picasso painting will be auctioned off in London next month.  The 1937 work titled “Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee” (Woman in beret and checked dress), inspired by the painter’s French lover Marie-Therese Walter is being shown in Hong Kong, Taipei, Los Angeles and New York before being sold. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the painting’s Hong Kong debut is a clear indication of the growing importance of the Asian art market.

Mugabe’s Political Demise Brings Hope to Zimbabwe’s Ousted White Farmers

A new political dawn in Zimbabwe has sparked talk among farmers of land reform and the return of some whites who lost their land and livelihoods to President Robert Mugabe during a 37-year rule that drove the economy to collapse.

Mugabe, 93, resigned in November after the army and his ZANU-PF party turned against him, prompting optimism among some of the thousands of white farmers ousted in the early 2000s on the grounds of redressing imbalances from the colonial era.

For colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land that remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980 leaving many blacks effectively landless and making land ownership one of Zimbabwe’s most sensitive political topics.

Now some white landowners hope the post-Mugabe regime may address the land issue, either through compensation or returning land, and try to resuscitate a once vibrant agricultural sector boosting an economy once seen as one of Africa’s great hopes.

“We are convinced positive signals will come quickly in terms of property rights,” Ben Purcel Gilpin, director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents white and black farmers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It would send a good signal to people outside Zimbabwe.” 

New president and long-time Mugabe ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has promised a raft of changes since he took office, including a return to the rule of law and respect for property rights.

Land ownership has been a key issue for decades in Zimbabwe dating back to British colonial rule in what was then Rhodesia.

At independence, white farmers owned more than 70 percent of the most fertile land and generated 80 percent of the country’s agricultural output, according to academics.

Reforms began after independence with a “willing buyer, willing seller” system aimed at redistributing land to poor black subsistence farmers. In the 1990s, compulsory acquisition of land began with some funding provided by Britain.

But for many Zimbabweans change was too slow and Mugabe approved radical land reforms that encouraged occupation of some 4,000 white-owned farms. Land went to his supporters with no knowledge of farming and thousands of white farmers fled.

The violent farm seizures saw Zimbabwe forfeit its status as the bread basket of Africa and led to a collapse of many industries that depended on agriculture. Among those were paper mills, textile firms, leather tanners and clothing companies.

As a result the country failed to generate foreign currency, resulting in the central bank printing money which led to unprecedented levels of hyper-inflation and high unemployment.

New start

Now some white farmers are starting to reclaim their land.

“White commercial farmers, like all other Zimbabweans, could apply for land from the Government and join the queue or go into joint ventures,” Mnangagwa told a former white commercial farmer during a recent visit to Namibia.

The CFU’s Gilpin – who quit farming and moved to Harare after his farm was compulsorily acquired by the government in 2005 – said sound policies from the new team could win support and help the economy.

He said compensation rather than putting people back into their properties might be the best route as many farmers are now too old to farm, some had died and others migrated.

The current situation – where resettled farmers had 99-year leases – was also untenable as the leases were not accepted by banks as collateral against borrowing.

Gilpin said this effectively made the land dead capital, as banks could not sell if farmers failed to pay back loans, so the government should instead offer farmers freehold titles.

Property rights expert Lloyd Mhishi, a senior partner in the law firm Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practice, said although Mnangagwa spoke about compensating farmers whose land was expropriated, he did not give specifics and title deeds of the former white farmers had no legal force after repossession.

Political way out

“As far as the law of the country is concerned, the title deeds that the former white commercial farmers hold do not guarantee them title,” Mhishi said in an interview.

But the lawyer said there were positive signs that the new administration realised land was a vital cog in the economy.

“I see there will be an attempt to make land useful, productive,” he said. “The land tenure side needs to be addressed to make land useful.”

Independent economist John Robertson, a former Advisor to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said, however, that any idea of compensation should be dropped and former white commercial farmers should get back to their land and resume work.

“I’d rather see them get back their land and start farming again than paid out and emigrating. We need their skills. If people who oppose that idea could be just successful, where have they been for the past 20 years?” he said.

Refugees Ready to Go Green, Become ‘Innovation Hubs’

Many refugees would like to buy low-carbon stoves and lights but poor access in camps and a lack of funding is forcing them to rely on “dirty and expensive” fuels, a report said Tuesday.

Millions of refugees worldwide struggle to access energy for cooking, lighting and communication and often pay high costs for fuels like firewood, which are bad for their health.

Yet two-thirds would consider paying for clean cookstoves and more than one-third for solar household products, according to a survey by the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI), a partnership among Britain, the United Nations and charities.

“Energy providers don’t tend to think of refugees as potential energy consumers, but the opportunities to build a relationship with them are huge,” Mattia Vianello, one of the report’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Clean energy for refugees is a global priority for the U.N. refugee agency, which provides free solar power to thousands of displaced people in camps in Jordan and Kenya.

Campaigners are seeking to create a market for cleaner-burning stoves and fuels to supply millions of households worldwide that are using inefficient, dangerous methods.

Perilous smoke

When burned in open fires and traditional stoves, wood, charcoal and other solid fuels emit harmful smoke that claims millions of lives each year, according to the Clean Cooking Working Capital Fund, which promotes stoves that produce less pollution.

In Uganda, refugees collect wood from surrounding areas, “devastating” the local environment and creating tensions with locals, Raffaela Bellanca, an energy adviser with the charity Mercy Corps, said in emailed comments.

Humanitarians should work with the private sector to provide more sustainable energy to displaced people, said the report, which surveyed about 500 refugees, business owners and aid workers in Burkina Faso and Kenya.

“Refugee camps have the potential to become energy innovation hubs with a spillover effect on surrounding host communities,” Bellanca said.

Colorful Makeover Puts Mumbai Slum on Tourist Map

A colorful paint job has transformed one of Mumbai’s drab hilltop slums into a tourist destination, even prompting comparisons with Italy’s picturesque Amalfi Coast.

During a recent journey on a Mumbai metro train, Dedeepya Reddy was struck by the grim appearance of a slum in Asalpha in the city’s eastern suburbs as she stared out from her air-conditioned carriage.

Reddy, a Harvard University-educated co-founder of a creative agency, was keen to brighten the lives of slum residents, while also changing the perception of slums being dirty and dangerous, and decided on a simple makeover.

Armed with dozens of cans of colorful paint, Reddy and a team of about 700 volunteers painted the walls and alleyways of the hilltop slum over two weekends last month.

Residents, at first skeptical, also got involved and helped paint quirky murals, the 31-year-old said.

“When you look at slums, you think they are shabby and dirty, and that also becomes a reflection of the people who live there,” Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We used bright colors to change how slums and their residents are viewed. It also gives residents a sense of pride and dignity about their homes.”

Up to 37 million households, or about a quarter of India’s urban population, live in informal housing including slums because of an acute shortage of affordable housing, according to social consultancy FSG.

In space-starved Mumbai, which has some of the priciest real estate in the world, the shortage is even more critical, with hundreds of migrants from rural areas cramming into the city every day to seek better prospects.

Reddy’s Chal Rang De (Let’s Color It) charity has seven other slums, similarly situated on hillocks, on its wishlist, she said.

Locals and tourists have thronged Asalpha in recent weeks, posting pictures on Instagram which have drawn comparisons to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Their interactions with residents are a welcome change, Reddy said.

For resident Aparna Chaudhuri, who has lived in Asalpha for about a dozen years, the paint job was welcome.

“Earlier, our house looked dull. Now it looks good,” said Chaudhuri, who picked pink for her home. “Everyone is also keeping the neighborhood clean now.”

U2 Defeats Lawsuit Claiming It Stole Part of ‘Achtung Baby’ Song

A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing U2 of lifting part of a British songwriter’s work for a song on the Irish rock band’s 1991 blockbuster album “Achtung Baby.”

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan rejected Paul Rose’s claim that U2 willfully copied from a 13-second guitar riff near the start of his 1989 instrumental “Nae Slappin,” to create a 12-second segment featuring a guitar solo for its song “The Fly.”

Rose, who lives in New York, claimed that U2 copied from his song “virtually note-for-note,” and also used a tambourine and the same drum, percussion and bass line without permission.

But the judge said the riff was not a “sufficiently substantial” portion of “Nae Slappin,” a 3-1/2-minute composition that “demonstrates the plaintiff’s impressive guitar skills,” to be a protectable “fragment” of the work.

She also said that even if the riff were protectable, a reasonable jury could not find that U2 copied it.

Rose had been seeking at least $5 million in damages from U2 lead singer Bono; bandmates The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., and UMG Recordings Inc, a Vivendi SA unit that releases records under U2’s label Island Records.

He claimed he had given Island a demo tape of “Nae Slappin” that was later incorporated into “The Fly.”

A lawyer for Rose did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The case is Rose v Hewson et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-01471.

Cuban Refugee Sets Cold War Stage in ‘Blind Date’

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan reversed the process of detente between the United States and the then-Soviet Union, ushering in a freeze in relations and heightened Cold War tensions. Anxiety grew across the globe with many people fearing that the superpower rivalry would someday lead to nuclear war. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, a new play called “Blind Date” by a Cuban-born immigrant explores this dynamic and the events in the mid-1980s.

White House ‘Embarrassed’ By NBC’s Pre-Olympic Coverage from North Korea

An American news outlet that made a rare visit to North Korea to cover the country’s Olympic team is being criticized by the Trump administration for coverage that, in the words of one official, depicted “the most totalitarian country on the planet … as a cheerful winter holiday resort.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt broadcast last week from the Masikryong Ski Resort, where South Korean and North Korean alpine ski teams are slated to train.

In some segments of the program, Holt was framed against a backdrop of children sledding, skiers in brightly colored gear, and jumbo screens displaying singers in military uniforms. Holt said that he and his crew had undergone an extensive customs search when entering North Korea, noting that the resort was “certainly” an aspect of North Korea that its leaders “would like us to see.”

Criticism of the broadcast erupted online, accusing NBC of misrepresenting a stage-managed piece of North Korean propaganda for American viewers. Holt defended the coverage, saying, “You go to a place like North Korea with your eyes wide open.”

A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) told VOA’s Korean Service on Thursday that council members were ashamed of the network’s coverage.

“We are embarrassed for NBC. A first-year journalism student would know to highlight the severe constraints on their ability to report on North Korea as it truly is,” the official said. “It is no small feat of the most totalitarian country on the planet to be depicted as a cheerful winter holiday resort, but somehow NBC has managed to do it.”

The controversy over Holt’s coverage comes amid a slight easing of tension between Pyongyang and Seoul, a change which could undercut the Trump administration’s campaign of international sanctions and “maximum pressure” on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs.

In response to last week’s White House comment, an NBC spokesperson told VOA that Holt clearly stated that the North Korean “government escorts determined where they could go, watching and listening to every move.” In one report, Holt said, “What you’re seeing here certainly flies in the face of a country that’s undergoing crippling sanctions, and that may be part of the reason we were invited to see this.”

Holt told Adweek on Monday that the Olympic Games will be conducted with a major news story in the background.

“The world is holding its breath on the issue of: Is this the breakthrough? Is this the moment when they can start having a useful dialogue?” he said. “On a geopolitical level, this may complicate how the White House views the North Korean nuclear threat if this sets a pattern for a stronger relationship between the North and South.”

North, South agreement

Earlier this month, the two Koreas held the first high-level talks in two years following Kim’s offer to discuss his country’s participation in the Olympics.

The discussions produced an inter-Korean agreement, officially announced on Jan. 20, under which the two sides agreed to march together under a single flag at the opening ceremony of the games and field a combined women’s ice hockey team. The North also agreed to send 22 athletes and a large delegation, including a cheerleading squad and performers. The athletes will compete in ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing, the International Olympic Committee said.

North Korea on Monday canceled a joint cultural event, citing South Korean media coverage of its participation in the games.

The NBC broadcast from Masikryong came several weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang from February 9-25. The games are a prized franchise for NBCUniversal, the Comcast subsidiary that is parent company of NBC, which also broadcast The Apprentice, the show that launched Trump’s reality TV career.

Since 1995, NBCUniversal has paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) $15.63 billion for the rights to broadcast the Olympics through 2032. The money helps support the Olympic movement, according to the IOC.

VOA’s Christy Lee contributed to this report.

NEM Foundation: Coincheck Hackers Trying to Move Stolen Cryptocurrency

Hackers who stole around $530 million worth of cryptocurrency from the Coincheck exchange last week — one of the biggest such heists ever — are trying to move the stolen “XEM” coins, the foundation behind the digital currency said on Tuesday.

NEM Foundation, creators of the XEM cryptocurrency, have traced the stolen coins to an unidentified account, and the account owner had begun trying to move the coins onto six exchanges where they could then be sold, Jeff McDonald said.

Hackers made off with roughly $533 million worth of the cryptocurrency from Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck Inc late last week, raising fresh questions about security and regulatory protection in the booming market. The location of the hackers’ account was not known.

“(The hackers are) trying to spend them on multiple exchanges. We are contacting those exchanges,” Singapore-based McDonald told Reuters.

NEM Foundation spokeswoman Alexandra Tinsman said the hacker had started sending out “XEM” coins to random accounts in 100 XEM batches, worth about $83 each.

“When people look to launder these types of funds, they sometimes spread it into smaller transactions because it’s less likely to trigger (exchanges’) anti-money laundering (mechanisms),” said Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, a cryptocurrency security firm in London.

Robinson said such hopping among different cryptocurrencies was becoming more prevalent among cybercriminals trying to cover their tracks.

The coins that the hackers had taken made up around 5 percent of the total supply of XEM, the world’s 10th biggest cryptocurrency, according to trade website Coinmarketcap.

McDonald said the hackers were unlikely to try to spend anything close to all of the stolen cryptocurrency at once, because the “market simply couldn’t absorb that much.”

If the hackers successfully moved the coins to an exchange, they were likely to try to swap them into another cryptocurrency before transferring the coins back into a conventional currency, he said. That would make the funds difficult or near impossible to trace.

“I would assume that they are going to get away with some of the money,” McDonald said.

At least three dozen heists on cryptocurrency exchanges since 2011 are known; many of the hacked exchanges later shut down. More than 980,000 bitcoins have been stolen, and few have ever been recovered.

In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing bitcoins worth around half a billion dollars — then the biggest ever such heist, which triggered a huge sell-off in bitcoin.

“It shows how far the industry has come that a hack of this scale isn’t really an issue,” said Robinson at Elliptic. “This is just kind of a blip.”

As of 17:44 GMT, XEM was trading at around $0.83 per coin, with a total market value of around $7.5 billion. That was around 20 percent lower than trading levels on Friday, when the hack was announced, but XEM is still up almost 300 percent over the past two months.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) on Monday ordered improvements to operations at Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin.

IMF Chief Says Middle Eastern Nations Must Broaden Tax Bases

Middle Eastern countries should pursue fiscal policies to support growth and build broader tax bases to fund infrastructure projects and social spending, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

“A key priority is building broader and more equitable tax bases. All must pay their fair share, while the poor must be protected,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told an economic conference in Marrakech, organized by the Washington-based fund and the kingdom.

That would allow them to spend more on social safety nets, health and education services than the current 11 percent of gross domestic product in the region. “Fiscal policy can and must be redesigned to support inclusive growth in the region,” Lagarde said.

More efforts are also needed to support the private sector, she said. The state, the dominant employer in many Arab countries with their young populations, can no longer hire newcomers to the labor market.

“This, too, can help make room for high-return social and infrastructure outlays,” Largarde said, adding that better access to finance, a more favorable business environment and fewer barriers such as red tape were necessary.

“Protracted regional conflicts, low commodity prices, weak productivity and poor governance have held back the considerable potential of the region,” the final statement issued by the IMF and two other international bodies said.

“Growth has not been strong enough to reduce unemployment significantly, and a staggering 25 percent of young people are jobless,” it added.

Директор служби розвідки Росії їздив на переговори в США – ЗМІ

Директор Служби зовнішньої розвідки Росії Сергій Наришкін, який перебуває під санкціями США, минулого тижня відвідав Сполучені Штати Америки для консультацій зі своїми американськими колегами, повідомляє агенція Reuters, а також російське державне новинне агентство ТАСС.

Як повідомляє Reuters із посиланням на два джерела, знайомі з ситуацією, Наришкін провів переговори із директором Національної розвідки США Деном Коутсом. Про тему розмови не повідомляють.

ТАСС цитує слова посла Росії в Вашингтоні Анатолія Антонова, який в інтерв’ю російському телебаченню заявив, що в ході переговорів обговорювалася «спільна боротьба з тероризмом». Про те, з ким саме зустрічався Наришкін, Антонов не уточнив.

Центральне розвідувальне управління США відмовилося прокоментувати ситуацію. Офіс Коутса не відповів на запити щодо коментаря.

Лідер демократів у Сенаті Чак Шумер 30 січня закликав адміністрацію президента Дональда Трампа пояснити повідомлення про приїзд Наришкіна.

Відносини між США і Росією різко погіршилися після початку російської агресії проти України і ще більше – після звинувачень щодо втручання Росії у вибори у США.

 

У Росії слідство не продовжило домашній арешт математику, арештованому через акції 2 квітня

Російські слідчі вирішили не продовжувати домашній арешт математику Дмитру Богатову, якого звинувачували у закликах до тероризму і масових заворушень під час неузгодженої акції протесту у російській столиці 2 квітня 2017 року. Про це з посиланням на джерела повідомляє російське державне новинне агентство ТАСС. Відсутність клопотання про продовження арешту підтвердив виданню «Медіазона» адвокат Богатова Саркіс Дарбинян.

«Слідство відпустило Богатова з-під домашнього арешту у зв’язку з відсутністю підстав для продовження йому запобіжного заходу», – цитує ТАСС слова представника Слідчого комітету Росії.

Раніше стало відомо, що фахівці експертно-криміналістичного центру МВС Росії не виявили доказів провини математика.

25-річного Богатова, викладача Московської фінансово-юридичної академії, затримали 6 квітня 2017 року. За версією російського слідства, він під вигаданим ім’ям закликав у соціальних мережах до насильства під час мітингу 2 квітня. Сам Дмитро Богатов звинувачення відкидає.

Захист направив в Європейський суд з прав людини скаргу на рішення про його арешт. Правозахисний центр «Меморіал» визнав Богатова політичним в’язнем.

Venezuela Drops Overvalued Exchange Rate for State Imports

Venezuela is abandoning the most-overvalued of its two official foreign exchange rates, which had been used for state imports of food and medicine amid a worsening economic crisis.

 

The move could potentially encourage businesses to import more and put more goods on store shelves and in pharmacies, but only if the government carries it out as written, said Francisco Rodriguez, a former Venezuelan official who is now chief economist at the New York-based Torino Capital.

 

“This is not a place where there’s a good tradition of following the letter of the law,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I don’t think that one should get too optimistic.”

 

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the fifth year of a deepening economic crisis that has brought scarcities of basic foods and medicine after nearly two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement of the world’s largest crude oil reserves.

 

The exchange rate reforms became public Monday when published in the nation’s official gazette, signaling that all transactions will now use a second official exchange rate known as Dicom. That rate still contrasts sharply with the black market exchange rate.

 

One U.S. dollar buys 3,345 bolivars at the Dicom rate, while Venezuelans are paying an average of nearly 250,000 bolivars per U.S. dollar on the black market.

 

The rate being abandoned, known as the Dipro, was set at 10 bolivars per dollar.

 

Venezuela has been operating with two official exchange rates, though most Venezuelans can buy dollars only on the illegal black market.

 

Rodriguez cautioned that the shift in exchange rates may only allow for the import of high-value goods, which are out of reach from most Venezuelans.

 

The government decree goes beyond eliminating the official protected rate Dipro rate, opening up access to the exchange system by relaxing government controls, so more imports could begin to flow, he said.

 

On Tuesday, Maduro announced new government subsidies for millions of Venezuelans. But with the slipping value of the bolivar, their value adds up to tiny sums.

 

The monthly minimum wage many working Venezuelans earn is now worth the equivalent of just $3. A program for 315,000 pregnant Venezuelan women would provide each about $21 at the black market exchange rate. Eight million Venezuelans who will be eligible to receive state money for the upcoming Carnival season will receive the equivalent of about $2.81.

 

Venezuela’s inflation hit 2,616 percent last year, according to estimates by the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The International Monetary Fund estimates inflation could soar to 13,000 percent this year.

Russia’s Elite Denounces US ‘Putin’ List

Russian officials from President Vladimir Putin on down have denounced the United States’ publication of the so-called “Putin list” – a U.S. Treasury-issued registry of 210 Russians identified as close to the Russian leader – under a new sanctions law tied to allegations of Kremlin interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Speaking in Moscow, Putin said that by including nearly all key members of his government and Russian industry on the list, the U.S. had, in effect, carried out “a hostile step” against “all 146 million Russians.”

Yet Putin indicated that Russia would not respond – for now. “We’re not prepared to crawl into the wolf’s trap and make the situation worse,” he said. “We want and will patiently build relations as much as the American side is willing.”

White House reluctance

The list, part of the wider “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” or CAATSA, ordered by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last August, requires the White House to provide a detailed report on the dealings of key Kremlin insiders.

The Trump administration, which has bristled at suggestions it benefited from Russian interference in the elections, held off on complying with the law until the last minute.

The White House’s lukewarm support for the measure was encapsulated by the list’s unveiling: While the Treasury Department noted that the majority of Russians included were not subject to sanctions, the registry’s very existence was seen by congressional leaders as a veiled threat of possible future U.S. reprisals.

Russian leaders unmoved

In Moscow, Russia’s elite maintained that the scare tactic wasn’t working. Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian Duma, the lower house of parliament, said the list was the latest in a failed U.S. sanctions policy aimed at weakening an increasingly powerful Russia.

“The sanctions haven’t led to a change in our country’s political course, or weakened our sovereignty, or led to an internal split,” Volodin said in a statement posted to the Duma’s official website. “New sanctions against Russia will lead to even greater consolidation of society,” he added.

Others merely lauded their inclusion as a point of pride.Vladimir Medinsky, minister of culture, argued he’d been inspired by his “nomination.” Georgi Poltavchenko, governor of St. Petersburg, called it a sign of his hard work. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said “it would be strange” if the mayor of the capital hadn’t earned his place on the list.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, mocked what he saw as amateur detective work by U.S. intelligence agencies. Writing on Facebook, Kosachev said he had the “firm impression that U.S. secret services, desperate to find the provable kompromat they promised on Russian politicians, just copied the Kremlin phonebook.”

The U.S. Treasury’s list of Russian oligarchs appeared to duplicate a Forbes Russia ranking of the country’s 96 wealthiest men. Its registry of government figures, journalists noted, was a near replica of the Kremlin’s English language “key officials” webpage.

Even some Kremlin critics admitted that the sanctions were unlikely to unnerve Russia’s powerful – at least not yet.

“It’s a threat, not a punch,” Dmitry Gudkov wrote on his Facebook page.”For now, that list only means a morning heart attack for the most sensitive of souls.”

Election interference cuts both ways

In advance of the list’s publication, the Kremlin had indicated Russia viewed the registry – and any additional sanctions – as an attempt by the U.S. to influence Russia’s presidential elections in March, when Putin is all but guaranteed re-election to a fourth term.

Putin was asked about the issue during a campaign meeting with supporters, one of whom asked what he would have to do to join the list, to audience laughter.

Putin responded by suggesting the goal of Russians should be to develop their economy to the point where “there’s no point to formulating any lists, to hold us back.”

Public debate

Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who has been barred from competing in the presidential elections, was among those cheering the “Putin list” as a positive development. He noted that his Anti-Corruption Foundation team had carried out its own investigations and produced reports that highlighted Kremlin corruption by several of the listed figures.

“Well, what I can say?” Navalny tweeted. “We’re glad that they’ve been officially recognized as thieves and swindlers on the international level.”

Meanwhile, online debate seemed to be split over the blanket nature of the Treasury list and whether it had gone too far or not far enough.

Why, some asked, hadn’t the Kremlin central bankers been included? Where were Russia’s senior court judges and the head of the election commission?

Others questioned why Russia’s human rights ombudsman was on the list,or a businessman who, although wealthy, had no clear ties to the Kremlin.

And if Russia’s top diplomat,Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, was on the list, who was left to negotiate with Washington if and when relations are repaired?

Konstantin von Eggert, a foreign affairs analyst and host of the independent TV-Rain channel, noted that the list had suddenly rendered the roles of competing interest groups inside and outside the Kremlin irrelevant.

The U.S. had included nearly all of Russia’s entire political and economic elite in a web of Russia sanctions that touch on varied issues such as election interference, human rights abuses and the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.

“Everyone,” argued von Eggert, “is now in the same boat.”

Посланець ООН щодо суперечки Греції і Македонії: настав час для ухвалення рішень

Посланець ООН Метью Німіц 30 січня провів переговори в Афінах із врегулювання суперечки Греції і Македонії щодо офіційної назви останньої.

«Настав час для ухвалення рішень. Як на мене, ми можемо говорити про тижні обговорення, щоб зрозуміти, чого ми досягли», – сказав Німіц напередодні схожих переговорів, що відбудуться у столиці Македонії Скоп’є.

За його словами, в Афін і Скоп’є є воля «спробувати досягти рішення».

Після переговорів міністр закордонних справ Греції Нікос Котціас заявив телеканалові ERT: «Перше, що потрібно обговорити – це назва мовою або мовами сусідньої країни, яка не може бути перекладена жодною іншою мовою».

Котціас додав, що Афіни представлять проект пропозиції Скоп’є вже наступного місяця.

Греція виступає проти того, щоб Скоп’є використовувало назву «Македонія» від часу проголошення його незалежності від колишньої Югославії у вересні 1991 року. Така позиція Греції ускладнює вступ Македонії до Євросоюзу і НАТО. У Греції наполягають, що Македонією не можуть називатися одночасно дві території – країна і грецький регіон.

Прем’єр-міністри Греції і Македонії Алексіс Ципрас та Зоран Заєв минулого тижня організували переговори в своїх країнах із політичними лідерами, щоб обговорити стратегію перед запланованими зустрічами з Німіцом.

Хоча керівництво країн заявляло про «наближення» врегулювання суперечки, і Греція, і Македонія стикаються з потужним спротивом щодо компромісу з боку націоналістів в своїх країнах. В Афінах навіть запланували на 4 лютого масову акцію протесту проти компромісу щодо назви «Македонія». Організатори кажуть, що хочуть зібрати близько мільйона людей.

 

Serbia Museum Benefits From Renewed Interest in Nikola Tesla

Along dimmed corridors in an elegant villa in central Belgrade, visitors are treated to a flashy presentation of Nikola Tesla’s technology — as well as a huge array of the visionary scientist’s clothes, hundreds of instruments, and even his ashes.

The Serbian museum, dedicated to everything to do with the 19th-century inventor and electricity pioneer, remained in relative obscurity for decades under former Yugoslavia. But thanks to a global revival of interest in the scientist, the collection is now drawing big crowds from home and abroad.

Museum staff say some 130,000 people visited last year, compared to about 30,000 a year in the past. The small museum is now ranked among the top must-see destination for tourists.