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Russia: 'Bound for success' Putin claims crushing election win


With ballots from 80 percent of Russia's precincts counted by early Monday, Putin had amassed 76 percent of the vote. Observers and individual voters reported widespread violations including ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the claims are unlikely to dilute the power of Russia's longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin.

Vladimir Putin rolled to a crushing re-election victory Sunday for six more years as Russia's president, and he told cheering supporters in a triumphant but brief speech that "we are bound for success."

Russia goes to polls, set to re-elect Putin


Putin has sought to use the election run-up to emphasise Russia's role as a major world power, recently boasting of its "invincible" new weapons and continuing Moscow's support for the Syrian regime in a bloody civil war.

Russia was on Saturday set to elect Vladimir Putin to a historic fourth Kremlin term, as the country faces increasing isolation over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of US sanctions.
Since taking power 18 years ago, Putin has stamped his total authority on the country, silencing opposition and reasserting Moscow's lost might abroad.

File image - US President Donald Trump (R) and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) appear together in this undated image.


Trump and Tillerson, who had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state, have diverged on policy numerous times, including over North Korea and Russia. On Monday, Tillerson sharply criticized Russia over the poisonings in England of a former spy and his daughter,...

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he had replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, ousting the embattled top diplomat after a series of public rifts.

UK's May says 'highly likely' Russia responsible for poisoning former spy


May said that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a form of nerve agent known as Novichock, and there were two possible explanations: the attack was an act of the Russian state, or Russia has lost control of a deadly banned substance.

Britain's prime minister said Monday that it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in southwestern England last week.

File image - Chinese President Xi Jinping stands by national flags at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency in Berlin.


The amendments also include inserting Xi’s political theory into the constitution, something that was already added to the party charter in October at the end of a party congress, a feat no other leader since Mao had managed while in office. Additionally, clauses were included to give a legal framework to a new super anti-corruption department.

China removed presidential term limits from its constitution on Sunday, giving President Xi Jinping the right to remain in office indefinitely, and confirming his status as the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong died more than 40 years ago.

Trump sets steel and aluminum tariffs but exempts Canada, Mexico


U.S. President Donald Trump pressed ahead on Thursday with import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance.

Trump agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on denuclearization


Later Thursday evening, Trump tweeted: "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!"

President Donald Trump has agreed to a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by this May on his nuclear weapons program, South Korea's national security adviser announced at the White House Thursday evening. He had briefed the president on a message from Kim earlier in the day.

© Abdulmonam Eassa, AFP | A Syrian paramedic carries an injured child following reported bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces in the rebel-held town of Hamouria in eastern Ghouta on January 6, 2018.


It found no evidence that the Russian strike had deliberately targeted the market, but said “this attack may amount to the war crime of launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death and injury to civilians”, the first time it has explicitly implicated Moscow in possible war crimes.

Air strikes by Russia and a U.S.-led coalition killed civilians in Syria on a large scale last year, while the Assad government carried out unlawful chemical weapon attacks in rebel-held eastern Ghouta, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Tuesday.

File image - A Russian An-26 transport plane


Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is running for re-election later this month, ordered “a significant part” of Moscow’s military contingent there to start withdrawing in December, declaring their work largely done.

A Russian military transport plane crashed in Syria on Tuesday, killing all 32 people on board, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying, an incident that sharply raises the death toll from the Kremlin’s Syria operation.

North Korea agrees to summit with South, possible nuclear freeze


If realised, the summit will be the third meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas, which technically remain at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

North and South Korea have agreed to hold a summit at their heavily armed border next month, with Pyongyang saying it would consider abandoning nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees, Seoul said Tuesday.

Police officers stand guard beside a cordoned-off area after Sergei Skripal became critically ill after exposure to an unidentified substance.


Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who was convicted by Russia of betraying agents to British intelligence, was critically ill on Monday after exposure to an unidentified substance in Britain, two sources close to the investigation told Reuters.

Assad vows to continue Ghouta assault as Syria troops advance


Earlier Sunday, US President Donald Trump and British PM Theresa May said Russia and Syria were responsible for "heart-breaking human suffering" in Eastern Ghouta. With the support of Russian warplanes, the Syrian military has advanced on several fronts, retaking control of farms and villages, a military source told state media.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday his forces must push on with their campaign to retake the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta from rebels, despite mounting international calls to end the bloodshed.

Germany's Social Democrats agree to join 'grand coalition' with Merkel


Sunday's announcement by the party's leadership ends almost six months of uncertainty in German politics, the longest the country has been without a government in its post-war history.

Members of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) voted in favour of entering a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, German media reported on Sunday after a postal ballot.
The decision clears the last major hurdle to the formation of a new government and a fourth term for Merkel.

China proposes lifting term limit for Communist Party leaders


The party’s Central Committee proposed to remove from the constitution the expression that China’s president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms,” the Xinhua News Agency said in a brief report. It provided no further details.

China’s ruling Communist Party has proposed removing a limit of two consecutive terms for the country’s president, the official news agency said Sunday, appearing to lay the groundwork for party leader Xi Jinping to rule as president beyond 2023.

Smoke rises from buildings following bombardment on the village of Mesraba in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on February 19, 2018. © Hamza Al-Ajweh / AFP


At least 250 civilians have been killed since the escalation began on Sunday, among them dozens of children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian and Russian air strikes on Tuesday slammed into the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave, leaving more than 100 civilians dead for the second straight day and putting another hospital out of service.

IS group claims deadly church attack in Russia's Dagestan


An unidentified gunman fired at worshippers at the church in the town of Kizlyar in the mainly Muslim region, local press reports said.

Five women were shot dead in an apparent radical Islamist attack on an Orthodox church in the North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the assault.

Police inspect the site of a deadly explosion in Oruro, Bolivia, Feb. 14, 2018.


An ally of Morales publicly implied that opposition forces were behind the attack, while opposition members urged government supporters to refrain from blaming anyone without evidence. Bolivia has seen very little political violence over the last 12 years and a politically motivated bombing would be highly unusual.

A bomb caused an explosion that killed four people and wounded 10 during Carnival celebrations, Bolivian authorities said Wednesday.

Israeli police recommend Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust


Police issued a statement saying they had "sufficient evidence" to issue the recommendations, which now go to the attorney general for a decision on whether to pursue an indictment against the prime minister. The deliberations on whether and how to move forward are expected to take weeks or even months.

Israeli police said Tuesday they had recommended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu face charges for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust following long-standing investigations into two cases of alleged corruption.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea February 9, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS


The prospect of talks comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threats of destruction amid tightening sanctions from the United Nations.

Comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence suggest the United States may be looking more favorably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea as South Korea considers a rare summit with its neighbor and long-time foe.

The crash site of Russian passenger plane outside Moscow, February 11, 2018. STRINGER / Reuters


The Russian Ministry for Civil Defense said the plane crashed in the Ramenskoye area, which is around 25 miles southeast of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. Russian emergency services were on the scene, with over 150 people deployed to deal with the incident, the ministry said.

A Russian passenger plane crashed shortly after leaving a Moscow airport Sunday, killing all 71 people on board, Russia's Transport Ministry said.



“We together over the coming years will walk a journey that is full of opportunities, full of challenges, but I believe which marks a defining chapter in our achievement of a united Ireland and the ending of partition,” she said.

Mary Lou McDonald, who on Saturday becomes president of Ireland’s Sinn Fein republican movement, represents a break with the party’s past as the political voice of the IRA.

230 civilians killed in Syrian, Russian airstrikes in past week: U.N.


Syria and Russian airstrikes in rebel-held areas have killed 230 civilians in the past week in some of the conflict’s worst violence that may also constitute war crimes, the top United Nations human rights official said on Saturday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in talks with President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, during their meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, February 10, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS


The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Trump says Democratic memo on Russia is 'very political,' needs redactions


“We hope this matter can be quickly resolved so the committee can return to its charge - fully investigating the Russian interference in our election and the role of the Trump campaign, and what steps need to be taken to protect against foreign interference in the next election, now only months away,” Trump said.

A classified memo by congressional Democrats related to investigations of Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is “very political and long” and must be “heavily redacted” before it could be released, President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Saturday.

Israeli security forces examine the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the Israeli village of Harduf, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun


Iran’s involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in a nearly seven-year-old civil war - including the deployment of Iran-backed forces near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights - has alarmed Israel, which has said it would counter any threat.

Anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a bombing raid on Iran-backed positions in Syria on Saturday in the most serious confrontations yet between Israel and Iranian-backed forces based across the border.

A Russian Sukhoi jet flies out of Hmeimim air base in Syria in October 2015. AP photo


Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, has claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane.

A Russian pilot was killed in Syria on Saturday after parachuting into rebel-held territory when his plane was shot down, the Defence Ministry said.

Trump approves release of secret memo in fight over Russia probe


Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly complained about his treatment by federal investigators who are probing possible collusion between his campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election, and any actions to impede the investigation.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved the release of a classified Republican memo that alleges bias against him at the FBI and Justice Department, in an extraordinary showdown with his own senior law enforcement officials over the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A man reacts after hearing his son was killed during a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan January 27, 2018. Reuters photo/Omar Sobhani


“Today’s attack is nothing short of an atrocity, and those who have organized and enabled it must be brought to justice and held to account,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

A bomb hidden in an ambulance killed at least 95 people and wounded about 158 in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday when it blew up at a police checkpoint in a busy part of the city that was crowded with pedestrians at the time of the attack.

Evacuees gather at Kodiak High School after an earthquake and tsunami alert in Kodiak, Alaska. VOA photo


A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state's southern coast and parts of British Columbia.

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily on May 26, 2017. AFP photo


More recently, Macron said that he, too, was outraged by reports that Trump had described Haiti and parts of Africa as "shithole countries", calling such language inappropriate and counterproductive.

US President Donald Trump will host the first state visit of his presidency when French President Emmanuel Macron visits the White House in late April, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.
The official visit will include the first state dinner to be hosted by the US president and First Lady Melania Trump.

KABUL: Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul killing at least six people, including a foreigner, sparking a twelve hour fight with security forces.


More than 150 guests were able to flee as parts of the building caught fire, with some shimmying down sheets tied together and dropped from upper-floor windows and others rescued by Afghan forces.

Gunmen in army uniforms who stormed Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel late on Saturday and battled Afghan Special Forces through the night killed at least 18 people and wounded 12 more, although the final toll of dead and wounded may still be higher.

Senate huddle moments before the government shutdown on Jan. 20, 2018. NBC photo


But Republicans failed to assemble a simple majority for the measure as some within their own ranks, frustrated with the spate of month-long spending bills, also opposed the short-term solution.

The federal government entered a partial shutdown Saturday as a key vote fell far short of the support needed to pass the Senate and the midnight deadline came and went without a deal.

File image - Russian president Vladimir Putin (L) and US president Donald Trump.


"I guess they all realized they were going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests," he said.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday Russia is helping North Korea evade international sanctions and that Pyongyang is getting "closer every day" to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States.

Freedom House: Democracy Scores for Most Countries Decline for 12th Consecutive Year


A new report released by the independent watchdog organization Freedom House says that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press are weakening globally for the 12th consecutive year.

EU chief urges Britain to change its mind over Brexit


Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders and speaks on their behalf, quoted U.K. Brexit envoy David Davis as saying that "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."

European Union Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday urged Britain to change its mind about leaving the bloc next year, as time to conclude a Brexit agreement runs short and EU leaders await more details on how the country sees their future ties.

In Norway, Trump's comments on immigration rejected as backhanded praise. Photo credit - NBC


Norwegians do have it pretty good. The oil-rich country ranks No. 1 in the United Nations Human Development Index, with a high life-expectancy at 81 years and high incomes. The United States is 10th on the same list.

On a quiet winter morning, Ingvild Rosseland walked her two dogs through a snowy forest in Huk, a public park in the capital of Norway — a country recently designated by President Donald Trump as not being a "shithole."

The president used the vulgarity while referring to immigration from African nations, and told a group of lawmakers that the United States should have more people coming from places like the Scandinavian nation, according to a Democratic aide.

“It’s nice that people want us,” Rosseland, 40, said as she walked along the frozen banks of the inner Oslo Fjord, “but I didn’t react to it as a compliment."

Many in Norway have been saying "thanks but no thanks" to what they perceive as backhanded praise from the U.S. president, which came the same day he had met with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Gina Barstad, 31, a representative to parliament for the opposition Socialist Left Party said Trump’s comments say a lot about his “lack of understanding about the conditions in other countries, both in Haiti and in Norway.”

Reactions quickly spread across social media in Norway, with some bristling at the concept that Norwegians would want to move to the United States given the president’s comments.

Norwegian satirist Eirik Bergesen posted:

Speaking to NBC News, Bergesen added: “Why are we supposed to be better, because we’re predominantly white? Some of the richest people in the world?”

Bergeson, a former diplomat who worked in Washington, D.C., during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, thinks even for someone known to be unconventional, Trump’s remarks fall flat for most Norwegians.

“He’s not flattering us, he’s not creating a wave of immigration, he’s just confusing us even more,” he said.

Related: African nations slam Trump's vulgar remarks as 'reprehensible and racist'

Norwegians do have it pretty good. The oil-rich country ranks No. 1 in the United Nations Human Development Index, with a high life-expectancy at 81 years and high incomes. The United States is 10th on the same list.

Even in the dead of winter, when the sun rises for only a few hours a day and heavy blankets of snow can be expected to sit on the eaves of homes until spring, Norwegians make the most of it — sledding in neighborhood parks or taking their skis onto the subway for a day trip to nearby resorts.

At a cozy café in the working class Tøyen neighborhood, Mette Brathen, a teacher, and her partner, Henning Velo, an engineer, sit down for a late breakfast, doing the crossword puzzle in a local paper.

The pair, both 45, say a lot of what makes Norway great comes from a socialist system that includes universal health care and prioritizes social welfare and the common good.

“We pay more tax, and that makes society able to care for people,” Velo said. “It’s not every person for himself, we work together.”

“But we have struck oil,” Brathen added. “We are lucky and sometimes I think we forget that. It’s luck we have this."

Norway, which first discovered oil off its shores in 1969, plows its revenue into a massive sovereign wealth fund that pays for state pensions and other expenses. The fund recently topped $1 trillion for the first time — about the same size as the economy of Indonesia.

“Before we struck oil,” Velo said, “we were a country that Trump would describe as a shithole. We were a poor country.”

Despite having a predominantly native-born, white population, Norway also has a growing number of immigrants — including from some of those countries the president seemingly disparaged.

Nda Naa Kuorhor, 28, came to Norway from Ghana in 2015 to study the works of playwright Henrik Ibsen at the University of Oslo on a full scholarship.

Working part-time as a server at a downtown hotel café, she said: “It’s cool living here.”

Kuorhor said she has experienced some uncomfortable moments in Norway that she perceived as being racist — like people getting up from their train seat when she sits down — but she said she would not want to move to the United States.

“I prefer Norway because it’s peaceful,” she said. “I hear things about the United States, like it’s not safe.”

A NATO ally, Norway has long enjoyed good relations with the United States. Last year, the U.S. deployed Marines to the country for Operation Joint Viking. They worked alongside British and Norwegian soldiers in training exercises a few hundred miles from the border with Russia.

But the perception of the United States as a friendly place is starting to change for young Norwegians. And remarks from Trump aren’t helping.

At Gurken, a small but colorful Oslo bar, young urbanites gathered to escape the cold on a freezing Friday night, throwing back beer, wine and the house specialty, “Pina Colada Slush.”

Among the customers was Erlend Hovgaard, a 30-year-old consultant who works for a Norwegian design company in Oslo.

“I don’t feel privileged at all by being that group of people that Trump assess are special,” he said. “I don’t feel honored.”

Sebastian Reed, an amiable 33-year old graphic designer, agreed with the sentiment.

“I definitely don’t want to go to the U.S.," he said while holding a can of locally brewed beer.

“I would never live in a country with him as a president, pretty much.”


Source: NBC

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