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Russia ‘kills eight “Islamic State” militants’ close to Chechnya

Russia's counterterrorism forces have killed eight "Islamic State" (IS) militants in North Caucasus. Thousands of Russian citizens are now believed to be fighting for jihadi-affiliated factions in Syria. Russia's Anti-Terrorist Committee said on Sunday that the jihadi militants were killed in combat in the province of Ingushetia, west of Chechnya. "As a result of a firefight, eight militants were neutralized," the Committee said in a statement on Sunday. The agency failed to disclose, however, exactly when the incident took place. The statement, published by Russian news agencies, said the group's leader, Adam Tagilov, was also among those killed. He was accused of organizing an armed raid on Chechnya's provincial capital, Grozny, in December 2014, the day of President Vladimir Putin's state of the nation address. Twenty-five people were killed in the attack. The eight men killed by Russian forces were believed to have been part of the Chechen umbrella group, the Caucases Emirates, which in June "pledged allegiance and joined the international terrorist organization IS" and appointed a "governor" of the Caucasus. They were allegedly responsible for a series of deadly attacks against police in the region. According to Russian officials more than 1,000 Russian nationals have joined the Islamist militant group and are fighting for factions affiliated with IS jihadists in Syria. Fears are mounting over the major threat they could pose when they return. Chechen separatists have previously fought a number of wars against the Russian authorities

Russia’s counterterrorism forces have killed eight “Islamic State” (IS) militants in North Caucasus. Thousands of Russian citizens are now believed to be fighting for jihadi-affiliated factions in Syria. Russia’s Anti-Terrorist Committee said on Sunday that the jihadi militants were killed in combat in the province of Ingushetia, west of Chechnya. “As a result of a firefight, eight militants were neutralized,” ... Read More »

US Secretary of State Kerry begins Middle East tour

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt on the first leg of his Middle East tour. Kerry will also hold a meeting with his Russian and Saudi Arabian counterparts in Qatar and attend a Gulf summit. Ties between Washington and Cairo have been tumultuous since the popular revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The United States has been particularly critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi's repression of the supporters of his Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi. The relations between the two countries have begun to improve somewhat, with Washington lifting sanctions on military aid for Egypt in March. John Kerry will hold strategic talks with Sameh Shoukri, Egypt's foreign minister, on Saturday before heading to Doha. The dialogue will be the first between the two countries since 2009, and comes days after the United States announced that it would begin the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. The top US diplomat is also expected to raise the issue of human rights violations with his Egyptian counterpart. "We'll certainly be discussing the issue of the political environment, human rights issues while the Secretary is in Cairo. That is an important part of our regular dialogue," a US State Department official said. Concerns about Iran In Doha, Kerry will attend a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and try to allay fears among the US's Arab allies about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which was sealed on July 14 in Vienna. Many Gulf states are weary about Iran's growing closeness with the United States. The GCC foreign ministers and Kerry will also discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. The US State Department confirmed that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on the GCC sidelines. Kerry, whose Middle East visit does not include a stop in Israel, will leave for Southeast Asia from Doha.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt on the first leg of his Middle East tour. Kerry will also hold a meeting with his Russian and Saudi Arabian counterparts in Qatar and attend a Gulf summit. Ties between Washington and Cairo have been tumultuous since the popular revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The ... Read More »

German army to receive 20 million euros for Ukraine maneuvers

The Bundeswehr is to receive millions more for its training missions. The move is targeted at NATO military exercises in eastern Europe. The German defense ministry announced on Thursday plans to spend an additional 20 million euros ($21 million) on Bundeswehr troops to be sent for training to Germany's eastern European NATO allies. The NATO military exercises in Ukraine were also a reason for boosting the budget from 70 million to 90 million euros, a spokesman for the defense ministry told news agency dpa. Ministry officials also said that 2,700 German soldiers were stationed abroad, including in Mali and Turkey. The reduced deployment therefore made it easier for administrators to free troops for training. The German military is sending 154,000 of its roughly 180,000 active soldiers abroad to participate in military exercises. Last year, the figure was around 160,000 troops - an over two-fold increase from around 73,000 fighters the year before. Around 4,400 soldiers were to participate in 16 maneuvers in Poland and the Baltics, the defense ministry said. These were planned as a support measure for countries bordering Russia. In addition, preparations are being made for the biggest NATO military exercise this year which will take place in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Beginning on September 28 and lasting until October 16, the training, called "Trident Juncture" will involve 36,000 soldiers from more than 30 countries. Nearly 3,000 Bundeswehr soldiers will take part in this year's training. Criticism from the Left Party The Defense Ministry's latest plans, especially involving training in eastern Europe have, however, drawn criticism from some political factions within the country. Heike Hänsel of the opposition Left Party accused the German government of "increasing tensions with Russia and jeopardizing the European peace framework" by participating in the NATO exercise. The money could have been better used for Ukraine's impoverished masses or to repatriate war victims, Hänsel argued. Relations between Russia and Western countries have strained since Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year. European Union member states and the US accuse Russia of backing separatists in Ukraine's east, who have declared their own independent republic and carried forward a war that has left more than 6,000 dead.

The Bundeswehr is to receive millions more for its training missions. The move is targeted at NATO military exercises in eastern Europe. The German defense ministry announced on Thursday plans to spend an additional 20 million euros ($21 million) on Bundeswehr troops to be sent for training to Germany’s eastern European NATO allies. The NATO military exercises in Ukraine were ... Read More »

Veto expected at UN vote on MH17 tribunal

The UN Security Council is set to vote on a resolution that would create an international criminal court to prosecute the perpetrators of the MH17 crash. Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has hinted at a veto. The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution on Wednesday that would set up an international criminal court to prosecute those responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Malaysia introduced a draft resolution earlier in July that would forge a tribunal under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would allow the use of sanctions and military action for enforcement. The Netherlands is leading an international investigation, which includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. The majority of the 298 passengers who died were Dutch. Veto likely However, the UN resolution is expected to be struck down by veto-wielding Russia. Russia last week submitted an alternative resolution which called for a "full, thorough, transparent and independent international investigation," but did not mention the creation of an international tribunal for prosecution. The Russian draft also noted that "the establishment of the true causes of this aerial incident is critical for bringing those responsible to justice." Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, told Reuters news agency that now was not the time for an international criminal court. "This is not a proper thing for the Security Council to do because it's not a case of a threat to international peace and security," Churkin said. 'Premature'? Russia has been strongly opposed to the creation of a tribunal, with President Vladimir Putin saying earlier in July that it was "premature" and "counterproductive." "I have a very strong feeling that it's not going to lead to a result that will be satisfactory for the Security Council," Churkin told Reuters. The West and Ukraine have accused pro-Russian separatists of downing the plane using a surface-to-air missile. However, Russia and separatists in eastern Ukraine have said it was likely a Ukrainian military jet. Malaysia Airlines MH17 crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, leaving all 298 passengers and crew members dead.

The UN Security Council is set to vote on a resolution that would create an international criminal court to prosecute the perpetrators of the MH17 crash. Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has hinted at a veto. The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution on Wednesday that would set up an international criminal court to ... Read More »

Russia bans US National Endowment for Democracy as “undesirable”

Russia has moved to ban a prominent US organization from operating in the country under the nation's controversial new "undesirables" law. Critics have slammed the ban as an attempt to limit civil society. Russian prosecutors declared Tuesday that the US National Endowment for Democracy will be the first "undesirable" foreign group banned under a controversial new law designed to limit the influence of overseas organizations perceived as a threat. "Taking into account the overall aim of the Endowment's work, prosecutors came to the conclusion that it presents a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, its defense capabilities and state security," the prosecutors said in a statement. The Endowment, the statement continued, "participated in work to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, to organize political demonstrations aimed at influencing decisions taken by state institutions and to discredit service in the Russian armed forces." Critics view the ban as an attempt by Moscow to limit civil society amid growing anti-Western rhetoric over the Ukraine conflict. Endowment officials immediately blasted the ban. "This law, as well as its predecessors, contravenes Russia's own constitution as well as numerous international laws and treaties," the endowment said in a statement. "The true intent of these laws is to intimidate and isolate Russian citizens." The Endowment added that it "remains committed to supporting human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world." The Russian justice ministry is expected to approve the measure, which will see the Endowment barred from opening offices in Russia or providing funding to any individuals or groups within the country. In 2013 and 2014, the Endowment provided about $5.2 million (4.7 million euros) in funding to local organizations, according to Russian prosecutors. The ban comes amid heightened tensions over the Ukraine crisis, which has seen relations between Russia and the West plummet to their worst level since the end of the Cold War. Earlier this month, Russian senators drew up an official proposal to blacklist 12 foreign non-governmental organizations, including the Endowment. Dozens of organizations, including leading human rights groups have been impacted by the restriction. Under the new law, activists could face a prison term of up to six years for "participating in the activities" of any banned entity.

Russia has moved to ban a prominent US organization from operating in the country under the nation’s controversial new “undesirables” law. Critics have slammed the ban as an attempt to limit civil society. Russian prosecutors declared Tuesday that the US National Endowment for Democracy will be the first “undesirable” foreign group banned under a controversial new law designed to limit ... Read More »

German defense ministry denies miscalculations

Germany's defense ministry miscalculated its planned outlay for two of Europe's new weapon systems to the extent of one billion euros, according to Der Spiegel magazine. The ministry denies that errors occurred. The German news magazine reported Saturday that ministry data rechecks had shown a cheaper than expected cost overrun for the Puma infantry tank and hardly any anticipated savings for the new Meteor air-to-air missile. A ministry spokesman promptly denied "computing chaos," telling the German news agency DPA that the ministry had neither made mistakes nor had costs changed. Spiegel claimed the ministry had discovered erroneous costs blamed on outdated data when sent a query by Gesine Lötzsch of the Left. Her party, alongside the pacifist Greens, form the opposition in Germany's federal Bundestag parliament. Instead of saving 1.2 billion euros on the Meteor missile project, Germany had achieved merely 11 million euros in savings. The Puma overrun had fallen from 2.3 billion to 1.3 billion, Spiegel claimed. Ukraine crisis prompts rethink Worsening relations with Russia, especially over Ukraine, prompted NATO allies, including Germany, over the past year to rethink their assumption that they could scrap weaponry thought obsolete after the end of the Cold War. Last month, retiring German army inspector General Bruno Kasdorf highlighted Bundeswher equipment deficiencies, saying orders should be placed urgently with armaments manufacturers, given time lags between developing and certifying weapons and their delivery. In May, Kasdorf called for 20 billion euros in investments in the Bundeswehr through to 2025, saying -- as an example -- that the army needed 100 extra Puma infantry tanks for transporting troops. The Bundeswehr last month took its first deliveries of the Puma on a test range at Lüneberg, east of Hannover. External experts were brought in, when Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen took office in 2013. Their subsequent report mercilessly listed shortfalls in equipment and budgeting. Computerized weaponry The 31-ton tank, designed to carry nine soldiers at speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour (44 miles per hour) and fitted with computerized weapons, is produced by a German consortium, Rheinmetall and Kraus-Maffei Wegmann. The consortium for the Meteor air-to-air missile, which was first test-fired from a Eurofighter jet over Wales in 2012, comprises armaments firms in France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Spain. The Meteor, powered by a so-called ramjet, is reputed to have speeds of more than Mach four (4,900 kilometers per hour), a range of about 100 kilometers, and electronic remote controls enabling the crew of the fighter plane or a much larger AWACs surveillance aircraft to hit targets far beyond sight. It is regarded as a successor to the AIM-120 missile long supplied by the US manufacturer Raytheon.

Germany’s defense ministry miscalculated its planned outlay for two of Europe’s new weapon systems to the extent of one billion euros, according to Der Spiegel magazine. The ministry denies that errors occurred. The German news magazine reported Saturday that ministry data rechecks had shown a cheaper than expected cost overrun for the Puma infantry tank and hardly any anticipated savings ... Read More »

FIFA announces 2018 World Cup schedule

Just over a year after Germany clinched its fourth World Cup crown in Brazil, FIFA have announced the match schedule for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Will Germany be at the final again? FIFA have announced the match schedule for the 2018 World Cup in Russia on the eve of the qualifying draw in St Petersburg. Kickoff times for the tournament matches will be decicded at a later date. The 2018 FIFA World Cup will begin on Thursday June 14, 2018. Russia, as the host country, are seeded as the A1 team, and will be involved in the opening game of the tournament. The World Cup final will be held on Sunday July 15, 2018. Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium will host both the tournament opener and the final. Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Sochi, Samara will be the quarterfinal venues while St Petersburg and Moscow will stage the semifinals. The FIFA organizing committee, headed by UEFA president Michel Platini, also approved the procedures for the preliminary draw and qualifiers in each of the six confederations. The qualifying competition will span 32 months featuring 851 matches, concluding in November 2017. It was also announced on Friday that the FIFA Confederations Cup - a warm-up competition for the host country to test ahead of the main competition - will be staged from June 17 to July 2, 2017. Eight teams will compete, including defending World Cup winners Germany. Germany were also announced as one of nine top-seeds in the World Cup qualifying draw, which takes place in St Petersburg on Saturday.

Just over a year after Germany clinched its fourth World Cup crown in Brazil, FIFA have announced the match schedule for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Will Germany be at the final again? FIFA have announced the match schedule for the 2018 World Cup in Russia on the eve of the qualifying draw in St Petersburg. Kickoff times for ... Read More »

MH17 crash victims remembered on first anniversary

A year after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine, memorial services have been held to remember the 298 victims. Russia and the West remain at loggerheads as to who was responsible. In the Ukrainian village of Hrabove on Friday, around 200 local residents gathered at a church in town before leading a procession to the crash site. Across the globe in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbot unveiled a plaque, inscribed with the names of the 38 Australian victims. "Today we remember our dead, we thank those who brought them home. But most of all, we acknowledge the suffering of the bereaved," Abbot said in Canberra's Parliament Gardens. "You have had the worst year of your life. Today our nation pauses to acknowledge your tragedy." The plaque was set in soil brought back from the crash site by a police officer. 'This was an atrocity' Earlier on Friday, Sydney's Daily Telegraph released a video which purportedly shows Russian-backed rebels rummaging through the luggage of the MH17 passengers. Abbot said the footage highlighted that "this was an atrocity; it was in no way an accident." Also aboard the flight which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpa last July, were Dutch, Belgian and Malaysian passengers. The names of all victims from the Netherlands were to be read out by victims' relatives on Friday during a service in the city of Nieuwegein. A similar memorial was held in Kuala Lumpa last Saturday due to the anniversary falling on the same day as the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid-al-Fitr. Blame game between Russia and West Ukrainian and some Western authorities claim that flight MH17 was downed by missile fire from either pro-Russian separatist rebels or Russian troops. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated the accusation on Friday, saying that the high technology weapon used to shoot down the aircraft"could only have found its way into the hands of rebels via Russia." Poroshenko called it a "moral duty" to "ensure a fair punishment for those guilty in downing the aircraft," saying the crime "represents a threat to the whole international community." Moscow and the rebels have denied the claims, however, saying the Boeing 777 was hit by a Ukrainian warplane or a Ukrainian-fired missile during the ongoing conflict in the east of the country. A criminal probe by detectives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine is currently underway. All five countries have also asked the United Nations (UN) Security Council to launch an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down the plane. Russia, which holds a veto on the Security Council, has opposed a tribunal, however, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying on Thursday said that a tribunal would not make sense while the investigation continued.

A year after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine, memorial services have been held to remember the 298 victims. Russia and the West remain at loggerheads as to who was responsible. In the Ukrainian village of Hrabove on Friday, around 200 local residents gathered at a church in town before leading a procession to the crash site. Across ... Read More »

Relatives of MH17 victims file $900 million lawsuit against former rebel leader

Victims' family members of the MH17 crash have filed a lawsuit totaling nearly $900 million against Igor Strelkov, former leader of the Ukrainian separatist movement. According to the court papers, Russia is complicit. Family members of the victims who died in the MH17 Malaysian Airlines crash last year filed a nearly $900 million (826 million euros) lawsuit against Igor Strelkov, former rebel leader in the east Ukrainian conflict. The lawsuit was filed by lawyer Floyd Wisner, an Aviation specialist, in a Chicago court. Wisner is representing relatives of at least 17 victims of the crash. Strelkov, a Russian national also known as Igor Girkin, spearheaded the rebel side of operations in the eastern Ukrainian conflict until August 2014, after which he traveled to Russia where he currently resides. Aided, abetted, conspired "Flight 17 flew over the airspace of the area in which the aforesaid rebel army was waging its war activities and the rebel army under the command responsibility of defendant Girkin shot down the subject Boeing 777-200 aircraft," court papers stated. "Defendant Girkin ordered, aided and/or abetted this action and/or conspired with those persons who fired the missile or missiles," the court papers noted. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 - from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam - crashed after traveling over eastern Ukrainian airspace, where more than 4,000 people have been killed throughout the conflict on the ground. It is believed that the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Both the Ukrainian and Russian government have accused each other of orchestrating the attack, which left all 298 passengers -mostly Dutch citizens - dead, although no suspects have arisen. Rejecting investigations However, Strelkov's wife Mirosalva, who acts at the former rebel leader's spokesperson, has decried the lawsuit. "What does he have to do with this anyway," Miroslava told Russian radio, referring to her husband Strelkov. The lawsuit comes on the heels of Malaysia's formal request to the UN to open an international tribunal to independently investigate the circumstances of the crash. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday that opening a tribunal into the crash was "premature" and "counterintuitive."

Victims’ family members of the MH17 crash have filed a lawsuit totaling nearly $900 million against Igor Strelkov, former leader of the Ukrainian separatist movement. According to the court papers, Russia is complicit. Family members of the victims who died in the MH17 Malaysian Airlines crash last year filed a nearly $900 million (826 million euros) lawsuit against Igor Strelkov, ... Read More »

Modi, Sharif in rare talks at BRICS summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation to make his first official visit to rival Pakistan next year. He and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif announced the move at the BRICS summit in Russia. Indian broadcaster NDTV said Sharif and Modi held talks, focused on the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, for an hour on Friday on the fringe of the summit in Ufa, Russia. It said India had agreed to send more evidential voice recordings against suspects held in Pakistan for their alleged roles in the attacks on Mumbai, India's commercial hub. In the past, Pakistan has reacted to Indian accusations of being slow to prosecute the alleged mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi by saying India had failed to submit strong evidence. Officials at the summit said voice samples of suspects who gave instructions from Pakistan on the phone to the 10 terrorists who fanned across Mumbai would be sent to Pakistan, NDTV said. The 2008 Mumbai attacks claimed 166 lives. Encounter on fringe of summit The Press Trust of India news agency said the two leaders' encounter - their first in over a year - occurred during a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers. Modi and Sharif first met in May last year (pictured above) when the Pakistani leader attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony. Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors had also remained cool over border skirmishes in the disputed Kashmir region. Sniper kills Indian soldier India's army said a Pakistani sniper shot dead an Indian border guard at Baramulla in northern Kashmir on Thursday. Another soldier was killed as Indian forces retaliated, said Vishwa Bandhu, a spokesman for India's Border Security Force. Earlier this week, the two countries had exchanged fire at a border segment near the Pakistani city of Sialkot. India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri insurgents. Pakistan has denied such charges. Since independence from British rule in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the mostly Muslim-region of Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation to make his first official visit to rival Pakistan next year. He and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif announced the move at the BRICS summit in Russia. Indian broadcaster NDTV said Sharif and Modi held talks, focused on the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, for an hour on Friday on the fringe of ... Read More »

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