54 killed after ship sinks in 15 minutes off coast of Russia

MOSCOW — A Russian trawler sank in just 15 minutes in icy waters off Russia's Far Eastern coast early Thursday, killing at least 54 crew members, rescue workers said. The massive trawler Dalny Vostok, with an international crew of 132, sank at about 4 a.m. local time (1800 GMT on Wednesday) in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula. It did not send distress signals prior to the sinking, the Interfax news agency said. Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued and the fate of the remaining 15 was unknown. The crews of 26 fishing boats were helping the rescue operation that was scouring the water for survivors and bodies even after darkness fell in the region, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said. The fishing boats recovered 54 bodies. Some 1,300 people were involved in the rescue operation, emergency services said. No cause for the sinking was immediately given, but investigators said the ship sank in just 15 minutes and may have collided with drifting ice. The Investigative Committee said in a statement that it is considering all theories but it is likely that the trawler hit "an object" floating in the sea. The Russian Emergencies Ministry sent an Mi-8 helicopter with rescuers and doctors aboard to deliver medical assistance and transport rescued crew members to hospitals in the city of Magadan, the ministry said on its website. It also set up a telephone hotline for families of the crew. Oleg Kozhemyako, acting governor of the Sakhalin region, told Russian television that rescuers spotted two life rafts, but had not yet reached them to check if anybody was on board. Among the 132 crew members, 78 were from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.  Continue Reading

Vladimir Putin accuses U.S. of supporting separatists in Russia

In a new documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin says intercepted calls showed that the U.S. helped separatists in Russia’s North Caucasus in the 2000s, underscoring his suspicions of the West. The two-hour documentary, which aired Sunday on the state-owned Rossiya-1 TV channel, is dedicated to Putin’s 15 years in office. It focused on Putin’s achievements as well as challenges to his rule — which the producers and Putin blame on Western interference. Putin was elected Russian president on March 26, 2000. Putin said in one interview that Russian intelligence agencies had “intercepted direct contacts” between the separatists and U.S. intelligence officials in Azerbaijan during the early 2000s, proving that Washington was helping the insurgents. He didn’t specify when the calls took place. Continue Reading

Secretary of State John Kerry to meet Russia’s Putin amid Ukraine, Syria tensions

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin with an eye on easing badly strained relations over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Kerry laid a wreath at a World War II memorial in the Black Sea resort city Tuesday before holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Later, he was to meet Putin on the brief visit, his first to Russia since May 2013 and the advent of the Ukraine crisis. The top U.S. diplomat plans to test Putin’s willingness to push pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to comply with an increasingly fragile ceasefire agreement, according to U.S. officials traveling with him. Kerry will also seek to gauge the status of Russia’s support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been losing ground to rebels, and press Moscow to support a political transition that could end that war, the officials said. In addition, Kerry will make the case to Putin that Russia should not proceed with its planned transfer of an advanced air defense system to Iran. Kerry’s trip comes at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted to post-Cold War lows amid the disagreements over Ukraine and Syria. In a sign of the considerable strains, the Kremlin said Monday that the Putin meeting was not confirmed, although U.S. officials insisted it was. A senior State Department official brushed aside the non-confirmation of the meeting from the Russian side, saying tersely, “We usually don’t go to Sochi to see Foreign Minister Lavrov.” On Tuesday morning, the Kremlin finally confirmed that Putin will meet with Kerry. Putin’s spokesman welcomed Kerry’s decision to travel to Russia. “We have repeatedly stated at various levels and the president has said that Russia never initiated the freeze in relations and we are always open for displays of political will for a broader dialogue,” Dmitry Peskov told journalists in Continue Reading

Russia defends plan to house World Cup teams in Chechnya

MOSCOW (AP) — World Cup organizers in Russia have defended the possibility of housing teams for the 2018 World Cup in the country’s volatile North Caucasus regions, including Chechnya. The Chechen capital of Grozny is on a preliminary list of team bases for the tournament despite an incident in December when Islamist militants waged a gun battle with police that left at least 20 dead. RELATED: EX-PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER JAILED 2 1/2 YEARS IN FIXING PLOT Another possible city is Makhachkala in the neighboring region of Dagestan, which also has a long-running Islamist insurgency. In recent years, UEFA forced local club Anzhi Makhachkala to hold home European games in Moscow, citing security concerns in Makhachkala. “There will be inspections but I’m sure there are teams that might prefer Grozny or Makhachkala or other cities where they have good relations with the administration,” World Cup organizing committee CEO Alexei Sorokin told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We have full assurances from the regional authorities that security will be organized at the highest level.” Cities hosting training bases require approval from FIFA, Sorokin said, although that process is focused on the suitability of hotels. The idea of hosting a team in cities such as Grozny has also received support from Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as a way to spread the World Cup’s legacy around Russia. Russia fought two wars against Chechen separatists in the 1990s and early 2000s. The security situation has quietened under the rule of regional head Ramzan Kadyrov, who is accused of numerous human rights abuses. Kadyrov previously pitched Grozny as a candidate to host World Cup games in 2018, although it was not put forward by Russia during the bidding process. Both Grozny and Makhachkala host Russian league clubs with few soccer-related security incidents in recent years. However, in January, an Anzhi Continue Reading

Russia plans to sell sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran over American objections

WASHINGTON — Thanks, Putin. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday opened the way for delivery of an air defense missile system to Iran — a move that endangered a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran amid a White House push to stop Congress from blocking the agreement. Secretary of State Kerry immediately called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to protest the sale, which would bolster Iran’s ability to stave off an air attack targeting its nuclear facilities. EDITORIAL: Obama's absurd Iran deal Russia agreed in 2007 to sell the system to Iran but suspended delivery under U.S. and Israeli pressure. Putin’s move Monday appeared aimed at moving fast in the wake of the tentative deal between the U.S., Russia and other U.N. Security Council members to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on the longtime rogue state’s nuclear program. The sale came as Obama and administration officials worked to build support for the deal while heading off a bill offered by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) giving Congress power to block it. MAX SEDDON: Russia's bizarre nuclear fever dreams Obama and National Security Adviser Susan Rice spoke Monday with Jewish leaders about the framework agreement while Kerry and other officials began holding classified briefings for members of Congress. "We hope Congress will listen carefully and ask the questions that it wants to, but also give us the space and time to be able to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country," Kerry told reporters outside a closed door briefing for lawmakers. The Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote Tuesday afternoon on Corker's bill. Senate Republicans leaders want to bring up the bill in the full Senate by month's end. Corker, with support from Democrats, says he is close to assembling a veto-proof majority of 67 supporters. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Continue Reading

U.S. military sends paratroopers to Ukraine to train government forces in fight against pro-Russia rebels

The U.S. military confirmed Friday that it sent paratroopers to Ukraine to train government forces in the ongoing fight against pro-Russia rebels — a move that drew an immediate rebuke from Moscow. Russia warned that the American training mission would “seriously destabilize the situation” in war-torn Ukraine. The U.S. paratroopers began arriving in Ukraine last week, U.S. Army spokesman Donald Wrenn told AFP. The training mission, dubbed Operation Fearless Guardian, calls for some 300 paratroopers to remain in Ukraine for about six months and provide instruction to about 900 soldiers from Ukraine’s national guard. Britain contributed 75 troops to the training mission, and Canada added another 200. Moscow, which the U.S. says is backing the separatist fighters in Ukraine, slammed the Obama administration’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian forces. “The participation of instructors and experts from third countries on Ukrainian territory ... of course, does not help to resolve the conflict,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. "On the contrary, it can seriously destabilize the situation.” The war in Ukraine has claimed more than 6,000 lives thus far, according to the U.N. \ ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.  Continue Reading

Boris Nemtsov’s model girlfriend Anna Duritskaya not allowed to leave Russia, questioned for hours as surveillance footage of murder released

The Ukrainian model girlfriend of slain anti-Putin activist Boris Nemtsov says she has been forbidden from leaving Russia and has spent hours being interviewed by police as the key, and maybe only, eyewitness in the shocking Friday evening Moscow murder of her beau just steps from the Kremlin. Anna Duritskaya, a 23-year-old stunner who spent three years with the late Nemtsov, was by his side when an unknown assassin blasted him four times in the back on a bridge near Red Square. The two had finished dinner shortly before the murder was carried out just before midnight. “I don’t want to answer questions about what happened on the bridge. I don’t want to talk about this,” she told TV Rain, according to The Guardian. “I am in a very difficult psychological condition and I cannot talk about this anymore now. I feel bad ... I saw no one. I don’t know where he came from, he was behind my back.” Duritskaya says she’s been under constant guard since the slaying as speculation runs amok about who would kill the 53-year-old, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin and former deputy prime minister of Russia. Her comments come as grainy surveillance video across the bridge was released to the public. The clip, reportedly from the only working camera in the area, appears to show the couple walking the bridge, the moment of the killing and the gunman fleeing the scene in a getaway car. The actual shooting is obscured by a snowplow, which happened to drive by the murder scene the moment shots rang out. Duritskaya said she likely won’t be allowed to attend her lover’s funeral, scheduled for Tuesday. “I’ve told them everything possible and I don’t know why I am still on Russian territory, as I want to go back to my mum, who is ill, and who is in a very difficult psychological state,” Duritskaya, according to The Continue Reading

In Putin’s Russia, crossing the czar can be fatal

Very bad things happen to Vladimir Putin’s critics — including death. The eleventh to enter the nexus between standing up to the strongman and dying was Boris Nemtsov, shot four times blocks from the Kremlin at a time when security cameras were reportedly off. How coincidental. Through a spokesman, Putin pledged to take the investigation under his “personal control” and branded the murder a “provocation,” meaning that Putin believes that Putin’s enemies killed Nemstov to make Putin look bad. How convincing. Nemtsov had fought to forge a more democratic Russia. Once a deputy to Boris Yeltsin, he published reports deeply critical of Putin. His friend Garry Kasparov, chess genius and Human Rights Foundation chairman, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Nemtsov’s final missive exposes the presence of Russian troops in a Ukraine area where they are not supposed to be. Putin’s imperialistic mindset has gotten more, not less, aggressive as sanctions and cratering oil prices dealt blows to the nation’s economy. We do not know who actually wielded the gun that killed Nemtsov. But there need not be blood on Putin’s hands for them to be stained indelibly. Continue Reading

SEE IT: video appears to show Russia Today reporter getting bag snatched while covering Baltimore protests (WARNING – GRAPHIC LANGUAGE)

A Russia Today journalist appears to be one of several members of the media who inadvertently became part of the story in Baltimore on Saturday night. A disturbing video posted to the Russian government-backed news organization’s RUPTLY distribution service and uploaded to YouTube purportedly shows a robber snatching a journalist’s bag as the reporter covers the chaotic protests over the death of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray while in police custody earlier this month. The camera operator, who had been filming protesters posing for the camera while saying slogans like “F--- the police,” immediately runs after the thief before cops in riot gear corner him in the graphic footage. While the Baltimore Police Department apologized on Sunday for its treatment of other journalists on the scene of the tense and sometimes-lawless demonstrations, the videotaped incident apparently shows successful police protection of a reporter at work. The one-minute video starts with one lone young man saying, “Rest in peace to my man Freddie G.,” as the camera rolls on a darkened street corner. At least a half dozen or more young black males immediately join in and utter obscenities about police brutality targeting minorities while flashing hand gestures at the recording device. All of a sudden, the frame shifts wildly up and down and the journalist can be heard shuffling around equipment. The reporter keeps filming while running down the street after a man who looks to be wearing a grey hoodie and jeans. “Give it back!” the reporter screams in the video. “Give it back! Dude, dude, give it back! Dude, give it back! Give me back my bag!” But the chase lasts roughly 15 seconds and goes on for only a block before the robber runs into almost a half dozen officers outfitted in bright blue helmets. The cops tell the Continue Reading

Russia outlaws memes showing public figures in ways that contrast their ‘personality’

Vladimir Putin will likely never ride a shark, an eagle or a giant Ritz cracker. But it's whether that's for personal or physical reasons that may determine whether memes showing him doing so are illegal. That's according to a newly enacted law in Russia which has reportedly outlawed memes depicting public figures — like the Russian president — in a way that has nothing to do with the individuals' "personality." "These ways of using (celebrities' images) violate the laws governing personal data and harm the honor, dignity and business of public figures," reads the new law obtained by Roskomnadzor and translated by the Washington Post. It also forbids fake online accounts and websites created for public individuals. Those who feel that their dignity has been compromised from such activity have the option to file a lawsuit if a request for the illegal information to be taken down is ignored or denied. Internet users, responding to the news on Twitter Friday, showcased some of Putin's best memes. They also shared a few of their own. One such photo showed the president with a long Pinocchio nose and cap. "This is the only Putin meme you need..." @GotaLightBoycaptioned the image. Continue Reading