Russian President Vladimir Putin confirms that he will run for presidency again in 2018

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he would seek a new six-year term in the country’s March 2018 elections in a move that would make him the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin.

Putin, who has been in power for the past 18 years, is expected to sail to victory, with only token opponents competing against him. “I will offer my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian Federation,” he said during a visit to a car factory in Nizhny Novgorod.

He made the widely-expected announcement surrounded by cheering workers, who prodded him to unveil his plans in a carefully-choreographed ceremony. “There is perhaps no better place and better excuse to announce this,” Putin said in a nod to his core constituency. “Russia will go only forward! And no-one would ever stop her in this direction.”

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Predictably, a chorus of Russian politicians praised the announcement, while social networks were abuzz, with many ridiculing the Kremlin strongman. Top Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who has earlier declared a Kremlin bid even although he will not be allowed to run due to a suspended sentence for fraud, called Putin a “swindler.”

“I suggest we don’t agree,” the 41-year-old Western-educated lawyer said on Twitter, referring to Putin’s plans to seek a fourth Kremlin term. Putin’s confirmation of the Kremlin bid came as Russia reeled from a decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban the country from the Winter Games as punishment over claims of state-orchestrated doping.

But despite a litany of mounting problems including corruption, poverty and poor healthcare, the 65-year-old leader enjoys approval ratings of some 80 percent. Just hours earlier Putin visited a glitzy ceremony for volunteers in Moscow where he sought to rouse supporters. “I want to ask, do you trust and support me?” he addressed the huge audience of mostly young people.

“Yes!” the audience chanted. Before Putin took the floor prominent figures, including athletes and Soviet-era celebrities such as 83-year-old actor Vasily Lanovoi, took to the stage to extol the country’s successes, such as Soviet victory in World War II.

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Cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky addressed the audience via video link from the International Space Station. Putin has sought to appeal to the country’s youth after thousands of young Russians took to the streets earlier this year to protest alleged corruption among the elites, targeting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev among others.

The demonstrations were sparked by a documentary fronted by Navalny. Putin, who first became president after Boris Yeltsin sensationally resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999, handed power to his ally Medvedev in 2008 at the end of his second term. Putin served as prime minister — though few doubted who was really in charge — and returned as president in 2012.

If he extends his rule to 2024, Putin will have led Russia longer than Leonid Brezhnev, who presided over an era of stagnation from 1964 to 1982 and became the target of derision in his later years. “He cannot seek a new term,” independent analyst Dmitry Oreshkin told AFP.

“If he left the system he himself created he would become weak and vulnerable.” Analysts say that after more than 17 years of leadership — both as president and prime minister — Putin fatigue may be spreading across the country. Many Russians say they would vote for Putin simply because they don’t see an alternative to him amid the former KGB officer’s chokehold on domestic politics. With the result of the election already a foregone conclusion, turnout could be low, dealing a blow to the Kremlin’ hopes for a decisive new mandate, observers say.

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According to a poll conducted by the independent Levada Centre pollster last month, just 58 percent of respondents said they would take part in the polls, down from 75 per cent in December 2007. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed this week that those figures came ahead of the start of a political campaign, saying they were set to grow. Many expect that Kseniya Sobchak, a 36-year-old glamourous former host of a television reality show and daughter of Putin’s former mentor, will likely be allowed to run against Putin to rekindle public interest in the dull election.

With the election virtually devoid of any suspence, the question is what will happen after Putin’s expected re-election and later, after his new term ends in 2024, analysts say. “The main intrigue is, what will happen after 2018, how the configuration of power will be changing,” Tatyana Stanovaya, a Paris-based analyst for the Centre of Political Technologies in Moscow, to AFP.

Speculation has swirled over the past weeks that the Kremlin may be considering whether to change the constitution or create a brand new post for Putin in an effort to extend his grip on power. “The main task for the Kremlin is to adapt the regime to Putin’s future status – be it an extension of presidential powers or the creation of a new post,” said Stanovaya.

Saudi prince revealed as buyer of $450mn Da Vinci painting

New York, The mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at an auction here last month, is a Saudi prince, a media report said. The revelation that Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud was the purchaser were according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The painting, a representation of Jesus Christ, was bid to the highest auction price ever achieved to date for a work of art. Christie’s auction house, which handled the sale, had said that it was the only known Da Vinci piece remaining in private hands.

According to The New York Times revelation, Prince Bader is “little known from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth”.

He is a friend and associate of the country’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. A spokeswoman for Christie’s said it did not comment on the identities of any buyer or seller without their permission.

Prince Bader did not respond to a detailed request for comment. But as The New York Times pressed for a response on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi tweeted that the painting “is coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi”. Documents provided from inside Saudi Arabia revealed that representatives for Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale.

In order to participate in the bidding, the prince put $100 million on deposit with the auction house, although Christie’s subsequently asked for additional information, including the origin of the money he was putting up, with the prince stating simply that it came from “real estate”, The New York Times reported.

The painting’s previous owner, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire, had paid $127.5 million for the painting in 2013, less than a third of its sale price last month, and he is still locked in litigation with the dealer who sold it to him over that price.

President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Washington: US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will direct the State Department to initiate the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to senior administration officials. According to senior administration officials, Trump is expected to make the announcement along with his policy at about 1 pm (local time) on Wednesday (11.30 pm IST).

“The President would say that the US government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He views this as recognition of historic reality. Jerusalem has been capital of Jewish people since ancient times and modern reality that it has been the seat of government, important ministries, its legislature, the Supreme court,” a senior administration official told reporters on the eve of Trump’s much anticipated announcement on Jerusalem.

In his remarks, Trump will also direct the State Department to initiate the process of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Noting that finding appropriate land and construction of a new embassy would take at least a couple of years, officials said Trump would continue to give waiver – as required by the Congress — for not moving its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem.

In taking this action, another senior administration official said, Trump will fulfill a major campaign promise that has been made by a number of previous presidential candidates.

Trump’s action enjoys broad bipartisan support in the Congress. Such a move which is being opposed by the countries in the Middle East, is unlikely to have an impact on the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the official said.

“Trump remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, and is optimistic that peace can be achieved,” the official said, adding that not recognising Jerusalem as capital of Israel has done nothing to achieve peace for more than two decades.

Trump, the official said, recognises that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty are subject to final status negotiations.

Responding to questions, senior administration officials said the President believes that this would have no impact on the peace process. He believes that the deal is within reach and can be achieved.

Earlier, Trump spoke over phone with a number of world leaders in the Middle East to share his decision on Jerusalem, the White House said. Trump spoke separately with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, and King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

“This announcement does not change US policy over these specific borders,” the senior administration official said, while another official asserting that the President is not taking a decision that affects any of the boundaries and sovereignty.

Trump’s anticipated announcement received mixed message from lawmakers. Senator Ted Cruz described this as a “historical” announcement.

“I strongly encourage and would unequivocally support President Trump formally recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and beginning the important process of moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders said he is extremely concerned by reports that Trump plans to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

“There’s a reason why all past US administrations have avoided making this move, and why leaders from all over the world, including a group of former Israeli ambassadors, have warned Trump against doing it. It would dramatically undermine the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and severely, perhaps irreparably, damage the US’ ability to broker that peace,” Sanders said.

“What the US should be doing now is bringing adversaries in the middle east together to seek common solutions, not exacerbating tensions in this highly volatile region,” he said.

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development, University of Maryland told PBS newspaper that it is a historic development.

“It’s huge historically, because not only has the US not recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but really historically the international community has seen Jerusalem as very different. In fact, even West Jerusalem wasn’t recognised by the US, in part because there was some international status and vision for Jerusalem historically,” Telhami said.

Meanwhile, the State Department warned US embassies around the world to prepare for possible protests and violence and banned travel by government employees and their families to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.

Barack Obama leaves behind Donald Trump in Twitter Top 10 of 2017

San Francisco: US President Donald Trump is perhaps the world’s most famous Twitter user, but the most popular post of 2017 was from… Barack Obama. Three tweets by the former US leader made it onto Twitter’s Top 10 list of retweeted messages for this year but there were none from Trump despite his prolific use of the platform.

Trump was, however, the elected leader most tweeted about, Twitter said. A tweet racking up the most “likes,” about 4.6 million as of Tuesday, came from Obama’s personal Twitter account on the day of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The tweet showed a photo of a racially diverse group of children looking out a window at Obama as he smiled back, and bore a quote from Nelson Mandela. The same Twitter post was the second most re-tweeted of the year, behind a tweet from a teenager trying to win a year’s supply of chicken nuggets from fast food chain Wendy’s.

Russia amends law to block calls from ‘telephone terrorists’

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an amendment to the law on communications, allowing the block of calls from suspected “telephone terrorists.”

The amendment was published on the official portal of legal information on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.  The amendment requires communications operators to stop service for suspected telephone hoaxers at the request of law enforcement agencies “to prevent and suppress crimes using communications networks.”

Since September, Russia has been hit by a wave of hoax calls about planted bombs, which led to the evacuation of various public buildings and caused significant financial losses.  So far, nobody has claimed responsibility for these calls and law enforcement agencies complained that it was difficult to find the perpetrators, who operated from abroad using complicated equipment and schemes.  Russia’s State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, is mulling a bill to impose heavy fines and prison terms on telephone hoaxers.

Baloch woman activist asks US to designate Pervez Musharraf as global terrorist

Vancouver [Canada]: Prof Naela Quadri Baloch, head of the World Baloch Women Forum (WBWF), has urged the United States to start compiling information for satisfactorily fulfilling statutory criteria for designation of former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGTs).

This has come in the wake of Musharraf coming out in support of the terror groups, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), saying they were the biggest force against the Indian Army in Kashmir. Prof Quadri Baloch, in a statement, said, “We strongly urge the US to immediately start compiling information for  satisfactorily fulfilling statutory criteria for designation of Pervez Musharraf as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGTs) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, for associating with US designated terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and take appropriate steps to freeze all his assets and interests in the United States.”

“Now that he has openly admitted , it is time for US to investigate the extent of control he exercised over LeT during and after his tenure as president of Pakistan. Investigation should include his role in assisting LeT in providing material and financial assistance, in recruiting terrorist operatives, gathering intelligence, covert terrorist operations,” she added.

Prof Quadri Baloch further stated that Musharraf, who had callously butchered the Baloch using US-provided weapons, was still baying for Baloch blood. “He needs to be brought to book for crimes against humanity. ‘Those who stay in Pakistan, burn Pakistan’s flag and raise anti-national slogans deserve to be butchered,’ these are the words of Musharraf. It is high time for the US to rethink its policy towards Pakistan and impose condition of ‘no use of US weapons in Balochistan’ and halt further sales of weapons to prevent slow motion genocide of the Baloch,” she added.

The statement further said that the WBWF urged all Governments around the world to actively expose and isolate such individuals in the Pakistani Millitary and impose sanctions for global peace and security. “Baloch activists will relentlessly expose Musharraf in all International bodies and educate global citizens about his role in butchery of Baloch,” it concluded. Earlier yesterday, speaking on Pakistan’s ARY News, Musharraf said, “I am the biggest supporter of the LeT and I know they like me and the JuD also likes me.”

He further said he liked the global terrorist, JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, and had met him. The former Pakistan president added he was always in favour of terrorist action in Kashmir, and the LeT and the JuD were the biggest forces to take on the Indian Army in the state. He also accused India of declaring the LeT and the JuD as terror groups with the help of the United States.

Earlier this week, the US strongly condemned the release of LeT leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest and called for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution. The White House in a statement, said, “The United States strongly condemns the release of LeT leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest in Pakistan and calls for his immediate re-arrest and prosecution.”

“A clear international consensus exists regarding Saeed’s culpability-he was designated by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008. The Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the United States, since 2012, has offered a $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice,” it read.

Saeed, accused of masterminding the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people, was released on November 24 after a Pakistan judicial body ordered his release from house arrest, rejecting a request from the government of Punjab to extend his detention by three months. The decision to put Saeed under house arrest in January was seen as a response to actions by US President Donald Trump’s White House against nations deemed linked to terrorism.

Donald Trump hits out at Theresa May for criticising him over video tweets

Washington: US President Donald Trump has told British Prime Minister Theresa May to focus on “terrorism” in the UK after she criticised his sharing of far-right videos.

“Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” Trump wrote on Twitter, BBC reported on Thursday.  The US President earlier retweeted three inflammatory videos posted online by a British far-right group.  May’s spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

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The US and the UK are close allies and often described as having a “special relationship”.  The videos shared by Trump, who has more than 40 million followers, were initially posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a group founded by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP).  Fransen has been charged in the UK with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”.

The first tweet from Fransen claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches. This was followed by two more videos of people Fransen claims to be Muslim.  White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said May and other world leaders knew that “these are real threats that we have to talk about”.

Petrifying Video! Tiger escapes from cage during circus in China, triggers panic

For most people, circus can actually be a lot of fun. It’s a part where we get to see the animals perform tricks. But sometimes it can go out of hands. And something similar happened during a circus show in a village in North China’s Shanxi province, where a tiger actually escaped from its cage.

The shocking footage of the incident shows the tiger leaving its enclosure followed by the chaos at the venue. There is widespread panic among the spectators as seen in the video, while running for cover in different directions. The incident left two children with minor injuries. The clip then shows audience members fleeing in different directions as the tiger launches itself towards the crowd. The footage also shows hundreds of onlookers gathered around the steel cage, pressing their faces close to the action as the tiger handler prods and pokes the big cat with a stick.



The accident happened in Linfen City’s Hongtong County in China’s northern Shanxi Province, where the circus had been invited to perform at a local temple fair. No punishment has been announced for the circus at this point. The incident comes just days after an elderly man nearly lost his hand trying to feed another caged circus tiger.

21-year-old Indian man shot dead in US during a robbery

New York: A 21-year-old Indian man has been shot dead in front of his house during a robbery in the US state of Mississippi, according to a media report, days after another Indian student was killed by four armed robbers.

Sandeep Singh was shot in the stomach during a robbery reported on Sunday in the Jackson city, Mississippi, police was quoted as saying by WAPT, an ABC-affiliated television station. A group of men who investigators believe are responsible for a string of robberies could be connected to a fatal shooting, Jackson police officials said yesterday.

Singh, and two other men were standing outside their house when a man in a mask and a hoodie walked up to them, police said. The robber took money and cellphones from them. As the robber ran away, he fired shots at the victims and one of the bullets hit Singh, police said. Singh was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he died on Monday, police said.

Singh’s death is the city’s 58th homicide for the year, the report said. Singh, had gone to the US around four years ago on a tourist visa and later got work permit there. He hailed from Jalandhar. The shooter is described as wearing a gray hooded shirt and was armed with a 9 mm pistol, police said.

The gunman could be one of a group of armed men believed to be responsible for recent armed robberies of businesses and individuals throughout the northwest Jackson area, police said. “In an attempt to conceal their identities, they have their faces covered with bandannas and/or masks. The suspects have also been observed wearing hooded sweatshirts and gloves,” Commander Tyree Jones said in a news release.

This is second such incident of killing of an Indian youth in the US in the past two weeks. On November 16, a 21-year-old Indian student was shot dead allegedly by four armed robbers, including an Indian-origin man, at a grocery store in the US state of California.

Japan calls for increasing pressure on N.Korea

Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said his country will maximise pressure on North Korea in coordination with the international community following Pyongyang’s latest missile launch.

N. Korea fired a missile around 3.18 a.m. on Wednesday and the missile flew for about 53 minutes. It may have fallen into the exclusive economic zone of Japan, said the Japanese government.

It reached a record-high altitude of over 4,000 km on a steep angle and appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to the Japanese Defence Ministry.

Abe told reporters at his office following the missile launch that such “violence” was “intolerable”. Japan has lodged a strong protest against North Korea, Xinhua news agency reported.

He added that Japan has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and Tokyo will maximise pressure on Pyongyang in coordination with others.

Abe and US President Donald Trump spoke over the phone after the missile launch.

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