TPM World News

MOSCOW (AP) — Top Russian defense and security officials are accusing the West of fomenting a new Cold War in a bid to retain waning influence in global affairs.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says NATO is using “the non-existent Russian threat to methodically boost its military potential” and beef up its forces near Russia’s borders.

Speaking at a security conference Wednesday, Shoigu said Moscow will respond to NATO’s moves by strengthening its defense capabilities to “ensure military security of Russia and its allies.”

Russia-West relations have sunk to their lowest level since the Cold War following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Tensions further escalated this month after the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain, leading to mass diplomats’ expulsions by the West and Russia.

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LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets fell for a second day Tuesday as investors continued to fret over a looming trade war between the U.S. and China and mounting public scrutiny of technology companies.

Stocks have been trending lower for weeks largely because of a series of tariffs announced by U.S. President Donald Trump and the Facebook data privacy scandal, which has raised the prospect of tighter regulation for social media and other tech stocks.

In the last week, Trump has also tweeted repeatedly about his new favorite foe, Amazon, whose owner also owns The Washington Post, which has been critical of the Trump administration.

Trump has approved possible higher U.S. duties on $50 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Those tariffs come on top of previous proposals to raise tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In response, China announced it is raising tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. goods including pork, apples and steel pipe, increasing the risk of a broader conflict that might depress global trade.

“The mood remains decidedly bearish, and there is certainly no shortage of reasons to be fearful,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. “It’s times like this when investors face a choice — whether to sit and await developments or plunge back in.”

That was evident in the performance of stocks on Tuesday.

Returning from the long Easter holiday weekend, Europe’s stock markets tracked others lower, though the scale of the losses were diminished by expectations of a rebound on Wall Street later.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 0.8 percent to 11,999 while London’s FTSE 100 declined 0.2 percent to 7,037. France’s CAC 40 was 0.5 percent lower at 5,140.

Wall Street was poised for some solid gains at the open Tuesday with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.5 percent. On Monday, the S&P posted its worst start to a quarter since October 2011 and saw the index fall below its 200-day moving average for the first time in almost 2 years.

U.S. technology companies are in the spotlight, notably Amazon, which posted hefty losses of around 5 percent Monday after Trump again voiced his concerns about the company on Twitter.

The sector was already in the gaze of investors after Facebook’s data scandal last month that has raised the prospect of heightened regulation. Netflix, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet have all seen their share prices decline.

“Pressure on the sector doesn’t appear to be going away in the near-term which will continue to act as a drag on indices,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent to 3,163.63 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.4 percent to 21,292.29. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.1 percent to 5,751.90. Elsewhere, Seoul’s Kospi ended down 27 points at 2,442.43. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bucked the trend, ending up 0.2 percent at 30,137.49.

Elsewhere, the euro was flat at $1.23 while the dollar rose 0.3 percent to 106.23 yen. In the oil markets, a barrel of U.S. crude gained 22 cents to $63.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Bren crude, used to price international oils, rose 29 cents to $67.93 in London.

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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s election commission says President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has won a second, four-year term with more than 97 percent of the vote in last week’s election, with turnout of 41.05 percent.

El-Sissi faced no serious challenger, after a string of potentially strong candidates withdrew under pressure or were arrested. His sole opponent, little-known politician Moussa Mustafa Moussa, was a supporter of the president who made no effort to challenge him. He won 2.92 percent of the vote.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the election commission, announced the results Monday.

Authorities went to great lengths to boost turnout, using the state’s vast resources to get voters out and threatening to fine anyone boycotting the election.

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court has issued arrest warrants for a U.S.-based Muslim cleric and seven other people for their alleged involvement in the killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, the country’s state-run news agency reported Monday.

An off-duty police officer fatally shot Ambassador Andrei Karlov while he was speaking at the opening of a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital on Dec. 19, 2016. The officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, was later shot dead at the scene by police.

The court in Ankara issued warrants for cleric Fethullah Gulen and seven people allegedly tied to his religious movement on charges of attempting to “destroy the constitutional order” and “pre-meditated murder,” Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish authorities have alleged that Karlov’s killer had links to Gulen, whom Turkey also accuses of masterminding a failed July 2016 coup and wants extradited from the United States. Gulen, who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, has denied involvement in the coup attempt.

Turkey believes that Gulen’s movement was also behind Karlov’s assassination, maintaining that it was aimed at derailing warming relations between Turkey and Russia.

Nine people, including three former police officers, have already been arrested over the killing.

The warrants were issued as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to make a two-day trip to Ankara. Putin is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday. They are set to be joined by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday for a summit on Syria’s future.

Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici won the 2017 World Press Photo competition for his image of the gun-wielding policeman standing over the body of the Russian ambassador immediately after he shot Karlov.

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Foreign Ministry asked the international agency that monitors chemical weapons for information Sunday about the investigation of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England.A list of questions submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons includes what sort of assistance Britain requested from the watchdog agency and which sampling procedures were used to collect the substance that sickened Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.OPCW representatives were among a group of experts Britain asked to analyze the chemical agent involved in the poisonings. Britain claims it was the Soviet-manufactured nerve agent Novichok and has said Russia is likely responsible, which Moscow adamantly denies.

The Foreign Ministry’s request came on the same day that Russian diplomats and their families returned to Moscow on two planes after being expelled from the United States, part of the international fallout from the March 4 attack on the Skripals.

Following a wave of similar expulsions ordered by Britain and numerous allies, the United States ordered 60 Russian diplomats out of the country.

Russian news agencies said the diplomats kicked out of the United States returned on two flights that landed Sunday at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport.

One carried diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Washington; aboard the other were diplomats from the Russian Consulate in New York and Russia’s United Nations mission.

More than two dozen countries and NATO have expelled Russian diplomats in support of Britain. Russia has ordered an equal number of most of those countries’ diplomats to leave and for Britain to reduce the staff at its Moscow embassy to the same number that Russia maintains in London.

Russia consistently has complained that Britain has not provided evidence to back up its claim of Russian involvement or that the poison that afflicted the Skripals was a Russia-developed nerve agent.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also submitted questions to British and French authorities on Saturday. The ministry did not say what actions Russia might take if the parties do not answer the questions or provide partial responses.

 

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BEIJING (AP) — China raised import duties on a $3 billion list of U.S. pork, apples and other products Monday in an escalating dispute with Washington over trade and industrial policy.

The government of President Xi Jinping said it was responding to a U.S. tariff hike on steel and aluminum. But that is just one facet of sprawling tensions with Washington, Europe and Japan over a state-led economic model they complain hampers market access, protects Chinese companies and subsidizes exports in violation of Beijing’s free-trade commitments.

Already, companies are looking ahead to a bigger fight over U.S. President Donald Trump’s approval of higher duties on up to $50 billion of Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Forecasters say the impact of Monday’s move should be limited, but investors worry the global recovery might be set back if other governments respond by raising import barriers.

On Monday, the main stock market indexes in Tokyo and Shanghai ended the day down.

The tariffs “signal a most unwelcome development, which is that countries are becoming protectionist,” said economist Taimur Baig of DBS Group. But in commercial terms, they are “not very substantial” compared with China’s $150 billion in annual imports of U.S. goods, he said.

Monday’s tariff increase will hit American farm states, many of which voted for Trump in 2016.

Beijing is imposing a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork and aluminum scrap and 15 percent on sparkling wine, steel pipe used by oil and gas companies, and an array of fruits and nuts including apples, walnuts and grapes.

American farm exports to China in 2017 totaled nearly $20 billion, including $1.1 billion of pork products.

There was no indication whether Beijing might exempt Chinese-owned American suppliers such as Smithfield Foods, the biggest U.S. pork producer, which is ramping up exports to China.

The U.S. tariff hike has “has seriously damaged our interests,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

“Our country advocates and supports the multilateral trading system,” it said. China’s tariff increase “is a proper measure adopted by our country using World Trade Organization rules to protect our interests,” the statement said.

The White House didn’t respond to a message from The Associated Press on Sunday seeking comment.

The United States buys little Chinese steel and aluminum, but analysts said Beijing was certain to retaliate, partly to show its toughness ahead of possible bigger disputes.

Chinese officials have said Beijing is willing to negotiate, but in a confrontation will “fight to the end.”

“China has already prepared for the worst,” said Liu Yuanchun, executive dean of the National Academy of Development Strategy at Renmin University in Beijing. “The two sides, therefore, should sit down and negotiate.”

The dispute reflects the clash between Trump’s promise to narrow the U.S. trade surplus with China — a record $375.2 billion last year — and Beijing’s ambitious plans to develop Chinese industry and technology.

Last July, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin complained the Chinese government’s dominant role in China’s economy was to blame for its yawning trade surplus.

State-owned companies dominate Chinese industries including oil and gas, telecoms, banking, coal mining, utilities and airlines. They benefit from monopolies and low-cost access to energy, land and bank loans.

The ruling Communist Party promised in 2013 to give market forces the “decisive role” in allocating resources. But at the same time, Xi has affirmed plans to build up state industries the party says are the central pillar of the economy.

“The thing that is going to be more challenging for Beijing is if the U.S., European Union and Japan get together and start taking measures on state-owned enterprises,” said Baig. “That for me would be an escalation, whereas product-by-product back and forth, amounting to a few billion dollars here or there, is not a major substantive concern.”

Foreign governments also accuse Beijing of violating free trade by requiring automakers and other foreign companies to work through state-owned Chinese partners. That requires them to give technology to potential competitors.

Last month, a U.S. official cited as “hugely problematic” Beijing’s sweeping plan to create Chinese competitors in electric cars, robots, advanced manufacturing and other fields over the next decade. Business groups complain that strategy, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” will limit or outright block access to those industries.

The country’s top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang, promised at a news conference on March 20 there will be “no mandatory requirement for technology transfers.” However, Chinese officials already deny foreign companies are required to hand over technology, leaving it unclear how policy might change.

Trump ordered U.S. trade officials on March 22 to bring a WTO case challenging Chinese technology licensing. It proposed 25 percent tariffs on Chinese products including aerospace, communications technology and machinery and said Washington will step up restrictions on Chinese investment in key U.S. technology sectors.

Beijing has yet to say how it might respond.

Trump administration officials have identified as potential targets 1,300 product lines worth about $48 billion. That list will be open to a 30-day comment period for businesses.

The volleys of threats are “a process of game-playing to test each other’s bottom lines,” said Tu Xinquan, a trade expert at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

“We are curious about what the U.S. side really wants,” said Tu, “and wonder whether the United States can tolerate the consequences.”

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AP researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister on Sunday rejected international calls for an investigation into deadly violence along Gaza’s border with Israel, saying troops acted appropriately and fired only at Palestinian protesters who posed a threat.Fifteen Palestinians were killed and over 700 wounded in Friday’s violence near the Israeli border, according to Palestinian health officials. It was the area’s deadliest violence since a war four years ago.

Human rights groups have accused the army of using excessive force, and both the U.N. secretary-general and the European Union’s foreign policy chief have urged an investigation.

In an interview, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would not cooperate with a U.N. inquiry if there were one.

“From the standpoint of the Israeli soldiers, they did what had to be done,” Lieberman told Israeli Army Radio. “I think that all of our troops deserve a commendation, and there won’t be any inquiry.”

Friday’s mass marches were largely led by Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and touted as the launch of a six-week-long protest campaign against a stifling decade-old blockade of the territory. Israel and Egypt have maintained the blockade since Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007.

In Friday’s confrontations, large crowds gathered near the fence, with smaller groups of protesters rushing forward, throwing stones and burning tires.

Israeli troops responded with live fire and rubber-coated steel pellets, while drones dropped tear gas from above. Soldiers with rifles were perched on high earthen embankments overlooking the scene.

Protests have continued since Friday but at a far smaller scale. On Sunday, one person was seriously wounded by gunfire, Palestinian medical officials said.

The military has said it responded only to violent attacks aimed at troops and the border fence. But video from the scene showed at least a handful of incidents in which people appear to have been shot either far from the border or while they were not actively rioting.

The Israeli military accused Hamas of releasing videos that were either incomplete, edited or “completely fabricated.” It said troops had followed strict rules of engagement, and that protesters were putting themselves in “harm’s way” by operating in a dangerous area.

In the interview, Lieberman said those who protested peacefully were not harmed, saying claims that peaceful protesters were harmed were “lies and inventions.”

“Whoever didn’t get close to the fence was not shot,” he said.

Tamar Zandberg, leader of the dovish opposition party Meretz, posted a video over the weekend calling for an independent inquiry into Friday’s violence.

“I’m worried about the fate of all of us, and the fate of the residents of the Gaza periphery communities, who could be sitting in bomb shelters today, tomorrow or next week,” she told Army Radio, “so I’m calling to stop this now.”

Zandberg came under heavy criticism for her comments. “As if this were a case of innocent civilians who had been shot while doing their holiday shopping, rather than people who had been pushed to the border by Hamas in order to be killed in service to the Palestinian narrative,” wrote defense analyst Alon Ben-David.

The Israeli military has said those killed by troops were men who were involved in violence and who belonged to Hamas and other militant factions. The army later released the names and ages of 10 of the dead, including what it said were eight members of Hamas and two from other militant groups.

Israel has also accused Gaza health officials of exaggerating the number of wounded.

Four of the 15 dead were members of the Hamas military wing, Hamas said Saturday. The group said a fifth member who was not on the Health Ministry list was killed near the border, and that Israel has the body. It said another man is also missing in the border area.

The protests are to culminate in a large border march on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. The date is mourned by Palestinians as their “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation.

Israel has warned that it will not allow the border to be breached. It also accuses Hamas of trying to use protests as a cover for planting explosives and staging attacks. On Saturday, Israel’s military said it will target militant groups inside Gaza if the border violence drags on.

It appears unlikely that large-scale protests will continue daily, with larger turnouts only expected after Friday noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week.

Inside Israel, most of the country has lined up solidly behind the army. Still, on Sunday, dozens of Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the violence, criticizing Israel for its response.

Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, and it has battled Israel in three wars since taking control of Gaza.

The group has been badly weakened by the blockade, international isolation and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It appears to be taking a gamble by using the protests to attract attention to Gaza without sparking another painful war.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused U.S. intelligence services of trying to recruit Russian diplomats expelled by the U.S. amid a diplomatic conflict over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain.

The ministry said Friday it saw a “sharp increase in provocative actions against Russian diplomats” following the U.S. decision earlier this week to order out 60 Russian diplomats.

It said American intelligence services have engaged in “frantic efforts” to make cooperation offers to the expelled diplomats. The ministry described the alleged U.S. overtures as “cynical and disgusting,” adding that they have failed.

Two dozen countries ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out in a show of solidarity with Britain over the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal. Moscow denies involvement and has responded in kind.

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia ordered new cuts Friday to the number of British envoys in the country, escalating a dispute with the West over the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain. The massive expulsion of diplomats on both sides has reached a scale unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, and NATO ordered out more than 150 Russian diplomats this week in a show of solidarity with Britain over the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter that London blamed on Russia.

Moscow has vehemently denied involvement in the March 4 nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury and announced Thursday that it would expel the same number of diplomats from each nation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry further escalated its response Friday, saying it has ordered Britain to reduce the number of its diplomats in Moscow to the level that Russia has in London. That exact number wasn’t immediately clear.

The ministry said it summoned the British ambassador to hand him a protest over the “provocative and unsubstantiated actions by Britain, which instigated the expulsion of Russian diplomats from various nations for no reason.” It gave London one month to reduce its diplomatic personnel in Russia.

When Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats earlier this month, Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko said it represented a 40-percent cut in the number of embassy personnel.

Commenting on the Russian move, a spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said “it’s regrettable but in light of Russia’s previous behavior, we anticipated a response.”

“However, this doesn’t change the facts of the matter: the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable,” she said. “Russia is in flagrant breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention and actions by countries around the world have demonstrated the depth of international concern.”

A hospital treating Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, said Thursday that the woman was improving rapidly and was now in stable condition, though her father remained in critical condition.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “Russia didn’t start any diplomatic wars,” and “remains open for developing good ties.”

He added that Russia has called a meeting of the international chemical weapons watchdog next week to press for an “unbiased and objective investigation.”

Russia has accused Britain of failing to back up its accusations with evidence and refusing to share materials from the probe. The Foreign Ministry said it told the British ambassador on Friday that Moscow is ready to cooperate in the investigation.

On Thursday, Russia summoned the U.S. ambassador to announce the expulsion of 60 U.S. diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s move. Scores of Western ambassadors arrived at the Russian Foreign Ministry Friday to receive notices on the expulsions of their diplomats.

In response to the U.S. move earlier this week to close the Russian Consulate in Seattle, Moscow shut the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, giving it until Saturday to vacate the premises.

An Associated Press reporter on Friday saw U.S. consulate staff carrying boxes from the building in St. Petersburg and loading them into a van. Several mini-vans drove out of the consulate while security also detained a man who threw a Starbucks cup at the building.

Some passers-by near the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg cheered the expulsions.

“Let them get out of here,” said 61-year-old retiree Viktor Fedin. “You won’t put Russia on its knees.”

Others were more cautious, worried that the closures would affect visa processing for Russians.

“The Russian government has to respond to the hostile actions against Russia,” said 32-year-old researcher Yelena Bogomazova. “But the escalation is bad. The closure of the consulate will make it difficult for people to get U.S. visas. They will have to go to Moscow.”

After Russia expelled several dozen U.S. diplomats, the waiting list for U.S. visa applications in Russia has increased to weeks, if not months. The U.S. Embassy said it was unable to process visa applications faster because of the staff shortage.

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Thursday responded quid pro quo to the wave of Western expulsions of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain, while a hospital treating the pair said the woman is improving rapidly and is out of critical condition.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious and critically ill in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. British authorities blamed Russia for poisoning them with a military-grade nerve agent, accusations Russia has vehemently denied.

Two dozen countries, including the U.S., many EU nations and NATO, have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain — a massive action unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at news conference Thursday that Moscow will expel the same number of diplomats from each of those countries in retaliation.

Lavrov added that just as he was making the statement, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman was invited to the Foreign Ministry, where he was handed notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the U.S. decision to order 60 Russian diplomats out.

Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate to the U.S. decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

The Foreign Ministry said the U.S. diplomats, including 58 diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and two from the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, must leave Russia by April 5. It added that the U.S. must leave the consulate in St. Petersburg no later than Saturday.

The ministry warned that in case the U.S. takes further “hostile actions” against Russian missions, Russia will respond in kind.

“We invite the U.S. authorities who are encouraging a slanderous campaign against our country to come back to their senses and stop thoughtless actions to destroy bilateral relations,” it said.

Lavrov emphasized that the expulsions followed a “brutal pressure” from the U.S. and Britain who forced their allies to “follow the anti-Russian course.”

He also noted that the job of the international chemical weapons watchdog is to determine what chemical agent was used to poison Skripal and his daughter, not verify the British conclusions.

Lavrov said that Moscow called a meeting Monday of the secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to discuss the case.

Meanwhile, Salisbury NHS Trust, which oversees the hospital where the Skripals are being treated, said Thursday 33-year-old Yulia is “improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition. Her condition is now stable.”

“She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day,” said Dr. Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital.

Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in critical condition, the hospital said.

Lavrov said that Russia would seek consular access to Yulia Skripalr now that she regained consciousness.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, was imprisoned after he sold secrets to British intelligence. He was released in a 2010 spy swap and moved to Britain.

Britain says he and his daughter, who was visiting from Russia, were poisoned with a nerve agent developed in Soviet times and that it must have come from Russia.

Police say they were likely exposed to the poison on the door of Sergei Skripal’s suburban house in Salisbury, where the highest concentration of the chemical has been found.

About 250 British counterterrorism officers are working on the investigation, retracing the Skripals’ movements to uncover how the poison was delivered. They have searched a pub, a restaurant and a cemetery, and on Thursday cordoned off a children’s playground near the Skripal home.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Britain’s allegation of Russian involvement in the poisoning was a “swindle” and an “international provocation.” She said Russia continued to demand access to investigation materials, which Britain has refused to share.

Zakharova charged that Britain, the U.S., the Czech Republic and Sweden all have researched the nerve agent that London said was used to poison the Skripals.

She said that the Western research into the class of nerve agent, known as Novichok, was reflected in numerous open source documents of NATO members. Britain and its allies have dismissed previous Russian claims that they possessed that type of nerve agent.

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