Russia says it starts Syrian drawdown with aircraft carrier

This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website on Wednesday shows the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier during its mission in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. (File, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/ Photo via AP)
Updated 06 January 2017
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Russia says it starts Syrian drawdown with aircraft carrier

MOSCOW: Russia announced on Friday that it is withdrawing its aircraft carrier and some other Russian warships from the waters off Syria as the first step in a drawdown of its forces in the war-torn Mideast country.
According to Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier and accompanying ships are to be the first to leave.
Gerasimov was quoted as saying by the state news agency Tass that “in accordance with the decision by the supreme commander-in-chief (President) Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry is starting to downsize the grouping of armed forces in Syria.”
Moscow has been a key supporter of President Bashar Assad’s government and forces in Syria’s devastating civil war.
Gerasimov did not give further details on the force reduction, which follows an order by Putin on Dec. 29.
Syrian forces’ retaking of the city of Aleppo last month and a subsequent Russia- and Turkey-brokered cease-fire, in place for nearly a week now, make Russian forces less critical to Assad, but it is unclear how extensive the drawdown might be.
Airstrikes from the Admiral Kuznetsov began in mid-November, the first time the carrier has been used in combat. It has lost two aircraft — an Su-33 fighter jet that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea in December as it returned to the carrier following a sortie over Syria. In November, a MiG-29 crashed into the sea while trying to land on the carrier.
Russia and Turkey, a strong supporter of Syria’s moderate opposition, brokered the current cease-fire, which came into effect on Dec. 30. The truce has mostly held but not altogether halted fighting in the country, and the government and opposition have blamed each other for violations of the truce.
The cease-fire is meant to pave the way for peace negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, later this month. The gathering could give new impetus for UN-mediated talks between Syria’s warring sides.


Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

Updated 22 September 2018
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Egypt court upholds corruption conviction of Mubarak, sons

  • Saturday’s ruling by the Court of Cessation dashed any hope that Gamal Mubarak could run for public office.
  • Mubarak’s two sons are currently on trial for insider trading.

CAIRO: Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges.
The ruling by the Court of Cessation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move.
The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million).
Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20.
The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run.
Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week.
"His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people," Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends.
Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under El-Sissi.