Russian army denies building up forces near North Korea

Russian’s T-90 rolling at the red square in Moscow. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Russian army denies building up forces near North Korea

MOSCOW: The Russian military said on Friday it was not building up its forces near the border with North Korea, denying earlier media reports which said it was, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an army spokesman.
Some media in Russia’s Ear East have cited local residents as saying they had seen military hardware being moved toward North Korea as tensions with the United States over its nuclear program escalated.
“These are totally pre-planned military exercises, which are in no way related to political issues,” Alexander Gordeyev, a spokesman for Russia’s Eastern military district was quoted as saying.
He said the hardware that people had seen was being transported back to the bases where it was permanently deployed after the end of the exercises.


Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

Updated 35 min 53 sec ago
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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around $170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
“The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah,” Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to $36,000.
Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay $7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.
In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.
Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.
After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.
Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $173 million, or almost 40 percent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.
Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.
Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.
Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.